Today’s passage is a sort of a “flashback” narrative. Herod started hearing about this new teacher and miracle-worker who was walking the countryside and gaining new followers every day, and his first reaction was a window into his guilty conscience. The writer of Proverbs said that “The wicked flee though no one pursues,” and Herod was a great demonstration. John had been dead for some time, and the evil king immediately assumed that the preacher had come back from the dead, specifically to haunt him for his crimes.
The passage then goes on to describe John’s final days and why Herod felt so guilty. You can read the whole sordid story, so I won’t recount it here. But there are a few things to point out before we leave the subject of the Baptist.
One of the interesting things you’ll find as you mature in Christ is how uncomfortable non-Christians will be around you. It’s not even an issue of a “holier-than-thou” attitude on your part. You don’t have to preach at them or tell them they’re going to Hell. A lot of times your very presence makes them feel uneasy, since you’re a constant reminder of their sin and how they’ve turned against God. Peter reacted this way in one of his early encounters with Jesus, so we shouldn’t be surprised by this.
John was down in the prison, not able to speak with anyone unless they came down to him. He was completely helpless. But that wasn’t good enough for Herodias. Nothing less than John’s murder would suffice, so she plotted with her daughter to trick Herod into agreeing to it.
But his death didn’t silence his voice. Like Abel, he still spoke while being dead. He still spoke to Herod’s conscience and would grant him no peace. Even years later, the apostles in the book of Acts cited John's testimony while preaching about Christ.
And Jesus honored this. If you’re familiar with the Gospels, you might remember that the Savior went through multiple trials, both before the Jewish religious leaders and before secular authorities. He didn’t speak in his defense much, but he usually answered some questions or charges. But when he stood before Herod, the murderer of John, he didn’t speak a word. The Lord had already sent his representative in the person of John, and Jesus didn’t have anything more to say.
And of course, this wasn’t the end of John. On the Last Day, when Christ calls all the dead out of their graves, I guarantee you John will come out looking better than Herod in the end.
I hope that my Lord, on that day, will pay me some of the same compliments that he gave John: that I was faithful to his mission no matter the cost, that I was single-minded in my zeal to point others away from myself and towards Christ, and that I had a lasting legacy of challenging other believers. I don’t think I could ask for anything better.
Lord Jesus, whatever it takes, this is what I want.