At that time Herod the tetrarch heard of the fame of Jesus. And said unto his servants, This is John the Baptist; he is risen from the dead; and therefore mighty works do shew forth themselves in him. For Herod had laid hold on John, and bound him, and put him in prison for Herodias’ sake, his brother Philip’s wife.
For John said unto him, It is not lawful for thee to have her. And when he would have put him to death, he feared the multitude, because they counted him as a prophet.
But when Herod’s birthday was kept, the daughter of Herodias danced before them, and pleased Herod. Whereupon he promised with an oath to give her whatsoever she would ask. And she, being before instructed of her mother, said, Give me here John Baptist’s head in a charger. And the king was sorry: nevertheless for the oath’s sake, and them which sat with him at meat, he commanded it to be given her.
And he sent, and beheaded John in the prison. And his head was brought in a charger, and given to the damsel: and she brought it to her mother. And his disciples came, and took up the body, and buried it, and went and told Jesus.
When Jesus heard of it, he departed thence by ship into a desert place apart: and when the people had heard thereof, they followed him on foot out of the cities.
And Jesus went forth, and saw a great multitude, and was moved with compassion toward them, and he healed their sick.
And when it was evening, his disciples came to him, saying, This is a desert place, and the time is now past; send the multitude away, that they may go into the villages, and buy themselves victuals. But Jesus said unto them, They need not depart; give ye them to eat.
And they say unto him, We have here but five loaves, and two fishes. He said, Bring them hither to me. And he commanded the multitude to sit down on the grass, and took the five loaves, and the two fishes, and looking up to heaven, he blessed, and brake, and gave the loaves to his disciples, and the disciples to the multitude.
And they did all eat, and were filled: and they took up of the fragments that remained twelve baskets full. And they that had eaten were about five thousand men, beside women and children.
And straightway Jesus constrained his disciples to get into a ship, and to go before him unto the other side, while he sent the multitudes away. And when he had sent the multitudes away, he went up into a mountain apart to pray: and when the evening was come, he was there alone.
But the ship was now in the midst of the sea, tossed with waves: for the wind was contrary. And in the fourth watch of the night Jesus went unto them, walking on the sea. And when the disciples saw him walking on the sea, they were troubled, saying, It is a spirit; and they cried out for fear. But straightway Jesus spake unto them, saying, Be of good cheer; it is I; be not afraid.
And Peter answered him and said, Lord, if it be thou, bid me come unto thee on the water. And he said, Come. And when Peter was come down out of the ship, he walked on the water, to go to Jesus. But when he saw the wind boisterous, he was afraid; and beginning to sink, he cried, saying, Lord, save me. And immediately Jesus stretched forth his hand, and caught him, and said unto him, O thou of little faith, wherefore didst thou doubt? And when they were come into the ship, the wind ceased. Then they that were in the ship came and worshipped him, saying, Of a truth thou art the Son of God.
And when they were gone over, they came into the land of Gennesaret. And when the men of that place had knowledge of him, they sent out into all that country round about, and brought unto him all that were diseased; And besought him that they might only touch the hem of his garment: and as many as touched were made perfectly whole.
As with so much of Scripture, this chapter of Matthew is jam packed.
We see the martyrdom of John, and Herod’s belief that John had been resurrected. It’s interesting that he believed at least in resurrected life, yet he having put John to his death, he was probably most disappointed that if it were John, Herod would still be convicted of his sins and the popularity of John would continue. Not only that, but here’s this Jesus, who is carrying on the work of John and performing miracles as well. That couldn’t have set well with his conscience or his pride.
It’s interesting to note that when Jesus heard of John’s death, He went to a desert place most likely to remember His friend who was not only a good and Godly man but His cousin. He may have also gone to get out of Herod’s cross-hairs, since Herod believed Him to be John resurrected. And yet, when the people still found out and went to be with Him seeking solace over John’s death, Jesus had compassion for them and began to heal and most likely teach.
The disciples were more focused on the here and now, asking Jesus to tell them to go and get their meals, but Jesus wasn’t done yet. He was moved again by compassion for them and ordered them to be fed. And then He provided the way with just a few loaves and fish. Since men were counted at 5,000, it’s a good bet that with kids and women, the crowd had to be at least twice that. One has to wonder at a size like that, how many became followers that day. And how many believed and were saved? Throughout the Gospels, there are crowds, and they do mention people believing, usually after a miracle of some kind- but when Jesus was going through His trial and torture, most of the crowd was screaming “Crucify Him” along with the religious leaders.
Moving on, as soon as the crowds were fed, Jesus ordered his disciples to go ahead, while He dispersed the crowds. That must have taken some time, and as Matthew records, Jesus went to be alone before He came to the disciples in the boat during the 4th watch, meaning sometime between 3 and 6 am. As the disciples saw Him, believing Him to be a spirit, were afraid. I doubt many of them expected to see Jesus at that hour, even if He had have come on dry land, not walking on the water.
A little side note here. Most of you know I’m a night person. Obviously now that I’m working, I can’t stay up as late as I used to, but I’ve always loved the night time peace. I always thought that was a bit odd, since night time is usually associated with occultish things. Yet throughout the Bible, the night time is prevalent in ways that God is active.
In the Old Testament, Jacob wrestled with God from the late night to break of day and Samuel heard his name called four times in the middle of the night. In the New Testament, Peter was awoken and miraculously freed from prison.
To me, the middle of the night has always meant peace, and especially when I used to go outside before bed to stand in the middle of the yard and look at the stars, I saw God’s awesomeness. While feeling like a speck of dust, I also felt known and loved by the Creator of the universe. The middle of the night is the ultimate alone time for those who can’t find it during the day.
So, back to Matthew, Jesus warns in Scripture of His return at an unexpected hour, and we get a small glimpse of that when He returns to His disciples. And of course He comes in a miraculous way… and, like for so many of us, during a storm.
He went to them, walking on the seas which He had made, and calmed the wind which He controls. He relieves their fears by telling them it is He, and encourages them to be of good cheer.
We see Peter’s courage and also his love for Jesus by his desire to come out of the boat. It reminds me of another time when he sees Jesus on the shore and jumps overboard in his exuberance to swim to shore while the others had to continue to labor with the nets before rowing back in. This time though, Peter willingly asks if he can come rather than just willfully come. The difference is that Jesus knew his desire was out of love and not just seeking another sign (miracle) as so many did.
Peter has courage, but he also has fear. But show me a courageous person who doesn’t have fear – I can bet there are none. Lord, Save me! It’s as simple as that. While Peter does as Jesus, has the power because of Jesus, when he falters, Jesus rescues him showing that nothing can separate us from Him, not even the waves of storms.
Peter like many has the faith here to go, but not quite enough faith to follow through. How many of us are like that? I know I am in so many ways. Oh ye of little faith. A soft rebuke, but more of a reminder that in Christ, there is no reason to fear.
Once they continued on to Gennesaret which was neighboring Gergesenes where Jesus healed the demon possessed man by driving Legion into the herd of swine. They had implored Jesus to leave them, but the people of Gennesaret wanted and needed Him. They went and brought even more people to Him, and He healed them. Perfectly.
Again as throughout Scripture we see the love of Christ, His compassion, willingness to minister hurts and grief, His presence with us in the hard times and storms, and His love and saving of us even when our faith isn’t so strong.
Have a blessed Wednesday all.