Sabbath, July 16, 2011
“To many minds a deep mystery surrounds the fate of John the Baptist. They question why he should have been left to languish and die in prison. The mystery of this dark providence our human vision cannot penetrate; but it can never shake our confidence in God when we remember that John was but a sharer in the sufferings of Christ. All who follow Christ will wear the crown of sacrifice. They will surely be misunderstood by selfish men, and will be made a mark for the fierce assaults of Satan. It is this principle of self-sacrifice that his kingdom is established to destroy, and he will war against it wherever manifested.” –The Desire of Ages, p. 223.
Message to the king
1. What is known about King Herod the tetrarch and the woman with whom he lived? What clear message did John the Baptist give them?
Mark 6:18 For John had said unto Herod, It is not lawful for thee to have thy brother’s wife.
Luke 3:19 But Herod the tetrarch, being reproved by him for Herodias his brother Philip’s wife, and for all the evils which Herod had done.
“John dealt with him faithfully, denouncing his iniquitous alliance with Herodias, his brother’s wife. For a time Herod feebly sought to break the chain of lust that bound him; but Herodias fastened him the more firmly in her toils, and found revenge upon the Baptist by inducing Herod to cast him into prison….
“In his mission the Baptist had stood as a fearless reprover of iniquity, both in high places and in low. He had dared to face King Herod with the plain rebuke of sin. He had not counted his life dear unto himself, that he might fulfill his appointed work.” –The Desire of Ages, pp. 214, 215.
2. Did King Herod and Herodias accept the divine message of reproof? How did Herodias react to it as soon as an opportunity was presented?
Mark 6:19 Therefore Herodias had a quarrel against him, and would have killed him; but she could not.
Mark 6:17 For Herod himself had sent forth and laid hold upon John, and bound him in prison for Herodias’ sake, his brother Philip’s wife: for he had married her.
3. Although he did not heed the prophet’s warning, of what was Herod convicted?
Mark 6:20 For Herod feared John, knowing that he was a just man and an holy, and observed him; and when he heard him, he did many things, and heard him gladly.
Matthew 14:5 And when he would have put him to death, he feared the multitude, because they counted him as a prophet.
“Herod believed John to be a prophet of God, and he fully intended to set him at liberty. But he delayed his purpose from fear of Herodias.
“Herodias knew that by direct measures she could never win Herod’s consent to the death of John, and she resolved to accomplish her purpose by stratagem. On the king’s birthday an entertainment was to be given to the officers of state and the nobles of the court. There would be feasting and drunkenness. Herod would thus be thrown off his guard, and might then be influenced according to her will.” –The Desire of Ages, pp. 220, 221.
4. What occasion offered the perfect setup for Herodias to carry out her diabolical purpose? What was her immediate response to her daughter’s question?
Mark 6:21, 22 And when a convenient day was come, that Herod on his birthday made a supper to his lords, high captains, and chief estates of Galilee; And when the daughter of the said Herodias came in, and danced, and pleased Herod and them that sat with him, the king said unto the damsel, Ask of me whatsoever thou wilt, and I will give it thee.
Mark 6:24, 25 And she went forth, and said unto her mother, What shall I ask? And she said, The head of John the Baptist. And she came in straightway with haste unto the king, and asked, saying, I will that thou give me by and by in a charger the head of John the Baptist.
“… Herodias sent her daughter into the banqueting hall to dance for the entertainment of the guests. Salome was in the first flush of womanhood, and her voluptuous beauty captivated the senses of the lordly revelers….
“The king was dazed with wine. Passion held sway, and reason was dethroned. He saw only the hall of pleasure, with its reveling guests, the banquet table, the sparkling wine and the flashing lights, and the young girl dancing before him. In the recklessness of the moment, he desired to make some display that would exalt him before the great men of his realm….
“The oath had been made in honor of his guests, and if one of them had offered a word against the fulfillment of his promise, he would gladly have spared the prophet…. No voice was raised to save the life of Heaven’s messenger. These men occupied high positions of trust in the nation, and upon them rested grave responsibilities; yet they had given themselves up to feasting and drunkenness until the senses were benumbed.” –The Desire of Ages, pp. 221, 222.
Execution of the innocent prophet
5. What happened on that terrible day, even though the king was very sorry about it? What chain bound him?
Mark 6:26-28 And the king was exceeding sorry; yet for his oath’s sake, and for their sakes which sat with him, he would not reject her. And immediately the king sent an executioner, and commanded his head to be brought: and he went and beheaded him in the prison, And brought his head in a charger, and gave it to the damsel: and the damsel gave it to her mother.
