Above All Else

Today’s reading: Matthew 14:1-12

Today’s scripture reading is an account given of the death of John the Baptist at the authority of King Herod.

Many times when I have heard sermons preached on this passage of scripture, the focus has been on Herodias and her daughter.  I’d like to focus today instead on verse 5, in reference to King Herod:

“Herod wanted to kill John, but he was afraid of the people, because they considered John a prophet” (emphasis mine).

Let’s take a moment to compare verse 5 from our reading with John 12:42-43, and Luke 16:15.  John, who is referencing the rulers of the people, said of them in chapter 12 verses 42 & 43:

‘Nevertheless many even of the rulers believed in Him, but because of the Pharisees they were not confessing Him, for fear that they would be put out of the synagogue; for they loved the approval of men rather than the approval of God” (emphasis mine).

Flip back to Luke 16:14-15 and we see this spoken about the Pharisees themselves:

“Now the Pharisees, who were lovers of money, were listening to all these things and were scoffing at Him. And He said to them, “You are those who justify yourselves in the sight of men, but God knows your hearts; for that which is highly esteemed among men is detestable in the sight of God” (emphasis mine).

Speaking again to the Pharisees and scribes that had come all the way from Jerusalem up to Galilee in order to obstruct Jesus’ ministry and make attempts to thwart His authority, Jesus said in Matthew 15:7-9:

“And by this you invalidated the word of God for the sake of your tradition. You hypocrites, rightly did Isaiah prophesy of you: ‘this people honors me with their lips, but their heart is far away from me. ‘but in vain do they worship me, teaching as doctrines the precepts of men‘” (emphasis mine).

Q: Why do the Pharisees, Rulers, Scribes, Sadducees and such make a point throughout the gospels to obstruct Jesus publicly?
A: Because they care about what others might think of them and how they compared to Christ, and so therefore wanted to assert their authority.

Q: Where does this “authority” come from?
A: From Man

Q: Where does the authority from man derive?
A: Opinion that can be swayed by promise of power, wealth, fear and threats, popularity, trends and fads, culture and society, prejudice, and core beliefs.

The opinions of others causes us to care what we say and do in front of them, an compare ourselves and our actions to the actions of others.  Our standard of measurement is no longer Christ but each other.

When we can let go of the “authority” that comes from man, and thereby no longer be enslaved by opinions of men, then we are on the threshold of obtaining and working under the authority of Christ, that comes from our Father in Heaven.  That is when we begin to operate in His Kingdom!

Examples of this can be seen in Matthew 9:18-22, in both the story of the synagogue official as well as the woman suffering from a hemorrhage.  They each recognized the authority of Jesus and did not care what men thought.  If you read on in verses 23 and 24 you will find those still who were laughing at Jesus, because they did not see or recognize His authority, and cared only for their own opinions.  In verse 25 we see He puts them out of the house and then proceeds to heal the girl without them there.

In Hebrews chapter 11 we find a very famous definition of faith, being the assurance of things hoped for and the conviction of things not seen.  I’d like to introduce you to another thought about faith that is complimentary to this:

Faith is a recognition of and a bowing down to the authority of Christ.

Reading in Isaiah chapter 33, we learn more than just miracles occur when we bow down to the authority of Christ.  Verse 6 of that chapter tells us “He will be the sure foundation for your times, a rich store of salvation and wisdom and knowledge; the fear of the Lord is the key to this treasure” (emphasis mine).

What then is key to salvation, wisdom, and knowledge?  The fear of the Lord. “Fear” comes from the Hebrew word “yirah” or “yare”, which translates “awesome, fear, reverence”.  It is where our sense of holiness comes from.  Awe and reverence for the Lord causes us to bow down to His authority.

Who’s authority do you bow down to?  Who do you fear?

“For this reason also, God highly exalted Him, and bestowed on Him the name which is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee will bow, of those who are in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and that every tongue will confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.” Philippians 2:9-11

What are you willing to compromise?  What happens if you don’t bow down to Jesus in this life?

“And inasmuch as it is appointed for men to die once and after this comes judgment.” Hebrews 9:27

What would you give in exchange for your soul?

“And what do you benefit if you gain the whole world but lose your own soul?#16:26 Or your self? also in 16:26b. Is anything worth more than your soul? For the Son of Man will come with his angels in the glory of his Father and will judge all people according to their deeds.” Matthew 16:26-27

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