After John was put in prison, Jesus went into Galilee, proclaiming the good news of God. (Mark 1:14)
John the Baptist was not afraid to speak his mind. Therefore, when he saw King Herod, a public figure, doing something irreprehensible, he used his own celebrity status to speak against it. And Herod wasn’t happy.
Let’s go back and talk about Herod’s sin. Herod had a brother by the name of Philip. Through a series of circumstances Herod and Philip’s wife Herodias formed an improper relationship with one another. Herod decided to take her as his wife, so he arranged to have her brought to his palace. This is the basic story, and not everyone agrees on all of the details, but there is more in relation to John the Baptist.
When John spoke against Herod’s behavior, the king had him arrested. Then, one day as Herod’s royal community gathered for a party, Herodias’ daughter Salome danced. It must have been quite a dance because Herod was so pleased he offered to grant her a wish up to half his kingdom. Salome said, “Uh, let me check with my mother on that.” (My paraphrase) And Herodias’ advice: “Ask for the head of John the Baptist on a platter.” And that is how John the Baptist died.
There are some other important pieces to this story, such as John’s request, while he was imprisoned, that Jesus let him know if He really was the Messiah (Matthew 11:1-19). Most people believe John was depressed by his circumstances and needed reassurance from the Lord. Jesus sent John’s messengers back with this reassuring statement: “Go back and report to John what you hear and see: The blind receive sight, the lame walk, those who have leprosy are cured, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, and the good news is preached to the poor. Blessed is the man who does not fall away on account of me.” We aren’t told whether or not this news strengthened John’s spirit.
I have always been struck by the way Jesus continued on with His mission after John’s arrest, and that we have no record He tried to free him. It doesn’t seem right in a way. I mean, couldn’t Jesus have at least sent a messenger to Herod to tell him to let John go…especially since John had come for the purpose of preparing the world for His ministry?
But this is the nature of a servant. Servants are often treated unfairly. And when they suffer while doing good things they know there is no guarantee of a rescue.
We can feel like John felt in prison…a little depressed because we have only tried to do what is right and we are suffering for it. There are no easy answers to these seasons in our lives, but we must remember we are not forgotten. God’s decision not to rescue us from our earthly circumstances doesn’t mean He doesn’t love us, or that He is not pleased with our service. This is just the way it is for a servant.
Every now and then we should ask ourselves the tough question: “How do I respond when the commitments I have made as a servant of the Lord suddenly become an inconvenience?”
Dear God, teach me what it means to be a servant. In Jesus’ name, Amen.