The Death of John the Baptist

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In episode 2 of Feedback, we get a flashback as Herod's response to Jesus's ministry reveals an event that's haunted him ever since.

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All Bible passages read from the English Standard Version.

Intro

True! --nervous --very, very dreadfully nervous I had been and am; but why will you say that I am mad? The disease had sharpened my senses --not destroyed --not dulled them. Above all was the sense of hearing acute. I heard all things in the heaven and in the earth. I heard many things in hell. How, then, am I mad? Hearken! and observe how healthily --how calmly I can tell you the whole story.

It is impossible to say how first the idea entered my brain; but once conceived, it haunted me day and night. Object there was none. Passion there was none. I loved the old man. He had never wronged me. He had never given me insult. For his gold I had no desire. I think it was his eye! yes, it was this! He had the eye of a vulture --a pale blue eye, with a film over it. Whenever it fell upon me, my blood ran cold; and so by degrees --very gradually --I made up my mind to take the life of the old man, and thus rid myself of the eye forever.

Now this is the point. You fancy me mad. Madmen know nothing. But you should have seen me. You should have seen how wisely I proceeded --with what caution --with what foresight --with what dissimulation I went to work! I was never kinder to the old man than during the whole week before I killed him. And every night, about midnight, I turned the latch of his door and opened it --oh so gently! And then, when I had made an opening sufficient for my head, I put in a dark lantern, all closed, closed, that no light shone out, and then I thrust in my head. Oh, you would have laughed to see how cunningly I thrust it in! I moved it slowly --very, very slowly, so that I might not disturb the old man's sleep. It took me an hour to place my whole head within the opening so far that I could see him as he lay upon his bed. Ha! would a madman have been so wise as this, And then, when my head was well in the room, I undid the lantern cautiously-oh, so cautiously --cautiously (for the hinges creaked) --I undid it just so much that a single thin ray fell upon the vulture eye. And this I did for seven long nights --every night just at midnight --but I found the eye always closed; and so it was impossible to do the work; for it was not the old man who vexed me, but his Evil Eye. And every morning, when the day broke, I went boldly into the chamber, and spoke courageously to him, calling him by name in a hearty tone, and inquiring how he has passed the night. So you see he would have been a very profound old man, indeed, to suspect that every night, just at twelve, I looked in upon him while he slept.

Upon the eighth night I was more than usually cautious in opening the door. A watch's minute hand moves more quickly than did mine. Never before that night had I felt the extent of my own powers --of my sagacity. I could scarcely contain my feelings of triumph. To think that there I was, opening the door, little by little, and he not even to dream of my secret deeds or thoughts. I fairly chuckled at the idea; and perhaps he heard me; for he moved on the bed suddenly, as if startled. Now you may think that I drew back --but no. His room was as black as pitch with the thick darkness, (for the shutters were close fastened, through fear of robbers,) and so I knew that he could not see the opening of the door, and I kept pushing it on steadily, steadily. I had my head in, and was about to open the lantern, when my thumb slipped upon the tin fastening, and the old man sprang up in bed, crying out --"Who's there?" I kept quite still and said nothing. For a whole hour I did not move a muscle, and in the meantime I did not hear him lie down. He was still sitting up in the bed listening; --just as I have done, night after night, hearkening to the death watches in the wall.

Presently I heard a slight groan, and I knew it was the groan of mortal terror. It was not a groan of pain or of grief --oh, no! --it was the low stifled sound that arises from the bottom of the soul when overcharged with awe. I knew the sound well. Many a night, just at midnight, when all the world slept, it has welled up from my own bosom, deepening, with its dreadful echo, the terrors that distracted me. I say I knew it well. I knew what the old man felt, and pitied him, although I chuckled at heart. I knew that he had been lying awake ever since the first slight noise, when he had turned in the bed. His fears had been ever since growing upon him. He had been trying to fancy them causeless, but could not. He had been saying to himself --"It is nothing but the wind in the chimney --it is only a mouse crossing the floor," or "It is merely a cricket which has made a single chirp." Yes, he had been trying to comfort himself with these suppositions: but he had found all in vain. All in vain; because Death, in approaching him had stalked with his black shadow before him, and enveloped the victim. And it was the mournful influence of the unperceived shadow that caused him to feel --although he neither saw nor heard --to feel the presence of my head within the room.

