v1-12 - This opening passage is a flashback to events that happened months before, narrating the details of John the Baptist's death.
Herod's paranoid nature is evident in v1 when he concludes that somehow Jesus is a reincarnated version of John.
Although as 'tetrarch' (a Roman proxy ruler in charge of a quarter of Israel) Herod had quite a bit of power, it didn't really matter because he was "afraid of the people (v5)."
v13-23a - The humanity of Jesus comes out in v13. Yes, He's certainly God incarnate, but He's also fully man, and the emotions that result from hearing about His cousin John's death settle in.
In this difficult moment, Jesus relies on one of His favorite Spiritual Disciplines: He tries to get away for some silence and solitude to pray.
But the crowd follows Him.
Put yourself in Jesus' position here. You're overcome by grief, exhausted and you just want to be left alone. Nobody would blame Jesus if He lashed out at everyone and told them to get lost.
But Jesus doesn't do that. Instead, Matthew writes that Jesus "had compassion on them and healed their sick (v14)."
Time quickly slips away, and soon it's late, people are hungry and there's no McDonald's near by.
Jesus directs the disciples to distribute the few meager rations that they could find and miraculously feeds the crowd of "about 5,000 men (v21)."
As amazing as the miracle of the mass feeding is, I think the most important line in this passage comes at the end in v23, where after the crowd and disciples are finally gone, Jesus goes right back to what He had set out to do in the first place: "he went up on a mountainside by himself to pray."
v23b-33 - Having been left alone by everyone, including the disciples (which was Jesus' desire so that He could pray without distraction), Jesus walked out over a stormy lake to catch up with the boat full of disciples.
Notice how Matthew uses the word 'immediately' twice in this passage:
Jesus immediately told the terrified disciples to not be afraid (v27);
When Peter's faith faltered, Jesus immediately "reached out His hand and caught him (v31)."
For the second time now, the wind and waves obey Jesus, only this time He didn't need to say a word, rather He just climbed into the boat and things became still.
The common application of this episode is to conclude that if Jesus can calm the storm on the sea, He can calm whatever storms are going on in my life.
While that's certainly true, don't miss the bigger, much more important conclusions the disciples immediately come to in v33:
Then those who were in the boat
saying, “Truly you are the Son of God.”
Jesus may not miraculously make your storms disappear, but being reminded that you are loved and known by the very Son of God will bring peace no matter what you're facing.
Just like it did for Peter.
Until, that is, Peter forgot who Jesus was.
v34-35 - As soon as the boat landed, the crowd once again assembled, and Jesus once again takes compassion on them.
OLD TESTAMENT REFERENCE:
Deuteronomy 31:6 (NIV)
Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or terrified because of them, for the Lord your God goes with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you.
Use the comment box below to discuss one or more of these questions:
EYE FOR DETAIL—When Jesus fed the five thousand, how many bread loaves and how many fish did He begin with, and how many basketfuls of leftovers were there? (See verses 19–20.)
From what you’ve seen so far in Matthew, how much of His schedule was Jesus able to spend alone? Why did He make time for this?
Questions taken from The Complete Bible Discussion Guide: New Testament
Follow the AAA Prayer Pattern:
ACKNOWLEDGE WHO GOD IS: Along with the disciples in the boat, worship Jesus for who He is: "Truly you are the Son of God!" (v33).
ALIGN YOUR LIFE WITH GOD'S WILL: Realize it is Jesus calling you to follow and serve Him for the long haul, but also realize the peace He offers: "Take courage, it is I. Don't be afraid." (v27)
ASK GOD FOR WHAT YOU NEED: