The Death of John the Baptist
(Matthew 14.1-12; Luke 9.7-9)
14 Jesus became so well-known that Herod the ruler heard about him. Some people thought he was John the Baptist, who had come back to life with the power to work miracles. 15Others thought he was Elijah or some other prophet who had lived long ago. 16But when Herod heard about Jesus, he said, “This must be John! I had his head cut off, and now he has come back to life.”
17-18 Herod had earlier married Herodias, the wife of his brother Philip. But John had told him, “It isn't right for you to take your brother's wife!” So, in order to please Herodias, Herod arrested John and put him in prison.
19Herodias had a grudge against John and wanted to kill him. But she could not do it 20because Herod was afraid of John and protected him. He knew that John was a good and holy man. Even though Herod was confused by what John said, he was glad to listen to him. And he often did.
21Finally, Herodias got her chance when Herod gave a great birthday celebration for himself and invited his officials, his army officers, and the leaders of Galilee. 22The daughter of Herodias came in and danced for Herod and his guests. She pleased them so much that Herod said, “Ask for anything, and it's yours! 23I swear that I will give you as much as half of my kingdom, if you want it.”
24The girl left and asked her mother, “What do you think I should ask for?”
Her mother answered, “The head of John the Baptist!”
25The girl hurried back and told Herod, “Here and now on a serving plate I want the head of John the Baptist!”
26Herod was very sorry for what he had said. But he did not want to break the promise he had made in front of his guests. 27At once he ordered a guard to cut off John's head there in prison. 28The guard put the head on a serving plate and took it to the girl. Then she gave it to her mother.
29When John's followers learned that he had been killed, they took his body and put it in a tomb.
I love the back-story in this passage. It gives us a different view of Herod than what we might otherwise see. It also shows us how our faith must be in God alone, and not in who we know.
It’s no secret that who you know is sometimes more important than what you know. Whether it’s a job you are looking for, or a fine you don’t want to pay, or a loan you want a good rate on, if you know the right person you can often get what you want.
Herod was afraid of John and had protected him because it seemed John had some kind of power because he was good and holy.
But John was beheaded by the man he’d come to with a message from God. Herod’s fear of harming a man of God came back to life when he heard about Jesus’ miracles. He must have thought John was coming back to life to punish him.
Ultimately, our only advocate, our only hope, is in Jesus Christ. Herod could not steal John’s eternity even by beheading him.
We must fear God only. It is him we must know well. He is the friend we must revere and spend time alone with. When we know Jesus, we are well-positioned. It is true. Who we know makes all the difference when the One we know is Jesus.
Almighty King, You alone are the One who establishes me. Without you I have no advantage. Teach me, O Lord, to grow a deep relationship with you that will count for me on the day I see you face to face. I humbly ask this in Jesus’ name. Amen.