When I had waited a long time, very patiently, without hearing him lie down, I resolved to open a little --a very, very little crevice in the lantern. So I opened it --you cannot imagine how stealthily, stealthily --until, at length a simple dim ray, like the thread of the spider, shot from out the crevice and fell full upon the vulture eye. It was open --wide, wide open --and I grew furious as I gazed upon it. I saw it with perfect distinctness --all a dull blue, with a hideous veil over it that chilled the very marrow in my bones; but I could see nothing else of the old man's face or person: for I had directed the ray as if by instinct, precisely upon the damned spot. And have I not told you that what you mistake for madness is but over-acuteness of the sense? --now, I say, there came to my ears a low, dull, quick sound, such as a watch makes when enveloped in cotton. I knew that sound well, too. It was the beating of the old man's heart. It increased my fury, as the beating of a drum stimulates the soldier into courage.

But even yet I refrained and kept still. I scarcely breathed. I held the lantern motionless. I tried how steadily I could maintain the ray upon the eve. Meantime the hellish tattoo of the heart increased. It grew quicker and quicker, and louder and louder every instant. The old man's terror must have been extreme! It grew louder, I say, louder every moment! --do you mark me well I have told you that I am nervous: so I am. And now at the dead hour of the night, amid the dreadful silence of that old house, so strange a noise as this excited me to uncontrollable terror. Yet, for some minutes longer I refrained and stood still. But the beating grew louder, louder! I thought the heart must burst. And now a new anxiety seized me --the sound would be heard by a neighbour! The old man's hour had come! With a loud yell, I threw open the lantern and leaped into the room. He shrieked once --once only. In an instant I dragged him to the floor, and pulled the heavy bed over him. I then smiled gaily, to find the deed so far done. But, for many minutes, the heart beat on with a muffled sound. This, however, did not vex me; it would not be heard through the wall. At length it ceased. The old man was dead. I removed the bed and examined the corpse. Yes, he was stone, stone dead. I placed my hand upon the heart and held it there many minutes. There was no pulsation. He was stone dead. His eye would trouble me no more.

If still you think me mad, you will think so no longer when I describe the wise precautions I took for the concealment of the body. The night waned, and I worked hastily, but in silence. First of all I dismembered the corpse. I cut off the head and the arms and the legs. I then took up three planks from the flooring of the chamber, and deposited all between the scantlings. I then replaced the boards so cleverly, so cunningly, that no human eye --not even his --could have detected any thing wrong. There was nothing to wash out --no stain of any kind --no blood-spot whatever. I had been too wary for that. A tub had caught all --ha! ha! When I had made an end of these labors, it was four o'clock --still dark as midnight. As the bell sounded the hour, there came a knocking at the street door. I went down to open it with a light heart, --for what had I now to fear? There entered three men, who introduced themselves, with perfect suavity, as officers of the police. A shriek had been heard by a neighbour during the night; suspicion of foul play had been aroused; information had been lodged at the police office, and they (the officers) had been deputed to search the premises. I smiled, --for what had I to fear? I bade the gentlemen welcome. The shriek, I said, was my own in a dream. The old man, I mentioned, was absent in the country. I took my visitors all over the house. I bade them search --search well. I led them, at length, to his chamber. I showed them his treasures, secure, undisturbed. In the enthusiasm of my confidence, I brought chairs into the room, and desired them here to rest from their fatigues, while I myself, in the wild audacity of my perfect triumph, placed my own seat upon the very spot beneath which reposed the corpse of the victim.

The officers were satisfied. My manner had convinced them. I was singularly at ease. They sat, and while I answered cheerily, they chatted of familiar things. But, ere long, I felt myself getting pale and wished them gone. My head ached, and I fancied a ringing in my ears: but still they sat and still chatted. The ringing became more distinct: --It continued and became more distinct: I talked more freely to get rid of the feeling: but it continued and gained definiteness --until, at length, I found that the noise was not within my ears. No doubt I now grew very pale; --but I talked more fluently, and with a heightened voice. Yet the sound increased --and what could I do? It was a low, dull, quick sound --much such a sound as a watch makes when enveloped in cotton. I gasped for breath --and yet the officers heard it not. I talked more quickly --more vehemently; but the noise steadily increased. I arose and argued about trifles, in a high key and with violent gesticulations; but the noise steadily increased. Why would they not be gone? I paced the floor to and fro with heavy strides, as if excited to fury by the observations of the men --but the noise steadily increased. Oh God! what could I do? I foamed --I raved --I swore! I swung the chair upon which I had been sitting, and grated it upon the boards, but the noise arose over all and continually increased. It grew louder --louder --louder! And still the men chatted pleasantly, and smiled. Was it possible they heard not? Almighty God! --no, no! They heard! --they suspected! --they knew! --they were making a mockery of my horror!-this I thought, and this I think. But anything was better than this agony! Anything was more tolerable than this derision! I could bear those hypocritical smiles no longer! I felt that I must scream or die! and now --again! --hark! louder! louder! louder! louder!

