Saturday

“… Herod had arrested John, bound him, and put him in prison on account of Herodias, his brother Philip’s wife, because John had been telling him, ‘It is not lawful for you to have her.’” (vv. 3-4)

Matthew 14:1-12 Saturday 29 August 2015

Psalm: Psalm 11


Background

On the death of Herod the Great (Matthew 2:20), his kingdom was divided amonghis three sons: Archelaus received Judean and Samaria; Philipreceived Trachonitis and Ituraea, while Herod Antipas receivedGalilee and Peraea. This last was a relatively peaceful area, whichwas probably why Joseph decided to settle there on returning fromEgypt.

Mark's Gospel (Mark 6:14-29) provides a longer version of theevents recorded here. In each account, the death of John ispresented as background to Herod's reaction to the reports he hadheard about Jesus (verses 1-2). Had John come back to life? Origen,a father of the early Church, supposed that Jesus and John theBaptist looked alike, given that their mothers were cousins. Herodperhaps had real cause for alarm!

Matthew first records the arrest of John in Matthew 4:12, when, on hearing of it, Jesusreturned to Galilee. The intervening chapters record Jesus'ministry of teaching and healing in the region. Like John, Jesusdrew large crowds. The Romano-Jewish historian, Josephus, was ofthe opinion that Herod had John put to death because of the powerhe had over the crowds. The young Galilean teacher seemed verysimilar in this respect.

The Gospel writers took another view - John was executed becausehe drew attention to an inconvenient truth. Herod had seducedHerodias, the wife of his brother, Philip, and had disposed of hisown wife in order to marry her. As a sister-in-law, Herodias fellwithin the range of proscribed relationships - it was indeedunlawful for Herod to have her.

John had made himself deeply unpopular with the religiousauthorities of the day (Matthew 3:7-10). Now he has challenged thepolitical authority and paid the ultimate price. In the story ofJohn, there is a foreshadowing of the story of Jesus. EarlyChristians, facing persecution, could interpret the eventsoverwhelming them in the light of these stories.


To Ponder

  • What truths do you think are worth dying for?
  • Think of a time when you were prepared to challenge power forthe sake of the truth. What did you do? And would you do itagain? 
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