It is a gruesome story and a sad end for the Baptizer who made straight the way in the wilderness to prepare the way of the Lord. I know Stephen is the first martyr of the church but John is the first one to die for the cause. That’s not to say he fully understood it even if in baptizing Jesus he recognized the one who was greater than he. While in prison John sent his disciples to ask Jesus if he was the one or should they look for another. Jesus sent them back to tell John “the blind see, the lame walk, the lepers are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised and good news is proclaimed to the poor.” (Matthew 11:5) Maybe Jesus’ response emboldened John to continue to be a voice in the wilderness, albeit confined in Herod’s prison, calling on “that fox” (Luke 13:32) to get out of the hen house. But then John was not a “reed shaking in the wind” or one destined to wear fine clothes. (Matthew 11:7) He was born to be a prophet and “more than a prophet” but like so many prophets before him he paid the price for speaking the truth to power. Jesus will have his own day in court when the crowd demands its due and the prophet from Galilee suffers the same fate as those who went before him. The difference is that the Word made flesh could not be silenced, even by the grave. And John the baptizer was blessed to know he was included in the answer that Jesus sent him. We stand in that prophetic tradition as those called to speak the truth and not count the cost for the answer sent to John includes us. The dead are raised.