Mark 6:14-29 NRSVue
14King Herod heard of it, for Jesus’s 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.” 15But others said, “It is Elijah.” And others said, “It is a prophet, like one of the prophets of old.” 16But when Herod heard of it, he said, “John, whom I beheaded, has been raised.”
17For 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. 18For John had been telling Herod, “It is not lawful for you to have your brother’s wife.” 19And Herodias had a grudge against him and wanted to kill him. But she could not, 20for 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. 21But an opportunity came when Herod on his birthday gave a banquet for his courtiers and officers and for the leaders of Galilee. 22When 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.” 23And he swore to her, “Whatever you ask me, I will give you, even half of my kingdom.” 24She went out and said to her mother, “What should I ask for?” She replied, “The head of John the baptizer.” 25Immediately 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.” 26The king was deeply grieved, yet out of regard for his oaths and for the guests, he did not want to refuse her. 27Immediately the king sent a soldier of the guard with orders to bring John’s head. He went and beheaded him in the prison, 28brought his head on a platter, and gave it to the girl. Then the girl gave it to her mother. 29When his disciples heard about it, they came and took his body and laid it in a tomb.
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Some thoughts on this scripture
/Remember those who are in prison as though you were in prison with them/, says the letter to the Hebrews. The Gospel tells the sordid story of the final hours of John the Baptist, beheaded for a frivolous promise of Herod.
Lord, you spent your last night before your crucifixion in prison. Bring comfort to the thousands of good people who are languishing behind bars. They are my sisters and brothers. There but for the grace of God I would be too.
This is one of the most gruesome stories of the gospel and of all literature. A man, perhaps fuelled with alcohol and with sexual desire, lets the better side of himself be defeated; killing the man he knew to be holy. John is the symbol of people martyred today in the cause of right. Let's pray for them
The reason given by Mark for John the Baptist's killing differs considerably from that of the Jewish historian Josephus. According to the latter, Herod was alarmed at John's popularity and feared a rebellion if he were not stopped. "Herod decided therefore that it would be much better to strike first and be rid of him before his work led to an uprising."
Herod's vain promise caused him grief. He was afraid of being seen to back down.