‘For John had been saying to Herod, “It is not lawful for you to have your brother’s wife… 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.’ Mark 6:18, 20.

THE messages of John the Baptist came with power, punches and unsettled the sinner. He told his hearers: ‘even now the axe is laid to the root of the trees. Every tree therefore that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire.’ And soldiers asked him, ‘And we, what shall we do? And he said to them, ‘Do not extort money from anyone by threats or by false accusation, and be content with your wages’ Lk. 3:9, 14. In like manner, he did not spare King Herod: ‘It is not lawful for you to have your brother’s wife…’ Mk 6:18.

  Herod feared John the Baptist greatly and Bible commentators noted these about his fear. First, it was as a result of John’s growing popularity among the people. He had the undiluted word of God and therefore any who tried to discredit him certainly will incur the wrath of the populace. Secondly, they say his fear may not be unconnected to God’s punishment. Although, not a Jew he broke God’s universal law by going into his brother’s wife, Herodias. We should understand man has no excuse but to live morally upright. It is true Herod feared John yet, he listened to him. Let it be stated that the word of God is efficacious if it is tailored to move the sinner to take decision for the Lord. The ministry of John was in the desert – his Cathedral was in the bush, yet, many all over the Judean country trooped to hear him. How faithful are preachers today in dishing out the word of God to those who listen to them? It has been noted that sometimes today, some preachers play to the gallery or preach to please the powers that be? Part of why they do so may not be unconnected to the fact that they do not want to lose certain prominent individuals who in one way or the other give financial support to the Church or Diocese.

  Interestingly, in the Old Testament, Elijah was seen by King Ahab as a troubler of the nation, why? Because he told the king what he did not want to hear. The king connived with his wife and took an innocent man’s piece of land (Naboth) and killed him. Elijah courageously said to him: ‘have you killed and also taken possession’. He continued, as dogs licked the blood of Naboth, so shall it happen to you. And it came to pass, I Kings 21:17-19. I am sure Elijah did this to reawaken the conscience of King Ahab and those who may wish to follow suit thinking is a good way of life.

  Another point of interest was found in the New Testament of how Peter full of the Holy Spirit spoke on the Pentecost day and tried to set the records straight. He said this Jesus whom the leaders of the Jews killed was an innocent man. He came to save humanity. It was painful they had the opportunity to set him free but they preferred Barabbas – an insurrectionist, a scoundrel. He was not finished yet; he accused rightly the authorities for subverting the work of God. The message pierced the hearts of the hearers and they begged: ‘what shall we do? He said repent and be baptized’ Acts 2:37-38. Such was the efficacy of the word of God, hearers moved to take decision and not to be comfortable in their sins.

  When the church came initially, it was in the world. But it was conscious that it was not of the world. Believers ‘yes’ became ‘yes’ and ‘no’, no. Receipts were not inflated; ancient landmarks were not tampered with. Fearlessly, they preached the word of God and many yielded to Him. Evil forests, groves were taken over as places of worship to the glory of God then. Even in Chinua Achebe’s Arrow of God, we saw the raw zeal exhibited by a young convert Oduche when he courageously put a python in a box and it was struggling to free itself. He had been taught that such things were powerless and that believers can trample upon scorpions and the adder and in no way can they hurt the believer (Lk. 10:19). The word of God grew tremendously for fear griped many heathen communities.

  Unfortunately, there seem to be a reverse today. The world has now entered into the Church and gradually the Church has lost her potency. Worldliness, materialism now characterises the church of today. People are content with soft Christianity, one that should not offend hearers but make them comfortable even in their sins. Why, so that they can continue to fund and sponsor numerous church programmes. What a shame! John the Baptist had the word and demonstrated its efficacy. His preaching pierced the hearts of his hearers and they turned in, in repentance. Remember, God the righteous Judge is watching and He will suddenly appear in His temple for judgment, let us prepare and allow His word to purify us.

Ven. Ernest Onuoha
Rector, Ibru International Ecumenical Centre,
Delta State

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