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Sunday, July 21st, 2024
the Week of Proper 11 / Ordinary 16
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Bible Commentaries
Matthew 14

Old & New Testament Restoration CommentaryRestoration Commentary

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Verses 1-12

Mat 14:1-12

Opinion of Herod, Matthew 14:1-12.
Mark 6:14-29; Luke 9:7-9)
J.W. McGarvey

1. Herod the tetrarch.—Herod the Great left a will by which his kingdom was divided into four unequal parts. He gave Judea to his son Archelaus (Matthew 2:22); Galilee and the region beyond Jordan, to his son Herod Antipas, the one here mentioned; Iturea and Trachonitis, districts north and northeast from Galilee, to his son Herod Philip; and Abilene, the extreme northern part, to Lysanias, of whom little is known. Each of these was called a tetrarch (ruler of a fourth), because he ruled over one of the four parts of the former kingdom. (Comp. Luke 3:1.)

2. This is John.—The opinion that Jesus was John the Baptist risen from the dead originated with others (Luke 9:7-9), but was adopted by Herod. So tragic an end as had befallen John, in early manhood and in the midst of so brilliant a career, was well calculated to startle the imagination, and the guilty conscience of Herod was ready to second any suggestions which might spring from the superstition of the people. His conception was not, as some have supposed, that John’s spirit, according to the doctrine of transmigration of souls, had been born again in the person of Jesus; for John had but recently died, and Jesus was nearly as old as he; but it was the conception, as expressed in the text, that Jesus was John risen from the dead.

therefore mighty works.—There was a prevalent idea among the ancients that departed spirits were endowed with superhuman powers; hence Herod’s conclusion that the supposed resurrection of John would account for the mighty works in question.

3. For Herod had.—The for connects the statements which follow with the opinion of Herod expressed in the previous verse. In quoting that opinion, Matthew had indirectly introduced the fact of John’s death, although he had not yet mentioned the fact in his narrative. For the double purpose of supplying this omission and accounting for the singular opinion which Herod formed concerning Jesus, he relates the following circumstances.

in prison for Herodias’ sake—The imprisonment of John had been mentioned before (Matthew 4:13), but not the cause of it. Here the cause and the final result are given.

4. For John said unto him.—The singular impartiality and fearlessness of John are here exhibited. While rebuking the sins of the common people, and of the Pharisees and Sadducees, who had no civil power in their hands, he might be considered entirely safe; but when Herod, who was living in adultery with his brother’s wife, and who had the power of life and death in his hand, came to hear him, the inquiry would naturally occur to the people, will he rebuke Herod, as he has rebuked us. To their surprise, no doubt, he administered the rebuke. The consequence was to be expected—he lost his liberty, and eventually his life. The time-servers of his day may have thought that he recklessly sacrificed his life and his continued usefulness; but subsequent ages, however they may fail to imitate him, have ever admired the nobility of his conduct. No man is worthy to stand before the people and call them to repentance, who can wink at sin in high places and show a truckling respect of persons.

5. feared the multitude.—It was only in consequence of the persistent entreaties of Herodias, that Herod "would have put him to death;" for his own inclination was to spare him. (See Mark 6:19-20.) He was restrained not only by his own respect for John, but by fear of a violent insurrection of the people—a result which would have occurred but for the refusal of Jesus to head the movement. (See below, Matthew 14:12-13, and John 6:15.)

6-8. before instructed.—The girl was instructed by her mother, not before she went in, but after the promise was made to her by Herod, and she had gone to her mother for advice. (Mark 6:24.)

9, 10. the king was sorry.—He was sorry that the request was made, for the same reason which had restrained him before (Matthew 14:5); but his reluctance was overcome by the consideration of his oath, and by his respect for "those who sat with him at meat." The latter reason implies that the company insisted on his compliance, failing, as he did, to see that the proposed act was really not within the scope of his oath. It was a present of pecuniary value which he had promised, and not the commission of a crime. In his case, as in that of many other wicked men, the great sin of his life was committed in prosecution of a course of evil previously begun, and at the instigation of evil companions.

