corner graphic   Hi,    
ver. 2.0.19.11.19
Finding the new version too difficult to understand? Go to classic.studylight.org/

Bible Commentaries

William Barclay's Daily Study Bible
Matthew 14

 

 

Verses 1-36

Chapter 14

THE TRAGIC DRAMA OF JOHN THE BAPTIST (Matthew 14:1-12)

14:1-12 At that time Herod the tetrarch heard the report about Jesus, and said to his servants, "This is John the Baptizer. He has been raised from the dead, and because of this, these deeds of power work in him." For Herod had seized John the Baptizer, and had bound him and put him in prison, because of Herodias, his brother Philip's wife, for John insisted to him: "It is not right for you to have her." So he wished to kill him, but he was afraid of the crowd, for they regarded him as a prophet. On the occasion of Herod's birthday celebrations the daughter of Herodias danced in public and delighted Herod. Hence he affirmed with an oath that he would give her whatsoever she might ask. Urged on by her mother, she said, "Give me here and now the head of John the Baptizer on a dish." The king was distressed, but, because of his oath, and because of those who sat at table with him, he ordered the request to be granted. So he sent and had John beheaded in the prison. And his head was brought on a dish and given to the maiden; and she brought it to her mother. His disciples came and took away the body and buried him. And they came and told Jesus about it.

In this tragic drama of the death of John the Baptist, the dramatis personas stand clearly delineated and vividly displayed.

(i) There is John himself. As far as Herod was concerned John had two faults. (a) He was too popular with the people. Josephus also tells the story of the death of John, and it is from this point of view that he tells it. Josephus writes (Antiquities of the Jews, 18. 5. 2): "Now when many others came in crowds about him, for they were greatly moved by hearing his words, Herod, who feared lest the great influence John had over the people might put it into his power and inclination to raise a rebellion (for they seemed ready to do anything he should advise), thought it best, by putting him to death, to prevent any mischief he might cause, and not bring himself into difficulties by sparing a man who might make him repent of it when it was too late. Accordingly he was sent a prisoner out of Herod's suspicious temper to Machaerus ... and was there put to death." As Josephus read the facts, it was Herod's suspicious jealousy of John which made him kill John. Herod, like every weak and suspicious and frightened tyrant, could think of no way of dealing with a possible rival other than killing him.

(b) But the gospel writers see the story from a different point of view. As they see it, Herod killed John because he was a man who told the truth. It is always dangerous to rebuke a tyrant, and that is precisely what John did.

The facts were quite simple. Herod Antipas was married to a daughter of the king of the Nabatean Arabs. He had a brother in Rome also called Herod; the gospel writers call this Roman Herod, Philip; his full name may have been Herod Philip, or they may simply have got mixed up in the complicated marriage relationships of the Herods. This Herod who stayed in Rome was a wealthy private individual, who had no kingdom of his own. On a visit to Rome, Herod Antipas seduced his brother's wife, and persuaded her to leave his brother and to marry him. In order to do so he had to put away his own wife, with, as we shall see, disastrous consequences to himself. In doing this, apart altogether from the moral aspect of the question, Herod broke two laws. He divorced his own wife without cause, and he married his sister-in-law, which was a marriage, under Jewish law, within the prohibited relationships. Without hesitation John rebuked him.

It is always dangerous to rebuke an eastern despot, and by his rebuke John signed his own death warrant. He was a man who fearlessly rebuked evil wherever he saw it. When John Knox was standing for his principles against Queen Mary, she demanded whether he thought it right that the authority of rulers should be resisted. His answer was: "If princes exceed their bounds, madam, they may be resisted and even deposed." The world owes much to the great men who took their lives in their hands and had the courage to tell even kings and queens that there is a moral law which they break at their peril.

