July 19, 2015
Here is a question for all of you to consider. Is life fair? If you were to go on to the computer and search the World Wide Web, the answer you would get is that Life is not fair and the advice you would get is to deal or get used to it.
This morning I would like to look at that question through the eyes of scripture. And the situation that I would like to talk about was what happened so long ago to John the Baptist and also for others, here in our generation who may be asking “Is Life Fair”. My scripture text is Mark 6:14-29.
14 King Herod heard of it, for Jesus’[a] name had become known. Some were[b] saying, “John the baptizer has been raised from the dead; and for this reason these powers are at work in him.” 15 But others said, “It is Elijah.” And others said, “It is a prophet, like one of the prophets of old.” 16 But when Herod heard of it, he said, “John, whom I beheaded, has been raised.”
17 For Herod himself had sent men who arrested John, bound him, and put him in prison on account of Herodias, his brother Philip’s wife, because Herod[c] had married her. 18 For John had been telling Herod, “It is not lawful for you to have your brother’s wife.” 19 And Herodias had a grudge against him, and wanted to kill him. But she could not, 20 for Herod feared John, knowing that he was a righteous and holy man, and he protected him. When he heard him, he was greatly perplexed;[d] and yet he liked to listen to him. 21 But an opportunity came when Herod on his birthday gave a banquet for his courtiers and officers and for the leaders of Galilee. 22 When his daughter Herodias[e] came in and danced, she pleased Herod and his guests; and the king said to the girl, “Ask me for whatever you wish, and I will give it.” 23 And he solemnly swore to her, “Whatever you ask me, I will give you, even half of my kingdom.” 24 She went out and said to her mother, “What should I ask for?” She replied, “The head of John the baptizer.” 25 Immediately she rushed back to the king and requested, “I want you to give me at once the head of John the Baptist on a platter.” 26 The king was deeply grieved; yet out of regard for his oaths and for the guests, he did not want to refuse her. 27 Immediately the king sent a soldier of the guard with orders to bring John’s[f] head. He went and beheaded him in the prison, 28 brought his head on a platter, and gave it to the girl. Then the girl gave it to her mother. 29 When his disciples heard about it, they came and took his body, and laid it in a tomb. This is the Word of God. Thanks be to God.
Let me give you some background information. The Herod family was a dysfunctional unit. If there were alive today, their lives would be the inspiration for some of the television soap operas or their own cable channel reality show.
Let me start with the top of the family tree. King Herod the Great. He was the one met the Wisemen and tried to kill the baby Jesus. He was considered so paranoid that he put to death 3 sons and one of his wives. But the one son who survived his father’s madness and who succeeded him was Herod Antipas that Ray just read about. Herod Antipas was a politician in every sense of the word and a person of low morals.
On a trip to visit his brother Philip, Herod Antipas had an affair with his brother’s wife Herodias. He was so taken with Herodias, that he divorced his wife Phasaelis. He then eloped and married Herodias.
Meanwhile, Herod’s ex father in law King Aretis of the country of Nabataea became so angry at Herod, that he declared war against his former son in law and there was actually fighting. That was the international situation that greeted John as he began to baptize.
So was life fair? It wasn’t for Herod’s brother Philip. It wasn’t for his ex-wife Phasaelis. It wasn’t fair for those innocent soldiers who were killed in the border war.
It makes me think. We too can be victims of other people’s cruelty. We can be hurt by the people who are supposed to love us the most. And whenever we experience life’s unfairness, we have a choice. We can remain bitter and play the victim, so in our misery we drive others away.
But the best thing we can do is to trust in the Lord and allow the spirit of the Lord to bind up those wounds. I know this is a hard thing to do, but forgiveness and letting go is the best option.
In regards to our gospel text, with the political intrigue of a royal affair, a royal divorce, a royal elopement, a royal second marriage, a very angry ex father in law, and a border war, John the Baptist shows up and begins to preach repentance, not too far from King Herod’s southern palace. And in time, John was arrested and placed in the dungeon.
So was life fair to John? When he spoke God’s truth about King Herod’s personal life? Only to be thrown into jail and eventually lose his life. The answer to that is to look at it from God’s perspective and the time of eternity.
