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Mark’s first-century biography – page 19

King Herod heard of it, for Jesus’ name had become known. Some said, “John the Baptist has been raised from the dead. That is why these miraculous powers are at work in him.” But others said, “He is Elijah.” And others said, “He is a prophet, like one of the prophets of old.” But when Herod heard of it, he said, “John, whom I beheaded, has been raised.” 
This “King Herod” was Herod Antipas, tetrarch of Galilee under the authority of the Roman Empire. What was the “it” of which he’d heard? Mark had just written that Jesus had sent out twelve disciples into Galilean villages. They had “proclaimed that people should repent and cast out many demons and anointed with oil many who were sick and healed them” in Jesus’ name.

Herod had wrongly de-headed John the Baptist, and, knowing his own guilt within himself, had identified Jesus as that resurrected person who was to bring retribution upon him for that de-heading. Maybe such consequential fears would lead him to repent? 

For it was Herod who had sent and seized John and bound him in prison for the sake of Herodias, his brother Philip’s wife, because he had married her. For John had been saying to Herod, “It is not lawful for you to have your brother’s wife.” And Herodias had a grudge against him and wanted to put him to death. But she could not, for Herod feared John, knowing that he was a righteous and holy man, and he kept him safe. When he heard him, he was greatly perplexed, and yet he heard him gladly. 

This is a flash-back. The full Greek name “Herodes” is a compound of heros meaning ‘hero’ and eidos meaning ‘appearance’. Apparent Hero? Herod “feared John, knowing that he was a righteous and holy man.” And John troubled him greatly. But he vacillated. He kept John in prison without charge.  

‘Conviction is not repentance. It is one thing to be awakened at 5 o’clock in the morning, but it is another thing to get up.’ (Anon.) 
But an opportunity came when Herod on his birthday gave a banquet for his nobles and military commanders and the leading men of Galilee. For when Herodias’s daughter 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 to you.” And he vowed to her, “Whatever you ask me, I will give you, up to half of my kingdom.” 

Clearly this black-tie evening went well, especially the live entertainment. But Herod was only a puppet king. So, what did the Roman “military commanders” think about him offering “half of my kingdom” to his step-daughter? Herod must have been very intent to show his powerful heroics.

And she went out and said to her mother, “For what should I ask?” And she said, “The head of John the Baptist.” And she came in immediately with haste to the king and asked, saying, “I want you to give me at once the head of John the Baptist on a platter.” And the king was exceedingly sorry, but because of his oaths and his guests he did not want to break his word to her. And immediately the king sent an executioner with orders to bring John’s head. He went and beheaded him in the prison and brought his head on a platter and gave it to the girl, and the girl gave it to her mother. 

It seems that Herodias, Herod’s second wife, was the more heroic of the two. She was single-minded. Her timing was impeccable. She took the current when it served. Did she love Herod? Or was she in love only with herself? Was her hate of any person or thing against her stronger than love? Was hate consuming her well before John was de-headed?

‘I have no other name than sinner; sinner is my first name; sinner is my surname.’ (Martin Luther, theology professor and German Bible translator, 1483-1546) 
When his disciples heard of it, they came and took his body and laid it in a tomb. 

Love in action by John’s disciples. Their love didn’t end with his death.

The apostles returned to Jesus and told him all that they had done and taught. And he said to them, “Come away by yourselves to a desolate place and rest a while.” For many were coming and going, and they had no leisure even to eat.

The twelve sent-out-ones ("apostles") return from having, in Jesus' name, "taught" and“cast out many demons and anointed with oil many who were sick and healed them."  Jesus calls them to their rest. Unlike Herod and his birthday guests, they had enjoyably had “no leisure even to eat.” 

Sinner Syvret

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