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As the people were in expectation, and all were questioning in their hearts concerning John, whether he might be the Christ,16 John answered them all, saying, “I baptize you with water, but he who is mightier than I is coming, the strap of whose sandals I am not worthy to untie. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire. 17 His winnowing fork is in his hand, to clear his threshing floor and to gather the wheat into his barn, but the chaff he will burn with unquenchable fire.”
18 So with many other exhortations he preached good news to the people.19 But Herod the tetrarch, who had been reproved by him for Herodias, his brother’s wife, and for all the evil things that Herod had done, 20 added this to them all, that he locked up John in prison. – Luke 3:15-20 [ESV]
“Treat your brothers like you treat your soccer opponents, and your soccer opponents like you treat your brothers!” I had just witnessed an all-too-polite sidestep by one of my sons when his opponent had charged his way. He wasn’t bigger than my son. He was just more intense and focused on the goal. When it came to the treatment of his brothers, however, it was quite another story. All brothers fight as young men, and our sons were certainly no exception. He held his ground with them. Not so much on the soccer field.
When it comes to standing up to Satan, I fear that we may be much the same in our efforts to resist. Sometimes Satan’s evil intent is very well hidden and seductive. As I like to say, It wasn’t some half-rotten piece of maggot-infested fruit on the ground that Satan used to tempt Eve. It was pleasing to the eye, desirable for wisdom, and good for food. When those temptations come along we may give in much easier if we are prone to trust people. But even then we certainly must have some idea of the danger. We have been warned after all.
Having said that there are times when we know it’s just plane wrong. And our defenses finally give way not only because we’re fallen creatures. They give way because the devil is relentless in his pursuit of our souls. Jesus says that he comes to steal, kill, and destroy. And he’s committed to greed, conquest, and annihilation.
Herod is using Satan’s playbook. He will not give up. Not content with having Herodias as his wife, he will lock up John in prison, and ultimately have John beheaded in a foolish satan-inspired promise to Herodias’ daughter (cf, Matthew 14:1-12). Not only is Herod using Satan’s playbook, he’s serving as Satan’s shill. Satan is using Herod, and he will be the worse for it.
Josephus says that Herod, “feared lest the great influence John had over the people might put it in his power and inclination to raise a rebellion; for they seemed ready to do anything he should advise.” Whatever the reason – coopted by Satan, serving as his pawn, captured by fear – Herod will not give up. Even more so Satan. We must stand up to him. May God give us his Spirit of courage, strength, wisdom, and discernment. For the stakes are much higher than any soccer match or brother-to-brother combat.