Summary: Fourth in a series on the characters involved in the beheading of John the Baptist. The sermon focus on Salome the daughter of Herodius.
The Girl Who Was the Product of Her Environment
By now we are familiar with this gruesome story found in Mark 6.
Over the past several weeks we have looked at the passage from the vantage point of the three primary characters.
John the Baptist taught us the need for and the potential hazards of living a life in a not so holy world.
King Herod was the example of what can happen when a person becomes trapped in a web of deceit and sin.
Herodius demonstrated how nursing a grudge can lead to revenge.
The one remaining personality that I would like for us to give our attention is the girl identified in this story as Herodias’ daughter.
The Jewish historian Josephus names her, Salome.
When I reflect on the Salome presented in this story I am often reminded of an experience that began as I was completing my last year of seminary. A eight year old girl came to live in my home. I am sure you are already wondering what an eight year old could have in common with someone like Salome. I’ll call this girl Toni.
Life had been cruel to Toni. She had been taken from her parents when she was just a toddler after it was discovered that an older sister had been abused. Escaping an abusive father, she went to live with her grandparents only to be molested herself. As I said, life had been most unfair to Toni.
The two years that Toni lived with us before she was adopted were challenging. It seemed to be one crisis after another, followed by needless lies, which led to even more turmoil. I got to know the school principal fairly well during those years. The most disturbing characteristic about Toni was her ability to look someone straight in the eye, tell a lie, and never flinch.
As I spoke with Toni’s psychologist she tried to explain to me that the problem stemmed from the fact that Toni did not have a concept of right and wrong. Her lack of conscience was the result of her upbringing, her environment. She went on to explain that Toni had missed the stage in her life when the conscience is developed. It was as if she had jumped right over that stage of development and for the first time in her life she was being presented with the concept of right and wrong.
This seems to be exactly what happened to Salome. Throughout this story, Salome demonstrated a complete lack of conscience. She showed no comprehension of right or wrong.
Notice her behavior and general attitude.
She performed a lewd form of dancing in front of her stepfather and the gawking eyes of his military officials; without the slightest indication of embarrassment.
When Herod made his oath to give her up to one half of his kingdom, she went to her mother and asked her, “What should I ask for?” Her mother responded, “John the Baptist’s head.” then we read, ‘Hurrying back t o the ruler, she made her request; I want you to give me John the Baptist’s head,” and she adds with apparent excitement in her voice, “on a plate,” and with a tone of urgency, “right his minute.” Notice – no remorse. She had no concept that what she was asking for was out of the norm.
When the deed was completed, we read in verse 28 the following:
“(The Guard) brought his (John’s) head on a plate and gave it to the young woman, and she gave it to her mother.”
There was no horror expressed whatsoever on the part of Salome. Instead of turning her head or getting sick; she took the platter in her own hands and personally presented it to her mother. Again, no remorse – no horror – no concept of right and wrong. In fact, it appears she gets a rush from it all.
How can someone go through this “brutality” and show no emotion?
There could be numerous reasons and probably a combination of many. However, from what we know of the story, it seems to be closely related to the way she was brought up.
Reflect on her environment for a moment.
Salome was reared in a Jewish home where religion was purely superficial. The only involvement Herod and Herodias demonstrated in this religion was done to appease the people. You know how it is, we expect our political leaders to express a mild form of religiosity. God bless America kind of stuff. The people anticipated it, therefore Herod made his sacrifices and showed up in Jerusalem on high religious days. However, Herod’s faith had no depth. He often went through the process of picking and choosing the laws he would or would not follow.