Thursday, February 26. Matthew 14:1-12.
Our theme this Lent season is “Living Upside Down.” Jesus tells us that the Kingdom of Heaven is one in which the last are first, the weak are strong, God’s love is the currency, and the king has the people’s best interest always in mind. Today’s story takes a break from the teaching of Jesus and gives us a terrifying contrast to the Kingdom of Heaven that he has been presenting.
This is a terrible and terrifying story. Herod is the picture of how the world typically works when we are ruled by selfishness, pride, and self-preservation. First of all, he was having an affair with his brother’s wife, Herodius. Second, he arrested John the Baptist because John had called him on the carpet for his affair. Then, Herod had a big party in order to impress his allies. Everybody got wasted and he commanded Herodius’ daughter to dance for all the men. He told her he would give her anything she wanted. Herodius convinced her to ask for John’s head on a platter. So, Herod executes an innocent man to save face.
Selfishness, pride, cover-up, bullying, violence. These are the things that rule our world and hold us captive. These are the things that lead to the death of the innocents. These are the things that Jesus came to turn upside down.
There isn’t really good news in this story. It is a little too much like our everyday lives. The good news is that it doesn’t have to be that way. Ask God to show you ways that you allow your own pride to lead you to treat others, or yourself, in harmful and destructive ways. Jesus has set you free from that. Let’s not live in that kingdom anymore.