Matt 14:9 A Birthday to Remember 12/30/2007 ßà
#1. John the Baptist (Matt 11:10,14, Isa 40:3, Mal 4:5, Matt 17:10-13)
#2. Herod and His Guests (Matt 14:1-12, Luke 16:31, Deut 17:15, Gal 3:24, Jam 4:6)
#3. The Special Training of the Twelve (John 16:1-2, Matt 14:13,16,22,31, 1Cor 11:24, Jam 1:5-8)
Please open your Bibles to the Gospel According to Mark, Mark 6:14 (2X). We have completed the 13th chapter of Matt, and now we are off into another speed train through the Gospel of Matthew. But the story at the beginning of Matt 14 is a little better described in the Gospel of Mark, and that is why I want you to turn to that first. The theme of Matt 14 is: “The Special Training of the Twelve, and the First Withdrawal from the Land of the Jews”. The first part of this training of the disciples is hidden in the story of the death of John the Baptist. The chapter begins with the story of a heathen birthday.
Mr 6:14 ¶ And king Herod heard of him; (for his name was spread abroad:) and he said, That John the Baptist was risen from the dead, and therefore mighty works do shew forth themselves in him.
Mr 6:15 Others said, That it is Elias. And others said, That it is a prophet, or as one of the prophets.
Mr 6:16-17 But when Herod heard thereof, he said, It is John, whom I beheaded: he is risen from the dead. 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.
Mr 6:18 For John had said unto Herod, It is not lawful for thee to have thy brother’s wife.
Mr 6:19 Therefore Herodias had a quarrel against him, and would have killed him; but she could not:
Mr 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.
Mr 6:21-23 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. And he sware unto her, Whatsoever thou shalt ask of me, I will give it thee, unto the half of my kingdom.
Mr 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.
Mr 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.
Mr 6:29 And when his disciples heard of it, they came and took up his corpse, and laid it in a tomb.
Who is this Herod? This is not Herod the Great who murdered the babies in Bethlehem. This is his son, who was called Herod Antipas, or who is called Herod the Tetrach, for this son of Herod the Great inherited only a quarter of the domain that his father ruled over. This Herod Antipas ruled over Galilee and Peraea. Nevertheless, like his father, Herod Antipas was a clever politician. Even though he was a descendant of Esau, he managed to gain favor with the religious rulers of the Jews, so that he gathered an influential group that were called “the Herodians”. For example, we read in Mark 3:6, “And the Pharisees went forth, and straightway took counsel with the Herodians against Jesus, how they might destroy him”. The Herodians were Jews who supported the dynasty of Herod. This tells us how poorly the Jews were instructed in the Law of Moses. Clearly God says in Deut 17:15 (2X),
De 17:15 Thou shalt in any wise set him king over thee, whom the LORD thy God shall choose: one from among thy brethren shalt thou set king over thee: thou mayest not set a stranger over thee, which is not thy brother.
Clearly God says that only one of the children of Israel may be king over them, but not a stranger. And thus if an Idumean, a descendant of Esau, is made king over them that would be an abomination to the Lord. Even though Rome had set this Idumean as king over them, if they were faithful to the Law of Moses they should never approve of his actions, for he is there in defiance of the laws God has commanded to His people. Here again we see an example of God’s rule which says, “My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge” (Hos 4:6). And so, we see that at this birthday party of King Herod there were many rulers of the Jews invited, and they were happy to be there. It is important to remember that most actions of King Herod were supported by the rulers of the Jews. And this also applies to the beheading of John the Baptist, for the Pharisees and Sadducees were opposed to the preaching of John. When Herod heard of Jesus his conscience troubled him, because he had beheaded John the Baptist, and now he thinks that John was raised from the dead. And then God describes in this chapter how it came to pass that John was beheaded. Herod was married to his niece Herodias, for she was a granddaughter of Herod the Great. Herod Antipas met Herodias in Rome, where she was married to Herod’s brother Philip, not to be confused with his half-brother Philip who was ruler of the northern provinces of Ituraea and Trachonitis. Then Herodias and Herod eloped to his kingdom in the land of Palestine. But there the unholy marriage of Herod and Herodias was known, and John the Baptist said to Herod, “It is not lawful for thee to have thy brother’s wife”. And for this Herodias hated him and would have killed him, but her husband the king would not allow John to be killed, for Herod