A Guilty Conscience
Matt. 14:3 For Herod had arrested John, bound him, and put him in prison on account of Herodias, his brother Philip’s wife,
Matt. 14:4 because John had been telling him, “It is not lawful for you to have her.”
Matt. 14:5 Though Herod wanted to put him to death, he feared the crowd, because they regarded him as a prophet.
Matt. 14:6 But when Herod’s birthday came, the daughter of Herodias danced before the company, and she pleased Herod
Matt. 14:7 so much that he promised on oath to grant her whatever she might ask.
Matt. 14:8 Prompted by her mother, she said, “Give me the head of John the Baptist here on a platter.”
Matt. 14:9 The king was grieved, yet out of regard for his oaths and for the guests, he commanded it to be given;
Matt. 14:10 he sent and had John beheaded in the prison.
Matt. 14:11 The head was brought on a platter and given to the girl, who brought it to her mother.
Matt. 14:12 His disciples came and took the body and buried it; then they went and told Jesus.
John the Baptist was simply guilty of speaking the truth. Herod, the ruler believed that he was above the law. While traveling on a journey to Rome he had stopped at his brother Philip's home. While there he began to have an affair with his brother's wife, Herodias. They both plotted to dump their spouses and live together. This was a scandalous affair. Herod sent his wife away. The only problem, she was a princess from another land. Her father came back and later attacked Herod and his men over what he had done. This resulted in the loss of hundreds of lives -- but Herod didn't seem to care, he wanted Herodias. On her side, Herodias, who already had one child with Philip, decided to leave her husband and run off with his brother.
John the Baptist would not mince words. He had publicly denounced the relationship and declared that it was illegal. It was! Herodias was still married, and besides marrying such a close relative was considered incest. Therefore, two laws had been broken. And while everything that John said was truth, Herod and Herodias didn't want to hear it. Yes, they had a guilty conscience but it was easier to deal with that by pretending everything was okay. Why not get rid of the one who kept harping on them about living in sin! Therefore when Herodias had the opportunity she asked for John the Baptist's head on a platter.
Do we ever become defensive when someone points out the truth? Sadly, this is a common response when we are "caught with our hand in the cookie jar," so to speak. There may be times when we allow ourselves to become involved in behavior and/or decisions that may be for the wrong reason or motivation. Sometimes it is innocent, but other times it may be quite purposeful. Then, along comes someone who mentions that possibly we do not have the right motivation in mind. How dare they! And then we fight back, trying to defend our response and our actions. Usually the louder and more fierce the defense, the greater was the offence.
It is when we have a guilty conscience that we fight back and argue the loudest. We begin to justify what it is that we have done. We debate the pros and the cons and we try to get people to see our point of view.
At the same time there may be moments in life when we have to play the part of John. There may be someone close to us that has committed a sin, or broken the law and we cannot give their action tacit approval. John was not willing to do this. Instead, even without regard for his own life, he marched ahead with the truth. In his mind, even a ruler was not above the law and should be held accountable. Those in authority and who have power are not above the law. They must submit to the laws of the land and to the laws of God, just as everyone else. In the kingdom of God there is a level playing field. John knew this and spoke out regarding Herod's sin.
When we speak out regarding someone's behavior we must check our own motivations. John was trying to call the people to repentance. This included Herod. John was genuinely concerned about the spiritual condition of the ruler's heart. He did not call Herod and Herodias out because he wanted to embarrass them. He called them out so that they might repent and live lives worthy of those who are called to lead.
Sadly, the guilty conscience won the day. We have choices as to how we will respond. If we are not guilty, then there is no need to be defensive for the truth will set us free. If we are guilty, maybe we ought to examine our own hearts and ask God to lead us, rather than lashing out at those speaking truth.
Lord, may I be open to your truths. Amen.