Parallel Texts: Matthew 14:1-12; Luke 9:7-9
The real “meat” in this text is found in verses 14-16, the part most commentators discuss and teach is in 17-29, unfortunately. Thomas Jefferson had a painting of John’s head on the platter hanging in his dining room, and as of January 2 of this year, I can attest that it is still there, yet the important part is not in what happened to John, it’s what people were saying about Jesus at this point in His ministry.
King Herod heard about this, for Jesus’ name had become well known. Some were saying, “John the Baptist has been raised from the dead, and that is why miraculous powers are at work in him.”
Others said, “He is Elijah.”
And still others claimed, “He is a prophet, like one of the prophets of long ago.”
But when Herod heard this, he said, “John, whom I beheaded, has been raised from the dead!”
“King Herod had heard about this” “This?” What was “this?”
In context, this passage in Mark’s gospel follows immediately the passage about Jesus sending out the twelve, it is relating to the Kingdom Tour, and we know that news and accounts of Jesus’ activities had spread like wildfire throughout the region; the Pharisees had already begun to consider how they would kill Jesus, and they were exactly the ones who either knew, or with reasonable diligence they should have known that Jesus was the Messiah. Herod Antipas was another matter. Recall that he was the son of Herod the Great who had slaughtered the baby boys of Bethlehem upon hearing of the birth of Jesus. He was the Vassal-king of Judea, serving under the Roman Emperor, a marginal Jew in a secular administration, who one day would have his own problems with the Romans.
Who was this guy up in Galilee?
Nobody could figure that out for sure, but there were rumors.
Elijah? A prophet? No, John the Baptist has been raised from the dead!
It’s clear that on some level, John had gotten to Herod. It’s also clear that as a result of a stupid party stunt, Herod has randomly had John murdered. If you are Herod, and you are feeling guilty for what you did at that stupid party because you shot your mouth off… probably after a few drinks, and you think that John the Baptist has come back from the grave with miraculous powers, how do you feel about this new situation?
This guy is a rick star, the people are loving Him… and he has miraculous powers and you had him murdered. What do you do now?
You could repent and beg forgiveness, but how would that look in the morning papers on the Emperor’s desk the next day? (so to speak) How will that play on the nightly news? What will your approval numbers do with the people? (Remember, this guy was a politician in a tough spot)
Is there a way you could try to kill him again? But he doesn’t stay dead!
What you really need are powerful allies, and sooner or later he is sure to catch wind of a plot against the guy. I have a strong hunch that we might see Herod’s fingerprints later in the story!