Commentary on the Gospel of
“HE WOULD NOT REFUSE IN FRONT OF HIS GUESTS BECAUSE OF HIS OATHS.”
This grotesque story reveals much about the psychology of a tyrant. While holding the lives of others in his hands, he is constantly attuned to any threat to his power—wary of displaying signs of weakness that could cast doubt on his potency and thus encourage enemies. John the Baptist poses a different sort of threat. Yet Herod hesitates to move against a man of God. The gospel text assigns blame for John’s death to Herod’s wife—who has her own reason to resent the prophet. Yet there is something psychologically apt about the “strong man” who is more worried about the consequences of violating a besotted oath than he is about the sin of murder. No wonder he is troubled when he hears reports of Jesus, wondering perhaps whether his victim has not returned to haunt him.
This story may seem to apply only to warlords, gang leaders, and crime bosses. But there is a much more common sort of corruption—even in the church—that occurs whenever we are more concerned with appearances and reputation, or the fear of exposing “scandal” than we are about the truth or about protecting the weak and vulnerable.