In life we will be discouraged, confined or depressed, but we can still choose to trust and follow Jesus when things don't make sense to us.
Here’s how we’re going to approach this. When we left off talking about John, he had this moment where he identifies Jesus as the Messiah. He had said he had come to prepare the way for Messiah. But he’s kind of caught off guard when he sees Jesus. John has this moment in the baptism where he hears that voice from Heaven. From that moment on John declared Jesus, as the lamb of God who has to take away the sin of the world, the promised one, the Messiah. He was the one that John said he had come to prepare the way for. But what we also know is after that had happened, John started pointing people towards Jesus. John really didn’t know what to do with himself. It wasn’t really clear. He was 30 years old, just in his utter prime. It wasn’t clear now that he had fulfilled what was in his mind. Which was his one purpose that God had given him, to prepare the way for the Messiah.
Now that has happened. So what was next? It wasn’t like they had this post baptism conversation, a debrief. That didn’t happen. They kind of both went their separate ways. Jesus went His way. John, it seemed for a period of time, is running a parallel ministry with Jesus. Jesus is doing His ministry in a part of the Jordan, starting to baptize, teach, and heal. John also continues doing what he was doing, even though he knows something’s changed. John doesn’t know what else to do. He keeps baptizing people with the followers who stayed with him onto a place of openness for the new thing that God was doing. This continues for a while until something occurs that changes the equation. This is what I want us to look at. What happened that changed things?
We read about this, and you have your Bibles. You can follow in the handout as well. You can also use your Bible app. In Luke 3, I have three passages, but I’m going to look at Luke 3:18. Let’s follow along. It says, “So with many other exhortations he,” look at that, that would be John, “preached good news to the people.” We’re then given this other interesting detail. “But Herod the tetrarch who had been reproved by him for her Herodias, his brother’s wife, and for all the evil things that Herod had done added this to them all. He locked up John in prison.”
Some of us read this, we think, “who is this?” Is this the same Herod that is talked about at the time of Jesus’s birth? And The answer would be no. That Herod, who ends up having all the children in that region under the age of two killed, because he fears that there’s a Cain that’s going to be born. Remember the time of the Wise Men, is going to take his place. That Herod, who’s known ironically, because he’s more ignominious than he is really famous is also known as Herod the Great. He gave himself that name. Yeah, you can do that, I guess. So Herod the Great had been given that authority by Rome. It was kind of a vassal king.
The Romans held the ultimate authority with the Roman Praetorian Guard, and of course, the guards, Pilot, and the governors, et cetera. The Kings were allowed to be there to keep the peace. Herod was the king at the time he had sons. Later on, his sons are given the opportunity to divide up what had been the territory of Herod the Great. The Herod that is being spoken of here was called the tetrarch. That is, Rome gave them a quarter of the responsibility with the other brothers of overseeing the region of Israel at the time of Jesus and John the Baptist. So, Herod, that has been referred to here as a man, who’s also known as Herod Antipas. The reason this is coming up is because Herod Antipas ends up having an affair with his brother Phillip’s wife Herodias. Here’s the other detail. Herodias is the niece of Philip, her husband. Therefore also Herod is her uncle.
Got all that? Okay. They’re like the Royal family, they’re all intermarrying with everybody, but then they have this sorted affair that sort of… and Herod has Herodias come with him, remarries her, they have a … Herod sort of adopts the daughter of Phillip and Herodias. That daughter’s name was Salome. We don’t know a lot about Salome. She’s going to come up later. We know one thing, she was a good dancer. That’s one thing we know about Salome and you’re going to find out why. Here’s the thing. What happens is, this is the news of the day. This was all the buzz. It would have been this controversial headline. This sorted affair is much discussed. If it was today on social media, everybody would be going back and forth on this. I guarantee you, it would be the lead story on TMZ. No question in my mind right now about that.
We know that a majority of the Jewish people, the everyday folk, the common people, who live their daily lives, were bothered. They weren’t pleased with the actions of Herod and the scandal and what had occurred. It was not something that was really popular. They resented all the Herods, right? They didn’t see them as being legitimate. They felt they were just propped up by Rome. On top of that, the ruling class had sought to emulate the ruling classes of Rome. Particularly in relation to, what one writer called, the fashion of the times. They said that the Herods had caught, in relation to the Roman elite, the fashion of the times. Particularly in terms of their immorality and debauchery, which were commonplace. They were very fashionable and it was just considered fashionable.
Most people kept quiet about it. You didn’t want to get in trouble. Why make trouble? But there was one man who, when he was pressed, took a public stance against them. That was John. John was not one to pull back. He personally seemed to have had a relationship with Herod. They clearly had some discussions, but each time John was consistent, just as he had been in the public, he also was in private. He told Herod that what he was doing was wrong, that it was shameful. We read about this in Mark 6, look at it with me.
