During the class, Dr. Dean mentioned Dr. Andy Woods' blog. You can read it at www.thewordonpolitics.com
Opposition and Persecution
Matthew Lesson #082
June 21, 2015
“Father, we’re so thankful for the opportunity we have to fellowship together around Your Word. That real fellowship begins at the Cross, for when we trust in Christ as Savior, we’re adopted into your royal family, and we become a body, a family of believers. The way in which we grow from spiritual infancy is through Your Word. Peter tells us that we are to desire the milk of the word like a newborn babe. We are to hunger for it, thirst for it, that is our source—our spiritual nutrition, and it is through Your Word in conjunction with God the Holy Spirit that we’re brought to spiritual maturity.
Father, as we study Your Word, we learn about You, we learn who You are, we learn Your plan and purposes in history, and we recognize that one of the overarching themes of Scripture is to resolve the problem of sin—original angelic sin that had an impact on God’s plan and creation of the human race; the sin of Adam, which brought spiritual death and corruption into this creation that can only be resolved through the death of a human being who would pay that penalty, but had to be a perfect human being. So it is the preparation period through the Old Testament that focused on Messiah, Who would come, and Who would give His life like the sacrificial lamb in the Old Testament, which depicts that substitutionary death—it’s fulfillment in Christ and His life.
As we study through the gospels, we’re challenged with understanding of what took place when the Lamb of God came into the world. As we’re told in John, He came to His own, and His own received Him not. But as many as received Him, to them gave He the power to be called the sons of God.
So Father, as we continue our study of Your Word, we know that there are many, many ways in which this may apply to our lives, and we pray that God the Holy Spirit would make these things clear as we come to understand Your thinking more clearly. In Christ’s name we pray. Amen.”
Open your Bibles with me this morning to Matthew 14. This morning we’re going to look at the first 12 verses of Matthew 14. This is something of an interesting section to focus upon and think in terms of the way in which and why this is included in the Scripture for us. We’re told that all Scripture is breathed out by God and is profitable for teaching. That’s the meaning of doctrine: it’s just instruction, profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, and for instruction in righteousness.
It’s always interesting when we get into some sections of the Word, we scratch our heads and say, “Well, I don’t really see how this applies,” but there are always implications and application from every Scripture, and God has revealed these things to us for a variety of reasons.
I’m always impressed with how God is a multi-tasker. Long before there were computers and modern technology and other things, God was multi-tasking, and He accomplishes numerous things through one single passage of Scripture.
So we’re going to look at this section of Scripture, which is really a flashback to something that has already happened, not probably too far in the past—probably within the previous three or four months to this event.
But it’s a flashback to bring out something that I think is significant in the flow of Matthew’s argument, and that deals with that theme of opposition to Christ and persecution.
So we see that evidenced in what happens to John the Baptist, and what happened to almost all of the disciples, what happened to many of the early church believers, what’s happening in many areas of the world today, and what I fear is going to begin to take place in this country before too much longer.
Many of us never dreamed as we were younger, that we would live in a time in which there may come open opposition and persecution, even from the government, to those who are believers in the Lord Jesus Christ.
We need to be prepared for that. We need to be spiritually prepared for that. I don’t think that we can necessarily always physically prepare for that in terms of logistics and other things because we don’t know exactly where some of those attacks are going to originate or when they’re going to originate.
But we have to be prepared spiritually for those attacks.
As we’ve looked at our study of the layout of Matthew, Matthew begins with the presentation of the King at the beginning of His life: His birth, and then His presentation by John the Baptist.
First time we’re introduced to John the Baptist is in Matthew 4, and in that time, John is coming. And he comes out of the wilderness; and he is proclaiming a message to repent for the Kingdom of Heaven is at hand.
John the Baptist is a cousin of the Lord Jesus Christ, and He was also the result of a miraculous birth—his mother Elizabeth, his father Zachariah, who is a priest. His mother was barren: one of those six barren women that are highlighted in the Scripture for a specific purpose because God is going to give her a somewhat miraculous conception.
Not miraculous in the way that cousin Mary is going to have a miraculous virgin conception, but because she’s been barren, and they’re older, Zachariah and Elizabeth are older, God is the one Who’s going to make that possible.