11. brought it to her mother, —Herodias had thirsted for revenge, and sought it persistently ever since John administered the fatal rebuke; but when the gory head was laid in her lap, instead of the pleasure which she anticipated, there must have been kindled within her heart the flames of a remorse, which, like the fires of hell, never shall be quenched. The crime stamped the names of the guilty couple with greater infamy than that for which John had rebuked them; and who can depict the scene when they shall meet John in the day of judgment? Such is revenge. Let all who allow themselves to thirst for it take warning.

12. went and told Jesus.—After decently burying the headless trunk of the great preacher, John’s disciples went to Jesus, not merely to tell him the news, but to find in him a leader. As Herod had anticipated, they were greatly exasperated (Matthew 14:5); they knew the friendship of John for Jesus; they knew that the latter intended to set up a kingdom; they believed that this would involve the overthrow of Herod’s power; and they were ready now to revolt and make Jesus a king. (See Matthew 14:13, and John 6:1-2; John 6:15.) Had their wish been gratified, they would have obtained revenge; but, like Herodias, they would have obtained none but bitter fruits therefrom.

John the Baptist Beheaded - Matthew 14:1-12

Open It

1. What, in your opinion, would be the preferred way to die?

2. What do you remember from your junior high and high school dances?

3. What makes peer pressure difficult to resist?

4. How does peer pressure become more sophisticated as we get older?

Explore It

5. What powerful political figure heard about all the things Christ was doing? (Matthew 14:1)

6. What explanation did Herod have for the miracles Christ was doing? (Matthew 14:2)

7. What had Herod done to John the Baptist? (Matthew 14:3)

8. Why did Herod put John in prison? (Matthew 14:3)

9. For what reason had John been rebuking Herod? (Matthew 14:4)

10. How did Herod react to John’s reprimand? (Matthew 14:5)

11. Why didn’t Herod act on his wishes? (Matthew 14:5)

12. What happened on Herod’s birthday? (Matthew 14:6-7)

13. What promise did Herod make to the daughter of Herodias? (Matthew 14:7)

14. Who was behind the plot to murder John? (Matthew 14:8)

15. How did Herod feel when he realized he’d been tricked? (Matthew 14:9)

16. Why did Herod carry out the execution of John? (Matthew 14:9)

17. What happened in the aftermath of John’s execution? (Matthew 14:12)

Get It

18. What situations make you most susceptible to peer pressure?

19. In what ways do you promise more than you can (or should) deliver?

20. Why do people hate to be corrected?

21. What grandiose promises have you made and later regretted?

22. What should you do if you make a promise that pressures you to compromise or to do the wrong thing?

23. What does a person’s reaction to correction tell you about him or her?

24. In what ways have you sensed danger or risk just by living for Christ?

25. What impulsive words have later come back to haunt you?

26. How would you react if your pastor or a spiritual mentor was brutally murdered?

27. What correction have you recently received from an older and more mature Christian?

Apply It

28. What can you do to strengthen yourself against peer pressure this week?

29. What reminder can help you refrain from making foolish promises in coming weeks?

30. What can you do this week to respond to some correction you recently received?

Verses 13-33

Mat 14:13-33

Admiration of the People, and
Feeding the Five Thousand,

J.W. McGarvey
Matthew 14:13-21.
Mark 6:30-34; Luke 9:12-17; John 6:5-14)

13. into a desert place.—It was a moment of intense excitement. Jesus himself could not fail to be deeply moved by the mournful fate of John. The cruelty of the deed, the love which he bore to the victim, the thought of his own fate which it brought to mind, and the excitement of the people, all combined to stir within him a variety of emotions. These feelings must be held in abeyance, and the excitement among the people must be allowed to subside. To promote both of these ends, he sought the privacy of the desert, where, as the sequel shows (Matthew 14:22), he intended to spend a long time in prayer. Thus did Jesus demean himself in a great crisis of his career.

followed him on foot.—The people would not allow him to shake them off. As fast as they heard of John’s death, they rushed out of their cities to go to him, so that when he reached the shore toward which his vessel had been headed, the multitude, who had some means of knowing his destination, were in great numbers awaiting him.

14. he healed their sick.—While the chief part of the multitude had been drawn together by the prevailing excitement, some had not forgotten to bring with them their sick and afflicted friends, that they might be healed.

15. and buy victuals.—So great was the excitement of the people, that they had come out many miles from home without the precaution of bringing food. Having fasted till late in the afternoon, they still seemed inclined to remain, when the compassion of the disciples prompted the request that they be sent away.

16. give ye them to eat.—This proposal was intended to try the disciples (John 6:6); yet it was also an earnest proposal which he intended that they should carry into effect

19. blessed and brake.—John says, "he returned thanks." (John 6:11.) He blessed the loaves and fishes by returning thanks for them. This and similar acts of Jesus are our precedents for giving thanks, or "asking the blessing," at our tables.

20, 21. the fragments.—These were gathered up not merely "that nothing be lost" (John 6:12), but also to exhibit more strikingly the extent of the miracle: for the quantity of fragments left after five thousand persons and more had been fed was much greater than the entire quantity at the beginning. The increase had occurred by the instantaneous restoration of the size of the loaf, as each man broke off a peace more than sufficient for himself. Thus the miracle was witnessed by each one of the five thousand, and it was really resolved into five thousand repetitions of the same miracle. On this account it was the most surprising miracle which the people had yet witnessed.

Jesus Feeds the Five Thousand - Matthew 14:13-21

Open It

1. What is your favorite restaurant in all the world? Why?

2. What food do you never seem to tire of?

3. Where do you go when you want to be alone?

Explore It

4. How did Jesus respond to the death of John the Baptist? (Matthew 14:13)

5. Who came looking for Jesus? Why? (Matthew 14:13)

6. Who met Jesus at the shore? (Matthew 14:14)

7. What did Jesus do for the people that came to see Him? (Matthew 14:14)

8. What happened when it started getting dark? (Matthew 14:15)

9. What did the disciples want Jesus to tell the crowds? Why? (Matthew 14:15)

10. How did Jesus respond to the disciples’ suggestion? (Matthew 14:16)

11. What did Jesus tell the disciples to do for the crowds? (Matthew 14:16)

12. How did the disciples react to Jesus’ unusual request? (Matthew 14:17)

13. After having the crowd sit on the grass, what did Jesus do? (Matthew 14:19)

14. How much food did Jesus begin with? (Matthew 14:19)

15. How was the food distributed? (Matthew 14:19)

16. How much food was available to each person? (Matthew 14:20)

17. How much food was left over? (Matthew 14:20)

18. How large a crowd was fed? (Matthew 14:21)

Get It

19. Why is it important for us to spend regular time alone with God?

20. What thoughts typically run through your mind when you see a big crowd of people?

21. Why is it harder to be kind at certain times than at others?

22. Why should we pray before meals?

23. What is it about food that breaks down barriers between people and gives us opportunities to talk with them?

24. How would you have felt in the disciples’ shoes?

25. What does this passage tell you about God?

Apply It

26. What gift, ability, or resource (no matter how insignificant) will you give to God today so that he can bless it and multiply it?

27. To what quiet place will you go this week for a couple of hours to get away from your busyness, review your priorities, and let God renew your spirit?

28. How can you minister to someone in need today?

Walking on the Sea, and the Faith of the Disciples,
Matthew 14:22-33. (Mark 6:45-52; John 6:15-21)

22, 23. into a mountain apart.—As we observed in the beginning of the previous paragraph (note on Matthew 14:13), Jesus started for the desert in the morning for the purpose of solitary prayer. His purpose had been frustrated throughout the day by the presence of the people; but now, having dismissed the people and sent his disciples away in their boat, he climbs the mountain side and remains in the coveted solitude until the fourth watch of the night (Matthew 14:25), or till after three o’clock. Why he spent so long a time in prayer, it is difficult for us who know so little of the value of prayer, and so little of the inner life of Jesus, to understand.

24. for the wind was contrary.—It is a singular providential coincidence, that while Jesus was struggling with prayer on the mountain, his disciples were struggling with a wind on the sea. This wind detained them as if on purpose to give occasion for the miracle which startled them just before the break of day.

26. It is a spirit.—The scene occurred in the night; consequently, when Jesus first came into view, the disciples could see nothing but the dim outline of a man’s form walking over the rough waves, and it is no wonder that they thought him a disembodied spirit, and that they were overcome with that unreasoning fear which all men experience in the visible presence of beings from the other world.

