If you have shared your faith with people, you know that some people think that Jesus was just a good man. They may even think that He was the best of men. But they do not believe that He is the Messiah, the long-promised Savior of the world, God in the flesh, and the King of Israel.
That type of thinking did not start in our day. Most people who heard Jesus teach and saw Him do miracles thought that way in the first century during His ministry. (Of course, some who heard and saw Him thought He was a bad man, a false teacher trying to deceive the people.)
Jesus was and is a good Man. Indeed, He was and is a perfect Man. But He was and is more than that. He is the Messiah. He is the Savior. He is the King of kings and Lord of lords.
Is a person who thinks that Jesus was a good man close or far from believing in Him for everlasting life?
Many Thought Jesus Was Elijah, a Prophet, or John the Baptist (Mark 6:14-16)
Herod’s father was called Herod the Great. His father had ruled as King of the Jews from 40 BC till around 4 BC.
The Herod who ruled at the time of Christ was called Herod Antipas. He ruled from around 4 BC until around AD 37, four years after Jesus’ crucifixion and resurrection. He was called tetrarch, which means “ruler of one quarter.” In other words, he received rulership over one fourth of the region his father had ruled. He was also called the tetrarch or king of Galilee and Perea. His older brother Herod Archelaus was ethnarch or king of Judea, Idumea, and Samaria. His half-brother Herod Philip was made tetrarch or king of the Golan Heights, southern Syria, Traconitis, and Auranitis.
Jesus later called Herod Antipas “that fox.” See Luke 13:32. A fox in the first century was understood as an unclean animal that ate the animals and crops of people in Israel. Jesus saw Herod Antipas as one trying to hinder His ministry and even to put Him to death. But Jesus knew that He would not go to the cross until the appointed time of Passover.
Herod Antipas thought that John the Baptist had risen from the dead and that Jesus was indeed the risen John the Baptist.
Others thought that Jesus was Elijah. Remember that Elijah had never died but had been taken into the third heaven alive.
Still others thought that Jesus was a prophet of God.
These three different understandings of who Jesus was all fell short of His true identity. They all saw Him as a good man. But they all failed to see Him as the Messiah, Savior, and King.
Herod Antipas Had Been Tricked to Put John the Baptist to Death (Mark 6:17-29)
Have you ever been pressured by friends or loved ones to do something you know you did not want to do? Maybe you were pressured into getting drunk, trying marijuana or cocaine, lying to your parents, cheating on a test, etc.
Maybe you did not do something big. But you may have laughed at a racist or dirty joke because everyone else was.
Even people in power are pressured by their family and friends to do things they do not want to do.
King Herod wanted to arrest John the Baptist. But he did not want to hurt him. And he definitely did not want to kill him.
But his wife and his stepdaughter tricked him. They asked for the head of John the Baptist on a platter.
What would you do? You promised your stepdaughter whatever she asked. It was in your power to give her John’s head on a platter.
If you did not do it, you would lose face both with your family and the people in court.
So, Herod had John beheaded. He did the unthinkable because he did not want to lose face.
But Herod did lose face. God was displeased by what Herod did. Of course, God knew this was going to happen. But Herod was responsible for his sinful actions. He could not pass the blame solely to his wife and stepdaughter. They all were culpable.
John the Baptist’s Death Foreshadowed Jesus’ Soon Death, Burial, and Resurrection (Mark 6:29)
Luke tells us that John the Baptist was killed by the representatives of Rome and that he was buried (v 29). While John the Baptist did not rise from the dead at that time, Luke does tell us that Herod thought he had risen and was now calling himself Jesus.
Might it be that Luke intends the reader to see in John the Baptist a foreshadowing of Jesus’ death, burial, and resurrection? That seems likely.
Herod was wrong. John the Baptist had not risen from the dead.
But Jesus, whom Herod wrongly thought was John the Baptist, would be put to death, buried, and would rise on the third day.
John the Baptist was Jesus’ forerunner even in his death.
We serve God in the flesh, the King of kings and Lord of lords. He is coming again soon to rule over a kingdom of righteousness and peace. May we never forget that He is the Exalted One.
As we have opportunity, may we clear up the confusion of those who believe that Jesus was just a good man. It is good that they have a positive attitude about Him. But they still do not grasp who He is and what He promises. The Lord can use their positive attitude about Jesus to bring them to faith if they are open to the truth. John 3:16 might open their eyes to the fact that Jesus guarantees everlasting life to all who simply believe in Him for it.