Headline: THE METAPHOR OF THE BAPTISTPosted on: 2015-09-02
The saga of John the Baptist
The very life of John the Baptist is a metaphor, used to call our attention to elements of contemporary reality. Undoubtedly one of the most prominent figures of the New Testament, John performed his precursor role to the hilt pointing out Jesus as the Lamb of God. He said of him, "It is necessary that he increase but that I decrease" (Jn. 3: 30). John the Baptist came into the world in a spectacular way, outdone perhaps only by the birth of Jesus Christ. His exit from the world was no less spectacular. He was murdered for standing by the truth, in some sense just like Jesus was. Although John was feared and well-liked by King Herod, his open condemnation of Herod for taking Herodias, the wife of Philip his brother, made the preacher a target of the woman's grudge and murderous hate. Herod seized John and put him in prison. Herodias' daughter delighted the king with her dance and he vowed to give her anything she would ask for as compensation. The little girl went to ask Herodias and the wicked queen seized her chance. She instigated the girl to ask for the head of John the Baptist, she did and John was killed. His head was brought to the girl who gave it to her mother. John literally "fell head over heels" for the Truth. Such can sometimes be the sort of greatness to which all true Christians are called and we have surely had such "martyrs of truth" in Nigeria.
Victims of dirty games
Among the dramatis personae of the beheading of John the Baptist are two victims. John is the most obvious. The other, the daughter of Herodias, represents millions of innocent youths who are today co-opted into grave sin by the very adults and elders whom they trust to guide and counsel them. The poor daughter of Herodias' hands, soiled with the blood of John the Baptist, were merely conscripted into her mother's bloody grudge war. Herodias' daughter was perhaps the only one in the episode who actively did anything positive, dancing to the delight of the king and the audience. When called upon to take an unusual decision, she did the right thing by seeking her mother's counsel. She unfortunately ended up with the wrong counselor. Millions of such adults who conscript the youth into their grudges they bear and the wars they fight against their own generation, friends or foes will one day contend with the warning of Jesus Christ in respect of those who lead astray the innocent: "Woe to the world because of so many scandals! Scandals necessarily come, but woe to the one who has brought it about" (Matt. 18: 7). The verdict is damning indeed. "it would be better for you to be thrown into the depths of the sea with a great millstone around your neck" (Matt. 18:6). ...
Herod the weakling king
Herod's role in the story of John's murder is a re-presentation of many contemporary leaders. Such is the character of leaders who, though have abundant power, lack discipline and moderation. Herod, got so carried away by the dancing skills of a mere girl that he vowed to give her anything she would ask for, even half of his kingdom. What indiscretion, for a mere dance performance! When the girl eventually asked for the head of "a righteous and holy man" as Herod found John to be, the king conceded. How much weaker could a leader be, so weak as not to be able to in spite of his vow, prevent clear injustice against the innocent? "And the king was exceedingly sorry; but because of his oaths and his guests he did not want to break his word to her" (Mk 6: 26). Such sorry leaders still hold power today, who because of unholy loyalties and alliances, cowardly allow the spilling of innocent John the Baptists. They deserve to be tagged "misleaders" and will one day face the judgment of woe which they deserve (Lk. 11: 47-48).
The conspiracy of silence
At the trial of Jesus before Pilate, the crowd played an infamous role, opting to have him crucified rather than be released. Herod's guests too are just as guilty as the king for their conspiracy of silence against the innocent. Such high caliber guests could have intervened and persuaded the king to reconsider. They did not. They surely carry as much guilt as anyone for that murder. Such culpable complacency exists today among the masses which arises from the disengagement from the interest of others. Nothing corrodes human society more than this cancer.
The pedigree of the Baptist
John the Baptist stood for truth, and courage. Right from conception he welcomed everything about Jesus, leaping for joy from Elizabeth's womb at the appearance of Mary. "Behold the lamb of God", he pointed Jesus out to his disciples. Knowing his unworthiness, he humbly declared: "After me comes one who is more powerful than I am...As for me, I am not worthy to bend down and untie his sandals" (Mk.1:7-8). John was brave and he told the Pharisees and Sadducees a good telling off, calling them "brood of vipers". In service of the truth, he was unafraid of Herod nor of his murderous wife and lost his head in the process. How our world today needs men like John the Baptist who would give it all up and pay any price for the truth! However, after all the betrayals and conspiracy, John earned from Jesus the greatest accolade anyone could receive. Jesus testified of him: "I tell you this, no one greater than John the Baptist has come forward among the sons of women...." (Matt.11:11). Can any earthly honor be greater than that?
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