Finally the opportune time came. On his birthday Herod gave a banquet for his high officials and military commanders and the leading men of Galilee. 22 When the daughter of Herodias came in and danced, she pleased Herod and his dinner guests.

The king said to the girl, “Ask me for anything you want, and I’ll give it to you.” 23 And he promised her with an oath, “Whatever you ask I will give you, up to half my kingdom.”

24 She went out and said to her mother, “What shall I ask for?”

“The head of John the Baptist,” she answered.

25 At once the girl hurried in to the king with the request: “I want you to give me right now the head of John the Baptist on a platter.”

26 The king was greatly distressed, but because of his oaths and his dinner guests, he did not want to refuse her. 27 So he immediately sent an executioner with orders to bring John’s head. The man went, beheaded John in the prison, 28 and brought back his head on a platter. He presented it to the girl, and she gave it to her mother. 29 On hearing of this, John’s disciples came and took his body and laid it in a tomb. Mark 6:21-29

What a sobering and terrifying chain of events, a setup which Satan used to his full advantage. John the Baptist was incarcerated in prison. What hope did he have of being released? Would he ever have a trial and if so, who would speak for him? What sort of justice system operated in his day? Herod was a puppet of Rome and functioned within the Roman system which would have had no interest in his personal affairs. He probably did not see himself as subject to Jewish law – so John was caught in the middle with no hope of justice or release.

I don’t think Herod had John in mind when he planned his birthday bash. Free-flowing booze and debauched emotions set him up for the dilemma he landed in. Herodias’ daughter’s provocative dance must have fired his alcohol-soaked lust even further, eclipsing his brain and loosing his tongue into making a rash promise which set him up for the trap he fell into.

Herodias was sharp and opportunistic. She wasn’t demented by alcohol. Her daughter was probably completely under her domination. She saw her opportunity and grabbed it with both hands. Herod had unwittingly opened the door to her unscrupulous obsession to get rid of John and her one-track mind fastened onto it immediately.

As soon as her request came back via the girl, Herod realised his mistake. He had been caught in his own trap and he couldn’t get out of it – so he thought. A series of completely self-centred plans had backfired and now, instead of being seen as a generous and magnanimous host, he was exposed as a weak, spineless drunk and foolish dictator. He had no guts to say no and so he also became a murderer.

Where was God in these circumstances? Mark begins the record by reporting that Jesus was baptised by John but only began His public ministry after John’s imprisonment. Do I see God’s mercy in John’s violent death – saving him from a long, slow and ignominious death?

Luella Campbell

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