Short Meditations in John 3: 23. John’s End
Jn 3:24 (This was before John was put in prison.)
This little aside comes in this form because John the writer knows that all that had happened to John the Baptist had been common knowledge. His reason for writing about John, as we noted previously, was to counter the cult that followed John in those latter days of the first century. John simply makes this aside, therefore, in this brief manner simply to place the present circumstances in context, into a time framework. These competitive rumblings that were coming from John’s disciples were coming while he was still with them and before he had been put in prison. To see details of that we have to go to the Synoptic Gospels that had adequately recorded what happened. Let’s remind ourselves.
In Matthew’s Gospel, the events concerning John came in the context of Herod’s superstitious wonderings about Jesus: “At that time Herod the tetrarch heard the reports about Jesus, and he said to his attendants, “This is John the Baptist; he has risen from the dead! That is why miraculous powers are at work in him.” (Mt 14:1,2) It was because of this that Matthew goes on to explain how John ended up in prison: “Now Herod had arrested John and bound him and put him in prison because of Herodias, his brother Philip’s wife, for John had been saying to him: “It is not lawful for you to have her.” Herod wanted to kill John, but he was afraid of the people, because they considered him a prophet.” (Mt 14:3-5)
Mark focuses more on Herodias, Herod’s brother’s wife, as the eventual cause of John’s death: “So Herodias nursed a grudge against John and wanted to kill him. But she was not able to, because Herod feared John and protected him, knowing him to be a righteous and holy man. When Herod heard John, he was greatly puzzled; yet he liked to listen to him.” (Mk 6:19,20)
Thus we find Herod was torn in two. One part of him wanted John killed because of the pressure Herodias was putting on him, but the other side was intrigued by John and wanted to hear him. Thus the situation might have continued if Herod had not spoken so foolishly on the night of his birthday party (Mk 6:21-29)
Although Luke records John being put in prison he does not give Herod the respect of even mentioning the terrible events that led to John’s death. The point is made in all the Gospels that John came as one pointing to Jesus. Jesus was the Messiah, not John, but while these events were still unrolling, there was disharmony, at least on the side of John’s disciples who had not realised that the one they were with was only there to point towards the Messiah, not be him.