Sunday, June 4, 2023

Who was John the baptizer? His Life and how He Died

Who was John the baptizer? He was not one of Jesus’ twelve disciples. He was in fact a blood relative of Jesus. Jesus’s cousin. But there was something very special about John. His birth happened in a very special way.

He would become a voice crying out to the entire nation of Israel, to prepare for something huge, a zeitgeist, a paradigm shift, a change in the fabric of the reality of the universe.

John the baptizer was born and spoke for the purpose of telling the masses to get ready, something huge is about to happen.

The world is about to change forever.

God is coming down to the Earth. And he’s going to change the world, by dealing with the root issue in the heart of every human being ever born: the problem of evil.

The revolution began with John the baptizer, gathering a band of outcasts in the wilderness. A force was taking shape, that would call people to turn from their past sins, turn from evil, and get ready for the coming of a new way of life.

"Get ready for the coming of hope into the world," he cried in the wilderness. Get ready for the arrival of the messiah, the savior of the human race, Jesus Christ the messiah.

So John spoke to the crowds, year after year. More and more people came out to see John preaching in the wilderness. Massive crowds gathered around him. He said he was preparing a road for one to walk on, a man who would come after him. Though John was a great hero, a great leader, the one coming after him would be much greater.

The religious leaders of that day didn't know what to think of John. They wondered if he was a prophet, or a madman, or a hero of the old days back from the dead!

John the baptizer spoke to the crowds, yet he also spoke to the ruling powers and government authorities. He spoke into society itself. He challenged the Roman leaders over Israel, he challenged King Herod, and spoke to him often.

Soon the man John told the crowds about a mysterious "lamb of God" who would come into the world. Then one day, after all those years of waiting, that man walked by the river where John baptized. It was Jesus of Nazareth, and John said, "There he is! The lamb of God!" 

John said, "He must become greater, I must become less." So the ministry of John slowly declined, while Jesus ministry increased in prominence.

Then John was imprisoned by the Roman authorities. And John even doubted and wondered if Jesus was really the one. But Jesus sent word to John saying indeed, yes, I am the one, I do impossible things, I preach the good news, the sick are healed, the world is changing at this very moment. 

And now we see in our scripture today how John the Baptist dies. Jesus had recently sent out his disciples two by two to do ministry and perform healings of the sick and injured.

Now we go into the court room of King Herod, where he is monitoring all the events taking place.

It says in Mark 6:14-16: “King Herod heard about this, for Jesus’ name had become well known. Some were saying, “John the Baptist has been raised from the dead, and that is why miraculous powers are at work in him.”

Others said, “He is Elijah.”

And still others claimed, “He is a prophet, like one of the prophets of long ago.”

But when Herod heard this, he said, “John, whom I beheaded, has been raised from the dead!”

Right off the bat we find out that Herod has already had John killed. He’s had his head cut off. Meanwhile everyone is trying to understand: Who is Jesus really? Is he the Old Testament prophet Elijah back from the dead? Is a new prophet? Herod begins to believe that Jesus is John the baptizer back from the dead.

Just like the people two thousand years ago, we must decide in our own hearts: Who is Jesus to us?

There are many theories today about who Jesus was and is. People believe many different things about Him. Some of them true, some of them not true.

We must all decide who Jesus is to us. Is he a good moral teacher? Is he just another guy? Is he a prophet? Or is he our King, our Friend, and our Savior? Who is Jesus to you? You’ll have to decide that in your heart. And live your life accordingly.

Let’s look into the events that occurred around the death of John. Verses 17-20:

"For Herod himself had given orders to have John arrested, and he had him bound and put in prison. He did this because of Herodias, his brother Philip’s wife, whom he had married. 18 For John had been saying to Herod, “It is not lawful for you to have your brother’s wife.” 19 So Herodias nursed a grudge against John and wanted to kill him. But she was not able to, 20 because Herod feared John and protected him, knowing him to be a righteous and holy man. When Herod heard John, he was greatly puzzled; yet he liked to listen to him."

