Dispatch Two Hundred One

Posted: June 1, 2016 in Forty-Second Bundle
Tags: , , , , ,

MARK 6:14-29

14 King Herod heard of it, for Jesus’ name had become known. Some were saying, “John the baptizer has been raised from the dead; and for this reason 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 himself had sent men who arrested John, bound him, and put him in prison on account of Herodias, his brother Philip’s wife, because Herod had married her. 18 For John had been telling 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 he protected him. When he heard him, he was greatly perplexed; and yet he liked to listen to him. 21 But an opportunity came when Herod on his birthday gave a banquet for his courtiers and officers and for the leaders of Galilee. 22 When his daughter Herodias 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 give it.” 23 And he solemnly swore to her, “Whatever you ask me, I will give you, even half of my kingdom.”24 She went out and said to her mother, “What should I ask for?” She replied, “The head of John the baptizer.” 25 Immediately she rushed back to the king and requested, “I want you to give me at once the head of John the Baptist on a platter.” 26 The king was deeply grieved; yet out of regard for his oaths and for the guests, he did not want to refuse her.27 Immediately the king sent a soldier of the guard with orders to bring John’s head. He went and beheaded him in the prison, 28 brought his head on a platter, and gave it to the girl. Then the girl gave it to her mother. 29 When his disciples heard about it, they came and took his body, and laid it in a tomb.

King Herod suffered from the chronic pangs of a guilty conscience. He had played into an underhanded scheme to dispose of John the Baptist, consenting to the prophet’s unjust execution rather than humbly retracting a foolish promise made in the flush of excitement. John had been a tireless critic of Herod’s illicit relationship with his brother’s wife – reason enough to put John in chains, but not enough to take his head.

The progression of Herod’s guilt is instructive. His affair and unlawful marriage to his brother’s wife, Herodias, was his second decision, following his willingness to entertain the fantasy of it in the first place. For a while after having committed the act, he could get away with it. But when John got wind of the deed and started confronting Herod on the legal and moral demerits of his behavior, the king shifted into a mode of self-justification. “Because I’m king, that’s how!” or “Philip doesn’t love her anyway” or “that law is so antiquated!” might have been declared in his own defense.

Finally, in putting John away Herod was attempting to remove the voice of moral judgment entirely. Locking the prophet away in prison is really a reflection in the outer world of what Herod had already achieved in his inner world, by throwing his own better judgment behind bars. His supposed ‘slip up’ in making such an outlandish promise to his daughter managed to further compound his existing guilt with yet another guilty act.

Behold, the tangled web.

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