Protest (Matthew 14:3-11)

Photo by Egor Gordeev on Unsplash

In Leviticus 18, the Lord had instructed Moses to write, “Do not have sexual relations   with your brother’s wife; that would dishonor your brother.” Yet Herod the tetrarch had divorced his own wife and married Herodias, who was originally married to his brother Philip. John the Baptist saw that Herod’s actions were both immoral (divorce) and incestuous (against God’s specific command not to do that in Lev 18). Subsequently, John and had spoken out, infuriating Herodias and angering Herod. Matthew tells the rest of the story;

“Now Herod had arrested John and bound him and put him in prison because of Herodias, his brother Philip’s wife, for John had been saying to him: “It is not lawful for you to have her.” Herod wanted to kill John, but he was afraid of the people, because they considered him a prophet. 

On Herod’s birthday the daughter of Herodias danced for them and pleased Herod so much that he promised with an oath to give her whatever she asked. Prompted by her mother, she said, “Give me here on a platter the head of John the Baptist.” The king was distressed, but because of his oaths and his dinner guests, he ordered that her request be granted and had John beheaded in the prison. His head was brought in on a platter and given to the girl, who carried it to her mother.”

Writing from a political point of view, the historian Josephus would later write that Herod had executed John for sedition. “However, Josephus reports Herod’s execution of John the Baptist immediately after dealing with the aftermath of Antipas’s plans to oust his existing wife in favour of Herodias and bridges between the accounts with the idea that the massive defeat of Herod’s army at the hands of his spurned wife’s father was divine retribution for his treatment of John. The Gospel account of John’s criticism of the marriage offers a natural explanation for the close linking in Josephus: persuading too many people that Herod’s marriage was incestuous would have seemed quite seditious to Herod; and divine retribution for the treatment of John would at the same time be retribution in relation to what John had been complaining about. The imperfect [tense of the Greek word used in Matthew] suggests that John had been maintaining a steady pressure of protest.”

Every mature disciple of God’s Word is exposed to both the Word of God and the obvious public behaviour of political leaders. When the behaviour of our political leaders is inappropriate and sinful, we know it brings judgment upon the nation as well as them – so to speak against it is appropriate. 

But speaking out in any fashion is also dangerous. It can and usually will result in our own suffering, as the story of John’s end testifies. Nevertheless, disciples of Christ should not be afraid to do as John did. God will yet vindicate those who faithfully stand up for truth and preach His Word. Besides, in so doing we forewarn the whole nation that God is still judge over all the earth. Amen.

God’s people [must not] engage in riotous behaviour, violence or damage to property.  Biblically acceptable methods of protest include: writing, delegations, public prayer, preaching, teaching, even dramas and artistic depictions in the market place.

Dr. Peter Hammond

APPLICATION: Intentionality

In as much as we are subjects of a political system, we must faithfully act in that system for God’s purposes.