THE BOOK OF ACTS – HEROD’S STICKY END

HEROD’S STICKY END

“At daybreak the jail was in an uproar. ‘Where is Peter? What’s happened to Peter?’ When Herod sent for him and they could not produce him nor explain why not, he ordered their execution. ‘Off with their heads!’ Fed up with Judea and the Jews, he went for a vacation to Caesarea.” Acts 12:18-19 (The Message).

Judgment on Roman soldiers who didn’t do their job was swift and sure. No commission of inquiry, no lengthy probing into the reasons why Peter had disappeared; the soldiers failed and they must pay for their neglect. Of course they had no answer for Peter’s disappearance. It was a supernaturally orchestrated escape, outside the power of the soldiers to understand or prevent.

In typical ‘Herod’ fashion, because his plan to entertain himself and his Jewish subjects by murdering Peter was thwarted, sixteen innocent Romans had to do instead of Peter. To cool his anger he took off for Caesarea for a breath of sea air!

“But things went from bad to worse for Herod. Now people from Tyre and Sidon put him on the warpath. But they got Blastus, King Herod’s right-hand man to put in a good word for them and got a delegation together to iron things out. Because they were dependent on Judea for food supplies, they couldn’t afford to let this go on too long. On the day set for their meeting Herod, robed in pomposity, took his place on the throne and regaled with them a lot of hot air. The people played their part to the hilt and shouted flatteries. ‘The voice of God! The voice of God!’

“This was the last straw. God had had enough of Herod’s arrogance and sent an angel to strike him down. Herod had given God no credit for anything. Down he went. Rotten to the core, a maggoty old man if ever there was one, he died.” Acts 12:20-23 (The Message).

God’s cup of wrath finally spilled over. Herod’s curriculum vitae was filled with acts of violence and arrogance that clearly indicate who he worshipped – himself! There was no-one quite like him in his eyes. He was so blinded by his self-importance that he didn’t even realise that the people of Caesarea were mocking him, not praising him. He absorbed their flattery like a sponge and displayed like a peacock.

How many times had God given Herod an opportunity to repent? He had had numerous encounters with God through Jesus and through His people but he was so filled with self-importance that he missed every one of them. Just one encounter with Jesus should have been enough to shake him off his pedestal. He was too blind to see his opportunities.

Others in Jesus’ earthly ministry had been transformed by their meeting with Him; Mary Magdalene, Zaccheus, Nicodemus, the dying thief, a multitude of unnamed people who had been healed, the Samaritan woman, the woman caught in adultery, and even the Apostle Paul en route to a mission of destruction in Damascus had met Jesus and never been the same again.

Herod’s meeting with Jesus when He was on trial for His life had left him untouched – just as arrogant, blind and wicked as before. Why? He was too enamoured with himself to need another God to worship. When he foolishly accepted the title of “God”, it put the signature of God Himself to his death sentence. In one swift action, God showed him who was God.

How many times does God give us opportunity to repent and how many times do we miss it because we are too full of ourselves to recognise God’s grace. Pharaoh had at least ten opportunities and he threw them all away. The list of Bible characters who signed their own death sentence is endless.

But others saw and seized the chance to lay hold of God’s mercy. One man immediately comes to mind — David. In spite of a list of heinous sins; lust, adultery, trickery, murder and lies, his immediate response to the prophet Nathan’s challenge was: ‘I have sinned!’ He could not escape the consequences of his choices but he was restored to fellowship with God who was more precious to him than life itself.

What opportunities to experience God’s forgiveness and grace are we missing because we are blinded by arrogance or no sense of need? We must be careful that, like Herod, we do not miss our last opportunity to repent and the hammer falls!

“Meanwhile the ministry of God’s word grew by leaps and bounds.

“Barnabas and Saul, once they had delivered the relief offering to the church in Jerusalem, went back to Antioch. This time they took John with them, the one they called Mark.” Acts 12:24-25 (The Message).

Barnabas and Saul — up to this point Saul was still the learner. Barnabas had been the teacher and initiator and Saul the follower. His apprenticeship would soon come an end and he would become the strong leader of the missionary enterprise that would take the gospel into the heart of the Roman Empire – the very household of Caesar.

Barnabas and Saul fulfilled their commission to take help to the church in Jerusalem. They quickly returned to Syrian Antioch which was fast becoming the new centre of the church, away from Jewish persecution and far more open-minded than the Jerusalem church which was still Jewish at heart.

Another character enters the story — John Mark, a relative of Barnabas. His name has already popped up in Luke’s record, as though he was known to his reader. Who was John Mark? Traditionally he was the unknown youth who fled naked into the dark during Jesus’ arrest. His mother’s home was a gathering place for the church in Jerusalem, where they prayed when Peter was in prison at the hands of Herod.

 

He was also traditionally the author of the second gospel, having at some stage either accompanied Peter or laid his hands on a copy of Peter’s memoirs which he used as a basis for his gospel story. He had a chequered career as a companion of Barnabas and Saul for a short time on their first missionary journey, and a quitter who was the cause of a serious rift between Paul and Barnabas. Paul and Mark were later reconciled and he became a valuable asset to Paul in his ministry.

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Luella Campbell


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