OU remember that just before Jesus went from Jerusalem to Galilee, as we read in Story 117, John the Baptist was put in prison by the king, Herod Antipas. Jesus stayed in Galilee for a year, and nearly all that time John the Baptist was alone in his prison near the Dead Sea. His followers, who were now very few, came to see him, and told him of the works that Jesus was doing. These were wonderful, but they were not what John had expected Jesus to do; and in his prison, with no one to explain what Jesus was saying and doing, John began to doubt a little whether Jesus were the Saviour who had been promised so long. Then, too, John's followers were inclined to feel jealous, because their master was now left alone, and all the people were seeking Jesus. John sent two of his followers to Jesus, to ask him this question, "Are you really the Saviour who is to come, or are we to look for some other as the promised Christ?"
When these men came with this message from John the Baptist they found Jesus in the midst of a great company of suffering people. They saw him making the sick well by his touch, giving sight to the blind, and casting out the evil spirits; and they listened to the words of Jesus as he taught the people.
When his work for the time was done, Jesus turned to the men who had come from John, and said to them, "Go and tell John what you have seen and heard, how the blind see, the lame walk, the lepers are made clean, the deaf hear, the dead are raised to life, and the poor have good news preached to them. And blessed is that man who believes in me without doubting."
After these men had gone to bear the words of Jesus to John, Jesus spoke to the people about John the Baptist. He said:
"What was it that you went out into the wilderness to see? Was it a reed shaken by the wind? Was it a man dressed in rich robes? Those who are clad in splendid garments, and sit at feasts, are in the houses of kings. Who was the man whom you went out to see? Was he a prophet of God? I tell you that he was a prophet, and more than a prophet; for he was the one who came to make men ready for the coming of the king. And I say to you, that among those who are born on the earth, there has never arisen a greater man than John the Baptist. Yet he who is the least in the kingdom of God is greater than John; for he can see with his own eyes, what John can only hear of from others, the works of the gospel."
All the common people who heard this were glad, for they believed that John was a prophet, and they had been baptized by him. But the Pharisees and the rulers were not pleased, because they had refused to listen to John the Baptist or to be baptized by him.
Not long after this the end came to the noble life of John the Baptist. A great feast was held on King Herod's birthday, and all the princes and nobles of his kingdom were in the palace, eating and drinking together. While they were making merry, the young daughter of the woman Herodias, who lived with Herod as his wife, came into the supper-room and danced before the guests. Herod was so greatly pleased with her dancing that he said to her, "Ask whatever you please, and I will give it to you."
He swore a solemn oath that he would give her whatever she might ask, even to the half of his kingdom. The girl went to her mother, and said to her, "Tell me, what shall I ask?"
Her mother told her what to ask, and she came back with haste to the king, and said, "I will ask that you give me here upon a plate the head of John the Baptist!"
The king was very sorry that he had made the promise, but he was ashamed to break his word in the presence of his princes. He sent a man to the prison, with orders that the head of John the Baptist should be cut off and brought. It was done; and the young girl took it upon a plate, and gave it to her mother Herodias.
So, as Herod's father, thirty years before, had caused all the little children of Bethlehem to be killed, as we read in Story 112, this King Herod, the son, caused John the Baptist, one of the best of men and a great prophet, to be put to death.
The followers of John the Baptist went to the prison, and took away his body and buried it; and then they went and told Jesus of all that had been done. After this they were among the followers of Jesus.
Herod the king heard of what Jesus was doing, the sick healed, the blind made to see, and the dead raised to life. Everybody by this time was talking of Jesus and wondering who he was. Some said, "This is the prophet Elijah come again to earth."
Others said, "If he is not Elijah, he is surely one of the prophets of the old time who has come to life."
But Herod said, "I know who this is. It is John the Baptist, whom I killed! He has come back to life, and by him all these great works are wrought!"
And Herod was in great alarm, for he was afraid of the man whom he had slain.
Tiberias, on the Sea of Galilee, where Herod lived