Beheading of John the Baptist

(Matthew 14:1-12)

At the beginning of this chapter we see the circumstances that led to the beheading of John the Baptist. There are a few interesting point and lessons to be learned from this event, both historically and spiritually. The beheading of John the Baptist unfolded in the following manner.

First we see that John the Baptist had been imprisoned by Herod because John the Baptist had told Herod that it was unlawful for him to take his brother Phillip’s wife, Herodias, as his own. Basically John the Baptist told Herod he was committing adultery. Herod was angry and wanted to put John the Baptist to death, but he feared the people who held John the Baptist to be a prophet.

A feast was held for Herod on his birthday, and as an aside this is the only time in the New Testament that we see a birthday being celebrated. Evidently the idea of hold a birthday celebration goes back quite a long time. At this birthday feast the daughter of Herodias danced before Herod and all of his guests and this pleased Herod greatly. Now perhaps Herod had had too much to drink or was emotionally overcome by the event, but he then did what can only be described as a foolish thing.

Herod was so pleased or perhaps entranced by this dance that he offered the girl anything she wanted, even to the value of half of his kingdom. Indeed he swore an oath to the girl to give her whatever she wanted, and there were many witnesses to his oath. This was a rash statement made under the influence of emotion. He was certainly not thinking straight when making this statement.

Now Herodias, the mother of the girl, also bore a grudge against John the Baptist, because he too would have accused her of adultery. Seeing the opportunity she prompted her daughter to ask for the beheading of John the Baptist and to be given his head on a platter. Herod was sorrowful and realised the rashness of his oath and his statements. But he could not or would not back down and lose face in front of the guests and so ordered it to be done.

The lesson for us here in Herod’s example is that we must watch what we say. We should never make rash statements nor make any important decisions in the heat of emotion or the passion of the moment. We have been instructed to let our yes be yes and our no be no, (James 5:12) but we must first think through the consequences of our words. The tongue is a fire and no human being can control it as James also wrote. (James 3) We are fortunate that the Lord has given us the Holy Spirit to do the work of transformation in our lives to bring us into the likeness of God. No human being has the power to control the tongue. But through the working of the Holy Spirit over time, this may be achieved.

Finally we must take the advice of James once again when he said, “Know this, my beloved brethren. Let every man be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger, for the anger of man does not work the righteousness of God.” (James 1:19-20) Listen carefully to what is being said and then think it over before saying anything or making a decision. If the statement makes you angry or touches any emotion at all, do not make a decision while under the influence of emotion. You must stop and weigh things in the light and strength of reason, not emotion, and then you have a chance of making the right choice or saying the right words. Above all else, if it is an important decision, put it in the hands of the Lord with prayer to guide you. And wait for him to do so.

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