19 – The Death of John
King Herod heard of it, for Jesus’ name had become known. Some said, “John the Baptist has been raised from the dead. That is why these miraculous powers are at work in him.” But others said, “He is Elijah.” And others said, “He 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.” For it was Herod who had sent and seized John and abound him in prison for the sake of Herodias, his brother Philip’s wife, because he had married her. For John had been saying to Herod, “It is not lawful for you to have your brother’s wife.” And Herodias had a grudge against him and wanted to put him to death. But she could not, for Herod feared John, knowing that he was a righteous and holy man, and he kept him safe. When he heard him, he was greatly perplexed, and yet he heard him gladly.
But an opportunity came when Herod on his birthday gave a banquet for his nobles and military commanders and the leading men of Galilee. For when Herodias’s daughter 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 to you.” And he vowed to her, “Whatever you ask me, I will give you, up to half of my kingdom.” And she went out and said to her mother, “For what should I ask?” And she said, “The head of John the Baptist.” And she came in immediately with haste to the king and asked, saying, “I want you to give me at once the head of John the Baptist on a platter.” And the king was exceedingly sorry, but because of his oaths and his guests he did not want to break his word to her. And immediately the king sent an executioner with orders to bring John’s head. He went and beheaded him in the prison and brought his head on a platter and gave it to the girl, and the girl gave it to her mother. When his disciples heard of it, they came and took his body and laid it in a tomb.
- Elijah: A famous Old Testament prophet who the people expected to return one day.
- Perplexed: Worried
- Vow: Solemn promise
Have you ever done and said things because you were afraid of what other people will think?
John and Herod are very different to each other – in what ways?
After Jesus sends his disciples out with a warning about people rejecting them, Mark tells us about someone who rejected the message – King Herod.
Herod had taken his brother’s wife to be his own. Just the same as John had preached in the desert about the need to repent from sins, John had made it perfectly clear to Herod that that which he had done was very wrong in God’s sight. Herodias, his wife, was terribly angry about this and she wanted John killed, but Herod knew that there was something special about John, although he did not fully understand what John was saying.
But one day, during a party he had been enjoying, Herod did something really foolish. In front of the important people of the land, he promised Herodias’ daughter that he would give her anything that she asked for. Now Herodias saw her opportunity and got her daughter to ask for the head of John the Baptist.
This story is remarkably sad, and not only because John was killed. Look at the beginning of the passage again. When Herod hears about the things that Jesus is doing, he begins to think straight away that John has come back to life. It is obvious that the thing he has done is playing on his mind. In the account itself we feel that Herod is remarkably close to accepting the message. But he was worrying more about what people thought of him than about the need to repent and turn to God.
Nothing changed for Herod. We hear at the end of the Gospel of Luke (23:7-11) that he wanted to see Jesus, but only to see a miracle or a sign of some sort. When Jesus comes in front of him, Herod asks him questions like he used to ask John, ‘… but Jesus would not answer him at all.’ Herod had had his opportunity and missed it.
Why do you think Herod liked listening to John?
Why did John’s words make Herodias so angry?
that God will make you as brave as John the Baptist and honest enough to say to people that which they need to hear.