The Word Made Fresh
1It was around that time that Herod the tetrarch received reports about Jesus. 2He told his servants, “This is John the Baptizer raised from the dead. That’s how these powers are working in him.” 3Herod had arrested John and had bound him and thrown him into prison. This was at the urging of his brother’s wife, Herodias. 4John had been telling Herod that it was unlawful for him to have her. 5Herod wanted to execute him, but the crowd believed John was a prophet, and Herod was afraid of them. 6But on his birthday, Herodias’ daughter danced for them, and Herod was so pleased by her 7that he promised publicly to give her anything she wished. 8Her mother told her to ask for John the Baptizer’s head on a platter, and she did. 9Herod was taken aback, but since he had sworn, and since his guests were with him, he ordered it as she wished. 10He had John beheaded in prison, 11and his head was brought in on a platter and given to the girl, who then gave it to her mother. 12John’s followers came and claimed the body and buried it. Then they went and told Jesus.
13When Jesus learned what had happened he got into a boat and went alone to a deserted place. But when the people heard about it, they followed him on foot from the nearby towns, 14so that when he came ashore there was a huge crowd waiting for him. He felt sorry for them, and healed all their sick ones. 15That evening his disciples came to him and said, “This is a remote area, and it’s getting late. Send the crowd home so they can go to the villages and buy food for themselves.”
16Jesus told them, “They don’t need to do that. You give them something to eat.”
17They said, “But we don’t have enough here – just five loaves of bread and two fish.”
18Jesus responded, “Bring them to me.”
19Then he told the people to sit down on the grass. He took the bread and the fish and looked up to heaven and blessed the bread and broke it and gave it to his disciples, and they gave it to the crowd. 20All of them ate until they were full. Then the leftovers were gathered, and filled twelve baskets full! 21About five thousand men had been fed, plus the women and children who were with them.
22Immediately Jesus told the disciples to take the boat over to the other side of the lake while he stayed behind to dismiss the crowd. 23Then he went alone up the mountain as evening fell. 24By this time, though, the boat was being battered far out on the lake by the waves, and the wind was against them. 25Then, early in the morning, Jesus came walking to them on the surface of the water! 26When the disciples saw him they were terrified. They cried, “It’s a ghost!” and huddled in fear.
27But Jesus said to them, “Take heart! It’s me! Don’t be afraid!”
28Peter said, “Lord, if it really is you, order me to come to you on the water.”
29Jesus said, “Come!”
So, Peter got out of the boat and started walking on the water toward Jesus. 30But when he felt the strong wind he was afraid and began to sink. He cried out, “Lord, save me!”
31Jesus reached out his hand and grabbed him, and said, “You have such little faith! Why should you doubt?”
32Then they got into the boat, and the wind calmed down. 33The men in the boat knelt and worshiped him, and said, “Surely you are the Son of God.”
34They crossed over the lake and landed at Gennesaret. 35When the people who were there recognized who he was, the word got out and spread through the whole area, and people brought all their sick ones to him. 36They begged him to let them touch him, even just the hem of his robe, and everyone who did so was healed.
1-12: Matthew tells the story of the execution of John the Baptizer, which lends some insight into the decadent lifestyle of the rich ruling class. But Herod is riddled with guilt and a bit paranoid as well, and when he hears stories about the miracles Jesus is performing he thinks John has come back from the dead. I hope he lost a lot of sleep over it. John’s disciples bring the news to Jesus.
13-21: Jesus responds by withdrawing alone, realizing that John’s death makes his own situation more precarious. The crowds follow him around the lake, though. Either the disciples came with him in the boat or arrived with the crowds, for they advise him to send the people away to find a meal somewhere. They had brought enough bread and fish for themselves, but probably were reluctant to eat in the midst of thousands of hungry people. Jesus tells them to do exactly what they were likely trying to avoid doing — share what they had with everybody else. When they did, it turned out that everyone had enough to eat, and what was left over was more than what they started with. Many theories have been put forward to explain the miracle, but it seems to me that the main points of the story have to do with Jesus’ obvious care for people and the disciples’ need to learn the same level of compassion.
22-27: In verse 13 Jesus was said to have gotten into a boat; here he sends the disciples away in the boat, so it is likely that they had come together in the same boat which the disciples now take, leaving Jesus alone on land. They are in the boat all night, struggling in the face of a storm. In the morning they see Jesus walking toward them, and they are naturally scared half to death.
28-33: Peter asks for permission to go to Jesus, jumps out of the boat and immediately begins to sink, but Jesus rescues him, they climb into the boat, and the winds die down. The disciples begin to vocalize a conviction that Jesus is not just one of the guys. In the similar storm-on-the-lake story in chapter 8 (8:23-27), they once again begin to ask, “What sort of man is this?” Now they’re ready to say he is the Son of God.
34-36: Gennesaret was located along the northern shore of the Sea of Galilee, a few miles from Capernaum.
For this miracle various commentaries offer numerous explanations, but I think one main point of the story is simply that as long as Peter focused on Jesus he was fine but when he focused on his situation he began to sink. Ponder that.