The Royal family
Mark 6: 17-20 “For Herod himself had given orders to have John arrested, and he had him bound and put in prison. He did this because of Herodias, his brother Philip’s wife, whom he had married. 18 For John had been saying to Herod, “It is not lawful for you to have your brother’s wife.” 19 So Herodias nursed a grudge against John and wanted to kill him. But she was not able to, 20 because Herod feared John and protected him, knowing him to be a righteous and holy man. When Herod heard John, he was greatly puzzled; yet he liked to listen to him.”
Yesterday a Pastor called me to ask if it would be permitted to bring to one of our regional camps a family that were not married and possibly a couple that would be seen as scandalous in the cloisters of some church people. Having granted permission I thanked God that this Pastor had her sleeves rolled up and was getting involved in the brokenness of this world. This is where church should be seen more and more. But let me come back to this in a bit …
Antipas was his name and Herod (King) was the title. His father, Herod the Great, had 8 wives. Antipas was the Herod of Jesus’ lifetime, living in Jerusalem.
Antipas’ heart was in Rome, with his niece, who had been left fatherless by her grandfather (Herod the Great) who ordered the strangulation of her father, Aristobulus and her uncle Alexander. The Great then had her married to another uncle, not Antipas, but Philip.
Antipas visited Rome in AD26 and fell in love with his niece Herodias. They agreed he would divorce his wife, Phaesalis and she would divorce Philip.
So hand in hand they come back to the holy land; Divorced Uncle Antipas and his divorced niece Herodias, very much in love accompanied by his great niece Salome. A picture of family happiness!
The Jews however thought this whole story an abomination and they had the Scripture to support them in Leviticus 20:21 – “‘“If a man marries his brother’s wife, it is an act of impurity; he has dishonoured his brother. They will be childless.”
Right in the middle of this royal scandal is the gospel messenger, John the Baptist. He had found a way into the hearing of the most important man in Jerusalem, the King. He had managed to gain favour with Herod.
- Herod feared John.
- He protected him from Herodias who wanted John killed.
- He recognised John was a good man and could be trusted, that he was different to any other man he had known.
- He was disturbed by John’s message but loved listening to him.
- All of these positives towards John who did not hold back from the truth of saying, “Herod you are breaking the law of Moses and of God.”
- We need to find a way into the broken families whether royal or not, no matter how scandalous they may be.
- We need to find favour and actually be attractive to the broken and scandalous.
- We need to do all of that and still hold to the truth and not compromise the gospel message.
Are you not tired of hearing people say ‘oh it is so difficult today sharing the gospel with such broken and disturbed people’? The only difficulty is the prejudice that prevents the move towards such people.
If John the Baptist could find a way into this scandalous family story then so can any of us, especially 2,000 years later. That is where the church should be.