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Matthew 14:1-14: John the Baptist’s Death

Posted by adventbiblestudy on February 1, 2012


Matthew 14:1-14 MKJV At that time Herod the tetrarch heard of the fame of Jesus (2) and said to his servants, This is John the Baptist. He has risen from the dead, and therefore the powerful works are working in him. (3) For Herod had laid hold on John, and had bound him, and had put him in prison because of Herodias his brother Philip’s wife. (4) For John said to him, It is not lawful for you to have her. (5) And when he desired to put him to death, he feared the multitude, because they counted him as a prophet. (6) But when Herod’s birthday was kept, the daughter of Herodias danced before them and pleased Herod. (7) So he promised with an oath to give her whatever she would ask. (8) And she, being instructed before by her mother, said, Give me John the Baptist’s head here on a platter. (9) And the king was sorry. But for the oath’s sake, and those reclining with him, he commanded it to be given. (10) And he sent and beheaded John in the prison. (11) And his head was brought on a platter and given to the girl. And she brought it to her mother. (12) And his disciples came and took up the body and buried it, and went and told Jesus. (13) When Jesus heard, He departed from there by boat into a deserted place apart. And hearing, the crowds followed Him on foot out of the cities. (14) And Jesus went out and saw a great crowd, and He was moved with compassion toward them. And He healed their sick.

 

The court of the palace smelled of roasted meat and stale wine. Herod was on the second day of his birthday celebration. He leaned over to one of his subjects and whispered in a slurred speech, “I have heard about the fame of Jesus. This is John the Baptist. He has risen from the dead, and therefore the powerful works are working in him.” His subject gazed back at him through hazed eyes, his thoughts clouded by wine, and quickly forgot what he was going to say.

Herod had planned this celebration for months, intending to receive some peace, and escape the thoughts which had been haunting him for more than a year. John had bravely spoken out about Herod’s marriage to Herodias, his brother Philip’s wife. According to Jewish law, this was the noble thing to do when a brother dies. The only problem was, his brother was still alive. It seems Herodias in her quest for power twisted the laws to benefit her goals. Herod being a man of low moral character was easily convinced to go along with what was thought of as a well conceived idea. The only problem was, God sent His Spirit to convict Herod’s conscience. It was a pain he could not shake, no matter what he tried. No matter how hard he tried to convince himself, he was in charge, and in control. Not even a king is a match for God’s will.

Herod had thought killing John would end the pain, but he feared an uprising of the people. It wasn’t the people under his rule he feared, it was the Roman authority. As long as he maintained order, he remained in power. He knew his position, and life were in danger the minute it appeared he was lightening, or loosing his control.

Herod’s life was a sad and lonely one. He married for love, but received none. His subjects hated him. The Roman authority barely acknowledged him. He felt they abused him. He lived a life of seclusion, he was convinced he could trust no one. He had one method of dealing with every threat, eliminate it. The murders only added the guilt that daily haunted him.

But the party must go on. His guests must remain entertained. Scattered over the palace court were bodies passed out on chairs, couches, and the floor from too much wine. Plates half full of uneaten food were laying everywhere. Herod’s mistrust was so intense, he would not allow common servants in the same room he occupied. Goblets of wine, empty and filled to varying degrees were scatted though out the room. Many of them tipped over, leaving puddles of wine every where. Drapes and decorations had been torn down and laid among the debris. The only sign of order was the dozen or so guards standing at attention, assigned to guard Herod’s life.

Seeing the party had passed its peak, Herodias sent in her daughter. She wanted to save her for the final, and most prestigious present of all. A well planned finale.

Herod sat up in his seat when Salome entered the room. He avoided speaking in an attempt to hid his drunkenness. Salome had a serious look on her face, which did hot change as she presented herself. An indication, she did not enjoy, or agree with the task given her by her mother. When the music started she began to dance. Her mother had chosen the most provocative costume and music arrangement. As your young slender body began to sway to the music, Herod became transfixed like a cobra to the music and movement of the tamer’s flute. In his drunken state, as lust took over his mind, he forgot she was his daughter in law, his brother’s child. The dancing went on and on as Herod began to feel flushed.

