Matthew
1-12 Death of John the Baptist 13-14 The Lord Seeks Solitude 15-21 Feeding of the Five Thousand 22-27 In the Storm 28-33 Peter Walks on the Water 34-36 Healings in Gennesaret
Death of John the Baptist

1At that time Herod the tetrarch heard the news about Jesus, 2and said to his servants, “This is John the Baptist; he has risen from the dead, and that is why miraculous powers are at work in him.” 3For when Herod had John arrested, he bound him and put him in prison because of Herodias, the wife of his brother Philip. 4For John had been saying to him, “It is not lawful for you to have her.” 5Although Herod wanted to put him to death, he feared the crowd, because they regarded John as a prophet. 6But when Herod’s birthday came, the daughter of Herodias danced before [them] and pleased Herod, 7so [much] that he promised with an oath to give her whatever she asked. 8Having been prompted by her mother, she *said, “Give me here on a platter the head of John the Baptist.” 9Although he was grieved, the king commanded [it] to be given because of his oaths, and because of his dinner guests. 10He sent and had John beheaded in the prison. 11And his head was brought on a platter and given to the girl, and she brought it to her mother. 12His disciples came and took away the body and buried it; and they went and reported to Jesus.

This section deals with Herod Antipas, the son of Herod the Great who reigned during the birth of the Lord Jesus. Herod Antipas succeeded his father as king of Galilee. The name Herod as king over a part of Israel shows the sad state in which Israel finds itself. It emphasizes that Israel is not a free people. Herod is a figurehead of the Romans who have power over Israel. Israel is ruled by Gentiles and not by a king after God’s heart.

This man Herod takes care of the death of the Lord’s predecessor. The people over whom he reigns as a tetrarch will in its entirety ensure that the Lord Jesus is killed. Therefore, we can see in the moral characteristics of Herod a reflection of those of the people as a whole.

The reports of Christ have reached Herod. As a result of these, superstitious thoughts arise immediately in the distorted mind of this man. He expresses this to His servants. What is remarkable is that this unbeliever speaks about the resurrection of the dead because he thinks that John the baptist is risen. He has a burdened conscience because he killed John the baptist. He is reminded of that by what he hears about the Lord. Not that John ever did miracles (Jn 10:4141Many came to Him and were saying, “While John performed no sign, yet everything John said about this man was true.”). He also clearly said that he was not the Christ (Jn 1:2020And he confessed and did not deny, but confessed, “I am not the Christ.”).

It is wonderful in itself that even after the death of John such a testimony is given of him. It would be a beautiful testimony if people, when they hear something about the Lord Jesus, had to think of us involuntarily.

Herod lives an ungodly and immoral life. John has spoken a lot with Herod and Herod loved to listen to him (Mk 6:2020for Herod was afraid of John, knowing that he was a righteous and holy man, and he kept him safe. And when he heard him, he was very perplexed; but he used to enjoy listening to him.). That does not mean that John only said nice things to Herod. The only word that Scripture quotes from the conversations between John and Herod is: “It is not lawful for you to have her”. Time and again John has called Herod to account about his illicit relationship with Herodias.

John makes no compromises, even though it assured him of Herodias’ hatred. This corrupt woman made sure that John was put in prison. She wanted to silence him. Herod also preferred to kill him, for although he loved to hear John, he did not want to break with his life in sin. But fear of the crowd prevented him from doing it.

Then there arises an excellent opportunity for Herodias to get rid of John for good. Her equally godless daughter dances on Herod’s birthday in the middle of the guests. Herod and the guests watched her performance with “eyes full of adultery” (2Pet 2:1414having eyes full of adultery that never cease from sin, enticing unstable souls, having a heart trained in greed, accursed children;). In his admiration for her art of dancing Herod guarantees her under oath to give her the reward she wishes. Just as he is led by the crowd to hold back from a crime, so he is also led by his lusts and then says things without realizing the scope of what he says.

