Jeremiah 26:11-16,24;Psalm 68(69):15-16,30-31,33-34; Matthew 14:1-12
The beheading of St John the Baptist is hardly a cheerful story, it shows humanity at its degraded worst. Originally told by Mark, who was much less condemnatory of Herod and rather more of the women involved in the story, through abbreviation of the story Matthew clearly puts all the blame onto Herod.
At the end of this story we are briefly told that John the Baptist's disciples go to tell Jesus that John has been beheaded. The start of the next chapter, begins with Jesus' response to the story - he wants to be alone, presumably to deal with the deep grief at the murder of his cousin - and grief at how it happened. The daughter who danced for Herod and who received the head of John on a plate - was a 'little girl' in modern translations - a child - and we would think that to be an abuse full situation would it happen today. So Jesus heads off into the hills, seeking solace in prayer - but his disciples crowd after him. Jesus heals many - a hard and full days work right after receiving hard news. A natural human response would be to send them away and indeed his disciples try to get him to do this, but instead Jesus' response is to feed them all (the feeding of the 5000).
It will have been no accident that Matthew places these two stories right next to each other, he was trying to present to his readers the nature of Jesus' love for us, so strong that his own grief is of no importance to him. For our part we need to remember in our dark hours, when we might feel alone in bereavement or that very real sense of loss when we hear of murder, death and evil in the world today - that our Saviour Jesus also had those feelings. Through his Love, Jesus made healing the path through his bereavement. Through His love, we can make our path through our own loss.