Matthew 14:1-12

At that time Herod the ruler heard reports about Jesus; and he said to his servants, “This is John the Baptist; he has been raised from the dead, and for this reason these powers are at work in him.” For Herod had arrested John, bound him, and put him in prison on account of Herodias, his brother Philip’s wife, because John had been telling him, “It is not lawful for you to have her.” Though Herod wanted to put him to death, he feared the crowd, because they regarded him as a prophet.

But when Herod’s birthday came, the daughter of Herodias danced before the company, and she pleased Herod so much that he promised on oath to grant her whatever she might ask. Prompted by her mother, she said, “Give me the head of John the Baptist here on a platter.” The king was grieved, yet out of regard for his oaths and for the guests, he commanded it to be given; he sent and had John beheaded in the prison. The head was brought on a platter and given to the girl, who brought it to her mother.

His disciples came and took the body and buried it; then they went and told Jesus. Matthew 14:1-12

See the scene clearly as you listen to this text – Herod Antipas was the Roman-approved puppet governor of Galilee. John the Baptist was an itinerant mystic and preacher. Herod had all the power that government, military, and money could provide. John the Baptist had only the power of persuasion.

Herod had John arrested because John publicly criticized Herod for divorcing his wife in order to take his half-brother’s wife as his own. Herod, I guess, assumed that he could do anything he had the power to do because he had the power to do it. John, I guess, saw leadership, including political leadership, as a moral position and therefore subject to the same expectations of decency and justice as any other sphere of life.

John went from preachin’ to meddlin’ and it cost him his life.

We live in a very different world today. At least we want to believe we do. I live under the authority figures of the President of the United States, the Governor of the state of Texas, the County Judge of our local county commission, the Mayor and City Council of Houston, and the Mayor and City Council of Bellaire. I would like to believe that each of the people holding these positions do so because they were elected by a majority of the voters who cast ballots in their elections. That is a very different world than a foreign power installing a local leader who is obliged to do the bidding of that foreign power.

Yet our world isn’t as clear and clean as we would like to naively believe.

Our current President was not elected by a majority of voters. He was elected by a majority of voters in the Electoral College which was initially established because of the fear that a wider electorate might be manipulated more easily than a smaller group of trusted leaders and thereby bring a tyrant to power. And because the smaller states were afraid that their votes wouldn’t count as much. And because of the Southern fear that they would be overwhelmed by the greater numbers in the North and therefore could see slavery abolished. So a compromise was reached. The Electoral College was established. And Blacks in the South – who could not vote – would count as 3/5’s of a human being when it came to the numbers in the Electoral College.

Bottom line – the reason we have the Electoral College in our system reaches back to the 12th Amendment, passed in 1804, crafted in such a way as to preserve the horror of slavery. The result, for 32 of the next 36 years our President would be a slave owner from Virginia. And race remains a wedge issue in our politics today.

His election may, or may not, have been aided by the efforts of a hostile foreign government. The jury is still out on that one. Am I meddlin’?

Herod had John beheaded. Why? Because Herod got drunk and didn’t want to embarrass himself in front of his party guests. A thoughtless, impetuous, impulsive, arrogant abuse of power. That didn’t hurt Herod’s standing with the people at all.

We might remember also that Herod won the day. He removed the irritation of John the Baptist. Later Jesus himself, another preacher turned meddler, would likewise be removed. And the crowds would be pleased by both moves. The crowds thought it far better to cast their fortunes on the scraps from the table of a tyrant than the free gift of love and a new way of life preached by those meddlers.

Herod might have won the day. But the battle still rages and I’m pinning my hopes on Jesus.

Let us pray: Dear Lord, give us the courage to speak the truth in love. Give us the wisdom to see you at work, behind and beneath the shifting sands of public opinion and public policy. Bless those people chosen to lead us that they might come at their responsibilities from a place of justice and truth and commitment to the common good. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

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One Response to “Matthew 14:1-12”

  1. Sharon Boyd Says:

    AMEN!!! AS USUAL, I NEEDED THIS! MAY GOD CONTINUE TO BLESS YOU AS YOU BLESS SO MANY!

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