Chapter 8 - Head on a Platter
Helen Dowd

John 5:32 & 35 – "There is another who bears witness of Me…John… He was the burning and shining lamp."

Historical setting:
About 28 A.D.
Place: Antipas, Galilee
Persons: King Herod, Salome, John the Baptist, Jesus
Scripture: Matthew 14:1-12; Mark 6:14-27; Luke 9:7-9; John5:32-35

Note: In this, and other stories, Jesus' words are always direct Bible quotes, and are in blue. Words of others are not necessarily direct quotes, but any that are, will be in blue.

Background on King Herod {Notes taken from NKJV study Bible} … Herod Antipas was one of the sons of Herod the Great, the king who had put out the order to have all the babies killed, at the time of Christ's birth. After his death in 4 B.C., his kingdom was divided amongst his sons, Archelaus, Philip, and Antipas. Herod Antipas had gone to Rome where he had met his half brother, Philip's wife, Herodias, and seduced her. He then divorced his own wife and married Herodias.

Jesus' popularity quickly spread around the kingdom of Herod Antipas, the tetrarch of Galilee. When King Herod heard about how this miracle Man, Jesus, had healed the son of one of the noblemen who served at his palace, and how He had caused a man at the Pool of Bethesda to walk, after he had been an invalid for thirty-eight years, he was frozen with fear. Who was this Man? "It is John the Baptist, come back to life!" he exclaimed. "He has come back to haunt me!"

He began to tremble. Ever since the night of his birthday party he had been haunted by the memory of John the Baptist's head on a platter. He couldn't close his eyes but he saw the gruesome scene all over again. He had not meant it to turn out like it had. Oh, if only he could turn the clock back . . .

John had condemned Herod for his immorality in marrying Herodias, his half brother, Philip's wife, after divorcing his own wife. John had said to Herod: "It is not lawful for you to have your brother's wife." Those silly Jewish laws that forbid a man to take his brothers wife! At the time it had so angered Herodias that she demanded that her husband have John killed. But Herod feared him. And also, John was such an icon among the people that Herod was afraid, had he had John killed, that he would have an uprising on his hands. So instead of killing him, Herod had thrown John into prison. And there he had forgotten him, until…

It was the night of Herod's birthday. The palace put on a big party for the king. Oh what a happy time that was. There was music and dancing, wine, women and food. As a special treat to him, the beautiful daughter of Herodias came out, dressed in her most provocative attire. The music started up and Salome began to dance. Oh, could that girl dance! She writhed and she wiggled and she twisted her way up to Herod, intoxicating him with her seductive moves. When she landed on his lap as a finale, he was mesmerized. What a birthday present his wife had given him, allowing her beautiful daughter to present herself before him in this way!

"Oh, my gorgeous step daughter," Herod said, when he could get his breath again. His head was foggy from too much wine and his voice slurred. "That was unbelievable. How can I thank you? What can I give you? You name it, to the half of my kingdom, and I will give it to you. You have made an already perfect birthday party absolutely superb. "

Herodias knew her weak, indulgent husband. And she remembered how much he had been disturbed when John the Baptist had said to him: "It is not lawful for you to have her." She had hated John for that and was glad when Herod had at least had him thrown in jail. But she had scorned him at the time for not using his authority to have him put to death. Who did he think he was anyway? And what right did he have to rebuke the king? Oh, her pathetic, wish-washy husband.... But now was the time for revenge against that religious extremist, the prophet that everyone called "John the Baptist." Oh to be rid of that man! If he were out of the way her husband would not have this feeling of intimidation of the people. After all, HE was the ruler; yet he let the people rule HIM. Well! Now was her chance. She called her daughter to her.

"Listen Salome," Herodias said. "You know that as the daughter of the king you can have whatever you want anyway, so I'll tell you what to request of your step dad." She bent down close to her daughter and whispered something in her ear.

Salome went back out to Herod, who was by now sprawled over the table, intoxicated beyond sensibility. She slithered up to him, rumpling his hair and stroking the back of his neck. Then, in a hoarse whisper she told him what she wanted him to give her for her performance.

"What!" Herod was suddenly alert. "You want 'what'?"

* * * * * * *

Ever since the night of his birthday party he had been haunted by the memory of John the Baptist's head on a platter...
So when King Herod heard of this JESUS, who was so popular with the people, he trembled. He could still see the head of John the Baptist, his eyes, as though still alive, staring straight at him, accusing him, condemning him. His wicked—yet beautiful—wife had coerced her daughter into asking for John the Baptist's head on a platter. And that is when the king's nightmares had begun. Even though he had allowed John's disciples to have his body so they could bury him, King Herod could not erase the image. Every time he closed his eyes, the Prophet's eyes pierced through him.

"Now Herod the tetrarch heard of all that was done by Him (Jesus); and he was perplexed, because it was said by some that John had risen from the dead…Herod said, 'John I have beheaded, but who is this of whom I hear such things?' So he sought to see Him. Luke 9:6-9

But he did not meet Jesus at this time. Actually, he was afraid to meet Him, so for the time being he blotted out the name of Jesus from his mind. He would meet with Him at a later date. See: Jesus Before Herod in "Study Six" of the "All Hail To The King" series. (half way down the page)


© Helen Dowd

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