Summary: A sermon for the 6th Sunday after Pentecost Proper 10 The beheading of John the Baptist
6th Sunday after Pentecost
"Giving in to Pressure"
14* King Herod heard of it; for Jesus’ name had become known. Some said, “John the baptizer has been raised from the dead; that is why these powers are at work in him.”
15* But others said, “It is Elijah.” And others said, “It is a prophet, like one of the prophets of old.”
16 But when Herod heard of it he said, “John, whom I beheaded, has been raised.”
17 For Herod had sent and seized John, and bound him in prison for the sake of Herodias, his brother Philip’s wife; because he had married her.
18* For John said to Herod, “It is not lawful for you to have your brother’s wife.”
19* And Herodias had a grudge against him, and wanted to kill him. But she could not,
20* for Herod feared John, knowing that he was a righteous and holy man, and kept him safe. When he heard him, he was much perplexed; and yet he heard him gladly.
21* But an opportunity came when Herod on his birthday gave a banquet for his courtiers and officers and the leading men of Galilee.
22* For when Herodias’ daughter 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 grant it.”
23* And he vowed to her, “Whatever you ask me, I will give you, even half of my kingdom.”
24 And she went out, and said to her mother, “What shall I ask?” And she said, “The head of John the baptizer.”
25* And she came in immediately 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.”
26 And the king was exceedingly sorry; but because of his oaths and his guests he did not want to break his word to her.
27* And immediately the king sent a soldier of the guard and gave orders to bring his head. He went and beheaded him in the prison,
28 and brought his head on a platter, and gave it to the girl; and the girl gave it to her mother.
29* When his disciples heard of it, they came and took his body, and laid it in a tomb. RSV
Grace and Peace to you from our Lord and Saviour, Jesus who is the Christ. Amen
Do you like flash back movies? Last night, July 4th, there was classic flash back movie, Yankee Doodle Dandy with James Cagney playing George M Cohan. Cagney is invited to the White House and sits with the President and tells the story of his life. When the story is over, we are brought back to the present time when Cohan is given the metal of honor by the President.
In our gospel lesson this morning, we are given a flash back by Mark. We are in the middle of Jesus’ ministry. We have seen miracles and healing, but now all of a sudden we are brought back to John the Baptist. Mark seems to think we need to know what exactly happened to John the Baptist, so we flash back to this point in history. Mark talks about John’s arrest in Mark 1:14a.
Herod has heard of Jesus and is wondering who he is. He asks, Is he Elijah? Is He a prophet? But Herod says is it john whom I beheaded, has been raised.
And then we get the story of the beheading of John the Baptist.
We need to take a look at this story to understand it.
"Herod the Great was King when Jesus was born. He was responsible for the massacre of the children in Bethlehem as he sought to kill the Child who was a threat to him. Herod the Great married a number of women and had a number of sons by them. Some were actually murdered by their father. Among those who were not was Herod Antipas, the Herod of this passage, and Herod Philip. They were half-brothers. Another half-brother was Aristobulus. Aristobulus had a daughter named Herodias. She married Herod Philip. They, in turn, had a daughter whose name was Salome.
Now comes a storyline that reads like a near-eastern version of Peyton Place. On a visit to Rome, Herod Antipas met his brother Philip’s wife, Herodias. She was a deceitful and ambitious woman who saw in Antipas a way to fulfill her own selfish desires. So he took her away from his brother and they came back to Palestine together. Of course, this sordid affair had already begun. You see, what you have to remember is that Herodias was Aristobulus’ daughter, who was Philip’s half-brother. That made Herodias Philip’s niece. Philip had married his own niece. And now his other half-brother had stolen her away from him."1