6 But when Herod's birthday came, the daughter of Herodias danced before the company and pleased Herod, 7 so that he promised with an oath to give her whatever she might ask. 8 Prompted by her mother, she said, “Give me the head of John the Baptist here on a platter.” 9 And the king was sorry, but because of his oaths and his guests he commanded it to be given. 10 He sent and had John beheaded in the prison, 11 and his head was brought on a platter and given to the girl, and she brought it to her mother. 12 And his disciples came and took the body and buried it, and they went and told Jesus.
To be Spiritual doesn't sound all bad at all. What were some of the factors in this man's spiritual downfall - how did someone who was pleased to meet Jesus fail?
So, why did it go so poorly for John the Baptist? Herod Antipas survived being the son of Herod the Great by learning when to remain in the background and not create a stir. Herod Antipas wasn't lion like, but crafty and rather inferior, like the lesser animal - a fox.
It would be difficult to be the son of a renowned King and to be afraid for your life. Herod the Great had murdered his wife and sons. Herod Antipas, his nickname and official name in history, had been raised and educated in Rome, to insure father and son loyalty. But Herod the tetrach, his title refers to his father's kingdom being broken into parts; Herod the tetrach received a much smaller portion than one of his younger brothers. One of Herod Antipas' building projects, the city of Sepphoris, was just 4 miles from Jesus' hometown Nazareth.
Herod Antipas could have been the bridge between Rome and the godly Jews, but Herod was more interested in pleasing himself - fame. In pleasing himself, he placed his interests with pleasing Rome. It wasn't godly to put aside his first marriage, arranged by Caesar Augustus, or godly to allow Augustus to arrange his marriage to create political gain and harmony. It wasn't godly to remarry his half-brother's wife. Herod had pleased himself for so long, he'd dug himself into a spiritual ditch. A deep one. If Herod acknowledged God, Herod would have consequences.
Herod was a King in Judea, God's chosen nation, he knew well enough God acted. Herod believed in magic, magicians, spells and spirits. He adopted beliefs held from Rome, beliefs that built foreign altars Israel worshiped in high places, and the gods of the neighboring countries. Herod Antipas was the spiritual head of the Second Temple and he decided on the priest placements.
Adding water to Herod Antipas' deep spiritual ditch would be marrying a woman he knew accepted his marriage for ambition. Herodias was interested in self. Herod Antipas (different from Herod Agrippa who died of worms) was eventually brought to ruin - politically and financially from Herodias' family. They died in exile. But they had entered exile spiritually by their own choices.
Herod Antipas wasn't king by birth, rather by political appointment, he was a type of king. Herod was like Saul, he didn't really believe circumstance could be placed in front of him by God - Herod believed in the power of might - in his own sword.
Father God, it is more comfortable and prestigious to sit on the fence. Help us to remember Your love and Your care to have our choices already decided instead of allowing circumstance to dictate our fall. In the mercy and grace of Jesus Christ, we ask. Amen.