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Herod The Great People Pleaser

“What will my friends think?” This pressing question is constantly swirling in the head of one known as a people pleaser. The clothes they wear, who they sit with at lunch, the college they attend, the person they marry – in short, almost everything they do, every decision they make is calculated to please other people, with the ultimate desire…to have their approval and praise.

Herod, of course, is one of the great people-pleasers of history, and his antics are on full display in Matthew 14. He was called Herod Antipas, or just Antipas, and was the Roman ruler over Galilee and Perea for most of Jesus’ life and ministry. One of three sons of Herod the Great, Antipas shared the rule of Palestine with his two brothers.

And undoubtedly he had very poor relations with one of these, his brother Phillip, for on a trip to Rome, Antipas met Phillip’s wife Herodias and “fell in love.” He subsequently divorced his own wife and married her.

But unfortunately for Herod, John the Baptist didn’t have a people-pleasing bone in his body, and the prophet of the Jordan River did not hesitate to call him on it:

…John had been saying to him, “It is not lawful for you to have her.” And though he wanted to put him to death, he feared the people, because they held him to be a prophet.

Matthew 14:4-5 (ESV)

John said a loud “No!” to this union, and Herod locked him up for it, but he feared the people…so he didn’t put him to death.   That motive worked for a time, until as the story relates, another desire to please people took over, and through a series of events including a sultry dance and a foolish promise, he heeded the request of an adolescent girl:

Prompted by her mother, she said, “Give me the head of John the Baptist here on a platter.” And the king was sorry, but because of his oaths and his guests he commanded it to be given.

Matthew 14:8-9 (ESV)

Behold Ladies and Gentlemen: Herod the not-so-great, refraining from killing a man because he wanted to make the people happy, and then killing the same man, because…he wanted to make the people happy. Talk about a buffeted life. You might call Herod a pinball, and the people around him? They controlled the flippers.

But as we sit in judgment of Herod, don’t we have to admit that we’ve all been there to one degree or another? We’ve all been there because all of us have had the sense that if only our friends approved, or the “important” people liked what we did, all would be well, and we would be finally happy. And our search for pleasure in the opinions of others has repeatedly ended only in pain. So into our foolishness, the great prophet Isaiah warned,

“Stop regarding man, whose breath of life is in his nostrils, for why should he be esteemed?”

Isaiah 2:22 (NASB)

Why indeed?

Herod would eventually be exiled, punished by Emperor Gaius – the one man he would apparently not be able to please. But before that, this same Herod Antipas would encounter another Prophet…at the kangaroo court of the Son of God (Luke 23:6 – 12). Herod would question Jesus at length, and receive only silence. Of course we know better, but you might almost wonder if the conversation lagged because they really had nothing to talk about. For the one who could only ask, “What will make the people happy?” had nothing at all in common with the One who could only ask…“What will please my Heavenly Father?”

 

Tomorrow, Wednesday, January 21: Matthew 15

 

 
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Posted by on January 20, 2015 in Uncategorized

 

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He’s So Heavenly Minded…

(Hey Inspired Readers, please take note that I posted Matthew 11 a day early.  Click here to read that post.  In the meantime, here’s Matthew 10!)

“He’s so heavenly minded that he’s no earthly good.” You ever heard that one? If you have I hope you didn’t buy it. In fact, it’s impossible to be too heavenly minded. There is of course, a false spirituality that some people have, but this is not heavenly mindedness. It is pride or egotism, or even insecurity or a host of other sins, but it is not heavenly mindedness. That’s something you cannot have enough of. And having an eternal mindset is one of the great keys to living the Christian life.

C.S. Lewis put it this way in his writing, The Joyful Christian…

“If you read history you will find that the Christians who did most for the present world were just those who thought most of the next.  It is since Christians have largely ceased to think of the other world that they have become so ineffective in this (the reality is that many of us are so earthly minded we are of no heavenly or earthly good).  Aim at Heaven and you will get earth ‘thrown in’; aim at earth and you will get neither.”

According to Mr. Lewis, it’s all in what we are aiming at. And everything (finances, relationships, work, you name it) gets “fixed” with the proper target of heaven in our sights.

And so, as Jesus is preparing to send his disciples out on the great preaching journey of Matthew 10, He tells them to keep their eyes on eternity. Specifically, in verses 31 – 33, he says this will be the key to overcoming one of the great sins of the human race: the fear of man.

“So everyone who acknowledges me before men, I also will acknowledge before my Father who is in heaven, but whoever denies me before men, I also will deny before my Father who is in heaven.”

Matthew 10:32-33 (ESV)

There is coming a day, Jesus says, when you will want Him to identify you…by name. You will want Him to speak your name before His Heavenly Father. Think about that day, Jesus says, when the days on earth come that you are tempted to deny your association.

Outright denial is one thing, an action pointing to the fact that you are not really His. If that is your lot, then fear not, there is time to repent. Do so, now. But what if you look back on your life and realize that you have been imperfect in your acknowledgment of Jesus? What if there have been too many days when you have shrunk back from raising your hand as a Christian? Well, this is where another motivation for identification with Jesus comes in – for this preaching trip in Matthew 10 would only be the first of many for Peter and his brothers. In days to come, they would travel the world with the glorious gospel of substitutionary atonement:

He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, that we might die to sin and live to righteousness. By his wounds you have been healed.

1 Peter 2:24 (ESV)

He has paid for your fear and weakness, and this is another reason to give it up for boldness in His great cause.  That’s heavenly mindedness that will take you all the way home.

 

Friday: Matthew 12 – what after all is this unpardonable sin?

 

 
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Posted by on January 14, 2015 in Uncategorized

 

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