July-August-September 2002 Newsletter

How John Lost His Head

John's preaching moved people. Something other than rote lecturing lined the roads with people from Jerusalem and the surrounding area to hear, repent and be baptized. Was it his style? Partly, perhaps. He dressed outside the box in camel's hair shirts. Perhaps such shirts lacked comfort and generated fiery sermons. At least, he avoided generating a "John the Baptist hair-shirt" sales booth. His choice of food, locusts and wild honey, prevented invitations to many business or social lunches. Living in the wilderness made it difficult to get in touch with him, anyway. Simply catching the locusts and rescuing the honey in the wilderness created a "different" style of living.

So, why did so many come to listen? Was it his message? Surely it was. Why did they ask him if he was the Messiah? He must have been an outstanding orator whose simple lifestyle added to his credibility and whose message, "Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand," captured hearts as none before him had done. Simply put, folks-He was good! The best!

Being so popular failed to corrupt him as he spoke with great directness and honesty to both soldier and king. The latter got him in serious trouble. Many might long to do what he did-identify and baptize the Messiah-but few would seek his style or wish his consequences.

After he baptized Jesus, his prior criticism of Herod finally resulted in being arrested. Already, John saw his own area of influence weaken as many of his own disciples left to follow Jesus. John, with unusual insight, happily accepted diminished ministry and recognized Jesus as the bridegroom empowered with unlimited supplies of the Holy Spirit.

New Lifestyle

However, John fell into a web he surely could not foresee. Being arrested surely meant the end of everything, unless, of course, this new deliverer/messiah fulfilled expectations and rescued him while throwing off the shackles of Rome. The wilderness didn't prepare John for the palace. Herod's wife despised John, but Herod enjoyed him. Herod feared John, yes, but he also enjoyed him. Maybe such eloquence rarely reached the palace. Wait!! If Herod liked John, why arrest him? Ah, the constantly lurking fury, Mrs. Herod, nursed the ultimate grudge. "Who is this grizzly upstart who thinks he can criticize our marriage? I have ways to handle him."

In the face of this fury, Herod had no choice but to take the popular preacher into protective custody.

Perhaps she occasionally sneered at Herod for harboring such a dangerous, deadly, righteousness-requiring person (I'm sure more words were used to disdain him) hardly befitting the king. Wives sometimes know how to snivel their fury (so do husbands!). At any rate, Herod wanted John around. He often listened to him, though he never understood him. But such good preaching was worth the puzzlement. I can almost hear the conversation. "Hey preacher-boy, preach me a sermon!"

"Okay, what subject do you want?"

"Well, I like that kingdom thing you do. Kinda' scary, but you sure do it well."

Well, preaching to the king is rather heady. Many would give up everything for such an opportunity. If his disciples were leaving him for Jesus, at least the king saw his worth. Further, the clothing of the palace, the food of the palace, the beds of the palace far exceeded anything he had ever experienced before. Rather relaxing after such prior sacrifices.

Palace Chaplain

Now, it becomes obvious what had happened-John had become the palace chaplain. In the presence of such ease, one's focus changes. One must be careful not to insult the king. Politics, you know. Perhaps we can make changes from within the system. Palace chaplain does have its influence, you know. But keep in mind that Herod's befuddlement shows that truth always befuddles the powerful, even watered-down truth.

As palace chaplain, John enjoyed certain freedoms. He certainly had the ear of Herod. That would be all the protection he needed, surely. His disciples had access to him. What more could he add to all the comforts he now enjoyed? Maybe, as he conversed with Herod and basked in all that power, then discussed with his disciples what expectations of the Messiah that didn't seem to be fulfilled, the moment of doubt overtook him. So, this prophet of the kingdom sent two of his own disciples to Jesus to ask him if he actually was the Messiah or should we look for another.

Palaces and prophets and messiahs mix very poorly. Two of them have to surrender and palaces don't surrender. John waits to hear and the only message brought back to him kicks his heart back to reality. If I may paraphrase, "Tell John that the Spirit is still here." You see, when John began his ministry, the only clue given to him by the Father as to the identity of the Messiah would be seeing the Spirit coming down and remaining. He had seen and now he sees or hears again.

