Title: Tears of The Dying
Text: Matthew 14:1-11
FCF: We often fear the wrong things which lead us to various degrees of unbelief
Prop: Guilt and fear that does not produce repentance only leads to death, so we must have guilt and fear that leads to repentance.
[Slide 1] Turn in your bible to Matthew 14. Today we will continue the narrative section that we technically began last week.[Slide 2] But first it may be appropriate for us to recap from a very high level what we have learned thus far in the book of Matthew.
[Slide 3] Matthew – A Jew who turned on his own people to own a tax collecting franchise for Rome – is now a disciple and apostle of Jesus Christ writing a book, perhaps originally in Hebrew, now in Greek, to his own people. A book focused on presenting to the Jew who has come to Christ or hasn’t, the proof that Jesus was the King of Israel promised to David. The Messiah who would sit on the throne forever.[Slide 4] To that end, Matthew begins in chapters 1 and 2 discussing all the ways that Jesus’ fulfills prophesy from the Old Testament. [Slide 5] Next Matthew zooms in on the subject of the book. Jesus – the King. His presentation, baptism, temptation, and beginning of his ministry is presented all in chapter 3 and 4.
[Slide 6] Matthew structures his book around 5-7 discourses, depending on how you count them. In chapters 5-7 we see the first of these discourses. After having looked at the King Himself, Matthew allows the King to present His Kingdom. We call it the sermon on the Mount – but really it was the announcement of the Kingdom and an explanation on who is worthy to enter.
In completing this sermon Jesus’ authority is recognized very plainly by the crowds. And so as the Spirit prompts him, Matthew masterfully weaves the message of the first discourse to the next narrative.[Slide 7] In Chapters 8 and 9 Jesus is presented as having authority over everything. Not just authority to teach – but to be the only teacher that matters. The teacher to whom all others should listen. Matthew proves this authority by Jesus’ various interactions with nature, sin, disease, death, and even demons. Nothing is outside his realm of authority and influence.
[Slide 8] Therefore, after demonstrating that truth Matthew begins another discourse where Jesus exercises and delegates that authority. In chapter 10 He commands the disciples to go into Galilee and preach the truth. He tells his disciples that to those who listen to them, stay and continue to preach, but to those who do not, to shake the dust from their sandals and cease preaching.
[Slide 9] Again, connecting the threads , the next narrative section begins with account after account of those who opposed Jesus and His ministry. Both chapters 11 and 12 show the growing opposition to what Jesus is offering. Johns disciples doubting based on their eschatology. The cities that rejected him. The breaking of Sabbath law by his disciples. The refusal to give the Holy Spirit credit for casting out demons and instead saying it is by the power of demons. The begging for a sign and the intention of his own family to silence him. All of this is opposition.
[Slide 10] And flowing out of this, Matthew includes another discourse in chapter 13. The primary emphasis of which, is that there are two people. Those who understand and those who do not. Those who have been given grace to see the truth and those who have not. And those who will be brought into the kingdom and those who will not.
[Slide 11] So now – flowing from this discourse we have actually already begun the next narrative. And to wet your appetite, chapters 14 through 17 really will deal with real life examples of people either getting it or not getting it. We already looked at the people of Nazareth. Jesus’ hometown. They didn’t get it. He was Mary’s son. The carpenter’s boy. How could He be anything more? Their Familiarity bred contempt. And they, thinking they knew Him, knew him less than most.
[Slide 12 (title)] Today we’ll see another example of a person allowing something to get between them and belief. And in this case, that something is guilt and fear. I’m in Matthew 14 and I’ll starting reading in verse 1 from the NET. But follow along in the version you choose.
[Slide 13] Do I have a dad of small children that could join me from your seat for a brief interview? Anyone?
Question 1: How many kids do you have and give us names and ages.
Question 2: Many people believe that children are innocent from birth. There is no evil in them at all. They are absolutely good. So – have you noticed anything that would contradict that in your children?
Question 3: When did your children first start showing signs that they may not be all that innocent or good? That they might be a little selfish and a little “world-revolves-around –me-ish”?
Question 4: So now your kids are older than they were then. Would you say that their propensity for wrong doing has gotten better? Worse? Or that they have learned to hide it better?