(ii) There is Herodias. As we shall see, she was the ruination of Herod in every possible sense, although she was a woman not without a sense of greatness. At the moment we simply note that she was stained by a triple guilt. She was a woman of loose morals and of infidelity. She was a vindictive woman, who nursed her wrath to keep it warm, and who was out for revenge, even when she was justly condemned. And--perhaps worst of all--she was a woman who did not hesitate to use even her own daughter to realize her own vindictive ends. It would have been bad enough if she herself had sought ways of taking vengeance on the man of God who confronted her with her shame. It was infinitely worse that she used her daughter for her nefarious purposes and made her as great a sinner as herself. There is little to be said for a parent who stains a child with guilt in order to achieve some evil personal purpose.

(iii) There is Herodias' daughter, Salome. Salome must have been young, perhaps sixteen or seventeen years of age. Whatever she may later have become, in this instance she is surely more sinned against than sinning. There must have been in her an element of shamelessness. Here was a royal princess who acted as a dancing-girl. The dances which these girls danced were suggestive and immoral. For a royal princess to dance in public at all was an amazing thing. Herodias thought nothing of outraging modesty and demeaning her daughter, if only she could gain her revenge on a man who had justly rebuked her.

THE FALL OF HEROD (Matthew 14:1-12 continued)

(iv) There is Herod himself. He is called the tetrarch. Tetrarch literally means the ruler of a fourth part; but it came to be used quite generally, as here, of any subordinate ruler of a section of a country. Herod the Great had many sons. When he died, he divided his territory into three, and, with the consent of the Romans, willed it to three of them. To Archelaus he left Judaea and Samaria; to Philip he left the northern territory of Trachonitis and Ituraea; to Herod Antipas--the Herod of this story--he left Galilee and Peraea. Herod Antipas was by no means an exceptionally bad king; but here he began on the road that led to his complete ruin. We may note three things about him.

(a) He was a man with a guilty conscience. When Jesus became prominent, Herod immediately leaped to the conclusion that this was John come back to life again. Origen has a most interesting suggestion about this. He points out that Mary, the mother of Jesus, and Elisabeth, the mother of John, were closely related (Luke 1:36). That is to say, Jesus and John were blood relations. And Origen speaks of a tradition which says that Jesus and John closely resembled each other in appearance. If that was the case, then Herod's guilty conscience might appear to him to have even more grounds for its fears. He is the great proof that no man can rid himself of a sin by ridding himself of the man who confronts him with it. There is such a thing as conscience, and, even if a man's human accuser is eliminated, his divine accuser is still not silenced.

(b) Herod's action was typical of a weak man. He kept a foolish oath and broke a great law. He had promised Salome to give her anything she might ask, little thinking what she would request. He knew well that to grant her request, so as to keep his oath, was to break a far greater law; and yet he chose to do it because he was too weak to admit his error. He was more frightened of a woman's tantrums than of the moral law. He was more frightened of the criticism, and perhaps the amusement, of his guests, than of the voice of conscience. Herod was a man who could take a firm stand on the wrong things, even when he knew what was right; and such a stand is the sign, not of strength, but of weakness.

(c) We have already said that Herod's action in this case was the beginning of his ruin, and so it was. The result of his seduction of Herodias and his divorce of his own wife, was that (very naturally) Aretas, the father of his wife, and the ruler of the Nabateans, bitterly resented the insult perpetrated against his daughter. He made war against Herod, and heavily defeated him. The comment of Josephus is: "Some of the Jews thought that the destruction of Herod's army came from God, and that very justly, as a punishment for what he did against John, who was called the Baptist" (Antiquities of the Jews, 18. 5. 2). Herod was in fact only rescued by calling in the power of the Romans to clear things up.

From the very beginning Herod's illegal and immoral alliance with Herodias brought him nothing but trouble. But the influence of Herodias was not to stop there. The years went by and Caligula came to the Roman throne. The Philip who had been tetrarch of Trachonitis and Ituraea died, and Caligula gave the province to another of the Herod family named Agrippa; and with the province he gave him the title of king. The fact that Agrippa was called king moved Herodias to bitter envy. Josephus says, "She was not able to conceal how miserable she was, by reason of the envy she had towards him" (Antiquities of the Jews, 18. 7. 1). The consequence of her envy was that she incited Herod to go to Rome and to ask Caligula that he too should be granted the title of king, for Herodias was determined to be a queen. "Let us go to Rome," she said, "and let us spare no pains or expenses, either of saver or gold, since they cannot be kept for any better use than for the obtaining of a kingdom."

