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Pastor David B. Curtis

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The Cost of Confronting Sin

Mark 6:14-29

Delivered 06/04/2006

In last week's text in the Gospel of Mark, Jesus sent out His apostles, and they were able to do miraculous things. Jesus empowered them to take authority over demons. He empowered them to do miracles--to heal the sick. And it's almost as if Mark is anticipating that we as readers will read that and say, "Wow! That is fantastic! Sign me up!" Mark follows that with this section about the death of John the Baptist, as if to say, "Wait a minute, wait a minute. Before you sign up too quickly, you need to understand there's a cost." It's sobering to remember that ten of the twelve apostles died a violent death because they were followers of Jesus.

There is no question that there is a cost to speaking out against sin. While there are many today that promote a gospel of health and wealth and prosperity, Jesus never did. As a matter of fact, if you read through the Gospels, over and over again Jesus says that you have to count the cost. It is not easy to be a follower of Jesus. We need to understand the price that we must pay if we're going to faithfully follow Jesus.

Mark does not discuss the death of John the Baptist here, because this is what happens next in the chronology. As a matter of fact, this is what we refer to as a flashback. It means this is something that happened in the past, and Mark is going back to it--not because it fits in the chronology of events here, but because it fits in the train of thought of what he's trying to teach us here:

Mark 6:14-16 (NASB) And King Herod heard of it, for His name had become well known; and people were saying, "John the Baptist has risen from the dead, and that is why these miraculous powers are at work in Him." 15 But others were saying, "He is Elijah." And others were saying, "He is a prophet, like one of the prophets of old." 16 But when Herod heard of it, he kept saying, "John, whom I beheaded, has risen!"

As we have seen, this passage lies directly after the sending out of the twelve into the villages and towns of Israel, and it appears that Mark considered the event to have come about becauseHerod began hearing of the great things that were happening.

Word comes to Herod that there is this miracle worker, Jesus, and he probably hears word also of what the apostles are doing. Mark refers to him as King Herod, but it's important to recognize he really wasn't a king. He was what was called a tetrarch. There's lots of debate about why Mark used this terminology. Some think he called him a king because that was how he was referred to on the streets. Others think Mark was being a little bit sarcastic because that's what Herod wanted. In fact, eventually Herod went to the emperor and asked to be made king, and the emperor got angry and banished him forever from the kingdom. So he's a tetrarch; he's not really a king.

Herod, in our story, is one of several with the same name in the New Testament. You're probably all familiar with Herod the Great who was King of Judea when Christ was born. What was it that Herod did that we are all familiar with? He is known for ordering the baby boys around Bethlehem slaughtered lest there be a rival to his throne from the newborn King.

History of the Herods: The family Herod, while ruling over the Jews, were not of the house of Israel. They were Idumeans who were descendants of Esau, not of Jacob. Herod the Great lay dying in his opulent palace in Jericho. He had been seriously ill for a long time. From the description in Josephus' writings, Herod had gangrene, severe itching, convulsions, and ulcers. His feet were covered with tumors, and he had constant fevers. The stadium of Jericho was filled with loved and important people from around his land who were to be killed at the moment of his death, lest no one mourn when he died. It didn't seem to matter that they would not be mourning for him.

As he lay on his deathbed, Herod's thoughts may have turned to the rabbis and their students whom he recently had executed for tearing down the Roman eagle from the temple gate because it violated God's law against images. Perhaps he reflected on his beloved wife Miriamne's two sons whom he had drowned in the palace swimming pool next door. He could have remembered the execution of his favorite son, Antipater, only days ago for plotting against him. Antipater was the one who was to take his father's place. Or maybe he thought about the 45 members of the Sanhedrin whom he had murdered, the hundreds of family and staff whom he had suspected of plotting against him, or the thousands of subjects who died in his brutal campaign to claim a country they believed he had no right to rule. It is possible Herod also recalled the massacre of all the boy babies in a town near his massive fortress Herodion, soon to be his tomb.

As he lay dying in Jericho, Herod revised his will to reflect the execution of his son Antipater. Herod Antipas, another son of Malthace, was given Galilee and Perea. Shortly after completing this will, Herod died and was buried with pomp and circumstance in the Herodion, overlooking the fields of Bethlehem.

