Thursday, October 2, 2014

The Journey, part 12: The Opportunity

Now Herod the tetrarch heard of all that was happening; and he was greatly perplexed, because it was said by some that John had risen from the dead, and by some that Elijah had appeared, and by others that one of the prophets of old had risen again. Herod said, "I myself had John beheaded; but who is this man about whom I hear such things?" And he kept trying to see Him. (Luke 9:7-9 NASB)

This little sidelight in the midst of the story of the journey of the twelve might seem oddly placed. Perhaps understanding a little more about Herod will help us see the importance of its inclusion. 

Herod the Great was the ruler of Judea at the time Jesus was born. It was to Herod the Great that the magi went seeking the infant King, and it was this madman, Herod the Great, who slaughtered infants throughout Judea in an effort to eliminate the presumed infant threat to his throne. He was a visionary in construction and building, and the Temple Mount, breathtaking in its expanse, was one of his projects. He, who executed numerous relatives including his own wife, claimed to be a Jew. 

Herod the Great's son, Herod Antipas, was born to Malthace, a Samaritan woman who was one of his five wives. Herod Antipas served as Tetrarch over Galilee and Perea. Like his father, he was also a great builder and Tiberius was one of the projects he completed. Also like his father, he had a lavish (and corrupt) lifestyle. It was this Herod Antipas who married his half-brother's wife Herodias and was condemned by John the Baptizer for the marriage. Herod Antipas, after arresting and imprisoning him, was manipulated into executing John at the behest of Herodias. 

As the twelve journeyed throughout Galilee, they preached and healed, lives were changed, and the news spread. What is remarkable is that the news of Jesus and the twelve traveled all the way to Herod Antipas. Herod heard about this itenerate preacher and his band of traveling apprentices and wondered what it all meant. "What are people saying about them?" He must've asked. His sources told him that some people thought Jesus was really Elijah or one of the other prophets.  

They must have shuddered as they told him the rest of the news. There were some people who thought that Jesus was actually John the Baptizer, risen from the dead. That news gave Herod Antipas a shudder of his own. Scripture says he was "greatly perplexed".  The word here is diaporeĊ, and can also mean "to doubt".  Indeed, he might well doubt the wisdom of his actions. According to Matthew 14:9, Herod was grieved by his decision to behead John. He knew it was wrong, but he did it anyway. When the news reached him about Jesus, he was still struggling with that bad decision. He knew he had John killed himself. If Jesus wasn't John, then who was he?  Herod didn't know, but he wanted to find out. 

That conviction that follows wrong-doing is a great blessing. It can drive us to our knees, cause us to examine our hearts, lead us to repentance and to the transformation of God. Conviction can lead us to repentance, but it doesn't always. Herod had been troubled by the murder of John even before he ordered him executed. He had been troubled, but he had done nothing to deal with his guilt. Suddenly, he heard about Jesus and thought, "I need to see Him."  He thought about seeing Jesus, but he never actually did, until it was too late. 

Even Herod had a chance of redemption. Like Saul, he stood at the beginning of his own Damascus Road. Had he gone just a little further, he might have found the kind of Damascus Road experience that turned the fire-breathing murderer Saul into the Spirit-driven Paul. He might have, but he didn't. Herod "kept trying" to see Jesus but he never quite made it, and he missed the chance of a lifetime. 

Herod's conviction could have driven him to forgiveness, cleansing, and a new life with His Lord, but he never followed through. Oh, how important it is to do more than feel bad about our sin! The purpose of conviction is not to simply make us sorry. The purpose of conviction is to make us repentant so that we can be cleansed. 

Is there something in your life about which you are sorry? Have your decisions caused great harm to others? Have you spent years regretting what cannot be changed?  Perhaps it is time to stop regretting and start repenting. Why not confess your errors and ask for forgiveness? Why not embrace cleansing? 

This is what Paul said, and it's true today as well: "
"So what are you waiting for? Get up and get yourself baptized, scrubbed clean of those sins and personally acquainted with God.’" (Acts 22:14-16 MSG)

Indeed. What are we waiting for? Let's get up and get going!