John the Baptist Beheaded
14 King Herod heard about this, for Jesus’ name had become well known. Some were saying, “John the Baptist has been raised from the dead, and that is why miraculous powers are at work in him.”
15 Others said, “He is Elijah.”
And still others claimed, “He is a prophet, like one of the prophets of long ago.”
16 But when Herod heard this, he said, “John, the man I beheaded, has been raised from the dead!”
17 For Herod himself had given orders to have John arrested, and he had him bound and put in prison. He did this because of Herodias, his brother Philip’s wife, whom he had married. 18 For John had been saying to Herod, “It is not lawful for you to have your brother’s wife.” 19 So Herodias nursed a grudge against John and wanted to kill him. But she was not able to, 20 because Herod feared John and protected him, knowing him to be a righteous and holy man. When Herod heard John, he was greatly puzzled; yet he liked to listen to him.
21 Finally the opportune time came. On his birthday Herod gave a banquet for his high officials and military commanders and the leading men of Galilee. 22 When the daughter of Herodias came in and danced, she pleased Herod and his dinner guests.
The king said to the girl, “Ask me for anything you want, and I’ll give it to you.” 23 And he promised her with an oath, “Whatever you ask I will give you, up to half my kingdom.”
24 She went out and said to her mother, “What shall I ask for?”
“The head of John the Baptist,” she answered.
25 At once the girl hurried in to the king with the request: “I want you to give me right now the head of John the Baptist on a platter.”
26 The king was greatly distressed, but because of his oaths and his dinner guests, he did not want to refuse her. 27 So he immediately sent an executioner with orders to bring John’s head. The man went, beheaded John in the prison, 28 and brought back his head on a platter. He presented it to the girl, and she gave it to her mother. 29 On hearing of this, John’s disciples came and took his body and laid it in a tomb.
Long Life vs Full Life
We finally return to the character of John the Baptist. John the Baptist was a pivotal figure in biblical history, of whom Jesus says there is no one born of woman greater than he. He is a prophet in the spirit of Elijah, proclaiming the coming Kingdom and the coming Messiah. And yet…this is only the second, and final, reference to John the Baptist in the book of Mark. He is mentioned in chapter 1, and again here, with an ignoble death at the hands of a spiteful wife. A exceedingly short ministry, dwarfed by the coming of Christ, and cut brutally short…and yet, “no one greater”?
We have some very deep-seated conceptions of what we want our life to look like. We typically want to be financially comfortable. We want a long life, to enjoy all the various flavors of each stage of life. We want rich relationships, lots of friends and beautiful spouses. We want enriching careers that bring us personal esteem from our peers. These are the elements of a successful, enviable life.
It is very difficult to comprehend, but this is not a biblical idea.
When we look at the lives of Christ and John the Baptist, we do not see long lives, but short ones. We do not see lives that were filled with honors and awards and esteem, but judgment, scorn…and eternal worth. We do not see lives of comfort and excess, but lives of difficulty and suffering…and divine providence. We do not see lives lived for personal enrichment and fulfillment, but to glorify, magnify, and obey God. How starkly different this is from everything we have learned, from every way in which we are taught to live by this world! One devotional would never be enough to dismantle these conceptions in our mind, but hopefully can serve as a wake-up call, that as Christians, we live not for ourselves and for our glory, but for God and for his.
“God, I pray Thee, light these idle sticks of my life and may I burn for Thee. Consume my life, my God, for it is Thine. I seek not a long life, but a full one, like you, Lord Jesus.” – Jim Elliot, Martyr
1. What is your concept of a good, rich, full life? How does that concept compare to the lives of John the Baptist and Jesus?
2. What is the part of your life that you have the hardest time surrendering to God and his glory and purposes? Why do you think this is?
3. This is a long and difficult process, but what do you think is a good first step in coming closer to the model of Christ and John the Baptist?