This is the second piece there. It says, “It was Herod who had sent and sees John and bound him in prison for the sake of Herodias.” Now we’re given more details. Look at this, his brother Phillip’s wife. There it is. Because he had married her. For John had been saying to Herod it’s not lawful. It’s not right for you to have your brother’s wife. Herodias, the wife, had a grudge against John. We’re told very explicitly, she wanted John put to death. He was a problem, but she could not do it because Herod wouldn’t do it. When we’re told here, in verse 20, Herod feared John. That is, he really held him in high regard, knowing that he was a righteous and a holy man, he kept him safe. Then when Herod heard him, he was, look at the way the Bible describes it, both greatly perplexed, and yet he heard him gladly. Look at that. Look how that’s being described.
Herod has this kind of fear, reverence, and respect for John. He also wants John’s approval. He’s intrigued by John. Part of Herod is compelled by John, stirred by him. Herod has this kind of religious side to him. John’s charisma, his prophetic bent, and all-out kind of thing for God. It really appealed to Herod. On top of that, how can we say it, Herod had this superstitious, kind of spiritual side to him. Herod knew that John was from God and he loved it. Herod, it would seem, listened to John talk about spiritual things, the scriptures.
Herod really loved everything about John, except his traditional views about marriage and morality. Even that he would put up with if John would just tone it down. Right? That’s what’s going on here. But John was, again, privately and publicly declaring his disapproval and saying it was not lawful. That in the eyes of God, and according to the scriptures, it was sinful. Herod was not amused. His wife Herodias was filled with bitter anger and resentment. She made it known she wanted the man silenced. The man they called the Baptist, silenced and put to death.
Herod would not agree to have him executed, but he did agree to silence him. He agreed to have him put in prison, but not just any prison. He was put in a palace prison on a mountain. It was a place called Machaerus. You can still see Machaerus today. You can at least see the mountain itself in that body of water. On the very, very top of it, you can still see the ruins of the palace that Herod had held John in. It’s on the Jordan side of that body of water. Do you see that body of water? That’s the Dead Sea, the lowest place on earth. John is on this 3,800-foot mountain. That has been his region, that wilderness. John knew that wilderness. Now he’s sitting in a cell, locked up on the top of Machaerus in the palace up there. That’s where he’s put. From time to time, we also know, Herod would find his way over to talk with John and to speak with him. It was almost like Herod took kind of satisfaction. He had locked up his pastor, if you will, right? His private priest that he could visit any time he wanted to, locked up just for him. That was John’s plight. The prophet was confined in bars. The man of space and wilderness accustomed to open-air and big sky locked in a cell.
It can beat the life out of you. It would be hard enough for any of us, but for a man like John, who had been a man of the wilderness, that layer of confinement, he must have felt trapped. He has seen wild animals. He must have felt like a trapped animal in a cage. All he had done was try to honor God. Now he’s stuck there. That’s the picture we’re given, right? It sets the table for this remarkable exchange that’s recorded in the Bible. It’s the last piece of scripture that I want us to look at. It’s in Luke 7:18. It says, ‘then disciples of John reported all these things,’ right? Because what would happen is, now stay with me, although John was confined in a prison cell at the top of Machaerus, he was allowed to have visitors. He would have some of his disciples from time to time come and talk. One of the things we clearly see is what they’re talking about. John wants to talk to them, “hey, tell me what’s going on with Jesus.”
Remember he has said Jesus was the Messiah. He’s having these discussions that say the disciples reported all these things to him, the things that Jesus was doing. Here’s a problem for John, on top of the fact that he was in a place that was just beating the life out of him, he’s hearing these reports about Jesus that don’t really line up with his expectations. Because Jesus and John were so different. I mean, John is this ascetic. He’s pulled out of culture. He speaks on the outside of culture. Jesus is so different. Jesus is moving in a way that John wouldn’t have. He’s engaging people, even corrupt people. Jesus is talking about how the kingdom of God is present for them. He’s engaging in life. He’s eating, going with them, and participating in life, not abusing it, not abusing it. Jesus is participating in it, in a way that was very different from what John envisioned. On top of that, John was thinking Jesus is going to bring certain things to play and they’re not happening. So John starts to churn. What did he say? They’re having to discuss. Finally, what we’re told here is that John gets to a point where he’s not sure if he got it right.
