Friday 29 August 2014

Bible Book:

“At that time Herod the ruler heard reports about Jesus” (v. 1)

Matthew 14:1-12 Friday 29 August 2014


Today the Church recalls the beheading of John the Baptist; astrange and little-known feast if ever there was one! Today'spassage gives the Gospel of Matthew's account of the event, but itseems tells the story almost as an after-thought. What it saysabout Jesus is more important. We hear of the growing report aboutwhat Jesus was doing - even the ruler of Galilee had heard of himand was saying Jesus was actually John raised from the dead withgreat powers. This is as good a time as any to tell us the story ofJohn's death.

Herod Antipas (son of the King Herod of Christmas Nativityfame), ruling over the Jewish province that included Galilee, hadbroken two Jewish laws in relation to his wives. He unjustlydivorced his first and then married his half-brother's wife. Johnthe Baptist (powerful local prophet and cousin of Jesus) voiced theorthodox Jewish opinion on this matter, in what may have been anongoing campaign against him. So Herod had John imprisoned. Hewanted him out of the way, but John's popular reputation saved himinitially, as Herod feared upsetting the crowds.

Herodias (the villainess in the story), however, had otherideas. On Herod's birthday she sent her daughter to perform a'pleasing' (erotic) dance for Herod and his esteemed guests at thislicentious party. And, publically, drunkenly, Herod promised herwhatever she wanted in reward. On the nod from her mother, sheasked for John's head on a platter, and Herod found himself in aCatch-22 situation: save face with his guests (and his wife) orprevent the wrath of the Jewish public. Ultimately, it was John wholost out.

Jesus was informed of his cousin's death - not just a familytragedy, but also a powerful marker at this half-way point inMatthew's Gospel: the one whose role was to 'go on ahead' has shownjust how dangerous the path is. Ultimately, the kingdom of God,always meets opposition against those seeking to secure their ownkingdoms.

To Ponder

  • There were many factors at play on the political and religiousscene at that time. What are the similarities between John theBaptist's story and Jesus' execution? Is Matthew's Gospel trying toprepare us for what's to come?
  • Herodias found that the only sure way to cover up the sin oftheir relationship was to silence permanently the accusing voice.Sin to cover up sin; murder to hide immorality. When do you seethis awful cycle repeated in today's society? Where does it lead?How can Jesus bring this cycle to an end?
  • Read on a little way (Matthew 14:13-21), and see how Jesus, trying tofind somewhere solitary to grieve quietly, was followed by a greatcrowd: the feeding of the five thousand! The one who came toprepare the way had completed his work; Jesus (the one who was tocome) was to be elevated to a whole new level. 
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