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Bible Commentaries
Matthew 14

Smith's Bible CommentarySmith's Commentary

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Verses 1-36

And at that time Herod the tetrarch heard of the fame of Jesus. And he said to his servants, This is John the Baptist; he's risen from the dead; and therefore mighty works do show forth themselves in him. For Herod had laid hold on John, and bound him, and put him in prison for Herodias' sake, his brother Philip's wife. For John said unto him, It is not lawful for thee to have her. And when he would have put him to death, he feared the multitude, because they counted him as a prophet. But when Herod's birthday was kept, and the daughter of Herodias danced before him, and pleased Herod. Whereupon he promised with an oath to give her whatsoever she would ask. And she, being before instructed of her mother, said, Give me here John the Baptist's head in a charger. So the king was sorry: nevertheless for the oath's sake, and them which sat with him at meat, he commanded that it be given to her. And he sent, and beheaded John in the prison. And his head was brought in a charger, and given to the damsel: and she brought it to her mother. And his disciples came, and took up the body, and buried it, and went and told Jesus ( Matthew 14:1-12 ).

Here we have the story of Herod and the beheading of John the Baptist. He was called Herod Antipas; he was the son of Herod the Great. The word "tetrarch" means the ruler over a fourth part. When Herod the Great died, he had many sons, but three of them were given rule over part of the territory that Herod the Great once governed. Herod Antipas, the one who had beheaded John the Baptist, was married to the daughter of a Nabatean king, Areta.

And He went to Rome were he visited his brother Philip, Herod Philip, and there he fell in love with Philip's wife. And he enticed her to leave his brother, and to return with him as his wife. But in order to do this he had to then divorce Areta, the daughter of the Nabatean king, which he did. And he took Herodias as his wife.

Now John the Baptist spoke out against that. John the Baptist was a straight shooter. And he said it isn't lawful for you to do that. It wasn't lawful for him to put away Areta without a cause. And of course it wasn't lawful to marry his brother's sister. So John the Baptist spoke out boldly against him, and he paid the price of incurring the displeasure of Herod, for Herod imprisoned him and would have put him to death, yet there was such a popular appeal that John had to the people. He was a little fearful of putting him to death. Josephus in his Antiquities, the historic account of the Jews, helps us in this a little bit. He said that Herod actually was desiring to put him to death, because of the tremendous popularity that John had among the people. And he was actually a little threatened by the popularity of John the Baptist.

Herodias ultimately, of course, was the downfall of Herod. She was a very cruel and cunning woman. She, of course, was upset because John had spoken out against the marriage, had a deep kind of desire for revenge. And so she allowed her daughter to dance for Herod on his birthday. Her daughter's name was Salome. The dances were of those oriental-type, which were very suggestive, and sensuous. Salome was probably only sixteen or seventeen. And for her mother to allow her to do this, shows the fact that there was no real morality in the heart of Herodias at all, very immoral woman. And when Herod's passions were aroused by the dance of Salome, in that moment of excitement and the applause for the dance and all, with the crowd around, he said, "ask whatever you want and I will give it to you" ( Mark 6:22 ). And her mother Herodias had already coached her in advance that she should ask for the head of John the Baptist on a charger. And when she made this request, of course Herod wanted to back down, but he had made the promise, and so he held to it.

Now later on when Caligula became the emperor of Rome there was another son of Herod, Agrippa that he sent to reign over some of the provinces of Israel, and he gave to Agrippa the title of king. And so you remember Paul addressing him King Agrippa.

Now Herodias said to her husband Herod Antipas, look, he has the title of king. You ought also to have the title of king, because she had this desire to be known as Queen Herodias, and so this real thing in her wanting to be known as queen. She put her husband up to going to Rome to talk to the Emperor Caligula that he would give to Antipas also the title of king.

However, Herod Agrippa heard of the plan, and so he sent messages ahead to Caligula and said, hey, Antipas is not to be trusted, he is very likely to rebel against you. He is looking for position and power. And so Caligula believed the report that he received from Agrippa. And when Antipas came requesting that he receive the title of king, instead of receiving it, he had taken a lot of money with him, and she said, what's money, go and bribe him, Caligula, for this title of king. Caligula took the money, but he banished Antipas to Gaul.

