GOSPEL READING: Mark 6:14-29
14 King Herod heard of it; for Jesus’ name had become known. Some said, “John the baptizer has been raised from the dead; that is why these powers are at work in him.” 15 But others said, “It is Elijah.” And others said, “It is a prophet, like one of the prophets of old.” 16 But when Herod heard of it he said, “John, whom I beheaded, has been raised.” 17 For Herod had sent and seized John, and bound him in prison for the sake of Herodias, his brother Philip’s wife; because he had married her. 18 For John said to Herod, “It is not lawful for you to have your brother’s wife.” 19 And Herodias had a grudge against him, and wanted to kill him. But she could not, 20 for Herod feared John, knowing that he was a righteous and holy man, and kept him safe. When he heard him, he was much perplexed; and yet he heard him gladly.
21 But an opportunity came when Herod on his birthday gave a banquet for his courtiers and officers and the leading men of Galilee. 22 For when Herodias’ daughter came in and danced, she pleased Herod and his guests; and the king said to the girl, “Ask me for whatever you wish, and I will grant it.” 23 And he vowed to her, “Whatever you ask me, I will give you, even half of my kingdom.” 24 And she went out, and said to her mother, “What shall I ask?” And she said, “The head of John the baptizer.” 25 And she came in immediately with haste to the king, and asked, saying, “I want you to give me at once the head of John the Baptist on a platter.” 26 And the king was exceedingly sorry; but because of his oaths and his guests he did not want to break his word to her. 27 And immediately the king sent a soldier of the guard and gave orders to bring his head. He went and beheaded him in the prison, 28 and brought his head on a platter, and gave it to the girl; and the girl gave it to her mother. 29 When his disciples heard of it, they came and took his body, and laid it in a tomb.
Meditation: Do you ever feel haunted by a past failure or a guilty conscience? The Lord Jesus came to set us free from the oppression of sin and guilt. King Herod, the most powerful and wealthy man in Judea, had everything he wanted, except a clear conscience and peace with God. Herod had respected and feared John the Baptist as a great prophet and servant of God. John, however did not fear to rebuke Herod for his adulterous relationship with his brother’s wife, Herodias. John ended up in prison because of Herodias’ hatred and jealousy. Herod, out of impulse and a desire to please his family and friends, had John beheaded. Now Herod’s conscience is pricked when he hears that some think that the Baptist has risen.
Guilt and pride cripples – repentance and pardon heals
When Herod heard the fame of Jesus he supposed that John the Baptist, whom he had beheaded, had returned from the dead. Unfortunately for Herod, he could not rid himself of sin by ridding himself of the man who confronted him with his sin. Herod was a weak man. He could take a strong stand on the wrong things when he knew the right. Such a stand, however, was a sign of weakness and cowardice. The Lord gives grace to the humble, to those who acknowledge their sins and who seek God’s mercy and pardon. His grace and pardon not only frees us from a guilty conscience, it enables us to pursue holiness in thought and action as well. God’s grace enables us to fight fear with faith and to overcome the temptation to compromise goodness and truth with wrongdoing and falsehood.
John Chrysostom describes John’s death as a crown:
In what way, then, was this just man harmed by this demise, this violent death, these chains, this imprisonment? Who are those he did not set back on their feet – provided they had a penitent disposition – because of what he spoke, because of what he suffered, because of what he still proclaims in our own day – the same message he preached while he was living. Therefore, do not say: “Why was John allowed to die?” For what occurred was not a death, but a crown, not an end, but the beginning of a greater life. Learn to think and live like a Christian. You will not only remain unharmed by these events, but will reap the greatest benefits.(ON THE PROVIDENCE OF GOD 22.10)
Do you rely on God’s grace and help to choose his way of holiness and to reject whatever would compromise your faith and loyalty to Jesus Christ?
Psalm 18:30, 46, 49-50
30 This God – his way is perfect; the promise of the LORD proves true; he is a shield for all those who take refuge in him.
46 The LORD lives; and blessed be my rock, and exalted be the God of my salvation
49 For this I will extol you, O LORD, among the nations, and sing praises to your name.
50 Great triumphs he gives to his king, and shows mercy to his anointed, to David and his descendants for ever.
Daily Quote from the Early Church Fathers: The Weakness of the Tyrant and the Power of the Beheaded, by John Chrysostom (347-407 AD)
“Note well the weakness of the tyrant compared to the power of the one in prison. Herod was not strong enough to silence his own tongue. Having opened it, he opened up countless other mouths in its place and with its help. As for John, he immediately inspired fear in Herod after his murder – for fear was disturbing Herod’s conscience to such an extent that he believed John had been raised from the dead and was performing miracles (Mark 6:14-16)! In our own day and through all future time, throughout all the world, John continues to refute Herod, both through himself and through others. For each person repeatedly reading this Gospel says: ‘It is not lawful for you to have the wife of Philip your brother’ (Mark 6:18). And even apart from reading the Gospel, in assemblies and meetings at home or in the market, in every place… even to the very ends of the earth, you will hear this voice and see that righteous man even now still crying out, resounding loudly, reproving the evil of the tyrant. He will never be silenced nor the reproof at all weakened by the passing of time.” (excerpt from ON THE PROVIDENCE OF GOD 22.8-9)