Both the mother and the girl are filled with so much hatred for the witness of God, that the head of John the baptist is worth more than all the riches and honor they could have wished for. The wicked woman Herodias is a spiritual descendant of Jezebel who wanted to rob Elijah – with whom John is compared – of life (1Kgs 19:22Then Jezebel sent a messenger to Elijah, saying, “So may the gods do to me and even more, if I do not make your life as the life of one of them by tomorrow about this time.”). The girl is no better than her mother.

The king’s sadness shows his weakness for John, but Herod would rather maintain his earthly power and glory than submit to the witness of God. His sense of honor and fear of loss of face make him the murderer of the witness of God. It is presented as if Herod has beheaded John with his own hands, even though this decree was carried out by the sword in the hand of his servant.

This is how the one who faithfully rebukes the sin in which Herodias, together with Herod, lives is removed from her eye. As a final reminder, John’s head appears once more to the woman. Her hardened heart rejoices that she has been freed from him. In the resurrection, John will repeat his testimony to her, and if she has not repented, she will be thrown into hell.

When John is killed, his disciples take his body away, bury it, and then go to the Lord to tell him. It is remarkable that John still has his disciples, despite the fact that the Lord is there. It is proof of how difficult it is for a person to break away from traditions.


The Lord Seeks Solitude

13Now when Jesus heard [about John], He withdrew from there in a boat to a secluded place by Himself; and when the people heard [of this], they followed Him on foot from the cities. 14When He went ashore, He saw a large crowd, and felt compassion for them and healed their sick.

When the Lord hears what has happened to John, He needs solitude and rest. Here we see Him as a true Man. As the eternal God He of course knows exactly what happened and could have prevented it. As the true Man, however, He surrenders everything to His God.

What He hears about John makes Him go to a secluded place to seek His God on this matter in solitude. Although He was raised far above John, He, together with Him, gave the testimony of God in the midst of Israel. He feels united in His heart with John. The Lord withdraws, not to Jerusalem, but to a secluded place.

He cannot be alone for long with His grief because there too people follow Him. When He sees them, He is again moved by compassion for them. The indifference of Nazareth and the anger of Herod have not changed Him. His heart remains full of unwavering compassion to do good to people in need. He can nothing other than act according to His perfect, good nature. That is why He provides His people with bread in the next story.


Feeding of the Five Thousand

15When it was evening, the disciples came to Him and said, “This place is desolate and the hour is already late; so send the crowds away, that they may go into the villages and buy food for themselves.” 16But Jesus said to them, “They do not need to go away; you give them [something] to eat!” 17They *said to Him, “We have here only five loaves and two fish.” 18And He said, “Bring them here to Me.” 19Ordering the people to sit down on the grass, He took the five loaves and the two fish, and looking up toward heaven, He blessed [the food], and breaking the loaves He gave them to the disciples, and the disciples [gave them] to the crowds, 20and they all ate and were satisfied. They picked up what was left over of the broken pieces, twelve full baskets. 21There were about five thousand men who ate, besides women and children.

The evening falls as the people seek relief from the Lord in numbers for the ailments they suffer from. The practical disciples come to Him with the remark that He should send the crowds away, because then they can still go to the shop in time to buy food. But a practical attitude is not always a good one. In this case, their practical proposal means that the Lord must stop doing good. By doing so they show that they do not share in His mercy.

They still don’t know Him well. Because they do not share in His mercy, they are also blind to the power of His grace to provide for daily needs. Then the Lord has a lesson for His disciples, for those who follow Him and must learn from the Master, in order to be like the Master.

He takes up the case for the crowds. People do not have to leave Him Who is the source of all goodness. He turns the request to send the crowds away around and orders His disciples to feed them. He wants to make them into instruments through whom He can bless the crowds. He wants to fill their hands with bread that they can distribute to the crowds. Through them He wants His power in grace to benefit the crowds.

This is also true now because the principle of faith is the same at all times. The Lord wants us to learn that faith in His power makes us instruments for the blessing of others. The disciples want to send the crowds away because they don’t know how to use the power of Christ. We often don’t know that either, but the Lord wants to teach us.

