Even though the body is imprisoned even though the flesh is confined everything still remains open to the spirit. Walk back-and-forth my spirit thinking not of shady walks or long cloisters but of the road that leads directly to God. As often as you shall walk in this way in the spirit so shall you find yourself not in prison. — Tertullian
So, we are again at the story of John the Baptist. A story of sin upon sin and a story about decision. Herod has jailed John for speaking the word of God. There is a warning in this story for those who would hear or speak. For even if Herod had hoped that no ill would come of the prophet, his actions really are meant to silence him and the God who stands behind him. Mortal, can you ever really silence God? There is an old saying: You cannot fool mother nature. It is away of pointing out that you will always lose battles with that which will either outlive you or has led to your being or both.
Yet, Herod has tried to do exactly that and doing so now has John in the palace where he can control the word that comes out of him by controlling who hears them. He can now be fascinated by the word, but he no longer has to worry that expectation might arise that he ought to obey.
Further, if John is a prophet and Herod fears God then John should not be in the dungeon. You cannot have it both ways. Yet, to let God have a word in our lives and to obey it has consequences. Herod does not like those consequences. To obey is to lay down an obvious sin and he does not wish to do that. Sinners love/live their sin too much! They love them so hard that they become one with them. C. S. Lewis’ tale of Narnia has the scene of the boy that must be set free from his sins (he has turned into a dragon) and Aslan skins him with a sword. He lives of course but that is a good image of separating sin from the flesh that holds it.
What would Herod be without power? Has he any power for that matter? We know not why he stole his brother’s wife, but being reminded of it does not sit well with him or her. He is content with jailing the word of God, she is all too happy to have it wiped out altogether.
We can ask ourselves if there is really any difference between the two. He wants to merely control the prophet but is not killing the prophet a logical next step anyhow? It is like giving an open ended oath. Once given and once collected on, it is not easy to retract it. To do so would be to appeal to a higher authority but kings and sinners do not do that. Sinners and kings have tons of good reasons why they are justified in their actions. Ironically those reasons also have their power outside of them. Herod cannot say no because it would cost him honor in the sight of his court. Sinners are alike: Those who admire them would deride them and leave. You are the life of the party until you refuse to buy the next round.
To appeal to God would acknowledge the prophet’s voice. It would be an admission that one was to under authority and that one will be judged, each one for what they have done.
I wonder what Herodias gained. She has John’s head now. She has shut up dissent in the palace I guess. She has established herself as the ruthless queen. But will that be enough? We do not know how she lived on. Herod’s disposition we do however know: When our Lord and his disciples go and heal and put the demons to flight, he is worried: “Has John come back from the dead?” The prophet has lost his head but now lives on in Herod’s head and there he continues to speak. You cannot silence God or his prophets. You cannot fight God in the end. You will not win over the one who laid the cornerstones of the world into which you were born and who is beyond the time that is now ticking away for you.
“He will come again to judge the living and the dead.” We say it ever Sunday and for some reason we no longer shudder. Maybe we do. We should. If we feel that we have nothing that demands our repentance, we have probably silenced the quiet voice of the prophet within, the Spirit. If so, that would be tragic. The sin against the Holy Spirit is to silence it by sidelining it. It is unforgiven because it is a rejection of God.
The question to ask is obvious: Have you convinced yourself somehow that there is no sin you are really guilty of?