This is an interesting story to pop up in an account that has been focusing mostly on Jesus and his ministry. What does it say to us? It certainly gives us the picture that nobody is safe from evil, even and especially prophets. Notice the flashback. John was already dead, but we learn how and why it happened after the fact.
Some may say that John was a martyr but not actually in the true sense. He did not play an active role in his death. It happened on the whim of a young girl wanting to please her mother. John had allegedly been vocal about the wrong Herod had done in marrying his brother’s divorced wife, Herodias. He had to divorce his own wife to marry her. That would have been behavior contrary to the incest laws of the Pentateuch.
We also see how peer pressure can lead to very serious results. Herod had no idea when he asked his wife’s daughter for her wish that her answer would be John’s head. That wasn’t a gift he wanted to give. But, he had witnesses and he had to save face. How many times have you done something you knew wasn’t right only because you felt pressured to do it or knew if you didn’t follow through you would have been ridiculed as a quitter or goody-two-shoes!?
John had been chosen by God for a purpose. To announce the coming kingdom being ushered in by Jesus himself. John had done a marvelous job of that. His mission was completed. His time had come.
Now Herod thought this Jesus fellow was John back from the dead. We know that’s not true, but perhaps the spirit of John was now helping Jesus and his growing popularity. Again, that is not how we understand things. But the ancients did believe that the spirit of a departed could give power to their successor.
How do you respond to this story? Are you like me, feeling a bit saddened that the life of a God-fearing man was ended in such a brutal way? Take some time to wrestle with the fact that no matter what evil befalls us and is out of our control, we have a loving God who is watching out for us.
Let’s pray. Lord, thank you for how you are working and through me. Like John, I have a message to share. Give me boldness to go out. Calm my fears. Help me to trust you more today. In Jesus’ name. Amen.