- The death of John the Baptist – (Mt 14:1-12)
So, just to put this in some kind of time frame, this is after about a year of Christ's earthly ministry. We see Herod the Tetrarch on the throne. The Herodian Tetrarchy was formed following the death of Herod the Great, when his kingdom was divided between his sons as an inheritance. The word Tetrarch suggests four rulers, it means literally “ruler of a quarter.” At the time of Jesus of course, it is really the Romans that are ruling! So the title tetrarch came to mean a petty prince, someone ruling a small district. The title Herod is a bit like the title Caesar, it is used of a number of Kings, ruling at different times in Biblical history. All of them seem to be morally corrupt and pretty bad kings! The Herod dynasty was supported by a group of people called the Herodians. The Herodians were a sect or party, whose power-base was in Galilee and in Jerusalem; they were marked out by a clear hostility towards Jesus (Mark 3:6, 12:13; Matthew 22:16;) Whenever they are mentioned they are connected to the Pharisees, as working in collusion with them, even though they were naturally enemies. But as Psalm 2 says, “the rulers take counsel together, against the Lord, and against his anointed.”
Now what is interesting is Herod’s belief that Jesus was John the Baptist risen from the dead! He obviously not aware that John had baptised Jesus and had been living at the same time, but what is really interesting, is that Herod was a Sadducee. The Sadducees did not believe in the resurrection of the dead! They were sort of the Liberals of Judaism, the Pharisees being the Fundamentalists of that religion.
So why does Herod act inconsistently with his professed beliefs? I think it is a simple answer; conscience. His conscience is telling him that because of his sins, God is going to bring a judgement upon him; his conscience is telling him that there is in fact a world beyond this world; a place in which his privileges will not protect him, therefore he is genuinely fearful, of that which is beyond this life and beyond his control.
Now what was the reason that Herod had put John to death? We read it in verse 3-4 (Read) John had reproved Herod for his immorality. It was not lawful for him “to have” Herodius, because Philip was still alive AND in fact, it was not lawful for either of them to have her, because her father, Aristobulus, was their brother!
Notice how John the Baptist did not compromise the truth, even before the King; and also notice what he is doing with these wicked people, whose liberal view of God allows them to do just about anything, he puts in to practice what Paul teaches in Ephesians 5:11 “have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness, but rather reprove them.” The only way to reprove a “work of darkness,” is to reprove the person that is doing it! Otherwise, one is not being “light and salt.” Light does not blend in, unnoticed with the darkness! Salt does not remain undetectable on the tongue and Christians do not reflect the glory of God, if they do not walk as Jesus walked; or for that matter, as John walked.
Yet, is it not strange that “the king was sorry” (verse 9) There may be many that are internally sorry at the mistreatment of the servants of God, perhaps because they sense that they speak the truth and yet they will consent to wickedness, in order to find acceptance with others. It was indeed, as Wesley puts it “mysterious providence,” that this righteous Prophet was sacrificed to “the malice of an abandoned harlot, the petulancy of a vain girl, and the rashness of a foolish, perhaps drunken, prince.” But it is further proof that God’s justice is not limited to this world, but that He will repay in His own time, even eternally. Go to Revelation 6:9-11. (Read)
- Jesus feeds the five thousand – (Mt 14:13-21)
Now you may have noticed as we have gone through Matthew, that sometimes he seems to be concentrating on the things that Jesus said and at other times, he seems to be more concentrating on what Jesus did. The structure of Matthew is quite deliberately like this. So for example, chapters 5-7 are largely around what Jesus says (being the part of the Sermon on the Mount) whilst chapters 8-9 are more what Jesus does; chapter 10 is focussed on what Jesus says, His teaching and wisdom; chapters 11-12, on what He does; chapter 13, we looked at what he taught, with the seven parables and tonight we are looking again more at what Jesus did. So it’s just interesting sometimes to step back and see that the Gospel writers are not just randomly scribbling away; there is order behind what they are producing.
Read verses 13-14. There is a word here that I think gives us a glimpse into the motivation of Jesus and His ministry; and the word is “compassion.” We see this again in Matthew 9:36 “But when he saw the multitudes, he was moved with compassion on them, because they fainted, and were scattered abroad, as sheep having no shepherd.” Whilst men are guilty of sin, nevertheless, it is the heart of God to save them out of that sin. As Jesus Himself put it in John 3:17, “For God sent not his Son into the world to condemn the world; but that the world through him might be saved.” Here the Son reflects the whole heart of the Godhead in that “The Lord is merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and plenteous in mercy…He hath not dealt with us after our sins; nor rewarded us according to our iniquities,” as it says in Psalm 103.