"Villains!" I shrieked, "dissemble no more! I admit the deed! --tear up the planks! here, here! --It is the beating of his hideous heart!"

– The Tell-Tale Heart, Edgar Allen Poe


Feedback, Episode 2
The Death of John the Baptist
Matthew 14:1-12

Feedback

Last episode, we started a new series on Biblesplain called Feedback. At this point in Matthew’s gospel, he’s writing about some of the responses to Jesus that we see from the town he grew up in to those far away to the governor of the region. You’d think that with Jesus going around and doing miracles and preaching grace and his light burden that he’d attract this gigantic following and everyone would love him, but we find out that’s not exactly the case. The Pharisees have already begun to plot to kill him and now we get these brief snippets to show us the different kinds of reactions you can see in people from all over.

Episode 1 covered his hometown, Nazareth, and how he was rejected there. They couldn’t get past what they knew about him and as a result, they denied him completely. Familiarity breeds contempt, or so they say.

In today’s episode, we’re moving on up to the governor of the region, Herod Antipas, and his reaction to what he’s heard about this Jesus.

Herod’s Response

At that time Herod the tetrarch heard about the fame of Jesus, and he said to his servants, “This is John the Baptist. He has been raised from the dead; that is why these miraculous powers are at work in him.”

Matthew 14:1–2 (ESV)

Herod’s response is… peculiar. At Nazareth, they say, “We know this guy, he can’t possibly be the Messiah!” Here, Herod thinks Jesus is John the Baptist resurrected. That’s… well… that’s really weird. Mind you, we live in a world where Jesus has risen from the dead and it’s still a super weird response to us. Herod has no frame of reference for anything like that actually happening, making it all the stranger.

It seems like this is a mix of the theology of the Pharisees regarded resurrection at the end of time with some various superstitions mixed in. There is legend of ghosts haunting different Roman leaders and that seems to equally be informing Herod’s fears here. Of course, we would NEVER mix genuine theology with superstition these days…

What is interesting is that it’s the miracles of Jesus that seem to have made this big impression on Herod. That’s the thing he can’t explain and so, naturally, the only explanation is that it must be John the Baptist raised from the dead with special powers. It’s so simple when you think about it.

Now, what is it that causes Herod to leap to these strange conclusions and try to explain Jesus away? Of course, there’s the miracles that he finds it hard to explain. I think it also shows how Jesus poses this threat to his power. If he’s the Jewish Messiah, then the prevailing idea was that he would become the leader of the people. The physical, military leader of the Israelites. Where does that leave someone like Herod? Well, not in power anymore, that’s for sure.

Imagine that. Herod would rather suppress the Messiah than give up his power. He’d rather cling to his throne than give it up to the savior of the world. That’s an impressive amount of pride and selfishness.

There’s also a Tell-Tale Heart situation going on here. If you were wondering what the cold open was all about this week, that was it. It’s a short story from Edgar Allen Poe about a man who kills his neighbor and buries him under the floorboards and his guilt and fear of being caught manifests in his hearing the heartbeat of the dead man from under the floor. It’s a powerful piece, and I love a good creepy Poe.

What’s happening with Herod here is a bit like that short story. Because, see, up to this point in Matthew’s gospel, it’s news to us that John the Baptist is even dead. Last we saw him, he was in prison. We weren’t sure why, but he was at least alive back in chapter 11. Now, he’s dead. And from context clues, you should be able to surmise already that Herod has something to do with that.

The rest of our passage for today is essentially a flashback. We see the events of John’s death and Herod’s role in bringing it about.