feared that John might truly be a prophet of God. Even though Herod put John in prison, when he listened to this prisoner, his words did something to Herod’s conscience, for we read in verse 20 (2X), “and when he heard him, he did many things, and heard him gladly”. But then, at Herod’s birthday the daughter of Herodias danced to the delight of Herod and his guests, and Herod promised her in verse 23 (2X), “Whatsoever thou shalt ask of me, I will give it thee, unto the half of my kingdom”. And then she asked for the head of John the Baptist. That was the moment that Herod commanded that John should be beheaded and that his head should be presented then and there to the daughter of Herodias, and she gave it to her mother. Actually, this is a strange story to be put in the Bible. This was a heathen birthday party, displaying much cruelty, of people who do not fear God, and who do not want to know what God said. God is not glorified or mentioned at all in this scene. And so, we wonder, why has God put such an elaborate story in the Bible? God could have dismissed it in two or three verses, like He has done so in Luke 9:7-9. But then we also remember that God said in 2Tim 3:16 (2X), “All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness”. How can this story in Mark 6:14-29 be profitable for doctrine and for instruction in righteousness? Let us begin with:
#1. John the Baptist (Matt 11:10,14, Isa 40:3, Mal 4:5, Matt 17:10-13)
Please turn in your Bibles to the Gospel According to Matthew, Matt 11:10 (2X). John the Baptist was the son of Zacharias and Elisabeth, who were both descendants of the first high priest, Aaron, and thus John was eminently qualified to be a priest of God, for he was of the lineage of Aaron. The OT prophesied that John would prepare the way of the Lord Jesus. He was to be the forerunner of the Lord Jesus. John’s place in the Testaments is that John was the last of the OT prophets. God says in Isa 40:3 (2X), “The voice of him that crieth in the wilderness, Prepare ye the way of the LORD, make straight in the desert a highway for our God”. The wilderness represents this world. John prepared the way of the Lord by proclaiming that repentance must accompany our entrance into the kingdom of heaven. There is no salvation without repentance. The leaders of the Jews taught them that they were entitled to go into the kingdom of heaven since they were children of Abraham. But John denied that teaching, and thus the scribes and Pharisees hated the preaching of John. The Lord Jesus confirmed this assignment to John in Matt 11:10, where He said, “For this is he, of whom it is written, Behold, I send my messenger before thy face, which shall prepare thy way before thee”. And so John as the last of the OT prophets represented the Word of God, to prepare the people that the first coming of the true Word of God, the Lord Jesus Christ, was very near. Moreover, we read in Mal 4:5 (2X), “Behold, I will send you Elijah the prophet before the coming of the great and dreadful day of the LORD”. That great and dreadful day of the Lord refers to Judgment Day, which is in fact the day when the Lord Jesus Christ hung on the cross; for the sins of all those who are to be saved have been judged on that day, and the sins of everyone else have been passed by on that day. The Lord Jesus confirmed this assignment to John, who actually came in the spirit and power of Elijah, as He said in Matt 11:14 (2X), “And if ye will receive it, this is Elias, which was for to come”. And thus John fulfilled this prophecy of Mal 4:5. It is a false piety to ascribe one of the two witnesses of Rev 11 to be Elijah, for the Lord Jesus said it here very plainly. Please turn to Matt 17:10 (2X). When the Lord Jesus came down from the Mount of Transfiguration with Peter, James and John in Matt 17, Jesus said it again very plainly that John the Baptist fulfilled the prophecy of Elijah. He said in Matt 17:10-13
Mt 17:10 And his disciples asked him, saying, Why then say the scribes that Elias must first come?
Mt 17:11 And Jesus answered and said unto them, Elias truly shall first come, and restore all things.
Mt 17:12 But I say unto you, That Elias is come already, and they knew him not, but have done unto him whatsoever they listed. Likewise shall also the Son of man suffer of them.
Mt 17:13 Then the disciples understood that he spake unto them of John the Baptist.
And who is Elijah? The name Elijah means, “My God Jehovah”. And so, Elijah is also representing the Word of God. Both John the Baptist and Elijah are representing the Word of God. And thus we are arriving at a spiritual interpretation of Herod’s birthday party. Only if we find the spiritual meaning of this birthday party can we glean from it the promise of 2Tim 3:16, that it be profitable for doctrine and for instruction in righteousness. Let us now turn our eyes to the two women in this sordid story.
