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. — Mark 6:25–26 ESV
I know what you’re thinking. You’re thinking, “I’ve never been even slightly worried about being Herod.” You probably think this post is like one of those infomercials promising to fix problems you never knew you had. Well, except for the $19.99 price tag, maybe it is. But I’m asserting that it’s easier than you think to be Herod. In fact, if you don’t pay attention, like Herod, you might find yourself starring down at a head on a platter in your own life (metaphorically speaking) wondering to yourself, “How could this possibly have happened?”
Wouldn’t we all like to avoid that? Well… here’s how.
When you find yourself between a rock and hard place – Stop! / Think! / Pray!
Turns out, Herod didn’t really want to have John executed. He didn’t really even want him in prison. One would think, with Herod being King and all, that if there was something that he found to be immoral, repugnant, and just plain gross, that it could easily be avoided? Right?
It seems Herod had a slight problem with impulse control. He makes this very public to pledge at a party to give his stepdaughter / niece whatever the heck she wants in exchange for a sexy dance. We presume this was quite a dance, but even so, it just had to be considered by all the party-goers to be a foolhardy gesture. His motive to offer half his kingdom is pretty easy to guess, but his motive to go alone with placing John’s head on a platter was simply to save face. He didn’t want guests at the party to see him renege on his promise. Seems he cared a great deal about his honor and his image with these people.
My dad used to say, “Son, the first thing that comes to your mind is probably the last thing you should do.”
I’m not sure what advice Herod got from his dad but it’s my experience that it’s pride that always makes us out to be a fool. If Herod was able to take a step back he would have realized it was far too late to worry about his honor. If he had any honor with this crowd he would have lost it long before he made this promise. It’s not likely his reputation would survive the sort of trade he was making, and it’s doubtful, even in this crowd, anyone would have found John’s execution honorable.
Know Your Weaknesses
My dad also used to say, “Son, never date the kind of girl that would go out with you.”
Turned out to be good advice, but I found it hard to follow. Now, rumor had it that Herod liked the ladies. He liked them, you know, a bit too much. This was not a secret among Herod’s crowd and, like any weakness, it made him vulnerable. Clearly, Herod had no business attending the kind of party he would throw.
There’s nothing wrong with a party – Jesus himself liked a good party. However, there are parties and places that, for us, represent compromise to our identity as followers of Jesus. Sorry, there’s no hard and fast rules for this, which is too bad, because that might make things a little easier. Some of us can go to a convention in Vegas, and some of us shouldn’t. We need to know what’s true for us. If you find yourself with a lampshade on your head dancing on a table, you should take note of it for future reference.
It’s good for us to know and work within our strengths. It’s how the body of Christ best functions. But, it’s our weaknesses that make us vulnerable. We can best operate within our strengths when we know our weaknesses are protected.
Allow Trustworthy Brothers and Sisters to Know your Weaknesses
My dad once said, “Son, if you keep following your gut, you’ll end up scraping the result off your shoes.”
My dad could be enigmatic at times. It was probably clear to everyone except Herod that he was being seduced and manipulated. More than likely, most of the fair and beautiful party-goers saw this coming, but Herod was transfixed and unable to see anything but a sexy dance. He needed a friend whose eyes were open, because he was as good as blind.
We can’t watch our own backs. Christ intentionally gifted us that way. We are missing more gifts than we have. It’s why we need each other. If you don’t have a trustworthy brother or sister – find one – stop making excuses. You can’t, or at least shouldn’t, confide in everyone. Choose wisely.
As we know, Herod was riddled with some well-earned guilt. In his guilt, he feared that Jesus might be John the Baptist coming back from the grave to haunt him. Nevertheless, he would soon meet Jesus when the Sanhedrin was asking for his execution. Like the thief on the cross – was this a shot at redemption for Herod? Was it a chance for him to take a stand against the Sanhedrin? Could Herod possibly reverse the maniacal attempts of his father who years ago attempted to murder Jesus as a child?
If this was his chance, it was lost on Herod. He simply deferred the problem to Pilate, still helpless to see beyond his palace wall. Sometimes, our hands pick up the most dirt from the things we try to avoid. Ultimately, Herod would lose the capricious favor of Rome and would die in obscure exile somewhere in Gaul.
So… If you can manage these things well you should be less Herod-ish.
Jesus tells us in Matthew to build our house on the rock because someday the flood will come and the waters will rise. This is not an issue of “if”, but “when”. Stuff happens. Sometimes we see it coming and sometimes we don’t. But if we hear Jesus’ words, and put them into practice, our house will survive the storm. Jesus also gave us each other and we can cling onto each other in the midst of those storms and perhaps see land we might otherwise have missed. Jesus never promised that we would avoid the storms. He does warn us that it’s coming and tells us how we might anchor our house to those rocks. This doesn’t happen overnight or without discomfort. If you’re unfamiliar with Jesus’ words, it’s best to start making a list. The clouds are gathering and it looks a little like it just might rain.