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September 20, 2020 12:01 am
As an ambassador for the kingdom of God, John the Baptist was prepared to confront Herod Antipas for violating God's law. Today, R.C. Sproul continues his series in the gospel of Mark to examine the events leading up to John's martyrdom.
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When Mary the mother of Jesus met her cousin the baby in Elizabeth's womb leapt with joy before he was born, John the Baptist was bearing witness to Jesus and so he is in a very real sense, the first Christian witness is also the first Christian martyr begins with John the Baptist calling Israel to read in preparation for Jesus and for a while John and Jesus had parallel ministries until an evil king was provoked today on Renewing Your Mind, Dr. RC Sproul Texas back to this tumultuous time in Israel's history and reminds us that faithfulness to God's cost must join RC now as he begins to the sermon in prayer father, not God knows attend your word. We pray that you will be merciful to us by granting us the illuminating power of your Holy Spirit with the full truth, and its impact may be known to us in this hour, we ask it in Jesus name, amen. Last week we saw the commissioning of the 12 to go to by two into the neighboring villages in the area of Galilee and now we read a flashback reports tied in with the reaction of Herod answer posts to the growing reputation of Jesus. Verse 14 of chapter 6 begins with these words. Now King Herod heard of him for his name had become well known and he said John the Baptist is risen from the dead and therefore these powers are at work in him will notice that when Mark gives us this narrative identifies the ruler of that region of Galilee as King Herod a couple things I need to say about that. This arid is not that King Herod, who was so vicious in the slaughter of the innocents at the time of the birth of our Lord. This is one of the sons of that Herod, who was known as Herod the great and actually by Marx calling him king Herod. There is some irony involved.
There, though it was the popular Jewish designation of Herod, answer posts that he would be called by the people.
King Herod, in reality, formally speaking. He did not have that title bestowed upon him by Rome, which was no small matter in this man's life. His father, Herod the great, had 10 wives making Henry VIII. Seem like something of a piker by comparison. One of the wives. By the way of Herod the great was Cleopatra who had a brief fling with this famous ruler over Palestine, Herod the great died in for BC and his kingdom or his domain was divided among four of his sons, each of whom became tetrarch of a various reason tetrarch simply means ruler over 1/4 and so Herod answer posts with whom we had to do here was ruler of the Galilee region. He was tetrarch of that segment of the land and he ruled from four BC until 39 A.D. Do the math. There was a rain of some 43 years now. When he was first coming into power in the Galilee.
He petitioned Caesar Augustus, the grant him the title King as his father had enjoyed, and Augustus refused the request, and this really not hold Herod and a pest but are particularly bothered his illegitimate wife Herodias, who constantly goaded and urged him to acquire that title King that in 39 A.D. when the mad Emperor Caligula was on the throne in Rome at the urging of Herodias, Herod, and opposed made a formal application once more for the title King.
He had all of the requisites already had all the benefits of royalty without the title but sometimes people crave titles more than anything else he wanted the prestige of the title King Caligula was infuriated by the request and forth with banished Herod and Herodias to go all and so his reign ended after 43 years because he got greedy for the title, which I think has some irony to it. But in any case, Mark calls him by the common nomenclature of the Jews. King Herod and introduces this man here. As I mentioned was one of the sons of Herod the great. One commentator by the way on this family history of Herod the great says that the family tree of Herod the great is more twisted than the trunk of a great olive tree native to that region.
Really the machinations and political intrigue that goes on in the New Testament days among this family is so wicked that it staggers the imagination, but in any case, Herod, Oedipus was disturbed by the rumors that were coming to him about the mighty works that were being done by Jesus is not. Keep in mind that up until this time in Jesus public ministry, his fame was overshadowed by the fame of John the Baptist, John the Baptist got more press at this time.
Then Jesus did, because the Jews were absolutely astonished at the renewal of the office of profit which had been so important in Old Testament days, but had ceased for a period of 400 years until John came out of the wilderness in the spirit and in the power of Elijah and as Mark shows us here with this flashback.
