because Herod feared John and protected him, knowing him to be a righteous and holy man. When Herod heard John, he was greatly puzzled; yet he liked to listen to him.
One thing that people in power have in common is the ability to look beyond fear. They don’t let it get in their way. They are able to move past the fear and continue to perform.
Herod was king. He didn’t answer to anyone locally. Other than Rome, he could do just about anything he wanted to. Kings don’t fear, and they especially don’t fear people with no power, no influence, no great following. John the Baptizer was just that sort of person not to be feared. He was from a small town in a minor province in a backwater of Israel. He wasn’t from a large town, didn’t have a large bank account or stock portfolio. He didn’t have an influential following. He didn’t have that many friends on Facebook or Twitter connections.
And yet, this king feared him. He actually didn’t just fear John and then move on. No, he came to fear John and stayed right there in the land of fear. And the result of this continuous fear was that he continuously protected John from Herodias.
Imaging the talk and tension at the table when they sat down to eat. Here’s a wife trying to kill John the Baptizer while her husband was doing his best to protect him. Talk about tension.
But Herod had more than feelings of fear when it came to John. There was this confusion within his mind and emotions. He heard the truth from John, and it seemed to resonate with him, but he wasn’t certain which way to turn. He became and stayed right there in the land of being perplexed.
Herod went to listen to John over and over. This wasn’t just some one-time official visit in the king’s courtroom. Herod went and listened to John over and over. He repeatedly went to the prison, or had John brought to him. When he listened to John, it was sweet to his ears and emotions. Even though John never moved from the truth, that it was wrong for him to be married to his brother’s wife, exposure to the truth stirred something in Herod that was attractive, satisfying, calming to the soul.
It’s easy to jump all over Herod, to put him down, to criticize him. In our self-righteousness we almost tear our rotator cuff as we pat ourselves on the back over and over. After all, we’re more righteous than then he is. We don’t have his lack of faith. His lack of vision.
We see ourselves and our lives through rose-colored glasses, not being able to see the width and depth of our own scarlet sins. Jesus tells a story about someone who felt this way about themselves.
The Pharisee stood by himself and prayed this prayer: ‘I thank you, God, that I am not like other people—cheaters, sinners, adulterers. I’m certainly not like that tax collector! I fast twice a week, and I give you a tenth of my income.’
Jesus clearly condemns this kind of “prayer” as not really prayer at all. Here is the kind of prayer that Jesus recognizes as true.
But the tax collector stood at a distance and dared not even lift his eyes to heaven as he prayed. Instead, he beat his chest in sorrow, saying, ‘O God, be merciful to me, for I am a sinner.’
The tax collector, perhaps the most hated person of that time and place, considered as traitors to their people and nation, enters the back area of the Temple to pray. He clearly understands that God is totally holy, separate, and unique from everyone and everything else. He sees his place in comparison to God and won’t even look up. In total and utter humility, he beats his chest, a symbol of extreme sorrow, confesses his sin before a holy and righteous God.
We don’t do this anymore – beat our chest to demonstrate and display sorrow. We don’t like to demonstrate sad feelings anymore, it’s all about being in control, on top of things. And yet, what did the people at the cross do?
When all the people who had gathered to witness this sight saw what took place, they beat their breasts and went away.
They visibly showed their deep sorrow at the suffering and death of Jesus. What is our response to the death of Jesus for us?
Listening is never enough. We’re not to be silent, but to sing praise to God. Praise for forgiveness. Praise for restoration. And this is not a short-term praise, it’s to go on forever.
 Isaiah 1:18