Which Model to Follow?
Father, my world will be different tomorrow because of the choices I make today. Guide me to make proper decisions today.
Consider: Herod appears to be governed by fear (9). It is not clear what he is most afraid of: Jesus, the reaction of dinner guests, or his wife. Whatever it was, he lacked moral courage to face it. A timely reminder for us.
It is bad enough for Jesus to lose his cousin and colleague under these circumstances, but in Herod's response there is an implied warning of what Jesus personally (and other Christians since) will face in challenging powerful figures. Jesus' response is to withdraw privately (13) to a solitary place, perhaps seeking time to regroup emotionally and give further instruction to his disciples. It may also be that he was aware that his time had not yet come and he needed to be out of Herod's way. It is clear, however, that he would not be deflected from his mission and, in writing to the first-century persecuted Jewish church, Matthew presents Jesus as a model of resilience in the face of opposition, showing the same courage as John did.
Herod's responses are lessons of the opposite kind. History records that he was not a particularly bad ruler but, guilty of seducing his brother's wife and divorcing his own, his personal weakness shows through. Though distressed by the consequences of his rash promise to Salome, he lacks the courage to overturn it and is further compromised. As a Jewish ruler, he knows the Law! Now he fears that Jesus' miracles show that John is returning from the grave. He continues a downward slide to ruin, which culminates in military defeat. He ends his life in Roman exile in Gaul.
Meanwhile the closing of John's ministry opens up the next stage for Jesus, carried out in an ominous atmosphere of physical threat. This section of Matthew follows Mark 6:1--9:32 with only slight modification and is characterized by a strong, forward-looking impetus towards Jesus' suffering and death. This trajectory ends with a victorious resurrection!
How we live morally, spiritually and emotionally influences our response to external challenges. Is your life changing through your relationship with Jesus? Why or why not? If yes, how is it changing?
Merciful Father, develop in me a resolve to stand firm for You and for what is right. At times I think I have been born a devout coward. In my weakness, grant me Your strength.
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