Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Mark 6:14-29

Herod Antipas, the king of Galilee and Perea, heard about what Jesus was doing. It's hard to keep such things under the radar.

Some people were saying that Jesus was able to do all of his miracles because he was John the Baptist raised from the dead. Other people were speculating that he was Elijah. Still others claimed that Jesus must be a prophet -- not unlike those of ancient times.

Herod heard all the rumors and concluded that Jesus was, John the Baptist -- the very one whom he had beheaded -- back from the dead to haunt his kingdom.

You see, it was Herod who had ordered the arrest of John, whom he imprisoned because of his "wife" -- well, actually, his sorta' wife. Herodias had been the wife of Herod's brother Philip, but he had wooed her from Philip and "married" her himself.

John had crossed Herod when he told the king that it was unlawful for him to take his brother's wife. So Herodias was looking for a way to get back at John. She would have had him killed -- except Herod was protecting John. He did so because he considered John to be some kind of holy man. Herod wasn't exactly sure what kind of holy man he was because John confused him. There was something about John's message that really resonated with Herod, but John's blunt sermons also troubled him. Unsure what to do with John, Herod protected him.

Finally, Herodias saw her opportunity. At Herod's birthday feast, attended by the most powerful people in Galilee, his daughter, also named Herodias (no narcissism in this family -- ha!) put on a surprise dance show. Everyone was blown away by her performance. Herod, caught up in the thrill of the moment, without any forethought about what he was saying or all those who heard him say it, blurted out -- "Ask whatever you want and I'll give it to you!" Then he turned his impetuous promise into a binding oath -- "I swear, ask whatever you want and I'll give it to you -- up to half my kingdom!" (That must have been some dance routine!)

The younger Herodias slipped out of the banquet hall, met up with her scheming mother, and asked, “What do you think I should I ask for?”

There was no hesitation in the senior Herodias' reply, “the head of that SOB John the Baptist.”

The daughter hurried back to the banquet hall with her request. “I want John the Baptist’s head on a plate -- and right now.”

Herod was upset by the request. But because he'd sworn an oath -- with all of his important guests as witnesses -- he couldn't back down.

Herod ordered a guard, "Bring me John's head!"

The guard went to the prison, cut off the baptizer's head, put it onto a plate, and handed it to the young woman. She, in turn, gave it to her mother.

When word of his death got to John's apprentices, they claimed his body and entombed it.

14 Herod the king heard about these things, because the name of Jesus had become well-known. Some were saying, “John the Baptist has been raised from the dead, and this is why miraculous powers are at work through him.” 15 Others were saying, “He is Elijah.” Still others were saying, “He is a prophet like one of the ancient prophets.” 16 But when Herod heard these rumors, he said, “John, whom I beheaded, has been raised to life.”

17 He said this because Herod himself had arranged to have John arrested and put in prison because of Herodias, the wife of Herod’s brother Philip. Herod had married her, 18 but John told Herod, “It’s against the law for you to marry your brother’s wife!” 19 So Herodias had it in for John. She wanted to kill him, but she couldn’t. 20 This was because Herod respected John. He regarded him as a righteous and holy person, so he protected him. John’s words greatly confused Herod, yet he enjoyed listening to him.

21 Finally, the time was right. It was on one of Herod’s birthdays, when he had prepared a feast for his high-ranking officials and military officers and Galilee’s leading residents. 22 Herod’s daughter Herodias came in and danced, thrilling Herod and his dinner guests. The king said to the young woman, “Ask me whatever you wish, and I will give it to you.” 23 Then he swore to her, “Whatever you ask I will give to you, even as much as half of my kingdom.”

24 She left the banquet hall and said to her mother, “What should I ask for?”

“John the Baptist’s head,” Herodias replied.

25 Hurrying back to the ruler, she made her request: “I want you to give me John the Baptist’s head on a plate, right this minute.” 26 Although the king was upset, because of his solemn pledge and his guests, he didn’t want to refuse her. 27 So he ordered a guard to bring John’s head. The guard went to the prison, cut off John’s head, 28 brought his head on a plate, and gave it to the young woman, and she gave it to her mother. 29 When John’s disciples heard what had happened, they came and took his dead body and laid it in a tomb.