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# 60: 5-14-19 1

Matthew 13:53-14:12

Jesus had completed his teaching of the parables of the kingdom of heaven - with the last four parables
being given to His disciples alone, in the house. Presumably, this was the house in which Jesus stayed,
when in Capernaum. After this, Jesus traveled with His disciples to a different location - one very familiar
to Him.

[Read Matthew 13:53-58]

So Jesus left the lake region, and came to His own country. In this context, “His own country” means Jesus
came home; to His hometown, where He grew up; Nazareth - in the hill country in Galilee, about twenty
miles from Capernaum (see map).

Nazareth was a small town, with no more than two thousand inhabitants in that day. Jesus would have
known most of the townspeople - and they would have known Him.

Now, you may recall that at the beginning of Jesus’ ministry, after John was arrested, that Jesus had left the
Judean wilderness, and come to Galilee (Mt 4:12). Jesus had gone to Nazareth, and presented Himself in
the synagogue as Israel’s Messiah, in fulfillment of the Scriptures.

Do you remember what happened next? The people reacted to Jesus in unbelief, culminating in their
violent rejection of Jesus. They cast Him out of the city, and attempted to hurl Him over a cliff (Lk 4:16-
30).

This is a later occasion, almost two years into the ministry of Jesus. He returns to His hometown once
again, with His disciples. By now, the reports of Jesus have permeated the entire region of Galilee, both as
a teacher and as a miracle worker. His reputation is well-established.

Once again, Jesus went to the synagogue on the Sabbath, and taught the people. This would likely have
been the very synagogue that Jesus attended, as He grew up. And the people were astonished by His
teaching. This is a very strong word, conveying the idea of being knocked out of their senses.

Certainly, the townspeople were amazed by the wisdom of the teaching they were hearing. But what
absolutely astonished them was that this wisdom was issuing forth from the mouth of Jesus.

And the people had heard the report of His mighty works - the many miracles that Jesus had been doing,
elsewhere in Galilee. But the townspeople were only familiar with the ordinary work of Jesus - as the
carpenter’s son.

After all, Jesus had grown up, in their midst. The townspeople had observed Jesus from His youth, and at
that distance, He seemed to be like any other boy - a “good” boy, they would say.

Had they considered that they never, ever saw Jesus do anything wrong? No, with their limited, occasional
interaction with Jesus, they probably never thought about that. And Jesus did not do any miraculous works,
until He was anointed by the Spirit, for His ministry - at about thirty years of age.

Until that time, Jesus had worked in Joseph’s shop - first, as an apprentice; then, as an assistant; and finally,
after Joseph had died, Jesus had become known in town as the carpenter, Himself (Mk 6:3).
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But the townspeople might well have had occasion to hear some of the wisdom of Jesus before - wisdom
that was manifest in Jesus, from His youth (Lk 2:42-52); wisdom that would have been beyond His years.

But you know how people are; they have a tendency to dismiss what they don’t understand - or to explain it
away. Which was why they were so astonished, now - as their attention was completely fixed on Jesus,
teaching them in their synagogue, and explaining the meaning of their Scriptures with such authority.

Twice, Matthew records the people as asking, “Where did this Man get this wisdom and these mighty
works?” “Where did this Man get all these things?” They were thinking, He didn’t get them from
Nazareth; and they were right, about that. Where did He get them from? From heaven; from God; though
the Spirit.

There was a disconnect, in the minds of the people - between what they had understood of Jesus, all their
lives - and what they were hearing from Him this day - the wisdom of God.

They considered what they knew, about Jesus - they knew everyone in His family; His mother; His
brothers; and His sisters, who apparently still lived in Nazareth. They were common, working-class people
- just like most people, in Nazareth.

They considered the occupation of Jesus; a carpenter; the son of a carpenter (son of Joseph; so they
thought). As the town carpenter, Jesus would never have had time to get formal training in the Law - and
indeed, He hadn’t, had He? Jesus was taught by His Father, through the Spirit - morning by morning, the
LORD awakened His ear, to hear as the learned (Is 50:4).

But in the minds of the townspeople, Jesus was just a skilled craftsman - and nothing more. So as they
listened to Jesus that day, it just didn’t add up.

What would have made it add up, in their minds? What was missing, on the part of the people in Nazareth?
Faith. Faith is the substance of things hoped for; faith is the evidence of things not seen (Heb 11:1).

Faith would have bridged the gap between what the townspeople understood about Jesus, and the reality of
who Jesus was. Faith would have allowed them to look back on what they already knew of Him, and to see
that He was always other than them - unique - perfectly righteous, toward God and man.

Faith would have set aside pre-conceived notions about Jesus, to observe wisdom and power that had come
down from heaven to earth. Faith would have found in Jesus the fulfillment of the Scriptures - that the
Anointed One of Israel had come, and was right there, in their midst.

