John the Baptist Is Beheaded
AUGUST 28- Nº 240 Matthew 14:1-12; Mark 6:14-29
John the Baptist was the forerunner of Jesus. He had been called by God to prepare the Jews for the coming of their Messiah. He had baptized Jesus in the Jordan River and introduced him to the world as the Lamb of God—the Messiah who would take away their sins (see #215 - August 3). But during the early months of Jesus’ ministry, John had been thrown into prison. He had dared to confront Herod Antipas (the official ruler in Galilee) for marrying Herodias, his brother Philip’s wife. When she heard that John had condemned her new marriage, Herodias became so upset that she demanded his death! Herod knew that the Jewish people honored John as one of their prophets. He realized that putting him to death might incite a riot that could cost him his high position. So, he decided to have John chained and put in prison instead. Herod instinctively realized that John was a righteous man. As a matter of fact, he was so intrigued by the things John taught, that he would sometimes sneak into the prison to talk with him. Herodias was not happy that John was still alive, so she began plotting how to get rid of him. Finally, her opportunity came. On his birthday, Herod planned a big banquet and invited all the important people in his realm. During the festivities, Herodias’ daughter danced for the dinner guests. Her performance pleased Herod so much that he made her a drunken promise and sealed it with an oath, “You can ask me for anything you want up to half my kingdom, and I will give it to you,” he boasted. Salome (we learn her name from other historical sources) left the room to consult with her mother. “What shall I ask for?” she wanted to know. Herodias did not hesitate, “Ask for the head of John the Baptist on a platter!” Salome hurried back into the banquet hall to make her request. “I want the head of John the Baptist on a platter right now,” she declared loudly enough for the guests to hear. Herod was shocked and distressed. But he had given his word. He could not risk letting his guests think he was weak or untrustworthy. So, he sent an executioner with orders to cut off John’s head and bring it to him. The man did as the king commanded. Before the banquet was over, he returned with John’s head on a platter. It was presented to Salome who gave it to her mother. When John’s disciples found out what happened to the man who had been their teacher and leader, they requested his body and laid it in a tomb. Then they found Jesus and told him what had happened. Sometime later, when Herod learned about all the miraculous things Jesus was doing, he became frightened. “I killed John the Baptist, and now he has risen from the dead,” he thought. “He has come back to life with miraculous powers!”
John suffered unjustly. He was chained in a prison dungeon, murdered at the whim of a wicked woman, and buried in an unknown tomb. Yet John would say it was all worth it because he was the one who got to baptize Jesus and introduce him to the world! Jesus once referred to John as “the greatest person ever born of a woman” (see Matthew 11:11). One day we will all realize that the only really important thing we can ever do is introduce people to Jesus.