This morning, as I was reading the Gospel of Mark, I came to the section about John the Baptist. He had told Herod, plainly and clearly, “It is not lawful for you to have your brother’s wife.” (Mark 6:18) Of course, that didn’t make Herod very happy, but it made his wife, Herodias, even less happy. Scripture says she “had a grudge against him and wanted to put him to death. But she could not, for Herod feared John, knowing that he was a righteous and holy man, and he kept him safe.” (Mark 6:19-20, author’s emphasis)
Then came the opportunity. Herodias’ daughter danced at Herod’s birthday party. She pleased Herod so much that he offered her anything she wanted, up to half of his kingdom. Wait … what?! Up to half his kingdom? Think of the possibilities.
- The ongoing income from a percentage of the taxes from half the people.
- The Roman soldiers at her disposal for protection or vengeance.
- The villa by the sea.
- The servants and slaves to do her bidding.
So many – and varied – possibilities.
But when the daughter asked her mother what she should request, the response – in the face of all those possibilities – is startling. “’For what should I ask?’ And she said, ‘The head of John the Baptist.’” (Mark 6:24-25)
Herodias’ grudge (vs. 19) had become all-consuming. She could have seen her daughter receiving great treasure. Instead, she wanted John dead. John died because Herodias held a grudge against him.
Most of us don’t have the authority or ability to kill someone else. And it’s probably good that we don’t. Yet, holding a grudge can be just as deadly to us.
Someone once said that harboring unforgiveness in your heart is like drinking poison and expecting the other person to die. Herodias’ grudge caused the death of John the Baptist. For most of us, by holding a grudge, we are more likely killing ourselves.