March 13, 2022 Beheaded!


March 13, 2022



Read Matthew 14:1-12.


We considered the life of John the Baptist last week, drawing from a passage in the gospel of Luke. Matthew tells us more about John here. The accounts of the faithful in Scripture are not there just to make for entertaining stories. We use biblical accounts, at times, just to make an interesting story. But this ought not to be our intent, even with children. The stories in the Bible are for examples to us (I Cor. 10:6). The examples of the unfaithful are so that we will not make the same mistakes that they did. The examples of the faithful are so that we will live as they did.


John the Baptist is an example to us, as were Jesus and the apostles.


The miracles of our Lord Jesus had come to the attention of Herod, the ruler of Judea. Superstitiously, he thought that it was John, risen from the dead. He knew he was guilty of his murder and his conscience surely bothered him.


John had been telling Herod that his marriage to Herodias was unlawful. This is notable. For it was lawful according to both Roman law and Jewish law. At the time of Christ, one could lawfully divorce and remarry for most any reason. What does that remind you of? It is the law of our land! It is the same law in almost all nations of the earth.[1]

It was lawful according to man’s law. But John the Baptist declares that it is unlawful because he lived by God’s law and he knew that all people were amenable to the law of God, including the ruler!


This must be our principle of living, too. We do not live by the light of man-made laws, for thy have no foundation other than the fallen will of man. We live in accordance with God’s commands. Our Lord has already spoken on the sanctity and inviolability of marriage in chapter 19. When we come to that chapter, we will look at that subject more carefully. Whether present-day disciples live by our Lord’s words or not, most are familiar with them. In Matthew 19 the Lord makes clear that divorce is a sin. Remarriage is also a sin, except for the cause of fornication. If we are guilty of these sins, we need to repent, that is, forsake them and restore what was destroyed. And, make no mistake, without repentance there is no forgiveness, even for the Christian.[2]


Why had John been thrown into prison? Verse 4 makes it plain:


Because John had been saying to him, “It is not lawful for you to have her.”[3]


The verb translated as, “had been saying to him,” is in the imperfect tense. The imperfect tense strongly implies that John did not tell him just once or twice, but he kept on telling him. In fact, some translations reflect this and use the phrase “kept on telling him.”[4]


This is the first thing I wish us to see about John: he judged! He judged people and he judged sin! Did you know that this is the calling of every disciple of Christ? We are to judge!


Judging is Christianity 101. It is one of the most basic tenets of the faith. It is an embarrassment that some Christians do not understand this. A young Christian friend of mine recently posted on Facebook the verse Matthew 7:1, “Judge not lest ye be judged.” Did you know that Matthew 7:1 has a nickname? It is often called the “unbeliever’s verse” because it is the only verse that unbeliever’s know. They always quote it whenever you point out any sin, except the sins that they deem really terrible, such as racism, intolerance, or harming the environment. Of course, they ignore the context, as they always do. In Matthew 7, Jesus was not prohibiting judgment. He was prohibiting hypocritical judgment.


We must judge because we are commanded to do so. This is always the simplest answer and the one that engenders the least controversy. We love to obey our Lord and when we read a command we seek to carry it out. Many times we do not understand why the Lord gives certain directives, yet we know that his will is always perfect and ours is not.


In John chapter 7, the context of our verse is that the religious leaders were angry with Jesus because he had healed a man on the Sabbath. He replies to their judgment of him not with, “You shall not judge anyone,” but he says in verse 24:


“Do not judge by appearances, but judge with right judgment.”


This short verse contains two commands. The first is “Do not judge by appearances.” Our judgments should not be superficial. They should not be according to the way things appear, but the way things really are. The second is “Judge with right judgment.” We are commanded to judge!


Secondly, we must judge because we have received the command and we are able to do so.


When one of you has a grievance against another, does he dare go to law before the unrighteous instead of the saints? 2    Or do you not know that the saints will judge the world? And if the world is to be judged by you, are you incompetent to try trivial cases? 3      Do you not know that we are to judge angels? How much more, then, matters pertaining to this life! [5]


This passage deals with perceived wrongs experienced by some in the church by other members of the church. Somebody is doing something wrong! But, instead of allowing some mature members of the body to arbitrate, the Corinthians were taking one another to court.


In verse 2 Paul reveals that we are going judge the world! Not only is judging appropriate for this life, but it will be appropriate for the next age as well. Paul’s argument is since we will be judging the most important matters of all in the next age, how much more should we be judging the less important matters now.


We are even going to judge angels! Not only are we commanded to judge, but we are competent to judge!


The only Christians who should not judge are the unspiritual and immature Christians. The spiritual person is the one who is guided by his spirit, where the Spirit of God dwells. The unspiritual person is one who is guided by the flesh.


The natural person does not have the wisdom to judge rightly. The spiritual person does.


     The natural person does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are folly to him, and he is not able to understand them because they are spiritually discerned. 15            The spiritual person judges all things, but is himself to be judged by no one. 16      “For who has understood the mind of the Lord so as to instruct him?” But we have the mind of Christ. [6]


Verse 15 says it plainly: “The spiritual person judges all things.”


We must judge because, if we are spiritual, we are able to judge all things.

We must judge because it is the loving thing to do.


“You shall not hate your brother in your heart. You shall surely rebuke your neighbor, and not bear sin because of him.“ (Lev. 19:17; NKJV)


Rebuking means communicating the wrongness or sinfulness of an action. Rebuking is also a form of judging. Judging is the more general term and rebuking is a more specific kind of judging.


First, note that the second part of the verse says, “You shall surely rebuke your neighbor…” In order to obey the Lord, rebuking is not optional. We must surely do it! Now, we have to do it with the right attitude and with love. But, we shall consider that next time.


