How many of you enjoy a good hazing when you get home? If not, what is wrong with you? Nothing. As John proclaims that God desires us to live in righteousness and make good choices, he touches a real nerve and enrages the notorious Herodias, who desires to put him to death, but alas she needs permission. Herod couldn’t put John to death because he feared the Jewish people who believed John was a prophet (Matthew 14:5). 

Thus John just sits, locked up in his waiting. While Herodias’ scours pining for a chance to kill John. Opportunity strikes on as Herod throws a Birthday bash, for the who’s who of Galilee. Mark 6:21~Finally the opportune time came. On his birthday Herod gave a banquet for his high officials and military commanders and the leading men of Galilee. (NIV) During the party, Herodias’ daughter Salome, Philip’s own child, performs a sensual dance for her uncle and stepfather Herod Antipas. So pleased and seduced by the moment, he promises to give, Matthew 14:7 ~so that he promised with an oath to give her whatever she might ask. (ESV) Caught up, he speaks too much. Ever happened to you? With so few words you overextend yourself. Bound by his own words. Mark 6: 23~And he promised her with an oath, “Whatever you ask I will give you, up to half my kingdom.” (NIV) 

They are not interested in wealth, power, or even the provision of half a kingdom. No, they are motivated by a sinister spirit and ask for John’s head. (14:8) Herod is sorry for what he has promised. But, because he made the vow in front of his royal and prominent guests, his pride won’t let him revoke his vow. The loss of John, a voice crying in the wilderness (Isaiah 40:3) Herald of God with us, cousin of Christ, a friend of Jesus. He will immediately lose his head. The head of this righteous and holy man is then brought on a platter and given to Salome, who gives it to her mother (14:9-11). John is snuffed out at just over 30. (Luke 1:5-66). 

That night, surrounded by resentment Salome danced in betrayal as a pawn in a diabolical game of chess. Dancing an unholy family into the hottest place in hell. Christ Jesus said in Matthew 11:11~Truly I tell you, among those born of women there has not risen anyone greater than John the Baptist, yet whoever is least in the kingdom of heaven is greater than he. (NIV) There is no greater divine compliment paid to just a man, in scripture. Matthew 14:12~And his disciples came and took the body and buried it, and they went and told Jesus. (ESV) Like me, you have probably wondered, Why would God allow this to happen to John the Baptist? No one can say with any certainty. So trust the words of Christ in John 13:7~Jesus replied, “You do not realize now what I am doing, but later you will understand.” (NIV) 

Do you have a problem worse than John the Baptist? Or perhaps you just want some help learning, how to rise above discouragement? We begin this journey by remembering that we are not the only ones to get down and that many others have worse problems than ours. So, we look to Jesus who is our ever-present help. We read the scriptures that remind us that God has been wrangling problems much worse than ours and we begin to praise Him for the work He has wrought in our lives and now that He is not finished yet! Paul writes to us about this very encouragement in Philippians 1:3-6~Every time you cross my mind, I break out in exclamations of thanks to God. Each exclamation is a trigger to prayer. I find myself praying for you with a glad heart. I am so pleased that you have continued on in this with us, believing and proclaiming God’s Message, from the day you heard it right up to the present. There has never been the slightest doubt in my mind that the God who started this great work in you would keep at it and bring it to a flourishing finish on the very day Christ Jesus appears. (MSG)

Better or worse

By the end of His earthly ministry, the joyful crowds have disbanded, a riotous one will lie in wait. Of His twelve dutiful apostles, only eleven have made it to this stage, turns out one is a devil. These would pile on like stacked stones of staggering discouragement. Life can seem so callous and cold. Like a Three Dog Night in need of company and warmth, Harry Nilsson knowingly penned these words: One is the loneliest number that you’ll ever do, Two can be as bad as one, It’s the loneliest number since the number one, No is the saddest experience you’ll ever know. Why would Jesus keep going? As Paul writes about fortitude in Romans 7:25 he says Thanks Be to God. Hebrews 12:2~fixing our eyes on Jesus, pioneer, and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him, he endured the cross, (NIV) Did you know that you were joy set before Jesus?