Herod was well acquainted with John the Baptist. And so to explain Herod's reaction to the news of the ministry of Jesus marked fills in the historical graphs of how John the Baptist had come to be executed and that's what we find here in the narrative today, but initially when the news of Jesus comes to the years of Herod. He's trembling.
He's terrified and his first theater is the John the Baptist has come back from the dead.
He is haunted by the idea that John had returned to life because in his mind which was also the case in many of antiquity.
The idea that resurrections always for call. The idea of judgment, and so if John is raised from the dead, that means he's being raised to bring to pass the judgment of God upon his enemies number one of whom is Herod who was responsible for his death, you may recall, the Hollywood movie called the rope by Lloyd C. Douglas starred Richard Burton.
They show it every Easter how the mad Emperor Caligula. It was terrified by the mere presence of that piece of cloth that had been worn by Jesus and so Herod has this superstitious belief, the John the Baptist is spreading about the land magical powers and he's taken on the new name called Jesus gives us an illustration of the adage that the pagan trembles at the rustling of a leaf, and the wicked flee when no man pursues them.
That is the status of those who are plagued by troubled conscience.
Other said no, it's not John the Baptist it's Elijah that was fear number two.
Remember that John had come in the power and the spirit of Elijah and so still the judgment of God is in view when they're afraid of the presence of the prophet Elijah or one of the prophets. When Herod heard he said this is John. I just know it's John has to be John. He was not aware of the history of the relationship between Jesus and John the Baptist that they were obviously to different persons, but Herod wasn't aware of that.
So he still insisting that it had to be John this is John, whom I beheaded. He's been raised from the dead for Herod himself had sent and laid hold of John bound him in prison for the sake of Herodias, his brother Philip's wife, for he had married her. There in lies the tail. This is what cost John the Baptist his life.
Remember that one John appeared out of the wilderness. He came as the herald of the Messiah. He came as God's anointed witness to declare to Israel the coming of the kingdom of God and the appearance of God's anointed king, and though we've read and studied that witness that he gave by the river Jordan to the Lamb of God who appeared to him.
There we remember that much earlier in his life. John the Baptist was the first human witness to Jesus to remember when that was when after the angel Gabriel came to Mary and announced that she would be the mother of the Messiah that Mary went to visit her cousin Elizabeth and Elizabeth was already six months pregnant with the child that Gabriel had announced to Zacharias would be the forerunner of the Messiah and what happened when Mary met Elizabeth the babe leaped in her womb that before he was born, John the Baptist was bearing witness to Jesus and so he is in a very real sense, the first Christian witness.
He's also the first Christian martyr. There's a link in the language there that we often overlook the word martyr comes into the English language from the root of the verb in Greek, which means to bear witness. The reason why that connection between witness and martyr has been so strong throughout linguistic history because of the early church to be an open witness to witness to Christ before kings and rulers was in many cases to experience martyrdom and in this case, John the Baptist, who bore witness to the coming kingdom called all of the people to repentance told them all they were unclean, but he thundered especially against the tetrarch of Galilee, Herod, answer posts for his wickedness and his adulterous life style. Herod had been married to the daughter of Erato Sue was king of the Napa tins who were a bordering nation next to the region of Herod antipode us and he divorced his wife because he had an affair with his half brothers wife and her name was Herodias, and so he illegitimately to satisfy his own lust, divorce his true wife and then married his stepbrothers wife which was illegal by Jewish law on two grounds. On the one hand, there was the problem of adultery and secondly there was the prohibition in Jewish law of marrying your brothers wife while your brother was still alive and so out of his sinful desires. Herod antipode us, violates the law of God telling his mind. Justified and he had assumed that is divorce was completely legitimate even though it patently violated the law of God and his wife was particularly vexed that anybody would raise any question about the legitimacy of her second marriage. Now to Herod antipode us and John the Baptist publicly declared their union to be unlawful, and wicked you notice the pattern in biblical history that continues after the death of the last apostle that anytime you call attention to the wickedness of those in power anytime you speak publicly against sin in high places.
