Today’s reading: Mark 6:14-29
In Mark’s gospel recounting, this whole sad story of John the Baptist’s beheading, with its macabre party scene and its manipulative maneuvering and its passive-aggressive family relationships, has already happened. If we were making a movie of the gospel, this scene would begin with a close-up on the perplexed face of King Herod, then fade into a flashback.
Having heard stories of Jesus’ healings, miracles, and teachings, Herod can’t help but think about another man of God he knew–and whose death he ordered. What’s more, Herod can’t help but think about a frightening, terrible possibility: could it be that John, once unquestionably dead, might in fact have been resurrected, and is now back at work?
Was it overwhelming guilt that made Herod wonder if John had been raised? Was it deep sorrow at the loss of a recognized messenger of God? Was it fear that retribution was waiting for the man who ordered the execution? Who knows what led Herod to think that John’s resurrection was a serious possibility… to consider that being raised from the dead was something that could actually happen. Probably he was relieved beyond belief to learn that John was still dead, that Jesus was not the resurrected prophet. Maybe he even gave himself a little pep-talk, reassuring his anxious mind that being raised from the dead simply doesn’t happen.
I imagine by the time the story really came to an end, Herod found the whole topic of resurrections pretty stressful.
But you know, I think he really was quite insightful–whether he knew it or not. Something in him knew that “it ain’t over til it’s over.” He anticipated that John’s beheading wasn’t the end: not the end of the healings, the teachings, the disciple-making. He knew that death wasn’t the end of the story; he just didn’t know Who would be the One to defeat the grave.