May 21 – Trip to the Holy Land – Machaerus

DAY 9 – MACHAERUS

Theme: Suffering

Read Matthew 14:1-12

About 100 years before the birth of Christ, a mountaintop fortress known as Machaerus, was constructed over-looking the barren landscape of the eastern shore of the Dead Sea.  It stands alone, like Alcatraz, as a reminder of the horrific events that occurred within its walls.  Apparently, this fortress was utilized by Herod the Great, and eventually by his son, Herod Antipas.

The fortress is best known as the place of execution for John the Baptist.  Antipas ordered John’s murder because the courageous prophet had condemned him for his adulterous relationship with his brother’s wife.

What did John do to deserve this kind of cruel punishment and death? After all, Jesus said this:  “No one in history surpasses John…”  (Matthew 11:11a – MSG).

Apparently, John had the unique responsibility of “preparing the way for the Lord” (Matthew 3:1; John 1:23).  That responsibility included boldly preaching the need for repentance in preparation for the coming Messiah – even to the king of the country. And that cost him his life!

One of the paradoxes of the Christian life is that God will ask some of His faithful followers to go through times of great pain and suffering – all for the sake of the Gospel. Over the years, I have watched godly people suffer and even die. I have stood in their presence as they breathed their last breath … and marveled at their radiant testimony for Jesus. It feels like a holy moment as a child of God slips from this life to the next.

Perhaps you, too, are facing adversity, pain, even death. Could I just remind you of the privilege you have to reflect the character of Christ in your life – even in times of hardship? Paul, who knew so much about suffering, wrote:  “For you have been given not only the privilege of trusting in Christ but also the privilege of suffering for him.”  (Philippians 1:29 -NLT)

Prayer of reflection:  Heavenly Father, would you help me to see the hardships and suffering of my life as a privilege to point others to you?

Bob Fetterhoff

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