Sunday 11 July 2021

Bible Book:

Immediately the king sent a soldier of the guard with orders to bring John’s head. He went and beheaded him in the prison, brought his head on a platter, and gave it to the girl. (vs. 27-28)

Mark 6:14-29 Sunday 11 July 2021

Psalm 85


John’s execution by Herod is reported outside the Bible by the historian Josephus in his writing Antiquities of the Jews. There, the execution is explained as a response to Herod’s fear that John would incite rebellion. It is interesting, if not surprising, that in Mark’s account a woman and a child get the blame!

One of my toughest challenges in ministry was taking the funeral of a young man who had been murdered in broad daylight. He had been macheted to death by another teenager – probably as a trophy killing. Gang rivalry sometimes demands that a new gang member murders someone randomly as part of their initiation.

Children can be abused and mixed up in violence in many ways. I think of children sent across ‘county lines’ by adult drug lords to do their dirty business, selling drugs, sometimes killing and being killed in the process. And children are trafficked for sex or used for cheap labour.

The use of children by adults for despicable purposes is nothing new. Whatever the reason for Mark telling the story of John’s death in this way, the gospel is holding up a mirror to the acceptability of child abuse, manipulation and demonisation – what happened then, happens now. Yet if we are horrified at the manner of John’s death in this telling of the story, how much more should we be horrified at parallel realities in our own day and age.

 At the heart of John’s message was a call to repentance, or in Greek metanoia, which means to change one’s mind or heart about someone or something – to have a total transformation of thought and behaviour about it. Today is 'Action for Children Sunday' and we give thanks for their work and for all those who are seeking to create a total transformation in society so children can no longer be used and abused, or written off and rejected, but are respected as people who are created and loved unconditionally by God and offered the necessary care and support to overcome trauma so they may lead a full and heathy life.


To Ponder:

  • You can read more about the work of Action for Children here:
  • What parallels, both biblical and modern day, does the scene of the beheading of John the Baptist bring to mind for you?
  • How do you understand repentance? In what ways is it a relevant concept in today’s world?
  • How can we better respect children’s lives in the Church and in the world?
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