Luke 3:19, 20 But Herod the tetrarch, being reproved by him for Herodias his brother Philip’s wife, and for all the evils which Herod had done, Added yet this above all, that he shut up John in prison.
“Herod waited in vain to be released from his oath; then he reluctantly commanded the execution of the prophet. Soon the head of John was brought in before the king and his guests… The revels of one night had cost the life of one of the greatest of the prophets.…
“The head of John the Baptist was carried to Herodias, who received it with fiendish satisfaction. She exulted in her revenge, and flattered herself that Herod’s conscience would no longer be troubled. But no happiness resulted to her from her sin. Her name became notorious and abhorred, while Herod was more tormented by remorse than he had been by the warnings of the prophet. The influence of John’s teachings was not silenced; it was to extend to every generation till the close of time.
“Herod’s sin was ever before him. He was constantly seeking to find relief from the accusings of a guilty conscience…. ever oppressed with the fear that a curse was upon him.…
“The sinner’s own thoughts are his accusers; and there can be no torture keener than the stings of a guilty conscience, which give him no rest day nor night.” –The Desire of Ages, pp. 222, 223.
None greater than John the Baptist
6. What wonderful testimony did Jesus give of this faithful witness for God? What had been declared by an angel before his birth?
Matthew 11:11 Verily I say unto you, Among them that are born of women there hath not risen a greater than John the Baptist: notwithstanding he that is least in the kingdom of heaven is greater than he.
Matthew 11:14 And if ye will receive it, this is Elias, which was for to come.
Luke 1:14-17 And thou shalt have joy and gladness; and many shall rejoice at his birth. For he shall be great in the sight of the Lord, and shall drink neither wine nor strong drink; and he shall be filled with the Holy Ghost, even from his mother’s womb. And many of the children of Israel shall he turn to the Lord their God. And he shall go before him in the spirit and power of Elias, to turn the hearts of the fathers to the children, and the disobedient to the wisdom of the just; to make ready a people prepared for the Lord.
“John the Baptist had been first in heralding Christ’s kingdom, and he was first also in suffering….
“Aside from the joy that John found in his mission, his life had been one of sorrow. His voice had been seldom heard except in the wilderness. His was a lonely lot. And he was not permitted to see the result of his own labors. It was not his privilege to be with Christ and witness the manifestation of divine power attending the greater light. It was not for him to see the blind restored to sight, the sick healed, and the dead raised to life. He did not behold the light that shone through every word of Christ, shedding glory upon the promises of prophecy. The least disciple who saw Christ’s mighty works and heard His words was in this sense more highly privileged than John the Baptist, and therefore is said to have been greater than he.” –The Desire of Ages, pp. 214, 220.
7. What great privilege did John the Baptist have, as did no other prophet? What similar mission do those living just before Jesus’ second coming have?
Matthew 11:13 For all the prophets and the law prophesied until John.
Matthew 11:12 And from the days of John the Baptist until now the kingdom of heaven suffereth violence, and the violent take it by force.
“He was sent to herald the Saviour’s advent, and to call upon the people to prepare for His coming. So faithfully did he fulfill his mission, that as the people recalled what he had taught them of Jesus, they could say, ‘All things that John spake of this Man were true.’ Such witness to Christ every disciple of the Master is called upon to bear.
“As the Messiah’s herald, John was ‘much more than a prophet.’ For while prophets had seen from afar Christ’s advent, to John it was given to behold Him, to hear the testimony from heaven to His Messiahship, and to present Him to Israel as the Sent of God. Yet Jesus said, ‘He that is least in the kingdom of heaven is greater than he.’
“The prophet John was the connec ting link between the two dispensations. As God’s representative he stood forth to show the relation of the law and the prophets to the Christian dispensation. He was the lesser light, which was to be followed by a greater.” –The Desire of Ages, p. 220.
“… For the sake of thousands who in after years must pass from prison to death, John was to drink the cup of martyrdom. As the followers of Jesus should languish in lonely cells, or perish by the sword, the rack, or the fagot, apparently forsaken by God and man, what a stay to their hearts would be the thought that John the Baptist, to whose faithfulness Christ Himself had borne witness, had passed through a similar experience!…
“Death itself only placed him forever beyond the power of temptation….
“To John the Baptist, as to those that came after him, was given the assurance, ‘Lo, I am with you all the days, even unto the end.’ Matthew 28:20, R.V., margin.” –The Desire of Ages, p. 224.
For additional study
• John 3:22-30
• The Desire of Ages, pp. 214-224
Review of the lesson
Summarize in a few words the main thoughts of this lesson.