Wednesday 29 August 2012

Bible Book:

"The king was grieved, yet out of regard for his oaths and for the guests, he commanded it to be given; he sent and had John beheaded in the prison. The head was brought on a platter and given to the girl, who brought it to her mother. His disciples came and took the body and buried it; then they went and told Jesus." (vv. 9-12)

Matthew 14:1-12 Wednesday 29 August 2012


Although there are four central characters in today's reading -two women and two men - it is the relationship between Herod,Herodias and her daughter (who is sometimes referred to as Salome)which fascinates and disturbs in equal measure. This tripartiteinteraction, which ultimately results in the demise of the innocentJohn the Baptist, is a tale of deceit, deception, deviousness anddeath.

When this passage is usual explored, most folk tend to focus on thescheming of a mother and daughter who appear to use feminine charmsto beguile the king into killing their nemesis, John the Baptist.But what should be of greater interest is the behaviour of Herod,who displayed poor judgement and weakness when placed in acompromising situation.

The Bible is replete with great and powerful individuals such asHerod, and his contemporary Pontius Pilate, who displayed amazinglypoor judgement, indecision and general weakness under pressure.Although no one would describe either Herod or Pontius Pilate asgodly, there are real parallels between these two legendaryfigures. Both were commanding men in Palestine at the time, butthey caved in under pressure. Pilate succumbed to the demands of ascheming mob and sacrificed Jesus (Matthew chapter27), while Herod lost his head after seeing his stepdaughter'senticing dance, which in turn led John the Baptist to lose his.While it is easy to denounce these individuals as spineless andcowardly, most folk will never be in such a position where theyhave to make life and death decisions like Pilate and Herod.

From a Christian perspective, it is interesting that both men at notime considered prayer as a response to this pressure. PontiusPilate literally washed his hands, while Herod's reaction remainsunknown. No doubt most Christians would hope that God would come totheir rescue at such a time and give them the wisdom and strengthto do what's right under pressure.

In the final analysis, prayer should be at the heart of any matterinvolving a crucial decision.

To Ponder

  • At what point do you turn to prayer when you are tested?
  • Has there ever been an occasion when you 'washed your hands'when you faced a difficult issue? What happened as a result?
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