How difficult is it to tell others about our faith? In North Korea and Iran and Afghanistan it could get you killed. In China it could get you imprisoned. In American and Australia it could get you laughed at or defriended on Facebook. People have always tried to silence the Gospel.
I want us to understand that the greatest news of all time is bad news for some people and that they will try to silence us.
We will first look at the politics of hate, suspect interpretations, Herod, how truth can be offensive and silencing the messenger.
Politics of Hate
Murder and hate go hand in hand (1 John 3:15). Murder of a political enemy is a common theme of history. French royalty used the guillotine. British royalty had enemies pulled apart by four horses, drawn and quartered. Our politicians use their tongues to destroy each other. The cause of John the Baptist’s death was the politics of hate (Mark 6:14-29). Herod had him beheaded and presented his head on a platter. Are we any different? Politics manipulates the truth and we believe it. We don’t know all the facts, yet politics has incited us to hatred because the more we hate the more we will vote for the other party. When we allow hatred of one another, hatred of a political party, hatred of even our enemies to enter our hearts, we are no different than Herod.
Human agendas make biblical interpretations suspect. For example, women’s liberation theology claims that Mark 6:14-29 has nothing to do with sexual exploitation of women. Calling historical assumptions into question is fair, but drawing the opposite conclusion here is also without evidence. Was the girl’s dance seductive or not? It is true that the Greek word forgirl is also used for the little 12 year old raised by Jesus (Mark 6:22). However, it is also used in the Greek Old Testament for the maiden (Esther 2) when she was brought before King Ahasuerus. Interestingly, the King also promised Esther half of his kingdom (Esther 5:3). The evidence for either conclusion is scant. We read the Bible with the lenses of our own experience. Be careful of interpretations by those with agendas and that is all of us.
Which Herod murdered John the Baptizer? Here is a brief look at the Herodian dynasty. Herod the Great was a madman who murdered his enemies and even members of his own family. He was client king to Rome over Judea. His son Herod Antipas was tetrarch of Galilee. A tetrarchy is a “government by four persons ruling jointly” (http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/tetrarchy). It was Herod Antipas, son of Herod the Great who killed John the Baptist. When Herod Antipas divorced his first wife Phasaelis to marry his niece Herodias, John the Baptizer condemned it as evil (Mark 6:14-29) and was murdered for his comments. The divorce incited war with Phasaelis’ father the King of Nabatea, which Herod lost and that provoked the bloodthirsty Roman Emperor Caligula to charge him with treason and send him and Herodias into exile in Gaul, where Antipas died.
Telling the truth is not always popular. It can even get you killed as John found out (Mark 6:14-29). Does that mean that we become so “tactful” that we avoid the offense of the cross (Galatians 5:11)? Jesus said that peacemakers will be blessed (Matthew 5:9) and yet he caused great offense to others at times (Matthew 13:53-58; Luke 5:29-30; John 6:60-70). We are not to cause offense (1 Corinthians 10:32), but the truth will. If it is our tactlessness or faults which cause offense that is one thing, but if it is the truth of the Gospel, we cannot avoid it. Persecution and tribulation cause offense (Matthew 13:21; 24:10), Jesus offends religious leaders (Matthew 15:12; ) and he is a rock of offense (Romans 9:33) because of the truth.
Silencing the Message
God’s message of repentance and hope is not always popular with power brokers, both political and religious. John found that out (Mark 6:14-29) and Jesus was crucified for similar reasons. The church has two messages. One is the good news of the kingdom (Matthew 4:23) and Jesus Christ (Mark 1:1) and salvation (Ephesians 1:13) and peace (Ephesians 6:15). It is good news to the poor (Isaiah 61:1; Matthew 11:5; Luke 4:18;7:22) but bad news for those who profit from this world’s dog-eat-dog Babylonian system (Revelation 18). Just as then, the church today has a message for the power hungry on both sides of politics, for the greedy merchants of Babylon and those who use religion for personal gain: repent for the kingdom of heaven is at hand (Matthew 3:2).
The greatest news of all time is bad news for some people and they will try to silence it. It is news which offends those who are deluded by this world’s Babylonian ways. Yet for anyone who understands how irredeemably corrupt this world’s ways are, it is wonderful news of salvation for all humanity, the world’s only real hope. Don't let that message be silenced.