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SERMON - July 15, 2018

ARE YOU PUZZLED?

Mark 6:12-20, Text v. 20b 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.

          Did you ever find one piece of a puzzle laying on the floor and you forgot to which puzzle it belonged? So, you put it back up on the table, and just left it there! Then, when nobody asked about it, you threw it out, because it was an insignificant piece of a puzzle and didn’t fit anywhere! One piece! Out of 200! That’s not much. ½ of 1%. It would never be missed! In fact, if puzzle pieces could think, they would feel they were insignificant, by themselves. But, when you put them all together, each one is significant! They depend on each other Significance is defined as ‘the quality of being important or being regarded as having great meaning.’ Herod was puzzled about the significance of one person.

         You see, Herod was involved in an illegal marriage with his brother’s wife, Herodias. And when a man named John the Baptist came along to publicly tell him that was wrong, it got Herod’s attention! John preached along the Jordan River, and was the forerunner of Jesus, the Messiah. A lot of people went out there to hear John preach. His message was about repentance. And, it was no secret what he had said to Herod about his adulterous marriage. Herod needed to repent! And because of that, Herodias wanted John silenced. So, Herod’s solution was to put John in prison! But, there was something in John’s favor. Herod was puzzled about him. He liked John. He liked to listen to him. And John was probably one, of only a few people, who could speak the truth to Herod’s face. People had often seen Herod when he listened to John speak. John always said, “God told him what to say”.

         But, it’s not enough to just listen to God’s word. It doesn’t do you any good, if you don’t obey God’s word. And Herod refused to be sorry, and repent for the things he had done wrong, and was still doing wrong! The Bible says, others had done the same thing. They listened when someone spoke God’s word to them. But, they didn’t change. Acts 24:26 tells about the Roman governor Felix who liked to listen to Paul. In fact, Felix often sent for Paul. But, it didn’t change his attitude. Or, his behavior! And when Felix’s time to govern was over, he left Paul in prison. And, not everyone who has listened to Billy Graham on television, or in person, has agreed with everything he said. That’s the point!

         Since the1950's, when Billy Graham began to preach, he had reached millions who were drawn to him because of his absolute honesty. They liked to listen to his charming, southern drawl. And as a result, thousands were saved, and received new, eternal lives. They repented, and changed their ways. That’s the purpose of evangelism. It’s the Holy Spirit reaching into the hearts and souls of the lost. And when they listen, it’s God Himself who tugs on a person’s heartstrings. Herod had placed John the Baptist in protective custody to keep him safe from those in the crowds who wanted to quiet him. Herod wanted to continue to listen and learn from John.

         But listening is only the beginning point! It’s often the beginning of becoming something new and better. Herod had been paying attention to John. He was, possibly, toying with the idea of reforming his ways. But, he never did! Understand, when you begin to listen, it’s the starting point of faith. Herod did begin to listen. But, he was puzzled! Are you? Jesus had made it clear that just participating in religion is no guarantee of salvation. Matthew 7:21-23 “Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven. But he who does the will of My Father, who is in heaven, will enter. Many will say to Me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in Your name, and in Your name cast out demons, and in Your name perform many miracles?’ And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness.’ Christians don’t just share the Holy Spirit. They possess the Holy Spirit. And the Holy Spirit lives inside of them. Just to hear the mes-sage about Jesus is not enough! It’s possible to hear good preaching every week. read the Bible every day, and even enjoy learning about the Bible. But, it’s still not being a Christian! Herod Antipas, in our lesson today, was a good example of that! He enjoyed listening to John. But, when push came to shove, he had John beheaded!

         Understand! Everyone responds to Jesus some way! Each and every person has a response to Him. Choosing not to respond to Jesus is, in itself, a response. In fact, it’s known, beyond the shadow of a doubt, that Jesus existed 2,000 years ago. That’s historically verifiable. It’s what you do with that knowledge about Jesus. It’s how you respond to Jesus! He made some extraordinary claims which may puzzle you. He claimed to be God, in the flesh. But, is He really who He claimed to be, to you? Do you accept that? Or do you deny it? So, the question you have to ask yourself is this; how do I respond to Jesus? Regardless, of how your friends, or your family, or anyone else re-sponds, how do you respond to Jesus? Is He significant to you in your life? Or, are you still puzzled by Him? It’s dangerous to see God answer prayer, heal people, and change lives, and then not give yourself completely to Him. In Matthew 10, Jesus summoned His twelve disciples and gave them authority over unclean spirits, to cast them out, and to heal every kind of disease and every kind of sickness. And then in verse 7 He said, “And as you go, preach, saying, ‘The kingdom of heaven is at hand.’

          That’s the good news! The Kingdom of God HAS come! When Jesus came into the world, God moved into this world in an unprecedented way. And since Jesus has come, God is exerting his right to rule in new and powerful ways. He is attacking His enemy, the Devil, in new ways. He has dealt with sin, in a new way. He is gathering a new people, in a new way. He is empowering His representatives, in new ways. And in all this, He reigns as King. It’s not coming. It’s here! The advancement of His kingdom is happening now! Are you still puzzled by it? Are you listening? If you are, you need to stop and think about what you’re hearing. Say with me now, John 3:16! For God so loved the world . . . . That should not leave you puzzled! That’s the answer to your eternal life! But, what are you doing about it? Better yet, what are you going to do about it? There’s no time for you to wait any longer. ‘The kingdom of heaven is at hand.’ Repent, and be baptized! AMEN