Entrapped By His Words

Entrapped By His Words
   The Gospel Lesson for this week is from Mark 6, dealing with the death of John the Baptist. The opening line of the scripture is actually starting with the present and then telling the story of what happened to John. It does this by the reaction of Herod to John the Baptist and his belief that Jesus is John the Baptist come back from the dead. His remark is “John the Baptist, whom I beheaded, has been raised from the dead” because of what he heard about Jesus (Mark 6:16b NIV). Other people who knew what happened believed that Jesus was Elijah, whom they had been expecting to precede the Messiah based on the teachings of Malachi. “See, I will send the prophet Elijah to you before that great and dreadful day of the LORD comes” (Malachi 4:5). Scholars say that this idea was so prevalent that it was not uncommon for Jews who were celebrating the Seder meal to set a place for Elijah.
   Then we hear Mark tell us about the death of John the Baptist. Herod seized John and bound him in prison because Herodias, the wife of Herod’s brother Philip married Herod Antipas, who is the King Herod who put Jesus on trial. King Herod had John arrested for telling him that it was not lawful for him to be married to his brother’s wife. Herodias had wanted John dead but did not possess the authority to do it. Herod saw John as “a righteous and holy man” and kept him safe (v. 20). We are told that on Herod’s birthday he hosted a banquet and had his niece, Herodias’ daughter, dance. King Herod said to his niece, “Ask me for whatever you wish, and I
will grant it” (v. 22b). The girl asked her mother what to ask for and then came back and demanded the head of John the Baptist. To save face, Herod had him beheaded, and he had the head brought to her. Sometimes we, like people before us, tend to put our foot in our own mouths; then we act when we cannot find a way out of what we said. That seems to be the case here. We are told that King Herod was sorry for what he did to John, but he made an oath in front of everyone and did not want to break it. The head of John the Baptist was given to the girl who gave it to her mother. Church tradition says that Herodias then took the head and buried it in a dung heap. We are told that the body of John the Baptist was taken by John’s disciples who “laid it in a tomb” (v. 29).
   The scripture teaches us several things. First, be careful what you say; otherwise, you may find that you too will get entrapped by your words. Second, it gives us the reason for what happened to John and the circumstances surrounding his death. Imagine what it would be like for Herod to know that you killed a righteous man of God and that he may have come back from the dead. How would you have reacted?
-Pastor Kathy Behrens, serving Picture Rocks and Tivoli United Methodist Churches