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                        "THE GOSPEL OF MATTHEW"

                The Death Of John The Baptist (14:1-12)

INTRODUCTION

1. A sad story in the Bible is that of "The Death Of John The Baptist"
   a. His imprisonment occurred near the beginning of Jesus' ministry
      - Mt 4:12
   b. Some time later, John sent two of his disciples to Jesus - Mt 11:
      1-3
   c. Eventually he was beheaded by Herod - Mt 14:1-12

2. The sadness of the story, though, is tempered by the contrast
   between John and those responsible for his death...
   a. A remarkable contrast between a godly man and a depraved family
   b. A contrast that certainly provides several object lessons,
      encouraging godly living

3. In this study, we shall review what is said about "The Death Of John
   The Baptist"...
   a. Noticing the four key persons in this narrative
   b. Considering a few lessons and points that might be gleaned from
      this passage

[We begin with...]

I. THE FAITHFULNESS OF JOHN

   A. JOHN PROVED TO BE A FAITHFUL PROPHET...
      1. His message was a call to repentance - Mt 3:1-2
      2. He called the religious leaders to repentance as well - Mt 3:
         7-8
      3. Nor did he back away from pointing out the sins of the king
         - Mt 14:3-4
         a. Herod had married his brother Philip's wife, Herodias
         b. It was an unlawful marriage, for several reasons:
            1) Philip was still living, making it adultery - Ro 7:1-3
            2) She was Herod's niece, making it incest  
            3) The Law prohibited marrying a brother's wife - Lev 18:
               16; 20:21
      4. Rather than change his message to accommodate the king, John
         was willing to go to prison and ultimately die for the Word of
         God!

   B. HIS FAITHFULNESS SHOULD INSPIRE US TODAY...
      1. To be true to God's Word, even when not politically correct
      2. To proclaim God's law on marriage, even if it angers others
         a. God's law on marriage goes all the way back to the creation
            - Mt 19:4-8
         b. Christ defined the one circumstance when one may divorce
            and remarry - Mt 19:9
         c. Therefore not all marriages are "lawful"; there may be 
            times when we must tell one:  "It is not lawful for you to
            have her" - Mt 14:4
            
[The faithfulness of this godly man stands out, especially when 
contrasted with the members of the ungodly family we now consider.  
Beginning with...]

II. THE SHAMELESSNESS OF SALOME

   A. SALOME WAS A GIRL WITH NO SHAME...
      1. Of course, she was the daughter of a shameless woman - Mt 14:6
      2. From the Greek, Robertson describes her dance as "some kind of
         rapid motion...a shameful exhibition of lewd dancing"
         (Robertson's Word Pictures)
      3. She danced this way, not just before Herod, but his guests as
         well - Mk 6:21-22

   B. HER SHAMELESSNESS IS OFTEN REPEATED TODAY...
      1. Much modern dance is similar to the lewdness of Salome's 
         dancing
         a. Designed to arouse fleshly passions
         b. "Because of its physical appeal, dance lends itself to 
            erotic purposes and has been practiced to these ends by 
            both sexes." - Encyclopedia Britannica, "The Art Of Dance"
      2. Such shamelessness is condemned as lewdness (lasciviousness,
         licentiousness)
         a. The Greek word for "lewdness" (aselgia) is "unbridled lust
            ...wanton acts or manners (including) filthy words,
            indecent bodily movements, unchaste handling of males and
            females" (Thayer)
         b. Condemned as a work of the flesh - cf. Ga 5:19-21
      3. Christians (esp. women) are to possess a sense of
         "shamefacedness" - 1Ti 2:9 (KJV)
         a. That is, a sense of propriety (NKJV), that which is proper
         b. The Greek word (aidos) means "a sense of shame, modesty"
            (Vine)
         c. "Aidos would always restrain a good man from an unworthy
            act..." (Trench)

[The shamelessness of Salome contributed to the death of John the 
Baptist.  Similar lack of propriety among men and women leads to much 
trouble today as well.  Of course, this young girl was undoubtedly 
influenced by her mother...]

