At this time in Jesus’ ministry, people were trying to determine who He was and because of the miracles, they knew that He was more than a good teacher of Israel, John 3:2. Perhaps because of the additional groups of preachers being sent out, Herod, the governor, heard about Jesus.
They had at this time speculated that He might be the resurrected Elijah, Luke 9:7, or the Prophet who was to come in Israel as the Deliverer. They possibly believed that He would be like one of the other Old Testament prophets, Mark 6:16 / Matthew 16:13-14.
Herod’s conscience may have been bothering him because he had killed John. He thought Jesus might be John the Baptist raised from the dead, Luke 3:19.
This was Herod Antipas, the son of Herod the Great, Mark 8:15 / Luke 3:1 / Luke 3:19 / Luke 8:3 / Luke 13:31 / Acts 4:27 / Acts 12:1. Herod at least concluded one right thing. If John had been raised from the dead, then the power of the supernatural was at work in the resurrected John.
The supernatural was at work, but it wasn’t at work through a resurrected John. It was at work through the One about whom John prophesied and the One in whom all the world must believe. Herod feared that if he acted against John, then something dreadful would happen to him.
To some extent, therefore, Herod accepted John as a just and holy man of God. It seems that his acceptance of John was greater than the self-righteous religious leaders of Jerusalem.
Nevertheless, Herod’s pride to maintain face among his peers moved him to overcome his fear and carry out a rash promise he had made in response to the lustful dance of Herodias’ daughter.
John’s physical death thus manifested Herod’s spiritual death because he loved his position in this world more than the power of God.
Herod had killed John because John had been preaching against his marriage telling him that it wasn’t right for him to have Herodias, who had been his brother’s wife. According to Old Testament law, it was unlawful for Herod to be married to Herodias, Leviticus 18:14-16 / Leviticus 20:21 / Deuteronomy 25:5-10.
As a result, he imprisoned John but didn’t wish to kill him, Herodias did, Mark 6:17-22 / Luke 3:19. Herodias was the granddaughter of Herod the Great. She divorced Philip in order to marry Herod Antipas.
One day, he had a party with many important guests and his stepdaughter provided ‘live entertainment.’ Because Herod’s stepdaughter, Salome danced provocatively, Herod rashly vowed to give her anything she asked, up to half of his kingdom.
Upon receiving instructions from her mother, the girl requested that John’s head be served to her on a platter, Mark 6:14. Herod hated to do it, Mark 6:22, but he didn’t want to lose face in front of his dinner guests, so he obliged the girl’s request and John was murdered, Mark 6:14-29.
John was a righteous preacher who was murdered because of several sins.
1. An unlawful marriage.
2. Resentment and bitterness on the part of Herodias.
3. A lustful dance.
4. A rash promise.
5. Herod’s lack of courage in not breaking the sinful vow.
John’s disciples came and took his body and buried it and went on to tell Jesus about what had happened.
It seems the disciples came to tell Jesus all that had happened to John. Notice Jesus went to a place of rest.
This is a good example for any evangelist who has given himself to periods of intensive evangelistic efforts. Because these worthy evangelists worked hard, they needed the rest.
They needed time to talk among themselves and with God about the great things God had done through them. This was a retreat for prayer, thanksgiving and discussion.
Everyone needs some time out from our busy life schedule and Jesus knew that the disciples needed some time out, for many of them had first believed because of John’s preaching. They withdrew across the sea of Galilee to a quiet place for meditation and prayer, Mark 6:30-31 / John 6:1-2.
Here we see Jesus’ love and understanding of people, He wasn’t only a leader but a leader with compassion for the multitudes. On this occasion, His healing of the sick was motivated by His compassion. Matthew 15:32 / Matthew 20:34 / Mark 6:34.
This event is also recorded in Mark 6:32-44 / Luke 9:10-17 / John 6:1-15. There are only two miracles of Jesus recorded in all four Gospels, the feeding of the 5000 and His resurrection.
The disciples want to send the people away, but Jesus had other plans. The other Gospels tell us that Jesus asked Philip where they were going to get food in order to feed so many people, but the question was really a test of Philip’s faith, John 6:5-6.
Jesus tests Philip, this again is particularly relevant if the apostles have been outperforming miracles, healing, preaching etc.
He already knew what was to happen, but it was appropriate for His plans to test, ‘peirazo’, Philip at this time, to see if he understands that his Lord can supply every need and handle every situation.
Philip fails the test miserably as he looks only to himself and the common purse for a solution. He ignores the role Jesus could play by employing His power and fails to understand. John 14:8.
