Reading in Matthew this morning about Herod and John the Baptist I noticed an interesting contrast between the two. Herod issued a decree to have all the male children under two years old killed. He had been told by the Magi, or wise-men, a King had been born and he wanted to put a stop to anyone growing up as a rival to his throne. This sounds like quite a drastic measure to me but it really just goes to show us the depths a fallen man will go to in order to maintain his authority.
Sometimes I think we don’t really understand how far we have fallen. Most of us see ourselves as not that bad, but in some cases it seems mankind’s fall landed us in a position not too far above the animal kingdom. Have you ever watched any of those nature shows, especially the one’s about lions? You’ll see a male lion find a female to mate with and then he sets out to make sure there aren’t any other males in the territory. His whole drive and motivation in life is to eat and procreate and anything that gets in the way of that is in danger of being snuffed out.
So think with me for a minute. Herod, being the King, would have probably looked pretty prestigious if you saw him in his robes and his lavish living quarters; yet if you looked at him on the inside you would have thought him a beast. He was behaving exactly the way a male lion would act in that he was going around killing anyone he perceived to be a threat to his throne. I don’t know about you but this sounds pretty beastly to me. It seems Herod is a perfect example of fallen man’s attempts at greatness apart from the Spirit of God. John the Baptist, on the other hand, is a different story.
As we are introduced to John the Baptist we learn right away he’s a godly man. He is in the wilderness preaching repentance and baptizing people who confess their sins. We also learn something else about him, his appearance. “John’s clothes were made of camel’s hair, and he had a leather belt around his waist. His food was locusts and wild honey.” If you were looking at John the Baptist you would have thought him the beast instead of Herod, at least as far as appearance was concerned.
In the fall of man we became focused on the outer man while God is looking to the inner. Jesus told the religious leaders of his day, those who looked good on the outside, “First clean the inside of the cup and dish, and then the outside also will be clean…You are like whitewashed tombs, which look beautiful on the outside but on the inside are full of dead men’s bones and everything unclean. In the same way, on the outside you appear to people as righteous but on the inside you are full of hypocrisy and wickedness.”
Let me finish by quoting the Apostle Paul. “Look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen: for the things which are seen are temporal; but the things which are not seen are eternal.” There is one more thing to think about though. Whatever is on the inside of a person will eventually be revealed. Herod looked good on the outside but the murderous intentions of his heart were manifested when he commanded mass murder. In the same way John the Baptist looked rough on the outside but his heart for God came out through his humble and sacrificial attitude.