The angel Gabriel appears to Zachariah in the temple and tells him that he’s going to have a son, and this son will fulfill prophecy. He will be the forerunner of the Messiah. That tells us a couple of things:
One thing it tells us is that Zachariah would understand Old Testament teaching about the Messiah. Now I bring that out because many of you who were here during the conference, especially if you listened to Jim Myers’ talk on Friday night, should be well informed that today there’s a trend within evangelicalism to minimize the reality of Old Testament prophecy.
That what you find in a lot of the intelligentsia in some of our conservative evangelical seminaries—no it’s not the liberals, these are the conservatives—is that they minimize this.
In fact, of most of the men who are on the faculty at Dallas Theological Seminary—and I’m not picking on Dallas, I just happen to know that Dallas culture a little better than I do other seminaries—many of those men would say that—and this was true even in my day, although I was learning so many other things that I wasn’t really tuned into this particular problem—that the only real prophecy, if we have one that’s Messianic in the Old Testament, is Psalm 110:1, “The Lord said to my Lord, sit at My right hand.”
They minimize Isaiah 7:14, Isaiah 9:6; Psalm 2, many other passages, Micah 5:2. These passages really had a historical fulfillment. They weren’t Messianic in their original intent, but when you look at the Scripture, as Jim pointed out on Friday night, you have constant references to the fact (and we even saw this in the passage I read in the parallel in Mark 6), that when the people saw what Jesus did (they heard His words and they saw His works; they saw his miracles) they said, “Some said He was Elijah. Others said He was a prophet, and others were saying ‘could this be THE prophet?’ ” which means they clearly understood there was Messianic content in the Old Testament.
Zachariah understood that, so when Gabriel is telling him that he’s going to give birth to a son, and he will be the forerunner of the Messiah, he knew exactly what that meant.
So that’s our first introduction to John the Baptist. Then we see him come on the scene later on as a somewhat odd prophet, because he spent most of his time out camping in the boonies out in the desert of Judea, having a rather unusual diet of locusts and honey, and that he dresses in this camel hair rug. So he looks and dresses in a way that is going to attract attention. He’s got a little bit of a PR approach that’s a little different from what we might expect today.
He comes out in the desert, and he begins to proclaim this message to repent for the Kingdom of Heaven is at hand. That’s the thrust of his message, but in the process, John is saying some other things. He’s talking about the need to repent, why they should repent. So he is was in the role of a prophet.
From the time of Moses on, one of the roles of a prophet was to sit in judgment on the government because (and the principle here is the Word of God is always the ultimate authority) when it comes to civil government, that civil government was always under the authority of the Word of God. We see this, for example, in Samuel—as we’ll be studying on Tuesday night—that when Samuel comes on the scene, he is the one who anoints the king.
The king is under the authority of God. The king is not autonomous. He doesn’t rule on his own whim, on his own basis, but he rules under the authority of God and under the Law of God.
Throughout the Old Testament, you see prophet after prophet coming on the scene, and they are announcing a judgment on the people because they’re not obedient to the Law.
The role of prophet was a lot like a prosecuting attorney representing the throne of God, and accusing the people and bringing in an indictment against the people for their disobedience to the Law of God. John the Baptist functioned that way.
When he tells them to repent, even though we are not told in the Scripture what the details of his message were, he didn’t just say repent for the Kingdom of God is at hand, repent for the Kingdom of God is at hand, blah, blah, blah. He doesn’t just say that over and over again. He talks about why they need to repent; what the issues are; what repentance meant—a change of mind and a change in their direction, a change in the way they interpreted the law and how they applied the law of Moses in their lives, and the need to turn back to God, either to trust in God as the One that will provide them with salvation, trust in the Messianic promise from the Old Testament, and he would have developed that.
But he also critiqued the government at the time. We learn that from this passage because as we will see one of the reasons Herod is willing to execute John the Baptist is that we’re told down in verse 4 because John had said to him (and the verb form there is in the imperfect tense which doesn’t mean he did it once—he did it over and over and over again), and some of the more modern translations will translate that because John had continually said that to him.
He didn’t say that to him one-on-one. He said that in his messages as he’s talking to the people. That’s something that would have riled up the folks a little bit, but it also was a challenge to the morality and the ethics of the kingdom and of the rule of Herod Agrippa.
This is Herod Agrippa that is ruling over Galilee and Perea at this particular time, and we’ll get into that in just a minute.