And so that was the end of his ambition. And that was the end of Herod Antipas, he and Herodias. Caligula said, look, you can stay here if you want. But she said, no, I'll be with my husband. That's the only honorable thing she did. So she was banished with him to Gaul. The end of this man, who fought the prophet of God, because the prophet had enough courage to speak out against his sin, had him imprisoned.

And so we read of the death of the cousin of Jesus, John the Baptist. And when Herod heard of all that Jesus was doing, though he had put John the Baptist to death, his conscience was probably still troubling him. And he said, "this is John the Baptist, he's raised from the dead, and that's why he can do this marvelous works" ( Matthew 14:2 ). He no doubt really believed that John the Baptist was indeed a true prophet.

So now in verse thirteen,

When Jesus heard of this [horrible atrocity against John. It no doubt shocked Him.], and he went by ship into a desert place apart ( Matthew 14:13 ):

Desert, not meaning desert like the Mojave, or Sahara, but a deserted place, because there really isn't any real desert around the Sea of Galilee, but there are places that are deserted, or uninhabited. And so He went to one of the uninhabited areas there across the Sea of Galilee, over on the opposite side of the sea, there were several sort of deserted areas.

So when the people had heard that he was leaving, they followed him on foot out of the cities. And when Jesus went foRuth ( Matthew 14:13-14 ),

So He got around the other side, and here was a great multitude of people waiting for Him. Now the Sea of Galilee is only eight miles across. And from the area of Capernaum, if you cross over to the area there, Bethsaida there, it isn't really that far, and you can watch a little boat go all the way across. So as they are taking off for Capernaum, it's easy to tell which direction they are going. They just watch which direction they are going, and then the people run around the upper end of the lake, and then they'll be there waiting of Him, when He got to the other side.

This must have been difficult. Here you're troubled, because of this horrible atrocity, and you're wanting to get alone for just a little bit, to sort of put things together, get things in perspective. And so you try to get off alone, and have just a little time to wait upon God, and to pray, and to sort of get yourself collected, and you get to the other side, and here is the whole multitude of people waiting there for you. Now it would have been very easy for Jesus to have been brusque and say, look I came over to get a rest, can't you leave me alone? And I know so many people who have a great ministry today who might do just that.

But Jesus when he saw the great multitude, was moved with compassion toward them ( Matthew 14:14 ),

Oh, God give us a heart for the ministry, like Jesus. That whenever we see the people, rather than feeling; oh, no, why did they have to come here? Don't they know I want to be alone? That whenever we meet them, we are moved with compassion towards them. God give us a heart of compassion towards the needs of people.

And the needs of people always moved the heart of Jesus with compassion. He could not see a needy person without being moved with compassion towards them.

and he healed their sick ( Matthew 14:14 ).

Now many of these people were not really seeking Him. All they were seeking was help, the healing of their sick. And it would be very easy to sort of jump on the crowd, and to needle them, and get after them. All you want is the benefits. You really don't want to make the commitment. And that was so true. But Jesus never chided them. He never got on them. He just went ahead and ministered to them freely. And I love Him for that.

Now when it was evening, his disciples came to him, and they said, This is a deserted place, and the time is now past; you better send the multitude away, that they might go into the villages, and buy themselves some food. But Jesus said unto them, They don't need to depart; give them to eat. And they said unto him, We only have five loaves, and two fish. And he said, Bring them to me. And he commanded the multitude to sit down on the grass, and he took the five loaves, and the two fishes, and looking up to heaven he blessed, and he broke, and he gave the loaves to His disciples, and the disciples to the multitude. And they did all eat, and were filled ( Matthew 14:15-20 ):

The word "filled" in Greek is glutted, that would be a more appropriate translation. They all ate and were stuffed.

And they took up of the fragments that remained twelve baskets full. And they that had eaten were about five thousand men, beside the woman and children ( Matthew 14:20-21 ).

So here is that recording of the marvelous multiplication of the loaves and the fishes to feed the five thousand. Now there are those who have difficulty with miracles, and so when they read this story they try to read into it, a plausible explanation to remove the miraculous from it.

