Herod's Choice: The Beheading of John the Baptist

I know I had no choice, but still, I couldn't bear to see the consequences of my decision.

Now, as Herod remains on center stage under the spotlight, I imagine him looking toward the future.

Here he comes. We meet at last. Here is the young radical who called me a "fox" (Lk. 13:32)! Pilate has sent him to me to figure out what to do with him. I'm glad for the chance to meet him. After all, I've heard about him. Meeting him face to face, I realize he's not John the Baptist raised from the dead, though there is a slight family resemblance in their features. There certainly is a great family resemblance in their fearlessness. I try to get him to heal somebody or multiply some loaves or perform some other sign, but he refuses to speak. I learned from the debacle with John that I don't ever want to order the death of an innocent man again, but I can't release him. The people would go wild. So I send him back to Pilate.

Poor Pilate was put in the same position I was in with John and Herodias. He believed he was innocent, but couldn't risk angering the people and the religious leaders. Neither of us had a choice. I don't know why history has given us such a bad rap. People in power have a lot to lose. We should get a little credit for at least saying that we thought he was innocent before we gave him up to be crucified.

I didn't want to see John's head on a platter, and I didn't attend the crucifixion of Jesus of Nazareth. I hate situations in which I have no choice, but in which the consequences of my decisions are too horrible to face.

Sources Consulted

The International Standard Bible Encyclopedia (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1982), edited by Dr. Geoffrey W. Bromiley.

Josephus' Antiquities XVIII. 5.2 (The death of John the Baptist is recorded here.)

Bonnie Bowman Thurston, Preaching Mark (Fortress Press, 2002).

12/2/2022 9:10:33 PM
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  • Alyce McKenzie
    About Alyce McKenzie
    Alyce M. McKenzie is the George W. and Nell Ayers Le Van Professor of Preaching and Worship at Perkins School of Theology, Southern Methodist University.