Read: Mark 6:21-29 & Matthew 14:1-12
When his disciples heard of it, they came and took his body and laid it in a tomb. (Mark 6:29 ESV)
Herod married his sister in law. That’s pretty weird. But he did. And John the Baptizer called him out about it. Which promptly landed John in prison. It eventually cost him his life. Herod had John beheaded in the prison at the behest of his niece-turned-stepdaughter.
When John’s disciples found out they collected the body (minus the head) and buried him in a tomb. John was the greatest man to ever live, but he was just a man. He would stay dead. He would stay in his tomb.
Jesus was understandably sad about the death of his cousin, friend, and colleage. Ultimately he would face a similar fate for his continued stance against the Pharisees and their damnable corruption. However, Jesus’ tomb was only borrowed, and that for just a few days. Because as the sun came up that first Easter Sunday morning the Son of Man came out of the tomb.
It’s rare in America for believers to face the threat of death for taking a hard stand for the truth. However, a day may come when we do. If whether, at home, or abroad we sometime find ourselves facing death for the truth of the Gospel, we may wind up in another tomb. But Jesus holds the keys to death, hell, and the grave. He holds the keys to our future and our foundation. We can rest well and easy in him.
Read: Mark 6:14-20
When he heard him, he was greatly perplexed, and yet he heard him gladly. (Mark 6:20b ESV)
Herod just didn’t get it. He didn’t know how to take John, didn’t know who he was, what he was up to, or why he was so perplexed. Ultimately he threw John in prison for his preaching against Herod’s sinful lifestyle. Yet even after that he regarded John as a holy man.
The cool thing about John is that he modeled exactly what Jesus wanted out of the disciples. John went before Jesus preparing people for the Kingdom of God, just as the disciples were charged to do when they were sent out, and just as we are charged to do today. John did it with great gusto.
Even today we can share the truth of the Gospel in a way that is perplexing to people. In fact, I completely believe that when we actually commit ourselves to lovingly sharing the fullness of the Good News it will perplex people. It will cause them to begin to question things in their lives that are out of order, and that separate them from God’s truth.
Unfortunately Herod did not ultimately respond to the Gospel in a positive way, but that didn’t keep John the Baptizer from sharing the fullness of truth. As you share your faith with those around you may not be met with positive response either. You might meet some gladly perplexed people too. Press on. Keep sharing. It is worth it.
Read: Luke 7:24-28
What then did you go out to see? A prophet? Yes, I tell you, and more than a prophet. (Luke 7:26 ESV)
Jesus emphatically declared his cousin John the Baptizer to be the greatest man ever born of a woman. That’s pretty high praise coming from the highest of sources. And Jesus let the crowds know it. He reminded those listening of John’s importance.
As a prophet John was God’s voice in his day. In fact, he was the fulfillment of a prophecy from Isaiah which specifically talked about a voice preparing the way for The Lord. John was important not just because he was that prophet, and not just because he fulfilled prophecy, but because he stood against religious corruption.
Jesus himself was regularly called a prophet, sometimes he was even, like John, mistaken for a resurrected Old Testament prophet. Actually, they were both far more than prophets. John was the transitional figure between the Old and New Covenant. He preached the message of the soon coming Messiah. Jesus is the Messiah.
It is incredibly reassuring to know that Jesus was not just a man. He was not just a prophet. John was the greatest man that ever lived. Jesus was the only God-man that ever lived.
Read: Luke 7:19-23
In that hour he healed many people of diseases and plagues and evil spirits, and on many who were blind he bestowed sight. (Luke 7:21 ESV)
While John the Baptizer was imprisoned for preaching the Gospel he reached out to Jesus via his disciples. I believe that he was looking for further encouragement and assurance regarding the true identity of his cousin. He got the assurance he was looking for.
John’s disciples showed up in the middle of Jesus performing many miracles in the area where he was ministering. They witnessed people with diseases who were cleansed. The saw people purged of plagues. They witnessed Jesus cast out evil spirits. They even saw the blind regain sight. And it was all done within a short amount of time. It must have been an incredible day.
Sometimes we need to go to Jesus for assurance. Not because we are necessarily doubting him, although if we’re honest we do probably face those moments as well, but because we are looking for encouragement. Jesus is the best place to go for assurance. He is the best place to go for encouragement.
