Monday, September 17, 2012

Preacher Jailed for Speaking Out on Marriage

Scripture: Mark 6:17-18

17 zFor it was Herod who had sent and seized John and abound him in prison for the sake of Herodias, his brother Philip’s wife, because he had married her. 18 zFor John had been saying to Herod, b“It is not lawful for you to have your brother’s wife.”

Comment: “Preacher Jailed for Speaking Out on Marriage”

We celebrated the birth of John the Baptist on 24 June 2012, a great saint and biblical character who led a very difficult life and ministry.

In hindsight, the conflict that led to his demise and death has a strangely modern ring to it: he was jailed by Herod Antipas for speaking out on marriage (Mark 6:17-18). Specifically, John the Baptist held to the principle of one man, one woman, for life—a theology of marriage founded in Scripture (Mal. 2:13-16) and reflected in the Essene movement at Qumran and in the teachings of Our Lord (Matt 19:3-12).

This got him into trouble with the nation’s chief executive, Herod Antipas, whose own views on marriage had evolved: he had wed Herodias, his divorced ex-sister-in-law, who was also his niece. John the Baptist said the marriage was unlawful. Herod invoked executive privilege to have John arrested and detained for expressing his intolerant and partisan views on marriage in public. Eventually, Herod had him beheaded at the request of his wife Herodias’ daughter Salome, who gave a “hot” hip-hop performance for the king and his cabinet that earned her a political favor (Mark 6:14-29).

There is really nothing new under the sun. John the Baptist was a political failure but a great spiritual success, a champion of faith and fortitude who still lives and is praying for us from heaven. The readings for his feast day also provide us hope and encouragement:

Be that as it may, the “desert” also has a spiritual sense. Despite all the glorious things said about John and the remarkable events surrounding his birth, his life was not easy. It was one of self-denial and mortification. It’s true, his preaching was popular and he received public acclaim—for a while. But from a certain perspective, he was a glorious failure, a big flop. His run-in with the government ended badly and his “movement” fell apart, even if there were still a few “fans” left years later (Acts 19:1-3).

But that’s only from one perspective, an external and material one. A certain prophet from Nazareth had a much different evaluation of the success of his ministry: “Truly, I say to you, among those born of women there has risen no one greater than John the Baptist” (Mt 11:11).

Like John, if we speak about God’s truth boldly and continue to point toward Jesus, we are going to provoke opposition in this world from those who don’t want to hear it because it doesn’t suit their agenda. It may mean the loss of income, employment, possession and life. We’ve got to maintain an eternal perspective: God has a plan for each of us that began before our birth and extends beyond our death. The goal is not visible success in this life. It’s covenant fidelity (hesed) toward the one who is greater than us, whose sandals we are not worthy to tie, but nonetheless promises to “raise us up on the last day” (John 6:40).

Source: John Bergsma -

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