Summary: Avoiding pursuit of wrongful desires. Greed is of the devil
July 15, 2018
Arrogance of Power
This week’s gospel reading brings us Mark’s account of the beheading of John the Baptist. It reads almost as a broadway play or operetta. The major characters in the reading are John the Baptist, Herod Antipas (called here King Herod), his wife – Herodias, Salome (daughter of Herodias) and of course Our Lord Jesus.
We must read this account carefully so as not to get confused by the chronological order of events. In verse 14, Herod is perplexed upon hearing of Jesus preaching in the region. Herod starts thinking that Jesus is John the Baptist and has been raised from the dead.
Herod was certain of John’s death, as he ordered him beheaded. verse 16.
Why was John imprisoned and why was he later beheaded?
Herod was married to the daughter of King Aretas IV. However, he lusted after the wife of his half brother Herod Philip. As is so often the case with persons of power. Herod divorced his first wife to marry his sister-in-law Herodias. This act violated Hebrew law. (see Leviticus 18:16; 20-21)
“You shall not uncover the nakedness of your brother’s wife; it is your brother’s nakedness.” Leviticus 18:16
“Moreover, you shall not lie carnally with your neighbor’s wife, to defile yourself with her. And you shall not let any of your descendants pass through the fire to Molech, nor shall you profane the name of your God: I am the LORD.” Leviticus 18:20-21
There is an element of incest here, wouldn’t you say? But to me, the key point for us to see and understand is the pure arrogance of living in sin because no one dare challenge the king. Scandal after scandal is spread across the television screen, the internet and print media daily dedicated to this kind of behavior by persons of wealth and power.
Who would dare challenge the king? Well, someone did, and it was none other than John the Baptist. When John confronted Herod and admonished him to repent. Herodias wanted John put to death but Herod couldn’t bring himself to do that. Our reading gives us enough insight to understand that Herod actually had some respect for John and listened to him gladly in the past. See verse 20
“for Herod feared John, knowing that he was a just and holy man, and he protected him. And when he heard him, he did many things, and heard him gladly.” Mark 6:20
Herodias was furious and held deep hatred for John, not wanting anything more than his death.
Her chance came at a festive celebration of the king’s birthday. Herodias’ daughter Salome entered the gathering and performed a very seductive dance for the enjoyment of the king and his guests. It pleased the king so much that he announced to Salome in the presence of the guests to ask any favor that she desired, and he would fulfill it.
Here it is again: pure arrogance and self-serving pleasure with total disregard for decorum or decency. For any parent to allow a teen-aged daughter to perform what amounted to a strip-tease in the presence of guests for amusement is definitely child abuse and disgusting. But who would challenge the king. John the Baptist couldn’t because he was bound in prison.
Salome went to her mother and asked what favor she should seek from the king. Herodias saw her chance and jumped at it. She told Salome to seek the head of John the Baptist on a silver platter. Verses 24-25
“So, she went out and said to her mother, ‘What shall I ask?’ And she said, ‘The head of John the Baptist!’
Immediately she came in with haste to the king and asked, saying, ‘I want you to give me at once the head of John the Baptist on a platter.’” Mark 6:24-25
What a story! What does it say to you?
Let’s just look at a few quotes from the bible that address this kind of character and behavior:
“Redeem me from the oppression of man, That I may keep Your precepts.” Psalm 119:34
"But your eyes and your heart Are intent only upon your own dishonest gain, And on shedding innocent blood and on practicing oppression and extortion." Jeremiah 22:17
“shepherd the flock of God among you, exercising oversight not under compulsion, but voluntarily, according to the will of God; and not for sordid gain, but with eagerness; nor yet as lording it over those allotted to your charge, but proving to be examples to the flock.”1 Peter 5:2-3
"You shall not oppress a hired servant who is poor and needy, whether he is one of your countrymen or one of your aliens who is in your land in your towns.” Deuteronomy 24:14
“You shall not rule over him with severity but are to revere your God.” Leviticus 25:43