So you have initially this offer of the King and the Kingdom, but that came with a critique, a political critique of the government. This then is the same message by Jesus when He came on the scene. John the Baptist baptized Him, which was the public presentation of the King, and His message was the same—to repent for the Kingdom of Heaven is at hand.
This led eventually in the initial stages very popular, and large crowds came out to hear Jesus. Then there was a hint of opposition—we read that back in Matthew 7 and 8, in there where there were continuous little bits and pieces indicating opposition. This culminates in the rejection of Jesus’ claims to be the Messiah by the Pharisees in Matthew 12.
That’s the centerpiece where everything shifts and pivots. Then the last part is dealing with—from Matthew 13 on—Jesus’ training of The Twelve.
Well, part of this last section focuses on the increasing opposition, the opposition to His claim of being the Messiah and to His offer. This is the basic structure that we have been looking at.
Now in Matthew 14:1, Matthew tells us when this event takes place. At the end of Matthew 13, we saw the rejection of Jesus at His hometown in Nazareth. Now we’re going to see the rejection of the forerunner, and what happened to him in that this cost him his life, as it will cost our Lord His life at the Crucifixion. So there’s a subtext running through this that foreshadows what happens to John the Baptist will happen to the Messiah as well.
We’re introduced to this guy, Herod the Tetrach. We read in Matthew 14:1 that at that time, Herod the Tetrach heard the report about Jesus. Now you look at that and here he’s Herod the Tetrach. There’s something about studying the New Testament that really confuses people, and that’s whenever we start talking about Herod.
I remember when I was probably eight or nine years old, my dad was trying to teach me how to fish using a casting rod instead of just using a bamboo pole and just fishing off the pier, but casting a line out there. He probably made a mistake because the only reel that he had was a Mitchell open-face reel, which is a little more advanced that your typical little Zebco closed reel.
I remember the first time I tried casting with that, it just produced this huge jumble of fishing line. You guys know what I’m talking about. Then what do you have to do? You have to sit down and you have to apply a little patience, which never ran very strong in the genetic make-up in my family, and you have to undo, and you have to follow all those lines, and pull it out and take a lot of time to undo that knot. Well, that’s kind of like what the Herodian family is like.
It’s really confusing because you don’t have any color codes. You have the progenitor of the line is Herod, and here we have a rather simplified chart. It’s simplified because we don’t have all his wives in there. He had 10 wives.
After he got rid of his first wife Doris, the other nine were simultaneous. He’s the only known figure in the ancient world that had multiple wives at that time in the first century—the only one that we know of. He had all of these different… these were named sons… other daughters and sons whose names were not preserved down through history, but from these nine different wives, he had a number of different sons.
His name was Herod. People then didn’t call him Herod the Great. They wouldn’t walk in and say, “Well, okay fill out this form. First name: Herod. Last name: The Great. No, he was just Herod. And it wasn’t until later on that people applied “the Great” to that because it helps distinguish him from his sons. He had a least two sons who were called Herod.
Now if you look at this chart, you’ll see that the first son listed here is actually the son that we’re talking about—Herod Antipas. Herod Antipas is the Herod that we read about throughout most of the gospels. It’s the Herod the Great who’s the Herod at the time of the birth of Jesus, but he dies shortly thereafter.
Then there’s a transition that takes place because of his will, and he leaves his kingdom to his sons. It’s split up among his sons. So they’re referred to as Tetrarchs.
Now the etymology of that word “tetrarch” means a ruler of a force. That’s the literal meaning, but by this time it had just come to be a title for someone who ruled part of a kingdom. We’ve got to get past this odd terminology of a tetrarch. What in the world is a tetrarch? I’ve heard of a king. I’ve heard of a president. I’ve heard of a dictator, but I’ve never heard of a tetrarch before. Then we also have an ethnarch in there. That comes later, but we won’t confuse you too much with that term right now.
We have Herod Antipas, and he’s the tetrarch, or the ruler, of Galilee from 4 BC to AD 39. So he gets part of the kingdom.
Now another son, Archelaus, becomes the ethnarch—there’s that term—ruler of a people from ETHNOS, meaning a people or nation, the ruler of people. He’s actually given the title “king” like his father Herod had. He’s the ethnarch or the ruler of Judea, Samaria, and Idumea. Excuse me I misspoke just then, he’s not given the title “king,” he’s also given the title “Herod.” But his name’s also Herod. Are you confused now?
