Mark 6:14-29 – The Death of John the Baptist
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.”
For Herod himself had sent men who arrested John, bound him, 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?” She replied, “The head of John the baptizer.” Immediately she rushed back to the king and requested, “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.
Senseless – that’s the word that comes to mind for me with this story. John, a prophet, killed in such a senseless way – because of the grudge of one person and the unwillingness to lose face by another. It is just a heartbreaking story – senseless. As I read it this morning, I could not get the news about Robin Williams committing suicide last night out of my mind and prayed about how they were both connected. To me, there’s the senselessness of it all that brings them together. Williams’ death and the story here are not similar beyond that, but the senselessness of both is there. For Williams and his struggle with major depression, he likely felt that there was no other option or way to end the pain he was feeling.
Having struggled with depression myself (although thankfully never to the degree that Williams or so many others have gotten to), I understand the ways that everything in life feels like its grey – no beauty, no life, no laughter, no joy, no hope. I think of the contrasts in the movie What Dreams May Come where Williams’ heaven is this stunningly beautiful painted landscape in contrast to the afterlife of his wife in the film (who committed suicide herself) which was grey and dark and lifeless. Whether its a Hollywood star like Williams or someone whose name I may never know, its a tragedy when someone takes their life because they feel there is no way out, no hope. It is a senseless thing – not blaming the person who is struggling, but the senselessness that help and healing could not take place. My heart breaks for all those who struggle in this way – if you are reading this and struggle with depression and need someone to talk to…message me. Let’s talk. Let’s find hope. Let’s find light. Let’s find life.