Here we see Andrew attempting to get something organised and he finds a ‘paidarion,’ a little boy with some food and presents this to Jesus, John 6:8-9.
He passes the test where Philip failed, and he gives Jesus the chance to perform a miracle, he uses a little initiative and gets the job done. Jesus asked the question in order to stimulate a faith response from Philip and the others.
Notice how Jesus allowed them time to search for food to feed the people. Among the disciples or the multitude, they came up with only five loaves of bread and two fish. The disciples suggested that someone go into the city and buy food, Luke 9:13-14.
The loaves would have been small, almost like rolls, ‘artos’, round flat cakes made with wheat flour, or black barley bread, it was the common daily bread of the people. The fish were probably dried or pickled as was the norm at the time.
The multitude of about five thousand men, plus women and children, were asked to sit down in groups of fifty for an orderly distribution, Luke 9:14-17.
Other accounts tell us that Jesus split the people into groups of fifty, and all are fed until satisfied and then that which was left over was collected into baskets normally used for sowing seed. They weren’t big, but by this stage size was insignificant. The bread was regarded by the Jews as a gift from God, and so no food was wasted.
Mark reports that the people sat down on the green grass, and the number given is 5000 men, Mark 6:40. This could have been the total number present, or another 5000 women and children could have been there.
Matthew 14:21 says ‘5000 plus women and children’. The total present was insignificant because if Jesus could feed 5000, He could just as easily feed 10,000.
Notice that Jesus always gave thanks before eating, as did Paul at a later stage, some Bibles say, ‘blessing’ but this wasn’t blessing the crowd, but thanks for the bread.
In other words, Jesus thanked the Father for the food. This is what He did for the bread and the wine when He instituted the Lord’s Supper, He didn’t bless the bread and the wine, He thanked God for providing it. Matthew 26:26-27 / Mark 14:22-23 / Luke 22:19-20.
Jesus left a good example for the disciples in the years to come to do likewise concerning the blessing of food, John 6:11 / 1 Timothy 4:4-5.
Imagine you’re sitting around the dinner table preparing to enjoy a sumptuous meal and someone is asked to ‘bless the food’ before you eat. The person praying says something like this, ‘Heavenly Father, ‘bless this food’ to the nourishment of our bodies, may it strengthen us to do your work, in Jesus’ Name, Amen.’
I’m sure we’ve all heard this prayer at some point in our lives, maybe you’ve even prayed something similar before you ate your food. I was speaking with a brother just recently and asked him why he blessed ‘the food’ before eating? Jokingly he said, the food might be poisoned, and we need God to make it safe to eat!
Now he may have been joking but there’s some truth in what he said. Some Christians sadly believe, although they won’t openly say it, that they can’t or won’t eat any food unless God has somehow miraculously made it safe to eat first.
It’s as though there’s something wrong with the food in the first place and so by blessing the food before eating, it somehow becomes ‘kosher’ enough to eat.
I can understand this kind of thinking, especially when you’re about to eat some food from certain fast food outlets, ‘Dear God, this food doesn’t look or smell great, so please bless it and make it edible for me to eat!’
When we ask the question, where does our food come from? you may be forgiven for saying the local supermarket or the local farmers.
As Christians we know this isn’t true, they are simply the suppliers of the food but it’s God Himself who is the real provider of food, Genesis 1:29-30 / Genesis 9:3 / Psalm 104:14.
Since it’s God who is the ultimate provider, He’s the one who provides the sun and the rain for our food to grow, it’s Him we should be thanking for our food.
James tells us that ‘every good and perfect gift is from above’, James 1:17, this would include our food. And when we pray, ‘Give us our daily bread’, Mathew 6:11, we’re acknowledging that our food is an answer to our prayers for that food.
The problem with ‘blessing the food’ is that it doesn’t acknowledge where the real source of the food comes from. When we pray before eating, should we bless the food or give thanks to God for proving that food?
Paul taught that believers should receive their food with thanksgiving when he spoke of ‘Certain foods, which GOD CREATED to be received with THANKSGIVING by those who believe and who know the truth.’ 1 Timothy 4:3
Before miraculously multiplying the loaves and fishes and providing a meal for the 5000, Jesus asked the Father’s blessing upon the food. Notice He didn’t bless the food, but blessed God or thanked God for providing it, Mathew 14:19 / Mark 6:41 / Luke 9:16 / John 6:11.
Before miraculously multiplying the loaves and fishes and providing a meal for the 4000, Jesus asked the Father’s blessing upon the food. Notice again, He didn’t bless the food, but blessed God or thanked God for providing it, Matthew 15:36 / Mark 8:7.
