The Passion of Saint John the Baptist

“The Passion of Saint John the Baptist”
A reflection on Mark 6:17-29
Memorial of the Passion of Saint John the Baptist
©️2022 by Gloria M. Chang

Herod was the one who had John arrested and bound in prison on account of Herodias, the wife of his brother Philip, whom he had married. John had said to Herod, “It is not lawful for you to have your brother’s wife.” Herodias harbored a grudge against him and wanted to kill him but was unable to do so. Herod feared John, knowing him to be a righteous and holy man, and kept him in custody. When he heard him speak he was very much perplexed, yet he liked to listen to him. She had an opportunity one day when Herod, on his birthday, gave a banquet for his courtiers, his military officers, and the leading men of Galilee. Herodias’s own daughter came in and performed a dance that delighted Herod and his guests. The king said to the girl, “Ask of me whatever you wish and I will grant it to you.” He even swore many things to her, “I will grant you whatever you ask of me, even to half of my kingdom.” She went out and said to her mother, “What shall I ask for?” She replied, “The head of John the Baptist.” The girl hurried back to the king’s presence and made her request, “I want you to give me at once on a platter the head of John the Baptist.” The king was deeply distressed, but because of his oaths and the guests he did not wish to break his word to her. So he promptly dispatched an executioner with orders to bring back his head. He went off and beheaded him in the prison. He brought in the head on a platter and gave it to the girl. The girl in turn gave it to her mother. When his disciples heard about it, they came and took his body and laid it in a tomb.

Mark 6:17-29

To Kill or Not to Kill?

Caught off guard, Herod’s mixed emotions convulsed in the face of pressure from Herodias and his guests. According to Mark, Herod “feared” John. The Greek verb phobeó means to fear, dread, reverence, and venerate. Inspiring awe and trembling in the wanton tetrarch, the saintly Baptist enkindled his smoldering capacity to recognize goodness.

John’s Immortal Voice

Herod preferred to keep John (an external voice of conscience) alive so he could listen to his cleansing words. But his choice to please Herodias and execute his reckless oath snuffed out the embers of virtue. In beheading John the Baptist, Herod slew his conscience. Yet the slain rose in Christ, for Herod lived in continual dread of John’s voice. When he heard reports about Jesus of Nazareth, he feared: “It is John whom I beheaded. He has been raised up.”1

John’s body was imprisoned and destroyed, but his spirit lives forever in Christ who is the resurrection and the life.2

And do not be afraid of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul; rather, be afraid of the one who can destroy both soul and body in Gehenna.

Matthew 10:28

Two-faced Herod, though John’s holiness dreaded,
Cast him in prison and had him beheaded.


1 Mark 6:16; Matthew 14:2. 
2 John 11:25.

Related posts:

The Courage of John the Baptist
Herod’s Distress
Head of the Class
The Double Eye
The Nativity of Saint John the Baptist
Christ Withdrew to the Desert
Hebrews and Herod
Lamps in the Light
A Voice in the Desert Draws Outcasts
What Did You Go Out to the Desert to See?

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