Saint Matthew – Chapter 14

The Bible – New Testament

Saint Matthew

Chapter 14


1 2 At that time Herod the tetrarch heard of the reputation of Jesus


and said to his servants, «This man is John the Baptist. He has been raised from the dead; that is why mighty powers are at work in him.»


Now Herod had arrested John, bound (him), and put him in prison on account of Herodias, 3 the wife of his brother Philip,


for John had said to him, «It is not lawful for you to have her.»


Although he wanted to kill him, he feared the people, for they regarded him as a prophet.


But at a birthday celebration for Herod, the daughter of Herodias performed a dance before the guests and delighted Herod


so much that he swore to give her whatever she might ask for.


Prompted by her mother, she said, «Give me here on a platter the head of John the Baptist.»


The king was distressed, but because of his oaths and the guests who were present, he ordered that it be given,


and he had John beheaded in the prison.


His head was brought in on a platter and given to the girl, who took it to her mother.


His disciples came and took away the corpse and buried him; and they went and told Jesus.


4 When Jesus heard of it, he withdrew in a boat to a deserted place by himself. The crowds heard of this and followed him on foot from their towns.


When he disembarked and saw the vast crowd, his heart was moved with pity for them, and he cured their sick.


When it was evening, the disciples approached him and said, «This is a deserted place and it is already late; dismiss the crowds so that they can go to the villages and buy food for themselves.»


(Jesus) said to them, «There is no need for them to go away; give them some food yourselves.»


But they said to him, «Five loaves and two fish are all we have here.»


Then he said, «Bring them here to me,»


and he ordered the crowds to sit down on the grass. Taking 5 the five loaves and the two fish, and looking up to heaven, he said the blessing, broke the loaves, and gave them to the disciples, who in turn gave them to the crowds.


They all ate and were satisfied, and they picked up the fragments left over 6  – twelve wicker baskets full.


Those who ate were about five thousand men, not counting women and children.


7 Then he made the disciples get into the boat and precede him to the other side, while he dismissed the crowds.


After doing so, he went up on the mountain by himself to pray. When it was evening he was there alone.


Meanwhile the boat, already a few miles offshore, was being tossed about by the waves, for the wind was against it.


During the fourth watch of the night, 8 he came toward them, walking on the sea.


When the disciples saw him walking on the sea they were terrified. «It is a ghost,» they said, and they cried out in fear.


At once (Jesus) spoke to them, «Take courage, it is I; 9 do not be afraid.»


Peter said to him in reply, «Lord, if it is you, command me to come to you on the water.»


He said, «Come.» Peter got out of the boat and began to walk on the water toward Jesus.


But when he saw how (strong) the wind was he became frightened; and, beginning to sink, he cried out, «Lord, save me!»


Immediately Jesus stretched out his hand and caught him, and said to him, «O you of little faith, 10 why did you doubt?»


After they got into the boat, the wind died down.


11 Those who were in the boat did him homage, saying, «Truly, you are the Son of God.»


After making the crossing, they came to land at Gennesaret.


When the men of that place recognized him, they sent word to all the surrounding country. People brought to him all those who were sick


and begged him that they might touch only the tassel on his cloak, and as many as touched it were healed.

1 [1-12] The murder of the Baptist by Herod Antipas prefigures the death of Jesus (see ⇒ Matthew 17:12). The Marcan source (⇒ Matthew 6:14-29) is much reduced and in some points changed. In Mark Herod reveres John as a holy man and the desire to kill him is attributed to Herodias (⇒ Matthew 6:19, ⇒ 20), whereas here that desire is Herod’s from the beginning (⇒ Matthew 6:5).
2 [1] Herod the tetrarch: Herod Antipas, son of Herod the Great. When the latter died, his territory was divided among three of his surviving sons, Archelaus who received half of it (⇒ Matthew 2:23), Herod Antipas who became ruler of Galilee and Perea, and Philip who became ruler of northern Transjordan. Since he received a quarter of his father’s domain, Antipas is accurately designated tetrarch («ruler of a fourth [part]»), although in ⇒ Matthew 14:9 Matthew repeats the «king» of his Marcan source (⇒ Matthew 6:26).
3 [3] Herodias was not the wife of Herod’s half-brother Philip but of another half-brother, Herod Boethus. The union was prohibited by ⇒ Lev 18:16; ⇒ 20:21. According to Josephus (Antiquities 18, 5, 2 #116-19), Herod imprisoned and then executed John because he feared that the Baptist’s influence over the people might enable him to lead a rebellion.
4 [13-21] The feeding of the five thousand is the only miracle of Jesus that is recounted in all four gospels. The principal reason for that may be that it was seen as anticipating the Eucharist and the final banquet in the kingdom (⇒ Matthew 8:11; ⇒ 26:29), but it looks not only forward but backward, to the feeding of Israel with manna in the desert at the time of the Exodus (Exodus 16), a miracle that in some contemporary Jewish expectation would be repeated in the messianic age (2 Baruch 29:8). It may also be meant to recall Elisha’s feeding a hundred men with small provisions (⇒ 2 Kings 4:42-44).
5 [19] The taking, saying the blessing, breaking, and giving to the disciples correspond to the actions of Jesus over the bread at the Last Supper (⇒ Matthew 26:26). Since they were usual at any Jewish meal, that correspondence does not necessarily indicate a eucharistic reference here. Matthew’s silence about Jesus’ dividing the fish among the people (⇒ Mark 6:41) is perhaps more significant in that regard.
6 [20] The fragments left over: as in Elisha’s miracle, food was left over after all had been fed. The word fragments (Greek klasmata) is used, in the singular, of the broken bread of the Eucharist in Didache 9:3-4.
7 [22-33] The disciples, laboring against the turbulent sea, are saved by Jesus. For his power over the waters, see the note on ⇒ Matthew 8:26. Here that power is expressed also by his walking on the sea (⇒ Matthew 14:25; cf ⇒ Psalm 77:20; ⇒ Job 9:8). Matthew has inserted into the Marcan story (⇒ Mark 6:45-52) material that belongs to his special traditions on Peter (⇒ Matthew 14:28-31).
8 [25] The fourth watch of the night: between 3 a.m. and 6 a.m. The Romans divided the twelve hours between 6 p.m. and 6 a.m. into four equal parts called «watches.»
9 [27] It is I: see the note on ⇒ Mark 6:50.
10 [31] You of little faith: see the note on ⇒ Matthew 6:30. Why did you doubt?: the verb is peculiar to Matthew and occurs elsewhere only in ⇒ Matthew 28:17.
11 [33] This confession is in striking contrast to the Marcan parallel (Matthew 6:51) where the disciples are «completely astounded.»