Please turn again to the Gospel of Mark 6:22 (2X). First of all, it is remarkable that the daughter of Herodias has no name. Josephus wrote that her name was Salome. But God did not write that in the Bible. On purpose God left this out of the story. And so, we understand that God did this to convey to us that this daughter represents a group of religious people. We have seen many times, if we need a spiritual interpretation for a woman, she is representing a religious organization. For example, in the OT God addresses the nation of Israel as His wife. In the Bible Jerusalem is spoken of as “she”. In the NT the church is called the Bride of Christ. The apostate church of Rev 17 and 18 is represented by a female. And so on. And so the daughter of Herodias represents a religious group of people who slavishly obey another religious group of people represented by Herodias. Where are we going with this spiritual development? If we follow the teachings of God, written by the hand of the apostle Paul, we would hold on to the principle laid down in 1Cor 2:2, where the apostle Paul said,
1Co 2:2 For I determined not to know any thing among you, save Jesus Christ, and him crucified.
In other words, everything revolves around Jesus Christ and Him crucified. And thus we should see John the Baptist as the Word of God, and particularly representing the Lord Jesus Christ. And if this is the day that the Lord Jesus Christ is killed, it must represent the day of His crucifixion, which was on April 3 in the year AD 33, because in AD 33 the Passover fell on Friday April 3. Then it is clear that the daughter represent the Jewish multitudes who slavishly follow everything their priests and Pharisees tell them. Then Herodias represents the religious rulers, the priests, the high priest, the scribes, the lawyers, and the teachers such as the Pharisees and Sadducees. And thus Herod must represent the ruling party who is appointed by Rome to rule over this nation of Jews. And thus the king represents Herod and Pilate and their courts and their Roman soldiers. Let us now continue this development in the Gospel of Matthew, where the most important components of this story are retained in the first twelve verses. Please turn to the Gospel According to Matthew, Matt 14:1 (2X).
#2. Herod and His Guests (Matt 14:1-12, Luke 16:31, Deut 17:15, Gal 3:24, Jam 4:6)
Why did Herod think that John the Baptist was risen from the dead? Think now of the spiritual picture. The rulers of the Jews became aware that Christ had risen from the tomb, for they paid the soldiers who guarded the tomb to keep quiet. But according to 1Cor 15:3-8 Christ showed Himself with many proofs. And so, it came also to the ears of Herod and Pilate that Christ has risen from the dead. But did this lead them to conversion? No! For the Lord Jesus spoke of this before He went to the cross. He said in Luke 16:31 “And he said unto him, If they hear not Moses and the prophets, neither will they be persuaded, though one rose from the dead”. Let us now read from Matt 14:1-12,
Mt 14:1-4 At that time Herod the tetrarch heard of the fame of Jesus, And said unto his servants, This is John the Baptist; he is risen from the dead; and therefore mighty works do shew forth themselves in him. For Herod had laid hold on John, and bound him, and put him in prison for Herodias’ sake, his brother Philip’s wife. For John said unto him, It is not lawful for thee to have her.
Mt 14:5-6 And when he would have put him to death, he feared the multitude, because they counted him as a prophet. But when Herod’s birthday was kept, the daughter of Herodias danced before them, and pleased Herod.
Mt 14:7-8 Whereupon he promised with an oath to give her whatsoever she would ask. And she, being before instructed of her mother, said, Give me here John Baptist’s head in a charger.
Mt 14:9-11 And the king was sorry: nevertheless for the oath’s sake, and them which sat with him at meat, he commanded it to be given her. And he sent, and beheaded John in the prison. And his head was brought in a charger, and given to the damsel: and she brought it to her mother.
Mt 14:12 And his disciples came, and took up the body, and buried it, and went and told Jesus.
