Let’s read the account of John’s death in Matthew 14:3-11, “For Herod had laid hold on John, and bound him, and put him in prison for Herodias’ sake, his brother Philip’s wife. For John said unto him, It is not lawful for thee to have her. And when he would have put him to death, he feared the multitude, because they counted him as a prophet. But when Herod’s birthday was kept, the daughter of Herodias danced before them, and pleased Herod. Whereupon he promised with an oath to give her whatsoever she would ask. And she, being before instructed of her mother, said, Give me here John Baptist’s head in a charger. And the king was sorry: nevertheless for the oath’s sake, and them which sat with him at meat, he commanded it to be given her. And he sent, and beheaded John in the prison. And his head was brought in a charger, and given to the damsel: and she brought it to her mother.”

It was because of his testimony that John had been put into prison.  He was outspoken about how Herod had taken his brother’s wife for himself.  This particularly offended his wife, Herodias.  Can you imagine the scene that during the time of celebration of Herod’s birthday, that Herodias requested (through her daughter) the head of John on a platter for all to see?  Herod had John beheaded and his head was brought out, given to Herodias’ daughter and then to Herodias.  The very thought of such a thing occurring at someone’s birthday party would sicken most of us.  Such was the fierce hatred of Herodias against the man who stood against the immorality of the governor’s household.

I suppose we might think that such a loyal and important servant of the Lord should not have to suffer such a death.  You are so right in your question assuming the Lord Jesus could have prevented John’s death.  He certainly could have prevented John’s death, but He did not.

John’s ministry was to announce the arrival of the Lord Jesus to the world.  He was the forerunner of Christ.  We read in John 1:29-30, “The next day John seeth Jesus coming unto him, and saith, Behold the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world. This is he of whom I said, After me cometh a man which is preferred before me: for he was before me.”  John was, indeed, faithful in fulfilling the ministry he received from the Lord, but after announcing Christ to the world and baptizing many in the Jordan River, the work of John was complete.  We might say that his time was done, and it was appropriate that he leave this world and ascend to Heaven as a true servant who had completed his work for the Lord.  Yet why did he have to die so violently?

It is important that we consider the honor of being selected to be a martyr for the Lord.  Hebrews 11 is considered the FAITH CHAPTER.  It does list many wonderful accomplishments by different men and women who achieved much through faith in the Lord.  However, towards the end of the chapter, we read of many who, by faith, suffered terribly.  Hebrews 11:35-40, “Women received their dead raised to life again: and others were tortured, not accepting deliverance; that they might obtain a better resurrection: And others had trial of cruel mockings and scourgings, yea, moreover of bonds and imprisonment: They were stoned, they were sawn asunder, were tempted, were slain with the sword: they wandered about in sheepskins and goatskins; being destitute, afflicted, tormented; (Of whom the world was not worthy:) they wandered in deserts, and in mountains, and in dens and caves of the earth. And these all, having obtained a good report through faith, received not the promise: God having provided some better thing for us, that they without us should not be made perfect.” 

These faithful men and women refused to ‘accept deliverance.’  It was an honor for them to suffer and even die for the sake of the Lord.  Those faithful martyrs were said to have a “better resurrection.”  Better than what? Better than the resurrection referred to at the beginning of the verse, when it is said that “women received their dead raised to life again;” or better than the life promised by the persecutors to those doomed to die, if only they would renounce the Lord.

I’m reminded of those faithful and fearless words of Shadrach, Meshach, Abednego as they faced that fiery furnace for refusing to bow down to a false god.  They said in Daniel 3:17-18, “If it be so, our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the burning fiery furnace, and he will deliver us out of thine hand, O king. But if not, be it known unto thee, O king, that we will not serve thy gods, nor worship the golden image which thou hast set up.”  Of course, the Lord did deliver them from that awful death, but their desire was to obey God, even if it meant their own death. 

So, why did the Lord Jesus not prevent the horrible death of John the Baptist?  I believe it was because John was so faithful to the Lord that he gladly gave his life in order to honor Him by standing firm for the truth of the Word.  The Lord honored John by allowing him to die a martyr’s death.  (466.2)