I wonder if he realized what had happened to him. Was he now at rest? Did he convert, at least in his mind, back to the locust, wild honey, hair shirt and leather girdle mentality? I like to think that he did. In my carnal thinking, this would be the ideal time for God to arrange his release, but politicians and scorned wives don't listen to God.

Disaster Party

The convention of the Herod Party included a little of what might be called in our modern day, "adult entertainment." Herod's stepdaughter certainly knew how to do it. In fact, her effective erotic dance so pleased the conventioneers that Herod knew he had found a vote-getter, so he, reeling from his own lust, offered whatever this "girl with the moves" wanted, up to half the kingdom. But this showgirl only understood the erotic. She needed counsel from her mother. She, the queen, certainly would have scoped this out ahead of time.

"Go back and tell him you want the head of John on a platter. Tell him you want it right now!" Mrs Herod knew better than to give him opportunity to ponder or to do this "repenting" he had heard so much about lately. Right now!

The terrified Herod, unable to overcome the political promise or gauge the ethics of campaign contributions, caved in and demonstrated that being liked by the king won't save your head. Being the palace chaplain doesn't mean that the palace sees you as anything other than entertainment or, perhaps, to use you as feigned evidence that the palace is interested in spiritual things.

That head on a platter must have brought screams of disgust from the dancing girl as she delivered it and heard the "Ahh" of a satisfied mother. Herod, trembling, cradled his head in his hands. It was over.

So intensely this ghastly moment hung on him. When he heard of the ministry of Jesus, he thought, maybe hoped, that this was John come back to life. Herod believed in the resurrection. He sent for Jesus. Perhaps Jesus would become the new palace chaplain. Jesus rejected the opportunity. Ha! That will cost him his head.

But the Messiah lived, and nothing Herod could do would stop him. Kill him if you wish, but watch a power you can't imagine raise him to life forever. Never underestimate the resurection.

— Gayle Erwin




It was so good to see you again at the Pastors and Leaders Conference in Honolulu and even better to hear you share from the Word. What you taught about Jesus continues to stir in my soul. The way you present the New Testament stories, the disciples in their humanity, the Lord in His divinity and humility, I tell you, it is so relatable, you can almost touch it and taste it! I know that hundreds of pastors and church workers were encouraged, as I, to know Him (Jesus), serve Him (Jesus) and love Him (Jesus) more. Keep "preaching it," Gayle! By the way, your 'nautical' suspenders were a hoot. I can only say, "There is only one Gayle Erwin. 'Brace' yourself"!!

Rick Vestnys
Kihei, Maui

You were a blessing to hear at Calvary Chapel in Arkansas City. I want you to know what is now burned into my memory- name, face, glory, full of compasssion, grace and mercy, slow to anger, abounding in love and faithfulness, mercy to the 1000's, forgiving wickedness, rebellion, and sin. May God bless you and your wife and your ministry.

Johnny Duncan
Wichita, KS

Please pray for my husband. He will be preaching his first sermon in Cave City, KY. God bless you and thank you for the service you provide.

A Friend

Thank you for making The Jesus Style available here in Russia. It is a valuable resource to many of the believers in our churches. We started distributing them during the past two Pastors and Leaders Conferences here in Moscow to all the attendees as well as bundling them in sets of books given to each church.

Chris Wheatley
Moscow, Russia

Thank you for all the copies of The Jesus Style in the Russian language. The students at Calvary Chapel Bible College Moscow are all required to read and do a book report on it. They have expressed often to me how blessed and challenged they have been by reading it. There are few good Christian resources in the Russian language, and we are so thankful to have this one.

Esther De Witt
Calvary Chapel Church Planting Mission
Oceanside, CA


Volume 22, Number 3
Servant Quarters is sent free for the asking as a ministry of Gayle Erwin. You can contact us at:
Servant Quarters
PO Box 219
Cathedral City, CA 92235
FAX 760-202-1139
E-mail gayle@servant.org
Web site: www.servant.org