1st April 2023
Read (Matthew 14v1-12)
Message (Scott Woodburn)
It is common wisdom that the apple doesn't fall far from the tree. This is observable in nature and it is often observable in families. At the time of Christ's birth the ruler of Judea was a man called Herod the Great. Famously Herod sought to kill Jesus and when he couldn't do that he ordered the massacre of the innocents. When Herod the Great died his kingdom was divided into four with the fancy term for this being a "tetrarchy". It was divided between his sister Salome and his three sons Herod Antipas, Herod Archelaus and Philip.
Have you ever heard the term "antichrist"? It is a Biblical term used to describe someone who seeks to take the place of Jesus. There have been antichrists since the very beginning of time, there are antichrists today and before the return of Christ, one final antichrist will appear. Herod the Great was an antichrist and tragically his son Herod Antipas (also called "the tetrarch" (v1)) was too.
Herod Antipas had thrown John the Baptist in prison because of John's preaching (v3). Was his frustration caused by the length of John's sermons? No. John had been telling Herod the tetrarch that his marriage to Herodias was unlawful (v4). Herodias was Herod the Great's granddaughter and the wife of Herod the tetrarch's half-brother Herod Philip (not Philip the tetrarch). Not only that but she was the daughter of Herod the tetrarch's half-brother Aristobulus. Complicated doesn't fully describe this family but in simple terms Herod the tetrarch had married his sister-in-law who also happened to be his niece and this was prohibited by the Levitical law (Leviticus 18v16).
Herod's rage was so intense that he wanted to put John to death but he relented because he feared the people who considered John to be a prophet (v5). Nevertheless, sin and evil would find another path. Herod had a birthday party and was entertained by the dancing of his wife's daughter Salome (v6). Salome's performance was probably quite sensual which adds yet another layer of depravity. Salome was the daughter of Herodias and her first husband Philip, making Herod the tetrarch Salome's uncle.
Uncle Herod was so pleased by his dancing niece that he made an oath that he would give her whatever she wanted (v7). What did she ask for? With her mother's advice she asked for John's head on a platter (v8). Her request caused Herod to realise his foolishness. He was sorry but still sought to save face in front of his guests and so John's life was taken from him and his head was brought to the party like some cheap prop (v9-10). The apple didn't fall far from the tree and Herod the tetrarch had been proved just as foolish and bloodthirsty as his father.
It has been said that sin always aims for the upmost or in other words it doesn't just aim for lust, it desires the destruction of a marriage. It doesn't just aim for anger, it desires the murder of an opponent. Sin is not a minor issue but active, open and terrible rebellion against the Lord. We must never think that sin is an irrelevancy but we should always be aware of the sinfulness of sin.
Herod the tetrarch's story played out like an episode of Eastenders. There was lust, sex, broken marriages, gossip, slander, foolish promises, revenge and murder. Do you see how sin produces sin produces sin? The problem with this world isn't global warming, the Windsor framework, war in Ukraine or any other issue of the day. These are symptoms of a much deeper issue. This world is fallen indeed and a place where sin abounds. Here is humanity's greatest foe and one which they can never defeat if left to their own devices.
Thankfully no antichrist will ever take Christ's place and sin will not have the final word. Even in the face of humanity's recklessness and depravity, the Lion of Judah's roar is one of victory. "For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God." (2 Corinthians 5v21)
Q9 What is the work of creation? The work of creation is, God’s making all things of nothing, by the word of his power, in the space of six days, and all very good.