King Herod heard of it, for Jesus’ name had become known. Some were saying, “John the baptizer has been raised from the dead; and for this reason these powers are at work in him.” But others said, “It is Elijah.” And others said, “It 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.”
The disturbing and bloody story of the beheading of John the Baptizer, a Jewish prophet and teacher, is told to us through a flashback moment. It’s like an opening to a non-linear Quentin Tarantino movie, we see a look of abject fear in the eyes of Herod when he hears of this man and his disciples casting out demons, healing and teaching the people. He’s certain it’s the very same man he saw dead, beheaded even. He’s sure that John the Baptist was back from the dead. How gruesome, how terrifying, how amazing that Herod’s first thought wasn’t, “Oh no, not another bossy prophet that’s going to make my life miserable.” Nope. Instead he imagines John the man who had held him accountable, the man who preached repentance, the man whom he arrested, imprisoned and yet was intrigued by and listened to, was back from the dead.According to the Gospel of Mark, King Herod grieved having John the Baptist killed and seemed to regret doing so. Most of our regrets do not include such drama and gore, let alone the level of violence in this dramatic Markan story. In fact the deeds of King Herod are hard to imagine let alone relate to but what about the feelings of regret and fear? The feelings of being haunted by old actions, past hurts or deep wounds?
Have you ever noticed how facing our own ghosts, our past mistakes, our old and festering wounds causes irrational fear to bubble up within us? Can you think of a time you were caught off guard by a look, a word, a story that revealed old hurts or salted ancient wounds? How hard it is to respond to these moments without losing control of ourselves. Can we face our fears, our mistakes, wounds we’ve inflicted on others or our own hurt feelings with compassion and love? Can we let go of death-making anger and bitterness, of self-recrimination and live into the life-making promise of resurrection?
The amazing part of the story is this. While Herod’s fear seems irrational, that’s exactly what happens. Eventually, it is Christ who is raised from the dead. It’s an, unexpected, irrational, beautiful story of love that cannot be put to death.
May you live into love,
May you let go of your fears, your disappointment, and regrets,
May you seek forgiveness and reconciliation and then allow for resurrection,
May you have the courage to follow in the footsteps of the prophets,
who told hard truths in the face of deadly power,
And may your truth extinguish fear and shine light in the darkness.