Herod’s Haunting

Matthew 14:1-2 “At that time Herod the tetrarch heard the reports about Jesus, and he said to his attendants, ‘This is John the Baptist, he has risen from the dead! That is why miraculous powers are at work in him’” (NIV).

Observation: Jesus had been teaching extensively and performing amazing miracles throughout the region, and word of His activities had reached Herod.  Herod’s conclusion was wrong, of course, but the verses following give insight into his reasoning. Herod had been in an illicit relationship with Herodias, wife of Herod’s brother, and John the Baptist had confronted them about it. Although Mark 6:20 tells us that Herod liked to listen to John’s teachings, he ultimately made a foolish promise to Herodias’s daughter in front of a house full of guests. When she had consulted with her mother and demanded John’s beheading, Herod meekly complied.

Application: Unresolved guilt holds the power to blind us completely to God’s truths. Here, guilt rises from John’s grave like a ghostly apparition and points its bony finger at Herod. As it does so, it utterly incapacitates Herod’s understanding of the current move of God all around him.

Herod had indeed sinned by beheading John. There is precious little about Herod’s life to commend him, except this one glimmer of hope: as John had taught of spiritual things during his imprisonment, Herod had been strangely drawn. The door of hope was slammed tight, though, in one evening of drunken bravado and pride when Herodias had manipulated Herod to John’s destruction.

Now, with the region abuzz with Christ’s exploits, all the guilt-ridden Herod could imagine was that John had been resurrected.

The power of unresolved guilt is overwhelming, making a person blind and deaf to even the most astonishing works of God. Unresolved guilt and shame will skew understanding and cause right reasoning to cry “uncle.” In the hands of an enemy bent upon my destruction, guilt is a weapon awesome enough to utterly thwart the work God wants to do in my heart.

What I must recognize is this: guilt has no power, no authority, except that which I willingly grant. Like other aspects of sin now cancelled, guilt, too, can be eradicated in a moment’s work. Genuine repentance washes away the most stubborn of stains, of which guilt is a leading ingredient. I wonder how differently Herod’s story would have ended if he had laid his guilt at the foot of the Cross. Then this: is Herod without Christ any more to be pitied than I?

Prayer:  Lord Jesus, none are beyond Your reach except by individual choice. Thank You for persistently drawing me to Your Cross and to the empty tomb. I am in awe of You.

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