The Death of John


The Death of John
Matthew 14:1–12 “He sent and had John beheaded in
the prison, and his head was
brought on a platter and given to the girl, and
she brought it to her mother”
(vv. 10–11).

Because He is unwilling to
make His ministry into a sideshow that performs
wonders for those who will
always find a reason to deny Him, Jesus does not do
many miracles in Nazareth
(Matt. 13:58; see 12:38–42). Still, the acclaim from
our Lord’s earlier works
spreads throughout Galilee and reaches the tetrarch
Herod, otherwise known as
Herod Antipas, who rules the region (14:1).

Herod Antipas was a son of
Herod the Great, the king who attempted to kill
Jesus shortly after His birth
(2:16–18). Upon hearing of our Lord’s ministry,
Antipas suggests that this
Jesus is none other than John the Baptist, back
from the dead (14:2). This
gives Matthew an opportunity to bring us up to date
on John’s situation,
especially since Herod Antipas indicates the Baptist has

was in prison when Christ’s Galilean ministry began (4:12–17; 11:1–6),
and today’s passage tells us why John was in jail. Herod Antipas had a brother
named Herod Philip whose wife was Herodias. Antipas, who was once
married to
the daughter of an Arabic king, left his first wife and took
Herodias from his
brother, thereby violating Jewish law (Lev. 18:16; 20:21).
John the Baptist
spoke out against this incestuous union and was imprisoned
as a consequence
(Matt. 14:3–4). But for a time Herod Antipas was unwilling
to go further since
he was a coward who feared the people would revolt should
he dispose of John
(v. 5).

The Herodians were well-known for their
immorality, and John did not remain
only a prisoner for long. After seeing
Herodias’ daughter, whom we know from
historical sources as Salome, perform
what was likely a sensual dance, Herod
Antipas foolishly swore an oath that
he would do whatever the young girl
wanted. And though he should never have
made the oath and once made, should
never have kept it, Antipas acquiesced
and put John to death according to the
request of Herodias and Salome (vv.

John’s death foreshadows the death of Jesus and, indeed, the death
of all
those who are faithful to God. Matthew Henry comments, “It is no new
thing for
God’s ministers to suffer ill for doing well. Troubles remain with
those most
who are most diligent and faithful in doing their

Coram deo: Living before the face of
Herod Antipas beheaded John
and did not give him a formal trial, thereby
breaking the Mosaic code. We see
in Matthew 14:9 that Herod did this because
he wanted to save face and not
look like a fool in front of his guests. Many
of the sins we commit are done
in order to save face. How many little white
lies have you told because you
are more concerned with looking good in front
of others than you are with
pleasing God?

For further study:

Judges 11:29–40

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