We are told that these five loaves and two fish came from a little boy, who probably when he told his mother I want to go over and see Jesus, she packed him a lunch. And so when the multitude was there, they said, Lord, you better send them away, that they might buy food. And He said, no, they are hungry, they might faint in the way, let's feed them. And they said, if we had several thousand dollars worth of bread we couldn't feed this crowd. Jesus said, what do you have? And Andrew said there is a little kid over here with five loaves and two fish, but what's that to a multitude like this? And so the little boy came, and gave his five loaves and his two fishes to Jesus and He then blessed them, and broke the bread, and distributed.

And there are those who explain, that in those days, they wore these long robes and they had sleeves that tied at the wrist. And quite often people carried bread and fish in their sleeves. And that when everybody was hungry, and they all knew when they were hungry, everybody was so selfish, none was willing to share their own little lunch that they had tied in their sleeves.

But when the little boy came forth, and offered to Jesus his five loaves and two fishes, everyone was so touched and moved, by the beautiful example of this little child. They all untied their sleeves, and shared with each other and there was really enough there, that they could gather twelve baskets full, after everybody had eaten. And so it was the touching example of a little child, that moved the multitude. And isn't that a beautiful story. God has got a hot place for men who try to mess with the Word.

And immediately Jesus constrained the disciples to get into a ship, and go before him to the other side, while he sent the multitudes away ( Matthew 14:22 ).

So He said to the disciples and all, go ahead, get in the boat and go over to the other side. I'll send the multitude away.

And when he had sent the multitudes away, he went up into a mountain apart to pray: and when the evening was come He was there alone ( Matthew 14:23 ).

Now notice this, I think this is important to know. It had been an extremely hard day. Jesus had received the news of horrible atrocity, His cousin John had been beheaded by Herod. And He felt it sort of imperative to just get alone for awhile. So He got into the ship with the disciples, and they headed over to the other side.

But the people seeing the direction that they were going, run around the upper part of the Galilee, and meet Him when the ship landed. And here was the multitude. And Jesus spends the day ministering to them. He is weary emotionally, because of what had happen to John. No doubt weary physically by ministering to these people, being pressed by them all the day long up until the evening. He feeds them and then He sends them away, as the disciples are heading back. Hard day, troubling news, physically exhausted, time to really flake out, but instead He went up into a mountain apart to pray. Oh, the importance that prayer had in the life of Jesus.

Now if He being the Son of God felt the necessity to be strengthened through prayer on these kinds of occasions, how much more we, weak, failing disciples or followers of Him need to spend time in prayer, to be strengthened by God. We would say, oh, it's time to really get a rest. I really need to get a nap. I really need to get my strength. But instead He went up, and spends the evening, the night in prayer according to another gospel. But prayer was His place of strength. He discovered it to be a place of great strength. Even as you can discover that prayer is a place of great strength indeed.

And so when the evening was come He was there alone.

But the ship was now in the midst of the sea, and it was tossed by the waves: for the wind was contrary ( Matthew 14:24 ).

Coming from the side of Gennesaret, back across the sea, there is that valley that comes into the Sea of Galilee, from the Mediterranean where, when they get these storms, it usually blows in through that Chinnereth Valley. And so in coming back, you're coming against that wind that comes howling through that valley. And so the disciples were faced with this dismal prospect of trying to row against the wind and against the flow of the wind-whipped waves, because they were heading back towards the area of Capernaum. And so they were in the midst of the sea. And they were being tossed with the waves, for the wind was coming from that direction of the Mediterranean.

And in the fourth watch of the night Jesus went unto them, walking on the sea. [That is almost morning.] And when the disciples saw him walking on the sea, they were troubled, saying, It's a spirit; and they cried out for fear. But immediately Jesus spoke unto them, saying, Be of good cheer; it is I, be not afraid. [An impulsive] Peter answered, Lord, if it is you, bid me to come to you on the water. And Jesus said, Come on. And when Peter was come down out of the ship, he walked on the water, to go to Jesus. But when he saw the wind boisterous, he was afraid; and he began to sink, and he cried, saying, Oh, Lord, save me. And immediately Jesus stretched forth His hand, and caught him, and said unto him, O thou of little faith, why did you doubt? ( Matthew 14:25-31 )

Amazing story, isn't it? How that Peter was able for a time to walk on the water, and it would appear that he could walk on the water, as long as he kept his eyes on Jesus. But suddenly, maybe a wave crashed, splashing his face and he looked around and, oh, what am I doing out here? And he started to sink. "Lord, save me." I can hear Jesus chuckle, as He said, "oh, oh, you of little faith". What happened to you? You started well, what happened to you Peter? "Oh ye of little faith."

I think that the lesson is keeping our eyes upon the Lord. I think that is so important for us. It is so easy for us to get our eyes on our circumstances. And we start looking around and the boisterous waves; we start looking at our problems. We start looking at our situations and we begin to sink. Because every one of us are faced with daily situations that can really sink us, if we really get into it. We need to keep our eyes on the Lord, who is the Master over the sea, over the waves, over the winds. And looking at Jesus he was able to walk for a ways on the water. Getting his eyes off Jesus and on the waves, he began to sink. As long as we keep our eyes on Jesus we can walk on the water, so to speak.

Now to me it's great that when Peter started to sink he knew where to call. "Lord, save me." I've been in the same boat. Man, how many times I've cried, "Oh Lord, save me." And the graciousness of Jesus. "Oh thou of little faith". Why did you doubt Peter? You're doing all right.

And when they had come into the ship, the wind ceased. Then they that were in the ship came and worshiped him, saying, Of a truth, thou art the Son of God ( Matthew 14:32-33 ).

They just had seen such a tremendous demonstration of His divine powers.

And when they were gone over, they came to the land of Gennesaret. And when the men of that place had knowledge of him, they sent out unto all the country round about, and brought unto him all that were diseased ( Matthew 14:34-35 );

And Gennesaret is there. It is Chinnereth, or Gennesaret. It's the name of that valley coming from the area of the Mediterranean aqua area.

And they besought him that they might only touch the hem of his garment: and as many as touched were made perfectly whole ( Matthew 14:36 ).

Now Jesus did not have some kind of magic garment that if you touch it, you would be healed. The healing took place in each case because of the faith of that person. And the touching of His garment was the point for them to release their faith. There is sort of a passive kind of faith, if such a thing can exist. A believing that God can do it, knowing that God can do it, being fully persuaded and assured that God can do it.

And I think that we all probably fit in that category who believe in God. We know that God can do anything. And I am faced with some malady or whatever, and someone says, "Well, God can heal you." Yes, I know that is true, I don't doubt that. I go to the hospital and I see these people in critical condition. The doctors have given them up, and I say, "Well, God can heal you," and I believe that. I believe God can do anything. But there is something to activating that faith, to where it is not, I believe that can heal you, but that I believe that God will heal you now, that moment when faith is activated to receive that touch, or healing from God.

And I think that this touching of the hem of His garment created a point of contact for those people to release their faith. In other words, in their minds they were saying I know that the moment I touch the hem of His garment, I'll be healed. And that was so in their minds, that the moment they were able to grab the hem of His garment, they released the faith, and it was no longer just a passive, I know God can, but I know that God is. And in that moment, release their faith to take then at that moment their healing, and the moment they activated, or released the faith, they were healed.

There were many things in the New Testament that formed points of contact for the releasing of faith. And Jesus actually established more or less points of contact on various occasions. When He put mud in the blind man's eyes, and said, "Now go and wash up the mud, as soon as you wash it out, you can see" ( John 9:6-7 ). The man believed that the minute I can wash this mud out, I am gonna see. And it was a point of contact for the releasing of his faith.

In the Old Testament, when the prophet Elisha told Naaman to go dip in the River Jordan seven times, when you come up from the seventh time, you're going to be healed, it was a point of contact for the releasing of faith ( 2 Kings 5:10 ). In the Book of Acts they sent out from Paul handkerchiefs, or more literally sweatbands, and his aprons, and they would lay them on the sick, and the people would be healed. Peter, when he was walking down the street, they would set the sick in the way, so that his shadow would fall on them, and the shadow of Peter falling on them was a point of contact. People said, oh I know as soon as Peter's shadow falls on me, oh I am gonna be healed. And they had that point of releasing faith ( Acts 5:15 ).

And somehow we need be able to release the faith, so it will become activated. So I know that as soon as it will happen, and it's a point of contact to release the faith, and there is a valuable lesson there.


Bibliographical Information
Smith, Charles Ward. "Commentary on Matthew 14". "Smith's Bible Commentary". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/csc/matthew-14.html. 2014.
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