According to New Testament writers, Antipas, this son of Herod the Great, was a scheming weakling who was the archenemy of Jesus of Nazareth. Antipas had married the daughter of the Nabatean king Aretas. During a visit to his brother Philip (not the Herod Philip who was king in the North), Antipas fell in love with Herodias, Philip's wife. Antipas divorced his wife and married his brother's wife while Philip was still alive. This was forbidden by Jewish law:

Leviticus 18:16 (NASB) 'You shall not uncover the nakedness of your brother's wife; it is your brother's nakedness.

Because of this, Herod Antipas incurred the bitter opposition of the religious Jews he ruled, including John the baptizer. John's call for turning from sin, symbolized by baptism, was popular with religious Jews, who expected the Messiah at any time. If the way (i.e., everyone living by God's law) was prepared, Messiah would certainly arrive.

After John's murder, Herod and Jesus were in constant opposition. Jesus criticized Antipas by name (Mark 8:15; Luke 13:31-33), calling him "that fox," the cultural equivalent of "wimp." When the two men finally did meet in the courtroom where Jesus was on trial for His life, Jesus refused to speak to Herod (Luke 23:9). Herod mocked and abused Him (Luke 23:11; Acts 4:27).

His execution of John and the appearance of Jesus haunted Antipas's life. He feared that Jesus was John raised from the dead. But others were saying:

Mark 6:15 (NASB) But others were saying, "He is Elijah." And others were saying, "He is a prophet, like one of the prophets of old."

People start hearing of these miracles, and some think it's John the Baptist come back to life. Others think it's Elijah. The Hebrew people believed that Elijah would come back to life and he would be the forerunner, the announcer, of the Messiah. As a matter of fact, at Passover they always had an empty chair, and they always had a full glass of wine, which was symbolic of the fact that they were waiting for Elijah to join them. There are Hebrews today who continue that tradition--still waiting for Elijah to come. So some thought that's who Jesus was.

Why did the Hebrew people think that Elijah would come back to life as a forerunner to the Messiah? The Scriptures taught this!

Malachi 3:1 (NASB) "Behold, I am going to send My messenger, and he will clear the way before Me. And the Lord, whom you seek, will suddenly come to His temple; and the messenger of the covenant, in whom you delight, behold, He is coming," says the LORD of hosts.

Who is Malachi referring to as the messenger? The coming messenger that Malachi speaks of is Elijah:

Malachi 4:5 (NASB) "Behold, I am going to send you Elijah the prophet before the coming of the great and terrible day of the LORD.

So they were looking for Elijah to come back to life. You can understand why. Without the New Testament, we would all think that Elijah was to come back before the Messiah. But the New Testament distinctly affirms the identity of John the Baptist as the Elijah of Malachi:

Matthew 17:10-13 (NASB) And His disciples asked Him, saying, "Why then do the scribes say that Elijah must come first?" 11 And He answered and said, "Elijah is coming and will restore all things; 12 but I say to you, that Elijah already came, and they did not recognize him, but did to him whatever they wished. So also the Son of Man is going to suffer at their hands." 13 Then the disciples understood that He had spoken to them about John the Baptist.

The disciples knew the prophecy about Elijah; apparently they thought it would be fulfilled physically. It was actually, literally fulfilled, but it was not physically fulfilled. This is an important interpretive principle; something can be fulfilled literally and spiritually, but not physically. John came in the Spirit of Elijah. Speaking to Zacharias and his wife Elizabeth, the angel said:

Luke 1:17 (NASB) "And it is he who will go as a forerunner before Him in the spirit and power of Elijah, TO TURN THE HEARTS OF THE FATHERS BACK TO THE CHILDREN, and the disobedient to the attitude of the righteous; so as to make ready a people prepared for the Lord."

The Jews expected the reappearance of the literal Elijah, and John replies to that mistaken notion in:

John 1:21 (NASB) And they asked him, "What then? Are you Elijah?" And he said, "I am not." "Are you the Prophet?" And he answered, "No."

Jesus tells them: If you want to understand the second coming of Elijah, you've got to look at the spiritual.

Matthew 11:13-14 (NASB) "For all the prophets and the Law prophesied until John. 14 "And if you care to accept it, he himself is Elijah, who was to come.

So we see that John the Baptist is the fulfillment of the prophecy of the coming of Elijah. As I said earlier, this is an important interpretive principle; something can be fulfilled literally and spiritually, but not physically. I believe we need to apply this principle to the eschatological texts of the New Testament. When you read 2 Peter 3 about the heavens melting and the earth being burned up and all that; if that is physical, none of us has any arguments as to whether that has happened. The earth is not toast. But if these are physical words describing spiritual realities, then it's going to change our paradigms.