I see him standing there, again by the bars, looking out and beginning to hear the reports about Jesus. In his depression, discouragement, loss of freedom, and in the darkness of his cell, he is so alone, so confined. Then to hear these stories about Jesus, he begins to wonder, “Did I get it right? Did I get it right?” There was no mistaking how he had felt. Remember the first time they meet, John’s not expecting Jesus. He doesn’t think that Jesus is the one. He baptized Him. But there’s something that resonates in his soul that says, this is the one. He hears this voice. This is my beloved son whom I’m well pleased with, sees this sign, a heavenly sign, like a dove, something like that. John’s convinced he’s the one. But then as the months go by and as John is in this place, he begins to wonder if maybe he got it wrong.
You know, John said that he was going to usher in change. I don’t see any change. He said he was going to set things right. There’s nothing being set right. Nothing seems to be happening. Then again, it’s almost like John is working this through. “Did I make a mistake? Is he the one? Maybe I felt something, but he’s not the one. He’s just the one to lead us to the one who’s actually going to come after him. Is he the real one?” Right? Do you know what I mean? This is what I need you to do. I need you to go back to Him. I need you to go find Him. I need you to tell Him this. You tell him, John has a question for you. Tell Him, this is the question. Are you the one? I just want to double-check here? Are you the one? Or should we be looking for another? Be specific. Look at what happens. Are you the one? Or shall we look for another?
Look what it says. It says they go to Jesus and they say, “John, the Baptist sends us to you saying, are you the one who is to come? Or shall we look for another?” John asks a question. He wants to double-check that you are the one. He wants you to answer this call. Jesus does not immediately answer the question. He doesn’t stop what He’s doing. I try to imagine them coming, making this request, and Jesus doesn’t engage them. They’re on the side, and Jesus just keeps on doing what He’s been doing. It says, “In that hour, He healed. Many people have diseases and plagues and evil spirits, physical and spiritual movement on whom many were blind. He bestowed sight.” Jesus is this master healer, rearranging DNA at a level that goes even beyond what we can presently do now. We can do a lot of things now that would have seemed like science fiction to generations ago. Our knowledge is still growing. The Lord was able to heal with touch, word, and rearrange things immediately, the great physician. Go and tell John what you have seen. He says to them now, “Look, this is what I want you to do. You go back. You had a question for me. Here’s your answer. Go and tell John what you have seen and heard. Tell him this, the blind, receive their sight. The lame walk, lepers are cleansed. Their skin was restored. The deaf can hear. The dead are raised up. I tell you the poor have heard the good news preached to them. All the prophetic things are coming to pass. John will know what I mean. Oh, and one more thing. Tell him one more thing.” This one catches us off guard. I don’t think anybody would have expected it. “Tell him one more thing. Blessed is the one who is not offended by me.” Even more literally it means, blessed is he who finds no occasion to stumble in me.
It was actually a gentle and beautiful word of caution. He was saying if, in effect, and I quote the greater expository G. Campbell Morgan, “John, if you cannot understand my method, I ask you to trust me. When you are unable to see why I am doing what I am doing or why I’m not doing what you think I ought to be doing, all I ask is that you follow and trust me.” What a powerful word that is for us. Sometimes we’re going to be asked to do that as well. What I want to do is drill deeper and approach this from an all-in perspective. Let me suggest this about all-in and the way Jesus moves with John. All-in realizes that there are going to be times in life, and I wish it wasn’t so, but there are going to be times in life when we are going to feel confined and perhaps discouraged. Maybe even find ourselves in a season of depression.
I wish it wasn’t so, but it is real. You know, sometimes feelings of something is wrong and I can’t solve it. Something’s not fair. It’s not right. I’m stuck. I can’t get out of this. It’s not going the way I thought it was going to go. That feeling can lead to frustration. That frustration over time can lead to a place of real discouragement. Deep discouragement sets in. If that deep discouragement sets in long enough and is followed with certain other things one after the other, you know what can happen? We can, and it’s especially true if we have a personality that tends to move this way. We can fall into a place of depression.
I look at John, and I see John in the dungeon or at least in the cell on Machaerus. It’s dark, maybe a flickering light. It’s unbearably hot, and the air is stale. He’s been deprived for the most part of fresh air, just a little trickling in the hot desert. He is forced to look out those bars and wonder, “Is this my plight for serving God?” Why is this? Again, the man of open sky and open-air confined and deprived at loss for the why. On top of that, what’s happened to him, he’s unsure of Jesus. He is a man in his prime. A man of action and energy. Now he’s idle and on the shelf. He has lost most of his following, though few loyal ones remain. “Why God, was I not faithful to you? Did I not obey?” He wavers. Do you know what we’re told? Really, what happens here, the man of prophetic steel, his legs buckle. Right? His faith legs shake if you will. His faith buckles, he needs reinforcement. So John sends his disciples out again.