Part of the confusion is Herod has two sons that he names after himself. Some scholars have said, “Well, that wouldn’t make sense. That would be like somebody who would have two sons and they name them the same name.”
What’s his name? Yeah, I knew y’all would know that! George Foreman does the same thing! Yeah! He just named all of his sons after himself.
So that’s what Herod did. He liked his name, and he just gave it. So that’s a problem because you’ve got two sons who are called Herod, that’s their birth name, Herod Archelaus and Herod Philip.
But in the Bible, Herod Philip is mostly referred to as Philip. Josephus calls him Herod. There are liberals who say, “Well, Josephus, when he talks about this, he’s got a different person than Philip.” And it’s really that his name was Herod Philip.
Then you have Herod Antipas who isn’t born, I mean, he’s known as Antipas until Archelaus is kicked out by the Romans because he was such a horrible ruler. He was clearly the worst of the bunch, and the worst of his sons, and he just angered the Jews so much that they finally sent a delegation to Caesar, to Tiberius, to kick him out because he was horrible, and he got kicked out and exiled to Vienne, which is south of Lyon in France, for the rest of his life.
Once that happened, then his title of Herod became transferred to Antipas. At that point Antipas assumes the title of Herod. Herod’s not his name. Herod is the name of these two brothers. Are y’all confused yet? You should be. I mean, scholars have spent years trying to unravel this knot. It is very confusing.
So that’s basically it. Herod the Great was a tremendous, (he was) probably one of the most significant architects and builders, and those of you who have gone to Israel, we’ve seen a number of different things that he built and that have survived down through the centuries.
But he also had a sin nature that ran toward paranoia and suspicion. He was always afraid that his wives or his sons were out to do him in. There was some evidence of that, so he had his sons, Aristobulus, Alexander, and Antipater, three of his sons executed.
So it wasn’t a really good thing to be part of his family. In fact, one of the Caesars, I can’t remember which one, said that you’d be better treated if you were a pig in Judea, than if you were a son of Herod. Pigs were unclean animals. They weren’t treated real well. So this was not a great thing to be a son of Herod the Great.
Well, what we have in this story, to just make it somewhat simple, is that Philip gets this kingdom here that’s in sort of a tan or light brown color. He’s the ruler of this territory. He marries Herodias.
Herodias is—I’m not even going to try to get into it—she’s a relative, but that’s what you get in the family is there’s a lot of marriages of first cousins, so I think that probably exasperated the whole paranoia gene in the sin nature. But he marries Herodias, and then she divorces him.
Now according to Roman law, that was legitimate, but according to Jewish law, that was not legitimate. She divorced him because Antipas had come up to visit and they locked eyes one day and that was it. They decided they were in-lust with each other for ever and ever. And they came up with this deal that if she divorced Philip that he would divorce his wife, and then they could get married.
The trouble was that Antipas’ wife was the daughter of Aretas IV who is the king down in Petra. He’s Arab. He’s down in Petra—those of you who’ve been to Israel with me or Jordan this last year, we went over to Petra—and that really angers her father. He had married her so there would be peace between him, because he rules this kind of blue area here, Galilee and Perea, and Perea stretches down, almost down to this area in the south, which is Nabataea, and Petra would be just off the map to the south.
So there’s going to be a war that occurs in AD 35. This is like two years after the Cross. There’s going to be a war that occurs where Aretas is going to just wipe out Antipas’ army.
The reason given by Josephus for that is because of going back to this event where Antipas had divorced his wife; and that broke the treaty and really angered Aretas. So there are a lot of things going on here, but because of the way Josephus tells the story, this causes some conflict in dates because people want to think that, well, this event with John the Baptist didn’t occur before the Cross, but in AD 35.
But these events took place, and it took years for things to fester before these battles took place. They weren’t something that happened just immediately.
So this is the background for this particular episode. Let me look at this again, just work it through verse by verse. Matthew 14:1,
“At that time Herod the Tetrarch heard this report about Jesus and said to his servants, ‘This is John the Baptist.’”
So he’s thinking that Jesus is a reincarnation, so to speak, of John the Baptist, which is really strange because there’s some thought that Herod held to the beliefs of the Sadducees, and the Sadducees didn’t believe in resurrection.