Herod was very unwilling to take action; he was naturally lazy, and he also foresaw serious trouble. But this persistent woman had her way. Herod prepared to set out to Rome; but Agrippa sent messengers to forestall him with accusations that Herod was preparing treacherously to rebel from Rome. The result was that Caligula believed Agrippa's accusations, took Herod's province from him, with all his money, and gave it to Agrippa, and banished Herod to far off Gaul to languish there in exile until he died.

So in the end it was through Herodias that Herod lost his fortune and his kingdom, and dragged out a weary existence in the far away places of Gaul. It is just here that Herodias showed her one flash of greatness and of magnanimity. She was in fact Agrippa's sister, and Caligula told her that he did not intend to take her private fortune from her and that for Agrippa's sake she need not accompany her husband into exile. Herodias answered, "Thou indeed, O Emperor, actest after a magnificent manner, and as becomes thyself, in what thou offerest me; but the love which I have for my husband hinders me from partaking of the favour of thy gift; for it is not just that I, who have been a partner in his prosperity, should forsake him in his misfortune" (Antiquities of the Jews, 8. 7. 2). And so Herodias accompanied Herod to his exile.

If ever there was proof that sin brings its own punishment, that proof lies in the story of Herod. It was an ill day when Herod first seduced Herodias. From that act of infidelity came the murder of John, and in the end disaster, in which he lost all, except the woman who loved him and ruined him.

COMPASSION AND POWER (Matthew 14:13-21)

14:13-21 When Jesus heard the news (of the death of John), he withdrew from there in a boat, into a deserted place alone. When the crowds heard of it, they followed him on foot from the towns. When he had disembarked, he saw a great crowd, and he was moved with compassion for them to the depths of his being, and healed their sick. When it had become late, his disciples came to him: "The place is deserted," they said, "and the hour for the evening meal has already passed. Send the crowds away, in order that they may go into the villages, and buy themselves food." But Jesus said to them, "Give them food to eat yourselves." They said to him, "We have nothing except five loaves and two fishes." He said, "Bring them here to me." So he ordered the crowds to sit down on the green grass. He took the five loaves and the two fishes, and looked up to heaven, and said a blessing, and broke the loaves and gave them to the disciples, and the disciples gave them to the crowds; and they all ate and were satisfied. They took up what was left over, twelve baskets full of the fragments. The number of those who ate was about five thousand men, apart from women and children.

Galilee must have been a place where it was very difficult to be alone. Galilee was a small country, only 50 miles from north to south and 25 miles from east to west, and Josephus tells us that in his time within that small area there were 204 towns and villages, none with a population of less than 15,000 people. In such a thickly populated area it was not easy to get away from people for any length of time. But it was quiet on the other side of the lake, and at its widest the lake was only 8 miles wide. Jesus' friends were fisherfolk; and it was not difficult to embark on one of their boats and seek retirement on the east side of the lake. That is what Jesus did when he heard of the death of John.

There were three perfectly simple and natural reasons why Jesus should seek to be alone. He was human and he needed rest. He never recklessly ran into danger, and it was well to withdraw, lest too early he should share the fate of John. And, most of all, with the Cross coming nearer and nearer, Jesus knew that he must meet with God before he met with men. He was seeking rest for his body and strength for his soul in the lonely places.

But he was not to get it. It would be easy to see the boat set sail and to deduce where it was going; and the crowds flocked round the top of the lake and were waiting for him at the other side when he arrived. So Jesus healed them and, when the evening came, he fed them before they took the long road home. Few of Jesus' miracles are so revealing as this.

