King Herod heard of it, for Jesus’ name had become known. Some said, “John the Baptist has been raised from the dead. That is why these miraculous powers are at work in him.” But others said, “He is Elijah.” And others said, “He is a prophet, like one of the prophets of old.” But when Herod heard of it, he said, “John, whom I beheaded, has been raised.” For it was Herod who had sent and seized John and bound him in prison for the sake of Herodias, his brother Philip’s wife, because he had married her. For John had been saying to Herod, “It is not lawful for you to have your brother’s wife.” And Herodias had a grudge against him and wanted to put him to death. But she could not, for Herod feared John, knowing that he was a righteous and holy man, and he kept him safe. When he heard him, he was greatly perplexed, and yet he heard him gladly. But an opportunity came when Herod on his birthday gave a banquet for his nobles and military commanders and the leading men of Galilee. For when Herodias’s daughter came in and danced, she pleased Herod and his guests. And the king said to the girl, “Ask me for whatever you wish, and I will give it to you.” And he vowed to her, “Whatever you ask me, I will give you, up to half of my kingdom.” And she went out and said to her mother, “For what should I ask?” And she said, “The head of John the Baptist.” And she came in immediately with haste to the king and asked, saying, “I want you to give me at once the head of John the Baptist on a platter.” And the king was exceedingly sorry, but because of his oaths and his guests he did not want to break his word to her. And immediately the king sent an executioner with orders to bring John’s head. He went and beheaded him in the prison and brought his head on a platter and gave it to the girl, and the girl gave it to her mother. When his disciples heard of it, they came and took his body and laid it in a tomb. Mark 6:14–29
There are a number of lessons that we can learn from the martyrdom of St. John the Baptist. Don’t make rash promises! Be on guard against the dangers of lust and pride and drunkenness! Recognize the importance of leaders who are wise and rational!
Perhaps one of the most important and timely lessons we Christians can learn is the necessity of bearing witness to the truth-- no matter what the cost.
Over the course of our lives we are all going to face situations and circumstances when we need to speak the truth in love. We have an adult child caught up in a sinful lifestyle. We have a family member who doesn’t know Jesus as Lord and Savior. We have a friend who ridicules the things we believe. Will we remain silent or will we speak up?
St. John the Baptists spoke up—at great risk to himself. Why did he do that? What gave him the courage to speak up when remaining silent would be much easier and safer? He spoke up because he feared God more than he feared men and loved God more than he loved the approval of men. He spoke up because he served a King infinitely greater than Herod: Jesus, the Lamb of God, who would take away the sins of the world. And he spoke up because he knew that even if the truth cost him his life, there was another life to come.
May God grant that the same is true for us so that when it comes time to speak the truth in love we may do it with courage and clarity!
Let us pray:
Almighty God, You gave Your servant John the Baptist to be the forerunner of Your Son, Jesus Christ, in both his preaching of repentance and his innocent death. Grant that we, who have died and risen with Christ in Holy Baptism, may daily repent of our sins, patiently suffer for the sake of the truth, and fearlessly bear witness to His victory over death; through the same Jesus Christ, our Lord, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.