What does it cost to follow Jesus? Many of us enjoy the privilege of living in parts of the world where following Christ still falls within the status quo. We might lose some friends on Facebook or have awkward conversations around the Thanksgiving table, but most of us in the United States enjoy a great deal of protection to practice our faith, and we even receive praise for it. From a worldly perspective, following Jesus costs somewhat less than the price John the Baptist paid. But from a spiritual perspective, John’s story reminds us that following Jesus bids us all to come and die.
Flashback: The Death of John the Baptist
Die for the Right King
Herod foils Jesus and plays the part of the fool. Although only a Tetrarch—governor over a province—he preferred the title of king in an effort to puff up his esteem and ego. Jesus—though fully God and fully man—came to serve, not to be served. Herod fears the powerful leaders around Him; Jesus provokes them. Herod takes a life to sustain his power; Jesus demonstrates His power by laying down His life. Life-taker, life-giver. Mortal, Messiah.
John the Baptist recognizes the true kingship of Jesus and willingly dies for the one, true King. Presumably, John could have recanted of his charges against Herod or attempted to serve two masters. Instead, John, like Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego in Daniel 3, realizes the limitation of earthly kings compared to their heavenly King. Unlike the three amigos, His faithfulness to Jesus cost him his earthly life. While all death is tragic and an enemy of God’s, dying for the sake of the King whose kingdom has no end allows us to ultimately ask, “Death, where is your sting?” John died for the right King. Would you?
Keep Jesus on the Throne
While John chose between an earthly king and a heavenly one, we often have to choose between a king of our own fashioning and King Jesus. We like to put ourselves, our husbands, our children, our image, our jobs, our need to please, our ministry, our social media, or anything else on the throne. While it seems silly to think about worshipping many of those things, often worship disguises itself in the subtlest of ways. Most of us would not say we worship our significant other, but we often seek their comfort and praise before the Lord’s. We would not say we worship our children, but we seek our validation from their successes more than validation from our King. We would not say we worship our cell phones, but we slave away for new likes, new followers, and the perfect image instead of caring more about liking and following the King whose image we bear.
We ultimately become what we worship. The kings we follow will either make us selfish or selfless, life-taking or life-giving, image obsessed or image bearing. Let John’s example encourage you to follow the one true King: he laid down his life knowing Christ will raise it up again.
What “kings” compete to sit on the throne of your life instead of Jesus? How can you move toward full allegiance to King Jesus?
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