February 28, 2018
“The Baptist’s Fate”
‘Reaction shot’, as they say in film –
cut to Herod hearing about Jesus.
Some say John is back from the dead,
others a prophet like in the old days.
Herod guesses it’s John
back from the dead –
even though he had had him beheaded!
It’s a variation on the ‘Markan sandwich’ –
Soon Jesus will ask his disciples
‘who do people say that I am’ –
he will get the same answers,
till Peter gets it right
Now we get the explanation of John’s death –
hinted at in the first week.
Herod married Herodias,
who was his brother Phillip’s wife.
This may not be nuclear family culture,
but most cultures have taboos about intra-family marriages,
because of the social tension.
Herodias wants Herod to kill John
for challenging her marriage to Philip.
She carries the grudge,
but Herod fears John.
He also finds John challenging and perplexing,
but keeps listening to him.
Billy Graham died last week –
Pastor and chaplain to presidents –
Every one from Truman to Trump.
This is tabloid stuff,
The peccadillos and perversions of the elite,
Challenged by a moralist.
Do you know any radio or TV,
political or religious personalities
who fascinate like John?
Here’s the famous story of Salome –
though the name is not here,
just ‘daughter of Herodias’.
Generations of men have read this
as a salacious story of a stripper or belly dance,
and a king thinking with his genitals.
Is there any other way to read it
than some incestuous lust?
In Pasolini’s movie about Jesus,
the gay Marxist film-maker offers a different presentation.
The dancer is a girl child,
and the action is all between Herodias and Herod.
By offering to the child,
he is offering to the mother.
The literary escalation is quick –
the head of John the baptizer –
the head of John the Baptist on a platter!’
And Herod has to honour his own word,
and hands over John’s head on a platter
through the daughter to the mother.
The disciples came to take the body – headless? –
to a tomb.
It’s a bit of a prequel,
For what will follow for Jesus.
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,
‘John, whom I beheaded,
has been raised.’
For Herod himself had sent men
who arrested John,
and put him in prison
on account of Herodias,
his brother Philip’s wife,
because Herod had married her.
For John had been telling Herod,
‘It is not lawful for you to have your brother’s wife.’
And Herodias had a grudge against him,
and wanted to kill him.
But she could not,
for Herod feared John,
knowing that he was a righteous and holy man,
and he protected him.
When he heard him,
he was greatly perplexed;
and yet he liked to listen to him.
But an opportunity came
when Herod on his birthday gave a banquet
for his courtiers and officers and for the leaders of Galilee.
When his daughter Herodias 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.’
And he solemnly swore to her,
‘Whatever you ask me,
I will give you,
even half of my kingdom.’
She went out and said to her mother,
‘What should I ask for?’
‘The head of John the baptizer.’
Immediately she rushed back to the king
‘I want you to give me at once
the head of John the Baptist on a platter.’
The king was deeply grieved;
yet out of regard for his oaths
and for the guests,
he did not want to refuse her.
Immediately the king sent a soldier of the guard
with orders to bring John’s head.
He went and beheaded him in the prison,
brought his head on a platter,
and gave it to the girl.
Then the girl gave it to her mother.
When his disciples heard about it,
they came and took his body,
and laid it in a tomb.