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Bible Commentaries

William Godbey's Commentary on the New Testament
Matthew 14

 

 

Verses 3-5

ARREST & IMPRISONMENT OF JOHN THE BAPTIST

Matthew 14:3-5; Mark 6:17-20; Luke 3:19-21. Mark: “For Herod himself, having sent, arrested John, and bound him in prison, on account of Herodias, the wife of his brother Philip, because he married her. For John said to Herod, It is not lawful for thee to have the wife of thy brother. And Herodias hated him, and wished to kill him; and was not able. For Herod revered John, knowing him to be a righteous and holy man; and he continued to hold him in prison, and hearing him, continued to do many things, and he was hearing him delightfully.” Matthew: “And wishing to kill him, he feared the multitude, because they had him as a prophet.” Luke: “And Herod the tetrarch, being convicted by him concerning Herodias, the wife of Philip, his brother, and concerning all those wicked things which Herod did, added also this to all, he also shut up John in prison.” We see from the concurrent histories of this dark tragedy, as given by Matthew, Mark, and Luke, that John the Baptist extended no royal courtesy whatever to the king and queen; but, looking them in the face, thus boldly and fearlessly exposed them in the presence of all the people, pronouncing his withering condemnation against their unlawful matrimony, Herodias, being the legal wife of his brother Philip — not the Philip who was at that time tetrarch of Iturea and Trachonitis (Luke 3:1), but of another Philip, who was his half-brother. Here we see a notable case of an honest preacher going into prison and to the executioner’s block, losing all his liberties, and even his life, rather than withhold a solitary item of the truth. If the preachers nowadays were to expose and condemn all of the unlawful marriages in their congregations, thousands of them would lose their pastoral heads, especially in the wealthy city churches. O how the present age needs preachers having the backbone of John the Baptist! This illustrates the absolute necessity of entire sanctification on the part of the clergy, as nothing but this grace can qualify the preacher to tell the truth under all circumstances, regardless of his reputation, financial interest, and his ecclesiastical head. In this whole transaction, Herod shows up a better spirit than Herodias. You see plainly from Mark that Herod imprisoned John, and kept him in prison nearly two years, to keep Herodias from killing him. If he had not been protected by those impregnable prison-walls, and kept night and day under lock and key, the queen would have hired an assassin to go and murder him. Machaerus, a city and strong fortification, which our dragoman pointed out to us, on the east bank of the Dead Sea, where Herod also had a palace and spent a portion of his time, was the place of John’s imprisonment. During these twenty months, which wound up with his decapitation through the stratagem of Herodias, Herod frequently heard John preach. Mark says: “Knowing him to be a righteous and holy man.” We become righteous in regeneration, and holy in sanctification. Hence you see that King Herod, an intelligent, unconverted Church-member, had gumption enough to believe in the two works of grace — i.e., regeneration and sanctification — and see them both in John the Baptist. Mark here informs us that John’s preaching had a powerful effect on Herod, who, like multiplied thousands of unsaved Church-members, wanted to be good. “And hearing him, he continued to do many things, and he continued to hear him delightfully.” All this took place during those twenty months of his imprisonment at Machaerus, where Herod had a palace, and spent much of his time, meanwhile holding John in prison to keep his haughty wife from having him killed, she, of course, being too mad at him to ever hear him any more, though her royal husband heard him very frequently, ever and anon, and was delighted with the wonderful truth so ably and faithfully dispensed by his prisoner. “He continued to do many things;” i.e., he was very religious, and obeyed John in many things, being literally carried away by the red-hot truth which he preached; yet he never made the final surrender and got saved; finally permitting his diabolical wife to constrain him to imbue his hands in the innocent blood of the preacher under whose ministry he had been delighted these two years, shed many a tear, and made many a holy vow.


Verses 13-21

CHAPTER 32

FEEDING THE MULTITUDES

Matthew 14:13-21; Mark 6:32-44; Luke 9:10-17; & John 6:1-14. Mark: “And they departed, into an uninhabited place apart, in a ship. And the multitudes saw them going, and many recognized Him; and they continued to run on foot from all the cities, and come before them, and come together to Him.” They sailed from the city of Capernaum, on the northern coast of the Galilean Sea, and, as Luke says, they went into an uninhabited region of the city of Bethsaida; i.e., into a portion of country belonging to that city. Bethsaida is on the northwest coast, and Tiberias on the west coast. This uninhabited region — i.e., a natural parkway off the coast, and perhaps about midway between these two cities. N.B. The Galilean Sea at that time was literally fenced in with cities, dotting the coast seventy-five miles in compass. Now, when He proceeds with the Twelve to embark for a rest in that desert place, the people in the cities round on the coast have a full view of them, and seeing the direction they are running, multitudes run around overland, actually arriving in the park before they do, while others come on in thronging multitudes. I saw all of this situation, and actually sailed over the route here specified, visiting all of the cities here mentioned. So you see how the eager multitudes defeated the plan of taking a rest, giving them an audience of about ten thousand instead of the solitude amid trees and rocks.

