1 At that time Herod the tetrarch heard about the fame of Jesus, 2 and he said to his servants, “This is John the Baptist. He has been raised from the dead; that is why these miraculous powers are at work in him.” 3 For Herod had seized John and bound him and put him in prison for the sake of Herodias, his brother Philip’s wife, 4 because John had been saying to him, “It is not lawful for you to have her.” 5 And though he wanted to put him to death, he feared the people, because they held him to be a prophet. 6 But when Herod’s birthday came, the daughter of Herodias danced before the company and pleased Herod, 7 so that he promised with an oath to give her whatever she might ask. 8 Prompted by her mother, she said, “Give me the head of John the Baptist here on a platter.” 9 And the king was sorry, but because of his oaths and his guests he commanded it to be given. 10 He sent and had John beheaded in the prison, 11 and his head was brought on a platter and given to the girl, and she brought it to her mother. 12 And his disciples came and took the body and buried it, and they went and told Jesus (Matthew 14:1-12 [ESV]).
In my opinion this is one of the saddest passages in all of Scripture. John the Baptist is murdered over a senseless promise because of a ungodly dance in front of Herod’s guests. A pointless death in deed. Matthew Henry writes this about this passage: The story itself of the imprisonment and martyrdom of John. These extraordinary sufferings of him who was the first preacher of the gospel, plainly show that bonds and afflictions will abide the professors of it. As the first Old-Testament saint, so the first New-Testament minister, died a martyr. And if Christ’s forerunner was thus treated, let not his followers expect to be caressed by the world. If the story tells us anything it gives us a heads up. In this world we will have suffering and pain. We will be misunderstood, yet as we do good in this world a prize/reward awaits us in heaven. Doing God’s will does not always brings human temporal reward and some times ends in death.
And this was not the end of the story. Henry goes on to write about the end of Herodias’ daughter and Herod himself (tradition has it) and it was similar to John’s end. Vengence is mine says the Lord…
Josephus mentions this story of the death of John the Baptist (Antiquit lib. 18, cap. 7), and adds, that a fatal destruction of Herod’s army in his war with Aretas, king of Petrea (whose daughter was Herod’s wife, whom he put away to make room for Herodias), was generally considered by the Jews to be a just judgment upon him, for putting John the Baptist to death. Herod having, at the instigation of Herodias, disobliged the emperor, was deprived of his government, and they were both banished to Lyons in France; which, says Josephus, was his just punishment for hearkening to her solicitations. And, lastly, it is storied of this daughter of Herodias, that going over the ice in winter, the ice broke, and she slipped in up to her neck, which was cut through by the sharpness of the ice. God requiring her head (says Dr. Whitby) for that of the Baptist; which, if true, was a remarkable providence.
So how do we end this? We are called to serve the Lord and some times in difficult and dangerous circumstances. And over the years many have given their lives like John did for the gospel. People like Paul Carlson, Jim Elliot, Nate Saint, Ed McCully, Peter Fleming, Roger Youderian, John & Betty Stam to mention a few. They gave their lives for the gospel. We may be asked to give our lives as we serve our Lord.
Father God I pray that you would give us the courage and resolve to serve you well no matter the outcome. I pray that when the time comes for us to stand for you we would do it in a way the brings glory and honour to you. I pray these things in Jesus Name, Amen.