Reading for Thursday, June 28: Matthew 14
In Matthew 14, we learn of the fate of John the Baptist. This bold prophet is struck down because of his condemnation of a member of Herod’s family. Philip, Herod’s brother, is involved in some sort of illicit relationship with Herodias. Spurned by John’s denouncement of their union, Herodias and her daughter eventually force Herod’s hand. The prophet is beheaded, his disciples bury his body and bring word to Jesus.
With John’s fate foreshadowing what is to come for Jesus, the Nazarene’s ministry continues. The remainder of the chapter provides two well-worn paths in our remembrance of Jesus: the feeding of the 5,000 and the walking on water episodes. Matthew tells us that Jesus had compassion on the people (v14), healing their sick and meeting their needs. “They all ate and were satisfied, and the disciples picked up twelve basketfuls of broken pieces that were left over,” (v20). On the heels of this miracle, Jesus amazes his disciples by walking on water. Note what happens afterward: “And when they climbed into the boat, the wind died down. Then those who were in the boat worshiped him, saying, ‘Truly you are the Son of God.’ (v32-33)” Doubt – palpable as Peter sank into the water just moments earlier – is now replaced by faith and heartfelt devotion. This is the greatest miracle of all. This is what happens when our hearts find true satisfaction, when we find that which we have instinctively been looking for all along. Nothing else will suffice. Our hearts were made for worship.
It’s also interesting to note that Jesus withdraws from the crowds here at the height of his ministry. We looked at this in our study of Luke, too, but note the way Matthew records this:
- When Jesus heard what had happened, he withdrew by boat privately to a solitary place. (v13)
- After he had dismissed them, he went up on a mountainside by himself to pray. (v23).
We cannot ignore the importance of solitary prayer in the life of Jesus. As much as He cares for the crowds, He also strikes a balance, quietly communing with God on a regular basis. In our noise-saturated culture, we would do well to follow this same practice.