By Robert Halsey Pine
“Immediately she rushed back to the king and requested, ‘I want you to give me at once the head of John the Baptist on a platter.’ The king was deeply grieved; yet out of regard for his oaths and for the guests, he did not want to refuse her. Immediately the king sent a soldier of the guard with orders to bring John’s head.” (Mark 6:13-29 NRSV).
Keeping up appearances is an old sin. Here we have King Herod sending for John’s head in order to save face with his honored birthday guests. His foolish promise to grant his wicked daughter her wish (in fact, her mother’s wish) caused his oath to be tested by Satan. St. Mark tells us that, “For Herod feared John, knowing that he was a righteous and holy man.” And yet Herod preferred to look good rather than to do good. So, it’s off with John’s head to assure his credibility with the worldly.
Isn’t this our dilemma? We are always trying to satisfy and impress the worldly at the expense of the Godly. Our lives are not driven by a deep relationship with our creator that influences our environments. Instead, we are driven by the ephemeral things that don’t last the night. We agree to kill the everlasting for the benefit of the momentary natural world approval. As in war we destroy the village of ourselves thinking that we are saving it.
As Jesus was challenged by the Pharisees He spoke for Himself, describing who He was and where He was from. He told them, “Even if I testify on my own behalf, my testimony is valid because I know where I have come from and where I am going, but you do not know where I come from or where I am going. You judge by human standards; I judge no one. Yet even if I do judge, my judgment is valid; for it is not I alone who judge, but I and the Father who sent me.”
John had challenged Herod for marrying Herodias, his own brother’s wife. Whenever Herod heard John, Mark tells us, “He was greatly perplexed; and yet he liked to listen to him.” He typically would protect John. Like the Pharisees were with Jesus; however, Herod didn’t know where John was coming from.
Worldly pressure overcame his suspicion that John represented a powerful spirit. We must not fall into the trap as did Herod and the Pharisees and fail to recognize that which is Godly in our lives and cut off its head.
Robert Halsey Pine was born at Newark, Ohio in 1943. He is a graduate of Northeastern University and completed the program of Theological Education by Extension: Education for Ministry, School of Theology, the University of the South.