Tasting Death, Tasting Life

(Matthew 14:13-21) Immediately before the story of the feeding of the five thousand is a description of a very different sort of meal: John the Baptizer’s head on a platter. And just as women and children are included among the crowds fed on the beach with bread and fish (a detail unique to Matthew’s version of the story), the female sex is also represented in the account of John’s demise. Herodias, sister-in-law of Herod, asks for the head of the Baptist; her nameless daughter, with no detectable squeamishness, delivers the request to the king and ultimately the plated head to her mother. That women in all of their moral complexity are present throughout Matthew’s gospel (recall also the women who appear in Matthew’s genealogy of Jesus in chapter one) is an observation worthy of closer scrutiny. See, for instance, Jane Kopas’ 1990 essay from Theology Today.

Also interesting is the juxtaposition of fear and death (in the story of John’s murder) with that of fulfillment and abundance in the feeding narrative. Read more