Question 5: Alright. Thank you for your honesty. Last two questions. When you catch your children doing something they know they are not supposed to do, and they know you caught them, what is their typical response to this situation?
Question 6: That fear, that sadness, that guilt that they experience… how do you know as a dad that it is a guilt and fear that is rooted in disappointing you? Or to put the question differently, how do you know that their guilt and fear is not simply of getting caught and facing punishment?
Thank you so much for assisting me this morning.
Often times we feel guilt and fear for the wrong reasons. It begins when we are young, and it doesn’t really get better with age. If anything it can get worse.
[Slide 14 (blank)] Today, in the life of Herod Antipas we will see a man who is ridden with guilt. We will see a man who is quite fearful. He knows He has done wrong and he is afraid. But what we will also see, is that his guilt and fear, does not lead him to repent.
We have been analyzing these two concepts for some time. They are at the heart of the gospel. John the Baptist and Jesus’ message both were – Repent and believe. What, perhaps, we have not yet made clear, is that you either have both of these or none of these. They are linked. Inseparable. You cannot truly believe unless you repent and you cannot truly repent unless you believe.
Today we will see an example of a man who lacks repentance – and therefore – cannot believe. Let’s look at his story in verse 1.
I.) Herod’s superstition leads him to an unnecessarily farfetched conclusion, so we must seek genuine repentance and faith (1-2)
a. [Slide 15] 1 – At that time
i. A transitional phrase for Matthew to move from one instance to another.
ii. We cannot see this strictly as a chronological sequal to the event in Nazareth.
iii. Still with Mark as a guide we can see that probably these events were close.
iv. Jesus rejected at Nazareth, followed by His sending out the disciples in Galilee. During which time John the Baptist is martyred. When the disciples of John relay news of his death to Jesus here in verse 12 we are also told in Mark that Jesus’ disciples had also heard of John’s death and told Jesus.
b. Herod the Tetrarch heard reports about Jesus,
i. [Slide 16] So in order to understand exactly who this guy is – we really have to get out a graph because it is pretty messy.
ii. Herod the great – the King of the Jews and sole ruler over Judea – is the one who tried to kill Jesus by killing all the 2 year old boys. This Herod – as we know from Matthew 2 – was already dead.
1. Herod the great had as many as 9 wives. He dies horribly and mysteriously after ordering the deaths of all these children.
2. With his will he established a tetrarchy over Judea assigning 3 of his sons positions of authority.
a. Herod Achelaus – was an ethnarch, which would have been ruler of the entire ethnic population of Judea. Probably a higher position than Herod Antipas. – But was replaced quickly by Roman governors – one of which was Pontius Pilate.
b. Herod Phillip – Ruled the territories north east of Galilee.
c. Herod Antipas – over Galilee and Perea – This is the Herod that is mentioned here in Matthew.
iii. So not sure how, but Herod hears about Jesus’ miracles and preaching. He then draws a rather exaggerated and somewhat superstitious conclusion.
c. [Slide 17] 2 – And he said to his servants, “This is John the Baptist. He has been raised from the dead! And because of this, miraculous powers are at work in him”
i. Now if you were half paying attention when we read through this earlier, you’ll maybe be able to guess as to why Herod would think this.
ii. Later we find others confusing Jesus’ identity with a resurrected John too. Some even believed that Jesus was a resurrected Elijah. So he wouldn’t be alone. So what makes me think his conclusion is so out there?
iii. Well, although the Herods were ethnically close to the Jews – they were not probably overly concerned with the Eschatological references from the Old Testament talking about resurrected prophets. What is probably more likely – is Herod believing something similar to Charles Dicken’s A Christmas Carol. That the ghost or Spirit of John the Baptist had come with Power – specifically to haunt him for his decisions.
iv. In Mark, later in the gospels and even when Jesus stands before him prior to His crucifixion – we see a Herod that is absolutely fascinated and intrigued – but no more than morbid curiosity. He desires to speak with Jesus, but not to gain any conviction or truth – but by that time having realized that He was not in fact a ghost of John – he simply wanted to be entertained by Jesus’ magic.
v. But for now – where we are in the timeline – Herod Antipas is terrified that John has returned.
