As I thought about the text while I was getting ready for work on Tuesday, I thought, “Is this the first non-Jesus story since John was introduced at the beginning of the gospel?”
The way to answer the question is to look at the text. We meet John at the beginning of the book, teaching repentance and pointing to the one who is to follow. In all the rest of the stories, the center of the story is the interaction of Jesus with a problem. We learn a little about the person so we understand the problem, but the story returns to learning what Jesus will do, what Jesus will say. The story of John and Herod is clear about the problem (John is in prison), implies that he was in prison for a while, and then has no action from Jesus. And ends with John’s disciples claiming his body for burial.
We know from another gospel that Jesus knew that John was in prison. John had sent a couple disciples to ask Jesus a question. Jesus sends them back to John with the answer.
And then Herod kills him.
John was faithful, John had done everything he could for God. Jesus knew about his imprisonment. John was dead.
As I was reviewing the stories, I noticed that Herod’s reaction to the increasing popularity of Jesus was to say, “John, the man I beheaded, has been raised from the dead.” I’m not sure whether Herod was scared by this, relieved by this, in awe of this. I’m not sure whether Herod had been praying for that outcome.
The story is simple, well told, and hard. The applications are not as simple.