(i) It tells us of the compassion of Jesus. When he saw the crowds he was moved with compassion to the depths of his being. That is a very wonderful thing. Jesus had come to find peace and quiet and loneliness; instead he found a vast crowd eagerly demanding what he could give. He might so easily have resented them. What right had they to invade his privacy with their continual demands? Was he to have no rest and quiet, no time to himself at all?

But Jesus was not like that. So far from finding them a nuisance, he was moved with compassion for them. Premanand, the great Christian who was once a wealthy high-caste Indian, says in his autobiography: "As in the days of old, so now our message to the non-Christian world has to be the same, that God cares." If that be so, we must never be too busy for people, and we must never even seem to find them a trouble and a nuisance. Premanand also says: "My own experience has been that when I or any other missionary or Indian priest showed signs of restlessness or impatience towards any educated and thoughtful Christian or non-Christian visitors, and gave them to understand that we were hard-pressed for time, or that it was our lunch--or tea--time and that we could not wait, then at once such enquirers were lost, and never returned again." We must never deal with people with one eye on the clock, and as if we were anxious to be rid of them as soon as we decently can.

Premanand goes on to relate an incident which, it is not too much to say, may have changed the whole course of the spread of Christianity in Bengal. "There is an account somewhere of how the first Metropolitan Bishop of India failed to meet the late Pandit Iswar Chandar Vidyasagar of Bengal through official formality. The Pandit had been sent as spokesman of the Hindu community in Calcutta, to establish friendly relations with the Bishop and with the Church. Vidyasagar, who was the founder of a Hindu College in Calcutta and a social reformer, author and educationalist of repute, returned disappointed without an interview, and formed a strong party of educated and wealthy citizens of Calcutta to oppose the Church and the Bishop, and to guard against the spread of Christianity. formality observed by one known to be an official of the Christian Church turned a friend into a foe." What an opportunity for Christ was lost because someone's privacy could not be invaded except through official channels. Jesus never found any man a nuisance, even when his whole being was crying out for rest and quiet--and neither must his followers.

(ii) In this story we see Jesus witnessing that all gifts are from God. He took the food and he said a blessing. The Jewish grace before meals was very simple: "Blessed art thou, Jehovah our God, King of the universe, who bringest forth bread from the earth." That would be the grace which Jesus said, for that was the grace which every Jewish family used. Here we see Jesus showing that it is God's gifts which he brings to men. The grace of gratitude is rare enough towards men; it is rarer still towards God.

THE PLACE OF THE DISCIPLE IN THE WORK OF CHRIST (Matthew 14:13-21 continued)

(iii) This miracle informs us very clearly of the place of the disciple in the work of Christ. The story tells that Jesus gave to the disciples and the disciples gave to the crowd. Jesus worked through the hands of his disciples that day, and he still does.

Again and again we come face to face with this truth which is at the heart of the Church. It is true that the disciple is helpless without his Lord, but it is also true that the Lord is helpless without his disciple. If Jesus wants something done, if he wants a child taught or a person helped, he has to get a man to do it. He needs people through whom he can act, and through whom he can speak.

Very early in the days of his enquiring, Premanand came into contact with Bishop Whitley at Ranchi. He writes: "The Bishop read the Bible with me daily, and sometimes I read Bengali with him, and we talked together in Bengali. The longer I lived with the Bishop the closer I came to him, and found that his life revealed Christ to me, and his deeds and words made it easier for me to understand the mind and teaching of Christ about which I read daily in the Bible. I had a new vision of Christ, when I actually saw Christ's life of love, sacrifice and self-denial in the everyday life of the Bishop. He became actually the epistle of Christ to me."

Jesus Christ needs disciples through whom he can work and through whom his truth and his love can enter into the lives of others. He needs men to whom he can give, in order that they may give to others. Without such men he cannot get things done and it is our task to be such men for him.

