Did you know that the miracle described in today’s Gospel lesson, what we usually call the “Feeding of the Five Thousand,” is the only miracle other than the Resurrection of Jesus itself that is recorded in all four Gospels? That fact tells us two things at the very outset. First, this event almost certainly occurred. Its memory was preserved by multiple apostolic traditions, that two thousand years ago on a mountainside across the Sea of Galilee, Jesus actually was swarmed by a ravenous crowd, and Jesus miraculously fed them. Second, what occurred on that mountainside must have had special importance for the evangelists, even above and beyond the other miracles of Jesus. It is set above, or at least apart, from the rest.
Earlier this week, when I visited with our chief operating officer, David Simpson, about today’s Gospel passage, David said, “You’re preaching on that? I don’t believe I’ve ever heard a sermon on the beheading of John the Baptist.”
It’s no wonder. This text is, perhaps, the most horrifying and lurid story in the entire bible. Had Stanley Kubrick and Stephen King collaborated on a second movie after “The Shining,” this would be the screenplay. Everything about it is awful.
From that night on, he knew they’d kill him. He had come home a day after having been arrested, intimidated, and thrown in jail for a trumped-up traffic violation. His wife and baby daughter were in bed. It was midnight, and he sat alone at the kitchen table. The phone rang, and when he answered it a voice on the other end of the line vomited every epithet imaginable, putting particular emphasis on the “N” word. Then the voice said, “We’ve taken everything from you we want. Before next week you’ll be sorry you ever came to Montgomery.”
All the Thompsons are home from our world travels, and the first order of business was recording Eliza’s rendition of “Arms.” I apologize for the lackluster accompaniment. I, of course, see star quality in the singing.