WHO IS JESUS?
Holy God, invade the sanctuary of my heart as I worship you today. I need you more than ever.
Read Matthew 14:1–12
John the Baptist Beheaded
14 At that time Herod the tetrarch heard the reports about Jesus, 2 and he said to his attendants, “This is John the Baptist; he has risen from the dead! That is why miraculous powers are at work in him.”
3 Now Herod had arrested John and bound him and put him in prison because of Herodias, his brother Philip’s wife, 4 for John had been saying to him: “It is not lawful for you to have her.” 5 Herod wanted to kill John, but he was afraid of the people, because they considered John a prophet.
6 On Herod’s birthday the daughter of Herodias danced for the guests and pleased Herod so much 7 that he promised with an oath to give her whatever she asked. 8 Prompted by her mother, she said, “Give me here on a platter the head of John the Baptist.” 9 The king was distressed, but because of his oaths and his dinner guests, he ordered that her request be granted 10 and had John beheaded in the prison. 11 His head was brought in on a platter and given to the girl, who carried it to her mother. 12 John’s disciples came and took his body and buried it. Then they went and told Jesus.
New International Version (NIV)Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV® Copyright ©1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.
‘Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life.’1
While preparing these notes I was reminded that the death of John the Baptist is recorded in the context of Herod hearing of Jesus and concluding that he was a reincarnated John. Reading this passage alongside the account in Mark 6, we observe that Herod appears to hate, fear, and respect John simultaneously, reminiscent of the relationship of King Ahab to Elijah.2 One is left to wonder why Herod makes the link between Jesus and John, given the mention of miraculous powers, as we learn elsewhere that John the Baptist performed no miracles.3 Nevertheless, Herod’s fascination with John is superseded by ‘the malice of an abandoned harlot, the petulancy of a vain girl and the rashness of a drunken king.’4
The curiosity of this sorry tale extends to Herod’s integrity. Matthew records that an oath he’d taken leaves him powerless to deny the request following the prompting of the sister-in-law he’d married, further to the divorce of his own wife without just cause – both prohibited under Jewish law. We can be quick to scream ‘Hypocrite’, yet how subtle is the temptation to choose which rule we take pride in observing while simultaneously disregarding others. Halfway through his Gospel, Matthew implicitly lays down another marker regarding the role of John in calling, ‘prepare the way for the Lord’.5 Having called people to repentance, John is executed for the offense of the message. If this happened to the forerunner, how much more significant will be the message and destiny of the one who follows? Finally, note where John’s disciples flee in their grief. Having most likely risked their own lives to reclaim John’s body, they ‘went and told Jesus’. May we too know that the darkest hour often heralds the dawn.
‘Rock of Ages, cleft for me, / let me hide myself in thee.’6
Father God, I am humbled when I learn what other believers go through for their faith. Shake me out of my complacency and embolden me as I walk with you.
1 John 6:68 2 1 Kings 18 3 John 10:41 4 John Wesley, https://www.christianity.com/bible/commentary.php?com=wes&b=40&c=14 5 Isa 40:3 6 AM Toplady, 1740–78
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