“Don't Be an Antipas!”

Categories: Bulletin Articles, M. W. Bassford

The ruler had a lot of respect for God’s prophet.  He believed that the prophet was a righteous and holy man.  He enjoyed listening to his preaching, and he protected him from harm.  After the prophet’s death, the ruler even thought it possible that God might raise him from the dead.

This sounds like a heartwarming story of faith, but in reality, it is anything but.  The ruler in question was Herod Antipas, and the prophet was John the Baptist.  Though all the above was true, it also was true that Antipas gave the orders for both John’s arrest and his execution. 

How do we get from Paragraph 1 to Paragraph 2?  How does such a heartwarming story take such a nightmarish turn?  The answer lies in the moral weakness of Antipas.  Ultimately, his respect and even affection for John were overwhelmed by his flawed character. 

These character flaws manifested in Antipas’ life in three main ways.  First, though he was entertained by John, he refused to repent in obedience to the truth.  John told him that his marriage was unlawful.  That certainly made Antipas’ wife, Herodias, murderously angry, but it did not lead Antipas to put her away. 

Second, Antipas loved worldly pleasure.  The climactic event of the story took place when Herodias’ daughter danced for the king and his guests.  Though Mark does not discuss the dance in detail, when we learn that Antipas was willing to surrender half his kingdom in exchange, we don’t have any trouble inferring what kind of a dance it was.  The ordinarily shrewd Antipas (Jesus called him a fox, after all) was so inflamed by lust for his own stepdaughter that he made an impulsive, foolish pledge.

Third, Antipas cared more about the good opinion of others than he did about righteousness.  He ordered John’s arrest because of pressure from his unlawful wife.  Then, when Herodias’ daughter stunned him by asking for John’s head, he was unwilling to appear foolish in front of her and his guests.  He was so very, very sorry about it, but he immediately dispatched the executioner who dispatched John. 

There are Jezebels in the world, strong-minded people who determinedly pursue evil.  However, there are more Antipases.  They mean well.  They really, really do!  However, they shy away from the pain of repentance, they enjoy the passing pleasures of sin, and they care about what their worldly friends think. 

Such people often give us hope.  They seem receptive to the gospel.  They will talk to us about Jesus for as long as we are willing to keep bringing Him up.  However, when the time comes for them to change, they change the subject instead. 

Antipases often are likeable.  Indeed, we may know the temptation to be an Antipas ourselves.  However, we must remember that Antipases don’t inherit the kingdom of God.  When the chips are down, they don’t do the right thing.  They do the wrong thing.  Acutely aware of the pain that godliness will bring, they turn a blind eye to the much greater pain that inevitably will accompany lawlessness.

Nobody should be an Antipas.  It’s just not worth it.