John was in prison for Herodias’ sake. In the spiritual picture Christ was put in prison because the religious leaders of the Jews accused Him before Pilate. Actually the religious leaders of the Jews were in an adulterous relationship with Herod and with Pilate. For both these rulers were strangers of the commonwealth of Israel. God had declared in Deut 17:15, “thou mayest not set a stranger over thee, which is not thy brother”. Both Herod and Pontius Pilate were strangers. But national Israel had not only ignored this particular detail in the Law of Moses, for if they had studied the Law faithfully then the Law would have led them to Christ. We read in Gal 3:24, “Wherefore the law was our schoolmaster to bring us unto Christ, that we might be justified by faith”. God did not put this principle here for only a few of us. God laid down this principle for all times and for all people, that if any Jew would study the Law faithfully and sincerely, they would be led to Christ. Of course it is the Holy Spirit which must give people faith and understanding of the Scriptures. But if anyone pleads with God for wisdom and sincerely searches the Scriptures we must understand that God the Holy Spirit has already prepared this person’s heart for receiving the wisdom unto salvation. Think of it, the early church in the first century AD had only the OT. This they studied and the church grew by leaps and bounds. On the other hand, national Israel was instructed by the prophets to look for a Messiah who would provide a covering for their sins. But they refused such a Gospel and preferred their own gospel of works. And why did they prefer such a gospel of works? It was because their gospel gave them a feeling of superiority over the rest of mankind. Remember, this feeling of superiority was the cause of the rise of Nazis in Germany. Their gospel gave them a good feeling about themselves, for they could see with their own eyes how much good they were doing in their service and worship. God should be proud of them. But God laid down another principle. God says that He resisteth the proud and gives grace to the humble (Jam 4:6, 1Pet 5:5). Therefore they wanted to kill the Lord Jesus Christ, because He was bringing a totally different Gospel. They hated John the Baptist, because he brought a Gospel that was essentially the same Gospel that the Lord Jesus brought. They considered the death of John and how the movement that he generated gradually died down after his death. They hoped that the same would occur when they would have killed the Lord Jesus. And so, like the historical Herodias plotted to kill John the Baptist, so the religious rulers of the Jews plotted to kill Jesus. Let us now consider:
If this beheading of John the Baptist is a picture of the crucifixion of the Lord Jesus Christ, then consider that this crucifixion took place on Passover in the year AD 33. What is Passover? It is the birthday of the nation of Israel. When they were slaves in Egypt the Lord commanded Israel to kill their Passover lamb on the 14th day of the first month (Ex 12:6). The next day they were free and they all left the land of Egypt. Not one Israelite stayed behind, for the Lord caused all of them to be strong so that they could walk out of the land of Egypt. It served as a gigantic picture of what salvation is. The Lamb of God had to be slain, in order to free us from the house of bondage. And thus every Passover was a birthday feast to remember. It began and it ended with the shedding of blood. The last legitimate Passover was when the Lord Jesus Christ hung on the cross of Calvary. It was then that the Lamb of God was killed for a covering for all the sins of the remnant chosen by grace; not only for a remnant from the nation of the Jews, but also for a remnant from all the Gentile nations. And when we consider that the year of the first Passover was 1447 BC, it is all the more amazing that exactly 1480 years later, in the year AD 33 Christ was crucified on the last Passover. When God inspired the recording of Herod’s birthday He had in view the anniversary of the nation of Israel. And so of a truth, Christ came “in the fullness of time”. It was a birthday to remember.
Let us now consider the spiritual meaning of Herod offering his stepdaughter up to half of his kingdom. Herod did not want to kill John the Baptist. What he offered to his stepdaughter was: This half is for me and that other half you may have. And the half that he wanted to retain contained John the Baptist, for he wanted to hear him again. But what the girl’s mother asked for was not the other half, but this half containing John the Baptist. And then we read in verse 9, Matt 14:9,
Mt 14:9 And the king was sorry: nevertheless for the oath’s sake, and them which sat with him at meat, he commanded it to be given her.
“And for the sake of them which sat with him at meat”. Herod wanted to please the leaders of the Jews, and thus he followed up on the oath that he took. But does God require us to obey a bad oath? This oath required murder. Herod should have negated on this bad oath, because it involved murder. Let us now consider the spiritual picture. Pilate did not want to kill Jesus. And if we consider that Herod offered up to half of his kingdom, it was as if Pilate said, this half of my kingdom is for me and that other half you may have. And the half that he wanted to retain contained Jesus, for he found no fault in Him. What represented the other half? The other half of his kingdom represented Barabbas. Pilate offered Barabbas rather than Jesus. But the Jewish leaders insisted that they wanted Jesus killed, not Barabbas. So here we see Pilate wanting to please his guests. We read in Mark 15:15,
Mr 15:15 ¶ And so Pilate, willing to content the people, released Barabbas unto them, and delivered Jesus, when he had scourged him, to be crucified.
