SynopsisThis passage uses a literary device we’re very familiar with: a flashback. In the previous passage we read about the Apostles being sent out to tell people to repent and to drive out demons and heal people. A lot of people are speculating about how this is possible, thinking that Jesus might be Elijah or John the Baptist or a prophet. Herod leans toward the second hypothesis, wondering if John the Baptist has been raised from the dead to perform all of these miracles. Why does he assume that? Because he is the one who had John beheaded, which brings us to the flashback, where we learn the story of how this happened. The story is this:
Herod married his brother’s wife, Herodias, and John told Herod that this wasn’t lawful. Herodias doesn’t like this, however, and wants to have John put to death, but Herod fears John (knowing that he is a righteous and holy man), so the furthest he will go is to have John imprisoned. In fact, Herod gets into the habit of listening to John, even though it “perplexes” him (verse 20 (ESV)).
Herodias gets her chance when Herod throws a party at which Herodias’ daughter dances for the guests. Herod is so pleased that he offers to reward the girl by giving her whatever she wishes, so she asks Herodias what she should ask for and Herodias tells her to ask for John’s head on a platter. Herod doesn’t like this, but because he made his promise in front of everyone he feels that he has to honour it, so he has John executed and his head brought to the girl on a platter.
ThoughtsI’m assuming that the reason Herod immediately goes to the place of assuming that Jesus is the resurrected John the Baptist is because of his own guilt on the subject. He’s obviously reluctant to act too rashly against John, and only does so when pressed into a corner. That’s not to imply that I think John is innocent in this matter; on the contrary, he seems to be pretty spineless in this story, which is how John ends up coming to a grizzly end.
And other than that, I don’t have much of a spiritual nature to say about this passage. It’s an interesting story, for sure.