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Bible: What Does Matthew 14 Teach Us About John the Baptizer, Jesus, and Peter?

Updated on September 15, 2016

Which Herod Did It?

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Matthew 14: John Loses His Head; Jesus Feeds the Ten Thousand; Both He and Peter Walk on the Sea of Galilee

John the Baptizer Beheaded

Herod the tetrarch—a tetrarch is one of four joint rulers in a country—, suffering from rampant paranoia and guilt, believes Jesus is the resurrected John the Baptist (vv. 1-2).

[This Herod is Antipas. See Ryrie, New Testament Study Bible, 32 for further details.]

Matthew provides the familiar account of John’s imprisonment (v. 3), Herodias’ prompting of her dancing daughter (a person left unnamed in the Bible, but traditionally called Salome) to demand the prophet’s beheading (vv. 6-8), and Herod’s reluctant granting of his birthday vow (vv. 7, 9-10).

[The passage shows several ways Antipas allowed his fear of people to dominate his weak will.]

First, when Herodias supposedly harangued her “husband” to imprison John, who had confronted Antipas about the incest the “king” was committing with her (his sister-in-law), Herod succumbed to her demands rather than repent of his sin (vv. 3-4);

Second, instead of exercising his sovereign will and having John executed immediately, Antipas acceded to the multitudes’ wishes and merely imprisoned him (v. 5); and

Third, instead of resisting Herodias’ barbarous desire to see John’s head on the platter, the ruler allowed his black-hooded henchman to carry out the horrid murder (vv. 8-11).]

John’s disciples subsequently retrieve the prophet’s body for burial, and tell Jesus what had happened (v. 12).

This evil news sends Christ away in a boat to a deserted place by Himself.

[Did He understand the murder of His forerunner as the signal that His own death approached?

Did He leave where people knew He was staying in order to preserve His skin, or did Jesus just need time alone to grieve His friend?

While acknowledging that Jesus was truly human, reverent interpreters must not ascribe any maudlin weakness to the Lord.]


Feeding the Multitude

Nevertheless, this quiet interlude does not last long, for the multitudes seek Him out.

Putting aside His sorrow for His dead servant, Christ substitutes heart-felt compassion for the living and heals them of all manner of sickness (vv. 13-14).

At about three in the afternoon (“evening,” cf. Ps. 55:17; see Ryrie 32 for note), the disciples finally arrive and, finding the hour late and the place inhospitable, “suggest” that the Lord send His weary followers away to buy dinner in nearby villages (v. 15).

Jesus’ reply that the multitudes need not travel farther and spend even more money shows His compassion toward the poor.

At the same time, He seeks to teach the apostles how God gives, wanting them to collaborate with Him in this enterprise (v. 16).

Their response to this command that they feed the multitude manifests not only their perceived inability to accomplish such a great work, but also their lack of faith in God (v. 17).

Jesus gently sets the stage for this mighty miracle by accepting their recognition that they cannot do this task and showing them Who can (v. 18).

With theatrical presence and genuine auteristic control, the Lord directs the entire scene by first making sure that everyone in the crowd has enough room to eat without being cramped.

Then He diverts attention from Himself to Heaven whence the miracle originates (v. 19a).

After acknowledging the Father’s part in the provision, Jesus blesses (sets apart, sanctifies) the food and then involves the disciples in its distribution (v. 19b).

Perhaps over ten thousand people dine on the mountainside on this occasion (v. 21); many more pilgrims could have supped, for God had provided ample leftovers: twelve large baskets full of food fragments (v. 20).


Jesus' Claim to be Yahweh

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Both Jesus and Peter Walk on the Water

Matthew emphasizes both the immediacy and the urgency of Jesus’ desire for the disciples to sail to the “other side” ahead of/without Him.

[One wonders what the apostles were thinking: "Is He angry with us?” “He’s taking John’s death really hard!” “How is He going to find us?”]

The Lord first sends the multitudes away (vv. 22b-23a), then retires to pray alone again (v. 23b).

[The text also records that “evening came”; this second evening occurs on the same day at sundown.]

Meanwhile, the disciples are struggling to control their boat against a contrary wind on the lake (v. 24).

Not until “the fourth watch of the night” (3-6 a.m.) does Jesus finally decide to visit them, but in a unique way (v. 25).

[He had spent all night in prayer—from sundown to the middle of the morning—and then walked a long way on the water to their location (many furlongs away from land, NU; “in the middle of the sea,”NKJV [v. 24]).

Undoubtedly the new day had already dawned; otherwise, the disciples would not have been able to see what they believed was an apparition (v. 26).]

Hearing their fearful cries, Jesus “immediately” calms their souls, saying, “Take courage,” “I am,” and “Do not be afraid” (v. 27).

[His second statement (lit. “I am”) may be another claim to deity.]

Peter, exercising what would become his distinguishing trademark, boldly requests that the Lord—he is not even sure of the “spirit’s” identity, but thinks it is Jesus—command him to walk on the water toward Him (v. 28).

Responding to Jesus’ affirmative word, the apostle actually experiences a miracle until his fear sinks his “little faith” (vv. 29-31).

Again, the Lord “immediately” comes to the rescue, saving Peter from submerging but adding a mild rebuke to drive home the lesson (v. 31).

With the test over, the wind subsides as they both enter the boat (v. 32).

Finally convinced of His deity, the apostles fall prostrate before Jesus and declare Him “the Son of God” (v. 33).

[Where in the OT did the title “Son of God” originate?]

Shortly thereafter, the boat arrives safely ashore at Gennesaret, a land “NW of the Sea of Galilee” (Ryrie, New Testament Study Bible, 34; v. 34).

Once people recognize Who He is, they bring Him their sick, and Jesus resumes His healing ministry (vv. 35-36).

© 2012 glynch1


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