Markby Robert M. Solomon
The ministry of the Twelve whom Jesus sent out was inspiring. ″Jesus' name had become well known″ (v. 14), rather than the names of the disciples-an important lesson for the Lord's servants. Herod heard about the ministry too and was filled with fear. With a guilty conscience, he thought that Jesus was John the Baptist, whom he had earlier beheaded (v. 16).
Mark then recounts the sordid tale of John's execution. Herod had married his brother's wife Herodias (vv. 17-18; Luke 3:19-20), and John was arrested after rebuking the king for this sin. Herod had some respect for John and liked to listen to him despite of his barbed messages (v. 20), but Herodias was after John's blood and found an opportunity when Herod threw a grand birthday party for himself. Herodias' daughter danced (inappropriately, many commentators believe) and Herod was so pleased that he offered to give anything she asked (vv. 22-23). With her wicked mother's prompting, the girl asked for John's head.
The proud Herod, not wanting to retract his boastful offer to the girl in front of his guests, chose to kill God's honest and courageous prophet rather than damage his already-frayed reputation. Though ″greatly distressed″ (v. 26), he ordered the beheading of John. The head was then presented to the evil Herodias. How could God allow His chosen servants to be so easily disposed of by such sinful and small-minded people? Some may ask whether this is how God treats His friends.
When Jesus was told about John's beheading, He ″withdrew by boat privately to a solitary place″ (Matthew 14:13). He may have wanted to talk to His Father about it and mourn privately for John, who was also His relative (see Luke 1:36). Also, He may have realised that He too would be cruelly put to death. But God's will would be done, and even if it meant suffering, it was more important to die faithfully doing God's will than live on in unfaithfulness. God will have the final word in all our lives. His justice will prevail regardless of our present predicament. Even in suffering, the servant can say, ″The Lord will fulfil his purpose for me″ (Psalm 138:8, ESV). History records that Herod and Herodias eventually fell out of favour with Rome, were banished, and committed suicide.
What do you think God feels when His people are persecuted by powerful forces on earth? What other powers may be behind such persecution? What do you think God does in such situations, and why?
Why is suffering and setbacks so much a part of God's will for our lives? What truths about God help us when we undergo suffering?