Then He tells them to feed them. He wants to teach them to feed others. When the order comes to feed others,  first the disciples’ total impotence becomes public. That is because they only count on their own resources and not on those of the Lord. The problem is not that there is nothing, but that the little there is, is totally inadequate according to man’s arithmetic.

According to human standards this is also the case, but we must learn to count on the power of the Lord. One of the problems that makes us bad disciples is that we underestimate what we have in our hands. The reason for this is that we judge it according to our ability to do something with it and not according to the Lord’s ability to do something with it. Our argument is often: ‘We have nothing but ...’ But believers always have something the Lord can use, even if it is so little in their eyes. The Lord commands them to bring the loaves and fishes to Him. We must learn to put everything in His hands. He even invites us to do this. What we place in His hands, He multiplies.

The Lord proceeds to work in an ordered and calming manner. That’s why He commands all to sit down. By doing so, He also draws everyone’s eyes to Himself. All see how He takes the five loaves of bread and the two fishes and all hear how He prays to His God as the dependent Man and blesses or praises Him. Then He acts in omnipotence, in dependence and in grace through His disciples. He breaks the loaves and gives them to the disciples who in turn give the bread to the crowds.

The food the crowd receives has become food in two ways. Before something becomes bread, a whole process precedes it. This indicates that before we can give anything into the Lord’s hands so that He can use it, we must have been busy with it. There are also two fish. We have done nothing for its preparation. Those are as it were prepared by the Lord Himself. This indicates that what we have received directly from the Lord, we may also give Him to make more of it and then distribute it. What we can’t do, multiplying the food, He does. Then He gives it to us to do with it what we can and that is to pass it on.

By this act Christ testifies in His own Person that He is Yahweh Who will satisfy the poor with bread (Psa 132:1515“I will abundantly bless her provision;
I will satisfy her needy with bread.
). In Him is Yahweh, who has established the throne of David, in their midst. By His goodness, everyone can eat until they are satisfied.

He could have performed His miracle in such a way that everything was finished, that nothing was left over. He knew exactly how much was needed. Precisely because there is so much left over, it demonstrates that the Lord Jesus is a God of abundance. He not only gives what is necessary, but more than is necessary. There is a surplus, not of crumbs, but of the pieces He broke and the disciples distributed.

Abundance is not treated as superfluous. He also has an intention with abundance. He allows it to be collected so that it can be distributed to others who are not present. What we give in the Lord’s hands becomes an abundance through which a crowd is satisfied and much remains for others. This is how it works with God: what we give away is not lost, but is multiplied (Pro 11:2424There is one who scatters, and [yet] increases all the more;
And there is one who withholds what is justly due, [and yet it results] only in want.
).

The number twelve also indicates that the Lord made the surplus with an intention. He deliberately wanted to multiply more than was necessary for those present. He satisfies those who have come to Him from their homes, but in the future He will satisfy all twelve tribes with His blessing. There remains a blessing for the people of God that He must first send away.

The remaining bread is put into twelve “baskets”. When the Lord later provides bread to a crowd of four thousand men, including women and children, bread will remain. This is put into “large baskets” (Mt 15:3737And they all ate and were satisfied, and they picked up what was left over of the broken pieces, seven large baskets full.).


In the Storm

22Immediately He made the disciples get into the boat and go ahead of Him to the other side, while He sent the crowds away. 23After He had sent the crowds away, He went up on the mountain by Himself to pray; and when it was evening, He was there alone. 24But the boat was already a long distance from the land, battered by the waves; for the wind was contrary. 25And in the fourth watch of the night He came to them, walking on the sea. 26When the disciples saw Him walking on the sea, they were terrified, and said, “It is a ghost!” And they cried out in fear. 27But immediately Jesus spoke to them, saying, “Take courage, it is I; do not be afraid.”

The Lord must force His disciples to go on board and sail across to the other side without Him. He Himself says goodbye to the crowds. After having given proof of His blessed presence in the miraculous feeding, now inevitably comes the moment that He must send the people away. It is a prophetic picture of what God had to do with His people because they rejected His Son.

