My readings this a.m. took me to John 14, a chapter that features two of my favorites in scripture: John the Baptist and the Peter of Pentecost.
The story opens with what could have been Herod’s worst nightmare, the thought that John had raised himself from the dead. John’s head had earlier been “delivered on a silver platter” in return for a lewd dance from a daughter at the request of her mother. I wonder if Herod was not more like the young Saul in Samuel’s day, tender to the things of God, only later corrupted by the subtle depravity that can come with mishandled power.
Often when I read through scriptures, verses which before had seemed only to provide background for key stories, in this case the feeding of the 5000, suddenly seem to leap from the page. Here we witness a birthday party with Herod lusting over his niece, dancing before him at the suggestion of his sister-in-law whom apparently Herod also desired. John apparently had called his hand. Truth in the right moment can cost one’s head!
Shenanigans like these often play out in settings where power, greed and lust find their way into privileged offices. Fortunately, having your head delivered on a silver platter is limited to more subtle means in America.
That however was not the main takeaway from my devotions this a.m. but rather the fact that Herod, in all his wickedness was “a believer,” at least for a moment. His worst nightmare would have been John rose from the dead; and for a moment, that was where his thoughts were, obviously struck by the miraculous powers manifest in John’s life prior to his beheading and now hearing of similar reports from a man named Jesus.
Still layered beyond that was the way that prophecy finds a way to declare itself, even from the lips of rank sinners. It was the similarities between Jesus’ works and John’s that frightened Herod. His fear being that Jesus was John, raised from the dead; so yes, at least for a moment, Herod was both believer and prophet, for this same Jesus would soon be raised from the dead!
Then there was Peter, a man who had been with Jesus as He performed miracles, a man accustomed to the power of the sea and now asked to walk on the waves. Peter in contrast to Herod was a non-believer in the moment. Yet, compelled by the trust garnered over time in the One who had called him from his nets; we find that Peter steps out of the boat and in short order cries “Lord save me!” Jesus, upping the ante on Peter, reaches out, catches him, challenges his doubt and then, both climb back in the boat; the winds, which I am sure Jesus controlled, “died down.”
These God moments in our life, whether it is speaking truth, though it cost your head or getting out of the boat, when you know the probabilities, certainly are means used to prepare our life for critical Kingdom moments. Though our faith at times appears weaker than those who profess none, our courage is deepened against a day that only the Lord knows.
Peter was being strategically prepared for Pentecost and John, a testimony to the martyrs that would follow as this gospel goes forth.
You see, the people in the boat, worshiped Jesus after Peter took the risk to step out of the boat. People need leaders, though leaders doubt just like others and even fail at times in the heat of the moment. Leadership always comes with a price and always leads to a prize, a legacy moment…step out of the boat and embrace your cross.