John 6:3 : “And Jesus came into the mountain, and was sitting there with His disciples.” The sea of Galilee, being depressed before the oceanic level seven hundred feet, as a natural consequence is surrounded on all sides by highlands, some of them (e.g., Mt. Hattin, on which Saladin, the Moslem general, defeated the Crusaders, thus putting an end to Christian rule in Galilee, A. D. 1187; and the Mount of Beatitudes, north of Capernaum) rising to great eminence. I saw the region off the coast on the mountain slope between Bethsaida and Tiberias, where this immense gathering took place. “And the Passover, the feast of the Jews, was nigh.” N.B. Our Lord began His ministry at the Passover by purifying the temple driving out all of the buyers and sellers. Having preached two or three weeks in Judea, He then came to Galilee, passing through and preaching in Samaria. Remaining in Galilee to the close of the year, He again attends the Passover at Jerusalem, immediately after which He returns to Galilee, where He remains, making, in all, three circuits throughout the country, and finally sending out His twelve apostles, heading six evangelistic bands. Now we see another year of our Lord’s ministry has gone by, and this great multitude, generally estimated at five thousand, but in all probability at least twice that number, as Matthew says there were five thousand, besides women and children, who, as a rule, constitute the larger half of an audience. The Jews were accustomed to go up to Jerusalem to their great solemnities by whole families, on foot, with a few donkeys and camels along to carry luggage, feeble old people, and babies, and frequently driving along sacrificial animals; thus going in great crowds for company and security against robbers and marauders. As we see here they were right on the eve of the Passover, doubtless this multitude had assembled in view of going on to Jerusalem, and attending their greatest national festival, which commemorated the birth of their nation.

Mark 6:34 : “And Jesus, going out, looked on the vast multitude, and was moved with compassion in their behalf, because they were as sheep having no shepherd; and He began to teach them many things.” We again find this frequently repeated affirmation of our Lord, “Sheep having no shepherd.” N.B. These were not heathens, nor outsiders, but the bona fide members of the Jewish Church, with their regular pastors, officers, and Church services. Still you see that in the Divine estimation they had no shepherds; i.e., no competent spiritual guides. How exceedingly pertinent does that alarming statement apply to the fallen Churches and worldly clergy of the present day! “And it already being a late hour, His disciples, coming to Him, say, That this is a desert place, and already the hour is late; send them away, that having gone into the surrounding country and villages, they may purchase for themselves bread; for they have nothing which they may eat. And responding, He said to them, You give them to eat. And they say to Him, Having gone away, must we buy two hundred pennies’ worth of bread and give them to eat?” Evidently having only two hundred pennies in the apostolical treasury. “And He says to them, How much bread have you? Go and see. And having ascertained, they say, Five loaves and two fishes. He commanded them all to sit down by companies on the green grass. And they sat by hundreds and fifties. Taking the five loaves and the two fishes, looking up to heaven, He blessed them, and broke the loaves, and gave them to His disciples that they may distribute to them; and He divided out the two fishes to all.”

John 6:12 : “And when they were filled, He says to His disciples, Gather ye up the remaining fragments, in order that nothing may be lost. Then they gathered them together, and filled twelve baskets with the fragments from the five barley loaves which remained to those who had eaten.”

