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decapitation or restoration

When Jesus had finished instructing his twelve disciples, he went on from there to teach and preach in their cities. Now when John (the Baptist) heard in prison about the deeds of the Christ, he sent word by his disciples and said to him, “Are you the one who is to come, or shall we look for another?” And Jesus answered them, “Go and tell John what you hear and see: the blind receive their sight and the lame walk, lepers are cleansed and the deaf hear, and the dead are raised up, and the poor have good news preached to them. And blessed is the one who is not offended by me.” Matthew’s biography of Jesus 11: 1-6 around AD 30
 

We’ve all been greatly distressed by the fate of James Foley in Iraq. The fact that he was in prison since 2012 and that he met his awful end – beheading - in that particular way is a reminder that the days of John the Baptist (around AD 30) are far from over.

James Foley was in prison because ISIS saw him as an enemy – saw him as the representative of those who opposed them. John the Baptist – a cousin of Jesus of Nazareth – the two were virtually the same age – was also seen as an enemy.

In John’s case the new wife of King Herod Antipas whose name was Herodias was his enemy. She was a granddaughter of Herod the Great who had married in quick succession two of her uncles – both sons of Herod the Great but by different wives from the wife who gave birth to Herodias’ mother. John the Baptist had told her second husband, King Herod Antipas, that it was wrong for him to marry the divorced wife of his brother.

None of us like to hear that we have done wrong, do we? When someone says that to me, I tend to rise up within, to start to justify myself, to rid myself of all accusations.
 
 
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‘He… said to the man, “Stretch out your hand.” He stretched it out, and his hand was restored. The Pharisees went out and immediately held counsel with the Herodians against him, how to destroy him.' (Mark’s biography of Jesus written c. AD 65)

James Foley, in the opinion of ISIS, had to be killed. John the Baptist, in the opinion of Herodias, had to be killed. He had opposed her in her latest marriage to the man who was King. This man (her uncle) was far more promising that her earlier man (her uncle). She and her family were the born leaders and should not be opposed. For her, the imprisonment of John the Baptist was only the start; she would see him dead.

One remarkable thing about John was the fact that he had called everybody to be sorry for their sins and to turn back to the LORD God. Even more remarkable was that he was unequivocal in saying repeatedly when talking about Jesus, “He has come from above; He is above all.” Pointing to Jesus he said: “Look, see, this is the lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world.”

What’s it like in prison when your enemy has total authority over you and hates you? The media have tried to figure that out regarding James Foley. We’re privileged to have a paragraph devoted to that subject in Matthew’s biography of Jesus of Nazareth written around AD 60. See bold above.

Samuel Johnson famously wrote, “Depend upon it, Sir, when a man knows he is to be hanged in a fortnight, it concentrates his mind wonderfully.” Matthew, Jesus’ biographer, reports that, in prison, John’s mind concentrated on what was for him, the one key issue.

He sent his friends to Jesus seeking confirmation, “Are you REALLY the one who is to come, the Son of God, or must we look for another?”

What do you think that Jesus would do so as to confirm to John the Baptist, in prison and anticipating his beheading, that he, Jesus, was indeed the Son of Almighty God? Would he do a great miracle?

What happened was that Jesus sent the messengers back to John in prison and said, “Go and tell John what you see and what you hear of me: the blind receive their sight; the lame walk, lepers are cleansed; the deaf hear; the dead are raised up; and the poor have the good news proclaimed to them. Truly blessed is the one who is not put off by me.”

Not put off by me? What does that mean? If John the Baptist in his closing days in prison wanted proof that Jesus was the Son of God, he was to note well that Jesus was totally different from every other world leader. His power was in favour of the blind, the lame, the unclean, the deaf and the poor.
 
 
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‘Jesus said: The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life and have it abundantly.' (John’s biography of Jesus written c. AD 90)
Don’t be put off that Jesus has no army, no guns and no drones. This man doesn’t want to kill. He wants to save.
 
 
Richard Syvret

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