(Mark 6.14-29; Luke 9.7-9)
1About this time Herod the ruler heard the news about Jesus 2and told his officials, “This is John the Baptist! He has come back from death, and that's why he has the power to work these miracles.”
3-4 Herod had earlier arrested John and had him chained and put in prison. He did this because John had told him, “It isn't right for you to take Herodias, the wife of your brother Philip.” 5Herod wanted to kill John. But the people thought John was a prophet, and Herod was afraid of what they might do.
6When Herod's birthday came, the daughter of Herodias danced for the guests. She pleased Herod 7so much he swore to give her whatever she wanted. 8But the girl's mother told her to say, “Here on a serving plate I want the head of John the Baptist!”
9Herod was sorry for what he had said. But he did not want to break the promise he had made in front of his guests. So he ordered a guard 10to go to the prison and cut off John's head. 11It was taken on a serving plate to the girl, and she gave it to her mother. 12John's followers took his body and buried it. Then they told Jesus what had happened.
From the evidence provided by our reading, we learn that Herod tended to react impulsively. Firstly, there was his reaction to John the Baptist, a righteous man who dared to publicly disapprove of Herod’s adulterous relationship with his brother’s wife. Herod impetuously had John arrested to silence his voice.
Secondly, there was his reaction to a dancing girl. As part of a birthday celebration, the daughter of Herodias danced for the guests. To demonstrate his delight and, I suspect, to impress the crowd, Herod impulsively swore to give the young beauty anything she wanted. Faced with an offer brimming with potential, she asked her mother for advice. If ever there was a good example of bad counsel, this is it: Herodias told her to ask for John’s head on a platter.
The girl obeyed and the king, remorsefully true to his word, sent a guard to the prison to collect the grisly trophy. Presently, the deed was done. The prophet’s head was presented to the girl and having no particular use for it, she passed it along to her mother.
Lastly, there was Herod’s reaction to Jesus (which we find at the beginning of the reading). Still fearing consequences of his murder of the righteous prophet, he made a snap judgment about Jesus. When he heard about Jesus and his miracle-working power, he assumed that Jesus was John the Baptist returned from the grave, perhaps to exact retribution.
Herod’s impulsive responses were consistently misguided. Had he taken a little time and responded positively to the truth, things would have turned out very differently for him and those touched by his life. The same is true for us. Impulsive reactions seem to answer well to crisis situations, but they are typically worse than considered responses.
Heavenly Father, I recognize my tendency to be in a hurry about things. I pray that you would grant me your peace so that as I respond to you in faith I will make wise decisions that will glorify you, bless those around me, and bring grace into my own life. In the name of my Lord, Jesus Christ, make it so.