It shows something about how the unbeliever’s conscience works: that when he’s done something that violates his conscience, even though he tries to stuff that—this happens with believers too—stuff that down into a compartment in the basement of his soul, things are going to happen that God brings along that are going to bring those things back to mind.
The result is he’s got this overwhelming guilt complex, and when you’ve got a guilt complex combined with a sin nature trend toward paranoia, it’s just a nasty little combination that can produce a lot of sorrow in the soul. But he’s got no way to deal with the sin in his life, and the failures, because he’s an unbeliever. He’s rejected the truth of God’s Word as it has been revealed up to that particular point.
This is evidence of his guilt, not only real guilt, but the guilt feelings that generate because of his sin. So he says that he thinks Jesus is John the Baptist, that he’s been resurrected from the dead, and these powers are at work in him. It’s very clear again that the miracles that Jesus was performing are not doubted; they’re not questioned.
Now you and I, when we turn on a number of different television shows, and we see someone like Benny Hinn bringing people down to the front and lines them all up and goes around and pops them on the head, and they pass out and all of these different things, we say, “Oh this is so phony!” There are a lot of things written about the phoniness of these things. There have even been exposés done on shows like 60 Minutes and some of these prime-time shows that we have; they’re phony.
But nobody at the time of Jesus is questioning His miracles because of the nature of the miracles and the numerous eye witnesses. So he’s not questioning that, but his guilt is such that it is distorting how he’s interpreting the event, and he says, “This has got to be John the Baptist coming back to haunt me!”
Then we have a flashback, so Matthew 14:1–2 are what Matthew’s telling us about. Then he goes into this flashback from verses 3 down through 12, and the reason for that is he’s pointing out another example of opposition and persecution to the gospel, and this points to the message of Jesus.
So he explains it, verse 3, “For Herod had laid hold of John and bound him, and put him in prison for the sake of Herodias, his brother Philip’s wife.”
What that’s basically saying is because of what has happened with Herodias, that Herodias was his brother’s wife, and that made this unlawful.
It violated the Mosaic Law, which prohibited the marriage to a brother’s wife, unless that marriage between brother and wife had not produced any children; and then the exception was that if the brother died childless, then the brother could take his wife in what was called a levirate marriage and produce children with his brother’s wife that would be raised up as the heirs of his brother in order to continue that family name and to pass on the property in the inheritance that was to stay within the family, within the clans, as determined by the real estate divisions that are explained in the Book of Joshua.
So Philip, there’s debate about this, whether Salome, the daughter, is Philip’s or belongs to an even prior marriage by Herodias. I think that she probably had the child by a prior marriage. Then she married Philip, and Salome was Philip’s step daughter, and then they were divorced.
So Salome is not the child of Philip. Nevertheless, because Philip is still alive, this would be a violation of the Mosaic Law. So the Pharisees and the Orthodox were clearly opposed to what had taken place, and this just led to further unrest within the kingdom because they already have this Herodian ruler, the son of Herod.
They didn’t really like Herod that much because he was sort of a half-breed. He was Idumean, which is a descendant of Edom, and he claims some Jewish blood in his line, but that really wasn’t respected very much. So there was a lot of opposition to Herod the Great as well as to Herod Antipas.
Then we’re told that the reason for this antagonism towards John is because John had continually said to him, “It is not lawful for you to have her, and to be married to her.” So he’s challenging the ethical foundation of the kingdom.
As I stated earlier, this is an imperfect tense verb here that John had continuously done this. This is, as I pointed out earlier, a standard operating procedure for the prophets. The Word of God stands over government.
We have a situation today that is not unlike this. We’re going to find out this particular week about a Supreme Court decision related to the laws, the defense of marriage laws in various states in the US. Many people believe that this particular decision is going to go against the traditional, historical, biblical view of marriage as being between one man and one woman.
This is going to have devastating effects culturally because no nation has ever redefined marriage. It has been the same definition for generations, and to redefine marriage is going to have a host of unforeseen circumstances, unintended consequences because of how this is going to affect a lot of different things. Where do you stop once you start changing this definition?
It’s never happened before even in the most perverse homosexual-favoring cultures like Ancient Greece and Ancient Rome. They never validated homosexual unions as marriage, and they never even projected this upon the pantheons, upon their gods and goddesses. Their gods and goddesses were incredibly immoral, but they weren’t homosexual. Isn’t that interesting?
