Blood on the dance floor – Memorial of the Passion of Saint John the Baptist – Mk 6:17-29

At first the news that trickled out of Herod Antipas’ imposing fortress, Machaerus, was met with disbelief.  His disciples refused to believe that Herod Antipas had beheaded a man whom he considered ‘righteous and holy’; but then again Herod was a people pleaser and a spineless ruler.

John’s body now had to be prepared for burial according to Jewish customs but getting his body was not going to be an easy walk in the park; literally!  Machaerus was a fortified hilltop palace on the eastern side of the Dead Sea. It was special to Herod Antipas for His father; Herod the great had built this palace in 30 BC over the ruins of the earlier Hasmonean fortress.

It was designed to be a defence outpost; its smoke signals of warning could be seen all the way to Jerusalem. It was Herod the great who extensively renovated this defence centre into a lavish palace now inherited by his son, Antipas.

Herod the great chose the peristyle courtyard to be his pièce de résistance. Set within beautiful ionic columns with capitals draped in volutes, this courtyard which saw many great banquets also became the court where treachery and cunningness played out.  It was here that Herod Antipas watched his step daughter, Princess Salome, dance the deadly dance that cost him the life of a man he feared yet protected.

But that day, in 32 AD, saw the blood of an innocent man drip off the platter on which his head was carried. It was a prized but bloody trophy that Herodias had longed to have and now that blood matched the tiles of the roof of the courtyard. It seemed like the colour of blood was everywhere except on the soul of Herodias; for that had long been blackened by sin.

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