We had just gotten settled and Jesus said, “Have you heard what happened to John?”
Judas spoke up. “Only that Herod had him thrown in prison, why?”
“That’s why I wanted to talk to you away from the crowds. John is dead.”
I couldn’t believe it and blurted out “Dead? John’s dead? No, that can’t be right. You must be wrong.” I didn’t know anyone who was more full of life than John.
“I wish I was wrong. It happened last night.” And then he told us the story.
“You know about the arrest. John had been in Herod’s face about how he married his sister-in-law, Philips wife. It seems that Herod had been in Rome visiting his brother and something started between him and Herodias.
Well, one thing led to another, and before you know it, she had left her husband and followed his brother back to Palestine. Last year they had their big wedding, and it really bugged John.
Not that Herod had ever been much of a Jew but in theory he is our “leader” and to see him flaunting God’s law like that was too much for John.
If it wasn’t bad enough that Herod had stolen another man’s wife, it was his brother’s wife, and you know what Moses wrote about that.
Well, John had never been shy about preaching about what was right and wrong and so he used Herod as an illustration of wrong, every time he preached. And word got back to the Palace, not sure how but it did.
It didn’t seem to bother Herod much; He didn’t get to where he was by being bothered by words, but for Herodias it was a different story. When she left Rome, it was to become a queen, not to have everyone thinking she was an adulteress, even if she knew that’s what she was.
So, she pressured her husband to do something to get John to stop. Herod sent one of his guards to put the pressure on John. That didn’t work; Instead, it gave John something more to preach about.
And so, to keep his wife happy, Herod had John arrested and thrown in prison. And that must have been horrible for John, even as kids he loved nothing more than being outside.”
“We know that,” Thomas broke in. “But how did he die?”
“One of Herod’s servants, Justus, who is a
follower came early this morning with the story.
It happened yesterday, on Herod’s birthday. They had a big party at the palace to celebrate and anybody who was anybody had an invitation.
Well, you know how it goes? No, probably not, there isn’t one of us here who’s ever been to something like that, but I guess the wine was flowing and by the time evening came things were getting pretty rowdy.
At some point Herodias brought here daughter in to dance, I don’t know what her mother was thinking; The girl is just a kid and there she is dancing in front of a bunch of drunk men. I don’t know what she did for a dance, but Justus said it was not appropriate for who she was or who she was dancing for.
And then things got bizarre and out of control. Herod calls the girl up and praises her for the dance and without thinking promises her anything, up to half his kingdom. Don’t know what the Romans would think about that.
So, the girl asks if she can talk to her mother and when she comes back, she asks for John’s head, on a platter.”
It was then that Jesus broke down. “I never thought he would be the first to die, that wasn’t supposed to be that way. At least Elizabeth and Zach were spared losing their only child, they’ve been gone awhile and the only family that John had were his cousins.”
“And Herod caved, all he had to do was say no, but no, the man caved. He had John killed and his body desecrated. Everybody was stunned by what had happened, the entire household knew that Herod had been visiting John in prison and they seemed to almost becoming friends, as weird as that seems. Justus said his boss kept going on about how he had to keep his word, but seriously he is king and the kid was just a kid. All he had to do was the right thing, and instead . . .”
“Some of his followers were able to get his body, and they buried him this morning before the sun had even risen and I missed it.”
I had never seen Jesus like this before; he seemed consumed with grief, anger and frustration at what had happened to his cousin, and really who could blame him?
And then Jesus lifted his head and saw them.