Gospel: Mark 6:14-29
King Herod also heard about Jesus, because his name had become well-known. Some people said, “John the Baptist has been raised from the dead, and that is why miraculous powers are at work in him.” Others thought, “He is Elijah,” and others, “He is a prophet like the prophets of times past.” When Herod was told of this, he thought, “I had John beheaded; yet, he has risen from the dead!” For this is what had happened: Herod had ordered John to be arrested; and had had him bound and put in prison because of Herodias, the wife of his brother Philip.
Herod had married her; and John had told him, “It is not right for you to live with your brother’s wife.” So Herodias held a grudge against John and wanted to kill him; but she could not, because Herod respected John. He knew John to be an upright and holy man, and kept him safe. And he liked listening to him; although he became very disturbed whenever he heard him. Herodias had her chance on Herod’s birthday, when he gave a dinner for all the senior government officials, military chiefs, and the leaders of Galilee. On that occasion, the daughter of Herodias came in and danced; and she delighted Herod and his guests.The king said to the girl, “Ask me for anything you want and I will give it to you.” And he went so far as to say with many oaths, “I will give you anything you ask, even half my kingdom.” She went out and said to her mother, “What shall I ask for?” The mother replied, “The head of John the Baptist.” The girl hurried to the king and made her request, “I want you to give me the head of John the Baptist, here and now, on a dish.” The king was very displeased, but he would not refuse in front of his guests because of his oaths. So he sent one of the bodyguards, with orders to bring John’s head. He went and beheaded John in prison; then he brought the head on a dish and gave it to the girl. And the girl gave it to her mother. When John’s disciples heard of this, they came and took his body and buried it.
“He would not refuse in front of his guests because of his oaths.”
This grotesque story reveals much about the psychology of a tyrant. While holding the lives of others in his hands, he is constantly attuned to any threat to his power—wary of displaying signs of weakness that could cast doubt on his potency and thus encourage enemies. John the Baptist poses a different sort of threat. Yet Herod hesitates to move against a man of God. The gospel text assigns blame for John’s death to Herod’s wife— who has her own reason to resent the prophet. Yet there is something psychologically apt about the “strong man” who is more worried about the consequences of violating a besotted oath than he is about the sin of murder. No wonder he is troubled when he hears reports of Jesus, wondering perhaps whether his victim has not returned to haunt him.This story may seem to apply only to warlords, gang leaders, and crime bosses. But there is a much more common sort of corruption—even in the church—that occurs whenever we are more concerned with appearances and reputation, or the fear of exposing “scandal” than we are about the truth or about protecting the weak and vulnerable.
© Copyright Bible Diary 2019