At last the music stopped, and so did Salome. She remained bowed at Herod’s feet, awaiting his sign of approval. At last Herod cleared his throat, and enough of his mind to acknowledge her, “Ask me whatever you desire from me, and I will give it to you.” And he swore to her, “Whatever you shall ask from me, I will give it to you, to the half of my kingdom.” And she went out and said to her mother, “What shall I ask?” And she said, “The head of John the Baptist.” And immediately going in with haste to the king, she asked, saying, “I desire that you give me at once the head of John the Baptist on a platter.” And becoming deeply grieved, the king, because of his oath, and those reclining together, he did not wish to reject her. And immediately the king sent an executioner and commanded his head to be brought. (Mark 6:23-27 MKJV)

A number of John’s disciples gathered at the door of his jail cell, trying to lift his sprit. They knew prison was the worst form of punishment for John, who learned from God in the open fields, forests, and deserts of the country. Open space was all John knew until he was cast in prison. When the guards arrived to take John away, something told them, this was the end. After seeing John suffer in the tiny, cramped, and dark cell, the thought crossed their minds, this may be the release John was looking for. And he went and beheaded him in the prison, and brought his head in a platter and gave it to the girl. And the girl gave it to her mother. (Mark 6:23-28 MKJV)

It was a victory Herodias coveted for some time. She thought little of the grief she caused her daughter, or her husband. She walked through the hallways of the palace into her room, dancing around in a demented form of celebration. She took the platter out to the balcony holding it high in the air, imagining the cheers of a crowd gather below her window. Her lust for revenge had hardened her heart to such a degree, she found satisfaction in the approval of imaginary subjects.

John’s disciples begged for John’s body. After going through channels, the prison keeper, knowing Herod’s condition, allowed them to take the body away. Four of his closest friends solemnly carried John’s body out of the prison, and through the streets in silence. One of God’s warriors had fallen in service to the Lord. Knowing Herod’s superstitious habits, and Herodian’s distorted personality, they buried the body in a secret location in the wilderness, with a view they knew John would have appreciated.

After a short, heart felt ceremony, they departed, searching for Jesus. After days of questioning people, and following leads, they finally came to Him along the shore. They listened to Jesus preach about the Kingdom of Heaven, where there would be no more suffering, no more pain, and no more tears. He talked about the peace and joy everyone will share. In Heaven people will not only understand perfect love and witness it in action, they will all apply it to their lives for eternity. He talked about neighbors helping neighbors, perfect temperatures, no more storms, droughts, or famine. Trees will be filled with nuts and fruits, sweeter than anyone has tasted here. Crops will not fail, food will always be plentiful, people will always have time for guests. Everyone will live in total harmony with God’s law. Love will rule the land, and the Son of man will live to serve. Hearts will be filled with a peace seldom felt in this world. Praises to God will be heard throughout the land.

After speaking, Jesus looked over at the four disciples. He could tell by the way they hung their heads something was troubling them. He had no idea the news they carried would effect Him on such an emotional level.

Jesus called them forward. The closer they came, the lower their heads hung. They found it hard to interrupt a sermon filled with such joy with the news they came to deliver. Jesus looked at them, put His hand gently under the chin of one, lifting his face so He could look into his eyes, and asked, “what is troubling you?” He answered, “we just came from John.” Jesus asked, “is he still in prison?” He answered, “no, we took him, and…” He could not finish the sentence. Jesus waited a moment and asked, “has John finished his work?” The answer was a simple, “yes.” That was all Jesus needed to hear.

It felt like the air had just been sucked out of His chest, and a vacuum existed where a few moments ago a glowing warmth was growing. This seemed to be a new emotion for Jesus, or a concentration of emotions He had felt before. On a spiritual level, John was more than a brother. John understood Jesus’ mission, and role in life. Although they were miles apart, it meant so much to Jesus knowing there was someone who understood Him. For the first time, Jesus felt a need to get away, to be alone. Not alone, but with the only other One who understood Him, His Father. Without warning He called James, John, Peter, and Andrew, told them to make the boat ready, they would depart immediately. They did not question their Master, but prepared the boat before anyone noticed what was happening. The next thing the people saw was Jesus entering into the boat, and drifting off across the water.

Inside the boat, Jesus covered His head. One of John’s disciples had told Peter the news. He whispered it to the others. They all understood Jesus’ silence. As Jesus prayed to His Father, the Holy Spirit was busy gathering the people into companies to follow Jesus on land. Jesus had little more than a half an hour of prayer, quite time with His Father before reaching shore. By that time Jesus knew His answer. It was God’s plan that His love, and healing power would flow though Jesus to the people about to arrive. It was the beginning of a double blessing upon His followers. The best cure for a broken heart was service to the Lord. As Jesus stepped from the boat onto land, He could see the people in the distance coming to Him with anticipation. Jesus received a blessing beyond belief as He watched neighbor helping neighbor, friend carrying friend. Once again a smile came to Jesus’ face, and the glow returned to His heart. The people had indeed been listening, learning, and sharing the glow in side their hearts.

 

 

 

 

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