“10) He sent and had John beheaded in the prison, 11) and his head was brought on a platter and given to the girl, and she brought it to her mother. 12) And his disciples came and took the body and buried it, and they went and told Jesus.” Matthew 14:10-12
There is a cost to following Christ. There is a cost to being one of his disciples. The cost associated could partly explain what we are seeing in the mass exodus of regular church attenders, capable workers for the vineyard and servants who accept the mantle to accelerate the growth of God’s kingdom.
The cost comes from the need for disciples to operate with integrity and honesty. This does not mean that Jesus’ disciples are perfect. We all have our proclivities. But there are some core foundational characteristics of Jesus’ disciples that we must strive to uphold.
Matthew 14 tells the tragic end to the life of John the Baptist. We know John the Baptist as the “forerunner of Jesus.” It was John who admonished his listeners to “repent for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.” It was John the Baptist who prophesied the coming of the Messiah. And, as powerful as John’s ministry was, he wanted us to be clear that he was not the Messiah.
John’s prison sentence wasn’t due to any crime he committed. He was imprisoned because of his refusal to go along with the sins of King Herod the Tetrarch. Herod desired to have his brother’s wife, Herodias. And when John refused to bless this unholy union, Herod threw him in jail.
Later, as the story goes, Herodias’ daughter, who was the niece of Herod, after seducing Herod through her sensual dancing, requested at the urging of her mother that John the Baptist be executed by beheading. Herod, having made a public obligation to grant Herodias’ daugher whatever she wanted, was forced to honor her request.
John was beheaded because he was a man of integrity. Integrity is a core tenet of discipleship. Integrity is the quality of being honest and having strong moral principles. Integrity is moral uprightness. Disciples are called to live a life of integrity.
John was beheaded because he was godly. A quick Google search helps us to understand that “a godly person is someone who is deeply religious and shows obedience to the rules of their religion.” It further denotes: “What makes one godly is living your life with a deep respect for, and obedience to godly principles.
God’s word is the path to godly character development. Then there is the call to dependence on God by trusting him completely. Surrendering to his will and his leadership is a key step in becoming godly.”
The characteristics of true discipleship are extensive. We could also include faith, hope, love, charity, kindness, compassion, perseverance, prayer, service and commitment.
Just like John the Baptist, when we decide to follow Jesus and really mean it, it may cost us our head.
Dr. Preston T. Adams III is senior pastor at Amazing Grace Christian Church in Indianapolis. Contact Pastor Adams via email at firstname.lastname@example.org or via Twitter @DrPrestonTAdams. For more information, visit agccindy.org.