Session #100 Head to Head
Scripture Matthew 14:1-12
Summary When the prophetic voice calls for repentance and righteousness, there is every possibility that it will be rejected and even removed. Matthew 14:1-12 describes the confrontation between John the Baptist and Herod Antipas, resulting in the forerunner’s execution. Listen to this teaching to learn how, even through his death, John points to and hands over to Jesus. The kingdom continues to advance. The prophetic voice rings on.
At that time Herod the tetrarch heard the report about Jesus and said to his servants, “This is John the Baptist; he is risen from the dead, and therefore these powers are at work in him.” For Herod had laid hold of John and bound him, and put him in prison for the sake of Herodias, his brother Philip’s wife. Because John had said to him, “It is not lawful for you to have her.” And although he wanted to put him to death, he feared the multitude, because they counted him as a prophet. But when Herod’s birthday was celebrated, the daughter of Herodias danced before them and pleased Herod. Therefore he promised with an oath to give her whatever she might ask. So she, having been prompted by her mother, said, “Give me John the Baptist’s head here on a platter.” And the king was sorry; nevertheless, because of the oaths and because of those who sat with him, he commanded it to be given to her. So he sent and had John beheaded in prison. And his head was brought on a platter and given to the girl, and she brought it to her mother. Then his disciples came and took away the body and buried it, and went and told Jesus. Matthew 14:1–12
When the prophetic voice calls for repentance and righteousness, there is every possibility that it will be rejected and even removed. This passage describes the confrontation between John the Baptist and Herod Antipas, resulting in the forerunner’s execution. Even through his death, John points to and hands over to Jesus. The kingdom continues to advance. The prophetic voice rings on.
Head to Head: An Account of Two Heads
Herod Antipas is the son of Herod the Great (Matthew 2:3). His father is Antipater II; and grandfather is Antipater I. They are Idumeans (Edomites) who served well under Hasmonean rulers (Jewish family that included the Maccabees and the high priests and kings who ruled Judea from 142 to 63).
They were forced to convert to Judaism, so technically they were Jewish. They earned the Roman citizenship for good service to Pompey and Julius. They served as governor of Judea to King of the Jews from 40 to 4 BC.
John the Baptist is from a priestly line, son of Zechariah and Elizabeth, and cousin of Jesus.
Herod Antipas and John the Baptist are Two Very Different Heads – what a contrast. Herod is a leader/tetrarch over Galilee and Perea. He had Roman authority, and represented Caesar. He had a lavish and licentious living, ruling an earthly kingdom.
John on the other hand, was a leader of a kingdom movement. He had kingdom authority, representing God. He was a picture of strength, holiness and conviction, representing the heavenly kingdom.
Going Head to Head
Leaders are expected to lead according to God’s ways. When they do not, God sends prophets to point out their misalignments. In many Old Testament examples, it did not always end well for the prophets.
Herod Antipas was supposedly “Jewish”, an overseer of the Jews, but did not adhere to Jewish law at all as opposed to Pilate as governor. John the Baptist called out Jewish leaders as Jesus also called out Jewish leaders.
Herodias was the daughter of Aristobulus, sister of Agrippa I and wife of Herod Philip
Whilst visiting Philip in Rome, Antipas hooks up with Herodias. But Herod is married to a Nabatean princess, whose father is King Areta (2 Corinthians 11:32-33). Herod Antipas divorces his wife, angering his father-in-law. Herodias divorces Philip to “marry” Herod Antipas who was her uncle. After John’s execution, King Aretas attacks and defeats Herod.
Herod and Herodias’ life was not just a private affair but a public and political one.
John Went Head to Head with Herod (Matthew 14:4)
Marriage is binding as taught in Matthew 5:31–32; adultery and incest were against the law (Leviticus 18:16 and 20:21). Even the Greeks viewed this behaviour as a no-no, one that would incur divine wrath. John said what had to be said, and Herod had to silence him by sending him to prison.
Heads on Hold (Matthew 14:5)
Herod would have killed John immediately but holds back (Matthew 14:5 and Mark 6:20). Thus Herod puts things on hold and “he gave John an audience and enjoyed his preaching even “heard him gladly”” (Mark 6:20).
The imprisonment was “for the sake of Herodias” as she wanted John dead (Mark 6:19). “Everyone has a weakness” and Herodias used her daughter, Salome, to fulfil her desire.
Salome was 12-14 years old, Herod’s grand-niece and step-daughter and betrothed to Philip II who is her grand uncle. She was a representation of Sex and Sensuality.
In Matthew 14:6, she had danced before Herod and pleased him. This pleasure is likely to mean that Herod was aroused. As in the same way Herod lusted after the mother, he now lusted after her daughter who is his grand-niece.
Herod promised with an oath that Salome may have whatever she asked, up to half the kingdom (Matthew 14:7; Mark 6:23). But the kingdom was not Herod’s to give in the first place. Pride got to his head and it must have sounded good in front of guests.
As Salome was sent in by Herodias, she made her mother’s request for John the Baptist’s head to be on a platter (Matthew 14:8, 11).
The “king” was sorry, this was sarcasm because Herod was not a king at all. He only acted as if he was one (Matthew 14:9-11). Before so many witnesses, he had to fulfil Salome’s request, and beheaded John, presenting his head on a platter.
Head to Head: From One Head to Another Head
Although this passage seems to be about Herod and John, it is still very much about Jesus.
John’s role was always to point to Jesus, to hand over to Jesus. From one head to another.
As a forerunner to the Christ and Messiah, John’s ministry and death also foreshadowed that of the One he came as a forerunner to. Through his life, and even through his death, John pointed to Christ. John announced Jesus. Jesus affirmed John. The kingdom of God continues, advances.
John preached repentance and expected fruit worthy of repentance. Jesus preached repentance and expected righteous living.
Herod heard John’s teaching “gladly” but did not repent. Leaders marvelled at Jesus’ teaching but did not believe.
John took Herod to task. Jesus took leaders to task. Herod feared multitudes because they considered John as a prophet. Leaders feared multitudes because they considered Jesus a great prophet.
Herodias schemed to have John killed. Leaders schemed to have Jesus killed. John died for righteousness sake. Jesus died for righteousness sake. Both experienced first-hand what Jesus warned His disciples about in the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5:10-12) and when He sent them out as kingdom ambassadors (Matthew 10).
John’s Disciples Went to Jesus (Matthew 14:12)
John, head of a kingdom movement, has been beheaded. But this does not mean that the kingdom of God no longer has a head. With his death, the transition is complete and clear. John hands over to Jesus, the Head, the King of the kingdom.
Matthew 13 closes on a prophetic note, with a rejection of the prophetic voice, Jesus; and Matthew 14 opens with the silencing of the prophetic voice in John the Baptist.
There is no stopping the kingdom at all. The kingdom advances because the King Himself advances steadily on His assignment towards Jerusalem.
Foreshadowed by John’s death, Jesus will go head to head with the religious leaders and be killed.
The message is clear and it applies to all of us. The prophetic voice of the kingdom must continue to be sounded and heard. The prophetic voice is a righteous voice and not everyone will accept it. Like Herod, many like to hear the prophetic but not necessarily respond to it. When it gets too loud and too uncomfortable, the enemy will seek to silence it. Those who declare righteousness may lose their heads and lives. For righteousness’ sake, John lost his head. Jesus was crucified.
What about us? What about you? When called upon to do so, will you go head to head with unrighteousness? Are you prepared to lose face, lose head even, for the sake of righteousness? For the sake of the kingdom? For the sake of Jesus, the Head of the Church and the kingdom of God?