Last week Jesus sent out the disciples two by two on mission, and today they return with news of everything they did. But the Sunday lectionary omits an important subplot that takes place between these two events: the death of John the Baptist.
It’s Herod’s birthday, and he has prepared a lavish feast for the powerful of his kingdom. Herod is amused by his prisoner John, but his wife despises him. So she gets her daughter to ask Herod, in front of all his influential guests, for John’s head. Herod wasn’t about to lose face to save the Baptist’s. The scene ends with the disciples burying John’s headless body.The questions for us this week are these: To which shepherd are we drawn? In our daily lives, from whose hand do we feed? Click To Tweet
This gory interruption in the narrative of the disciples’ mission sets up two important points we’d miss if we didn’t know it was there. First, it gives the exuberant disciples (and us) a reality check. This is discipleship’s true cost.
Second, it contrasts two kinds of shepherds. There’s the shepherd who feeds not with healing food that builds the community but with bitterness and cruelty that pits people against one another. Then there’s Jesus, whose compassion feeds a shepherdless flock with food that nourishes minds, unites hearts, and heals bodies for mission.
The questions for us are these: To which shepherd are we drawn? In our daily lives, from whose hand do we feed?