[Slide 18 (blank)] But why John the Baptist? Why not some Roman god, or some other superstitious mumbo jumbo? Matthew takes a minute to explain why Herod would conclude it was John. And what we’ll find, is that his superstition is fueled by a guilty conscience.
II.) Herod’s guilt and fear over his actions fuels his superstitious conclusion, so we must seek genuine repentance and faith (3-11)
a. [Slide 19] 3-4 - For Herod had arrested John, bound him, and put him in prison on account of Herodias, his brother Phillip’s wife, because John had repeatedly told him, “It is not lawful for you to have her”
i. So… what is going on?
ii. You are gonna feel like you are on an episode of Jerry springer this morning – but bear with me.
iii. [Slide 20] Ok – So let’s bring up the tangled family tree again. So Herodias, as you can see, is a granddaughter of Herod the Great. It is already getting icky. She married her uncle Herod Phillip.
iv. Herod Antipas was already married to a Nabatean princess, daughter of King Aretas of Petra.
v. However, Antipas takes a fancy to his niece – and half brother’s wife Herodias. For reasons we will see more clearly later – it appears that Herodias also fancied Antipas.
vi. So Herod Antipas divorces his wife who goes back to her father.
vii. Then he marries Herodias.
viii. So John, holding to the law of Moses, would not be correcting Herod’s divorce so much, as his incest and adultery.
ix. Tiring of hearing John say such things, Herod puts John in prison. Why wouldn’t he just kill John?
b. [Slide 21] 5 - Although Herod wanted to kill John, he feared the crowd because they accepted John as a prophet
i. Ruling these highly religious folks called Jews, it would produce quite a volatile situation for the Roman appointed ruler to kill those they thought were prophets.
ii. Such things could lead to rebellion. And if you remember nothing from history class – you should remember that Rome did not abide rebellion.
c. [Slide 22] 6 - But on Herod’s birthday, the daughter of Herodias danced before them and pleased Herod
i. Although unnamed this is no doubt Salome, the daughter of Herodias and Herod Phillip.
ii. And just to add a bit more ick – Salome later married her great uncle Phillip the Tetrarch. Meaning of course that she would be simultaneously her mother’s aunt, sister-in-law, and daughter.
iii. Now given all we know about the Herods and their utter disregard for purity toward the law. Is this dance erotic? We don’t know. But I can tell you that in the context of a party, at which most of the attendees were no doubt drunk, it makes most sense to believe that this is exactly what was going on. His 12 year old step daughter is dancing seductively.
d. [Slide 23] 7 - So much that he promised an oath to give her whatever she asked.
i. Being inebriated and probably aroused, Herod enters a public, verbal contract with his step-daughter.
ii. In Mark we see that he offers to even give up to half of his kingdom.
e. [Slide 24] 8 - Instructed by her mother, she said, “Give me the head of John the Baptist here on a platter.”
i. Revealed here is the malice of Herodias.
ii. Not only does this show she was not taken against her will from Herod Phillip – but as laid out more clearly in Mark – it shows that she wanted John dead for suggesting that what they were doing was wrong.
iii. So did Herod. The only difference is that Herodias did not care what the consequences would be… Herod did.
iv. But now… now Herod is stuck.
v. One final thing to note, is that the head was asked for with the word here. Meaning here and now. She didn’t mean eventually. She meant at the party – still dripping – I want his head.
f. [Slide 25] 9 - Although it grieved the king, because of his oath and the dinner guests he commanded it to be given
i. Given what we know if Herod we cannot interpret this as genuine sorrow or remorse.
ii. What we can probably call it is regret and possibly fear. Guilt and fear of consequence.
iii. Interestingly enough Matthew calls him a King here, and not only was Herod not a King, but at this point in his life, he is the least like a king ever – bowing to the wishes of his step-daughter because He got too drunk to keep himself from making stupid promises.
iv. There are two reasons Matthew cites for Herod going along with John’s execution.
1. To fulfill his oath or contract that he made with his stepdaughter
2. Because that oath was made publically. To make such an oath and back out because you fear what may happen would make you look like a coward and a liar. You would be weakened.
