Haunted By Guilt
Matt. 14:1 ¶ At that time Herod the ruler heard reports about Jesus;
Matt. 14:2 and he said to his servants, “This is John the Baptist; he has been raised from the dead, and for this reason these powers are at work in him.”
Herod was supposed to have been a Sadducee, the ones who didn’t believe in the resurrection of the dead. So, why is Herod concerned about John the Baptist being raised from the dead? Jesus and his disciples had already been ministering for nearly two years, surely Herod had heard about him, but seemingly he did not. Now, the news of Jesus’ miracles reaches him and he declares something that should not have been congruent with his beliefs. Obviously he was unable to shake the guilt that he had for beheading John. Now, he was haunted by the guilt of his decisions.
Have you ever done something wrong and you simply could not shake the memory? I certainly remember times like that as a child — guilt would grip me for sometimes disobeying my parents. I couldn’t deal with it! I would have to go and confess within10 minutes.
Herod was haunted by the guilt of what he had done — and that guilt might even be called conviction. He had respect and fear of John. John had called him out and told him the truth about his relationship with his brother’s wife. Herod didn’t want to hear those words and yet, he was afraid because he knew that John was speaking the truth.
Oh how we hate hearing the truth! Especially when it has something to do with our own personal behavior. People, especially those in positions of power and leadership, can find it easy to begin to believe that they are infallible, or invincible. Look at people like Tiger Woods. Somehow he believed that he lived above everyone else — that he could mess around and never get caught. Those who surrounded him insulated him from the real world resulting in him becoming inoculated against the consequences that eventually catch up with every person. No one is above the consequences of sin. Not Tiger Woods. Not Herod. Not you or me.
Herod’s heart was pricked because he knew that he was doing wrong. Unfortunately, as often happens, one sin led to another and Herod had given up doing the right thing for the sake of his relationship with Herodias. How did she deal with the guilt? Why not kill the man that made her feel guilty! So, when Herod asks her daughter what she wants, of course, Herodias tells her to present John the Baptist’s head on a platter. Herod is overcome — his guilt continuing to eat away at him. However, he knew that he had made this promise publicly so he succumbed and asked for John’s head.
Out of sight, out of mind. Surely the guilt would now subside! The man who had confronted his sinful behavior was now gone. But can’t you imagine that night after night Herod could barely drop off to sleep, the guilt, not only of John’s convicting words, but now of the good man’s life, was on his hands.
Herod remained insulated by his leadership team. So much so that he hadn’t even heard about Jesus for a full two years. How else could he have possibly thought that Jesus was John raised from the dead? But now, word trickles in about this man Jesus. He has great power and is performing numerous miracles. And Herod is terrified!
What happens if we find ourselves somewhere in Herod’s story?
When our hearts are pricked by conviction — confess our sins and then RUN from them! There’s a reason we have a conscience, or that there are those around us that can point out behaviors that may not seem appropriate. Listen to those voices. Do not try to convince yourself that what you are doing is okay. The longer you convince yourself that you can do this the deeper the problem becomes. Eventually you will be in so deep that the way out will seem so difficult that you may jump to crazy conclusions — possibly believing that there is no answer to your problem.
The problem for Herod was that he wasn’t willing to listen to what John the Baptist had to offer. Salvation was available for Herod. He should have repented of his sin and he should have sent Herodias back to his brother! We can’t just say “I’m sorry” and then not take action to live the holy life. We must repent and then turn and go in the direction that Jesus is calling us — into a life of Christlikness. This means that we cannot continue to live in ways that are incongruous with the life of Christ. Christ, on the cross, takes upon himself our guilt and he sets us free. If we are living with the guilt of past actions there is only one solution — and that is Christ.
Are you haunted by guilt? Turn to Jesus Christ, ask for forgiveness and then begin the journey of lifelong transformation as he works his sanctifying power in your life, setting you free from all of the past. This is the hope that Herod could have enjoyed, but refused. Let’s not turn it down today.
Lord, thank you for the peace and freedom in you. Amen.