Eyewitness to Easter: Herod Antipas Kills John the Baptist

Herod the Great has died and his son Herod Antipas has become tetrarch of Galilee and Peraea.

John the Baptist has come from the wilderness and been teaching. Eventually he is arrested and imprisoned.

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. “  {Mark 6:21}

Herod has a huge banquet for his birthday. He’s invited everyone who is anybody to his party.

When the daughter of Herodias came in and danced, she pleased Herod and his dinner guests.”  {Mark 6:22}

Part of why John the Baptist is arrested is because he preached against Herod Antipas marrying Herodias, who had formerly been married to his half-brother, Herod II.  John the Baptist is so against this marriage because it breaks Jewish law because she is also Antipas niece.

The king said to the girl, “Ask me for anything you want, and I’ll give it to you.” And he promised her with an oath, “Whatever you ask I will give you, up to half my kingdom.” {Mark 6:22-23}

Herod Antipas asked his step-daughter, whom we know from the scholas Josephus is named Salome, for anything up to half his kingdom and he’ll give it to her. That’s a lot of trust and confidence he puts in her and shows what a good mood he is in at this birthday celebration.

“ She went out and said to her mother, “What shall I ask for?” “The head of John the Baptist,” she answered.       {Mark 6:24}

Salome ask for a moment and goes to her mother inquiring what to ask for. We don’t know how old Salome is, but it appears she is still young. Maybe somewhere what we would term as pre-teen to early teenage years. Her mother doesn’t miss a beat. Maybe she’d been listening and thinking up o this point. She tells her to ask for the head of John the Baptist.

“ 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.”     {Mark 6:25}

Salome returns and presents her request.

She sought the counsel of her mother, Herodias

“ The king was greatly distressed, but because of his oaths and his dinner guests, he did not want to refuse her.” {Mark 6:26}

Herod Antipas is greatly distressed.

Herod feared John: “Was in awe of him as a holy man, and feared the indignation of the people if he slew him.” {Johnson’s Notes on the New Testament}

But, he has a lot of guest and officials attending. He can’t go back on his word. He’d look like a fool and there would be ramifications if he were to refuse her.

So he immediately sent an executioner with orders to bring John’s head. The man went, beheaded John in the prison.” {Mark 6:27}

He sent an executioner to the prison and a short time later he returned with John the Baptist head.

“ and brought back his head on a platter. He presented it to the girl, and she gave it to her mother.” {Mark 6:28}

After John the Baptist head has been presented to him, he gives it to his daughter who presents it to her mother. Imagine how proud Salome must have been to do as her mother asked and give it to her and how happy Herodias must have felt to believe all her troubles were over now that her enemy had died.

On hearing of this, John’s disciples came and took his body and laid it in a tomb.”  {Mark 6:29}

Herod feared John while he lived, and feared him still more when he was dead. Herod did many of those things which John in his preaching taught him; but it is not enough to do many things, we must have respect to all the commandments. Herod respected John, till he touched him in his Herodias. {Matthew Henry Concise Bible Commentary}

While Herod feared John and tried to follow his preaching, he feared his reputation more.  His wife knew he couldn’t refuse such a request in the public setting and used it to her advantage.

John’s disciples buried his body and informed Jesus what happened. The time had come for Jesus to step into his calling.

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