Sunday 28 August 2011

The Beheading of John the Baptist - Where there is fear there cannot be love. Where there is fear decisions made are more often than not wrong.

Mark’s Account of the beheading of Saint John the Baptist by Herod Antipas is more elaborate than that of Matthew and Luke. According to Mark, Herod had imprisoned John because he reproved Herod for divorcing his wife (Phasaelis), and unlawfully taking Herodias, the wife of his brother Herod Philip I. On Herod's birthday, Herodias' daughter (traditionally named Salome but not named by Mark or the other Gospels) danced before the king and his guests. Her dancing pleased Herod so much that in his drunkenness he promised to give her anything she desired, up to half of his kingdom. When the daughter asked her mother what she should request, she was told to ask for the head of John the Baptist on a platter. Although Herod was appalled by the request, he reluctantly agreed and had John executed in the prison.
The Jewish historian Flavius Josephus also relates in his Antiquities of the Jews that Herod killed John, stating that he did so, "lest the great influence John had over the people might put it into his [John's] power and inclination to raise a rebellion, (for they seemed ready to do anything he should advise), [so Herod] thought it best [to put] him to death." He further states that many of the Jews believed that the military disaster which fell upon Herod at the hands of Aretas his father-in-law (Phasaelis' father), was God's punishment for his unrighteous behaviour.
By using the legend of the righteous person in a wicked court and by placing it between the sending of the disciples (6:7-13) and their return from Mission (6:30-34), Mark alerts his readers to the dangers awaiting Jesus and the disciples. Herod recognizes that Jesus is in some sense the successor to John the Baptist. Yet repentance does not accompany his statement. He thinks more of the drunken oaths he has sworn and his honour before the assembled guests than he does of the prophet whom he was allegedly protecting. Willingness to sacrifice others to maintain honour, prestige, and power remains one of the great temptations of persons in positions of authority. The legend of John the Baptist shows us that justice is the ultimate victim in such situations.

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