Matthew 14:21 : “And those eating were about five thousand men, besides women and children.” Evidently, as you see, at least ten thousand people, fed bountifully with the five barley loaves and two fishes, about enough for five persons, as the loaves in that country are generally small. That country is notorious for baskets, and generally very large, holding several bushels. A common sight at Jerusalem is a woman coming in, sitting on her little donkey, with one of these great baskets on either side filled with market stuff — i.e., vegetables and fruits — and a baby in her arms, and no bridle on the animal; sitting astride, apparently very comfortable, and frequently singing, as I supposed, for the entertainment of the baby. Hence, one basket would hold, in all probability, ten times the original amount of the whole supply with which they began to eat. Now ten thousand have eaten, and twelve baskets full of fragments were taken up. What a wonderful flood of spiritual truth pours in from this transcendent miracle! You go into an utterly destitute place like this to hold a revival-meeting. You can hardly rake and scrape fire enough on the old smoldering chunks to kindle into a flame. When once you get it started, it rolls a deluge over the neighborhood, running the devil out, and bringing heaven down. A hundred red-hot evangelists rise up from that meeting, and carry away fire enough to start a hundred new revivals. Spiritualities are the very opposite of materialities, as God’s ways are different from man’s. In temporal things, the more we use, the less we have. In spiritual, precisely the reverse is true: the more we use and give away, the more we have. You may hardly have religion enough to keep Satan from taking you, and go out and get some poor fellow gloriously converted, and, to your surprise, you will find that you have at least ten times as much as you had before you began this good work.

John 6:14 : “Therefore the people, seeing the miracle which Jesus performed, continued to say, That this is truly the Prophet who is to come into the world;” i.e., the Christ, the Messiah of God, the Redeemer of Israel, the Shiloh, the Savior for whom Israel has waited four thousand years; thus arousing and electrifying the multitude with the most thrilling enthusiasm, as the Jews have been listening to His preaching and diagnosing His miracles these two whole years, wondering if He is really the Messiah of prophecy, and at the same time ready to rally and crown Him King, as they all distinctly understand that the Christ is to be their King, break the Roman yoke, set them free, and even transcend the glory of David and Solomon, and reign over them forever; thus infelicitously mixing up the prophecies appertaining to His first and second coming, and running into a bewilderment, which, maneuvered by Satan, conduced awfully to blind their eyes and defeat their diagnosis of Messiahship in Jesus.


Verses 22-36

JESUS WALKS UPON THE WATER

Matthew 14:22-36; Mark 6:45-56; & John 6:15-21. Mark: “And immediately He constrained His disciples to go into the ship, and to proceed before Him to the other side, toward Bethsaida, until He can send away the multitude.” This statement is calculated to puzzle the reader, because Luke 9:10, says that they were already in an uninhabited place of the city called Bethsaida. If you are only once on the spot, this apparent contradiction between Mark and Luke would suddenly vanish. The solution of the matter is, there were two towns called Bethsaida on the sea of Galilee — the one in whose vicinity these multitudes were fed is on the northwest coast; and the other, toward which they sailed after adjournment, is on the left bank of the inflowing Jordan, and near the northeast coast. The latter is known as Bethsaida Julias; the latter cognomen being added to distinguish it from the other Bethsaida, and also in honor of Julia, the Roman empress. “And having sent them away, He departed into the mountain to pray.”

John 6:15 : “Therefore, Jesus, knowing that they are about to come and seize Him, that they may make Him King, departed again alone into the mountain to pray.” Here, you see, John tells the secret; they have assembled in vast numbers to go up to Jerusalem to the Passover. This stupendous miracle so convinces them of His Christhood that they resolve to take Him into hand, and carry Him along with them to Jerusalem, and there have Him crowned King of the Jew’s. This is the reason why He had to force His own disciples to go away. They, with the multitude, were determined to crown Him King. As the people looked upon them as leaders in that momentously interesting transaction, when they saw them embark in a ship to leave, the natural effect was to weaken the enterprise in the estimation of the multitude, and postpone His coronation. So now, His disciples, having gone to their ship, are sailing away in a northeasterly direction. Having dismissed the multitude, doubtless eluding their vision, He goes away alone into the mountain to pray.

“And when it was evening, His disciples embarked upon the sea, and having come into the ship, they were going across the sea to Capernaum.” Bethsaida Julias, toward which Mark says they were going, is in the same direction, but several miles beyond Capernaum. Hence there is harmony among the writers. “And it was already dark, and Jesus had not come to them; and the sea wrought, a great wind blowing.” The sea of Galilee, depressed seven hundred feet below the Mediterranean, and consequently surrounded by mountains and highlands, is quite subject to sudden squalls, often very violent, and dangerous to the small vessels they used in that day. When I was there last fall, it was my good fortune to sail round and over that beautiful sea in a most excellent boat, quite secure amid the storms, having been built for the especial accommodation of the German emperor, who visited that country the preceding year. “Therefore, having come about twenty-five or thirty furlongs [i.e., three or four miles], they see Jesus walking about on the sea, and being near the ship, and they were afraid.” Mark says, “Thought it was a specter” i.e., a ghost — not distinctly recognizing, perhaps, even human personality. There-fore they were all alarmed and cried out with affright. Matthew 14:27 : “Immediately He spoke to them, saying, Be of good cheer; I am here; fear not.”