27, 28. bid me come unto thee.—Their fear was instantly removed when they heard the well known voice of the Master, exclaiming, "It is I; be not afraid," and Peter, with the impulsiveness of a boy, who always wants to attempt any surprising feat which he sees another person perform, requests the Lord to let him too walk on the water.

30. he was afraid.—Like other hasty adventurers, Peter soon found himself in a more trying situation than he anticipated. Too far from the vessel to catch back upon it, and not near enough to Jesus to seize hold of him, he thought of the strong wind and the rough sea, and being seized with fear he began to sink.

31. of little faith.—As Jesus steps forward and catches up the sinking disciple, he points cut to him the immediate cause of his danger. His faith was so weak that danger had turned it into doubt. The incident shows that fear is a source of doubt and an enemy of faith; and it illustrates the fact that those who possessed miraculous gifts could only succeed in working miracles when their faith was in lively exercise.

32, 33. the wind ceased.—The sudden cessation of the wind impressed the disciples as deeply as the walking on the water. They gathered around Jesus, and bowing down before him, exclaimed with one voice, "Of a truth thou art the Son of God." In the very hour in which Peter was rebuked for the weakness of his faith, the faith of the whole party gathered new strength and found a most emphatic expression. How curiously the great Teacher was playing on the chords of their hearts, and tuning them to the harmonies of heaven.

Verses 34-36

Mat 14:34-36

Cures in Gennesaret, and Faith of the People,
Matthew 14:34-36. (Mark 6:53-56)
J.W. McGarvey

34. Gennesaret.—The land of Gennesaret was a plane at the northwest curve of the lake of Galilee, which Josephus describes as about thirty furlongs in length by about twenty in average width, and bounded on the west by a semicircular line of hills. It was exceedingly fertile, and was thickly set with cities and villages. Capernaum was near its northern extremity and near the southern was the city of Magdala. The lake itself was sometimes called, from the name of this plane, the sea of Gennesaret. (Josephus, Wars, B. iii, ch. x, §§ 7, 8.)

35, 36. they sent out.—The prompt action of the people in sending out into every part of the plane for the sick, was the result of their previous acquaintance with Jesus, and their faith in his power and goodness. That the touch of the hem of his garment made many perfectly whole, was the surprising reward of their implicit faith.

Jesus Walks on the Water - Matthew 14:22-36

Open It

1. What is the most frightening experience you’ve ever had?

2. What is the most worshipful experience you have ever had?

3. Of all of Christ’s miracles, which one would you most like to have witnessed? Why?

Explore It

4. After feeding the crowd of five thousand people, what instructions did Jesus give His disciples? (Matthew 14:22)

5. Where did Jesus go after He dismissed the crowd? Why? (Matthew 14:23)

6. What did Jesus do on the mountain? (Matthew 14:23)

7. Where were the disciples when evening came? (Matthew 14:24)

8. What conditions were the disciples encountering? (Matthew 14:24)

9. What miracle did Christ perform? (Matthew 14:25)

10. How did the disciples react to what they saw? (Matthew 14:26)

11. How did Jesus try to calm the disciples’ fears? (Matthew 14:27)

12. What did Peter ask Jesus to do? (Matthew 14:28)

13. How did Jesus respond to Peter’s request? (Matthew 14:29)

14. What happened to Peter as he made his way toward Jesus? (Matthew 14:29-30)

15. What did Jesus do and say when Peter got in trouble? (Matthew 14:31)

16. What was the consensus reaction to this amazing sequence of events? (Matthew 14:33)

17. What happened when Jesus and His disciples arrived at their destination? (Matthew 14:35-36)

Get It

18. Why do you think Jesus spent time alone praying?

19. How is your devotional life right now?

20. What causes you to doubt and waver in your faith?

21. What situations cause you the most fear in life?

22. How would you rate your faith on a scale from one to five (one being weak, five being strong)? Why?

23. What events or experiences have led you to trust in Jesus?

24. What does this passage teach you to do?

Apply It

25. What specific step could you take this week to improve your devotional life?

26. In what practical way can you demonstrate faith as you go through the coming week?

27. What step of trust do you need to take today?

28. What will help you remember to keep your eyes on Jesus and off your fears?

Bibliographical Information
"Commentary on Matthew 14". "Old & New Testament Restoration Commentary". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/onr/matthew-14.html.
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