y human standards John the Baptist would appear to have been a loser in that he was beheaded, but since we remember him with adoration for the great role he played in paving the way for Jesus ministry, we believe that even through a cruel execution he is one of the great winners of all time.
During the weeks of December and January, leading up to Christmas and beyond, John the Baptist has been in our sermon texts nearly every Sunday. His miraculous birth to aged parents and the story about how he would be the forerunner of his cousin Jesus the Messiah. (Mat 11:10). Two weeks ago we heard the story of Jesus coming to John to be baptized and how God spoke from heaven authenticating Jesus as "My Son." (Mt. 3:17). Then last week John gave permission for some of his own disciples to go and follow "The Lamb of God. (Jn. 1:36). Then today's lection tells us that John had been arrested and executed.
We can learn from the life of John the Baptist that if we will follow God's plan we too will be able to find our way through the maze of life. This is a critical and comforting aspect of the Good News of our Christian message. The churches need to remind people that God does have a wonderful plan for all of our lives and calls us all to get on board with His vision. John the Baptist's situation was unique and very few Christians have been martyred for their faith; however, even through his death God was able to bring about a good result for the furtherance of Jesus' public ministry, and John's life story has been an encouragement to all generations.
There is a place for each of us to play an important role in God's Kingdom, however, we sometimes never find the right road upon which to travel, or we get lost off the road. Folks sometimes face difficult problems that seem to have no solution.
We were all saddened to hear of the death of former Enron Corporation vice chairman, Cliff Baxter who had sold millions of dollars worth of Enron stock before the company's collapse. He left a suicide note in his Mercedes parked on a median not far from his home in the affluent Houston suburb of Sugar Land. No one will ever know what was going on in his mind, but he must have felt that this was the only way out of the trap in which he had become ensnared. I am sure that there were people that loved him and would have stood beside him through any congressional investigations and possible trials, but he perhaps forgot those folks and made a rash fatal decision.
Throughout my pastoral ministry I have had a few persons to end it all and in every situation it seems that they forgot to remember that God always has a way to deal with whatever comes our way. We can get off the right road and God will direct us back. Our lives can get caught in a trap, perhaps not because of our own doing, or comes by our own mistakes and failures, but God can use the adversity to straighten out our lives and help us do better the next time around.
God always wants nothing but Good for us. However, we must cooperate with grace. Our problem is ourselves. We stumble over our own feet. We make decisions that are self defeating and sometimes sinful. Usually we blame others, but most of the time we could have avoided many of our problems: Yet sometimes not.
C. S. Lewis achieved worldwide fame when he made the cover of "TIME" magazine in the September 8, 1947, issue. The extended story was very favorable about the Oxford Don's popular book, The Screwtape Letters, and the other fifteen books he had published by age 49. It was unique to have a scholar who had forsaken atheism as an adult to fully embrace orthodox Christianity. He was so popular in his BBC Radio addresses, later published as Mere Christianity, that he was more synonymous with Christianity than the Archbishop of Canterbury. (p.36). However, he became unpopular with many of his fellow faculty and was denied several professorships at Oxford University because of his Christian faith and jealousy. However, he went on with his life as God directed and was eventually elected Professor of English Literature at Cambridge University. He died in 1963 at the peak of his popularity. Every day there are about four thousand of his books, or books about him for sale on amazon.com. Just last week he was named one of the leading intellectuals of all time. We can safely say that although he was not thought of as a winner by some of his critics, he is one of the most beloved writers of all time.
Herod Antipas is remembered only as one whose conscience was evidently not completely dead for he hesitated at the thought of having innocent John the Baptist beheaded. We do not know what happened to his brother's wife Philip that he was living with but she lives in history as an example of evil and treachery. What a poor example of motherhood she was to encourage her daughter to ask for the barbaric prize of John's head on a platter. The daughter Salome later married another of Herod's brothers, Philip who like Herod was a tetrarch of a fourth of Palestine under the Roman Empire. Perhaps they thought of themselves as being winners in life but they ended up without any hope.
The Good News from our text is that the final answer to a person's life is made in light of how faithful they have been to their calling. John the Baptist ended up as a great example of one who faithfully fulfilled his role as the forerunner of Jesus. Not only did he perform the role of the prophet who would preach repentance and to baptize individuals who responded to his call, but he serves as an example to us of one who was willing to subvert to the supporting role. Jesus' ministry could not have gotten off to as great a start of it had not been for John's willingness to prepare the hearts of the people. Indeed, the next event in Matthew's Gospel finds Jesus feeding five thousand followers, many of whom had been baptized by John.
We have an opportunity
to discover God's calling in life and to follow His plan.
synopsis by C. Robert Allred, Th.D., Pastor