Today I am happy to share a devotional writing from my friend and The Way’s newest summer intern - Ricky Michalski. Ricky is a student at New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary and is originally from the Miami, FL area.
His writing will be a wonderful primer ahead of this Sunday’s Message at 3:16pm at the Casper Rec Center. Enjoy.
14King Herod heard of it, for Jesus’ name had become known. Some were saying, “John the baptizer has been raised from the dead; and for this reason these powers are at work in him.” 15But others said, “It is Elijah.” And others said, “It is a prophet, like one of the prophets of old.” 16But when Herod heard of it, he said, “John, whom I beheaded, has been raised.”
17For Herod himself had sent men who arrested John, bound him, and put him in prison on account of Herodias, his brother Philip’s wife, because Herod had married her. 18For John had been telling Herod, “It is not lawful for you to have your brother’s wife.” 19And Herodias had a grudge against him, and wanted to kill him. But she could not, 20for Herod feared John, knowing that he was a righteous and holy man, and he protected him. When he heard him, he was greatly perplexed; and yet he liked to listen to him. 21But an opportunity came when Herod on his birthday gave a banquet for his courtiers and officers and for the leaders of Galilee. 22When his daughter Herodias came in and danced, she pleased Herod and his guests; and the king said to the girl, “Ask me for whatever you wish, and I will give it.” 23And he solemnly swore to her, “Whatever you ask me, I will give you, even half of my kingdom.” 24She went out and said to her mother, “What should I ask for?” She replied, “The head of John the baptizer.” 25Immediately she rushed back to the king and requested, “I want you to give me at once the head of John the Baptist on a platter.” 26The king was deeply grieved; yet out of regard for his oaths and for the guests, he did not want to refuse her. 27Immediately the king sent a soldier of the guard with orders to bring John’s head. He went and beheaded him in the prison, 28brought his head on a platter, and gave it to the girl. Then the girl gave it to her mother. 29When his disciples heard about it, they came and took his body, and laid it in a tomb.
This passage is a tale of two kingdoms. The first is seen in Herod, the illegitimate ruler whose weakness is on full display in this story. The second kingdom is the one that is not yet seen but is being heralded by John the Baptist, a man who announces the coming reality of the kingdom of God and who lives in accordance with that unseen reality.
Herod enforces his position of power with brutal force, while John, the righteous prophet, endures suffering and death for aligning himself with the kingdom of heaven, trusting that Jesus will be the one through whom God finally sets everything right.
Herod had a mixed relationship with John. Even though he had imprisoned John for calling him out on his immoral public example, and even though he was actually afraid of John's message, he also paid attention to what John was saying. Mark even says that he "enjoyed" listening to the Baptizer. This king knew there was something worth listening to in John's message, but ultimately he was unable to remove himself from the pleasurable life he had built around himself. Finally, one day that life of luxury entangles him in his own carelessness: He makes a stupid (and probably drunken) promise in front of everyone who matters in the earthly kingdom, and is suddenly beholden to a girl to do what he doesn't want to. He had kept listening to God's messenger preach repentance, but he never responded to what he heard.
It's always easy to look at someone like Herod and say, "Well I'm not as messed up as him. It would take a lot more grace to save someone like him." But most of us probably don't have the same opportunities that Herod had to sin so spectacularly. He was a sinner just as we are – but he's also an example of the "powers" of this world, someone we tend to pattern ourselves after when given the opportunity to express our sinful nature.
On the other side of this relationship, John had expressed his message of repentance and faith in the “coming One” with enough clarity that even the powers of the world sat up and noticed. That in turn led John into severe suffering. Still he endures quietly, letting his life testify to the power of the One who is “greater than.” The question this points at us is, “Do our lives speak to the fact that we submit to a King whose power is different from the kings of this world?” and, while we may or may not have to suffer physically for our faith like John did, so many of our spiritual siblings already are suffering like that. Are we standing in solidarity with them? Are we aware of their tested faith? It's easy to feel helpless when we look at how distant those Christians suffering in the Middle East and Mexico and elsewhere are, but we can begin our fellowship with them by praying for them, and with them.