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. For John had been saying to Herod, “It is not lawful for you to have your brother’s wife.” So Herodias nursed a grudge against John and wanted to kill him. But she was not able to, 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. 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.22 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.” 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.” 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. Mark 6, verses 17-29.
Following Jesus may cost you everything. Don’t we see that in the story of John the Baptist? How about in our lives?
Over the weekend, I was talking online with an atheist friend. This man and I worked together nearly 30 years ago, and I posted an item on his Facebook page, agreeing with the Christian aspect of a particular subject. My friend completely launched his rhetorical missiles in return; really harsh, in some cases vile statements about faith, Christianity, God, the Bible and Jesus. My temper usually gets dandered up at such things but this time I think I heard God’s better Spirit telling me, “let it slide.” I simply wished him a good night and logged off.
And, in a way, my friend also opted for the apparently lowest-impact response to this fact, namely to say “um, God, no thanks.” In doing so, he chose the course of least resistance. Disbelieve in God and check out from all the God-circumstances (as far as he knows). Perhaps he doesn’t want the feelings that come with following God, and in the eyes of the world, perhaps that’s even a good thing. Look at what happened to John the Baptist. He was Jesus’ cousin, friend, and prophet. All John did was do his job and it cost him his life. Look at the Apostles, Jesus’ closest friends. All of them but one died horrible deaths for doing nothing more than following and proclaiming Jesus. Look at what’s happening to Christians in the areas that ISIS has overrun today. They’re being murdered wholesale: all for following Jesus. IN the eyes of the world, can you blame people like my atheist friend for wanting to run away from God?
Yet what m friend fails to see is how Jesus is working on and in him already. How he couldn’t even contemplate God (let alone disbelieving in Him) if God hadn’t first planted that knowledge & spark in him. How there is no peace in this tortured world without the peace of God which surpasses all understanding. How, in Christ, there’s so much more than meets the eye. How, to die for Christ is to live for eternal gain. How losing everything the world offers for Jesus is to take hold of something so much more valuable, something that will last forever. John the Baptist understood this. I pray my friend learns it as well.
Lord, let me live only for You.
Read Mark 6, verses 30-44.