So this decision by the Supreme Court has already been highlighted. You’ve heard a lot of people talk about it. Focus on the Family’s founder James Dobson has come out and said this is going to be the basis for civil disobedience among all pastors and all Christians who refuse to validate this.
Today a group has taken out a full page ad in the Washington Post that’s an open letter to the Supreme Court Justices of the U.S. It says,
“We ask you not to force us to choose between the state and the laws of God. We the undersigned have joined together to present our unified message and plead to the justices of the United States Supreme Court regarding the matter of marriages. We’re Protestant, Catholic and Orthodox Christian pastors, clergy, lay leaders, and Jewish leaders.”
This is the first time I’ve seen anybody bring that out. Orthodox Jewish leaders are as much opposed to this as Christians are. Everybody wants to blame Christians for this, but Muslim clergy are against this as well. Somebody pointed out this last week that possibly one reason you’re not hearing anything from Muslims about this is because if the definition of marriage changes to validate same-sex marriage, then they think they can use that to change the definition to allow for polygamy.
Now Mormons haven’t gone there, which is what I would suspect. Mormons are very much opposed to same-sex marriage as well, so it’s not just Christians that are opposed to this.
So they go on and they say,
“We affirm that any judicial opinion which purports to redefine marriage will constitute an unjust law as Martin Luther King, Jr. described such laws in his letter from the Birmingham jail.”
That’s an interesting appeal because that’s going to bring an appeal to the black community, the black Christian community. The black Christian community is on-board with this as well.
Basically what this says as you skip down, it says,
“On this choice we must pledge obedience to our Creator. While there are many things we can endure, any attempt to redefine marriage is a line we cannot and will not cross.”
The complete marriage pledge can be read…” and then they give their website on www.defendmarriage.org, and gives a more detailed defense of marriage on that website.
This is a huge culture clash that is coming right now because once you elevate and legitimize same-sex marriage as the inherent right of homosexuals, then you’re going to come into a rights clash with the First Amendment. Do we have the right to freedom of speech, the right to assemble, the right to freely teach the Word of God, even when it conflicts with the—what they will say are—the rights of homosexuals to marry? And that is going to go, I think, in a negative direction.
That’s what has happened in Canada and one of the problems in Canada. So we’re headed to a huge conflict that could, if they decide against the state laws, I predict that that will eventually lead to churches that will lose their tax-exempt status.
That’s already been stated by, I believe it is Obama’s, I forget the exact title, his main attorney, it’s not the Attorney General, but it’s somebody just under the Attorney General has already stated that this will render null and void the tax-exempt status of almost every religious institution in the country.
This is a full bore frontal assault against Christianity, which means that a week from now because this decision is supposed to be announced, I believe, in the next week, a week from now this may create a totally new environment within the United States that has never existed. Our beliefs will basically be unconstitutional and illegal if they make that decision, and the implications of that are horrendous.
This is the same kind of thing that happened with John the Baptist. He’s preaching the truth and proclaiming a biblical truth about Herod and his marriage. When the Word of God clashes with secular authorities, the result is opposition and persecution that’s going to increase. And this is what happens.
Herod has his birthday party in verse 6, “and the daughter of Herodias, Salome, then there’s like four different Salome’s in the family, so that’s another really difficult thread to start dealing with, so I’m not going to confuse you on that. It’s the step daughter of actually the step daughter of even Philip, but she is Herodias’ daughter. She’s about 12 years old.
In Mark 6:22 we read, “When Herodias’ daughter herself came in and danced, and pleased Herod,” and there’s nothing lewd about this.
Some people try to put sexual overtones on this, but that’s not the case. There have been numerous studies on this, even in the ancient world, that this was not something that was unusual, and it was not something that had sexual overtones.
She “came in and she danced, she pleased Herod and those who sat with him, and the king said to the girl”—and the word there for “girl” is KORASION in the Greek, and it refers to a young girl of marriageable age probably between the age of 12 and 14.
She is providing acceptable, normal entertainment for the king and for those with him, and he is so pleased that he makes this rash vow.
In verse 7 we read, “He promised with an oath to give her whatever she might ask, and so she having been prompted by her mother”…
She goes to her mother. She’s young. She doesn’t know quite what to ask for, so she goes and she asks her mother. Her mother is just so bitter towards John the Baptist.
