Blinded By Sin - Matthew 14:1-12
“You don’t listen to me!”
Have you ever heard those words? Men, have you ever heard those words?
If you’re anything like me, you’ve probably heard those words on a number of occasions because your attention is so divided. One minute, we’re watching children, paying bills, then we’re running errands, and we’re supposed to exercise too… there are so many demands on our attention.
And then out of nowhere, someone says… “You don’t listen to me.” It’s like standing on the sidewalk and watching an ambulance drive by. You’re listening now. Do you listen when God tries to speak to you? Or are you too busy looking at your phone? Trying to cross off another item on your to-do list?
Sometimes God uses extraordinary measures to call us out of sin and to himself.
But sin has a compounding blinding effect on our lives. It hardens our hearts and we disengage from the truth. Rather, we reject the truth. But we all need the truth of the gospel. And our passage teaches us that when your blinded by sin, you reject the truth, sin consumes you, and yet, you may still feel conviction.
When you’re blinded by sin, you reject the truth (vv. 1-6).
The timeline of the first two verses is a little tricky.
Herod had already killed John the Baptist when he hears about Jesus. He thought that Jesus was John the Baptist resurrected. And needless to say, the ministry of Jesus had him worried.
It’s easy to see why Herod would be worried about the ministry of Jesus - he killed John the Baptist that’s preaching offensive things to him and then Jesus pops up on the screen preaching in a very similar fashion. The gospel can be persistent in that way.
You’ve probably experienced this at some point: you’re in sin and you know it and the very thing you’re struggling with comes up in every conversation and it pops up everywhere. Your sin sort of haunts you. That’s why Herod is worried. He didn’t want to confront his sin. So what do you do when you don’t want to hear something? You shut them up or isolate them.
Herod had taken John the Baptist into custody because his brother’s wife, Herodias, wanted him to. Herod’s family tree is a little complicated but it’s important for understanding this passage of Scripture.
Philip, who was Herodias’s husband, was also her half-uncle. At some point, Herod became infatuated with his brother’s wife. Eventually, Herod left his wife for Herodias, and Herodias left Herod’s brother Philip for each other.
If my explanation of the family tree was confusing just remember this, Herod and Herodias’s marriage was sinful for two reasons: it was incestuous and adulterous. That’s why John the Baptist rebuked them. He was doing something radical: calling sin, sin. Herodias was very sensitive to it all and hated John the Baptist. Is it really any wonder why Herod and Herodias would want John the Baptist in jail?
Kings, Queens, and now politicians surround themselves with yes-men. They only have folks around them that agree with them. Odds are, the folks around Herod encouraged his adulterous, incestuous, relationship. But then there was this guy, John the Baptist making a lot of noise in direct opposition to what Herod and Herodias were doing. Herodias hated John the Baptist.
But here’s what’s so interesting about Herod. He respected John the Baptist. He feared John the Baptist because he knew the people considered him a prophet. The gospel of Mark says, “Herod feared John, knowing that he was a righteous and holy man, and he kept him safe.” Mark even says that Herod heard John “gladly.”
He was conflicted. He hated John for telling the truth and yet, at the same time, he respected John for telling the truth. And he was willing to cater to the wishes of Herodias.
The church father and philosopher Augustine wrote in his autobiography Confessions about stealing pears as an adolescent. He said, “We took away an enormous quantity of pears,” and “not to eat them ourselves, but simply to throw them to the pigs.” When you hear that, you probably think - who cares? This was an important moment in the life of Augustine.
As the older Augustine considered his youthful actions, he said, “Perhaps we ate some of them, but our real pleasure consisted in doing something that was forbidden.” Augustine never excused the sin. He concludes that he stole pears simply because he loved sin. We’ve all been there. We’ve all had moments where we knew that what we were doing was wrong… and yet we chose to do them anyway.
Herod certainly knew what he was doing was wrong. There’s no doubt about it. He hated John the Baptist for telling him the truth and oddly respected him, but he loved his sin too much.
He had this lustful heart that was out of control. He couldn’t control himself and he had no desire to control himself. If he saw something that he wanted, he just took it. If he saw a few pears, he didn’t think twice about taking a bushel.
