Gospel of Matthew Chapter Fourteen Commentary by
Pastor Ron Beckham
He Is With You
Verses 1-5: "At that time Herod the tetrarch heard the news about Jesus, 2 and said to his servants, 'This is John the Baptist; he has risen from the dead, and that is why miraculous powers are at work in him.' 3 For when Herod had John arrested, he bound him and put him in prison because of Herodias, the wife of his brother Philip. 4 For John had been saying to him, 'It is not lawful for you to have her.' 5 Although Herod wanted to put him to death, he feared the crowd, because they regarded John as a prophet." God has much more than a "Plan B," He has Person B, along with C, D, E, and more. Someone may want you to die, and we should note that each one of us has an Expiration Date, but at the same time, our death is actually a Rescue. Someone will be ready to replace us. John the Baptist did what the Lord wanted, using the words that came from the Throne of God, and his ministry was now complete. Herod was uncomfortable being called a sinner, but as Corrie Ten Boom said about everyone, "You feel guilty because you are guilty," and Herod was. John was taken out of ministry, but he still had an impact, even to this day, and Herod's quaking heart is seen in his fear of the people, who regarded John highly. God was with John, in life, and soon—in death.
Verses 6-11: "But when Herod’s birthday came, the daughter of Herodias danced before them and pleased Herod, 7 so much that he promised with an oath to give her whatever she asked. 8 Having been prompted by her mother, she said, 'Give me here on a platter the head of John the Baptist.' 9 Although he was grieved, the king commanded it to be given because of his oaths, and because of his dinner guests. 10 He sent and had John beheaded in the prison. 11 And his head was brought on a platter and given to the girl, and she brought it to her mother." It's a good idea to take a hard look at what pleases you. And it's also a good idea to consider the kind of promises you are prone to make in the heat of the moment. And note that the fear of personal embarrassment is not a reason to harm someone. A good man died because a bad king delighted in the provocative dance of his step-daughter. How many have died, how many reputations have been ruined because of misdirected feelings and impulsive promises? Far too many, and it was true for John the Baptist, whose ministry was complete, and off he went to the God He served and loved.
Verses 12-14: "His disciples came and took away the body and buried it; and they went and reported to Jesus. 13 Now when Jesus heard about John, He withdrew from there in a boat to a secluded place by Himself; and when the people heard of this, they followed Him on foot from the cities. 14 When He went ashore, He saw a large crowd, and felt compassion for them and healed their sick." The followers of John the Baptist received his body, and with all respect and love, they performed the rituals and buried him. They were grieving the loss of God's prophet and did what we all need to do: They went and told Jesus. Note His response—He went "to a secluded place by Himself." He CARED for John the Baptist, He cares for you, and He cares for me. We matter to God, and what happens to us is important to Him, which is part of the reason we share with Him in prayer—He cares. As people do today, individuals of that time carefully studied the actions and behavior of notable persons, outwardly following them whenever possible, and so this "secluded" place turned into a "large crowd." Also note that even though He was personally grieving John's death, He saw the need, cared, and "healed their sick." He sees your need and He cares for you.
Verses 15-21: "When it was evening, the disciples came to Him and said, 'This place is desolate and the hour is already late; so send the crowds away, that they may go into the villages and buy food for themselves.' 16 But Jesus said to them,'They do not need to go away; you give them something to eat!' 17 They said to Him, 'We have here only five loaves and two fish.' 18 And He said,'Bring them here to Me.' 19 Ordering the people to sit down on the grass, He took the five loaves and the two fish, and looking up toward heaven, He blessed the food, and breaking the loaves He gave them to the disciples, and the disciples gave them to the crowds, 20 and they all ate and were satisfied. They picked up what was left over of the broken pieces, twelve full baskets. 21 There were about five thousand men who ate, besides women and children." When God asks us to do something, the first response of many is something like: "I'm not up to it, I'm insufficient... I don't know how..." Most are unlikely to say those words out loud to others, but we feel them, and it is a key reason why "Many are called, but few are chosen" (Matthew 22:14)—We secretly know our limitations, are afraid, and don't want to go. Jesus said to His frightened followers, "YOU feed them." They were stunned, didn't want to, and in response, with few outward resources, Jesus took over, as He is taking over for you and me, feeding "FIVE THOUSAND MEN," plus an unspecified number of women and children. When He calls us, we are not sufficient, but He is.
Verses 22-27: "Immediately He made the disciples get into the boat and go ahead of Him to the other side, while He sent the crowds away. 23 After He had sent the crowds away, He went up on the mountain by Himself to pray; and when it was evening, He was there alone. 24 But the boat was already a long distance from the land, battered by the waves; for the wind was contrary. 25 And in the fourth watch of the night He came to them, walking on the sea. 26 When the disciples saw Him walking on the sea, they were terrified, and said, 'It is a ghost!' And they cried out in fear. 27 But immediately Jesus spoke to them, saying,'Take courage, it is I; do not be afraid.'" For those who attend school, success includes learning from both textbooks and the words of teachers. Our text is the Bible and our teacher is God's Holy Spirit. Subjects we learn include repentance, forgiveness, faith, worship, love and hope. Sometimes, especially during stressful times, it can seem like our Lord is not with us. We are blinded by our fear to His Presence and Love. These verses illustrate our problem. Jesus is praying for each one of us (Romans 8:34). So is the Holy Spirit (Romans 8:26). We are not alone. Jesus completed His prayers on the lake's far side, and walked briskly on the water to His disciples. They were afraid, as we have been afraid... circumstances were bad for them as they have tended to be for us. Look to Jesus, who is saying to you: "Take courage, it is I; do not be afraid." He is with you... don't be afraid.
Verses 28-33: "Peter said to Him, 'Lord, if it is You, command me to come to You on the water.' 29 And He said,'Come!'And Peter got out of the boat, and walked on the water and came toward Jesus. 30 But seeing the wind, he became frightened, and beginning to sink, he cried out, 'Lord, save me!' 31 Immediately Jesus stretched out His hand and took hold of him, and said to him,'You of little faith, why did you doubt?' 32 When they got into the boat, the wind stopped. 33 And those who were in the boat worshiped Him, saying, 'You are certainly God’s Son!'" And He is—Jesus Christ, the Son of God, Son of Man, Savior, King, Redeemer, Lord, and much more. We're glad for Peter, aren't we? Impetuous, given to awkward statements and actions—he expresses a part of ourselves. Especially notice here that Jesus ENCOURAGED Peter to get out of the boat, as He is encouraging you and me. And also, Jesus did not say, "You of NO faith," He said "You of LITTLE faith..." As we saw in Matthew 13:31-32, the faith planted in us by our Lord—is initially small! But faith grows because He makes it so, and someday, the troublesome winds of life that now are needed to strengthen us—will be gone.
Verses 34-36: "When they had crossed over, they came to land at Gennesaret. 35 And when the men of that place recognized Him, they sent word into all that surrounding district and brought to Him all who were sick; 36 and they implored Him that they might just touch the fringe of His cloak; and as many as touched it were cured." This "Gennesaret" was both a place on the northwest shore of the Sea of Galilee, and also another name for the Sea itself. There was no rest for Jesus and His disciples, who were almost instantly surrounded by the sick and their caregivers, and He responded to every one of them, each of whom in this instance, simply touched His cloak and were cured. He has healing for you and me, which will likely not stem from some formula, but in a way chosen by the Lord, designed for our individual need.
Lord, my faith is small, and I have been afraid. I ask, Lord, please help my faith to grow, and forgive my sins. I love You, Lord, and I commit my life to You. Please show me the way I should go. In Jesus Name. Amen.