Murder During a Birthday Party
AFTER giving instructions to his apostles, Jesus sends them out into the territory in pairs. Probably the brothers Peter and Andrew go together, as do James and John, Philip and Bartholomew, Thomas and Matthew, James and Thaddaeus, and Simon and Judas Iscariot. The six pairs of evangelizers declare the good news of the Kingdom and perform miraculous cures everywhere they go.
Meanwhile, John the Baptizer is still in prison. He has been there almost two years now. You may recall that John had declared publicly that it was wrong for Herod Antipas to take Herodias, the wife of his brother Philip, as his own. Since Herod Antipas claimed to follow the Mosaic Law, John had properly exposed this adulterous union. So Herod had John thrown into prison, perhaps at the urging of Herodias.
Herod Antipas realizes that John is a righteous man and even listens to him with pleasure. Therefore, he is at a loss as to what to do with him. Herodias, on the other hand, hates John and keeps seeking to have him put to death. Finally, the opportunity she has been waiting for comes.
Shortly before the Passover of 32 C.E., Herod arranges a large celebration of his birthday. Assembled for the party are all Herod’s top-ranking officials and army officers, as well as the leading citizens of Galilee. As the evening progresses, Salome, the young daughter of Herodias by her former husband Philip, is sent in to dance for the guests. The male audience is enthralled by her performance.
Herod is highly pleased with Salome. “Ask me for whatever you want, and I will give it to you,” he declares. He even swears: “Whatever you ask me for, I will give it to you, up to half my kingdom.”
Before answering, Salome goes out to consult with her mother. “What should I ask for?” she inquires.
The opportunity at last! “The head of John the baptizer,” Herodias answers without hesitation.
Quickly Salome returns to Herod and makes the request: “I want you to give me right away on a platter the head of John the Baptist.”
Herod is greatly distressed. Yet because his guests have heard his oath, he is embarrassed not to grant it, even though this means murdering an innocent man. An executioner is immediately dispatched to the prison with his grisly instructions. Shortly he returns with John’s head on a platter, and he gives it to Salome. She, in turn, takes it to her mother. When John’s disciples hear what has happened, they come and remove his body and bury it, and then they report the matter to Jesus.
Later, when Herod hears of Jesus’ healing people and casting out demons, he is frightened, fearing that Jesus is actually John who has been raised from the dead. Thereafter, he greatly desires to see Jesus, not to hear his preaching, but to confirm whether his fears are well-founded or not. Matthew 10:1-5; 11:1; 14:1-12; Mark 6:14-29; Luke 9:7-9.
▪ Why is John in prison, and why does Herod not want to put him to death?
▪ How is Herodias finally able to have John killed?
▪ After John’s death, why does Herod want to see Jesus?