Matthew 14:1-12 (ESV)
1 At that time Herod the tetrarch heard about the fame of Jesus, 2 and he said to his servants, “This is John the Baptist. He has been raised from the dead; that is why these miraculous powers are at work in him.” 3 For Herod had seized John and bound him and put him in prison for the sake of Herodias, his brother Philip’s wife, 4 because John had been saying to him, “It is not lawful for you to have her.” 5 And though he wanted to put him to death, he feared the people, because they held him to be a prophet. 6 But when Herod’s birthday came, the daughter of Herodias danced before the company and pleased Herod, 7 so that he promised with an oath to give her whatever she might ask. 8 Prompted by her mother, she said, “Give me the head of John the Baptist here on a platter.” 9 And the king was sorry, but because of his oaths and his guests he commanded it to be given. 10 He sent and had John beheaded in the prison, 11 and his head was brought on a platter and given to the girl, and she brought it to her mother. 12 And his disciples came and took the body and buried it, and they went and told Jesus.
Matthew prepared the minds of his hearers and readers for the rejection of Jesus by recounting John the Baptist’s execution. Herod the tetrarch was the son of Herod the Great, who murdered the young boys in Bethlehem back in chapter 2. A tetrarch was a title for a ruler just below an ethnarch, who in turn was just below a king. So Herod the tetrarch, also known as Herod Antipas, had a lot of power. When Herod heard about Jesus, he responded, “This is John the Baptist.” What a strange reaction! Herod’s conscience was troubled because of what he had done to John, and he couldn’t stop thinking about him. So what had Herod done to John? Well to back up a bit, Herodias was the granddaughter of Herod the Great. She married her uncle Herod Philip, and they had a daughter together named Salome. Herod Antipas was married too, but he fell in love with Herodias, although she was married to his half-brother Philip and was his niece. Because of this love affair, Herod’s first wife ran back to her father, reported what happened, and an actual war broke out. What an absolute mess! It was as bad as any reality TV show!
John the Baptist openly spoke out against this unlawful marriage between Herod Antipas and Herodias, ended up in prison, and was beheaded as a result. Although Herod didn’t take the advice of John, he knew John was a man of God and did not want him executed (v. 9). Nevertheless, Herod had John killed because of his desire to please Herodias, her daughter, and his party guests. What a sad story. Although Herod’s conscience bore witness to the message of John the Baptist, he rejected the truth because of his desire to do things his own way. The Herods may have thought they were above the law, but as John clearly pointed out, no one is above the Law of God. If the Holy Spirit is convicting you of sin today, be quick to respond and repent. Don’t be like Herod, who foolishly ignored God. Even after John’s death, he was still tormented by John’s voice. Whether we want to please people or just do things our own way, let’s stop and put an end to our disobedience today. God completely forgives those who turn to him in readiness to do things his way.