The Death of John the Baptist

For Herod had seized John and bound him and put him in prison for the sake of Herodias, his brother Philip’s wife, because John had been saying to him, “It is not lawful for you to have her.” And though he wanted to put him to death, he feared the people, because they held him to be a prophet. But when Herod’s birthday came, the daughter of Herodias danced before the company and pleased Herod, so that he promised with an oath to give her whatever she might ask. Prompted by her mother, she said, “Give me the head of John the Baptist here on a platter.” And the king was sorry, but because of his oaths and his guests he commanded it to be given. He sent and had John beheaded in the prison, and his head was brought on a platter and given to the girl, and she brought it to her mother. And his disciples came and took the body and buried it, and they went and told Jesus.

Matthew 14:3–12 (ESV)

Background

Before we jump in to the lessons we can take from this, first a bit of background.

Herod was, as I mentioned earlier, Herod Antipas, son of Herod the Great. Interestingly, throughout historical works from that time, he’s always referred to as Antipas. The gospel writers, instead, go with Herod. He ruled over Galilee and Perea from 4 BC to 39 AD as the tetrarch. Tetrarchs were like governors, if you were to equate them to US political systems. This is the same Herod that questions Jesus before the crucifixion.

Now, his father was Idumean and his mother was a Samaritan. Idumea was a region that was a melting pot of all sorts of people groups. There were some Jews that had settled there, but they became blended with all sorts of other groups of people that also inhabited that area. That’s as much Jewish as Herod was, but he claimed it and used it to rule over the Jews in Galilee. There was this thin veneer of Jewishness that he tried to maintain, so as to not rile the people.

He originally marries this Nabatean princess, the daughter of the king of Petra. They stayed married for 15 years until he met his half-brother Philip’s wife, Herodias. She was also his niece. That barely scratches the surface of how weird and intertwined the Herod family tree gets. The two fall in love and plan to marry, but this requires they get rid of their current spouses. Antipas divorces the princess, Herodias divorces Philip and the two end up together.

All is not happily ever after, though, as King Aretas IV of Petra is none too happy about his daughter being kicked to the curb unceremoniously as Herod has just done. His army attacks Antipas and was sure to defeat him, were it not for the backing of the Roman army that ends up coming to his rescue. Tiberius Caesar sends in the governor of Syria and he bails Antipas out.

That wouldn’t be the only time that Herodias would land him in hot water. Later, Philip is gone and Agrippa has taken over Philip’s territory and Herodias would really rather that territory go to Antipas. So, she pokes and prods him and persuades him to go to the new Emperor, Caligula, and have Agrippa denounced. A pretty rough miscalculation that turns out to be, as Caligula and Agrippa are bros, that’s how Agrippa ended up expanding his territory in the first place. This little stunt gets Antipas and Herodias booted out of power and sent in exile to Gaul. What was then known as Gaul is now known as France and the town they ended up in is now Lyon. I suppose things could be worse.

You can see through this little history that there’s this Lady MacBeth side to Herodias. You have Herod Antipas, this weak man, and Herodias his wife whose ambitions exceed his own. She’s able to be rather persuasive and that manages to get Herod into some trouble now and again.

John the Baptist was a constant thorn in her side. He stood up to Herod about their marriage. The divorce was unjust. The marriage itself broke Jewish law about marrying your brother’s wife.

If a man takes his brother’s wife, it is impurity. He has uncovered his brother’s nakedness; they shall be childless.

Leviticus 20:21 (ESV)

Herodias takes this opposition poorly, to say the least. She gets in Herod’s ear and has John arrested. For the first time, though, it seems like Herod grows something of a spine. Herodias wants John the Baptist executed, Herod refuses. Now, partly, that’s probably because he feared the backlash from the people. (John was a beloved figure, after all.) Herod also seems to have something of a soft spot for John, despite their rivalry. Mark’s account of this story sheds a little light on that. It seems that Herod was intrigued and fascinated by John and enjoyed listening to him even though he found himself in John’s crosshairs.

Herodias launches a scheme to get her way despite this and it’s all set to go down at Herod’s birthday party. Now, fun fact, the Israelites didn’t celebrate birthdays at this time. It’s another example of how Herod was more influenced by Greek/Roman Hellenistic culture than by Jewish culture. He claimed Judaism when it benefitted him and ignored it the rest of his life. I’m sure no politician would do something like that these days.

Herodias’s daughter with Philip dances at this party. We know from outside sources that her name was Salome. Another example of the twisted Herod family tree is that Salome will later marry her dad’s half-brother making her both aunt and sister-in-law to her own mother! People joke about family trees that are straight lines, somehow Herod’s manages to be a circle.

