Today we decide to talk about Herod for some reason in The Death of John The Baptist.
Mark, the king of segues here. I feel like this section deserves at least, a, “Meanwhile in Jerusalem…” Anyway, let’s move on through the awkward transition to this story. I wonder why Mark is bringing this up! This entire story has a different feel to it. From the introduction, to explanation, to storytelling. Why are you bringing this up suddenly Mark? Let’s begin.
Herod is not a King, such a title is a colloquialism referring to the “governor” or “tetrarch” of the region, allowed to be ruler over the region through the authority of Rome.
Herod heard about Jesus sending out his disciples, but some people were saying he was John the Baptizer? This makes it seem as though resurrection could be possible in spirit if not in body. Although, perhaps this was simply that Jesus’ message was so close to John’s that people thought Jesus was John returned from the dead.
Along these lines, I want to point out that it is the resurrection of a dead person which is given as the reason for why that person could perform miraculous acts. What did Jewish culture believe about resurrection? These people didn’t then believe that John was also God, so what was it about Jesus specifically that lead to such a belief if not purely the resurrection?
Others believed he was Elijah (seen above), again someone who could perform miracles through the authority of God. Again, someone who would have been brought back from the dead, but who would not have been God. It’s as though Jews could revere specific powerful individuals, people who could perform miracles, and consider them as very close to God, rather than God Himself. I say this only to suggest that there was a place for someone like Jesus in Jewish culture. Someone like Elijah or the prophets of old, who were powerful wielders of God’s authority and will, but who remained mortal men.
The rest of this story seems a pretty straightforward account of why Herod was confused.
—-Wavey Lines of Flashback—
It’s at this point that Mark, once again master of segues, enters into an explanation of Herod’s confusion by flashing back to a time before John was killed.
Some time ago, back in chapter 2, Herod had imprisoned John on behalf of his current wife because John spoke out against their unlawful marriage. The way it sounds is that Herod married his sister-in-law, which he did, but they divorced their own spouses first. Herod didn’t take a second wife or kill his brother, or anything. John’s argument was through Leviticus 18:16.
Herod’s wife, Herodias, (seriously? was that her birth name?) didn’t like John getting mixed up in their business. We see this kind of thing every day. We the people believe that the marital, moral, and private lives of our government representatives should be open to scrutiny and will regularly speak out when we feel they are violating a shared moral code. In my opinion, it was more valid back then because they all followed the same code of ethics.
Herod, on the other hand, thought that John was an amazing and upstanding guy. And while this did not go so far as to listen to his critiques, it did extend far enough that Herod didn’t want to kill him. What John talked about amazed him, possibly for the same reason Jesus amazed the masses? For the authority they claimed? Did John also wield the authority of God?
—Wavey Lines of Flashback…. In a Flashback—
It’s a veritable inception of flashbacks.
It is at this point in the text that another genius segue occurs, that is, no segue at all, we simply transfer again to another flashback, the day that Herod ordered John’s death. We will discuss this in the next blog, as I feel I have written plenty for today.