This is what happens, folks, when you’re a believer standing for the truth, even if you don’t articulate it, because people know what you believe. They react in anger and bitterness and hatred because they just don’t want anyone standing out there who might think that what they’re doing is morally wrong. We see this especially with certain categories of sin. And homosexuality is one of them.
The gay rights movement is not just trying to be treated equally under the law, they want everyone to validate what they’re doing. They want everyone to say, “It’s okay.” That’s what’s it’s about. You may hear some gay-rights leaders saying, “We’re not out there to try to infringe upon the church.” Do not believe that!
There have been numerous other social movements to change things in this country, the most obvious one of which I think for comparison, whatever you think, is smoking. Its comparison is the anti-smoking movement back in the early 70s. All they wanted was to have a non-smoking section in a restaurant. But if you really read their literature, they wanted to get rid of smoking all together.
But they understand that you do this incrementally, and you don’t really talk about what your end-game is. You just talk about what you want to do right now. “No-no-no-no, we don’t want to outlaw smoking in people’s homes, and we don’t want to outlaw smoking in people’s cars, and don’t want to outlaw smoking in neighborhoods. We just want to have a non-smoking section at a restaurant.”
That’s the same kind of pattern. They all read out of the same play book. In all these social movements, all follow that same mentality—let’s just take a little bit. Once we get that, then we’ll go to the next step.
So ultimately, it is to remove from society anyone who is going to say anything negative about homosexuality. This is what has happened in England. It’s what has happened in Canada. Any kind of negative statements about homosexuality is considered hate speech, and is punishable by fine and jail time. That has taken place to clergy in both England and in Canada. And that’s exactly where this country is headed if this change takes place. That’s the direction.
Andy Woods, who’s got a legal background and was a lawyer before he went to seminary, is pastor of Sugar Land Bible Church. He has a blog called, “The Word on Politics,” and he’s had a five-point series so far on this topic, which you ought to look up and read.
He had quoted from a Canadian Christian who was raised in a homosexual same-sex marriage household in Canada. In her testimony given before the U.S. Congress on what is happening, she said, “Freedom of speech is a joke in Canada now because if you say anything negative about homosexuality, you’re going to be fined and go to jail.” Freedom of speech no longer exists. That’s where we’re headed.
So this is what happens with Antipas and with Herodias. It’s just knowing that John the Baptist is out there and that he believes and says things about their marriage that is critical. They want his head.
She specifically wanted his head, and so that’s what she requested in verse 8, “Give me John the Baptist’s head here on a platter. And the result was the king was sorry.”
He wanted John off the pic because John is criticizing his rule. But he also I think recognized that John’s probably a messenger from God, “and I shouldn’t mess with that,” so he had not done anything more than put him in prison.
So that’s why it says he was sorry, “nevertheless because of the oaths and because of those who sat with him, he commanded it to be given to her.”
So he sent his hit team out to where he had John in prison and had him beheaded, and then brought his head on a platter to give to the girl and to her mother. Just a grizzly, grizzly scene. Then we’re told his disciples came and took away the body, buried it, and went and told Jesus.
What we see is that persecution and opposition is something that is to be expected by believers. We’ve lived in a historical bubble in the U.S. for the last 400 years where persecution of Christians has not taken place. But opposition and subtle persecution has been increasing, especially in the workplace, so that there are people who are so intimidated by their employers and by what they think are Federal laws, they don’t even ever witness or talk or mention God or anything in the workplace.
They also have to enforce a number of different policies related to employers and equal rights and these things that run counter to the Scripture, but they sort of take their force subtly to take the Scripture, put it in a compartment in their minds so that they can maintain their job, and not really make an issue out of some of these human resource policies that have been mandated.
It’s a process of gradualism so that it breaks down our views on gender distinctions that are emphasized in the Scripture. We’re already experiencing this in a light way, but we will experience more.
In Matthew 5:10–11 in the Sermon on the Mount—it’s really interesting to travel with a geologist. When we were in the Grand Canyon I mentioned the Sermon on the Mount to Steve Austin and he said, “You mean the sermon on the lava flow.”
Jesus said, “Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.”
