Our lives are often punctuated by events which are outside our control. We talk about the post-Covid world, or pre 9/11. The world before the invasion of Ukraine looked and felt very different. These big events are like ‘punctuation marks’ in our lives.
There are several people in the New Testament called Herod. This one is properly named Herod Antipas, sometimes called Herod the Tetrarch. He was the son of Herod the Great (who ruled when Christ was born), and he was a difficult character. John had an interesting relationship with him. We know that Herod was fascinated with John (Mark 6:20) but he was in an adulterous relationship with his brothers wife, Herodias, and it was this which John openly and publicly criticised. It may be that Herod feared the growing crowd who were following John (i), but it was John’s accusations of adultery which led to his arrest (Mark 6:17). He remained in prison for some time, but the important thing here is that the writers of the Gospels of Mark and Matthew emphasise that it was the arrest of John which marked the beginning of the next and decisive phase of Christ’s ministry (Mark 1:14 and Matthew 4:12). We may see John’s arrest as the spark, the catalyst, which caused Christ to step forwards.
‘There is a time for every matter under heaven,’ (Ecclesiastes 3:1). John’s arrest was a significant event in first century Palestine. It stands as a punctuation mark highlighting the time, God’s time, for Christ to turn his steps towards the cross.
John had been openly and publicly proclaiming the Kingdom of God. His ministry was to prepare the way for the coming Messiah. That phase of his work is done. The Lamb of God, the Messiah is here.
His arrest meant that John’s voice, crying in the wilderness, was silenced. Into that silence walks Christ. The One for whom the way had been prepared. The One whose majestic and powerful voice would change the world for all time.
(i) See Barnes, Matthew 14:2