What does Matthew 14 mean?
Chapter Commentary:
Matthew 14 begins with the news that Herod the tetrarch, also known as Herod Antipas, has heard about Jesus' fame and power. This is the son of Herod the Great, who once tried to have Jesus killed (Matthew 2:7, 13). Antipas was assigned, by the Romans, to govern the region of Galilee and Perea where Jesus lived and ministered.

Herod believes Jesus to be John the Baptist resurrected, possibly out of guilt or superstition. After noting Herod's belief, Matthew provides a sort of "flashback" to explain Herod's execution of John the Baptist. John was imprisoned after publicly condemning Herod's marriage to his own sister-in law, Herodias (Mark 6:17–20). Herod hesitated to execute John because the prophet was popular with the people of Israel. He overcame that hesitation after making a foolish, likely drunken promise. Following her dance, performed for him and his guests, Herodias's daughter is offered "anything" by Herod. Herodias prompted her daughter to ask for John's head on a platter. Herod agreed (Matthew 14:1–12).

Knowing that Herod is aware of Him, Jesus leaves behind the crowds, moving toward a more desolate area along with the with the disciples, via boat. But when they arrive in Bethsaida, on the northeast shore, they find the crowds have run around the north side of the lake and are waiting. Jesus feels compassion for the people and spends the day healing them (Matthew 14:13–14).

Late in the day, the disciples suggest that Jesus send the people away to nearby villages to get food for themselves. Jesus tells the disciples to feed the people. It's important to realize that this is an entirely impossible task, and Jesus knows it. The disciples are only able to muster five loaves of bread and two fish. Jesus asks for those, tells everyone to sit on the grass, and begins to break the loaves and give them to the disciples to distribute to the people. By the time all the food is handed out and everyone has eaten all they want, twelve baskets of leftovers remain. When Christ commands something, He will also provide the power to see it done. Matthew notes that some five thousand men were fed in this miracle, in addition to the women and children. This would bring the total number fed to as many as twenty thousand (Matthew 14:15–21).

Immediately after that astounding miracle, Jesus sends the crowds away by foot and the disciples away by boat to the other side of the lake. He goes up onto a mountain and prays until late in the evening. The disciples have spent a long night rowing against a strong wind on rough seas. That struggle is not a result of their sin, or poor decision-making. Rather, it's because of their obedience; this reminds us that not all hardships are the result of our own mistakes. Somewhere between 3 and 6 a.m. a figure emerges from the darkness walking on the water toward their boat. The disciples are afraid, but Jesus announces Himself (Matthew 14:22–27).

Peter then demonstrates both the advantage and disadvantage of his impulsive faith. He asks Jesus to command him to come walk on the water toward Him. Jesus says, "Come." Peter climbs out of the boat and walks on the water, too, before becoming frightened by the wind and the waves. Rather than focusing on the miracle occurring at that moment, Peter's human nature succumbs to doubts and fears. He sinks and cries for help. Jesus saves Peter and asks why he doubted. After the two climb into the boat, the wind immediate stops and the disciples worship Jesus. They tell Him, "Truly, you are the Son of God" (Matthew 14:28–33).

When the disciples and Jesus finally arrive at Gennesaret, on the northwest shore of the lake, the people there recognize Jesus and gather the sick and afflicted from around the region. They beg Jesus to allow them to touch the fringe of His garment. Perhaps the people had heard about the woman who did exactly that earlier in Jesus' ministry (Matthew 9:20–22). Many, many people approach Jesus and are made well (Matthew 14:34–36).
Verse Context:
Matthew 14:1–12 describes how Herod the tetrarch, ruler over Galilee, has heard of Jesus' fame and power. He believes Jesus is a resurrected John the Baptist. Matthew then explains that Herod had arrested John the Baptist. His "crime" was publicly condemning Herod's marriage to his own brother's wife. Later, Herod was manipulated into a promise by his wife's daughter, after she danced for him and his guests. On behalf of her mother, she asked for John the Baptist's head on a platter (Mark 6:14–29). Herod agreed and had John executed immediately. John's disciples came and buried him, then went and told Jesus the news of his death.
Matthew 14:13–21 begins with Jesus and His disciples leaving behind the crowds to escape by boat to desolate place. Instead, they find the crowds waiting there for them. Jesus heals people and eventually tells the disciples to feed everyone. The disciples have no food beyond five loaves and two fish. Jesus miraculously feeds more than 5,000 from that simple meal. Twelve baskets full of leftovers remain after everyone has eaten as much as they want. This miracle is recorded in all the four Gospels (Mark 6:30–44; Luke 9:10–17; John 6:1–14).
Matthew 14:22–33 contains the miracle of Jesus walking on the water. Immediately after feeding thousands of people from a single small portion, Jesus goes up to a mountain to pray. The disciples spend a long night rowing against a strong wind. Jesus walks across the lake to meet them. Peter walks on the water with Jesus briefly before becoming afraid of the wind and waves and beginning to sink. Jesus saves Peter and asks why he doubted. The wind stops when Jesus gets in the boat, and the disciples worship Him as the Son of God.
Matthew 14:34–36 finds Jesus and the disciples finally arriving at Gennesaret after their long night on the Sea of Galilee. The people of the region recognize Jesus and gather the sick and afflicted to be healed by Him. They beg Jesus to allow them to touch the fringe of His garment so they can be healed. All who do so are made well.
Chapter Summary:
Matthew 14 begins with a backstory about the arrest and execution of John the Baptist by Herod the tetrarch, the Jewish ruler of the region. Jesus and the disciples take a boat to a desolate place only to find crowds waiting. Jesus heals many and then feeds as many as twenty thousand people with five loaves and two fish. Later, the disciples row against a strong wind until Jesus walks on the water to meet them and calm the wind. Peter walks on water briefly and then doubts and begins to sink. The disciples worship Jesus. On the other side of the lake, Jesus continues to heal the sick.
Chapter Context:
Matthew 13 included more of Jesus' parables and an unfortunate incident where His own hometown rejected His ministry. Chapter 14 begins with news that Herod the tetrarch—the man who killed John the Baptist—is aware of Jesus' fame and power. Jesus and the disciples intend to withdraw to somewhere desolate, but a crowd is waiting for them. Jesus heals people, miraculously feeds thousands, and walks on water. When they reach the other side, Jesus heals more people. Chapter 15 sees Jesus once again debating with His critics and performing more healings.
Book Summary:
The Gospel of Matthew clearly shows the influence of its writer's background, and his effort to reach a specific audience. Matthew was one of Jesus' twelve disciples, a Jewish man, and a former tax collector. This profession would have required literacy, and Matthew may have transcribed some of Jesus' words as they were spoken. This book is filled with references to the Old Testament, demonstrating to Israel that Jesus is the Promised One. Matthew also includes many references to coins, likely due to his former profession. Matthew records extensive accounts of Jesus' teaching, more than the other three Gospels.
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