Notice it doesn’t say, “Blessed are those who are persecuted for obnoxious’ sake.” Some Christians are obnoxious. They don’t deal with this opposition in grace. We have to make sure we’re dealing with these issues graciously, kindly, and not in a negative judgmental sense. It will be taken that way, but we have to make sure we’re dealing with this from a gracious sense for righteousness sake.
Jesus goes on to say, “Blessed are you when they revile and persecute you, and say all kinds of evil against you falsely for My sake.”
We have to relax about that. I know that I do, and I know many of you do. You read these things in the paper, your blood pressure goes up, and you want to go pound your fist against the wall. That’s the test. We need to learn to relax and put it in the hands of the Lord and recognize that Jesus Christ controls history.
That’s verse 12, we need to “Rejoice and be exceedingly glad, for great is your reward in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you.”
And then we have 2 Timothy 3:12, where Paul says, “Yes, and all who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus will suffer persecution.”
Living godly means to have spiritual maturity. If you want to be spiritually mature, you want to be a disciple, Paul says more than likely you will be persecuted. That’s how it works.
I wanted to take some time, we don’t have time, but to look at the previous verses. Paul talks about persecution. Go read those verses from about verse 10 on in 2 Timothy 3.
Then Paul makes this point in 2 Corinthians 12:9 as he is facing this thorn in the flesh, which I believe was a demon that was sent by Satan to persecute him, that the issue is this demon is stirring up opposition and persecution. That’s what verse 10 indicates. It’s not some specific illness or infirmity which is what a lot of people suggest. It’s a messenger of Satan—an angel, okay an ANGELOS—a messenger of Satan. And what source of temptation is seen in verse 10.
So Paul says the solution to this is what God tells him, “My grace is sufficient for you”
No matter what happens, even if you end up in prison, that just means you’re going to have better health care, okay? Look on the bright side. Eventually we may all be there. We’re going to have a congregation. We can have Bible study. We can have a ministry. We don’t have to worry about work and all those other things. We have a lot of time for Bible study, and we can develop our own prison ministry. So try to look on the bright side.
“My grace is sufficient for you,” God says, “for My strength is made perfect in weakness.” “Therefore,” Paul says, “I most gladly would rather boast in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me. Therefore, I take pleasure…”
See, a lot of us just have trouble with that. We get irritated because things go wrong, but we’re to take pleasure in that. “I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches.”
I need to be happy that my country is going downhill, and that we’re going to face persecution and opposition and negative court judgments. That doesn’t mean we shouldn’t fight it legally, but Paul says, “I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in needs, in persecutions,”
Many times he was persecuted, and he was stoned at one time, and he was beaten, and he was thrown in jail. “I take pleasure in persecutions, in distresses, for Christ’s sake. For when I am weak, then I am strong.”
See, this is going to give an opportunity for growth in ways that we never imagined. We need to have the right mental attitude about that—to rejoice because in that, God is going to demonstrate that His grace is sufficient, even when things are going south.
“Father, thank You for the opportunity to study Your Word, to be reminded that just as John the Baptist, just as our Lord Jesus Christ, just as the Apostles Paul, Peter, James, so many others—suffered the loss of everything they had, including their physical life for the sake of the gospel, we too may have that privilege. Often we look at human viewpoint and think this is something horrible, something negative. But the divine viewpoint is that this is something to rejoice over. For it gives us that opportunity to grow spiritually, to realize Your grace in our lives, and to be a greater testimony to all of those around us.
Father, we recognize that Your Word teaches us that there’s this conflict, this war that goes on around us, but that that ultimately is not against flesh and blood, but it’s against the principalities and powers of the air—that there’s a spiritual dimension to this. But the ultimate solution has to do with the Cross, for it’s at the Cross the sin penalty was paid for. It’s at the Cross that we have redemption and forgiveness of sins.
Father, we know that there are many who are uncertain of their salvation or unsure of their eternal destiny, and this is an opportunity to make sure that that is sure and certain in their life. Scripture says very clearly that the only solution is trust in You, especially trust in Jesus Christ who died on the Cross for our sins, that He paid that penalty, and that we today are to believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, meaning that we are to trust in Him as our Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world. We trust in Him as the One who delivers us from the sin penalty and gives us new life that we may live forever with You.
Father, we pray that You would challenge us with what we’ve learned this morning. We pray this in Christ’s name. Amen.”