Matthew 14:1-12 (CEB): At that time Herod the ruler heard the news about Jesus. He said to his servants, “This is John the Baptist. He’s been raised from the dead. This is why these miraculous powers are at work through him.” Herod had arrested John, bound him, and put him in prison because of Herodias, the wife of Herod’s brother Philip.
That’s because John told Herod, “It’s against the law for you to marry her.”
Although Herod wanted to kill him, he feared the crowd because they thought John was a prophet. But at Herod’s birthday party Herodias’ daughter danced in front of the guests and thrilled Herod. 7 Then he swore to give her anything she asked.
At her mother’s urging, the girl said, “Give me the head of John the Baptist here on a plate.” Although the king was upset, because of his solemn pledge and his guests he commanded that they give it to her. Then he had John beheaded in prison. They brought his head on a plate and gave it to the young woman, and she brought it to her mother. But John’s disciples came and took his body and buried it. Then they went and told Jesus what had happened.
A couple of things here: First, the ‘Herod’ in question was Herod Antipas, a son of Herod the Great. This is the same Herod that Jesus stood before during his ‘trial’.
I have always wondered about John telling Herod that marrying ‘the wife of [his] brother Philip’ was ‘against the law’. I mean, this is a Roman appointed official, why should he care about the ravings of a Jewish prophet? Well, actually, the family line of Herod was of Edomite decent and were a Jewish dynasty. They were of Edomites were forced to convert to Judaism when israel conquered Edom. Herod the Great converted to Judaism and therefore, Antipas would have understood something of the Jewish law. Thus, John the Baptist pointing out the law againt Antipas marrying his sister-in-law was perfectly within bounds for a Jewish prophet.
Secondly, there is the whole issue of Herod Antipas’ character. There are a couple of ways of looking at it but the biblical writers make it pretty clear the way they see it. Instead of standing up for justice, Antipas is painted as one who would do whatever needed to be done to further his own position and power. This same thing was pointed out recently in the movie ‘The Help’. There’s a pivotal scene where a mother fires her long time maid - the woman who essentially raised the mother’s daughter - because of the other powerful women that were with her. She had to choose if she would stand for justice or be swayed by position and power. She chose the latter.
Every day we, too, are confronted with this crossroad, albeit, not necessarily in such a grand scale. But when we buy our coffee at the local coffee shop, we are at a crossroads and we may not even know it. When we buy chocolate, another crossroads. When we purchase foods of all kinds, still another crossroads. In all of these ways, we can either choose to stand up for justice and make purchases that will benefit the workers in the fields with fair pay and working conditions or we can turn our backs on our brothers and sisters and let the injustice continue. When we save a little bit of money buy purchasing a product that is not labeled fair trade, we are taking money out of the pockets of those whom need it the most. With spending a little more on fair trade products, we are making a stand for justice. It’s actually that simple, my friends. (I actually wrote a whole reflection on this. You can read it here.)
Another way of looking at the character of Antipas is one of fidelity and honor. Notice that he ‘swore to give [his daughter] anything she asked’. Because his word meant something, he followed through with it, even if he personally didn’t want to. His own desire was set aside because of his commitment to carrying out his oath.
I remember when this was the way business was done. My Grandfather could do this. If he made a business deal (he owned a lumber yard), he would just give his word, shake the other’s hand, and that was all that was needed. He made good on his word and so did the other party.
This too, my friends, is the admonition of Scripture. Jesus said, ‘Let your yes mean yes and your no mean no’ (Matthew 5.37 CEB). And James wrote, ‘Speak with a simple “yes” or “no” (James 5.12 CEB).’
So, the idea I get from this passage is that we should not just sit idly by and allow injustices to continue. We should stand up for justice wherever we see it.
Furthermore, we should be honest people. People who follow through on their commitments. We should speak simply and plainly and mean what we say.
In the Love of the Three in One,
Br Jack+, LC