Here you have controversy. Controversy is a classic sign of any Christian ministry. There will be controversies. There will be incidents. There will be outrage and people upset from the preaching of the truth. That will happen. In fact, if you aren’t encountering controversies, you should probably be worried. You’re not speaking the truth clearly enough. It will happen.

John finds himself in a controversy. He has upset the wrong people. Yet John did the right thing. He spoke the truth. And let the chips fall where they may. 

Sometimes when we find ourselves in a controversy we start to feel guilty, like we did something wrong. Now, if the controversy occurred because you said something stupid, well then it is your fault. And you should feel guilty and make a change and apologize for what happened. Then again, if you simply spoke God's truth, as he commanded you to, then you have absolutely nothing to feel guilty about. You should celebrate in that situation, because you are now suffering for Christ the Lord himself. 

So, this woman who is mad at John is trying to harm him, but, Herod is protecting John. You will also have people who protect you as a Christian. People more powerful than you, God will use to protect you. And they’ll use their influence and power to keep you safe from your adversaries. God puts us into controversies as Christians, we stand in the gap for Him in those controversies. But God also protects us in those controversies. So we may continue our ministry.

That’s the first thing to notice here, a controversy develops.

Second, notice that Herod likes to listen to John. It says he knew John was a righteous and holy man. He was puzzled when he listened to John preach but he enjoyed it.

I’ve found the same is true with many I’ve known. They like to listen to me rant on and on about the Lord and faith and the Bible. They don’t really get too into it. But they like to listen.

That’s not a bad place to be where people know you’re righteous, trust that you are representing God, and they are willing to listen to you speak. I think that’s where we want to be as Christians. People know we walk what we say. They know we really do care about them. And they come to listen to the word. That’s a powerful combination. But for Herod, he is listening, but not understanding.

But at the same time Herodias is plotting to try to get rid of John. And it says in verses 21-23:

"Finally the opportune time came. On his birthday Herod gave a banquet for his high officials and military commanders and the leading men of Galilee. When the daughter of Herodias came in and danced, she pleased Herod and his dinner guests.

The king said to the girl, “Ask me for anything you want, and I’ll give it to you.” And he promised her with an oath, “Whatever you ask I will give you, up to half my kingdom.”"

Herod has a fancy birthday party for himself. Herodias’ daughter dances for him, and he’s very happy. So happy he is ecstatic, this must’ve been some amazing dancing. So, he offers with an oath, to give her a royal gift. Herod is so smitten by this woman's dancing, he offers her up to half his kingdom. Isn't that crazy? But I'll tell you a little secret, guys can be just that smitten by a woman, that they make some bad choices. Plus, I'm sure Herod had had a few drinks at his little party. 

The girl who danced is made this offer. But she doesn't know what to do. So she asks Mom.  

It says in verses 24-25: She went out and said to her mother, “What shall I ask for?”

“The head of John the Baptist,” she answered.

At once the girl hurried in to the king with the request: “I want you to give me right now the head of John the Baptist on a platter.”

She could've had half the kingdom, but her mom chooses revenge. And this becomes the decision that would seal the fate of John the baptizer. 

Then we see King Herod very upset. But not upset enough to prevent it from happening.  

Verses 26-29 says, "The king was greatly distressed, but because of his oaths and his dinner guests, he did not want to refuse her. So he immediately sent an executioner with orders to bring John’s head. The man went, beheaded John in the prison, and brought back his head on a platter. He presented it to the girl, and she gave it to her mother. On hearing of this, John’s disciples came and took his body and laid it in a tomb."

The end of John the Baptist's life seems like a defeat. It seems like a failure. But it isn't. It's a victory. John gave his life for his cousin Jesus. He gave his life for the Lord. He was a martyr. 

If we take the eternal perspective, which is the real and true perspective, we see that John is alive now. He is not in fact dead. He is alive, because he kept faith with Christ. 

Would you give your life for Jesus Christ? Your day may come. Things are changing very fast in the world. So we must all be ready at any moment to give our lives for Jesus. If we renounce Christ, we will lose everything including our eternal future. If we hold fast to Christ and die for Him, we will also live with Him forever. Amen.