Mark 6:21-26

But an opportunity came when Herod on his birthday gave a banquet for his courtiers and officers and for the leaders of Galilee. When his daughter Herodias came in and danced, she pleased Herod and his guests; and the king said to the girl, “Ask me for whatever you wish, and I will give it.” And he solemnly swore to her, “Whatever you ask me, I will give you, even half of my kingdom.”

She went out and said to her mother, “What should I ask for?” She replied, “The head of John the baptizer.” Immediately she rushed back to the king and requested, “I want you to give me at once the head of John the Baptist on a platter.” The king was deeply grieved; yet out of regard for his oaths and for the guests, he did not want to refuse her. Mark 6:21-26

Millions of people around the world were captivated by the HBO series, “Game of Thrones.” For eight years, people watched the various machinations of the competing kingdoms of an imaginary world. Kelley and I were late to the party but eventually all the hoopla was enough to make us spend far too many hours catching up to everyone else. We watched the whole thing.

As we watched, in the back of my mind I was wondering what the tremendous attraction was to this fantasyland. Relational tension? Generational family drama? Graphic violence? Gratuitous nudity? The imaginary powers of dragons, witches and soothsayers? Whatever it was, it was captivating enough to cause millions of people to use hundreds of hours watching when they could have been doing something more productive with their time.

This horrific scene where the pathetically small puppet king Herod uses his daughter’s body to show off to the “guests” at his own self-congratulatory party reminded me of the “Game of Thrones.” The mad king. The Red Wedding. The incredible self-indulgence, the greediness, and the treachery of the very people that the common people looked to for leadership and guidance.

As large as Herod thought he was, his wife (did Herod really steal Herodias from his brother or was Herodias cagey enough to jump ship because she thought Herod could give her a better deal?) knew how to play him like a fiddle. A simple appeal to his vanity was all it took to twist him around her finger and get him to do anything she wanted. And she wanted to be rid of that irritating little man, John the Baptizer, who didn’t know enough to keep his stupid mouth SHUT. What better way to do that then to separate him from his head? Very “Game of Thrones” of her.

I hope this morning invites us to consider again what kind of world we want to live in? When it comes to our political leaders, we live in a different age. Our political leaders are elected, not appointed by Rome like Herod. We live under a system of laws, not the divine right of kings. Wouldn’t we be better off to listen to those who tell the truth, painful though it might be, than to cut their heads off, figuratively or otherwise?

Let us pray: Gracious Lord, reading again of the death of John reminds us of the dangers of investing power into the hands of people too small to wield it well. It reminds us of the need for laws to protect us against the powers of tyranny. We pray today for those in authority over others, that justice and the common good be their goal. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

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