Herod’s opinion of Jesus. His Murder of John Baptist.

(The Gospel History, Section 60)

At that season Herod the tetrarch heard the report concerning Jesus, and all that was done; for his name had become known: and he was much perplexed, because that it was said by some that John was risen from the dead; and by some that Elijah had appeared; and by others that one of the old prophets was risen again. But Herod when he heard thereof said unto his servants, This is John the Baptist whom I beheaded: he is risen from the dead, and therefore do these powers work in him. And he sought to see him. For Herod himself had sent forth and laid hold upon John and bound him and put him in prison for the sake of Herodias, his brother Philip’s wife: for he had married her. For John said unto Herod, It is not lawful for thee to have thy brother’s wife. And when he would have put him to death, he feared the multitude, because they counted him as a prophet. And Herodias set herself against him, and desired to kill him; and she could not; for Herod feared John, knowing that he was a righteous man, and holy, and kept him safe. And when he heard him, he was much perplexed; and he heard him gladly… And when his disciples heard thereof, they came and took up his corpse, and laid it in a tomb; and they went and told Jesus.


(The Saviour of the World, Vol III Book IV Poem LIII)

News reached those desert-men, John’s followers,—
Their master, martyr to the truth, lay slain
In dungeon for the word,—“Not lawful is’t
For thee thy brother’s wife to take and wed.”
Loud-echoing lamentations rent the air,
And cowed the King, sobered and full of fear
For that he’d done. Herodias—what of her
And Salome, who shared her mother’s guilt?
Scourged by remorse, his whip, they live their days:
Ah me, for the three guilty souls who heard
The long-drawn cries of them come there to mourn
Him, sent of God!

Bold, faced they Herod’s wrath,

But found the King subdued and full of fear:
John’s body come to beg, they took the corse
And laid within a tomb—with wailing cries,
Issued from desolate hearts for aimless lives;
For what now should they do, their single work,
To do the Baptist’s bidding, hear his word?
Where buried they the Baptist? Who can tell,
Or lonely in the desert by Dead Sea,
Or carried him to city of the hills
Where lay his priestly fathers? Moses died,
And the Lord buried him—no man knew where;
God keepeth secret that may not be known
Lest good men fall on sin; the Baptist’s grave,—
A place kept hid from men lest they should sin
In worship of that saint who died for truth?

Where in wide world these mourners should they go,
Grief desolated? They rose up and went
Days’ journey two or three, where rumoured ’twas
The Christ was doing good. They told him all.
We learn no more; but who hath sorrow faced,
Light of his life gone out, he knows the rest;
Knows there’s no other place in all the world
For him to turn to, but where is the Lord;
Knows that a comforting which hath no words,
No touch, and scarce a thought, steals through his life;
Bound up, his broken heart, his heavy steps
Go lighter in the Way; he sees the dawn
Of hope in his dark heavens; goes renewed:
Might any ’bide our sometime Comrade, Grief,
Save for that solacing at priestly hands
Of Him Who bare our sorrows?

Herod, meanwhile, confronted by the doubt—
May life go out? Tormented, for his friend
He’d slain with bloody hands for idle boast,—
Assured that John is somewhere, working works,
And with those words of his searching men’s souls
As strong winds search the forest; knowing well,
No final period comes to things like these,
Nor axe can shorten, nor grave cover up,—
This knowing, Herod heard in every blast
The Baptist’s voice rebuking: saw in dreams
That rugged figure, emptied luxury
Of all enticement: nought might palliate
The King’s uneasy pain, nor rest he knew
Nor any joy: “I am a Voice,” said John,—
Said to him, Herod, “crying evermore;
In waste places of the wilderness, I cry!”
And in waste heart and arid of the King,—
“Why hast thou done this thing—who gave thee right
To take the life of prophet of the Lord?”

The breath of rumour ever brings new fears
To soul in torment: Herod heard of Christ,
His acts of healing and His words of grace:—
All men were full of talk of some new thing
Jesus had said—word never heard before;
Some sign He wrought that sudden oped their eyes
Till God they saw at work, unveiled ’fore men!
Some said it was Elias come again;
Some, one of the old prophets; other some
Bethought them of the Baptist, said ’twas he:
Pallid with fear, the King heard every tale
And each man’s guess, but spake no word himself.
Troubled, perplexed was he, but not with doubt;
Full well assured the Baptist was alive,—
Death could not hold him—what did it portend,
To him, the murderer, had slain a man
Chosen of God and precious! Relief he sought
In reckless speech to his servants—“This is John
The Baptist, I beheaded. For judgment, lo,
He’s risen from the dead! Would I might know
That he would have of me! Better to die
Than go in fear, accursed of men and God!”
Dreading and craving to see face of him
With bloody sword he’d slain, King Herod went,
A coward wretch; nor knew it was the Christ
Whose words and works were on the people’s lips!

St. Mark vi. 14-20, 29.
St. Matthew xiv. 1-5, 12.
St. Luke ix. 7-9.


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