The fact of the matter is that we will all face seasons where we feel as if we’re imprisoned. I those moments we can take all of our doubts, insecurities, and questions to Christ. He is able to answer the questions, calm the fears, and deal with our doubts. Sometimes it may seem to take us a bit to overcome those things, but I truly believe that when we take them to him he will begin to work in us and for us that very hour.
Read: Matthew 11:2-6
And blessed is the one who is not offended by me. (Matthew 11:6 ESV)
Jesus’ cousin John the Baptizer had already seen proof of Jesus’ identity as the foretold Messiah. John himself was a prophesied child. He was the one sent as a voice that would prepare the people for the coming of The Lord. Still, when John found himself imprisoned he reached out to Jesus for one more confirmation. Jesus did not disappoint.
John’s followers went to Jesus per the Baptizer’s request and returned to share news of the incredible things Jesus was doing. Miracles were happening. The kind of which had never been seen before among the Jews. This was Jesus’ testimony about himself as to the power and confirmation of his true identity as Messiah. As John’s disciples parted Jesus offered one last comment, “blessed is the one who is not offended by me.”
Jesus’ words may sound strange at first but they would have been incredibly encouraging to John. John was arrested because his preaching offended a powerful man. Jesus in essence was issuing John a confirming statement. This same message holds true for us today.
We live in an age when many people find the message of the unmitigated Gospel offensive. They don’t know how to handle the truth of the idea that mankind is responsible for their sinfulness, that all have sinned, and that Jesus is the only answer to the sin problem. So people often try to change the message to be less offensive by leaving out or altering the portions which would appear offensive.
Jesus’ words are a clear warning. The Gospel will offend. Those with too much pride will reject its truth for their own comfort. They will harden their hearts. Those who embrace the offensiveness of Jesus will instead be changed by it. They will find freedom in the fact that although we are all sinful, and we are all responsible for our sin, Jesus offers us a way out. Truly blessed indeed are those who are not offended by Jesus.
Read: Matthew 3:13-17
John would have prevented him, saying, “I need to be baptized by you, and do you come to me?” (Matthew 3:14 ESV)
John is called The Baptist for a reason, and its not because he was a member of a specific denomination. He baptized people as a sign of repentance and righteousness. It was their way of showing the people around them that they were making an effort to change their lives. So when Jesus showed up to be baptized by John it naturally caused him some inner confusion. John recognized the superiority, and divinity, of Christ. As such, it seemed strange to him that Jesus would seek to be baptized by John. In other words, John saw his need for Jesus.
The first step for us toward a right relationship with God is always the recognition of our need for God. We aren’t big enough, good enough, smart enough, rich enough, or powerful enough to mend the rift between God and man on our own. Mankind created this spiritual disparity, but it is God that fixes it. It is God that wrapped his infinitude with finitude and stepped into history as Jesus.
Our need for Jesus is clear, it is real, and it is fulfillable, but only by Christ, through Christ, and in Christ. Jesus allowed John to baptize him as a testimony to John’s authority and mission, but it was Jesus himself that became John’s way to God. He is also our way to God. The only way to God.
Read: Luke 3:15-22
So with many other exhortations he preached good news to the people. (Luke 3:18 ESV)
John preached to large crowds. He baptized a lot of people. He made a difference where he was through his courageous commitment to God’s plan for mankind. And the message that he delivered was one full of good news.
We all like good news, and lets face it, that’s not always the kind of news we get to hear on a regular basis. If you tune into any kind of prominent media network you are almost instantly confronted by the seemingly harsh nature of a world gone terribly awry. I once even heard a practicing journalist say, “If it bleeds it leads.” For some reason people are entertained and captivated by the macabre, sensational, and despairing events of our world. In stark reality the good news of the day, those feel good stories about the better side of life, rarely seem to carry as much impact.
John’s message of good news was the ultimate message. His message literally was the Good News. It was the message of the Gospel. He was declaring to the PreChristian world the reality of the impending arrival of the Messiah. The one that would save the people from their sins.
Jesus is still the Good News. He still saves people from their sins. He is hope for the hopeless. He is the best news.