“Pilate, willing to content the people” signed the death of Jesus. It was a murder that he had on his conscience. He did not have to do that. He could have resisted the crowd, for he was the ruler of Israel. But because he wanted to please the Jews he approved of the death of Jesus, even though he knew that Jesus was innocent. The priests and Pharisees did not like that Jesus preached a Gospel of grace. And because they were envious of Jesus’ popularity they wanted to kill Him whenever the opportunity presents itself, even on this Passover day. And so, like the daughter of Herodias received instructions from her mother, so the multitude received instruction from the priests and Pharisees. We read in Matt 27:20, “But the chief priests and elders persuaded the multitude that they should ask Barabbas, and destroy Jesus”. And like the daughter of Herodias, the people were slavishly obeying what their priests and elders asked them to do. But who was ultimately responsible for the crucifixion of the Lord Jesus Christ? God was! For even though Pilate tried to wiggle himself out of this death of Christ, God arranged it so that the Lord Jesus must be crucified, “For He shall save His people from their sins”. And this forgiveness of sins could only come when the Lamb of God would shed His blood for our sins, and would suffer the equivalent of an eternity in Hell. Let us now look at:
#3. The Special Training of the Twelve (John 16:1-2, Matt 14:13,16,22,31, 1Cor 11:24, Jam 1:5-8)
When God set the stage for this event where John the Baptist was beheaded, although God is not the author of this grievous sin, the Lord also demonstrated by this event what could come to pass for each of His disciples. The Lord Jesus said to them in John 16:1-2,
Joh 16:1 These things have I spoken unto you, that ye should not be offended.
Joh 16:2 They shall put you out of the synagogues: yea, the time cometh, that whosoever killeth you will think that he doeth God service.
And that is how this passage of Matt 14:1-12 served to teach the disciples that they must expect persecution. Then we read that Jesus withdrew Himself from the land of the Jews. We read in Matt 14
Mt 14:13 ¶ When Jesus heard of it, he departed thence by ship into a desert place apart: and when the people had heard thereof, they followed him on foot out of the cities.
This was the first withdrawal of Jesus to the region outside of Galilee. When Jesus heard of the murder of John the Baptist He moved away from the land of the Jews, and now He was ministering to the Gentiles as well as to a remnant of the Jews. But now they are in a deserted place, and the Lord is surrounded by a multitude of needy people. Here comes the second lesson to the disciples. The Lord Jesus said to them in Matt 14:16, “They need not depart; ye give them to eat”. And then Jesus taught His disciples how to feed the multitude with five loaves of bread and two fishes. This prepared them for later to feed multitudes with Christ as the Bread of Life, and they would never be short of living bread to feed, for this bread represents the Word of God. The two fishes represent people, the evangelists, who are feeding the people the Word of God, which is Christ as the Bread of Life. If you read this story carefully you will find that only the loaves of bread, representing Christ, are broken, but the text does not say that the fishes are broken. Only Christ will be broken, for we read in 1Cor 11:24,
1Co 11:24 And when he had given thanks, he brake it, and said, Take, eat: this is my body, which is broken for you: this do in remembrance of me.
Even though not a bone of Him is broken, He speaks of Him being broken for our sins. And so, the disciples were taught a lesson in feeding people spiritually.
We read that Jesus sent the disciples into a ship to the other side (Matt 14:22). And here they are taught the lesson that without Christ we can do nothing. The ship is not going anywhere because the Lord Jesus is not in the ship. And when the Lord Jesus is coming to them, walking on top of the water, they cry out in fear, for they fear that they have seen a ghost. But Jesus eased their fears, for He said, “It is I, be not afraid”. They should have known that the Lord Jesus asked them to follow Him. The Lord hand-picked these twelve disciples. And except for Judas Iscariot, they should have known that the Lord would never leave them nor forsake them. And then they saw the boldness and the faith of Peter to step outside the ship; he walked on water. And is this not a lesson for all of us, in showing us that by the grace of God we too can walk on water, so to speak. If it is necessary to do a task for the Lord, a task that we were not familiar with, or that requires extraordinary skills and power, such as preaching a sermon, by the grace of God we will succeed to do this task well and beyond our natural abilities. Only trust that Christ will be with us and that His grace is sufficient for us. And so, this adventure of Peter was a lesson for all the disciples, for the Lord Jesus said in Matt 14:31,
Mt 14:31 And immediately Jesus stretched forth his hand, and caught him, and said unto him, O thou of little faith, wherefore didst thou doubt?
Doubt is sin. When we pray let us not doubt, for we read in Jam 1:5-8,
Jas 1:5-8 If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God, that giveth to all men liberally, and upbraideth not; and it shall be given him. But let him ask in faith, nothing wavering. For he that wavereth is like a wave of the sea driven with the wind and tossed. For let not that man think that he shall receive any thing of the Lord. A double minded man is unstable in all his ways.
And so we see that the entire chapter 14 is focused on the special training of the twelve. It is a training for us also, for we too hunger after righteousness. Amen, Let us turn to the Lord in prayer.