Daily Reading & Meditation

Friday (August 29):  "Herod feared John - a righteous and holy man"

Scripture:  Mark 6:17-29  (alternate reading: Matthew 24:42-51)

17 For Herod had sent and seized John, and bound him in prison for the sake of Herodias, his brother Philip's wife; because he had married  her. 18 For John said to Herod, "It is not lawful for you to have your brother's wife." 19 And Herodias had a grudge against him, and wanted to kill him. But she could not, 20 for Herod feared John, knowing that he was a righteous and holy man, and kept him safe. When he heard him, he was much perplexed; and yet he  heard him gladly. 21 But an opportunity came when Herod on his birthday gave a banquet for his courtiers and officers and the leading men of Galilee.  22 For when Herodias' daughter came in and danced, she pleased Herod and his guests; and the king said to the girl, "Ask me for whatever you  wish, and I will grant it." 23 And he vowed to her, "Whatever you ask me, I will give you, even half of my kingdom." 24 And she went out, and said to her mother, "What shall I ask?" And she said, "The head of John the baptizer." 25 And she came in immediately with haste to the king, and asked, saying, "I want you to give me at once the head of John the Baptist on a platter." 26 And the king was exceedingly sorry; but because of his oaths and his guests he did not want to break his word to her. 27 And immediately the king sent a soldier of the guard and gave orders to bring his head. He went and beheaded him in the prison, 28 and brought his head on a platter, and gave it to the girl; and the girl gave it to her mother. 29 When his disciples heard of it, they came and took his body, and laid it in a tomb.

Meditation:  Are you prepared to be a witness, and if necessary, a martyr for Jesus Christ? John the Baptist bridged the Old and New Testaments. He is the last of the Old Testament prophets who pointed the way to the Messiah. He is the first of the New Testament witnesses and martyrs. Jesus equated the coming of his kingdom with violence. From the days of John the Baptist until now the kingdom of heaven has suffered violence, and men of violence take it by force (Matthew 11:12). John suffered violence for announcing that the kingdom of God was near. He was thrown into prison and then beheaded.

Whose pleasure do you seek?
King Herod, the most powerful and wealthy man in Judea, had everything he wanted, except a clear conscience and peace with God. Herod had respected and feared John the Baptist as a great prophet and servant of God. John, however did not fear to rebuke Herod for his adulterous relationship with his brother's wife. John ended up in prison because of Herodias' jealousy. Herod, out of impulse and a desire to please his family and friends, had John beheaded.

Why did Herod put John to death when he knew him to be a righteous and holy man? Herod's power and influence were badly flawed. He was more bent on pleasing others and making friends than on doing what was right and just in the sight of God. He could take a strong stand on the wrong things when he knew the right. Such a stand, however, was a sign of weakness and cowardice.

God is our help and our strength 
Where do you get the strength of will and heart to choose what is right and to reject what is wrong and sinful? The Lord Jesus gives strength and courage to those who humbly acknowledge their dependence on him. The Lord knows our weaknesses better than we do. He pardons and heals those who ask for his mercy and forgiveness. In whatever situation we find ourselves the Lord is there to guide and direct us. Do you seek the Lord's strength and wisdom? Ask with expectant faith and trust in the Lord's help and grace.

The love of Christ is stronger than death
Since the martyrdom of John the Baptist to the present time, the kingdom of God has suffered violence and persecution at the hands of violent people. The blood of Christian martyrs throughout the ages bear witness to this fact. Their testimony to the truth of the Gospel and their willingness to suffer and die for their faith prove victory rather than defeat for the kingdom of God. What fuels their faith and courage in the face of suffering, persecution, and death? They know and believe with the "eyes of faith" that nothing in this present world can separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus (Romans 8:35-39).

Power to witness the love and mercy of Jesus Christ
What gives us the power, boldness, and courage to witness to Jesus Christ and to the truth of the Gospel? The Holy Spirit fills us with courage, love, and boldness to make Jesus Christ known and loved. We do not need to fear those who oppose the Gospel, because the love of Jesus Christ is stronger than fear and death itself. His love conquers all, even our fears and timidity in the face of opposition and persecution. We can trust in his grace and help at all times. Are you ready to make the Lord Jesus known and loved, and if necessary to suffer for his sake and the sake of the Gospel? Ask the Lord Jesus to fill you with the power and grace of the Holy Spirit.

"Lord Jesus Christ, give me faith, boldness, and courage to stand firm in the truth of the Gospel and to not waver in my testimony of your love and mercy. Give me hope and joy in the promise of everlasting life with you in your kingdom."

Psalm 90:3-6,12-14,17

3 You turn man back to the dust, and say, "Turn back, O children of men!"
4 For a thousand years in your sight are but as yesterday when it is past, or as a watch in the night.
5 You sweep men away; they are like a dream, like grass which is renewed in the morning:
6 in the morning it flourishes and is renewed; in the evening it fades and withers.
12 So teach us to number our days that we may get a heart of wisdom.
13 Return, O LORD! How long? Have pity on your servants!
14 Satisfy us in the morning with your steadfast love, that we may rejoice and be glad all our days.
17 Let the favor of the Lord our God be upon us, and establish the work of our hands upon us, yes, the work of our hands establish it.

Daily Quote from the early church fathers: The Weakness of the Tyrant and the Power of the Beheaded, by John Chrysostom (347-407 AD)

"Note well the weakness of the tyrant compared to the power of the one in prison. Herod was not strong enough to silence his own tongue. Having opened it, he opened up countless other mouths in its place and with its help. As for John, he immediately inspired fear in Herod after his murder - for fear was disturbing Herod's conscience to such an extent that he believed John had been raised from the dead and was performing miracles (Mark 6:14-16)! In our own day and through all future time, throughout all the world, John continues to refute Herod, both through himself and through others. For each person repeatedly reading this Gospel says: 'It is not lawful for you to have the wife of Philip your brother' (Mark 6:18). And even apart from reading the Gospel, in assemblies and meetings at home or in the market, in every place... even to the very ends of the earth, you will hear this voice and see that righteous man even now still crying out, resounding loudly, reproving the evil of the tyrant. He will never be silenced nor the reproof at all weakened by the passing of time." (excerpt from ON THE PROVIDENCE OF GOD 22.8-9)


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author Don Schwager 2014 Servants of the Word

Scripture quotations from Common Bible: Revised Standard Version of the Bible, copyright 1973, and Ignatius Edition of the Revised Standard Version of the Bible, copyright 2006, by the Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

Citation references for quotes from the writings of the early church fathers.  

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