Anyway, given what we know historically and from the word choice Matthew uses here, Salome is give-or-take about 12 years old here. She dances for everyone, another very non-Jewish thing. (Dancing was surprisingly done more by Jewish men than women at this point.) Now, the assumption that everyone makes with this dance is that it sensual in nature. The text never explicitly tells us that in this account or anyone else’s. It seems fair to assume that it was, given the crowd we’re talking about, but the truth is we don’t really know.

Her dance is so impressive to Herod that he swears a vow to give her anything she wants. Mark tells us that he promises anything up to half the kingdom! Some dance this must have been! She goes to her mother to try to figure out what she would ask for and Herodias has a great idea: the head of John the Baptist on a platter.

Who does that? Now, I’ve been to some wild parties, but I’ve never been to a party that would not have been instantly shut down once heads start coming off. At this point in history, though, this isn’t even that extreme. There are other stories that are far worse from around this time.

This puts Herod into a bit of a bind, because he doesn’t want to kill John but he did make a vow. It’s here that Matthew slips in some biting satire in verse 9 with, “And the king was sorry…” See, Herod wasn’t really a king, he was a tetrarch. Now, everyone’s ambitions exceeded their status, so he would like people to call him king and certain servants willing to flatter would be more than willing to do so. Here, for the first and last time, Matthew refers to Antipas as “king” when he is at his least kingly.

He’s the “king” but he’s slave to his guests and his vow. Powerless to stop himself from doing what he doesn’t want to do. Grieved that he now will kill John the Baptist. Some “king”. Perhaps it’s situations like these that well illustrate why Jesus forbid his disciples from making vows. It can only result in turmoil. E.H. Plumptre says it so well in his commentary: “Like most weak men, Herod feared to be thought weak.”

Essentially out of peer pressure, John the Baptist is beheaded and his head is brought to Salome who gives it to her mother. There are 2 giant strikes against Jewish law here. One, an execution without a trial was forbidden and two, beheading was not a Jewish form of capital punishment. It’s easy to see here Ahab and Jezebel redux. The evil ruler and evil wife opposing the prophet of God. She finally gets her way and John the Baptist is dead.

His disciples bury his body and go to Jesus. The two were close and surely he would want to know. Also, it’s natural for John’s disciples to look to Jesus for leadership now, knowing how their teacher respected him so.

Lesson

This is a troubling story and the thing that keeps looping in my mind about it is how deeply unfair it all is. John doesn’t deserve this. He deserves far better than to be thrown in prison for no crime and executed with no trial. It’s just not right. It is all so deeply unjust.

Let’s jump back a bit, though. What do we know about John? Yes, we know about his odd behavior, his rough clothes and Fear Factor diet, but what do we know about him beyond that? Well, for one, we know that he has a moment of doubt about whether or not Jesus is the Messiah. It comes in chapter 11.

Now when John heard in prison about the deeds of the Christ, he sent word by his disciples and said to him, “Are you the one who is to come, or shall we look for another?”

Matthew 11:2–3 (ESV)

So, there he is, in prison for speaking out against Herod and he has this moment of doubt. Jesus doesn’t look exactly like what he was expecting and so he wants to know why. What’s gone wrong? Do they need to find someone else? Jesus answers this doubt and then makes an astonishing statement about John.

Truly, I say to you, among those born of women there has arisen no one greater than John the Baptist. Yet the one who is least in the kingdom of heaven is greater than he.

Matthew 11:11 (ESV)

What’s the best compliment you’ve ever been given? The way I’m wired, I start thinking about things people have said about my work and I usually jump to people who were my boss or in positions higher than me. About certain projects or about me just in general. I think one of the times I was most flattered was when the preaching professor at my college asked for some of my material for a chapel event I was helping him with and even let me present it! He was a notoriously difficult grader and critic and so the idea that he not only liked something I’d put together, but wanted to use it blew me away. That’s stuck with me ever since.

But that’s not even in the same universe as Jesus calling you, essentially, the greatest man that ever lived. A respected professor affirming your work is pretty cool. The Son of God calling you the greatest man that even lived is a whole different stratosphere.

How is it, then, that the greatest man to ever live goes out like that? This terrible, treacherous woman and her weak, evil husband have his head on a whim at a party. No recourse, no rescue. Just like that, he’s dead.

