When John the Baptist spoke out against King Herod’s personal life, it cost him his life. Speaking the truth rarely guarantees receiving the culture’s acceptance or approval.
14 King Herod heard of it, for Jesus’ name had become known. Some said, “John the Baptist has been raised from the dead. That is why these miraculous powers are at work in him.” 15 But others said, “He is Elijah.” And others said, “He is a prophet, like one of the prophets of old.” 16 But when Herod heard of it, he said, “John, whom I beheaded, has been raised.” 17 For it was Herod who had sent and seized John and bound him in prison for the sake of Herodias, his brother Philip’s wife, because he had married her. 18 For John had been saying to Herod, “It is not lawful for you to have your brother’s wife.” 19 And Herodias had a grudge against him and wanted to put him to death. But she could not, 20 for Herod feared John, knowing that he was a righteous and holy man, and he kept him safe. When he heard him, he was greatly perplexed, and yet he heard him gladly.
21 But an opportunity came when Herod on his birthday gave a banquet for his nobles and military commanders and the leading men of Galilee. 22 For when Herodias’s daughter 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 to you.”23 And he vowed to her, “Whatever you ask me, I will give you, up to half of my kingdom.” 24 And she went out and said to her mother, “For what should I ask?” And she said, “The head of John the Baptist.” 25 And she came in immediately with haste to the king and asked, saying, “I want you to give me at once the head of John the Baptist on a platter.” 26 And the king was exceedingly sorry, but because of his oaths and his guests he did not want to break his word to her.27 And immediately the king sent an executioner with orders to bring John’s head. He went and beheaded him in the prison 28 and brought his head on a platter and gave it to the girl, and the girl gave it to her mother. 29 When his disciples heard of it, they came and took his body and laid it in a tomb.
The narrative of John the Baptist’s execution raises four critical questions that we must address:
1. Should we criticize sinful leaders publicly?
- When legitimate Kingdom discipleship is taking place, the world takes notice and often provides further ministry opportunities.
- Gospel ministry is at its healthiest when we speak to people rather than about people.
2. Should we expect a sinner to behave like a saint?
- Declaring God’s Word is better than sharing your opinion.
- The gospel is the only power able to change a sinner, but it requires an acknowledgment of sin before a guarantee of salvation.
- If you regulate your reaction based upon an association, you are more offended by politics than unrighteousness.
3. Should we be shocked by our culture’s depravity?
- We are responsible for how we deliver truth – not how the culture receives it.
Confronting our culture’s depravity seeks to stop the tide of sin rather than start an air of superiority.
4. Should we assume that following Jesus will be easy?
- Any path of discipleship that does not anticipate suffering is not following after Jesus.
- Keep your present hardship in perspective by remembering the suffering of Jesus and the promise of eternity.
- Each of us will have trouble in this life – for either doing good or doing evil. Choose wisely.
Travis Agnew serves as the Lead Pastor of Rocky Creek Church in Greenville, SC. His most recent book is Just (About) Married.