The Beheading of John the Baptist

Matthew 14:1-13


John the Baptist had said concerning Christ, He must increase, but I must decrease, John 3:30.


Verse 1 – makes no sense at all, but irrational men often make no sense.  Jesus Christ had walked on this earth while John was alive, but that fact didn’t make any difference to a man who was plagued with guilt.  If my calculations are correct, Jesus had been preaching and performing miracles about two years, yet Herod had heard nothing of him.  Notice the two different worlds people often live in.  Thus the wicked flee when none pursue (Proverbs 28:1 - The wicked flee when no man pursueth: but the righteous are bold as a lion.); are in great fear, where no fear is, Psalm 14:5. Herod, by a little enquiry, might have found out that this Jesus was in being long before John Baptist’s death, and therefore could not be John restored to life; and so he might have undeceived himself; but God justly left him to this infatuation.


It is possible to believe in a resurrection without believing in Christ, or being saved.  Not like the Sadducees who say there is no resurrection.  John did no miracle while he lived, but Herod believed he could do miracles after his “resurrection”. 


Herod knows he cannot undo his evil actions, but believes good cannot be stopped by his evil actions. 


Sinners, like Herod, desire to continue in their sins unabated, yet they find their sins find them out.  He was hardened in his wickedness; for though he was convinced that John was a prophet, and one owned of God, yet he does not express the least remorse or sorrow for his sin in putting him to death. The devils believe and tremble, but they never believe and repent. Note, There may be the terror of strong convictions, where there is not the truth of a saving conversion.


Ministers may be silenced, and imprisoned, and banished, and slain, but the word of God cannot be run down. The prophets live not for ever, but the word takes hold, Zechariah 1:5,6 – Your fathers, where are they? and the prophets, do they live for ever? 6 But my words and my statutes, which I commanded my servants the prophets, did they not take hold of your fathers? and they returned and said, Like as the LORD of hosts thought to do unto us, according to our ways, and according to our doings, so hath he dealt with us.  See II Timothy 2:9 - Wherein I suffer trouble, as an evil doer, even unto bonds; but the word of God is not bound.  Stephen was stoned, yet the word he preached lives on, even today.  Sometimes God raises up many faithful ministers out of the ashes of one. This hope there is of God’s trees, though they be cut down, Job 14:7-9 states, For there is hope of a tree, if it be cut down, that it will sprout again, and that the tender branch thereof will not cease. 8 Though the root thereof wax old in the earth, and the stock thereof die in the ground; 9 Yet through the scent of water it will bud, and bring forth boughs like a plant. 


Mark 6:20 reveals what Herod thought of John the Baptist – For Herod feared John, knowing that he was a just man and an holy, and observed him; and when he heard him, he did many things, and heard him gladly.  John was faithful to preach the truth to all who would listen to him. 


Herod had taken his brother’s (Philip) wife, not his widow.  Sin is sin, regardless of who does it, or what station they have in life. 


John was right to point out the sin of Herod, but not disregard his authority. 

Job 34:18  Is it fit to say to a king, Thou art wicked? and to princes, Ye are ungodly? 

2 Samuel 12:7  And Nathan said to David, Thou art the man. Thus saith the LORD God of Israel, I anointed thee king over Israel, and I delivered thee out of the hand of Saul; 


Herod started down the road of trying to please a woman who could not be pleased, and wound up going farther than he intended to go. 


John is put into prison for telling the truth.  Just because a bad thing happens doesn’t mean the person is wrong.  Moses was rebuked when the tale of bricks was increased, although he had done nothing wrong, but followed the commands of God to the letter.  It is a pretty common thing for the righteous to be persecuted by the wicked. 

2 Chronicles 16:10 states, Then Asa was wroth with the seer, and put him in a prison house; for he was in a rage with him because of this thing. And Asa oppressed some of the people the same time. 

2 Chronicles 24:20-21 declares And the Spirit of God came upon Zechariah the son of Jehoiada the priest, which stood above the people, and said unto them, Thus saith God, Why transgress ye the commandments of the LORD, that ye cannot prosper? because ye have forsaken the LORD, he hath also forsaken you. 21 And they conspired against him, and stoned him with stones at the commandment of the king in the court of the house of the LORD. 


Matthew 14:5 – Herod would have put John to death (probably at the coaxing of Herodias), but he feared the people, not God, or the judgment.  The are restrains on wickedness.  With Herod, all things have to do with temporal and immediate reactions, not eternal weights.  If   Herod had feared God, he would not have taken Herodias as a wife! 


Herodias worked the plot to her advantage, using her husband, and her daughter for her own devices.  She used her body to get what she wanted, and thought nothing of allowing her daughter to use her body to get what she wanted, even to the point of telling her daughter what to ask for. 


The dance - that every man is tempted when he is drawn aside of his own lust, and enticed, James 1:14.


Matthew 14:7 – Herod promised with an oath, which was heard by all.  He is snared in the words of his mouth. 


Revelation 20:4, where we read of the souls of those that were beheaded for the witness of Jesus.  The Iraqians are doing thus this.  Herod was sorry for his oath, but not sorry enough to repent and change it.  His pride was larger than his fear of God, or of his knowledge of right or wrong. 


The execution of John was done in the night, in the prison, not in the place of execution for fear of the people.  The body, without the head, was buried, not enshrined and worshipped. 


Josephus mentions this story of the death of John the Baptist (Antiquit lib. 18, cap. 7), and adds, that a fatal destruction of Herod’s army in his war with Aretas, king of Petrea (whose daughter was Herod’s wife, whom he put away to make room for Herodias), was generally considered by the Jews to be a just judgment upon him, for putting John the Baptist to death. Herod having, at the instigation of Herodias, disobliged the emperor, was deprived of his government, and they were both banished to Lyons in France; which, says Josephus, was his just punishment for hearkening to her solicitations. And, lastly, it is storied of this daughter of Herodias, that going over the ice in winter, the ice broke, and she slipped in up to her neck, which was cut through by the sharpness of the ice. God requiring her head (says Dr. Whitby) for that of the Baptist; which, if true, was a remarkable providence.