They’re going to be times when it’s hard. You know, what’s interesting is which profit they often said John reminded them of? It was Elijah. If you study Elijah, they said, you remind us of Elijah. Some people say “He’s Elijah returned.” Right? They said of all the prophets of the Old Testament, you remind us of Elijah. But when you look at Elijah’s life, you realize that of all the prophets of God in the older Testament, he is the one prophet that has the deepest struggle with depression. There’s that moment where Elijah literally has this crisis. He’s so depressed that he basically says, “Lord, why don’t you just let me die?” He wants to die. Elijah had this emotional roller coaster kind of personality. He could be way up. Then he could come down into a huge dip. I wonder if John was a little bit like that.
John started thinking about it. It was his fate to languish in this awful place because of the whim of some vacillating, spineless, puppet king and his cruel wife. Now I’m here for how long? I don’t know. I don’t even know if Jesus is the one I thought he was. Why is he doing things the way he’s doing them? I think there are going to be times when we’re going to be discouraged like that and depressed about our circumstances. There are. Things did not go the way we had hoped. Perhaps some of us. I think it’s possible some of us are there now. We’ll be discouraged about it. Some of us are more prone to melancholy than depression, but some of us are prone to it. We fall into these deep places, kind of like a dark pit. A cloud settles over us. I tend to be melancholy at times. Sad hues start to come along the way. Gentlemen, I think that can happen in life.
You just can’t get stuck there. I, again, fall back to the words of Jesus to our questioning prophet. What does Jesus say to him? What does he say? He says, “Blessed are the unoffended of me.” Oh, by the way, “blessed are the unoffended of me.” Do you know what that is? That’s sometimes called the Forgotten Beatitude. The attitudes of Jesus recorded in the Sermon on the Mount, many of us know them. We’ve read them. But this is sometimes called the Forgotten Beatitude, the Forgotten Blessed. “Blessed are those who are unoffended of me.”
What does that even mean? What does that even mean? Vance Havner, who was Billy Graham’s favorite preacher, was an old country, kind of backcountry, preacher. He says, “blessed is the one who is not offended to me means this,” This is what Jesus meant. He says “blessed is the one who doesn’t get upset by the way I run my business.” For those of us who would be all-in, remember this, all-in means choosing to live as a blessed one who takes no offense. Instead embraces Jesus. Do you see that?
This is not only a great word, it is the best way to live in an era of bad news. This is the good news, right? No matter what happens in life. By the grace of God, Lord help us to live unoffended. Where will we focus? On Him. On Him. Remember it must have crossed John’s mind, “if Jesus is the Messiah and the one to set things in order, then why am I here in this place? If he can do miracles and wonders, including raising a girl from the dead. Why can’t he rescue me? What’s more, he has sent me no word. I’ve heard nothing from him. He hasn’t even communicated with me. What’s going on here? He’s just been silent.” Tell John this. Let it be. Blessed are those who are undefended of me.
Wow. So let it be with us. Stay unoffended. Stay unoffended with God in His wisdom and timing. No need to second guess. That’s what he’s saying. Like Jesus is saying to John, “Don’t second guess this. Okay. Everything is as it should be, let it be, let it be.” That is a great principle. I’ve told a few people this from time to time. I said, don’t pull away from God because you’re having trouble. That’s the time when you get close to God. That’s the exact opposite. Don’t make the Lord your enemy. That’s such a temptation. Why did you do this? God, why didn’t you show up for me? Why did you let this happen? Don’t go there. Don’t do that.
John’s stuck. He’s confined. He’s feeling awful about the life that he has now. He’s questioning Jesus. Jesus says, don’t be offended over me. As a general principle, we need to trust that God knows what He’s doing. So the principal specifically is, don’t be offended by Jesus. But in general, the principle is don’t be offended. Period. Blessed are the unoffended. Stay unoffended with others as well. Do you understand what I’m saying? Life is too short to be anything but grateful. There is no room for bitterness or offense. We will choose the way of the unoffended. But I have been wronged. Blessed are the unoffended. But I’ve been mistreated. Blessed are the unoffended. But I have been overlooked. Blessed are the unoffended. But I have not been blessed. Blessed are the unoffended.
Do you remember? What did Jesus mean? Sometimes it might help us to do this, flip what Jesus said, ‘Blessed are those who are not offended by me.’ Flip it over. Do you know what it says? Happy are those who trust in me. Happy are those who trust in me all-in means, following and trusting in Jesus. Choosing happiness as a way of life. I’ll say that again. All-in means, following and trusting in Jesus and choosing happiness as a way of life. Just like John was being encouraged to do. Trusting Jesus even when it doesn’t make sense to us. To us. What does that mean?
It means placing our confidence and our trust in His words, promises, and actions. Jesus said, tell John what I am doing. Then told him not to be offended and stumbled over me. Tell him happy is the one who trusts. Happy is the one who trusts. When we believe that, we align our words and our attitudes accordingly. A lot of times we’ll say, well, depending on my circumstances. Then I’ll be happy. Well, I’m not sure about that. I mean, what determines that or what determines our attitude? Which leads, who, what leads, which?
If our circumstances are always determining our attitudes, then we will always be up and down on the basis of what’s happening to us, around us, or with other people who are treating us in a certain way. Always. My happiness will always be dependent on circumstances and things I cannot control. We will be offended, always, always over something. They didn’t do this. Why did this happen? Where was God? Not showing up for me? Why did she treat me this way? Why is he acting like that? Always. I was overlooked. I’m mad. Always. If our attitude, though, is what defines our circumstances, then I can walk through anything in Christ. Anything.
I was thinking about this. When they saw Jesus, they did not say there is the seriously angry brooding man. They didn’t say that. They said, there he is. He’s a holy man, but he’s a happy man. He’s a happy man. When the Lord wants us to be a happy people. I’m not talking about fluff. I’m talking about a depth to who we are that chooses not to live offended. We do not. That’s not how we live. Happy are those who trust in me. We live as ones who trust in Him. We anchor ourselves there.
I was thinking about how John, in his situation, is not going to end great. This is kind of an understatement. It was not a happy ending. Part of me is thinking, wow, Lord, where? But I was on my bed last night, thinking about this, thinking about this. I felt like a phrase came to me, which is true. The Lord said to me, this is how I’ll put it, this is what came to my mind. It’s true. Things do not always work out the way we want them to. But if we invite the Lord into them, they will always work out better than they would have if we didn’t invite Him in. Do you understand what I just said? Always. Things may not always go the way we were thinking they should go. But if He is welcomed into it, they will always go better than what they would have been without Him. All things, loved ones, work together for good to those who love God and are called according to His purpose. What does that mean for us?
What it means, at least in part, is that we need to trust the Lord. We need to trust the Lord. Jesus says don’t be offended. Trust in me. Happy is the one who trusts in me. Don’t get stuck. Stuck in the negativity, resentment, and anger. No. Or let the cloud just settle over and define. Oh Lord, I welcome you in. I trust in the Lord. I’m going to stay light on my feet, spiritually, mentally, emotionally, and relationally. I’m not going to get stuck. I’m not going to get weighed down by stuff, self-assigned stuff. No way, no way I’m going to, here it comes, rise and shine.
I’m going to rise and shine. I’m going to stay unoffended. Life’s too short, just to be offended all the time. We will always have a reason to be offended by something. These are angry times. People are not perfect. Some people are bad, some things are unjust. Blessed are those who are unoffended. Was there anyone who would ever know what it was like to be taken advantage of more than Jesus who had the power to stop it? He will be scandalized. He will be. In a few weeks, we will mark that moment on Good Friday. When the savior of the world, who John pointed out, who will become for us, the Lamb of God, by His choice, to pay a price for us, that we could never pay. So that we could have a relationship with God in a way that was never before possible. He would literally be scandalized on our behalf. He understands what it is. I know I’m, I’m going to step on the highest holy ground. I can’t get there most of the time, but Jesus would say, Father, forgive them for they know not what they do.
Do you want to talk about living above a fence? I’m just saying with His help, try to stay unoffended and be grateful. We can choose our path. We can choose our path. Don’t let the cloud define us. Don’t let the other things that we can’t get to define us. I can just sit with this all day long. Stay happy in Christ. Stay open, stay nimble, and stay light on your feet. Let’s not get stuck there. Let’s not get stuck there. God help us. God help us to be all-in and in all open. All right. That’s all I wanted to say.
Let’s pray together. Thank you, Lord. Lord, I ask that you would be with us as we close out this service, to just remember to stay light on our feet and unoffended in our hearts. To not really question you, but to trust you in love and allow your happiness to define us. To let us live as ones who are blessed. Let us be the blessed and then the blessers. Help us not to get stuck in a fence, stuck in the pains of life or the hurts of life. No, that’s not our call. I ask for you to help us to follow you, our good shepherd. Lead us in the way that we should go. Keep our hearts light before you. We just ask for your blessing, bless all who are here as we go our separate ways into this week. Bless our time of giving. Many of us honor you so faithfully as part of our life, may you be honored in it and all these things, in Jesus name, Amen.