This text (Matt. 14:1-12) shows the actions of some people who were faced with the decisions of correcting what is wrong, repenting, and revenging in the situations they faced in life. Revealed in the saga is the competition between popularity and godliness, a dilemma that all humans beings have to face at one time or the other. It is my prayer that we will learn from these people who have gone before us and allow the word of God to assist us in decision making, choosing godliness over popularity, so that our lives will please God.
The dictionary defines popularity as “the state or condition of being liked, admired, or supported by many people.” Popularity means approval, acceptance, recognition, etc. This is a state desired by all of us, regardless of age, creed or color. The bible states, “But at a birthday party for Herod, Herodias’s daughter performed a dance that greatly pleased him, so he promised with a vow to give her anything she wanted. At her mother’s urging, the girl said, “I want the head of John the Baptist on a tray!” Then the king regretted what he had said; but because of the vow he had made in front of his guests, he issued the necessary orders. So John was beheaded in the prison, and his head was brought on a tray and given to the girl, who took it to her mother.”
- People set goodness aside: Herod Antipas chose popularity over what was right, because he did not want to be embarrassed in front of his guest (verse 9). Jesus warns, “For whosoever shall be ashamed of me and of my words, of him shall the Son of man be ashamed, when he shall come in his own glory, and in his Father’s, and of the holy angels.” – Luke 9:26
- Popularity can be addicting and lead to problems: In an article written in Psychologytoday.com earlier this year (Feb. 24, 2020), it is stated that, “But despite the benefits of social status, being very popular comes with its own risks, including an addiction to praise and attention, chronic loneliness, anxiety, and substance abuse.” Popularity consumes teenagers, and adults. It makes people want to feel belonged, therefore, joining others to do evil. Exodus 23:2 says, “You shall not follow a crowd to do evil; nor shall you testify in a dispute so as to turn aside after many to pervert justice.” We must watch out for the dangers of popularity.
Godliness: Godliness is living a faithful, obedient and fruitful life as a child of God. John the Baptist chose to be godly and tell the truth in an attempt to change the heart of Herod from wrong doing, but unfortunately, to no avail.
- When we are faithful to Christ in our stewardship, we are godly: “Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things.” 1 Cor. 4:2
- The godly submits to God draws near Him: the bible says,“Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you.
Draw nigh to God, and he will draw nigh to you. Cleanse your hands, ye sinners; and purify your hearts, ye double minded.” – James 4:7-8
- The godly corrects unbelievers humbly: This is exactly what John the Baptist did. We cannot shy away from correcting what is wrong. The bible says, “In meekness instructing those that oppose themselves; if God peradventure will give them repentance to the acknowledging of the truth; And that they may recover themselves out of the snare of the devil, who are taken captive by him at his will.” – 2 Timothy 2:25-26
- The godly are gentle and full of peace: they don’t take other people’s wives (Gal 5:22-23).
Spirit of vengeance: Herodias, a licentious (wicked, lustful and impious) woman, pushed her husband to imprison John; she did not stop there but proceeded in her spirit of vengeance to ask that John would be beheaded.
- Whenever you are operating under the spirit of vengeance, you become filled with so much wrath that you seek your offender’s life and eventually murder them. Right now, you may not think you are capable of murdering, but I tell you, the only way you will not end of killing someone or handing them over to their killer is if you get rid of the spirit of vengeance (Matt. 14:7-8).
- Spirit of vengeance begins with insecurity. Whenever you feel insecure because of the success of others, a spirit comes upon you to want to get rid of that other. No wonder this Herod Antipas felt threatened by the existence Jesus and sought to kill Him (Luke 13:31-32; Acts 4:27). Spirit of vengeance is a bad spirit from which Jesus must deliver us.
- People with the spirit of vengeance are mere “fox” in the sight of Jesus, they are powerless in the spiritual realm (Luke 13:32).
The life and end of Herod Antipas (ruler of Galilee)
- Murderers always live in fear: When Herod heard of the miracles of Jesus, after he had murdered John the Baptist, he thought it was John the Baptist who came back to life. If you want to live in peace, to not kill anyone in your mind (Matt. 14:1-2).
- Herod Antipas’ life ended in exile: He was accused of conspiracy against the Roman emperor and was sent to exile (Josephus, Antiquities 18.240-255).
- Choose godliness over popularity. Paul admonishes in the book of Philippians 4:8 that, “Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things.”
- Lord, as a Christian, keep me strong enough to speak the truth at all times, despite the repercussion (as John did).
- Lord, help me to repent from wrong doing when it is pointed out to me (as Herod needed to do).
- Lord, help me to always choose godliness over popularity in decision-making.
- Lord, give me the spirit of repentance of my sins and forgiveness of those whom I claim to have offended me, so that I will not end up killing them – either physically or in my mind (as Herodias needed to do).
- Lord, do not allow me to participate in the sins of others (as the daughter of Herod did).