Romans 1:18 says that unbelievers suppress the truth in unrighteousness. A friend described it to me once this way: it’s like trying to force a beach ball under water at the pool. No matter how hard you try, it’ll always pop up.
The truth was popping up on Herod’s screen, he heard it, knew it was true, but kept trying to force it down. Sin has a blinding effect. When you dive headfirst into sin, the truth has no effect on your heart.
Here’s the really scary thing: you might hear the truth, know it’s true, and reject it anyway. Is there any truth your rejecting because of your love of sin? Have you become blind to your sin? Or maybe even controlled by it?
Are you conflicted like Herod, grateful for the morsels of truth you hear on Sunday mornings but catering to your sinful desires throughout the week? What controls your heart? Is it your love of sin or is it a love for Christ?
When you’re blinded by sin, sin consumes you (vv. 6-12).
In verses 6-12 we read about a birthday party that goes completely off the rails. Herodias’s daughter comes and dances for Herod and all his guests. Verse 6 tells us that her dancing “pleased” Herod.
Herod’s lust gets the best of him again. He doesn’t think and his mouth gets out in front of him.
And so in the company of all his guests he tells her he’ll give her whatever she wants. The gospel of Mark tells us that Herod offers her up to half of his kingdom to Herodias’s daughter.
Herod makes this grand pronouncement, this epic gesture in front of his guests.
Did Herodias encourage her daughter to dance before Herod in order to entice him into making a wild oath? Maybe. She certainly knew Herod’s weakness was his lustful heart.
Regardless, Herodias’s daughter went to her for advice on what to ask for. And of course, Herodias wanted John the Baptist’s head. They had Herod in a position where they knew he wouldn’t recant his oath in front of his guests. So, he ordered that John the Baptist be killed.
Do you have anything in your life that you’ve started that’s really difficult to stop?
One thing that I’ve been really convicted of lately is my iPhone usage. What do you do whenever you’re waiting for something? Or what do you do when there’s a lull in a conversation?
Pull out your smartphone.
I got a smartphone so I could quickly check email, read the news, and connect with family easily. All harmless stuff.
But this “good” thing has begun to eat up every spare moment. It was one of those things that started harmlessly and began to eat up more and more and more spare time.
I think sin is similar. Sin often starts as a small desire in your heart and you indulge it and think about it. Eventually, it’s all you think about and it completely consumes you.
It’s a downward spiral.
Herod was blinded by lust for his step-daughter. It’s gross, but it appears to be consistent with his behavior. Lust made him pursue his relative // sister-in-law. Ultimately, his lust encouraged him to make an oath that led to the murder of John the Baptist.
You see, whenever Herod was tempted to sin, he just jumped in head first. The more he gratified his flesh to sin the easier it became. It’s this sort of self-perpetuating cycle.
And the same is true for you and me. If you don’t resist sin, you’re going to give into it. Sin has an all-consuming effect on you and me. Sin doesn’t just want this little piece of your life. It wants to consume your life.
It always starts out with that lie. Normally, the lie is this sinful thing will make you happier. And even as a sin pattern takes over someone’s life often they’ll insist it’s under control. I just have this little pet sin that I keep hidden in the corner, but here’s the thing: it’ll always grow. This small thing will ultimately destroy you.
As John Owen famously said, “kill sin or it’ll kill you.”
What sins have you been putting off dealing with until later? Don't blindly buy into the lie that it will be easier to deal with at a later date.
When you’re blinded by sin, you still feel conviction (v.9).
What’s interesting about sin is often we feel bad about it. We’ll feel guilty because generally when we sin we know exactly what we’re doing.
Look at what Matthew says about Herod in verse 9. He says, “And the king was sorry, but because of his oaths and his guests he commanded it to be given.” He was sorry… The gospel of Mark says that Herod was “exceedingly sorry.”
Herod felt conviction over his sin. He felt conviction that his sin had led to the death of John the Baptist. Nevertheless, it didn’t stop him from ordering the head of John the Baptist.
You might think that conviction of sin is distinctly Christian, but it’s not. It might be called, “feeling guilty for a mistake you made.”
Or someone might refer to it as a “regret.” We’ll call it a variety of different things, but it’s conviction. Herod felt conviction about what he did.
