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 was called by God to prepare the Jews for the coming of their Messiah. He baptized Jesus and introduced him to the world as the Lamb of God—the Messiah who would take away their sins (see #215 - Jesus is Baptized). But during the early months of Jesus’ ministry, Herod Antipas had thrown John the Baptist into prison. (Herod Antipas had become the ruler in Galilee after the death of his father, Herod the Great.) John the Baptist had boldly condemned Herod Antipas for marrying his brother Philip’s wife named Herodias. This upset Herodias so much that she wanted John killed! Herod knew that the Jewish people honored John as one of their prophets. Since he did not want to incite a riot, 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 what John taught, he would sneak into the prison to talk with him. Herodias was very unhappy that John was still alive, so she began to plot how she could get rid of him. Finally, her opportunity came. On his birthday, Herod planned a big banquet for all the important people in his realm. During the banquet, 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 asked. 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 bring back John’s head. 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 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. He was the one who got to baptize Jesus and introduce him to the world! Jesus once referred to him as “the greatest person ever born of a woman” (see Matthew 11:11). The only really important thing we can ever do is introduce people to Jesus.