When the Lord has sent the mass of people away, He climbs the mountain to pray. His disciples are at sea. They do not see the Lord, but He sees them. He prays for them. He seeks fellowship with His Father in solitude and in the heights. While He prays, the disciples are in distress. There is a headwind. This is a picture of everyday life. He allows storms to test our faith. The disciples are worried. In them we can see a picture of the believing remnants of Israel among the hostile nations, of which the sea is a picture, in the time of the great tribulation.

The disciples think that the Lord has forgotten them. The remnant of the great tribulation will think so too. In several psalms they state this (Psa 10:1111He says to himself, “God has forgotten;
He has hidden His face; He will never see it.”
; 13:22How long shall I take counsel in my soul,
[Having] sorrow in my heart all the day?
How long will my enemy be exalted over me?
; 77:1010Then I said, “It is my grief,
That the right hand of the Most High has changed.”
). But He does not forget them. He does not come to them until the night is darkest, in the fourth watch. That is also against the dawn of the day. It is also the time for the morning star to rise. Prophetically, we live in the end of the dispensation of the night, which is far advanced (Rom 13:1212The night is almost gone, and the day is near. Therefore let us lay aside the deeds of darkness and put on the armor of light.). We also ended up in the darkest period of the night. Especially at that point we can experience His closeness the most and we can see Him coming to us.

However, we are often like the disciples who regard the Lord as a ghost. This happens when, in all adversity, we see only the devil, as if he makes life difficult for us, while we ignore the fact that our circumstances are in the hand of our loving Lord. Job saw it differently. He took everything from the Lord’s hand. He did not say, ‘The LORD gave and Satan has taken away’, but, “The LORD gave and the LORD has taken away” (Job 1:2121He said,
“Naked I came from my mother’s womb,
And naked I shall return there.
The LORD gave and the LORD has taken away.
Blessed be the name of the LORD.”
). In our circumstances we must learn to discover the Lord, that He is close to us and has power over all circumstances.

The Lord walks on the water as if on solid ground. He Who, as God, created the elements as they are, can, as the Son of man, according to His pleasure, dispose of their properties and walk over them. He does not do His walking on the water for the crowds, for their appetite for sensation, but He does it for fearful disciples to convince them of His power. He is not yet calming the water. That comes at the end.

When the disciples cry out in fear, He speaks to them reassuringly. First He says to them to have good courage. He has already spoken this wonderful word of encouragement in this Gospel to people who need it so much (Mt 9:2,222And they brought to Him a paralytic lying on a bed. Seeing their faith, Jesus said to the paralytic, “Take courage, son; your sins are forgiven.”22But Jesus turning and seeing her said, “Daughter, take courage; your faith has made you well.” At once the woman was made well.). Then, He refers to Himself by His Name “I am”, for only through Him can there be good courage. Finally, He says they should not be afraid. He wants to dispel their fear because it prevents them from having good courage.


Peter Walks on the Water

28Peter said to Him, “Lord, if it is You, command me to come to You on the water.” 29And He said, “Come!” And Peter got out of the boat, and walked on the water and came toward Jesus. 30But seeing the wind, he became frightened, and beginning to sink, he cried out, “Lord, save me!” 31Immediately Jesus stretched out His hand and took hold of him, and *said to him, “You of little faith, why did you doubt?” 32When they got into the boat, the wind stopped. 33And those who were in the boat worshiped Him, saying, “You are certainly God’s Son!”

Peter is the first to answer to the words of the Lord. He wants assurance that it is the Lord. The event of Peter leaving the ship is only written in this Gospel. The disciples are afraid, but they are still in the boat. As long as it holds, it is well. This makes Peter’s act of faith so great. He also distances himself from this last safety and entrusts himself entirely to the Lord.

