The Gospel of Matthew

This devotional is written by Jenny Slater. Jenny has been a member of St Mary's for 10 years and works as a paediatric nurse on a specialist respiratory ward. She currently mostly watches TV whilst knitting, and is in desperate need of a haircut! 

Matthew 14 1-12

John the Baptist beheaded

14 At that time Herod the tetrarch heard the reports about Jesus, 2 and he said to his attendants, 'This is John the Baptist; he has risen from the dead! That is why miraculous powers are at work in him.'

3 Now Herod had arrested John and bound him and put him in prison because of Herodias, his brother Philip's wife, 4 for John had been saying to him: 'It is not lawful for you to have her.' 5 Herod wanted to kill John, but he was afraid of the people, because they considered John a prophet.

6 On Herod's birthday the daughter of Herodias danced for the guests and pleased Herod so much 7 that he promised with an oath to give her whatever she asked. 8 Prompted by her mother, she said, 'Give me here on a dish the head of John the Baptist.' 9 The king was distressed, but because of his oaths and his dinner guests, he ordered that her request be granted 10 and had John beheaded in the prison. 11 His head was brought in on a dish and given to the girl, who carried it to her mother. 12 John's disciples came and took his body and buried it. Then they went and told Jesus.


John the Baptist, the forerunner to Jesus, the paver of the way; beheaded and killed at a party for one of the dancers so that Herod could save face in front of his guests. This passage in Matthew comes up quickly, and is also over pretty quickly for such an important character. John had been speaking out against Herod marrying Herodias, his brother's wife, as this was unlawful - she was technically part of the family as his brother's wife so this would have been seen as immoral to the people then. Herod was understandably mad with this as he's the ruler and the one who everyone is supposed to listen to and so he puts John in prison. He doesn't want to kill John as he fears the political repercussions of this i.e. a potential revolt from the people over killing a man who they saw as a prophet. However, when tricked into it, something he knows is wrong and isn't going to do him any favours, he feels obliged to give Herodias's daughter what she asked for: John's head on a platter. Even as a powerful tetrarch he was pressured into doing something he didn't want to, that was wrong, all because he didn't want to go back on his word in front of his party guests. How often do we do the wrong thing to save face? To take the easier path? I know I have, and I pray that I, and you, will continue to strive to be more like John, bold in Jesus's truth, and much less like Herod, pressured by those around us into taking the easy road (and obviously, 100% less murderous!).

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