A Heaven-sent Messenger
Had you gone into the palace in those days, you would have heard
Herod talking of nobody but John the Baptist. He would say to his
"Have you been out into the desert to hear this strange preacher?"
"No; have you?"
"What! you, the Roman Governor, going to hear this unordained
"Yes, I have been qu
te often. I would rather hear him than any man
I ever knew. He does not talk like the regular preachers. I never
heard any one who had such influence over me."
You would have thought that Herod was a very hopeful subject. "He
did many things." Perhaps he stopped swearing. He may have stopped
gambling and getting drunk. A wonderful change seemed to have passed
over him. Perhaps he ceased from taking bribes for a time; we catch
him at it afterwards, but just then he refrained from it. He became
quite virtuous in certain directions. It really looked as if he were
near the kingdom of heaven.
I can imagine that one day, as John stands preaching, the truth is
going home to the hearts and consciences of the people, and the
powers of another world are falling upon them, one of John's
disciples stands near Herod's chariot, and sees the tears in the
eyes of the Roman Governor. At the close of the service he goes to
John and says:
"I stood close to Herod today, and no one seemed more impressed. I
could see the tears coming, and he had to brush them away to keep
them from falling."
Have you ever seen a man in a religious meeting trying to keep the
tears back? You noticed that his forehead seemed to itch, and he put
up his hand; you may know what it means--he wants to conceal the
fact that the tears are there. He thinks it is a weakness. It is no
weakness to get drunk and abuse your family, but it is weakness to
shed tears. So this disciple of John may have noticed that Herod put
his hand to his brow a number of times; he did not wish his
soldiers, or those standing near, to observe that he was weeping.
The disciple says to John:
"It looks as if he were coming near the kingdom. I believe you will
have him as an inquirer very soon."
When a man enjoys hearing such a preacher, it certainly seems a
Herod might have been present that day when Christ was baptized. Was
there ever a man lifted so near to heaven as Herod must have been if
he were present on that occasion? I see John standing surrounded by
a great throng of people who are hanging on his words. The eyes of
the preacher, that never had quailed before, suddenly began to look
strange. He turned pale and seemed to draw back as though something
wonderful had happened, and right in the middle of a sentence he
ceased to speak. If I were suddenly to grow pale, and stop speaking,
you would ask:
"Has death crept onto the platform? Is the tongue of the speaker
There must have been quite a commotion among the audience when John
stopped. The eyes of the Baptist were fixed upon a Stranger who
pushed His way through the crowd, and coming up to the preacher,
requested to be baptized. That was a common occurrence; it had
happened day after day for weeks past. John listened to the
Stranger's words, but instead of going at once to the Jordan and
baptizing Him, he said:
"I need to be baptized of Thee!"
What a thrill of excitement must have shot through the audience! I
can hear one whispering to another:
"I believe that is the Messiah!"
Yes, it was the long-looked-for One, for whose appearing the nation
had been waiting these thousands of years. From the time God had
made the promise to Adam, away back in Eden, every true Israelite
had been looking for the Messiah; and there He was in their midst!
He insisted that John should baptize Him, and the forerunner
recognized His authority as Master, took Him to the Jordan, and
baptized Him. As He came up from the water, lo! the heavens opened,
and the Spirit of God in the form of a dove descended and rested on
Him. When Noah sent forth the dove from the Ark, it could find no
resting-place; but now the Son of God had come to do the will of
God, and the dove found its resting-place upon Him. The Holy Ghost
had found a home. Now God broke the silence of four thousand years.
There came a voice from heaven, and Herod may have heard it if he
was there that day:
"This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased."
Even if he had not witnessed this scene and heard the voice, he must
have heard about it; for the thing was not done in a corner. There
were thousands to witness it, and the news must have been taken to
every corner of the land.
Yet Herod, living in such times, and hearing such a preacher, missed
the kingdom of heaven at last. He did many things because he feared
John. Had he feared God he would have done everything. "He did many
things"; but there was one thing he would not do--