Martyrdom of the Best Man

Machaerus diagram.jpg
drawing of the Machaerus fortress, based on archaeology

St. John the Baptist died on August 29. Not in Jerusalem, but in what is now the Kingdom of Jordan, on the east side of the Dead Sea. (In New-Testament times, they called the region Perea.)

Herod the Great had rebuilt the fortress of Machaerus, after the Romans under Pompey had destroyed it in 57 BC.

head-platterHerod the Great died decades before John’s martyrdom. The Herod who ordered the execution was his son Herod Antipas, who received Galilee and Perea as his inheritance. (A different Herod, Jr.—Herod Archelaus—ruled Judea and Samaria, until the Romans re-organized it as a prefecture, governed for a time by Pontius Pilate.)

Anyway: St. John died outside Jerusalem, because he was not the Christ. He was the greatest of all the prophets, the greatest man born of woman, who served as the friend of the incarnate Bridegroom. St. John prepared the bride to meet her Husband.

He prepared the faithful remnant of Israel. That preparation involved his public condemnation of the marital infidelities of Herod Antipas and Herodias, both of whom had other living, royal spouses.

As the Lord Jesus put it: the coming of the Messiah meant the restoration of the law of lifetime marital fidelity. By His own offering of Himself on the cross for His bride, Christ consecrated the marriage bond as a sacrament of God’s fidelity to His people.

St. John died for bearing witness to this nuptial mystery of the coming of the Messiah.

Are you OR aren’t you?

The Council Fathers and Mothers?

Isaiah 45:18: Thus says the LORD…the designer and maker of the earth, who established it, not creating it to be a waste, but designing it to be lived in.

…Turning the earth into a wasteland is certainly a sin.

On the other hand, “environmentalism” has become an ersatz religion.

And the religion is having a big and strange meeting just in time for Christmas.

How better to celebrate the season, whatever anyone wants to call it, than to hurry off to Copenhagen to bail out the world and solemnize the doctrines of environmentalism, the newly emerging world religion…Hence Copenhagen, which the environmentalists envision as their version of Vatican II. (Wesley Pruden)

…Perhaps you’re wondering why you don’t read more about the Washington Wizards here.

The reason is that Tom Knott’s grim assessment of the season is painfully true…

…One lovely day on a lush hillside near the Sea of Galilee, Jesus of Nazareth raised a man from the dead. The news of this created quite a stir.

Nain in Galilee
Meanwhile, St. John the Baptist was languishing in a dungeon in a remote military fortress, east of the Dead Sea.

St. John’s disciples, always jealous of his prerogatives, visited their teacher and told him about the latest wonder that the Nazorene had worked in Galilee.

Now, St. John knew that Jesus is the Christ. The Baptist knew this before he was even born, when he leapt in his own mother’s womb at the approach of the newly pregnant Blessed Mother.

St. John was a clever, fatherly teacher. He wanted his disciples to realize for themselves what he himself knew. So the Baptist sent them off to Christ with a question.

The gospels do not report anything about the disciples ever coming back with the answer–because it was never about St. John getting an answer. It was about formulating the perfect question, so that the truth could be revealed.

Ruins of Herod's Machaerus
Ask Jesus, “Are you the One who is to come, or should we look for another?”

Are you the Christ or not?

Either He is, or He isn’t. Questions like, “Are you a great holy man and a teacher of righteousness?” or “Do you coexist and tolerate all people?” do not really get to the heart of the matter.

Tell John what you have seen and heard: the blind regain their sight,
the lame walk, lepers are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, the poor have the good news proclaimed to them.
(Luke 7:22)

In other words: I can be as subtle as your teacher can be. He and I know the truth. Now you do, too. Messiah is here.