As Jesus healed those that were sick, we find that evening began to draw in and the disciples began to say to Jesus, that maybe the multitudes could do with having something to eat, “victuals” as the AV puts it! But Jesus surprises them (He often surprises them, and us) by saying in verse 16 “they need not depart; give ye them to eat.” Let them stay; you give them supper! Let’s just read verses 17-18 (Read) When we look at ourselves and we see the great need of those without Christ, I don’t want you to feel despondent. When I started this church I looked at the meagre resources we had, financial, physical; I looked at our lack; a lack of knowledge, a lack of experience, lack of numbers and so on. But that doesn’t really matter. There are churches that number in the hundreds, some in the thousand. Benny Hinn’s church has about 6,000 I think…and that is tiny, compared to Joel Osteen’s! Together they have millions and millions of dollars! But that is not the point. What makes the difference with the disciples, is when they heed the words of Jesus. “Bring them hither to Me.” If you bring your resources, your time, your money, your intellect to Jesus, then he can multiply and empower those resources in remarkable, even miraculous ways, I believe. I’m not preaching a prosperity gospel, there is more than one way to prosper; I am looking for things that are spiritually profitable.
- Jesus walks on water – (Mt 14:22-33)
Read verse 23. What an emphasis the gospels put on the Lord Jesus being alone and in prayer. Anybody that has been involved in any kind of ministry; even if it is simply going and seeing an unsaved family member, or neighbour with the purpose of delivering the gospel to them, knows the importance of drawing strength from the Lord in prayer. Go to Isaiah 40:28-31 (Read)
Matthew Henry comments, “Though he had so much work to do with others, yet he chose sometimes to be alone, to set us an example. Those are not Christ’s followers that do not care for being alone; that cannot enjoy themselves in solitude, when they have none else to converse with, none else to enjoy, but God and their own hearts.”
Yes, there is a marked difference between “the Marthas” and “the Marys” in churches. Don’t be so caught up in “doing,” that you forget to choose “that good part…” Sitting at the feet of Jesus, coming away from the world and all human activity; even evangelism, preaching, helping and remember to spend time alone with God. Therein lies the power to do all these things.
Now, meanwhile as the disciples sailed in their boat, across the sea, at the “fourth watch,” (the Jews divided the night into 4 watches of 3 hours each. So the first watch began at 6, the second at 9, the third at 12 and the fourth watch at 3 o’clock in the morning.) Suddenly, Jesus appears, walking across the water. (Read 26-27) What an extraordinary sight! Yet, perhaps it is even more extraordinary, that Peter steps out of the boat and also starts to walk on the water towards Jesus. Yet when he saw “the wind boisterous” he was afraid. What is the result of his fear? He starts to sink! How steps of faith are hindered by our flesh. How the flesh and a mind set on the things of the flesh, has no part in the things of the spirit. In fact the two are at enmity with one another.
Verse 33 is very important, because we see that here the disciples proclaim Him “the Son of God” (a messianic title) and they worship Him, GK “Pros-ku-neh-o, to do reverence, adoration.” Significant, because it is the same word that is used in John 4:20 by the Samaritan woman, when she talks about worshipping God and it is the same word used in Revelation 19:4 when John describes the twenty four Elders and the four beasts, falling down before God (capital G) on His throne. A great verse to use with those that deny the deity of Christ.
- Jesus heals many in Gennesaret – (Mt 14:34-36)
As Jesus and His disciples landed at Gennasaret, fame of Him had already spread to that country and people brought to Him all that were diseased.
John Gill says, “their care and diligence in sending messengers about to their respective cities, towns, and villages, and which must be attended with expense: for they neither spared cost nor pains, to do good to their country; in all which, they set an example worthy of imitation.”
What effort they were willing to make, in order to come to Jesus…just to touch the hem of His garment. Yet today, churches are starting their morning services later and later…because people like a lie in on Sunday; some are dispensing with evening services all together, because they’ve got work in the morning and you’ve got to have a bit of time to relax and chill out. And we wonder why we are not seeing the kind of blessings that they saw. There is much to imitate in this chapter: The boldness of John; The solitary prayer life of Jesus; the faith of peter; but perhaps we could start by imitating the single determination of the Gennaserites, to simply be, where Jesus is ministering.
Copyright © Paul Jennings.