The Pharisees have accused Jesus Christ of having Satanic powers (12:22-37). When He returned to His hometown of Nazareth, the people who knew Him and His family well and were offended at His claims. Therefore, they rejected Him (13:53-58). Like a layered cake of rejection, discouragement is piled up as vast crowds amass drinking in the moment of His teaching. Only to have His family reject Him. Mark 3:21~When his family heard about this, they went to take charge of him, for they said, “He is out of his mind.” (NIV) Yet, things get even more discouraging for Jesus and His disciples. As we engage with our passage it reveals two actions to help us with the question of this week. How To Rise Above Discouragement?

The first thing we must do to rise above discouragement is to remember others have it worse (Matthew 14:1-12) Many around us in life have much greater problems. Jesus’ cousin and forerunner, John the Baptist, was arrested, as though a baton was passed to Jesus who begins His public ministry. The tetrarch, Herod Antipas, rules the fourth part of the Roman region. He is one of Herod the Great’s sons, and he rules Galilee and Perea. When he hears the reports concerning Jesus’ ministry, he responds in Matthew 14:1-2~At that time Herod the tetrarch heard about the fame of Jesus, and he said to his servants, “This is John the Baptist. He has been raised from the dead; that is why these miraculous powers are at work in him.” (ESV)

The following verses go back at least a year when Herod arrests and imprisons John as a favor to Herodias, the former wife of his brother Philip (14:3, Mark 6:17). John could not believe the audacity of sin and preached against such wickedness. It was sexually immoral for Herod to seduce Herodias and conjugate, even taking her as his wife. It sounds like a bad TV show. Next time on redneck wives, seduction, betrayal, and fornication. Spoken in a loud shill voice, “I knew they’s fornicators!” John the Baptist is a preacher of righteousness and his message lands him in jail. Matthew 14:4~because John had been saying to him, “It is not lawful for you to have her.” (ESV) 

There is nothing like being called a sinner to make people angry, it still has the same effect on people today. However, we must understand that our job is not to convict people, that job belongs to the Holy Spirit. No, our job is to be a portrait of the living Lord. We are to share his hope with a world that feels dread. We are to live and offer the peace of God which surpasses all understanding. Moreover, we allow the Joy of His presence flow through our lives as we demonstrate Love. Love John 13 says is how people know that we are His disciples, not because we are judgy. 

Today, why not realize that the Christmas season opens peoples’ hearts to hear about Jesus. Then, we can take ownership of the moment that the Lord in-breaks our lives and share Jesus with someone who just may be worse off than we are. 

How to rise above discouragement

If you are anything like Pastor D or the rest of the human race for that matter, you have probably contemplated how to climb out of the pit. We all get down in life, whether we show it or not. Even Jesus faced some pretty big discouragement while on earth with us. I can even hear David Attenborough narrate the scenes. A salty sea captain stands at the helm of his ministry, he’s a lonely fisherman, with a marginal group of swabs clowning to be the first mate. They migrate from town to town as if charting their way across the vast sea of humanity. Each port of call is a new season, as people begin to ball like baitfish. Large crowds longing for a healer’s touch, some looking for an eternal life change, still, others convene just to listen. While outside on the edges of the school, a more sinister group has gathered. Robed in black and white like orcas toying with their prey, they pick off the class, one by one. Until nothing is left. 

As a human preacher, it must have weighed on Him. The lack of commitment by people so needy, and once the need is met, they found little or no need of Him. Luke 17 records that once Jesus healed lepers. For his fame was great, they knew power flowed through Him. Luke 17:13~and called out in a loud voice, “Jesus, Master, have pity on us!” (NIV) Yes, many call while in deep need, begging, they hope for change, crying out they long for peace’s great reprieve. Looking for Joy that is found only in His presence. (Psalm 16:11) Jesus will meet them at their deep longing, remove that which has separated them as he destroys a longtime traveling companion for each. Walking away and awaiting only one returns gushing with gratitude. Luke 17:15-16~One of them…came back, praising God…and thanked him—he was a Samaritan. (NIV) 

Has Jesus done anything in your life? Beyond all the stuff, people, and even the breath now filling your lungs. If so, why not take time to express to Him the joy that fills your soul. Because something happened and now you know, He touched you and made you whole.