02/27/17 Faithful unto Death

READING: Numbers 15-16, Mark 6:1-29

“He went and beheaded him in the prison.”

Mark 6:27

We’ve read his story before. He was John the Baptist, the prophet of God whose life an angel divinely foretold. He was the one who paved the way as the forerunner of the Messiah.  When he preached in the wilderness, the masses of Judea and Jerusalem went out to hear him. Many responded to his message and were baptized. More than that, John had the unique, once-and-for-all opportunity to baptize Jesus Himself. Jesus even said of him, “among those born of women there has arisen no one greater than John the Baptist” (Matt. 11:11).

In today’s passage, though, death had fallen on the prophet who stood publicly for the message of Christ. He had been faithful in his task, so much so that his standing for truth against the king landed him in jail. Herod’s choice to keep his word to Herodias’ daughter after her likely lurid dance before him then cost John his head. The forerunner who preceded Jesus in life also preceded Him in death at the hands of immoral leaders. His faithfulness in his calling to God did not protect him from a vicious death.

And, perhaps that is one reason Mark included this lengthy story in his book: to show his readers that faithfulness to God is no guarantee against persecution and death. Even Herod himself recognized that John “was a righteous and holy man” that the king apparently liked to hear (Mark 6:20), but Herod’s interest in John did not stop him from having the prophet’s head removed. Herod succumbed to the pressure of keeping his public word before his party guests – and God did not intervene to stop the beheading. The sovereign God allowed an ungodly leader to send John to his death, just as the Father would later allow evil rulers to send His own Son to His death. In neither case was God not fully in control.

Standing for truth and righteousness can be costly; in fact, it can be much costlier than most of us Westerners understand. In the end, though, God is in control. Even those who lose their life for Him will ultimately save it (Mark 8:35).

ACTION STEPS: 

  • Stand strong for truth today, regardless of the potential cost.
  • Trust God, even when your faithfulness seems to lead to trouble. 

PRAYER: “Father, I want to be faithful to You even unto death. Help me.”

TOMORROW'S READING: Numbers 17-19, Mark 6:30-56