It would be easy to be daunted and discouraged by a task of such magnitude. But there is another thing in this story that may lift up our hearts. When Jesus told the disciples to feed the crowd, they told him that all they had was five loaves and two fishes; and yet with what they brought to him, Jesus wrought his miracle. Jesus sets every one of us the tremendous task of communicating himself to men; but he does not demand from us splendours and magnificences that we do not possess. He says to us, "Come to me as you are, however ill-equipped; bring to me what you have, however little, and I will use it greatly in my service." Little is always much in the hands of Christ.

(iv) At the end of the miracle there is that strange little touch that the fragments were gathered up. Even when a miracle could feed men sumptuously there was no waste. There is something to note here. God gives to men with munificence, but a wasteful extravagance is never right. God's generous giving and our wise using must go hand in hand.

THE MAKING OF A MIRACLE (Matthew 14:13-21 continued)

There are some people who read the miracles of Jesus, and feel no need to understand. Let them remain for ever undisturbed in the sweet simplicity of their faith. There are others who read and their minds question and they feel they must understand. Let them take no shame of it, for God comes far more than half way to meet the questing mind. But in whatever way we approach the miracles of Jesus, one thing is certain. We must never be content to regard them as something which happened; we must always regard them as something which happens. They are not isolated events in history; they are demonstrations of the always and forever operative power of Jesus Christ. There are three ways in which we can look at this miracle.

(i) We may look at it as a simple multiplication of loaves and fishes. That would be very difficult to understand; and would be something which happened once and never repeated itself. If we regard it that way, let us be content; but let us not be critical and condemnatory of anyone who feels that he must find another way.

(ii) Many people see in this miracle a sacrament. They have felt that those who were present received only the smallest morsel of food, and yet with that were strengthened for their journey and were content. They have felt that this was not a meal where people glutted their physical appetite; but a meal where they ate the spiritual food of Christ. If that be so, this is a miracle which is re-enacted every time we sit at the table of our Lord; for there comes to us the spiritual food which sends us out to walk with firmer feet and greater strength the way of life which leads to God.

(iii) There are those who see in this miracle something which in a sense is perfectly natural, and yet which in another sense is a real miracle, and which in any sense is very precious. Picture the scene. There is the crowd; it is late; and they are hungry. But was it really likely that the vast majority of that crowd would set out around the lake without any food at all? Would they not take something with them, however little? Now it was evening and they were hungry. But they were also selfish. And no one would produce what he had, lest he have to share it and leave himself without enough. Then Jesus took the lead. Such as he and his disciples had, he began to share with a blessing and an invitation and a smile. And thereupon all began to share, and before they knew what was happening, there was enough and more than enough for all.

If this is what happened, it was not the miracle of the multiplication of loaves and fishes; it was the miracle of the changing of selfish people into generous people at the touch of Christ. It was the miracle of the birth of love in grudging hearts. It was the miracle of changed men and women with something of Christ in them to banish their selfishness. If that be so, then in the realest sense Christ fed them with himself and sent his Spirit to dwell within their hearts.

It does not matter how we understand this miracle. One thing is sure--when Christ is there, the weary find rest and the hungry soul is fed.

IN THE HOUR OF TROUBLE (Matthew 14:22-27)

14:22-27 Immediately he compelled his disciples to embark in the boat and to go on ahead to the other side, until he should send away the crowds. When he had sent away the crowds, he went up into a mountain by himself to pray. When it was late, he was there alone. The boat was by this time in the middle of the sea, battered by the waves, for the wind was contrary. About three o'clock in the morning, he came to them walking on the sea. When the disciples saw him walking on the sea they were alarmed. "This is an apparition," they said, and they cried out from fear. Immediately Jesus spoke to them. "Courage!" he said. "It is I. Do not be afraid."

The lesson of this passage is abundantly clear but what actually happened is not. First of all, let us set the scene.

