Andrea Solario, Salome with the head of John the Baptist, 1506-7
Our Gospel reading this weekend is a story inside a story inside a story. The passage opens, “when Herod heard of it…” – the “it” is Jesus’ extraordinary preaching and healing ministry in Galilee, and the ministry of the 12, who have just been sent out. For Herod himself, the worst situation would be John the Baptist risen from the dead – and the reason why Herod is so frightened about this possibility is explained to us in a sort of flashback, in the middle of the story. It is a story within a story, totally interrupting the fast flow of Mark’s narrative.
And nestled within this flashback, like a secret little Babushka doll is the story of how John the Baptist came to be so dangerous that he had to be killed in the first place: “John had been telling Herod, ‘it is not lawful for you to have your brother’s wife (Herodias).’ And Herodias had a grudge against him and wanted to kill him.”
Even in prison John continued to speak truth to power, even while Herodias was plotting his death; even knowing that Herod’s protection was keeping him alive – he stayed faithful to God’s call in his life, and kept calling them to repentance, like the greatest prophets of old.
Herodias’ plot against him finally succeeded, though the details are ironic in the extreme. For this scene of how John came to be killed exemplifies all of Herod’s weakness of character and the power of Herodias’ determination not to be held to account for her actions. In this story, selfish, self-serving wickedness triumphs and weak wills allow it to triumph.
And so it becomes very obvious why it would make Herod very nervous, the idea that John the Baptist was raised from the dead. Imagine, how angry and disappointed John would be at Herod’s actions! That would be the last thing Herod would want.
Mark tells this story, in flashback form, right in the middle of his story, interrupting his narrative of Jesus sending out the 12 apostles. More on this from Michelle today.
Stewart Bolles died on Friday after a short period of palliative care. A memorial service will be held for him Friday 16 July at 10.30am in the church. May he hear Jesus say:
"well done, good and faithful servant".
Abby (Huo Qin), parishioner and mother of Amy Wu, has died and her funeral will be today at 2pm in the Pioneer Chapel.
Lyn Shao was baptised into the church of God on Sunday 27 June at the 10am service. A beautiful adult baptism service by Michelle.
Our Director of Music, Dr Calvin Bowman, has managed to secure a generous donation by Ringspiration of four octaves of handbells and chimes with sundry items, with a view to establishing a St Andrew's Handbell Choir in 2022. So watch this space!
Dr Calvin Bowman (far left) with members of Ringspiration and Jennifer Chou, Director of Music at Toorak Uniting Church.