III. THE VENGEFULNESS OF HERODIAS

   A. HERODIAS WAS A VENGEFUL WOMAN...
      1. She was the subject of John's rebuke to Herod - Mt 14:3-4
         a. She had been married to Philip, Herod Antipas' half-brother
         b. Herod had been married to the daughter of Aretas, an 
            Arabian king of Petraea
         c. After Herod had been a guest in Philip's home, he and
            Herodias eloped while still married to their spouses
         d. At some point they married, for which John rebuked them
            - Mk 6:17-18
      2. In her vengefulness...
         a. She prompted Herod to imprison John - Mk 6:17-18
         a. She wanted to kill John, though temporarily prevented from
            doing so - Mk 6:19
         b. She prompted her daughter to ask for John's head on a 
            platter - Mk 6:22-25
   
   B. SUCH VENGEFULNESS OFTEN DESTROYS LIVES TODAY...
      1. Through vengeance people often resort to desperate measures
         a. E.g., Simeon and Levi, whose vengeance killed those of
            Shechem - Gen 34:1-31
         b. It moved Joab to kill Abner, an honorable man - 2Sa 3:27;
            1Ki 2:29-33
      2. Vengeance led to the downfall of such people as:
         a. Haman, who tried to kill Mordecai and the Jews - Esther 3-7
         b. The Edomites and the Philistines, who took vengeance on 
            Judah - Eze 25:12-17
      3. Vengeance destroys families, friends, associates; hurting most
         those who exercise it
      4. Which is why we are commanded to leave vengeance to God - Pro
         24:29; Ro 12:17-19; 1Th 5:15; 1Pe 3:9
   
[Finally, we consider the king who was manipulated like a pawn, as we
look at...]

IV. THE WEAKNESS OF HEROD

   A. HEROD ANTIPAS WAS A WEAK MAN...
      1. Son of Herod the Great, we see his weakness manifested by:
         a. His superstition, supposing Jesus to be John raised from
            the dead - Mt 14:1-2
         b. His unfaithfulness, in leaving his first wife and marrying
            Herodias - Mt 14:3-4
         c. His fear of the multitude and John himself, which prevented
            Herod from killing him at first - Mt 14:5; Mk 6:20
         d. His manipulation by Salome and Herodias - Mt 14:6-8
         e. His fear of his guests, before whom he was afraid of
            ridicule - Mt 14:9
      2. His weakness eventually led to his death
         a. For Herodias later prompted him to join her in appealing
            for favors from Caesar
         b. But they were accused of high treason and banished to Lyons
            in Gaul, where he died in great misery (Josephus, 
            Antiquities Of The Jews)

   B. SUCH MORAL WEAKNESS CAN BE A PROBLEM TODAY...
      1. We can be destroyed by weakness through:
         a. Succumbing to temptation
         b. Allowing others to pressure us in doing evil - 1Co 15:33
      2. Christians need to stand strong...
         a. Cf. The example of young men as Joseph and Daniel - Gen 39:
            1-12; Dan 1:8
         b. Looking to God for help and strength - 1Co 10:13; Ep 3:16;
            Php 4:13
         c. Seeking the approval of God, not men - Ga 1:10

CONCLUSION

1. In "The Death Of John The Baptist", it initially appears that evil
   was the winner...
   a. Herod succeeded in imprisoning and killing John
   b. Herod and Salome succeeded in manipulating Herod and getting rid
      of John

2. There are times today when it seems that evil people are the ones
   who win in life...
   a. People who blatantly disregard God's law on divorce and
      remarriage
   b. Young people who gain popularity through shameless conduct

3. But as revealed by the Psalmist (Ps 73:1-28), such apparent success
   is fleeting...
   a. God will eventually bring the wicked into judgment
   b. Sometimes judgment is received even in this life, as with the 
      exile of Herod and Herodias    
   c. Whose shoes would you want to be in now?  Herod's? Herodias'? 
      Salome's?

May the faithfulness of John remind us that serving God is the only way
to eternal life and true happiness...!
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