Have you ever been in a situation where you had to do something you didn’t want to do to avoid being laughed at?
Herod was a very nasty man. He was a king (and he isn’t the same Herod that killed all the little boys when Jesus was born – that was another evil man) and he had some power. He was what is known as a puppet king – he was someone who dealt with the day to day business of looking like a head of state, but everyone really knew that the Romans were in charge.
He was also quite insecure. He had had John the Baptist killed because he was scared of his wife and didn’t want to look silly in front of guests having made a daft promise that he felt he needed to keep to his daughter. To go back a bit, Herod had a dodgy relationship with his brother’s wife (called Herodias – maybe a little unoriginal) and John had told him publicly that it was wrong. Herod didn’t like being criticised (and nor did Herodias) so he locked John up in prison, but secretly enjoyed listening to him talk. He knew that he was a holy man which he found attractive. Things didn’t stay that way for long – after her dancing at a party, Herod promises his daughter anything up to half his kingdom as a gift. She misses a golden opportunity for riches and power and instead asks for John the Baptist’s head on a plate. Gross. Herod can’t say no, especially in front of everyone, so that’s what she gets.
Mark doesn’t comment on the story at all. It is horrific in so many ways. A man dies because another man can’t say no to his daughter (and don’t even get me started on what the daughter was doing dancing for all the men – not good). Sometimes doing the right thing comes at a great cost. We might look silly. We might need to break a promise or admit that we didn’t mean we would give someone literally everything. But us looking silly and acting wisely is so much better than not looking silly but doing horrendous things because we’re afraid to lose face.
We can always pray for wisdom. We can always know that Jesus is with us – and that he is helping us to withstand temptation and just to do the right thing. We don’t have to be like Herod.
Lord God, thank you that you are always with us. That we can totally trust in you. That the more time we spend with you, the more we can see the right way to act. Help us to have the courage to stand up for what is right and good and what pleases you. Amen.
Is there anything God is calling you to stand up for today – something wrong that you see around you that you would be able to help put right?