Today’s readings make me oddly sad as I read about the death of John to the Baptist and the reason for his death. Essentially he died because he spoke the truth into a situation where the truth was not welcome. I do find it interesting that both Matthew and Mark indicate that King Herod was not interested in killing John, and Mark even seems to insinuate that Herod respected John and even respected him despite the message John spoke that Herod did not want to hear. That message was that the marriage between Herod and Herodias, who was his brother Philip’s wife. According to Jewish Law, a man was not allowed to marry his brother’s wife unless the brother was killed and the man was fulfilling the redeemer role that Boaz fulfilled for Naomi and Ruth.
I don’t know if you have ever been in a situation where you’ve had to speak truth into a corrupt or sinful situation, but it can be very stressful and difficult, especially when the person involved in the questionable activity is unwilling to hear what you have to say. In this case, Herodias was more than unwilling to hear John’s words, she was murderous in her rage against him.
It must have been challenging for John to speak into that situation, knowing it would get him in trouble with the royal family and their powerful friends. Why keep at it? I think the answer is simple: the truth burned so strongly in John’s heart and mind that he had no choice but to speak out against Herod’s sinful relationship. It is much the same passion that caused Paul to write, in 1 Corinthians 9:16 For when I preach the gospel, I cannot boast, since I am compelled to preach.Woe to me if I do not preach the gospel!
The words of the gospel, the Good News of Jesus Christ, burned with such passion in Paul’s heart that he was COMPELLED to preach, it would not be contained. I think John was much the same way when he spoke to Herod about Herodias. The truth within him compelled him to speak out. Now let’s be honest, neither Paul nor John appear to be timid, shy guys. They both come across in scripture as very forward guys who laid the truth out plainly, whether it hurt or not. Were they that way because it was their personalities, or because the Holy Spirit’s prompting was so strong that they had not choice.
I think we assume it was their personalities, but I wonder if we’ve misread that a little bit. If we assign that boldness to their personalities, it leaves us an out when we are in similar situations. “I can’t say anything about that, I’m too shy. I’m no preacher.” But if it was their passion for the truth of God that prompted them to speak, empowered by the Holy Spirit (the same Spirit we have by the way Romans 8:11 tells us that), then it leave us no excuse to be just as bold as John was in this situation.
Something to ponder.
- What was familiar from this passage of scripture? What was something I already knew?
- What was new from this piece of scripture? What was something that really stood out for me that I have never paid attention to before?
- Does Jesus appear in this passage of scripture?
- How does this passage apply to my life, here and now? Do I need to do anything about it?
- What prayer would I offer up to God after reading this piece of scripture?
Tomorrow’s Reading: John 6