I think the lesson here is that we’re not guaranteed safety, health, or well-being. Following Jesus is not a way to ensure nothing bad ever happens to you.

The problem is that we’ve pitched Jesus to people like this for so long. The lessons of marketing and advertising have worked their way into the Church and affected the way we talk about Jesus. We don’t so much evangelize as try to sell people Jesus as a product. “Just add a little Jesus to your life and all your problems will go away! Your marriage will be magically fixed, your health will be fantastic and nothing bad will ever happen!”

“Life got you down? Add Jesus and watch as everything is made perfect right in front of your eyes!” When this messaging isn’t explicit, it’s implicit in the way we talk. How often do you see someone at church, ask them how they’re doing and they tell you how awful everything is?

“How’s it going?”

“Oh, just terrible. My marriage is on the rocks, my kids won’t listen, and my job is in jeopardy. Things are rough.”

That’s not a very common story. Now, to be fair, often when people ask this question, they’re not even really looking for an answer and certainly aren’t listening when you give one. Next time someone asks you how it’s going, try saying that things are terrible, but use the vocal inflection of things going well and see if they notice.

“How are things?”

“Oh, they’re just awful!”

There’s like a 75% chance they don’t even catch it.

Think about it, though, if all of our conversations stay at this surface level and we never let people see that our lives are messy or hard, we’re sending a message. We’re implicitly saying that they’re perfect. And if that’s all people see in our churches, then it’s only natural that when disaster strikes for them that they think, “There’s something wrong with me. Other people don’t go through this kind of stuff.”

Chaos and death can still enter your life, even as a Christian, at a moment’s notice. John is killed in an instant. No trial, no fair warning. Substitute John for anyone else in the New Testament. Paul, Peter, pick one. Don’t be surprised when these things happen to you. Suffering is just part of the Christian life.

In fact, Jesus not only does not call his followers to safety, he actively calls them to danger! Being a voice for God is a road fraught with peril. John not only has things go poorly, he has them go poorly BECAUSE of Jesus. If John’s not a voice for God, he doesn’t run into conflict with Herod, he doesn’t end up in jail, he doesn’t end up dead here. Where’s that advertising pitch? “Try Jesus, it might end BADLY.”

Not only are we not told we’ll be a-ok, we’re actively called to live in a way that puts us in the path of harm. Jesus says this in Matthew 10.

What I tell you in the dark, say in the light, and what you hear whispered, proclaim on the housetops. And do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather fear him who can destroy both soul and body in hell.

Matthew 10:27–28 (ESV)

Speak boldly for him knowing that we have a purpose. Knowing that we have a calling. Knowing that we have a God who is in control and that he is to be feared above any man. Nietzsche once wrote, “If we have our own why in life, we shall get along with almost any how.” Having the ultimate “why” in Jesus, there is no “how” that we cannot walk through.

Close

The lesson here is this, do not be afraid or surprised when we share in Christ’s sufferings. If this, the greatest man that ever lived, the first preacher of Jesus, endures this unjust, inhumane, unfair treatment; if the same is experienced by Jesus himself, do not be surprised when it falls to you.

It could be external. When you stand for truth, you will not often be beloved. We’re told over and over again that we should expect persecution.

It could be spiritual or internal. This is what Paul writes in Ephesians 6.

Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his might. Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the schemes of the devil. For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places.

Ephesians 6:10–12 (ESV)

We need the Armor of God lined out in verses 13-18 because of the very real spiritual enemy outlined in 11 and 12. We’ve seen that already back in the Coded Messages series. The enemy is real and he is one of many reasons why poor health or calamity might befall us.

This is what Jesus told the disciples back in Matthew 10.

“A disciple is not above his teacher, nor a servant above his master. It is enough for the disciple to be like his teacher, and the servant like his master. If they have called the master of the house Beelzebul, how much more will they malign those of his household.

Matthew 10:24–25 (ESV)

Jesus was mistreated, slandered, abused, and killed. Following Jesus means taking up your cross and all that entails. The good news, though, is this: there is nothing we could lose that would even remotely count as loss in light of eternity.

So let’s carry on, emboldened by the Holy Spirit. Secure in him and trusting in God, that it is far wiser to fear him than any human and spiritual force against us. When you follow Jesus, it might go poorly for you. But it is worth it.