After the feeding of the multitude Jesus sent his disciples away. Matthew says that he compelled them to embark on the boat and go on ahead. At first sight the word compelled sounds strange; but if we turn to John's account of the incident we will most likely find the explanation. John tells us that after the feeding of the multitude, the crowd wished to come and to make him a king by force (John 6:15). There was a surge of popular acclamation, and in the excited state of Palestine a revolution might well have there and then begun. It was a dangerous situation, and the disciples might well have complicated it, for they, too, were still thinking of Jesus in terms of earthly power. Jesus sent away his disciples because a situation had arisen with which he could best deal alone, and in which he did not wish them to become involved.

When he was alone, he went up into a mountain to pray; and by this time the night had come. The disciples had set out back across the lake. One of the sudden storms, for which the lake was notorious, had come down, and they were struggling against the winds and the waves, and making little progress. As the night wore on, Jesus began to walk round the head of the lake to reach the other side. Matthew has already told us that, when Jesus fed the crowds, he made them sit down on the green grass. By that we know it must have been the springtime. Very likely it was near the Passover time, which was in the middle of April. If that is so, the moon would be full. In ancient times the night was divided into four watches--6 p.m. to 9 p.m., 9 p.m. to 12 midnight, 12 midnight to 3 a.m., and 3 a.m. to 6 a.m. So at three o'clock in the morning, Jesus, walking on the high ground at the north of the lake, clearly saw the boat fighting with the waves, and came down to the shore to help.

It is then that there is a real difficulty in knowing what happened. In Matthew 14:25-26 we read twice about Jesus walking on the sea, and the curious thing is that the two phrases in the Greek for on the sea are different. In Matthew 14:25 it is epi (Greek #1909), ten (Greek #3588), thalassan (Greek #2281), which can equally mean over the sea, and towards the sea. In Matthew 14:26 it is epi (Greek #1909), tes (Greek #3588), thalasses (Greek #2281), which can mean on the sea, and which is actually the very same phrase which is used in John 21:1 for at the sea, that is by the sea-shore, of Tiberias. Still further, the word which is used for walking in both Matthew 14:25-26 is peripatein (Greek #4043), which means to walk about.

The truth is that there are two perfectly possible interpretations of this passage, so far as the actual Greek goes. It may describe a miracle in which Jesus actually walked on the water. Or, it may equally mean that the disciples' boat was driven by the wind to the northern shore of the lake, that Jesus came down from the mountain to help them when he saw them struggling in the moonlight, and that he came walking through the surf and the waves towards the boat, and came so suddenly upon them that they were terrified when they saw him. Both of these interpretations are equally valid. Some will prefer one, and some the other.

But, whatever interpretation of the Greek we choose, the significance is perfectly clear. In the hour of the disciples' need Jesus came to them. When the wind was contrary and life was a struggle, Jesus was there to help. No sooner had a need arisen, than Jesus was there to help and to save.

In life the wind is often contrary. There are times when we are up against it and life is a desperate struggle with ourselves, with our circumstances, with our temptations, with our sorrows, with our decisions. At such a time no man need struggle alone, for Jesus comes to him across the storms of life, with hand stretched out to save, and with his calm clear voice bidding us take heart and--have no fear.

It does not really matter how we take this incident; it is in any event far more than the story of what Jesus once did in a storm in far-off Palestine; it is the sign and the symbol of what he always does for his people, when the wind is contrary and we are in danger of being overwhelmed by the storms of life.

COLLAPSE AND RECOVERY (Matthew 14:28-33)

14:28-33 Peter got down from the boat and walked on the water to come to Jesus. But, when he saw the wind, he was afraid; and, when he began to sink below the water, he cried out, "Lord, save me!" Immediately Jesus stretched out his hand and grasped him. "O man of little faith!" he said. "Why did you begin to have doubts?" And when they got into the boat, the wind sank. And those in the boat knelt in reverence before him, saying, "Truly you are the Son of God."

There is no passage in the New Testament in which Peter's character is more fully revealed than this. It tells us three things about him.

