In today’s reading, we see yet another example of a “Markan Sandwich.” This time, the story of the disciples’ mission is interrupted by the grisly tale of the execution of John the Baptist. At first glance, the two stories seem to have little in common. One is the triumphant tale of accomplished mission. The other is the tragic tale of a silenced prophet. But this difference is actually what pulls the two stories together. As David Garland argues, “[The death of John the Baptist] foreshadows the suffering that comes to God’s messengers. What happens to John will happen to Jesus in his mission and to the disciples in theirs.” (David Garland, Mark: The NIV Application Commentary [Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1996], p. 246) There is a cost to following Jesus and ministering in his name. For some, like most of the apostles, the martyrs of history, and even the martyrs of today, the cost is nothing short of life itself. We live in a culture in which the threat of martyrdom is far removed, though we do sometimes see Christians singled out for their faith in our own context. At the same time, we may indeed face other costs for following Christ like being shunned by certain segments of society or having to make hard choices between faithfulness to the teachings of Jesus and success as it is defined by our culture. These difficulties, of course, pale in comparison to the trials of may Christians around the world, but they are costs nonetheless. Perhaps this part of today’s reading can help us count the cost of discipleship. It can also lift our eyes to our brothers and sisters in Christ who are hard pressed for professing Jesus and ministering in his name. Let us pray for them, asking that God might strengthen them in the time of trial and for relief from trial as well. And may we pray for ourselves, asking for strength to imitate the faithfulness of our brothers and sisters who stand faithfully in the face of great cost.