Let's move on in our text. Herod thought that John had been resurrected:

Mark 6:16 (NASB) But when Herod heard of it, he kept saying, "John, whom I beheaded, has risen!"

This is amazing in that Herod belonged to the party of the Sadducees, who were rationalists, anti-supernaturalists. They did not believe in resurrection. Yet the minute word got back to Herod that the twelve were preaching like this, he said: Oh, oh, it's John, raised again from the dead. All of which testifies to the power of a guilty conscience at work in this man. Shakespeare said, "Conscience doth make cowards of us all." Herod is a very vivid example of that truth.

In the Book of Leviticus chapter 26, it talks about people that violate their conscience and sin against God. It creates a guilt--almost a paranoia--so that when the wind rustles the leaves they think somebody is chasing them, and they flee. That's where Herod was at. He hears this work that Jesus is doing and immediately he thinks it's John the Baptist coming back to haunt him. He's convinced that's who this is: "This is John whom I beheaded."

The account that follows is a flashback to an event that happened just before the disciples were sent out:

Mark 6:17-20 (NASB) For Herod himself had sent and had John arrested and bound in prison on account of Herodias, the wife of his brother Philip, because he had married her. 18 For John had been saying to Herod, "It is not lawful for you to have your brother's wife." 19 And Herodias had a grudge against him and wanted to put him to death and could not do so; 20 for Herod was afraid of John, knowing that he was a righteous and holy man, and kept him safe. And when he heard him, he was very perplexed; but he used to enjoy listening to him.

The verb tense in "for John had been saying" suggests that this was no one-time rebuke; but it was ongoing. John recognized that Herod had a moral responsibility in Galilee to be exemplary in conduct, setting an example for the rest of his realm. He ruled over a region that honored God's law. He was no foreigner to this law having been raised in the teachings of Judaism as a child. Herod knew that the law forbade him to marry his brother's wife (Lev 18:16). John brought this sin to his attention. Herod reacted! He wanted to put John to death, but that would have caused a popularity problem in his realm, so he imprisoned him.

That the king had wanted to put John to death is plain from:

Matthew 14:5 (NASB) And although he wanted to put him to death, he feared the multitude, because they regarded him as a prophet.

Herod found it impossible to carry out his desires because he feared the people who held him to be a prophet from God, and putting John to death might necessarily have caused civil unrest even to the point of an uprising against the throne.

Herod was not unlike kings from Israel and Judah's past. When Elijah rebuked the wicked Ahab, King of Israel, and called the nation to repentance, Ahab sought the prophet to put him to death (1 Kings 18). When Joash, King of Judah, forgot about the lessons taught him by the godly priest Jehoida, he had Zechariah, Jehoida's son, stoned to death for reproving his actions. People don't like their sins being pointed out.

Herod feared men. John feared God. "He feared the multitude," so Herod avoided killing John. He was a man-pleaser. He tested the public opinion polls and conducted his life accordingly. John happened to be popular at that time so Herod sacked the idea of murdering him. Instead, he should have feared the God who created him, and who gave him the divine law that reveals God's holy standards for all men. He should have feared the God before whom all of us will one day have to stand.

John feared God more than men, so he could speak out boldly the truth of God, even if it meant disfavor with the king. Whose opinion matters most to you? Are you more like Herod who thought more of men's applause? Or are you like John who felt the wonderful, liberating constraints of obedience through fearing God?
John the Baptist spoke as a prophet of God and confronted Herod for his sin. You have to keep in mind that the Herod family was extremely corrupt and very immoral.

The family of Herod was so intermarried that the relationships get very confusing. Basically, what happened is that Herod was on a trip and stopped to visit his brother Philip, and while he was there, he seduced Philip's wife Herodias and convinced her to marry him. So Herod divorced his wife, and Herodias divorced Philip, and those two got married. But because of the inner workings of the relationship, Herodias was both Herod's sister-in-law and his niece. He was guilty of all kinds of incestuous relationships, and that's what John was confronting. You also have to understand that in that culture, Herod set the moral tone for the culture as the leader. So, in essence, John was confronting the culture because of the sin that was identified with Herod.

