Verses 1-12: John the Baptist is in prison because he had spoken out against King Herod’s sister-in-law, Herodias, saying that King Herod’s brother’s (Philip) marriage to her was unlawful. King Herod would have already killed John the Baptist but he feared retaliation from the many people who believed and followed him. King Herod mentions that John the Baptist was risen from the dead, meaning that he believed the miracles being performed were the work of a resurrected prophet. This is notable because it reveals Herod’s ignorance as to the true respective identities of John and Jesus Christ.
During Herod’s birthday celebration, his niece danced for him. This was Herodias’ and Philip’s daughter. Her dancing so pleased Herod that he gave his word that she could have whatever she wanted. Herodias prompted her to ask for John the Baptist’s head on a platter. Herodias obviously knew that John had condemned her marriage to the king’s brother and she wanted revenge. With reluctance for fear of the people, Herod orders that John’s head be removed and placed on a platter. The macabre presentation is made to the young girl, who gives it to her mother Herodias that had the original idea. Jesus was told of it, and went away to be alone and pray, most likely seeking strength and solace from God.
Verses 13-21: But Jesus cannot be alone and He is followed by many many people that believe in Him and that have needs. Jesus’s empathy moves Him to heal the sick.
When evening approached, the need to eat arose and the disciples suggest to Jesus that the people should be sent to the villages to buy food. Instead, Jesus miraculously changes five loaves of bread and two fish into enough food for five thousand men, plus women and children. A true miracle!
Verses 22-36: In this passage Jesus is again seeking solitude, seeking to spend time with His Father in prayer. This time Jesus does get the time He needs and does not attempt to return to the disciples until late into the night. When He does return, He finds the disciples on a boat tossed by waves on a tumultuous sea.
Jesus returns to them by walking on the water to them. Since there was a watch, they were able to notice Him coming and they were all very afraid. They did not recognize Jesus and thought that He was an apparition, a ghost. Amidst the stormy waters, Jesus calls out to them and tells them to not be scared but to cheer up.
Peter, ever the faithful skeptic, wants to test whether it really is Jesus and asks that if it is truly Jesus, that He command Peter to join Him on the water. Christ complies and Peter walks out on the water to Him. But Peter’s faith vanishes as he fears the wind and the choppy sea and he begins to sink into the water. Peter cries out for help and Jesus chastises him for his lack of faith while bringing him safely to the boat. Once in the boat, the wind stops and all who were in the boat glorified in Jesus as the Son of God.
This chapter ends with Jesus and His disciples successfully crossing the water over to Gennesaret. When they arrive, Jesus is recognized and again compelled to heal the sick. Jesus does so. The faith of these people was great, believing that they need only touch the edge of His clothing in order to be made well.
Are we not like Peter ourselves sometimes? There is a problem or obstacle before us that we cannot see a way out of and we despair. Everything we know as fact is telling us one thing but faith whispers to us the opposite. Too often we ignore that still, quiet voice of faith and heed the clamor of reason and words of the faithless. But God’s grace comes to us all when we realize that, after the storm has passed, that things were really quite manageable all along. With His help, I can do anything.
“Not that I speak in regard to need, for I have learned in whatever state I am, to be content: I know how to be abased, and I know how to abound. Everywhere and in all things I have learned both to be full and to be hungry, both to abound and to suffer need. I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.”. Philippians 4:11-13