Did you mother ever force you to apologize for something you didn’t actually feel sorry for?
Ninety-five percent of the time it involved a sibling. I made that statistic up to, but I believe it’s accurate. So, you walk over to your brother or sister and the words, “I’m sorry” come out of your mouth but you know in your heart you don’t really mean it.
There is a disconnect between what you’re doing and what your saying.
There was a disconnect between the way Herod was feeling and his actions. He feelings displayed one thing but his actions displayed another. He appeared to be sorry for what he did… but he never repented. He never really wanted to change his ways.
Here’s an important distinction that has to be made in each one of our minds: the difference between conviction of sin and true repentance.
We all feel bad about things we’ve done. But do you repent before the Lord? Do you try to turn from it?
There’s a HUGE difference between feeling sorry about something you did and actually repenting of it.
Your mother could force you to say your sorry but she can’t force you to actually feel it.
You might feel conviction for sin, but what do you do with it? Do you ignore it? Do you bury it? Or do you turn from your sin and to the Lord?
Matthew 14:1-12 focuses on Herod’s sin, but an equally important aspect of this passage is Herod’s response to being confronted with his sin.
You see, when Herod heard the truth that he was in sin - nothing changed.
Sometimes in your life, a fellow believer might confront you with a sin pattern that’s present in your life. How do you respond? Do you get angry? Do you deny it? Do you dismiss it? Or do you respond with humility?
If you’re in Christ, if you’re actually trusting him for the salvation of your soul - it brings you low. It humbles you.
And we should respond in humility when we’re confronted with our sin. The gospel doesn’t change the fact that we’re sinners, but it should change how we respond to the sin in our lives.
We should humbly repent. It’s so counter-cultural. It’s the exact opposite of how Herod responded.
So how do we get the scales of sin that’s blinding folks to drop from their eyes? If sin blinds people, what do we do? Can we do anything?
Sin must be confronted with the truth of God’s Word. Obviously, for someone to go from spiritual death to spiritual life it must be a work of the Holy Spirit, but God in his sovereignty chose to use people to carry his message.
And that message can, at times, be unpopular.
It may require you and I to tell the truth about sin. Are you willing to tell the truth about sin?
Telling the truth can be extremely difficult. We all want to be genteel. We want to be respected, loved, and refined.
But there are times when standing for the truth is more important than keeping the peace. John the Baptist understood this! He died because he told the truth!
Think about this: John the Baptist didn’t die directly for the gospel. He didn’t die because he was told Herod about the love of Christ. Rather he died for telling a couple their relationship was sinful.
Frankly, I had a hard time wrestling with that fact. Don’t we all imagine martyrs going down in a blaze of glory preaching the gospel of Jesus Christ to unbelievers? But that’s not what happened to John the Baptist. He was murdered for confronting a couple with their sin.
If we were in John’s shoes, would we say that the Herod / Herodias situation is none of our business? We’d probably just stay out of it.
But here’s John the Baptist telling Herod, “it’s not lawful for you to have her!”
Please don’t hear what I’m not saying. I’m not saying we always need to be confrontational. Or that we need to publicly condemn every sin we see.
But I do think we should be bold. Maybe bolder than we’re typically comfortable with. Here’s an example:
I’m always disappointed when public evangelicals are asked on TV, “is homosexuality a sin?” And they lack the courage to say yes it is.
In order for folks to repent, they must first know what sin is. And if we’re not willing to tell them the truth than who will?
Do we have the courage to tell the truth even if it’s unpopular?
We all want to be accepted and saying something unpopular could ruin all of that.
Jesus said, “Woe to you, when all people speak well of you, for so their fathers did to the false prophets.”
Saying something unpopular might damage your reputation. People might think you’re crazy! It cost John the Baptist his life.
But here’s the silver lining: if telling the truth makes you unpopular, you’ll be in great company with Jesus Christ.
He said, “I am the way the truth and the life and no one comes to the Father except through me.” That was unpopular. In fact, he was so unpopular he died on the cross.
Maybe you’ve heard the adage, “you’re only as good as the company you keep.”
And so, you and I have to ask ourselves this question: is Jesus Christ company worth keeping?