For the text of Matthew 14, click here.
Reading about the death of John the Baptist on my own was infuriating. I know I’ve heard the story countless times but I had no idea what was going on in the background. It’s told as a situation where a callous young girl randomly wants some guy dead or is haplessly doing what her mom wants and the mom just wants him dead for spite. Yes, spite is involved, but it’s not that simple either. This is a man who is telling her husband that he can’t be married to her. He is actively telling him to leave her. She is defending the only thing she has. They have been married long enough for her daughter to dance so beautifully that Herod wants to reward her.
Okay, I couldn’t exactly find that she was the daughter of Philip also, but the point remains. She’s fighting for her livelihood as well as that of her daughter. She’d already left one husband, supposedly for this one. True love or not, there would have been consequences for this being considered an adulterous relationship. That makes this a life and death situation for Herodias, the wife. She needs to get rid of this man who is trying to get her new husband to abandon her or accuse of her creating a situation where their union was actually adultery. She sees an opportunity and takes it.
I don’t condone her actions but it isn’t as simple as it’s told. She’s absolutely in the wrong, but she’s fighting for her life at this point. She orchestrates a situation who Herod promises her daughter anything she wants and influences the girl to ask for John the Baptist’s head. I suppose it’s anyone guess as to whether the girl understood the full ramifications of what she was asking for. Either way, most kids would side with mom on this one, I think. Life or death for me and mom? It’s not a stretch to choose life, especially when it’s not clear to the public that this is a matter or eternal life and death. Did she understand who she was killing? Would it have matter if the other choice is to condemn your mother?
From there, the story moves to Jesus finding out about the death of His cousin. He goes to be alone to mourn but a crowd comes out just off from where He was mourning. Jesus is given space and then community to come back to. It sounds to me like they heard He had suffered a great loss and that they knew the loss of John the Baptist was a great loss for all of them and wanted to mourn together and support Jesus. It’s not explicitly written this way, but that’s what I get from that part of the story. They went to the middle of nowhere, where there was no food in order to be near Him at that time.
The disciples wanted to send them away for food, but here is that miracle of endless food. They start off with five loaves of bread and two fish and after feeding 5,000 men and their families, there are 12 baskets of leftovers. It’s quite the memorial feast.
When they left, He went back out to pray and possibly mourn some more when the boat gets caught in the drift and is far from shore on His return. Jesus walks across to it and they all freak out when they see Him. I love the way this story pans out. First they see Jesus and when they see everything is alright, Peter immediately wants to join Him. I wonder if he’s the adventurer of the group. He goes out to see Jesus on the water and gets freaked out half-way and starts to sink. Jesus teases him in a way that I imagine to be playful and loving more than a rebuke. It felt to me, as I read it, the way I tease my son when he doesn’t believe something is going to happen the way I tell him because he doesn’t understand the science or meaning behind it.
The chapter ends with Jesus healing people in another town, as if to say that He was back at work.