Obviously, Herodias had the most to lose by this. She dumped Philip, who was not in the government, and she married Herod, because that was a move up the ladder of power. She was very upset that John was messing around with her advancement to be queen. She wants John dead, and if it wasn't for Herod, she would have him put to death. So Herod is in this weird position where he arrests John and puts him in prison basically to protect him from his wife. The text says that Herod knew that John was a righteous and holy man. Another way of saying that is: Herod knew John was right in what he was saying. He was dealing with the guilt of that, and he was also afraid of John's God. So Herod put John in prison, and it says he liked to listen to him.

Mark 6:21-29 (NASB) And a strategic day came when Herod on his birthday gave a banquet for his lords and military commanders and the leading men of Galilee; 22 and when the daughter of Herodias herself came in and danced, she pleased Herod and his dinner guests; and the king said to the girl, "Ask me for whatever you want and I will give it to you." 23 And he swore to her, "Whatever you ask of me, I will give it to you; up to half of my kingdom." 24 And she went out and said to her mother, "What shall I ask for?" And she said, "The head of John the Baptist." 25 And immediately she came in haste before the king and asked, saying, "I want you to give me right away the head of John the Baptist on a platter." 26 And although the king was very sorry, yet because of his oaths and because of his dinner guests, he was unwilling to refuse her. 27 And immediately the king sent an executioner and commanded him to bring back his head. And he went and had him beheaded in the prison, 28 and brought his head on a platter, and gave it to the girl; and the girl gave it to her mother. 29 And when his disciples heard about this, they came and took away his body and laid it in a tomb.

Our text says, "a strategic day came." "Strategic" is from the Greek word eukairos, which means: "opportune." Who is this day opportune for? Herodias! She has been waiting for her opportunity to get even with John. Herod decides to throw a party for his generals and significant men in the Galilee area. Herodias realizes that this is her chance, so she gets her daughter, whom history records by the name of Salome [sal-o-may], to do this sensual, erotic dance in front of her step-father and these drunken men. Now, part of the sickness of this whole event is the fact that it was his own daughter that was arousing these sexual feelings in him. History tells us that these type of dances would have been reserved for the local prostitute, not for a member of the royal family. It was unheard of for a princess to dance voluptuously before drunken men at a king's banquet. But Herodias is desperate, so she sent her teenaged daughter (implied by the choice of Greek term) on this risky venture, having calculated that Herod's immoral heart would fall for her trap. Salome does her dance, and it has the anticipated effect. Herod offers her up to half of his kingdom.

Herod was a big talker. He was impressing his friends. Herod was not a king and frankly had no ability to give her anything. The emperor of Rome really called all the shots, so Herod was just talking. Salome goes back and talks to her mother, Herodias, and this is what she has been waiting for. She wants the head of John the Baptist. She wants it now--immediately. It is interesting that Mark tells us that Salome went back quickly. There was a level of excitement in this. She adds her own little flair: She wants the head of John the Baptist on a platter.

It seems likely that Herod could have withdrawn from the obligation of his oath by appealing to what was both morally upright and acceptable within the Jewish culture of his day. After all, John had received no trial and stood to be executed at the whim of a king who chose to grant either life or death to all his subjects.

It says that Herod was "very sorry." This is a very strong Greek word, perilupos, which means: "overcome with sorrow so much as to cause one's death."

As a matter of fact, it's the exact same Greek word that Mark uses in chapter 14 to describe Jesus agonizing in the Garden of Gethsemane about going to the cross:

Mark 14:34 (NASB) And He said to them, "My soul is deeply grieved to the point of death; remain here and keep watch."

So this is not a case where Herod said, "Boy, I didn't expect that too bad." He absolutely agonized over this, because in his conscience he knew that John was right in what he was saying, and that John was a righteous man. He feared John's God, and he knew he should not do this. But on the other hand, he had made this oath in front of all of his guests, and he knew he needed to follow through in order to save face.

Mark 6:27-28 (NASB) And immediately the king sent an executioner and commanded him to bring back his head. And he went and had him beheaded in the prison, 28 and brought his head on a platter, and gave it to the girl; and the girl gave it to her mother.

Jewish law forbade execution without trial, but the Romans had granted Antipas capital jurisdiction. Freely disregarding Jewish scruples, he granted execution in the least painful Roman style­ beheading with a sword.

There's no question that we are to see in this story a foreshadowing of the ultimate end for Jesus. There are similar dynamics at work; you have a leader who knows the person is righteous and not deserving of execution. Yet, there is so much pressure from the people that ultimately he violates his own conscience, and neither Herod nor Pilate ever fully recovers from those decisions.

Mark 6:29 (NASB) And when his disciples heard about this, they came and took away his body and laid it in a tomb.

John's disciples risked their own lives to show up and bury John's body in one final act of love. With nowhere else to go, these disciples then find Jesus, the One to whom John had borne witness. John's martyrdom sent his remaining disciples to Jesus, the Coming One.

In John chapter 3 Jesus said that people love darkness rather than light, because in the darkness their evil deeds are hidden. But when the light comes, their sin is exposed, and people hate that:

John 3:19-20 (NASB) "And this is the judgment, that the light is come into the world, and men loved the darkness rather than the light; for their deeds were evil. 20 "For everyone who does evil hates the light, and does not come to the light, lest his deeds should be exposed.

So man prefers the darkness over light. Mark has already told us that we, as followers of Jesus, carry the light. And that light is not to be put under a bushel. The light is to be put on a lamp stand to penetrate the darkness:

Mark 4:21-22 (NASB) And He was saying to them, "A lamp is not brought to be put under a peck-measure, is it, or under a bed? Is it not brought to be put on the lampstand? 22 "For nothing is hidden, except to be revealed; nor has anything been secret, but that it should come to light.

John, as a follower of Jesus, was called to be a light in the midst of darkness, which included confronting sin and calling it what it is--to confront the culture for what it had become.

Certainly our calling is no less than that. We live in a culture that is characterized by darkness. There are many churches today who are seeking to make the message of the Bible more politically correct in order to be more in alignment with the culture. It's very important for us to understand that the message of the Bible is not politically correct. It is just correct. We believe that the Bible is the authoritative, reliable, inspired Word of God--that it is the standard for life and godliness.

When you read these passages about light, you cannot overlook the fact that we are light, and that we have a responsibility to walk as children of light. This means that goodness, righteousness, and truth ought to characterize the way we live our lives as believers.

Because we stand for truth, we absolutely reject the belief in pluralism, which is a belief that all roads lead to heaven-- that it doesn't matter what you believe as long as you believe something. Jesus Himself said:

John 14:6 (NASB) Jesus said to him, "I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father, but through Me.

We reject the notion of relativity-- the idea that there are no moral absolutes-- because we believe there is one God, and that God is absolute. Therefore, there is absolute truth, and God defines absolute morals. When people ask, "Whose absolute morals will we follow?" the answer is simple: God's.

We reject the notion of tolerance as it's defined in our culture as a willingness to tolerate sin. The culture is seeking to convince us that if we identify sin in anyone else's life, that is both judgmental and intolerant. Apparently John was not aware of that, because he understood that the role of the Christian is to be a light in the culture and to call sin "sin." This whole idea of tolerance is supposedly wrapped around this view of love--that if you love someone, you basically tolerate whatever they do. But we need to understand that is not love--that is indifference. The Bible clearly states that sin is destructive, and if people are left to their sinful ways, they will self-destruct. The most loving thing we can do is help people identify their sin and lead them to a relationship with Jesus Christ.

2 Thessalonians 3:5-6 (NASB) And may the Lord direct your hearts into the love of God and into the steadfastness of Christ. 6 Now we command you, brethren, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that you keep aloof from every brother who leads an unruly life and not according to the tradition which you received from us.

He is saying that He wants you to love and separate yourself from sinning Christians.

We believe in the sanctity of human life. We believe that all life is sacred and comes from God, therefore we defend the life of the unborn. We defend the life of the elderly and those who are physically and mentally challenged.

We believe in the sanctity of marriage-- that God intended marriage to be one man and one woman for life. We do not believe homosexuality is a sexual preference. We believe it is a sexual sin. In both the Old and New Testament the Bible is clear that homosexuality is unnatural, against God's design, and therefore offensive to God. And what is offensive to God should be offensive to us. It does not mean that our calling is to go out and attack homosexuals. It is to go out and love them and introduce them to Jesus. But in loving them, that does not mean that we condone their behavior anymore than we would condone the behavior of an adulterer, a liar, a cheater, or a drunker.

Believers, our purpose, like John the Baptizer's, is to make God known. If an unbeliever comes in contact with you, he ought to see in your life the reflection of the character of God. He ought to hear from your lips truth and that which is good. We are to be proclaiming the truth of God's Word to all we come in contact with.

Mark 6:27-28 (NASB) And immediately the king sent an executioner and commanded him to bring back his head. And he went and had him beheaded in the prison, 28 and brought his head on a platter, and gave it to the girl; and the girl gave it to her mother.