Note also the very beginning: “You shall not hate your brother in your heart.” Do you see what the Lord is saying through Moses? He is saying that if we do not rebuke our neighbor then we do not love him, we hate him. How is that so? It is so for this reason: If we do not care that he or she is in sin, or if we don’t care enough to risk being thought poorly of (unwise people don’t like to be rebuked and most people are not wise), then we do not love them. Let me repeat that:


If we do not care enough that someone we know is in sin, then we do not love them. The opposite of love is hate. We hate those we do not correct or rebuke.


If we know that sin harms the sinner and that, if not forsaken, will exclude them from the kingdom of God and we do not warn them, then this reveals that our hearts love our own status more than the welfare of our neighbors and friends.


John was bold to judge and we must be bold to judge. We will return to John in a moment, but let us consider the example of Herod.


But when Herod’s birthday came, the daughter of Herodias danced before the company and pleased Herod, 7 so that he promised with an oath to give her whatever she might ask.[7]


In the biblical accounts, Herodias’ daughter is not named. However, Josephus identifies her as Salome. Through popular culture,[8] she danced the “Dance of the Seven Veils,” which is, more or less, a strip tease. Although this is not explicit in the biblical text it is the best explanation for Herod’s promise to give her up to half his kingdom. Certainly, just a simple dance, even if accompanied by acrobatic skill, would not educe such a fantastic promise! Lust must have been involved because lust makes a person abandon reason.


In fact, any strong desire, whether lust, or greed, or voraciousness, or vengeance, causes one to abandon reason for a time and seek to fulfill that desire. This is a very dangerous course of action. We can even be aware of the likelihood of negative consequences if we go after certain things but we rationalize the danger by thinking that maybe nothing bad will happen.


Let us learn from Herod’s lack of self-control and exercise wisdom in what we watch with our eyes and what we hear with our ears.


So, John the Baptist was willing to judge and he did a great deal of judging. He judged the king to his face. He judged the Pharisees and Sadducees. He called them a brood of vipers. He told them to repent (Matt. 3:7-9). He told them that, if they did not, they would be sent to hell (3:10).


He was bold. We all need to follow the example of John in his boldness. The apostle Paul was bold:


Keep alert with all perseverance, making supplication for all the saints, 19 and also for me, that words may be given to me in opening my mouth boldly to proclaim the mystery of the gospel, 20 for which I am an ambassador in chains, that I may declare it boldly, as I ought to speak. [9]


Paul is asking the Ephesians to pray that he speak boldly. Of course, Paul was already doing this. When you read of his speaking in the book of Acts, we see time and time again that he was proclaiming Christ boldly (Acts 9:27-28; 13:46; 14:3; 19:8; I Thes. 2:2). Notice also that, in verse 20, Paul says that he ought to declare the gospel boldly!


We must do likewise! We ought to declare the gospel boldly!


Some may think, “That is just not my personality. I am a quiet person.” This may very well be. There are introverts and extroverts. Neither being one or the other is better or worse. For those who have subdued personalities, they may find it difficult to start conversations or even to defend the faith if it is attacked. Yet, we do not live the life of a disciple by our natural powers nor by our natural disposition.


In Acts chapter four, it was not just the apostles, but it was all the believers who possessed boldness. They prayed:


And now, Lord, look upon their threats and grant to your servants to continue to speak your word with all boldness, 30 while you stretch out your hand to heal, and signs and wonders are performed through the name of your holy servant Jesus.” 31 And when they had prayed, the place in which they were gathered together was shaken, and they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and continued to speak the word of God with boldness. [10]


Observe that they asked to be able to speak with boldness…actually, to continue to speak in boldness! They were already doing so! But, in answer to their prayer, they were filled with the Holy Spirit and did, indeed, continue to speak with boldness!


We see, then, that they were bold because of the Spirit. You will be bold according to the Spirit, not according to your natural disposition. We only need to be faithful to open our mouth and the Spirit will grant the boldness we need! You will even be surprised at what comes out of you when the Spirit is moving!


John the Baptist was great. But, the reason he was great is because the Spirit made him that way! He was competent to judge, he exposed sin, he was bold, he even gave his life! You, too, have been given the authority and power to judge, to expose sin, and to be bold. It is unlikely that you will need to surrender your life, but you ought to be willing! Are you willing to give your life for the gospel? You can tell if you are if you are willing to be ridiculed for it. If you are not willing to be ridiculed, then you are not willing to give your life, either. The bad news is that cowards are not permitted in heaven (Rev. 21:8). That is right! The cowardly do not get to heaven! So, if you are afraid of being ridiculed, you have an opportunity now to change before it is too late. Seek the Spirit! For He will remove your fearfulness!


We have been given the power, we only need to exercise it! I am going to ask you to look for an opportunity this week to judge sin and to boldly share the gospel. When the opportunity comes, speak. The Spirit will do the rest!






[1] Only the Philippines and Vatican City do not allow divorce.

[2] There are circumstances that arise which, sometimes, make it impossible to restore what was lost (e.g., if one of the parties has remarried). In such cases, one can still repent (with confession to the violated party) and consecrate their lives for the Lord.

[3] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. (2016). (Mt 14:4). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles.

[4] The Passion Translation, Orthodox Jewish Bible, R T French translation (imbedded in his commentary on Matthew)

[5] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. (2016). (1 Co 6:1–3). Wheaton: Standard Bible Society.

[6] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. (2016). (1 Co 2:14–16). Wheaton: Standard Bible Society.

[7] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. (2016). (Mt 14:6–7). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles.

[8] E.g., Salome’s Last Dance, a 1988 movie (starring Glenda Jackson as Herodias), as well as frequent portrayals in several other movies about the life of Christ.

[9] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. (2016). (Eph 6:18–20). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles.

[10] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. (2016). (Ac 4:29–31). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles.