If you are a pastor or lay person who wants to use this to preach in church – that is why I posted it. I don’t care about credit, I only care that God’s word is preached and Christ is glorified. I pray He uses this sermon in a mighty way through you. You have my permission to alter it and use it however God leads you. God bless you in your ministry. You can also bookmark this to check out the other free written sermons on my blog.
There was a television show Lost – and it kept going Back and Forth – You’d Begin watching something – and not know if it was past, current, or future. Flash back – flash forward.
If you’re just reading the Bible, as can easily happen, and not focusing, you can inadvertently skip over a sentence or two and think you’re reading about John the Baptist being beheaded as it happens. that’s not the case. It’s a flashback. People are trying to decide who Jesus is and while everyone has their opinion, Herod said, Jesus is John the Baptist, whom I beheaded… raised from the dead, and at work in Jesus.
The Scripture tells us that Herod had John put in prison. We find out that Herod had married his own brother’s wife and John (never one to be proper, dresses funny, eats weird stuff, and obviously doesn’t care what anyone thinks about him) could not play the “politically correct” games. Rather than just let it go, John tells the king that it was wrong for the king to have his brother’s wife. Herodias must have enjoyed the promotion from being married to the king’s brother to being married to the king. She wasn’t taking kindly to John interfering in her business.
John is in prison for telling the truth. And for telling it to the king. Gutsy move. But he’s not worried.
John’s got an ace in the hole. Jesus. After all, he knows Jesus. They’re family – they’re cousins. John could tell from the beginning when Jesus was nearby, clear back to the time they were next to each other in their mothers’ bellies, and John leapt in the womb.
John’s the one who proclaimed, Behold, the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world, the one whose sandals I am not worthy to untie.
I can imagine when John was first put in prison, if the song had been written 2000 years ago, John may have just been singing,
Be not dismayed what e’er be tide, God will take care of you;
All you may need he will provide, God will take care of you.
God will take care of you, through every day, o’er all the way;
he will take care of you, God will take care of you.
Jesus will get me out of this. I know what he’s going to do. Then he sits there a little while and he begins to wonder why he’s still there. So John sends his disciples to ask Jesus a question – The question is in Matthew 11:3 – “Are you the one who was to come, or should we expect someone else?”
It makes no sense to John if Jesus is the one who was to come, why John’s still setting in prison. Shouldn’t Jesus drop everything and get John out of this mess. John’s innocent. John did nothing wrong. And John had been there for Jesus. How about a little payback big guy?
If you get me out of this, I’ll go to church every Sunday.
Listen, do you even care that I’m perishing? Or are you simply not the one who can do anything about it? Are you not the one I thought you were?
Jesus gets the question from John’s disciples (“Are you the one who was to come, or should we expect someone else?”) and says, “Go tell John what you hear and see. The blind receive sight, the lame walk, people are cured of leprosy, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, and the good news is preached to the poor. Blessed is the man who does not fall away on account of me.”
When they come back and tell John that, how do you think that made John feel? Multiple Choice –
A. Oh, I feel better. B. What about me?
Jesus said one thing that is really strange in this – “Blessed is the man that does not fall away on account of me.”
Erwin McManus, in the book The Barbarian Way, says he can’t imagine anyone coming up and saying, “Too many blind people are regaining sight. I’m having a crisis of faith.” Or “If one more person who is paralyzed rises and walks, I’m out of here.” Nobody loses their faith or falls away because of miracles. So why would Jesus say to John, you will be blessed if you don’t fall away on account of me?
What Jesus was saying is way too radical and extreme for us. McManus says it’s… “too barbaric for us as mainstream Christians. Jesus was saying, “John, I’m not coming for you. I’m not getting you out of prison. I’m not sparing your life. Yes, I have done all this and more for others, but your path is different from theirs John. You will be blessed if this does not cause you to fall away.”
Mark 1:14 says, “After John was put in prison, Jesus went into Galilee proclaiming the Good News of God.”
Where is the Good News for John? This is a far cry from a Joel Osteen quote someone shared on Facebook the other day that went something like, “Look around and see how God has blessed others and believe that He can and will do the same for you.”
David Jeremiah tells a story about sitting at the table with John Wooden, legendary UCLA coach, who coached famous basketball players Bill Walton & Lew Alcinder (Kareem Abdul Jabaar). David Jeremiah said to Wooden, I’ve heard criticisms that you treated Walton and Alcinder differently than the other players, that you didn’t treat them the same as the others, that you weren’t fair. Wooden said to Jeremiah, “Don’t ever confuse treating people the same with treating people fairly.”
Jesus is fair and just. And it’s obvious that our lives here are not the same. We are all called to a similar mission, making disciples, but equipped with different gifts, and are called to do it in different ways. Not everyone is called to be a pastor. Some are. Is that fair? Some people are called to go to the most dangerous places in the world and they die. Is that fair?
John was sitting in a prison cell while others were being healed of leprosy. Is that fair? Doesn’t Jesus Care about John the Baptist?
McManus then reminds us of the Scripture from John chapter 21 – starting with verse 18 says, “When you were younger, you girded yourself and walked where you wished; but when you are old, you will stretch out your hands and gird you and carry you where you do not wish.” This He spoke, signifying by what death Peter would glorify God. And then Jesus said to Peter, ‘Follow Me”.
Peter was going to eventually follow Jesus to his own cross.
And Peter looks at John (John the disciple, not John the Baptist), who is with them and says, what about him? And Jesus said, What does it matter to you what path I have for him? You worry about you. You follow the path I have for you… and that path is to follow me to a cross.
Jesus is telling John the Baptist, you will be blessed if you stay strong and don’t fall away because of the path I have for you. It’s a different path. And so it was. John the Baptist did nothing wrong telling the King he shouldn’t have been messing around with His own sister-in-law. As a matter of fact, what he told the King was right, and I even believe John the Baptist was in the will of God, and because he did the right thing and was in the will of God, he was beheaded.
Most of us don’t want the “John the Baptist Plan” or the “Peter Plan”. We want the “Daniel in the Lion’s Den Plan”, or the “The Fiery Furnace plan” where we come out unscathed. We want to be the one miraculously healed. We want to be the one who receives material blessing. If our neighbor has a new car, we want a new car. If our neighbor’s electricity has come back on, we want ours back on. We see other Christians being blessed with health and wealth, and we think we should have health and wealth. When we see others suffer, we’re glad it’s them and not us.
But every once in a while you see someone who says, “Better that I suffer than others.” Or, why am I so special that I shouldn’t have this happening to me?” And isn’t that inspiring to see that kind of faith?
Jesus says, “Just follow the path I have for you. It’s unique. It’s not like anyone else’s.” Whatever you go through, if He doesn’t pull you out of it, at least He’ll go through it with you.
Might following Him require you to sacrifice? It probably will. Might it cost you your earthly life? It might. Is it fair? Was it fair that Christ died for our sins on the cross? God could have pulled Jesus out of there at any moment. Jesus could have called down angels to save Him. That wasn’t God’s will. For Jesus, being in God’s will meant that He would suffer and die. For John the Baptist, being in God’s will meant he would die from a beheading.
We don’t know what following Jesus will take us through, but we do know it will be different for each of us. It most likely will be dangerous at times, and it could well be deadly. But how else would you choose to live until you die?
God Bless, The message touched me, to see my self.
Very much practical sermon.
Thanks Ronald. I preached this in Haiti and thought it was a great example of how Jesus is with you in hard times, even if He doesn’t bail you out of them in this life. God bless you!
You are so true. experienceing his presence in hard times is a blessing.
Thank you ever so much! This sermon has truly blessed me. I am one who went through rough patches larger time of my life since my tender age of around 8 to 12 and am now 53 and life is still uphills all the way.
After reading this sermon; im done comparing my life to others because Ive alwats felt unlucky and bad luck. Now I know its all because of the path God has laid for me. Its not easy to swallow but at least I understand.
Thank you in the name of the Lord I am blessed
I think you summed it up beautifully. Thanks for your gracious comments.
“…I focus on this one thing: Forgetting the past and looking forward to what lies ahead…” Philippians 3:13
I am from Sri Lanka. Thank you for the sermon which gives me different perspective to see John;s beheading. This is especially true for a country recovering from 30 years of civil war
Thank you for this gift Scott, I will be using it in Wrexham, Wales next week. A great take on the story
Glory! Glory to the most high Scott! I am also preaching on this sermon next week sunday.
Scott you are the salt and the light of this universe. I thank God for blessing us through You.
Yours in Christ
Hi Scott, You have provided me with some great ideas to use in sermon preparation for next Sunday
Thanks and Blessings to you
Thank you Scott for your generous gift so freely given. Looks like many will benefit from your insight and understanding of the Gospel message. Every blessing. Carol-lay Reader.
Ruth w.m. says:
the sermon has inspired me a lot.Scott you have really encouraged me to take whatever am going thru being the path that God has chosen for me.be blessed
I am stressed out after 6 consecutive weeks of sermon composition and the anglican lectionary isnt a mine of suggestion so fell again for the beheading and have done something but cant find a punchline to end (a normal preacher’s prob ) and I shall, if I ma,y use some of your handiwork at Christchurch with St Ewen Bristol City a Prayer Book church
thank you sir. Antony
God’s blessings be abundant over your life.Amen. Am really blessed
Very good sermon to guide me in preparing for a preaching on “the cost of discipleship”