Also with us it is often the case that we trust the Lord, but we are also happy with the security of the boat. One application is that it is difficult for us to leave the security of Judaism or the security of a traditional Christian system. This applies to any form of being a church where the norm has become customary and the Spirit cannot work freely. Human forms and traditions give a sense of security, although we confess that the Holy Spirit must guide us. The Lord is outside both the Jewish and man-managed Christian systems and it is necessary to go out to be with Him (Heb 13:1313So, let us go out to Him outside the camp, bearing His reproach.).

The initiative comes from Peter. He sees the Lord and asks for His command. Peter doesn’t want to be the hero. He is the obedient believer who in faith gives up the safety of the boat to come to the Lord. Then he is not afraid of the waters. He really wants to be as the Master is. The Lord must have rejoiced greatly at this spontaneous wish.

The Lord speaks one word and Peter obeys. He comes to the act of faith by climbing out of the ship and to a walk of faith by walking over the water. Walking on the water is a risky venture. But if it is based on the Lord’s word “Come!”, it is also a certain venture. Its foundation lies in the words “Lord, if it is you”, that is to say the Lord Jesus Himself.

As long as Peter sees the Lord, things go well. Then comes the moment when his eyes wander away from him and he sees the strong wind. At that moment fear strikes. It does not say that he sees the water he is walking on, but the strong wind that whips up the water. It doesn’t matter much either, because it’s just as impossible to walk on calm water as it is on rough waves. Faith is only strong when it sees only the Lord Jesus. When we look at the circumstances, faith becomes weak.

There is no support, no opportunity to walk if we lose sight of Christ. Everything depends on Him. The ship is a tried and tested aid to go over the sea, but only the faith that looks to the Lord Jesus can walk on water. Whoever walks on water once, as Peter does together with the Lord, is much better off than those who sit in a shaky boat that is about to collapse. For those who walk with the Lord on the water, it does not matter whether it is stormy or still.

When Peter begins to sink, he calls upon the Lord for help. The Lord responds directly to his cry of distress and saves him. Praise God! He who walks on water by his own power is there to support the faith and the wavering footsteps of the poor disciple. Faith has brought Peter so close to the Lord that His outstretched hand can lift him up. His cry for help sets the hand of the Lord in motion for his salvation, while his faith has previously set the hand of the Lord in motion for his support. Peter may have started to sink, but he has gained an experience that none of the others know.

The Lord’s question regarding Peter’s doubt is justified, for Peter’s sense of purpose began when he no longer looked upon Him. Peter did not reach the ship in the same power of faith that led him to leave the ship. He climbs aboard the ship together with the Lord. His falling short makes it clear that he reaches the goal only through the power of the Lord.

The outworking is, what it must always be, that the disciples honor the Lord. He is honored for His work of power over the elements and for His work of grace toward His beloved disciples.


Healings in Gennesaret

34When they had crossed over, they came to land at Gennesaret. 35And when the men of that place recognized Him, they sent [word] into all that surrounding district and brought to Him all who were sick; 36and they implored Him that they might just touch the fringe of His cloak; and as many as touched [it] were cured.

The Lord has told His disciples in verse 2222Immediately He made the disciples get into the boat and go ahead of Him to the other side, while He sent the crowds away. to go ahead of Him to the other side. If He says this, then they will reach the other side. That happens here. When they arrive in Gennesaret, He exercises again the power that in the future will drive out all the evil from the earth that Satan has brought in. When He returns, the world will acknowledge Him.

At His arrival in Gennesaret, the Lord is recognized. The great Physician visits their area. Therefore, those who have already met Him before and seen Him at work let the whole area know that He is there. All those who are suffering are brought to Him. Everyone who touches Him, even if only the hem of His garment, is completely healed.

Touching the hem of His garment has been the means of healing for a woman with an issue of blood before (Mt 9:2020And a woman who had been suffering from a hemorrhage for twelve years, came up behind Him and touched the fringe of His cloak;). The hem of His garment is the part of His garment that is closest to the ground. It speaks of His humility. Whoever recognizes in this humble Man the goodness of God Who, in grace, receives the man who is aware of his need, finds complete salvation.


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