But without faith, the people were offended at Jesus; that is to say, their unbelief caused them to stumble,
and to reject Him. The failure of faith in Nazareth was really no different than failure of faith ever is; it
leaves people blinded to the spiritual realities.

So the people based their conclusions on what they knew of Jesus in the natural - and remained in the dark,
concerning Him. People have been making the same mistake, ever since. Jesus, the historical figure;
Jesus, the good example; Jesus, the enlightened teacher.

In verse 57, we read the response of Jesus, to the unbelief of His hometown: “A prophet is not without
honor except in his own country and in his own house”. This may be a proverbial expression, but it
certainly was true for Jesus, in particular.
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Remember that just before Jesus began to teach in parables, His family had come to see Him, wanting to
speak with Him. Mark’s gospel brought out that they intended to lay hold of Him, saying “He is out of His
mind” (Mk 3:21).

Out of His mind? Perhaps at best their thinking was that Jesus might draw the attention of the Roman
authorities, with the escalation of His popular following. What is apparent is that His family did not at this
time understand His mission - and except for Mary, it would seem that they didn’t believe Jesus to be the
Messiah.

Now the hometown of Jesus was also manifesting their unbelief. They refused to acknowledge that Jesus
was bringing God’s Word to them; they dishonored Him as a prophet of God.

So those who had the longest exposure to Jesus were the most inclined, to dishonor Him. We have a
contemporary expression that is not unlike what Jesus said: familiarity breeds contempt. In thinking they
already knew Jesus, the townspeople were missing out on knowing Him at all.

Let’s read what Matthew wrote in verse 58, again.

13:58 Now let’s turn to the parallel account in Mark’s gospel, where we find a few additional details. Turn
to Mark chapter 6.

[Mark 6:5-6] So Mark’s comment is even stronger: Jesus could do no mighty works there, except heal a
few sick people. Do you think that unbelief limits the power of God? That it basically ties God’s hands, so
to speak? In the direct sense, it does not. God is omnipotent; He is capable of doing whatever He wills.

But God also has foreknowledge; and He knew the people of Nazareth were hardening their hearts against
Jesus, in unbelief. So what good would it do for Jesus to work any miracles, if it would not cause anyone
to believe in Him? It would do no good.

God does not waste anything. Jesus did not do miracles, without purpose; just for show. So the Father
limited the works of Jesus in Nazareth, because of the unbelief, there - unbelief so great, it caused Jesus to
marvel - and to move on.

[Return to Matthew]

So we gained the sense from Mark’s gospel that Jesus left Nazareth, and taught in other villages in Galilee,
for a time. Presumably this was near the Sea of Galilee again, which is where Jesus is found next, in the
account (14:13).

Meantime, Matthew takes the occasion to complete the story of John the Baptist, the forerunner of Jesus.
Matthew begins with a comment made by Herod, concerning Jesus and John.

14:1-2 You remember that Herod was a dynastic name which was borne by several related rulers over the
Jews.

Herod the Great had been appointed king by Rome over all the lands of the Jews, and more. That was the
Herod who had attempted to kill Jesus when He was just a young child, in Bethlehem.
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When Herod the Great died, Rome divided his land among three of his sons. Archelaus was given Idumea,
Judea, and Samaria. Because of his incompetence and tyranny, Rome quickly replaced him with a Roman
procurator. The fifth procurator would be Pontius Pilate.

Herod’s son Philip ruled over Gaulanitis, Tranchonitis, Batanea and Paneas. And Herod’s son Antipas was
given Galilee and Perea. This is the Herod that Matthew is speaking of, here - Herod Antipas, the tetrarch.

“Tetrarch” was a common title among the Romans for those who governed any part of a province or
kingdom and was subject only to the Roman Emperor. Herod Antipas ruled from 4 BC until 39 AD. This
means he figured most prominently of all the Herods in the NT - throughout the lifetime of Jesus.

Now, the ministry of Jesus up until this time had been principally conducted in the regions of Perea and
Galilee - the jurisdiction of Herod Antipas. John the Baptist also ministered principally in Antipas’
territory.

Of course, a ruler would certainly need to keep informed of what was going on among the people, in his
domain. And so naturally, Antipas heard many a report about Jesus - for by this time, Jesus had a large
popular following - even if most of the people following Jesus were Jews who didn’t believe in Him.

What would Antipas have heard, in these reports? He would have heard about the number of people,
following Jesus; what kinds of things that Jesus was saying; His movements, from place to place; and the
many miraculous healings that Jesus was doing.

Powerful words, powerful works - Jesus was a powerful Man. Something that garners the attention of a
person like Antipas, who loves power.

