The Tragic Demise of John the Baptist: Matthew 14:1-12
“1) At that time Herod the tetrarch heard the news about Jesus, 2) and said to his servants, “This is John the Baptist; he has risen from the dead, and that is why miraculous powers are at work in him.” 3) For when Herod had John arrested, he bound him and put him in prison because of Herodias, the wife of his brother Philip. 4) For John had been saying to him, “It is not lawful for you to have her.” 5) Although Herod wanted to put him to death, he feared the crowd, because they regarded John as a prophet.” Matthew‬ ‭14‬:‭1‬-‭5‬
We now come to the story of the death of John the Baptist. He was arrested because of His courage and unbending stand for truth. He had repeatedly confronted Herod about his sin of cohabiting with the wife of his brother Philip. Her name was Herodias.
The story suggests that she was the one behind his arrest, imprisonment and shackles. Rather than repent and amend her ways, she persecuted the messenger who stood on God’s truth. Her conscience was seared. She embraced sin and hated righteousness.
Mark 6:19-20 adds a unique commentary about the tension between Herod and Herodias over John the Baptist, and why Herod was protecting John. Let’s briefly look at these verses.
“19) Herodias had a grudge against him and wanted to put him to death and could not do so; 20) for Herod was afraid of John, knowing that he was a righteous and holy man, and he kept him safe. And when he heard him, he was very perplexed; but he used to enjoy listening to him.” It appears that John was making headway with Herod.
Sadly, Herod was eventually trapped by his own presumption, pride and foolishness. He threw a birthday party for himself with many prestigious guests in attendance. At one point, most likely after much wine and indulgence, the daughter of Herodias entertained the crowd with dancing. Herod was so pleased with her, he made a public oath to give her whatever she asked. Mark 6:23 says he was willing to give her up to half of his kingdom.
Then it happened. After a brief consultation with her vindictive mother, his step daughter came back and asked for the head of John the Baptist on a platter. Though Herod was grieved, he refused to be humiliated before his dinner guests. He gave the command and John was promptly executed.
Let me make a stunning observation; John the Baptist died because of his defense of the sanctity of marriage. He preached against sin and immorality. Herodias loved pleasure more than God. She rejected biblical morality. She also had no regard for the sanctity of life. Her pleasure was more important than John’s life.
The same battles are deeply dividing western society and the church today. Sadly, many Christians would side with Herodias today and condemn John the Baptist for being critical and judgmental. Moral boundaries are blurred and those who stand for truth are charged with hate crimes.
I admire the backbone and courage of John the Baptist. His life and death were not wasted. He was indeed a righteous and holy man and served as a forerunner for Jesus in the spirit and power of Elijah. He fulfilled Gods calling and purpose for his life. Eternity will celebrate him as a hero of faith.
There is much to learn from the life, ministry and tragic demise of John the Baptist. By all standards he was young. He was only six months older than Jesus. Never despise the potential influence and impact of young godly men. Both John and Jesus died around 33 years of age. This point deeply grips me!
His disciples took away his body and gave him a dignified burial. Then they went and reported to Jesus. Little did they know, the storm clouds were quickly gathering for another tragic death that would change the course of human history.
Daily Bible Commentary By Terry Baxter: Cofounder of GoServ Global