Matthew 4:12 NLT – “When Jesus heard that John had been arrested, he left Judea and returned to Galilee.”
Mark 6:14-29 NLT – “Herod Antipas, the king, soon heard about Jesus, because everyone was talking about him. Some were saying, “This must be John the Baptist raised from the dead. That is why he can do such miracles.” Others said, “He’s the prophet Elijah.” Still others said, “He’s a prophet like the other great prophets of the past.”
When Herod heard about Jesus, he said, “John, the man I beheaded, has come back from the dead.”
For Herod had sent soldiers to arrest and imprison John as a favor to Herodias [his wife]. She had been his brother Philip’s wife, but Herod had married her. John had been telling Herod, “It is against God’s law for you to marry your brother’s wife.” So Herodias bore a grudge against John and wanted to kill him. But without Herod’s approval she was powerless, for Herod respected John; and knowing that he was a good and holy man, he protected him. Herod was greatly disturbed whenever he talked with John, but even so, he liked to listen to him.
Herodias’s chance finally came on Herod’s birthday. He gave a party for his high government officials, army officers, and the leading citizens of Galilee. Then his daughter, also named Herodias, came in and performed a dance that greatly pleased Herod and his guests. “Ask me for anything you like,” the king said to the girl, “and I will give it to you.” He even vowed, “I will give you whatever you ask, up to half my kingdom!”
She went out and asked her mother, “What should I ask for?”
Her mother told her, “Ask for the head of John the Baptist!”
So the girl hurried back to the king and told him, “I want the head of John the Baptist, right now, on a tray!” Then the king deeply regretted what he had said; but because of the vows he had made in front of his guests, he couldn’t refuse her. So he immediately sent an executioner to the prison to cut off John’s head and bring it to him. The soldier beheaded John in the prison, brought his head on a tray, and gave it to the girl, who took it to her mother. When John’s disciples heard what had happened, they came to get his body and buried it in a tomb.”
We cannot go beyond this one verse in Matthew without giving credit to John the Baptist, and reading more from the book of Mark about what happened to him at the command of King Herod.
John was not only committed to his calling, he fulfilled his calling. His purpose was to announce the coming of the Savior and warn those who came to hear him to repent. He accomplished all he was asked to do fearlessly!
John had no authority in the Jewish political system but we learned in our earlier verses that not only did Jewish and non-Jewish come to the desert to hear him, Jewish leaders did as well. His message to repent was taken very seriously by everyone who heard him with the exception of the Jewish leaders.
We also learn from the verses in the book of Mark that King Herod had a great deal of respect for and belief in what John prophesied. Unfortunately for John, his wife didn’t have the same respect or awe for John and ultimately tricked Herod into killing him.
(You can read more about John the Baptist in Mark 1:1-15, Luke 1:5-25, Luke 1:57-80, Luke 3:1-20, Luke 7:18-35, John 1:6-51, and John 3:22-36)
Jesus said this about John: “I tell you, of all who have ever lived, none is greater than John.” Luke 7:28a NLT
With all of this goodness from the life of John, it is common for believers to be confused about his death. The “why” answer is as simple and as complicated as this: he died because of sin.
One of the greatest gifts we receive from God, whether we follow Him or not, is free will. Because of this gift we have the freedom to make all types of choices. As you know, a lot of people make good choices, but a lot of people make bad choices.
We want to assume when we become believers we will be surrounded by an invisible hedge of protection and nothing can/will harm us. But, we know from our own lives, the daily news, etc., this is not true. In fact, Jesus warns us:
“Here on earth you will have many trials and sorrows. But take heart, because I have overcome the world.” John 16:33b NLT
I can testify to the truth of this because my family suffered abuse at the hand of my own father and his bad choices (my story shared in this blog in “The Power of Words”). However, I also believe that a lot of good has come from my own journey to Christ and from sharing my story with others.
Such is the case with John’s life story; he boldly and completely accomplished what God asked him to do:
“The prophet Isaiah was speaking about John when he said, “He is a voice shouting in the wilderness, ‘Prepare the way for the Lord’s coming! Clear the road for him!’”” Matthew 3:3 NLT
The Jewish people had become complacent and turned away from God, but John’s message to repent brought many people back to God and opened their hearts to follow Jesus. In addition, John said:
“No one can receive anything unless God gives it from heaven. You yourselves know how plainly I told you, ‘I am not the Messiah. I am only here to prepare the way for him.’ It is the bridegroom who marries the bride, and the bridegroom’s friend is simply glad to stand with him and hear his vows. Therefore, I am filled with joy at his success. He must become greater and greater, and I must become less and less.” John 3:27-30 NLT
John’s life story and his accomplishments live on in the Bible, but more importantly, he lives on through us when we mirror what he did. With our gift of free will we too can choose to prepare the way for Jesus and ultimately fulfill our calling when we do!
Father God, thank you for walking us through this difficult lesson and reminding us that we are in control of our choices. This lesson is especially heartbreaking when we see bad choices being made or someone is hurt when bad choices are made. Lord, I pray that we commit today to be more like John and not only fearlessly lead the way for You, but fulfill our calling all the way through to the day You bring us home with You. In Jesus name I pray. Amen.