When reports of Jesus’ activities reached Herod’s palace, Herod was unnerved. Rumors were flying that John the Baptist, whom he had just had beheaded, was resurrected and had supernatural powers. Herod looked for an excuse to meet Jesus for himself.
Herod, you may recall, had imprisoned John for meddling after John publicly rebuked him for living with his sister-in-law Herodias. She was furious with John and insisted that he be taken out, which Herod would have done in a heartbeat except that the populace revered him as a prophet of God. She got her way, however, during Herod’s next birthday celebration. Herodias’ daughter entertained the guests with a provocative dance, which led Herod to offer her “up to half the kingdom.” She deferred to her mother who told her to ask for John’s head on a silver platter at once.
Herod was suddenly sobered and regretted his impulsive offer. Nevertheless, to avoid embarrassment before his guests, he complied and had the executioner carry out the act. The head was delivered to Herodias; the party was over. John’s disciples were notified, and they came to get his remains so they could give him a proper burial. Messengers were sent to tell Jesus what had happened.
When Jesus heard what Herod had done to John, He took a boat and went off to a deserted place by Himself.
Shortly after that, the disciples returned from their mission trip with many stories to tell. They had been kept so busy that they were exhausted and hungry, so Jesus had them get in a boat with Him to get away for a time of rest. They escaped the crowds and found a quiet place near Bethsaida.
The crowds took note of where they headed and proceeded to run that direction on foot. The boat had barely reached their destination when they saw the multitude approaching.
Jesus said to Philip, “What are we going to do? These people will need to eat. Is there somewhere close by where we could get some bread?” It was a trick question because Jesus knew what He had in mind.
Philip had no idea and retorted, “It would take nearly a year’s wages to buy enough just to give that crowd a snack!”
Jesus, touched by the hurts and hopelessness of the people, like sheep having no shepherd, spent the rest of the day explaining the Kingdom Message and healing their sicknesses. By late afternoon some of the disciples urged Jesus to send the crowd away so they could find food and lodging. Jesus, testing them because He knew what He was going to do, said, “No need for them to go away, you feed them.”
They repeated Philip’s line that between all of them they didn’t have nearly enough money to afford that. Jesus asked them to find out what food might be available among the people. Andrew found a boy who had a couple of small fish and a handful of rolls. Jesus asked if He could have them. He then told His disciples to organize the thousands of people into groups of fifty and to prepare for a picnic supper.
Jesus held out the boy’s lunch, looked up to heaven, and gave thanks for the abundance. Then He began to hand the food to the disciples who, in turn, passed it out to the people. The people ate their fill and the food kept coming. By the time everyone was finished, there were twelve baskets full of leftovers. They had just served a meal for five thousand men plus women and children.
Needless to say, the people were thrilled and wanted to make Jesus king right then and there. They said, “Undoubtedly, this is the promised Prophet who will set things straight!”
Jesus could see what they intended to do, so He quickly had the disciples get in the boat and head across the lake. Meanwhile, He sent the crowd on its way and once again went up a nearby mountain to pray by Himself. He prayed late into the night.
As the boat was making its way toward Capernaum, another storm whipped up the sea, making it hard for the disciples to make headway. They had traveled quite a few miles from shore, and Jesus, seeing their dilemma, walked on the water to where they were. When the disciples saw Him, they thought they were seeing a ghost. He looked like He was going to walk on by; but when He got close enough where they could hear, He said, “It’s just Me, nothing to be afraid of.”
Peter replied, “Lord, if it’s really You, let me walk over to You.”
Jesus said, “Come.”
Peter climbed over the side of the boat and began walking on the water toward Jesus — that is, until he looked around at the waves and became afraid. The moment that happened, he began to sink. So he cried out, “Lord, save me!”
Jesus took his hand and pulled him up, saying, “Why did you start to doubt?”
They walked back to the boat and as soon as they had gotten in, the wind stopped. The disciples were speechless. When they finally spoke up, they said to Jesus, “You really are the Son of God, aren’t You?” The next thing they knew, they were at the shore.