Later in the Book of Acts, we read about the Apostle Paul, publicly and in the presence of many people, some of which were probably not Christians thanked God for the food before eating. Notice again Paul didn’t bless the actual food, He thanked God for it, Acts 27:35.
Let me share with you another interesting thought concerning giving thanks to God for our food. In the Old Testament, we see that God’s people not only gave thanks BEFORE they ate the food God provided for them, but they also gave thanks to God for the food AFTER they had eaten it, Deuteronomy 8:7-10.
Remember we’re to thank God or bless God for the food and that’s because we acknowledge that the food itself is already a blessing. Now notice verse 10, which tells us that God’s people were to praise or bless God AFTER they had eaten.
I think it’s right that we give thanks to God BEFORE we eat, but maybe it wouldn’t be a bad practice to give thanks to God AFTER we’ve eaten.
So here we are gathered together on the Lord’s Day as a church to remember the Lord’s death, burial and resurrection at ‘The Lord’s Supper’.
The presiding brother says a few words and shares a few thoughts to help us focus on Christ’s death, burial and resurrection and then the prayers come.
The prayer for the bread usually goes something like this, ‘Dear God, as we’re about to partake of this bread, which represents your Son’s body, please bless it to us as we partake of it.’
Then follows the prayer for the wine, which usually goes something like this, ‘Dear God, as we’re about to partake of this wine, which represents your Son’s blood, please bless it to us as we partake of it.’
If you’ve been attending worship for a few years and participating in the Lord’s Supper, the chances are you’ve probably heard these prayers or something similar many times in your Christian life. Maybe you’ve prayed something similar yourself if you were presiding over the Supper.
I’m sure you’ve noticed the link between asking God to ‘bless the food’ before eating the food and asking God to bless ‘the bread and the wine’ before partaking of it.
The Catholic church believes the Eucharist, the bread and the wine, actually becomes the body and blood of Christ, this is called ‘Transubstantiation’.
Now, I know most Christians don’t believe in that teaching, but again, we ask the question, why would anyone want God to bless the bread and the wine? Is there something wrong with the bread and the wine? Do they really believe that something miraculous is going to happen when they ask God to bless them both?
Notice what Jesus actually did when He instituted His Supper and notice especially, He never once blessed the actual bread and wine, Matthew 26:26-27 / Mark 14:22 / Luke 22:19-20 / Luke 24:30 / 1 Corinthians 11:23-25.
Like I mentioned earlier, you will notice what Jesus actually did, He ‘Gave Thanks’, for the bread and wine, He never blessed the actual bread and wine.
Who did He give thanks to? Obviously, it was the Father, for providing the bread and the wine. He gave thanks to the Father or blessed the father, the word ‘bless’ is another way of expressing thanks to God.
The Jews, even to this day still declare with the entrance of the Sabbath on Friday evenings as members sip wine from a cup, ‘Blessed are you, O Lord, Our God, King of the Universe who creates the fruit of the vine.’
Another blessing as members break bread is, ‘Blessed are you, O Lord, Our God, King of the Universe who brings forth bread from the earth.’ Notice again, that in these ‘blessings’, God the Creator is being thanked for giving food, not the bread and wine.
These would probably have been similar to the prayers that Jesus would have uttered during His ‘Last Passover Supper.’ Luke 22:17-18. What About Matthew 26:26?
When we read the King James Version, at first glance, it reads as Jesus ‘blessed it’ i.e. ‘blessed the bread’, however when you read a Greek lexicon, you’ll discover that the word ‘IT’ isn’t in the original text.
It reads as follows, ‘(as) they were eating moreover of them, having taken Jesus bread and having blessed, broke and having given to the disciples, he said eat: this is the body of me.’ Matthew 26:26
The word ‘IT’ is kind of misleading in the KJV and so we always have to remember that the Bible doesn’t contradict itself, if any text appears to say the opposite of all the other related texts, it’s usually because the translators haven’t done a good job of translating it.
When Christians pray, I believe it’s good practice to think about what we’re actually saying in our prayers, especially when it comes to giving thanks to God for our food or giving thanks to God for providing the bread and the wine at the Supper.
Our children and any visitors often learn how to pray by listening to others and all too often they will simply repeat what they have heard time and time again until they are mature enough to share their own thoughts.
Here we are, getting ready to enjoy a sumptuous meal and someone asks you to ‘bless the food’, why not simply say, ‘the food is already a blessing from God, and so, if you don’t mind, I’ll give thanks to Him for providing it.’