3. And in the political climate of Rome, weakness is almost always a death sentence.
g. [Slide 26] 10-11 - So he sent and had John beheaded in the prison. His head was brought on a platter and given to the girl, and she brought it to her mother.
i. And just like that, the deed was done.
ii. What may have in our contexts put a damper on a party, no doubt served as a guarantee of a memorable night at the Herod’s.
[Slide 27 (blank)] So what do these details have to do with Matthew’s purpose in writing his gospel? And what do they have to do with us?
Matthew is really introducing us to the polarizing effect that Jesus’ message and ministry has on everyone He touches. So far it has only been negative examples both in his hometown and now the tetrarch of Galilee.
Therefore what Matthew is working hard to show us is first that polarization and second the characteristics of each side.
So what have we seen from Herod Antipas?
You know if we omitted verse 2. Herod’s response. If we learned of Herod’s despicable action toward John the Baptist and that Herod had heard reports about Jesus, perhaps we would have assumed that Herod would feel the guilt and shame of His sin and repent and become a disciple of Christ. Perhaps we would have surmised that he would have been broken over his wickedness, and sought Jesus to ask Him how to have forgiveness.
But what does Herod’s guilt and fear lead him to instead? Ghost stories and paranoia.
I’d like for you to turn with me to II Corinthians chapter 7. As you turn there, allow me to paint the context for you. Paul has already written at least one letter to the Corinthians. That letter we have in our bibles. In II Corinthians Paul mentions a previous letter. Assuming that he is referring to I Corinthians in this letter – apparently the harsh words written caused a great sense of sadness to overwhelm the Corinthian church.
There was a certain member of their assembly who was sleeping with his mother in law. Such sins were not even present in Gentiles – even among the Herod’s who were sexual deviants, such an incestuous relationship had not occurred. Paul’s fierce correction called the Corinthian church to immediately cast this man out of their assembly. Along with this, there were several other harsh words about other items in this letter.
Going then to II Corinthians we see that it has deeply distressed the people of Corinth. They have been overwhelmed with guilt and fear. Sadness and remorse for their sin. And starting in verse 4, Paul will comment on this response. Verse 4 through verse 16
Did you catch what happened? Their guilt, their fear, their sadness – where did it lead them? Repentance. And what is the evidence that it did this? They kicked this guy out of the church. Not only that but they eager to do it – eager to defend the church –filled with holy fury over his sin – alarmed by the wickedness they had allowed – longing to be made right – deeply moved over the state that their church had sunk to – and then they decisively and sternly removed the man.
And then we see the heart of Pastor Paul. I wrote these harsh words about this man not for his benefit or for his father’s but to reveal to you the reality of your faith. And it worked. And we are encouraged.
Notice also that their disposition toward Titus- is fear, trembling and LOVE. This of course shows that they did not just correct the issue with the man and his sin – but their own sins too.
The change wrought in their hearts was produced by repentance. Their fear and guilt led them to change. Not just change to pay for their sin or to reform themselves in one area or two – but total transformation.
And Paul in chapter 2 has already commanded them to accept this man back into their assembly because not only have they repented as a church – but HE repented as well.
Herod’s guilt and sadness led him to death. Because he only was guilty and fearful because he was facing consequences.
The Corinthians experienced guilt and sadness that led them to repentance. Because God opened their eyes and drew them to it.
This forces us to see what genuine repentance truly is.
It is not simply weeping over sin. Raw sadness. It is not simply fear of consequence or punishment. It is not changing to pay off the debt of your sin. It is not turning over a new leaf.
Rather repentance is a gift of God. It is not simply turning from a sin or set of sins but turning from who you are. It is not a one time action but a continual attitude. And it is not to escape consequences, eternal or earthly - but to please God.
[Slide 28] Read from page 122 or LOC 1496 of Repentance: The First Word of the Gospel by Richard Owen Roberts
[Slide 29 (blank )(end)] Is this the kind of repentance that you know? Is this what you have experienced and continue to experience? Is this attitude in you?
If not – there may be something very wrong. It could be as simple as renewing the gift of God’s repentance to as deep as adopting this attitude for the first time.
In either case – it is only with this continual attitude, this gift of God, that you can ever truly believe in the Christ of the bible.
So do you have this continual attitude of repentance?
If not – how can you get it?
I’ll give you a hint… it is a gift that God gives to whom He wishes.