Fame, Food, Fear, Faith, and Fringe
“At that time Herod the tetrarch heard about the fame of Jesus, and he said to his servants, “This is John the Baptist. He has been raised from the dead; that is why these miraculous powers are at work in him.” For Herod had seized John and bound him and put him in prison for the sake of Herodias, his brother Philip’s wife, because John had been saying to him, “It is not lawful for you to have her.” And though he wanted to put him to death, he feared the people, because they held him to be a prophet. But when Herod’s birthday came, the daughter of Herodias danced before the company and pleased Herod, so that he promised with an oath to give her whatever she might ask. Prompted by her mother, she said, “Give me the head of John the Baptist here on a platter.” And the king was sorry, but because of his oaths and his guests he commanded it to be given. He sent and had John beheaded in the prison, and his head was brought on a platter and given to the girl, and she brought it to her mother. And his disciples came and took the body and buried it, and they went and told Jesus. Now when Jesus heard this, he withdrew from there in a boat to a desolate place by himself. But when the crowds heard it, they followed him on foot from the towns. When he went ashore he saw a great crowd, and he had compassion on them and healed their sick. Now when it was evening, the disciples came to him and said, “This is a desolate place, and the day is now over; send the crowds away to go into the villages and buy food for themselves.” But Jesus said, “They need not go away; you give them something to eat.” They said to him, “We have only five loaves here and two fish.” And he said, “Bring them here to me.” Then he ordered the crowds to sit down on the grass, and taking the five loaves and the two fish, he looked up to heaven and said a blessing. Then he broke the loaves and gave them to the disciples, and the disciples gave them to the crowds. And they all ate and were satisfied. And they took up twelve baskets full of the broken pieces left over. And those who ate were about five thousand men, besides women and children. Immediately he made the disciples get into the boat and go before him to the other side, while he dismissed the crowds. And after he had dismissed the crowds, he went up on the mountain by himself to pray. When evening came, he was there alone, but the boat by this time was a long way from the land, beaten by the waves, for the wind was against them. And in the fourth watch of the night he came to them, walking on the sea. But when the disciples saw him walking on the sea, they were terrified, and said, “It is a ghost!” and they cried out in fear. But immediately Jesus spoke to them, saying, “Take heart; it is I. Do not be afraid.” And Peter answered him, “Lord, if it is you, command me to come to you on the water.” He said, “Come.” So Peter got out of the boat and walked on the water and came to Jesus. But when he saw the wind, he was afraid, and beginning to sink he cried out, “Lord, save me.” Jesus immediately reached out his hand and took hold of him, saying to him, “O you of little faith, why did you doubt?” And when they got into the boat, the wind ceased. And those in the boat worshiped him, saying, “Truly you are the Son of God.” And when they had crossed over, they came to land at Gennesaret. And when the men of that place recognized him, they sent around to all that region and brought to him all who were sick and implored him that they might only touch the fringe of his garment. And as many as touched it were made well.”
Confusion About Jesus
As news of Jesus' ministry spread, even Herod the tetrarch had become aware of it. It was incredible that the news of a carpenter from Nazareth had grown so much that it had reached royalty. Herod was superstitious and believed that Jesus was actually John the Baptist, resurrected from the dead, due to the miraculous works Jesus was performing. Matthew provided the background for why Herod might have reasoned this way. Herod had imprisoned John for publicly denouncing his marriage to the wife of his half-brother. Taking a stance in public can be tough and risky, especially if it displeases someone in a political office or is unpopular with the public. Although Herod wanted to kill John, he was afraid of the people because they thought of him as a prophet. Fear of the people had been John's protection until a birthday celebration for Herod. The daughter of Herodias had danced for Herod and his guests, and he was so pleased that he made an impulsive vow. Her mother, feeling vindictive and angry, had urged her daughter to ask for John the Baptist's head on a platter. Herod was aware of his mistake, but it was too late and he felt obligated, either due to his pride or his guests. He granted the gruesome request and had John beheaded. The girl presented the trophy to her mother, and John's disciples retrieved the body, buried it, and then informed Jesus.
Jesus had just lost his friend and forerunner John the Baptist, as well as a member of his family. He withdrew to be alone, but the crowds followed him on foot and were waiting for him when he arrived on shore. Despite his loss, Jesus showed compassion for the people and healed their sick. As night fell and the area was desolate, the disciples suggested sending the crowd away in search of food. Jesus challenged their advice and told them to feed the hungry throng. With only five loaves and two fish, they were skeptical, but Jesus took the meal, blessed it, and gave it to the disciples to distribute. After everyone had eaten, twelve baskets of leftovers were collected, showing that thousands had been fed from a humble meal.
If It Is You...
Jesus quickly directed the disciples onto a boat and sent them off to the far shore. He then withdrew to a solitary place to pray. The boat was a long distance from land, and a fierce storm was battering the small vessel. Suddenly, Jesus appeared to the disciples, walking on the water, and they were terrified, thinking he was a ghost. Jesus quickly calmed them and told them not to be afraid. Peter spoke up and said, "Lord, if it is really you, command me to come to you on the water." Jesus said, "Come," and Peter stepped out of the boat onto the waves. But the winds and waves frightened him, and he began to sink. He cried out to Jesus and was rescued. Jesus asked him why he had doubted, and when they got into the boat, the storm ceased. The crew was filled with awe and declared that Jesus was truly the Son of God.
The people of Gennesaret heard of Jesus' arrival and spread the news throughout the surrounding areas. People from all around came to see Jesus, and many of them asked for nothing more than to be able to touch his garment. Amazingly, many were healed by simply doing so, and the fame of Jesus spread even further.
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