When King Herod heard about Jesus he thought it was John the Baptist come back to life. Then we learn how John died and why. First, he was arrested and then thrown into prison because he dared to speak out against Herod’s unlawful relationship with his sister-in-law, Herodias. She was still his brother’s Philip’s wife. Theirs was an adulterous relationship.
Herodias wanted John dead because of what he was saying about her and Herod. All John was doing was speaking the truth. He was a man (prophet) of God and his duty was to speak out agains iniquity. Adultery was a sin. It had to be addressed and that was what John the Baptist was doing. He could not look the other way. This was the same man who called for people to repent. He had to confront Herod about his sin. He told him plainly, “It is not lawful for you to have her.” For this Herod wanted to put John to death but feared the people.
Herodias was determined to have her way. She played on her husband’s weakness. She used her daughter to get what she wanted on Herod’s birthday. John 14:6,7 state that the daughter of Herodias danced before Herod and the guests and pleased the king so much that he foolishly promised with an oath to give the girl whatever she asked for. She asked, at her mother’s bidding, for the head of John the Baptist on a platter.
Herod realized too late that he had been set up. Obviously this request had Herodias’ name written all over it. She stood to gain a lot from John’s death. Mark wrote in his Gospel that she held what John had said about her against him and wanted to kill him, but she could not; for Herod feared John, knowing that he was a just and holy man, and he protected him. And when he heard him, he did many things, and heard him gladly. Herodias had to scheme and plot to get what she wanted.
Herod couldn’t go back on his word. He had no choice but to do as the girl asked. John was beheaded and when his head was brought on a platter to the girl, she took it to her mother. I could just imagine the smug look on Herodias’ face. She had gotten rid of the baptist. She had succeeded in silencing his voice. Now she was free to live as she pleased.
Herod had been tricked into killing a just and holy man. This reminds me of King Darius who had been tricked into signing a decree that would sentence the prophet Daniel to death. He could not revoke it. It also reminds me of the story in Judges 11 of Jephthah, the foolish father who made a vow he could not take back.
What can we learn from this horrible and tragic story of John the Baptist? We shouldn’t make vows or promises we will later regret. And if someone we know is doing something wrong, we should say something. Just today I heard a story of someone was behaving inappropriately at his workplace so his co-workers they confronted him about it. They warned him to stop what he was doing or risk losing his job. It was then up to that individual to either smarten up and heed his co-workers’ warnings or continue doing what he was doing and get fired. As Christians, we could only bring the truth to people–what they decide to do with it is up to them. At least they can’t plead ignorance.
I think that as a holy and just man, John the Baptist had to do what was required of him which is found in Ezekiel 3:18, 19. He was to warn King Herod of his sinful way and if the king did not turn from his wicked way, he will die in his iniquity.
When God sends someone to call us out for a sin we are committing, we should not want to shut the person up. This is God’s way of reaching out to us and calling us to turn away from our sin and to turn to Him instead. In other words, don’t shoot the messenger but be thankful that the One who sent him or her loves you so much that He is willing to wash you thoroughly from your iniquity, and cleanse you from your sin (Psalm 51:2).