But this was not the kind of power that Antipas knew - this power was other-worldly. And in fact, it would
seem that Antipas viewed the powerful Jesus as a threat - much as he had, John the Baptist. This is most
likely the basis for Antipas’ comment about Jesus, in verse 2.

We can be certain that Antipas did not mean what he said, literally - that John had been resurrected from the
dead. It is doubtful that Antipas believed in resurrection, at all.

Although the Herods had accepted the Jewish religion of Judaism, they did so as a placating measure - in
consideration of their Jewish subjects. The ancestry of the Herods was Idumean - descended from the
Edomites, the ancient enemies of the Jews. Religion was the Herods’ attempt to have peace in their
domain; an attempt that often failed.

The comment of Antipas was not a matter of religion. Antipas said what he did, in irony. Antipas had just
rid his domain of one troublesome popular preacher - only to have another now rise up, in his place. And
this One reportedly had far greater power.

There is perhaps also a sense of superstition on the part of Antipas - as though this was a judgment on him,
for what he had done, to John. It would seem he had a guilty conscience. Too bad it didn’t drive him to
repentance.

Matthew then uses this comment of Herod Antipas to complete the account of John’s life. It is in effect
then a flashback - but what happened occurred in the recent past.

We continue in verse 3.
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14:3-5 This Herod - Antipas - had been married to the daughter of Aretas the fourth - the Nabatean king -
an Arabian. The Nabatean Kingdom lay in close proximity to Antipas’ domain, which was within the
Roman Empire. This was most likely an arranged marriage, perhaps on the part of Rome, to help stabilize
the provinces with their neighbors.

About fifteen years after this marriage, Antipas paid a visit to his half-brother Philip, where he met and
became infatuated with Philip’s wife, Herodias. They divorced their respective spouses, in order to marry.
Among the Herods, this was no big deal. But this was taken as a personal insult to Aretas, who would later
go to war against Antipas in retaliation for divorcing his daughter; and Aretas would defeat Antipas.

Now, Antipas was supposedly a follower of Judaism; and his marriage to Herodias was a violation of the
Law of Moses, on three counts.

First, both Antipas and Herodias had divorced their spouses; second, Antipas had married the wife of his
brother Philip - permitable only if Philip had died (Lev 18:16, 20:21). And third, Herodias and Antipas
were actually blood-related. Antipas was the son of Herod the Great; and Herodias was the granddaughter
of Herod the Great by a different son, making her the niece of Antipas.

So it was not lawful for Antipas to have Herodias on several counts. And John spoke out boldly and
publicly against the marriage.

It was for this reason that Antipas had John arrested. We read here that Antipas actually wanted to put John
to death, but he feared this would cause a popular uprising, for many of the Jews recognized that John was
a prophet.

Mark brings out in his gospel that Antipas also feared John because he knew that John was a just and holy
man; in fact, Antipas wound up becoming the protector of John, in prison (Mk 6:20).

Mark also states that Antipas heard John gladly; the sense is that Antipas sent for and listened to John; and
that he took pleasure in listening to him, perhaps admiring his fiery rhetoric and zeal.

It would seem that Antipas was conflicted, about John, wasn’t he? And the net result of this was that
Antipas, operating out of fear and awe of John, kept John alive - for over a year. But there was someone
else, operating out of hatred, who would see to it that John was put to death.

Meantime, John was confined in the prison associated with Antipas’ fortified palace, Machaerus, in Perea.
It was from this prison that John had sent his disciples to inquire of Jesus - if He was indeed the Messiah -
and Jesus had sent back word to John, to encourage his faith (Mt 11:2-6). No doubt John was encouraged -
which would have helped him, as his own ministry came to its conclusion.

Let’s continue with the account, in verse 6.

14:6-7 It was not customary in that day for Jews to celebrate birthdays. In fact, Josephus indicates that
celebrating birthdays was forbidden, considered to be a Gentile custom. But the Herods were heavily
influenced by Greek culture - and a birthday was a great excuse for a party.

Mark indicates that it was Antipas who gave the feast - in honor of his own birthday - for his nobles, his
high officers, and the chief men of Galilee (Mk 6:21). Apparently, they traveled down to the palace at
Machaerus in Perea, for the event - quite a distance.
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At such an event, the women and the men ate in separate halls. So when the daughter of Herodias danced
before “them”, in verse 6, she was dancing before the men - all of whom had been feasting and drinking, in
celebration. You get the sense this was not a family moment.

The name of this girl was Salome - who would have been a young teen, at the time - probably 12-14 years
of age. She was the daughter of Herodias, with Philip - her first husband, and incidentally, another son of
Herod the Great - meaning that Philip was also Herodias’ uncle, just like Antipas was. And Salome herself
would one day marry yet another son of Herod the Great. There was a tangled web of incest, in that
dynastic family.

