Guilt has a way of remaining long after our transgressions have passed. The question is, “what are you going to do with it?” Lingering guilt is what Herod, the tetrarch, was experiencing when he heard about Jesus and the miracles he was working. Herod was sure it was John the Baptist who had come back to life.
There is an aspect of this story that we often miss, but before I address it, I need to give a little more context to the passage. The story starts earlier when Herod took his brother’s wife, and John had called him out on it. John told him it was not lawful for him to have her. Hearing this, Herod wanted to put him to death but did not do it because he feared the people. He held off because they thought he was a prophet, and he was afraid they would rebel against him. Through a series of events and manipulation by his brother’s wife, his hand was eventually forced to deliver John the Baptist’s head on a platter at his birthday celebration.
Though he had done the deed, and it seemed the danger of the people’s rebellion had been unwarranted, his guilt would not let him rest. Like the guilt Joseph’s brother’s experienced after they sold Joseph into slavery, every time something bad would happen, his guilt would haunt him by telling him it was because of what he had done.
This is how sin operates; it promises moments of pleasure, but it can saddle us with years of regret. Though many people say sin is only for a season, it can often last a lifetime. However, here is the amazing part of Herod’s story we often overlook. The one who was doing the miracles and caused Herod’s guilt to haunt him was the very one who could set him free from his guilt.
It can be this way for all of us. Sometimes, the Holy Spirit is convicting us of sin, and instead of letting the guilt speak its truth and point us to the remedy, we often listen to the father of lies who is telling us to run. The enemy tells us our only defense is to evade the judge and continue to lie to ourselves and others that we are not as guilty as we know we are.
It is unlikely that Herod ever found the forgiveness he needed in Jesus. The same pride that caused him to deliver John the Baptist’s head on a platter kept him running from his salvation in Christ. If you have been struggling with guilt and thoughts of Jesus and his Church only exacerbates that guilt, or if you were raised in the Church but wandered away and every reflection of your upbringing only reminds you of how far you have fallen, you have two options. You can continue to run from your Savior, or you can turn to face him and be set free.
Let me tell you what you will find based on the word of God and the experiences of countless Christians, myself included, when you finally stop running and look your Savior in the eye. You will not find anger in his face. That is a lie the enemy has been telling you to keep you running. Instead, you will find his arms open, welcoming you in love.
The scars on his hands are there to tell you the punishment your sins deserved he has paid. You can be washed clean in the blood of Jesus and welcomed as his child. You do not need to run any longer.
Let your guilt lead you home.
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