You are risking your neck. We read already today. What happened when Moses and Aaron went to Pharaoh and spoke the truth of God to Pharaoh and Pharaoh would have none of it.
He not only denied the request of Moses and Aaron, but he took away the straw from the Hebrew so they had no straw for their bricks at the same time, he maintained the quotas for bricks further oppressing the people of God.
How like this is of rulers not just in the ancient world, but in the world today there are few beloved in history who when placed in positions of power and authority are really concerned about justice several years ago there was a case in a in the Presbytery where a minister had founded a church and it is been built too many people over thousand members. He went on his vacation for four weeks and while he was gone three of his elders met with the rest of the elders and accused the minister of having a sin problem. What would you expect that the main kind of sexual immorality. You are embezzlement or something of that nature when in fact this lead elder, who was very powerful in the church thought that the pastor had too much pride and so he convinced the rest of the session to depose the minister without a hearing without a trial without any formal charges being made to him so that when he came back from his vacation.
He was told to vacate his office will of course the pastor appealed to the Presbytery Presbytery created a commission to investigate it and I was asked by the Presbytery to participate in this commission's investigation, so went to the meeting and the chairman of the commission set forth the problems and will hear we have a church that is been thriving with about a thousand people. The founding minister however is been accused of having a sin problem is pride by three of the elders now we have a problem here. The minister is hurting his associate minister is hurting the three elders who brought the charges are hurting the rest of the session are hurting in the congregation is hurting so we have five parties that we must minister to and we have to figure out a way to make peace among all five groups and after he spelled out what our task was the look and he said if I left anything out. I read my sweats that the main purpose of this commission is not the see how many groups we can make happy. The purpose of this commission is to establish justice, to see who is the wrongdoer here and to vindicate the innocent that in one of the because that was not the political thing to so the minister was banished. The three elders one control and when the pulpit was vacant, the chairman of our commission sent his resume and asked to be considered to fill the pulpit in place of the man that was kicked. I see this day in and day out were people in authority are supposed to seek truth and instead their decisions are guided by who we have to piece from Neville Chamberlain with his umbrella hanging over the balcony in Munich when he said we have achieved peace in our time through this commission I just mentioned it is human nature not to seek justice, but to seek appeasement of people and political intrigue and political solutions. What happens here with Herod's attempt to appease his wife, which ends in the death of John the Baptist. I will leave God willing. Till next Sunday because we cannot miss.
Even at this point, the parallel between the way in which John the Baptist was unjustly killed for political reasons and the way in which the one to whom he bore witness was killed by an equally treacherous ruler who sought to appease a screaming multitude the tragic end of John the Baptist. Life teaches us so much about our own calling this world we faithfully speak biblical truth. Many times we will cause controversy before the message from Dr. RC Sproul series from the Gospel of Mark today on Renewing Your Mind. It is our practice to return to the series.
Each Lord's day, and I were glad you joined us for today's edition studying verse by verse through the Gospels provides us with insight into the life and ministry of Christ and would like to help you in your further study of this gospel that when you contact us today with your donation of any amount. We will send you Dr. Sproles commentary on Mark. It's a 400 page hardbound volume that will be a great addition to your library, you can make your request online.
When you go to Renewing Your Mind.Ward, and, in advance, let me thank you for your gift. If you enjoy this program. I hope you'll take the opportunity to share it with your social media friends when you go to Renewing Your Mind.Ward you'll see a share button next to today's program that allows you to post it on Facebook or twitter or you can send an email directly to family members or friends. We thank you for spreading the word about overdoing your religion or ministries now more than ever, people need to hear the faithful teaching of God's word was RC mention we will continue the story of John the Baptist martyrdom next week. It was an act of evil the truck. Our Lord's disciples, but we will see how it accomplished God's purposes. Please make place to join us next Sunday for Renewing Your Mind