PETER WALKING ON THE WATER & SINKING

“And Peter, responding to Him, said, Lord, if Thou art here, command me to come to Thee on the waters. And He said, Come. And Peter having come down from the ship, was walking about on the waters to come to Jesus.

And seeing the wind strong, became alarmed; and beginning to sink, he cried out, saying, Lord, save me! And immediately Jesus, reaching forth His hand, took him, and says to him, O ye of little faith, why did you doubt? And they, coming into the ship, the wind ceased. And those in the ship, coming, worshipped Him, saying, Truly, Thou art the Son of God.” These last mentioned as falling down, worshipping, and confessing His Christhood, were evidently the sailors in charge of the ship. We have here, in the example of Peter, a most notable illustration confirming the omnipotence of faith, as illustrated here by Peter looking at Jesus. So long as he kept his eye on Him, with perfect security he could run all around over the stormy sea. You who have never been in a storm at sea will hardly duly estimate the trepidation inspired by the rolling waves, thundering seas, and raging billows. Now, you must remember, the sea was not smooth and calm when Peter walked over it, but racked with storms and plowed with tempests, vividly illustrating the stormy ocean of probationary life. Just as Peter could walk over the stormy sea with perfect security, so long as he kept his eye on Jesus, so can you tread with safety the tempest-racked billows of life’s stormy ocean, swept by cyclones from the bottomless pit, so long as you keep your eye of faith on Jesus, and pay no attention to the roaring billows, nor the barking of the hell-hounds. The moment you take your eye from Jesus, and look at your adverse circumstances, and begin to estimate the power of your temptations, you will begin to sink; and if you do not, like Peter, cry out, “Lord, save, I perish,” you will sink forever, as hell has no bottom.

John 6:21 : “Then they wished to take Him in the ship, and immediately the ship was at the land to which they were going.” That land was Genesareth, and the city of Capernaum. Several hours had elapsed in their vain attempt to make headway against a strong northeast wind. When they took Jesus aboard, responsive to His bidding, the tempest lulls, and the sea calms. Therefore, with energetic rowing, they soon disembark at Capernaum, their destination.

Mark 6:51 : “He came up to them into the ship; and the wind ceased, and they were exceedingly astonished among themselves, and marveled. For they did not understand concerning the loaves; for their heart was hardened.” This stupendous miracle of feeding the multitudes the preceding afternoon, should have so thoroughly convinced them of His Christhood as to prepare them to recognize the lulling of the storm and calming the sea as the normal prerogative of Omnipotence, and consequently produce no surprise. Man is a trinity, consisting of spirit, heart, or soul, mind, and body. Hence the heart or spirit, and not the intellect, is the diagnoser of Divine phenomena.

“With the heart we believe unto righteousness” (Romans 10:10),

and under the illumination of the Holy Spirit, our spirit interpenetrates and comprehends the deep things of God. Hence, if you would understand the Bible, and diagnose Divine phenomena, and become truly wise in the deep things of God, get all the rocks of depravity eliminated from your heart, leaving it soft, tender, and filled with perfect love. Then you can go down into the profound mysteries of revealed truth, flooded with new spiritual illuminations, and progressively edified by fresh revealments of the Divine attributes in glory, though you never saw a college nor inherited Solomonic genius. These apostles all needed the sanctifying fire of Pentecost to melt their hearts so thoroughly and illuminate them so perfectly, that they would never again stagger at the ipse dixit of the Almighty. “And having crossed over, they came to the Genesareth land, and disembarked; and they, coming out from the ship, immediately those recognizing Him having run throughout all that surrounding country, began to carry in the sick on beds, when they heard that He was there. And when He went into the villages or cities or countries, they were continuously placing the sick in the forums, and entreating Him that they may touch the hem of His garment; and so many as touched Him were saved.” The stupendous and extraordinary miracle of feeding the ten thousand shook the whole country with the tread of an earthquake, thrilling the people with an incorrigible enthusiasm, to scour the whole country round about, far and wide, and bring in all the invalids, maniacs, demoniacs, and epileptics, while they had an opportunity to come in contact with the wonderful Healer.

 


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Bibliography Information
Godbey, William. "Commentary on Matthew 14:4". "William Godbey's Commentary on the New Testament". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/ges/matthew-14.html.

Lectionary Calendar
Sunday, November 17th, 2019
the Week of Proper 28 / Ordinary 33
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