Devotional

Execution of Hopes and Dreams

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Matthew 14:1-14

Isaiah prophesied about “a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief” (KJV). In Chapter 53 (:3) he writes about the sufferings, fulfilled at the time of our Lord’s crucifixion. However, Jesus was not wrapped up in His own suffering; He grieved at other times. He wept when Lazarus died, and folks with Him marvelled at how much He loved Lazarus. Perhaps that was a small indication of how much He loved all His followers, then and now. Jesus also grieved over the city of Jerusalem because they would not receive Him as their Messiah (Matthew 23:37).

Today we are looking at another situation which caused him grief. Jesus had a deep respect for His cousin John. He described him as a man of truth, a shining light, bearing witness to His own entry into ministry (John 5:33-35). Matthew records words of highest praise: “Among those born of women, there has not risen anyone greater than John the Baptist” (11:11).

Just a short while later Herod had John imprisoned because John had openly rebuked his marriage to Herodias. She had been his brother Philip’s wife but had been persuaded to leave her husband, and to marry Herod Antipas. This was tantamount to incest (Leviticus 18:16). John called their marriage unlawful (Matthew 14:4).

John didn’t languish in prison long. The royals had a party to celebrate King Herod’s birthday. The stakes were high, as his step-daughter danced before the crowd. He promised her with an oath, to give her whatever she asked, because her dancing was so exotic. You know the story. Prompted by her mother, the girl asked for the head of John the Baptist on a platter. How gory is that?!

How did Jesus deal with sorrow when He heard about His beloved cousin? He withdrew into a quiet place to be alone (Matthew 14:13) – from His history we could assume He needed time with His heavenly Father. How do we deal with grief? Do we “take it to the Lord in prayer”? The lyricist goes on –

“In His arms He’ll take and shield Thee

Thou wilt find a solace there”.

However, the story doesn’t end there. Jesus was not allowed to grieve alone. The crowds discovered where He was. Most of us would have our friends drive them away. Not Jesus! He had compassion on them and fed them, healing their sick. (Matthew 14:15-16)

It was not an execution as such, but recently a friend was found by his young wife, dead in their bed. Another friends described it this way “She went to bed a happily married Mom and woke up a single Mom”. Her life, as she had known it had been chopped, a dreadful execution of all she had known. How will she ever manage such grief?

Reflection:

When we are in shock, can we acknowledge our feelings to God or do we try to hide them? The reality is no one can explain this kind of tragedy. Perhaps it doesn’t equate with what happened to John who perished at the hands of an evil man, but we can learn a lesson from the ways in which Jesus faced His grief. With Lazarus He shed tears. He listened to the weeping sisters and He spent time with them. He continued ministering the truths of God’s Word to crowds in Jerusalem, gathered at the temple, fickle as He knew them to be. At John’s death, working, doing what God sent Him to do, took precedence over His personal grief. Once again I am challenged by the life of my Lord!

by Marilyn Daniels (MarilynDaniels.net)

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