(i) Peter was given to acting upon impulse and without thinking of what he was doing. It was his mistake that again and again he acted without fully facing the situation and without counting the cost. He was to do exactly the same when he affirmed undying and unshakable loyalty to Jesus (Matthew 26:33-35), and then denied his Lord's name. And yet there are worse sins than that, because Peter's whole trouble was that he was ruled by his heart; and, however he might sometimes fail, his heart was always in the right place and the instinct of his heart was always love.

(ii) Because Peter acted on impulse, he often failed and came to grief. It was always Jesus' insistence that a man should look at a situation in all its bleak grimness before he acted (Luke 9:57-58; Matthew 16:24-25). Jesus was completely honest with men; he always bade them see how difficult it was to follow him before they set out upon the Christian way. A great deal of Christian failure is due to acting upon an emotional moment without counting the cost.

(iii) But Peter never finally failed, for always in the moment of his failure he clutched at Christ. The wonderful thing about him is that every time he fell, he rose again; and that it must have been true that even his failures brought him closer and closer to Jesus Christ. As has been well said, a saint is not a man who never fails; a saint is a man who gets up and goes on again every time he falls. Peter's failures only made him love Jesus Christ the more.

These verses finish with another great and permanent truth. When Jesus got into the boat, the wind sank. The great truth is that, wherever Jesus Christ is, the wildest storm becomes a calm. Olive Wyon, in her book Consider Him, quotes a thing from the letters of St. Francis of Sales. St. Francis had noticed a custom of the country districts in which he lived. He had often noticed a farm servant going across a farmyard to draw water at the well; he also noticed that, before she lifted the brimming pail, the girl always put a piece of wood into it. One day he went out to the girl and asked her, "Why do you do that?" She looked surprised and answered, as if it were a matter of course, "Why? to keep the water from spilling ... to keep it steady!" Writing to a friend later on, the bishop told this story and added: "So when your heart is distressed and agitated, put the Cross into its centre to keep it steady!" In every time of storm and stress, the presence of Jesus and the love which flows from the Cross bring peace and serenity and calm.

THE MINISTRY OF CHRIST (Matthew 14:34-36)

14:34-36 When they had crossed over, they came to land at Gennesaret. When the men of that place recognized him, they sent the news that he had come to the whole surrounding countryside, and they brought to him all those who were ill, and besought him to be allowed only to touch the fringe of his robe; and all who touched him were restored to health.

This is just one of Matthew's almost colourless little connecting passages. It is a sentence or two of the gospel story that the eye might easily pass over as quite unimportant; and yet it is very revealing of Jesus.

(i) There is beauty in it. No sooner did Jesus appear anywhere than men were crowding and clamouring for his help; and he never refused it. He healed them all. There is no word here that he preached or taught at any length; there is simply the record that he healed. The most tremendous thing about Jesus was that he taught men what God was like by showing men what God was like. He did not tell men that God cared; he showed men that God cared. There is little use preaching the love of God in words without showing the love of God in action.

(ii) But there is also pathos here. No one can read this passage without seeing in it the grim fact that there were hundreds and thousands of people who desired Jesus only for what they could get out of him. Once they had received the healing which they sought, they were not really prepared to go any further. It has always been the case that people have wanted the privilege of Christianity without its responsibilities. It has always been the case that so many of us remember God only when we need him. Ingratitude towards God and towards Jesus Christ is the ugliest of all sins; and there is no sin of which men are more often and more consistently guilty.

-Barclay's Daily Study Bible (NT)

 


Copyright Statement
These files are public domain.
Text Courtesy of BibleSupport.com. Used by Permission.

Bibliography Information
Barclay, William. "Commentary on Matthew 14:4". "William Barclay's Daily Study Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/dsb/matthew-14.html. 1956-1959.

Lectionary Calendar
Tuesday, November 19th, 2019
the Week of Proper 28 / Ordinary 33
ADVERTISEMENT
Commentary Navigator
Search This Commentary
Enter query in the box below
ADVERTISEMENT
To report dead links, typos, or html errors or suggestions about making these resources more useful use our convenient contact form
Powered by Lightspeed Technology