Wednesday 29 August 2018

Bible Book:

“This is John the Baptist; he has been raised from the dead, and for this reason these powers are at work in him.” (v. 2)

Matthew 14:1-12 Wednesday 29 August 2018

Psalm: Psalm 126



This is a story told in retrospect. When stories reach his ears about Jesus, Herod the Roman-backed king is reminded of the events leading to his murder of John, a prophetic figure who baptised Jesus at the beginning of his public ministry (Matthew 3:13-17). And so Matthew relates how a muddle of vengeance, bluster, manipulation and the caprice and weakness of a despot accomplished John’s death. But what is this story doing in the middle of Matthew’s book? How, if Gospel means ‘good news’, is this contributing to Matthew’s telling of the Gospel?

There’s always a danger in religious faith and life of associating the presence and work of God in the world only with what is positive and peaceful and good. Perhaps what Matthew is telling is a hard truth: that good and godly people aren’t always protected from disaster and tragedy, and that living faithfully can bring risk and sometimes great cost from which the faithful are not necessarily protected.

But there is at the same time another truth that is being told. Matthew’s Gospel, like the whole of the New Testament, was written in the light of what had already been seen in the cross and resurrection of Jesus – and from a place of understanding that even in apparent failure, weakness, defeat, even where God seems most absent, love’s redeeming work is done. Even Herod’s apparently bizarre speculation – that Jesus somehow represents a “return from the dead” by John (v. 2) – may serve to underline this confidence in the indestructibility, the unstoppable nature of God’s ultimate purposes.

The story of the death of John the Baptist issues a twofold invitation: to face squarely the reality of violence, tragedy and resistance to God in the world and, at the same time, to trust in the creative power of God that cannot be defeated, even when a violent world does its worst – the light that no darkness can finally extinguish.


To Ponder

  • How have you dealt with God’s apparent absence in your own experience?
  • What helps you to trust in God’s ultimate purposes even in the face of what seems to obscure or contradict them?
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