His Courage (series: Harmony of the Gospels)
by John Lowe
Harmony of the Gospels
Title: His Courage
Matthew 14:4-12, Luke 3:19-20
How would you define courage? Would you agree that it would take courage to continue to speak the truth even if it meant imprisonment and death? That would certainly be courageous.
Many people thought that John the Baptist was the prophet Elijah, returned from the dead, because of his message and demeanor. He was an Old Testament prophet in appearance and in what he said and in the way that he said it. He preached against the sin of Israel and declared that they needed to return to God. He called the very religious Pharisees and Sadducees, “Snakes” and “hypocrites”. He was a voice for God and his task was to prepare the way for the coming of the Savior. He was faithful to the task and he was courageous. He did not compromise his message even though it meant death. John the Baptist is my hero because he was faithful to his call and he had great courage.
His courage was never more on display than when he confronted King Herod and publicly accused him and Herodias of the sin of adultery.
For John had been saying to him, “It is not lawful for you to have her.” (Matthew 14:4)
John the Baptist spoke publicly against the immorality of King Herod because he had married Herodias, who was the wife of his brother, Philip. He also condemned him for all the murders and atrocities that he had committed. The family of Herod was evil and corrupt and could be likened to first century Mafia. Herod and Herodias were furious with John-John was not a politician.
Herod wanted to kill John, but he was afraid of the people because they considered him a prophet. (Matthew 14:5)
Some said that he was Elijah and some said that he was the Messiah. John denied that he was either, but the people believed that he was a prophet. John is courageous, but Herod is a coward and he is afraid of how the people will react if he harmed John. Even Herod was not sure of who John was and he did not want to confront this strange messenger from God.
On Herod’s birthday, the daughter of Herodias danced for them and pleased Herod so much, (Matthew 14:6)
Herod was a “dirty old man”, living with his brother’s wife and lusting after her daughter. Herodias and her daughter were conscious of his lust and were able to use it to their advantage.
That he promised with an oath to give her whatever she asked. (Matthew 14:7)
I imagine that he expected her to ask for jewels or property or something reasonable.
Prompted by her mother, she said, “Give me here on a platter the head of John the Baptist.” (Matthew 14:8)
Her mother Herodias lived up to the family name, asking for John’s head because he condemned her for her sin.
The king was distressed, but because of his oaths, and his dinner guests, he ordered that her request be granted. (Matthew 14:9)
This man Herod is more concerned about what his dinner guests will think about him than he is about the life of God’s prophet. He doesn’t want to do it, but he is so concerned about his image that he gives the order to take John’s head.
And had John beheaded in the prison. His head was brought in on a platter and given to the girl, who carried it to her mother. (Matthew 14:10-11)
This was a disgusting, horrible, sadistic act, which showed the true nature of this man and his family. Today, we can find even eviler acts-for example there is the terrorist destruction of 9-11-2001. Men are capable of doing great evil; “The heart is deceitful above all things and beyond cure. Who can understand it?” (Jeremiah 17:9)
John’s disciples came and got his body and buried it. Then they went and told Jesus. (Matthew 14:12)
John’s disciples took his body and buried it. Some of them would begin to follow Jesus, from that time.
But when John rebuked Herod the tetrarch because of Herodias, his brother's wife, and all the other evil things he had done, Herod added this to them all: he locked John up in prison. (Luke 3:19-20)
Some say that Steven was the first Christian martyr. I would apply that title to John the Baptist.
There are many places in the world today where Christians are in danger. If you are a Christian, pray for those who suffer, because of their faith.