You know, this isn't really the way we'd like to see this story turn out. We'd much rather have the guards go down to the prison, and, lo and behold, John is gone--miraculously delivered by the angel of the Lord--because you just cannot do that to one of God's disciples. But that isn't what happens. John wasn't miraculously delivered. He was beheaded. That was the cost of standing up for what was right and calling sin, "Sin" and confronting Herod-- in essence, confronting the immorality of the culture. How do you feel about this? Does it make you sad? Does it cause you to question God? Does it cause you to ask if God is love, how can He let this happen to His children?

Listen closely, 21st century American Christian: In the New Testament, suffering was the normal experience of a Christian and was viewed as a cause for rejoicing, not sorrow.

The early church had an entirely different attitude from that which we see in the church today. We pity ourselves, and we pity others who are suffering. We moan, murmur, and complain when we suffer. This wasn't the case with John the Baptizer, Paul, and the first century Christians. Their Master had taught them to rejoice in persecution:

Matthew 5:10-12 (NASB) "Blessed are those who have been persecuted for the sake of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. 11 "Blessed are you when men cast insults at you, and persecute you, and say all kinds of evil against you falsely, on account of Me. 12 "Rejoice, and be glad, for your reward in heaven is great, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you.

The persecuted are blessed, not cursed. Jesus taught them to rejoice in persecution! There is a connection in the New Testament between suffering and joy. That may seem like a contradiction, but that is what the Scriptures teach. Notice what the basis of rejoicing is: It is our reward in heaven. When we are persecuted, we are to rejoice.

So Jesus taught His disciples to rejoice in persecution and they did:

Acts 5:40 (NASB) And they took his advice; and after calling the apostles in, they flogged them and ordered them to speak no more in the name of Jesus, and then released them.

When you are trying to share the gospel, and someone slams the door on you or makes fun of you, how do you feel? Or when you confront someone's sin, and they get angry or retaliate, how do you feel? Do you get your feelings hurt, or get discouraged? These men were physically beaten. Please notice their response:

Acts 5:41-42 (NASB) So they went on their way from the presence of the Council, rejoicing that they had been considered worthy to suffer shame for His name. 42 And every day, in the temple and from house to house, they kept right on teaching and preaching Jesus as the Christ.

They rejoiced! And they kept on preaching. Their suffering caused them to rejoice. They didn't get hurt feelings or get depressed or mad at God, they rejoiced.

1 Peter 4:12-14 (NASB) Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery ordeal among you, which comes upon you for your testing, as though some strange thing were happening to you; 13 but to the degree that you share the sufferings of Christ, keep on rejoicing; so that also at the revelation of His glory, you may rejoice with exultation. 14 If you are reviled for the name of Christ, you are blessed, because the Spirit of glory and of God rests upon you.

Again we see the idea of suffering and rejoicing. I'm sure you've probably had enough, but let me give you one more:

Hebrews 10:32-34 (NASB) But remember the former days, when, after being enlightened, you endured a great conflict of sufferings, 33 partly, by being made a public spectacle through reproaches and tribulations, and partly by becoming sharers with those who were so treated. 34 For you showed sympathy to the prisoners, and accepted joyfully the seizure of your property, knowing that you have for yourselves a better possession and an abiding one.

Not only did they have compassion on those in prison, but they also "accepted joyfully the seizure of your property." I would very much like to tell you that this is a textual error, but it's not! This is very convicting. This is the concrete action of the tribulation mentioned in verse 33. Their property was being confiscated because of their stand for Christ. The word "seizure" is from the Greek harpage, which most likely points to mob violence, the unjust seizer of their property - "They took it joyfully."

I don't think you could find a greater contrast between the American church of the 21st century and the church of the 1st century than in the area of suffering. As we study the New Testament and examine the attitude and perspective that New Testament believers took toward suffering and persecution, we should be ashamed. I am! We often hear today the attitude that suffering and persecution is not something that God wants for his people. Success and prosperity are the name of the game today, not only out there in the world, but inside the church as well. That's not what the Bible teaches!

So John took a stand against sin, and it cost him. It cost him his life. But he died in the will of God doing exactly what God had called him to do. So how about you? Are you being a light, are you standing against sin? This is our calling. And we will never be so fulfilled as we are when we live in obedience to the Word of God. May God give us the courage that John had to stand against the sin of our culture, no matter what it costs us.

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