“King Herod heard of it, for Jesus’ name had become known. Some were saying, “John the baptizer has been raised from the dead; and for this reason these powers are at work in him.” But others said, “It is Elijah.” And others said, “It is a prophet, like one of the prophets of old.” But when Herod heard of it, he said, “John, whom I beheaded, has been raised.” (Mark 6:14 – 16)
To explain a little bit, Herod had heard of Jesus’ disciples going out and preaching & healing, and casting out demons. There were all types of theories, but Herod was fearful that one of them might be true.
“For Herod himself had sent men who arrested John, bound him, and put him in prison on account of Herodias, his brother Philip’s wife, because Herod had married her. For John had been telling Herod, “It is not lawful for you to have your brother’s wife.” And Herodias had a grudge against him, and wanted to kill him. But she could not, for Herod feared John, knowing that he was a righteous and holy man, and he protected him. When he heard him, he was greatly perplexed; and yet he liked to listen to him. But an opportunity came when Herod on his birthday gave a banquet for his courtiers and officers and for the leaders of Galilee.” (Verses 17 – 21)
Herod like to indulge himself; he took the wife of his brother, and by extension the members of his brother’s family. From what I can tell, beloved reader, Herod’s family had a several named Herod (actually Herod was the family name and not so much an individual name) so it is hard to tell who is who and who ranked and ruled over whom. And there was a lot of loose boundaries as to who married whom and who was involved with whom.
Perhaps John the Baptist was a clear and disciplining voice amongst all the confusion. But Herod could not or would not commit himself to this more simple and righteous way of living.
“When his daughter Herodias came in and danced, she pleased Herod and his guests; and the king said to the girl, “Ask me for whatever you wish, and I will give it.” And he solemnly swore to her, “Whatever you ask me, I will give you, even half of my kingdom.” She went out and said to her mother, “What should I ask for?” She replied, “The head of John the baptizer.” Immediately she rushed back to the king and requested, “I want you to give me at once the head of John the Baptist on a platter.” (Verses 22 – 25)
I want to make it clear, beloved reader, that it is not John the Baptist who I content was in a vulnerable situation. John was clear and assertive in his beliefs and how he lived them out. He knew who he was, and what he was called to do. And he did not defer or demure what he knew his obligations to be. Herod, however, was vulnerable to everyone and stood firm on little. It might have been a family trait, this seeking pleasure and power rather than sensible living and self respect.
“The king was deeply grieved; yet out of regard for his oaths and for the guests, he did not want to refuse her. Immediately the king sent a soldier of the guard with orders to bring John’s head. He went and beheaded him in the prison, brought his head on a platter, and gave it to the girl. Then the girl gave it to her mother. When his disciples heard about it, they came and took his body, and laid it in a tomb.” (Verses 26 – 29)
It is a true saying, beloved reader, you give in on a little and you will find yourself giving in on a lot. We hear of Herod again when Jesus is sent to him for judgment – thought not in the book of Mark. This story of John the Baptist in the gospel of Mark may have been for the purpose of explaining what happened to John the Baptist. I look on it as also telling us what happened to Herod, and how passing interest in Christianity is not enough. Not when your eternal life is at stake.
May you, beloved reader, hold firm to your beliefs and act on them as if your life depended on it – because it does!