Here we are gathered together on the Lord’s Day to participate in the Lord’s Supper, someone asked you to bless the bread and the wine, why not simply say, ‘the bread and the wine are already a blessing from God, and so, if you don’t mind, I’ll give thanks to Him for providing them.’
There are so many ideas out there about the significance of the 12 baskets, the number 12 is such a common recurring number throughout the Scriptures.
The number 12 is mentioned 48 times and the world twelve is mentioned 133 times. Jacob had 12 sons which became the 12 tribes of Israel, Abraham’s son Ishmael had 12 sons and Jesus had 12 Apostles.
There’s always a danger of reading a text and making it mean something which it wasn’t meant to mean, I personally believe that the 12 baskets of food were left so that each one of those disciples who participated could take one.
This miracle was unique, Jesus asked them to take up the leftovers in order to impress on the minds of the disciples that this was a miracle of creation.
They knew how much bread and fish they started with and how much was leftover and the only conclusion they could come to was that bread and fish had been created by God who was in their midst.
Later in His ministry when He wanted to confirm who He was in the minds of the disciples, Jesus asked them to recall this miracle and the second feeding of four thousand in Matthew 15:32-38 where Jesus discussed the ‘bread of life,’ which discussion resulted from this miracle, Matthew 16:8-19 / John 6:27-59.
After the feeding of the five thousand, Jesus urged the disciples to leave Him so that He might go into a mountain and pray, John 6:15 / Luke 9:28. Jesus always needed some time alone to pray to the Father, John 6:16.
The sea of Galilee was infamous for its storms, as they were sudden and violent in this area, causing common disruption of the fishing. The wind is upset by the mountains of the region and funnelled through the Jordan river valley causing strong winds on the Sea of Galilee, this is common even today.
The disciples were rowing against the wind in the late evening. The disciples were now in the middle of the Sea of Galilee and about 3 miles from the shore, John 6:19. They didn’t think that their lives were in danger, they were simply struggling against the wind.
In the early morning from 3:00 am to 6:00 am, the fourth watch, Jesus, walked by them on the Sea of Galilee. The sea became so rough that some of the disciples were becoming seasick!
The disciples were so afraid they thought that their boat would sink and they would be drowned. They looked out at the sea and guess what they saw? They saw Jesus walking toward them on the water! This was a Divine display of His power over the natural laws.
Now let’s just pause and think about this for a moment. Jesus is walking on water, now I don’t know about you but this is nothing less than a miracle, isn’t it?
You might be thinking I don’t really believe that Jesus actually did walk on the water, but if you believe Genesis 1:1 where the Bible says, that ‘God created the heavens and the earth and everything in them’, then you shouldn’t have any problem believing this miracle.
If God can create the whole world and everything out of nothing, then why can’t the One who created the water in the first place be able to walk on what He created?
Why can’t the One who created the sun, stop the sun from going down as we read about in Joshua 10?
Why can’t the One who created life, bring Lazarus back to life after he had been dead for four days like we read about in John 11?
My point is Jesus walked on water so that means that Jesus is definitely afloat. Now seeing anyone walking on water would be enough to frighten me and it frightened the disciples too, Luke 24:37, because Matthew says, ‘when they saw him, they were terrified and cried out in fear, ‘It’s a ghost!’ And so knowing their fear Jesus reassures them and says, ‘Don’t be afraid, it is I.’
Jesus was passing by them, Mark 6:48, not in the sense of leaving them in their predicament, but in order to present the situation that would truly manifest His deity, but Jesus may have been exercising a sense of humour.
They were struggling against the wind and He with ease was simply walking by on the water. There would come a time, however, when they would have the faith to move mountains.
When Jesus says, ‘it is I’ this could be translated, ‘I am’, Exodus 3:14 / John 8:24 / John 8:28 / John 8:58. Their superstitious nature led them to think that they were seeing a ghost, but Jesus reassured them that it was He. Mark adds the statement here to associate these two miraculous wonders of Jesus.
And so Jesus is walking on the water and the storm is still raging and according to Matthew, when Peter saw Jesus, he asks, ‘Lord, if it is you’, which could be translated, ‘Since it is You.’
Peter became excited and he said to him, ‘Lord if that’s really you, let me walk to you on the water’. Then Jesus answered Peter and said, ‘Come’. Peter climbed over the side of the boat and started walking on the water to Jesus.
This is a big lesson we all need to learn from time to time. When was the last time we stepped out in faith as Peter did? You see it’s easy to stay in the boat where everything is nice and safe. But when was the last time we got out of the boat and started to trust God as Peter did?
