Herod divorced his wife to marry his brother Philip’s, wife. We don’t know if Philip was dead yet or not. There’s some speculation both ways. We just know John wasn’t happy about it, and he was willing to TALK about how unhappy he was about it. Meanwhile, Herod and Herodias were wildly happy about their arrangement and not thrilled that John was speaking against them. Particularly Herodias was unhappy about it. I think Herod probably encountered a lot of people unhappy with his choices in leadership. But for Herodias, it seems she didn’t quite know how to handle the conviction John was bringing on her.
Additionally, Herod feared John’s followers. He put John in prison for his words against he and Herodias’ relationship, but it seems that was as far as he was going to take it. He wanted John dead, but didn’t want to incite an uprising.
Then his wife stepped in.
She had a beautiful daughter and now was her chance to use her to accomplish what she needed to have done. Herod threw a party. It was a throw down. Somewhere in the course of the night, after they’d all had too much to drink, Herodias’ daughter danced and pleased the crowd and more importantly, her step-dad. He promised her anything she wanted. Scripture says, “having been prompted by her mother…” as though her mama knew she would be winning over the crowd. Conviction is a powerful thing. It either drives us to repentance or it drives us further into our sin. In the case of Herod and Herodias in order to quiet the conviction, instead of dealing with their sin, they silenced the voice of conviction.
Herodias’ daughter could choose anything she wanted to as a reward for her crowd pleasing. It’s doubtful if left up to her that she would have chosen what she did. Afterall, the marriage John the Baptist was protecting, was likely her mother and father’s. If she was honest, she probably felt as sick about Herod usurping Philip as John the Baptist did. Herodias told her daughter to ask for John the Baptists’ head. On a platter. Gruesome.
It says Herod was grieved. This could be for a lot of reasons, but I think the course the rest of his life took tells us a little about it. This whole passage begins with Herod being afraid John was raised from the dead, back to make his life miserable. He recognized the power in John, and with a mixture of belief and fear, he knew his error.
He moved forward anyway. The crowd and his wife were too much for him to handle. He couldn’t put his foot down against their request. He gave them what they asked for in the middle of the banquet in front of everyone. What a horrible scene to watch happen. Right before you is the head of a man you’ve just murdered. As soon as it happened, John’s followers took his body to prepare and bury it. And someone had the job of telling Jesus, John’s cousin.
Amidst the grief, there is something so beautiful about the progression of events. I get confused with the chronology in the Gospels, but I love this. John’s disciples tell Jesus, and he is so grieved, he goes to a secluded place. He wants to be alone. He probably wants to remember, to be thankful for John’s work, and to be comforted with God. He left in a boat and the crowds followed Him. They probably didn’t have context for His grief, and all they could recognize, was their own need of healing. They NEEDED Him. And Jesus was present with them in their need. This leads to the 5 loaves and 2 fishes feeding of 5000 story. This leads to Andrew, John’s disciple, advocating for the little boy in the crowd, but first, Jesus takes a few minutes on a boat to grieve. Then immediately He began again, addressing the needs of those around Him. How comforting to Andrew, to watch his master grieve the loss of his friend.
I’ve spent the majority of the study of John looking at the people around him. The best pictures of him are from him interactions with others. Just a few stories, a couple snapshots into the kind of life he lived, and the rest is question marks. We don’t know what his disciples did without him, if they carried on in their own way, or if they began following Jesus. So much surrounding John is a mystery. He rarely spoke for himself in the Gospels. It’s like the Gospel writers knew of his importance too late to get to know him. In our study I’ve become more curious about the man, John the Baptist. And as my curiosity grew, I realized how impossible it is to know his mind. We just have what we know of those around him, and their character reflects well on him.
For me, Elijah made the greatest impression throughout John the Baptist’s story. We’re going to dig into his life and story next because I believe God has more to show us through his life. But first:
Who in John the Baptist’s story has influence you? Zacharias, Elizabeth, Mary, Andrew, Herod, Elijah, Jesus?
Why do you think there are so many inferences drawn between John the Baptist and Elijah?
What is ONE thing you want to take with you from John the Baptist’s story? How can you apply it today?