Herod and the Baptist
As the miracles performed by Jesus were talked about everywhere, it was just a matter of time before the news reached Prince Herod Antipas and his court at Tiberias [by far the largest pagan city in Galilee]. Some of Herod’s courtiers even claimed that Jesus was actually John the Baptist, miraculously raised from the dead – which explained how it came about that these mighty powers of healing and miracle-working had accompanied his return to life.
Others, however, gave it as their opinion that Jesus was Elias. Still others thought that Jesus was one of the other prophets – or perhaps even a prophet Himself.
On the other hand, Prince Herod Antipas was certain. “It is John,” he said. “The very John I beheaded has been raised from the dead!”
Less than a year had passed since Herod had sent his soldiers to arrest John and then imprisoned him in his palace. John’s “crime” was his insistence that God’s Law forbade the prince from marrying Herodias, the wife of his brother, Prince Philip.
Herodias was furious. She wanted John killed in revenge, but had no power to give such an order herself.
Herod, on the other hand, had a healthy respect for John – and even a fear of him. He knew John was not only a just man, a righteous and holy man, but a person on intimate terms with God Himself.
So Herod kept John under guard in the palace, partly to protect him and partly because he liked to converse with John and hear what he had to say. True, John’s words often puzzled and disturbed him, but he listened gladly all the same.
Herodias bided her time. Her chance finally came on Herod’s birthday, when the prince celebrated the occasion by throwing a big party at the palace to which he invited his aides, the officers of his army, and the leading male citizens of every sizable town in Galilee and Peraea.
As part of the entertainment, Herodias volunteered the services of her daughter, Salome, a seductive and highly accomplished dancer whom she knew would greatly please and fascinate Prince Herod and his guests.
She was right.
“Salome, Salome, ask me anything you like!” cried the besotted prince. “Even if you should ask for half my kingdom, I swear, in God’s name and before this whole company, I will give it to you!”
Salome left the feast to consult her mother. “What shall I ask for, mother?”
“Ask for John the Baptist’s head!”
Salome hurried back to the feast and said to Herod Antipas, “I want the head of John the Baptist – right now – on a tray!”
This unexpected request grieved the prince exceedingly. But he had no choice. He had sworn an oath in front of all the leading citizens of his kingdom. So he immediately dispatched one of his bodyguards to the room where John was kept prisoner with orders to kill John and bring back his head on a tray. The soldier did so. He brought back John’s head, handed it to the girl, and she took it to her mother.
When John’s disciples heard what had happened, they came for his body and laid it in a tomb.