Standing for the Truth
Standing for the truth.
“For John had been saying to him, “It is not lawful for you to have her.”
The Herodian family was notorious for their evil and brutality. Herod the Great (37-4 B.C.) was the patriarch of the Herodian dynasty who would play an essential role in the New Testament. He was known for his paranoia and assassination of anyone he thought was a rival, including his sons and wives. Therefore, it was not surprising he would seek to trick the wise men and have all the babies in Bethlehem put to death because of the perceived threat the announcement of the birth of the king of the Jews had for his position of power.
After his death, Herod Archelaus would reign over one-half of this father’s territory, including the area of Judea and Samaria. Like his father, he was known for his treatment of any perceived threat, and it was because of him that Mary and Joseph chose to move back to Nazareth rather than return to Bethlehem after they had fled to Egypt.
The second son of Herod the Great, who would reign over a quarter of his father’s territory, which included Galilee and Perea (4 B.C. to A.D. 39), was Herod Antipus. Herod Antipus would join Pontius Pilate in overseeing the trial and crucifixion of Jesus. True to the character of his family, he was known for his immoral life, so it is not surprising that he would seduce and marry his Sister-in-law, Herodias).
In the Old Testament, the Mosaic law expressly prohibited a person from marrying and having sexual relationships with a sister-in-law (see Leviticus 18:16). Consequently, when Herod Antipas divorced his wife and married Herodias, John the Baptist publically denounced the marriage as being unlawful. However, this public rebuke drew the ire of both Herod and Herodias. Consequently, they had him arrested, thrown into prison, and eventually beheaded because of John’s opposition to their marriage.
When we read the story, we are appalled at the depravity and grotesque actions of Herodias and Herod. We see the debauchery of people who were more concerned about their self-interest than about upholding justice and morality. But we also know the nature and responsibility of proclaiming the truth. God appointed John to be the forerunner of the Messiah. This required him to confront sin and call the people to repentance. Preparing the way for the messiah involved calling the people to “repentance for the forgiveness of sins” (Luke 3:3). This is the same message we proclaim today as we likewise point people to Christ. To fully embrace Jesus as their Messiah, people need to recognize and repent of their sinfulness (see Acts 2:38). However, it is easy to call people to repent and seek God's forgiveness in the church's confines where the message is positively received. It is quite another thing to proclaim the message to people hostile to Christ and our preaching. In this, John gives us an example to follow. When he confronted people for their sins, he did not just confront those who came to hear and respond to his message; he confronted sin, even those who rejected his message. John refused to be silent, even though it would eventually cost him his life. John did not allow fear to silence him.
How often do we remain silent in our witness because of fear of what others will think or do in response? How many times do we allow the opinions and hostility of others to intimidate us so that we fail to challenge people to change? John serves as a reminder that our message is valid, and God commissions us to proclaim his kingdom and call people to repent. We must stand for the truth and confront sin regardless of the response, for this is our calling.