You remember the story. John
preached something king Herod and Herodias didn't like. John said Herod should
not have married Herodias, for you see, she was "his brother Philip's
wife." So, Herod put John in jail. While John was in prison, Herod held a
birthday party. Due to a promise made to the daughter of Herodias, and her
demand that she have John's head on a platter, the forerunner of Christ was
executed (Mark 6:17-29). Many lessons can be learned from the life of John. If
you haven't studied his life lately, do so. You will be blessed, for as Jesus
said, “Among those born of women there has not risen one greater than John
the Baptist” (Matt. 11:11). Let us consider some lessons from his death.
Why was John killed?
John was killed for rebuking sin and preaching repentance (Mk. 6:17-20). The work of John from start to finish was to warn of sin, urge repentance, and thereby prepare people for the Messiah's kingdom (Lk. 3:2-14). John got specific with the sinner about his sin. Sometimes people repented at such preaching, while others rejected it (Matt. 21:31-32; Lk. 7:29-30). Too often we play "ring around the rosy" with the sinner and his sin. "You might hurt his feelings," "we cannot afford to lose him," "imagine how it will affect his family" and similar objections are given today in opposition to the kind of preaching John did. Would we have opposed John and his preaching?!
Herod and Herodias did! They were in adultery and were unwilling to cease their sin. Instead, Herodias urged his arrest and wanted him dead (Mk. 6:17, 19). Why didn't John just back off? Why not just "live and let live?" Today, many continue to respond like Herodias and Herod when the same sin of adultery is rebuked and repentance is sought. Still others take the attitude that we ought to just say nothing and let each person "work out his own salvation." Well, working out one's salvation does not mean ignoring sin, it means obeying the gospel (Phil. 2:12). We cannot ignore sin. John died because he loved truth and souls more than himself.
John died because of a rash oath (Mk. 6:21-26). The culprit was Herod. Spellbound by the dancing of Herodias' daughter, he rashly promised her up to half of his kingdom. Seeking and obtaining her mother's advice she demanded John's head on a platter. Rash though it was, Herod kept his promise and killed the prophet.
Our words can have far reaching consequences. The wise man warns “Do not be rash with your mouth” and to “let your words be few” (Eccl. 5:2-3). Further, he said to pay the vow you make, concluding it is better not to vow that to vow and not pay (5:4-5). Too often we say more than we should. Tongue control would keep us and others out of a great deal of trouble (Jas. 3:2-6). Our word should be our bond, but be careful what you bind yourself to with your words! “Let every man be swift to hear, slow to speak, slow to wrath” (Jas. 1:19). John died because Herod could not control his passions or his tongue! Be careful, lest your rash speech cause the death of souls -- yours and others'!
John died because of peer pressure (Mk. 6:26-28). All of a sudden, Herod was under a lot of pressure to kill John! The woman he was married to wanted him dead. And, Herod had promised much before many. Now he had to deliver in order to save face (v. 26). So, with sorrow, he killed a righteous man (v. 27-28).
That is how peer pressure works. It often presses us to do something we know is wrong, but in order to please those around us we give in and commit the sin. This needs to stop. After all, who must we be most interested in pleasing, our worldly peers or our Lord (Gal. 1:10)? Giving in to peer pressure corrupts souls and defiles consciences. Often, at the very moment we give in, our conscience is telling us we are sinning (Rom. 14:23). “Evil companionship corrupts good morals,” and since evil companions are not interested in righteous conduct, wisdom demands that we sever ties with those whose influence will only drag us down into the depths of sin (1 Cor. 15:33-34; Prov. 1:10-19). John died because Herod surrounded himself with people to whom he could not say “no.” Surround yourself with people who will help you say “yes” to God and His will. Do not put your soul to death by giving in to evil peer pressure.
“You are the salt of the earth; but if the salt loses its flavor, how shall it be seasoned? It is then good for nothing but to be thrown out and trampled underfoot by men” (Matt. 5:13). We all have an influence on others. It is important that we be careful to not render our influence ineffective – useless – for the cause of Christ.
OUR SPEECH HAS AN INFLUENCE. “Let your speech always be with grace, seasoned with salt, that you may know how you ought to answer each one” (Col. 4:6). The apostle Paul had just asked the Colossian Christians to pray for him and Timothy that “God would open to us a door for the word, to speak the mystery of Christ, for which I am also in chains, that I may make it manifest, as I ought to speak” (Col. 4:3-4). He wanted to effectively use the message of the gospel to influence others to be saved. And, he also wanted the brethren to succeed in helping save others. This, he said, could be done by effectively using their speech to teach the gospel.
Not only the words we choose to speak, but when we choose to speak them, will assist or hinder our efforts to influence others (including the lost). “A word fitly spoken is like apples of gold in settings of silver” (Prov. 25:11). Do not be careless with what you say to the lost, and how you say it. Be careful to speak in a way that will influence them to want to learn and obey the gospel of Christ, not shun it because of what they hear from your mouth.
OUR CONDUCT HAS AN INFLUENCE. Nothing renders influence “flavorless” more quickly than “saying yet not doing.” When our behavior is consistently inconsistent with the message we profess to live by, we will not influence those who see the contradiction. Jesus said, “But why do you call Me ‘Lord, Lord,’ and do not do the things which I say?” (Lk. 6:46) Others will ask a similar question and shun the gospel as a result of the negative, ungodly influence of our hypocrisy.
We also lose our influence with others when we are disrespectful of their convictions, no matter how wrong they may be. It harms your influence to “make fun” of the religious practices and beliefs of others. To “walk in wisdom toward those who are outside, redeeming the time” prevents us from any conduct which hinders our ability to reach them with the gospel.
OUR DEMEANOR AND EXPRESSIONS HAVE AN INFLUENCE. “Why are you cast down, O my soul? And why are you disquieted within me? Hope in God; For I shall yet praise Him, The help of my countenance and my God” (Psa. 42:11; 43:5). Your countenance reflects your hopes, your aspirations and your anticipations. “A merry heart makes a cheerful countenance, but by sorrow of the heart the spirit is broken” (Prov. 15:13). As the joy of our salvation is reflected in our demeanor it will influence others toward righteousness (1 Pet. 11-12; 3:16; Matt. 5:16).
A good influence is a powerful thing. A destroyed influence is useless. Guard and use yours wisely.