Failure and Provocation

Herod Antipas, the king, soon heard about Jesus, because everyone was talking about him. Some were saying, “This must be John the Baptist raised from the dead. That is why he can do such miracles.” 15 Others said, “He’s the prophet Elijah.” Still others said, “He’s a prophet like the other great prophets of the past.”

16 When Herod heard about Jesus, he said, “John, the man I beheaded, has come back from the dead.”

17 For Herod had sent soldiers to arrest and imprison John as a favor to Herodias. She had been his brother Philip’s wife, but Herod had married her. 18 John had been telling Herod, “It is against God’s law for you to marry your brother’s wife.” 19 So Herodias bore a grudge against John and wanted to kill him. But without Herod’s approval she was powerless, 20 for Herod respected John; and knowing that he was a good and holy man, he protected him. Herod was greatly disturbed whenever he talked with John, but even so, he liked to listen to him. – Mark 6:14-20

Lavender Daisy – Closer View | Austin, Texas | October 2020

But I’m doing what God has called me to do!

Why is this so hard? I know it’s the right thing to do. 

Where is God? I’m not seeing God’s hand in this.

Do you ever say these things? Many of us struggle with these thoughts. When we’re striving to do right, to obey God, to follow Jesus, we think the path should be easy. In fact, we may be offended if we meet resistance which sometimes comes from people in the church. Sadly, not everyone will support us in our life of obedience and faithfulness.

John knew that full well. He was being faithful to God. Preaching the truth to power. Calling people to repentance. Fearless. Faithful. But not without trouble. For even as Herod was intrigued with John’s teaching, he was also disturbed by John’s message. 

Intrigued yet disturbed. This is an interesting and challenging combination of relational and emotional dynamics. Another way to put it: A confusing relationship! Did Herod want to believe, but couldn’t? Did he want to dismiss John’s teachings but couldn’t? In either case this lack of clarity and his personal insecurity, lack of moral clarity, and compromised self-definition would conspire to make things very difficult for John. They would – with the catalyst of Herodias (his wife about whom John had said, “It is against God’s law for you to marry your brother’s wife.”) would cost John his life.

It can seem trite to say, “We live in a fallen world, therefore bad things happen to all kinds of people.” But it is true. Just as God allows the rain to fall on the righteous and unjust, God does not exempt his people from the consequences of our own fallen nature or of the evil intent of others. John – though faithful, bold, and true – will lose his life because of Herod’s failures and Herodias’ provocation. 

He had not come back from the dead as Herod had supposed or feared. But the One who has come back from the dead has conquered death for us. Through faith in him we will overcome and experience the fullness of God’s promise in Romans 8:

What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? 32 He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things? 33 Who shall bring any charge against God’s elect? It is God who justifies. 34 Who is to condemn? Christ Jesus is the one who died—more than that, who was raised—who is at the right hand of God, who indeed is interceding for us. 35 Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword? 36 As it is written,

“For your sake we are being killed all the day long;
    we are regarded as sheep to be slaughtered.”

37 No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. 38 For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, 39 nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord. – Romans 8:31-39

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