Since Salome was the daughter of Herodias, but not Antipas, it is highly unlikely that Antipas would have
requested Salome to dance for the men. This is something that would have originated in the mind of
Herodias. Mark called Antipas’ birthday an opportune day (Mk 6:21). It was an opportune day for
Herodias - to have her revenge on John the Baptist.

Herodias was a woman who was determined to advance, in this world. She would have taken John the
Baptist’s public rebuke of her as detrimental, to her aspirations - and Mark indicates she held a grudge
against John, for it.

Josephus said of Herodias, “she was a woman full of ambition and envy, having a mighty influence on
Herod, and able to persuade him to things he was not at all inclined to”. But it seems that Herodias was not
able to persuade Herod concerning John; for while she wanted to kill John - Antipas protected him (Mk
6:19-20).

So Herodias schemed her way around that protection - using her young daughter. No modest girl would
have appeared in such a manner, dancing in the men’s feasting hall. No good mother would ever have
suggested such an idea.

Salome apparently danced in such a manner so as to please Herod and his guests - the gospel writers are
discreet, and it is best for us to leave it at that. In fact, Herod was so pleased, that he got carried away.

Mark says that the oath which Antipas pronounced before his guests was for whatever Salome wanted - up
to half his kingdom. Now, that kingdom had been bequeathed to Antipas by Rome - and so Antipas did not
have the authority to give it away. We can see this is obviously the wine, doing the talking.

But Salome takes the oath of Antipas to her mother in the women’s hall, for her consideration (Mk 6:24) -
and Herodias has a ready answer, in mind.

14:8 The grisliness of the request shows the depth of the hatred in Herodias, who has waited over a year to
have her revenge, on John.

John’s rebuke of Antipas and Herodias was right; and that it was done publicly was right, for they were
public figures, responsible for their actions, before and to the people.

But the pride of Herodias was badly injured; and her reputation with the people, tarnished. Just having John
put to death was not enough; she would have her vanquished enemy’s head served up to her; for it was a
serving platter that was requested.
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What of the effect on her poor daughter? That was clearly not a consideration , for Herodias. And what of
the humiliation of Antipas - before his guests? It was no less than he deserved - for denying Herodias her
revenge for so long.

But Antipas had a choice, didn’t he? Let’s see.

14:9 Notice that Matthew calls Antipas the king, here - for the first time. Antipas wanted and campaigned
for the title king, which his father had, but Rome had never officially approved it for him. But people
called Antipas the king. He did have power imparted from Rome, to exercise judicial authority, like a king.
Perhaps Matthew uses the title here as a reminder that Antipas had the power to spare John.

But, we read, the king was sorry. What was he sorry about? He was sorry about the request of Salome.

Now, you remember that Antipas had wanted to kill John the Baptist himself. What initially stopped him
was his fear of the people’s reaction; because of their popular acclaim, for John, as a prophet. And it would
seem that during John’s time of incarceration, Antipas himself began to appreciate the prophet, in John; he
heard him gladly.

Antipas enjoyed what he heard; but that doesn’t mean he took it to heart. His heart was already filled with
the worldly concerns of kings - such as what the powerful men in their domain think about them. Antipas
had taken an oath; a foolish, drunken oath. No one would have held him, to it. And it couldn’t be legally
enforced.

But because Antipas had done so in front of his guests - the ministers, in his kingdom - Antipas feared
losing face, with them. So his fear of man proved out to be greater than any fear of God, he may have had -
and Antipas followed through on his foolish oath - sacrificing John on the altar to his own pride.

v. 10-12 This could hardly be more gruesome. The severed head of the righteous John was brought to the
girl who had been so horribly misused to accomplish the deceitful and heinous act.

And then Salome brought John’s head to her mother, offering it up like food to her - to be consumed by the
hatred of Herodias.

The disciples of John, who attended to him in prison, would not have been long in finding out what
happened to their teacher. They would have to have obtained permission from Antipas to take the body -
but he would have no reason to keep it - and be reminded of his vile decision. Yet it seemed his conscience
continued to remind him.

After John’s disciples laid his corpse in a tomb (Mk 6:29), they went and informed Jesus, in Galilee.
Presumably they would have stayed with Jesus, after that.

It was their master John who had taught them that he was merely the friend of the Bridegroom. Jesus had
increased, and John had decreased (Jn 3:29-30) - just as John said he would.

The Bridegroom was here, and He was calling out for His bride. The hope was that now these remaining
disciples of John, who had been clinging to him, would finally respond to the call of Jesus, and follow Him.

Reading: Matthew 14:13-23; Mark 6:30-46; Luke 9:10-17; John 6:1-15, 25-71