Sometimes it is difficult to do what is right and live for God and only to have something bad happen. It is discouraging if we do something nice for another person, only to have it thrown back in our faces. It hurts when we go out of our way and go the second mile to be of assistance only to be misunderstood and rejected. When that happens, it doesn’t feel very good and you almost want to give up.
An example of how life seems to be unfair was when Missionary Jim Elliot was called to preach the gospel to the Auca Indians who lived in the jungles of Ecuador. At the time the Auca’s were totally isolated and hostile to anyone who ventured into their territory.
It was 1955; a newly married Jim Elliot flew into the jungles of Ecuador to bring Christ to a people who were dangerous and hostile.
When Jim and his four companions landed, they were ambushed and killed by these natives. What was tragic about this was that these missionaries had come to do only good. But was it fair? Was it fair to Jim’s family? To his wife Elizabeth? To the four other wives who lost husbands and their families? So was it fair? To most people it was not fair, but a senseless murder.
But there is always a silver lining. After the five wives had sufficiently grieved for their slain husbands, they decided to finish the work. Guess what they did?
The five ladies flew into Ecuador and went to the spot where their husbands were killed. The Auca Indian warriors were so impressed by the bravery of these women, and in time, the majority of Auca Indians accepted the Christian message and made a profession of faith where they invited Jesus Christ to be their Savior and Lord.
When we think of life as fair or unfair, we have to factor in God and his will. Romans 8:28 says We know that all things work together for good for those who love God, who are called according to his purpose. So when we think in terms of eternity and the will of God, we can often see the big picture.
On Herod’s birthday, a jealous wife set in motion, circumstances to kill John. Knowing her husband’s lust, proven by the fact that he pursued her. She sent in her daughter Salome to dance provocatively for him and his guests.
As the dance ended, Herod’s emotions got the better of him, and we know what happened. So was life fair to John the Baptist? In partial answer to that, Jesus did say in Matthew 11:1 “Truly I say to you, among those born of women, there has arisen no one greater than John the Baptist. “
So when we look at the question of fairness, we must think in terms of eternity or the greater good. We had saying that we used in the military “That it is better to lose the battle and win the war.” Yes, there is life beyond the grace, and if any situation is not resolved in this life, it will be in the next.
Let me share some other scriptures that have helped believers down through the ages.
Hebrews 6:10 For God is not unjust, he will not overlook your work and the love that you showed for his sake in serving the saints, as you still do.
If we find ourselves in a tough situation, think of James 1:12 and Isaiah 41:10.
James 1:12 Blessed is anyone who endures temptation. Such a one has stood the test and will receive the crown of life that the Lord has promised to those who love him.
Isaiah 41:10 Do not fear, for I am with you, do not be afraid, for I am your God; I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my victorious right hand.
A familiar, perhaps favorite is Isaiah 40:31.
Isaiah 40:31 But those who wait for the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings like Eagles.
This morning I am wearing on my lapel suit jacket this Arabic letter. It is pronounced nun. I have this on in solidarity for those persecuted Christians in Iraq and Syria. Let me explain. When ISIS learns that Christian believers live in a given place or house, what they will do is spray pain this Arabic symbol on the house. This symbol is shorthand for Nasrani, which means Nazarene – and unfortunately those believers of Jesus the Nazareth or Jesua now become are targeted. Unless they convert to Islam, this family will be forced to flee or their houses will become destroyed. In many cases there are abductions where there is sexual abuse and the people serve as slavery. Others are executed for their faith.
A question that those Iraqi and Syrian Christians might be asking? Is life fair? John the Baptist in the dungeon had to ask the same question. They might answer, Life is not fair, but God is just and fair.
We are fortunate to live in the United States of America, where we have religious freedom and most likely our faith will never be tested like this.
But there are other tests that we will face. We will fall on hard times. There will be other unfortunate circumstances that will upset us. Some will be major, some will be minor, but nonetheless, we may mutter under our breathe life is unfair, but God is fair and just and kind and merciful.
We need to trust in him with all our hearts, souls and minds. To commit our ways to him and build up our faith as we look at things through the eyes of eternity.