This is amazing, isn’t it? Peter didn’t create the water so how did he manage to walk on the water? He had a little of what we all need as Christians, he had one of those things we can’t see, he had faith.
And his faith was great until according to Matthew, he began to look around, he felt the strong winds and saw the waves and he became afraid and started to sink.
He had great faith until he took his eyes off of Jesus, and it was then that he cried out to Jesus for help. I want to raise an important point right here, sometimes in life, we find ourselves drowning in all sorts of things. Adults drown in the waters of bereavement, sorrow and worries.
Adults drown in the waters of debt, family pressures and broken relationships. Children drown in the waters of peer-pressure, unloving parents, and having no good role models in their lives. Children drown in the waters of neglect, abuse and lack of support.
Now all these things can drown anyone and sometimes they do although Peter started off with great faith and even though his faith achieved a great thing like walking on water, he took his eye off the creator of the water and began to drown. The point is this, Jesus didn’t just leave him to drown, He reached out and saved him.
There are times when life is great and we feel like we are walking on water. But there are other times when life isn’t so great and we begin to drown in the waters of life.
But there is hope, you don’t have to drown why? Simply because Jesus has His arm outstretched and He is trying to save you. But you need to take hold of His hand.
As long as Peter kept his eyes on Jesus, he was walking on the water, but when he took his eyes off of Jesus, he began to sink. We face many storms in our daily life but if we keep our eyes on Jesus, we can weather the storm, Hebrews 12:2.
When Jesus says to Peter, ‘you of little faith’, ‘why did you doubt?’. I don’t think we’re to believe that Jesus was rebuking Peter, He probably had a smile on His face.
The point is we should do what Peter did, we need to reach out to God in times of need, Matthew 6:30 / Matthew 8:26 / Matthew 16:9. Notice also that Peter must have walked on the water a second time, to get back into the boat and it was then that the wind died down.
They worshipped Him, which tells us they recognised that Jesus was indeed God, John 1:1 / John 1:14. They proclaimed that Jesus truly is the Son of God, Matthew 16:16 / Matthew 26:63 / Mark 1:1 / Luke 4:41 / John 1:49 / John 6:69 / John 11:27 / Acts 8:37 / Romans 1:4.
The miracle of the feeding of the five thousand and the walking on the water proved that Jesus was Deity, John 1:1-3, He had the power to create, Colossians 1:16, He also had the power to control that which He had created, Hebrews 1:3.
It was at this time in the ministry of Jesus that the disciples were beginning to realise who He was. At the time of the feeding of the five thousand, they were slow to understand who He was, Mark 3:5 / Mark 16:14.
They hadn’t understood from the miracle that He was God. Therefore, the statement that their hearts were hardened must be understood in the context of what Jesus wanted them to understand concerning who He really was.
They had accepted Him as a good teacher who could work miracles as Elijah or one of the prophets, but Jesus was more than a prophet, He was the Son of God who had the power of creation, Matthew 16:18-19. Jesus wanted them to realise that He was the Son of God.
After walking on water, Jesus and His disciples now end up in a place called, Gennesaret, which was on the west side of the Sea of Galilee and south of Capernaum, Mark 6:53. At this time in Jesus’ ministry, many of the people were coming primarily for healing, Matthew 14:34-36.
Though the works of healing provided a teaching opportunity, it seems that the masses were more concerned over their physical problems than their spiritual problems.
And so, it is in a world where men have allowed the physical and temporal to distract them from the spiritual that will extend far beyond the destruction of this physical environment.
In Mark 6:56 it is stated that they first begged Jesus that He might heal them. However, it seems that the number of those who were seeking healing was so great that Jesus simply allowed them to touch Him in order to be healed. Those who touched His cloak were completely healed, Mark 5:24-34 / Luke 6:19.
It would certainly have been an amazing experience just to have been there. It would have been exciting to see the reaction of the multitudes to the presence of the Son of God among so many who sought healing.
Though the disciples had seen Jesus do many amazing things, every new incident seemed to surprise them. When they landed on the shore, many recognised Jesus and began to bring sick folks for Him to heal.
As usual, the Lord healed all that were brought to Him. On this occasion, Jesus at least manifested a small glimpse of what heaven will be.
The redeemed will be in the presence of God, and thus, there can be no sickness there. They will be in an environment of continual well-being, Revelation 21:4. The redeemed will be in an environment where the power of the supernatural will not allow sickness and pain to exist.
It’s difficult for us to understand such an environment in this world of pain and suffering. However, since God is above this physical world, we must conclude that He will provide an environment of perfect well-being above and beyond this present world.
This is the hope of the Christian. It’s in this environment we continually long to dwell.