These two verses spell the beginning of the end of the ministry of this outspoken prophet John the Baptist.
But when John rebuked Herod the tetrarch because of his marriage to Herodias, his brother’s wife, and all the other evil things he had done,20 Herod added this to them all: He locked John up in prison.
We have followed his life from before birth through to his role as the voice calling in the wilderness to urge his contemporaries to repent and to produce fruit in keeping with repentance. And this voice also prepared the way of one much greater than him – for the Lord Jesus himself. But this extraordinary voice will soon be silenced.
I have always liked the way John the Baptist answers the question asked of him from those he ministers to about the practicalities of repentance. (These are found a few verses back from today’s reading). “What should we do then?” the crowd asks him. He then gives concrete examples of what it means to live a life of repentance. He talks about sharing your clothes and food with others; not ripping off citizens if you are their tax collector; he tells soldiers not to exhort money from people, or falsely accuse people, and to be content with their pay. These lists of practical actions can inform all of us as to what it means to repent on a daily basis.
John wasn’t afraid to tell it like it is. He calls out the sin of Herod the tetrarch – a son within this infamous family known for their cruelty and murder of the people of Israel during these times. He is the supposed king of Israel, but he is a pretender king and these verses portray the clash of two opposed kingdoms. John is preparing his society for the coming of the new king in Jesus, and the ushering in of his kingdom.
King Herod should have known better. He should have known how the king should act. He would have known that it was not lawful for him to marry the wife of his brother. (See Leviticus 18:18 and 20:21).The king should know the scriptures, and he should know about the coming the Messiah. He should be lovingly leading and shepherding his people, not killing them. I find it interesting to compare these events with those of another king in Israel’s history – King David – when his sin is called out by another prophet, Nathan. David—a king after God’s own heart—acknowledges his sin and repent,. but not Herod. This story is not over yet, as we will see.
How do you react when your sin is called out? Do you respond like the crowd around John, asking “how do I change and what should true repentance look like for my situation?” Or are you more inclined to respond like Herod did by locking away the accusatory voice? When we do this, we continue in our sin and remove ourselves further away from God and his kingdom work in our lives. Let’s not be a Herod – let’s be humble and repentant and continue to receive Jesus and his kingdom.
Head: Can you remember the last time someone called out a sin in you?
Heart: How did that make you feel? How did you react?
Hands: What can you do to check the fruit of repentance in your life in the relationships and situations you encounter today.
Prayer: Dear Father in Heaven, we thank you for John the Baptist and his willingness to call out the sins of this evil king Herod. We thank-you for Jesus the good king. We thank-you for your kingdom coming into our lives each day. Help us to live lives that reflect the love and standards of your kingdom and to produce the ongoing fruit of repentance.
A song to listen to: Bring Us Back