For an introduction to this series, click here.
Dec. 21, 2006
This chapter starts with the death of John the Baptist. John apparently was in prison for some time, because he sent messengers to Jesus several chapters ago. I know there is no real timeline to the Gospels, but it was certainly more than a few days. Anyway, it was Herod's birthday, and at the party his wife's (she was actually Herod's cousin, and was previously married to Herod's brother- talk about a twisted family) daughter danced (we assume seductively) for Herod, and he promised her whatever she wanted. She asked for John's head on a platter.
The wickedness of the Herodian family is well-documented. Of course Herod the Great, this Herod's father, tried to murder Jesus when He was born and succeeded in killing a multitude of young boys in Bethlehem. Herod the Great basically bought the loyalty of the Jews by building a huge Temple, much larger but not as ornate as Solomon's. It is part of Herod's Temple that is the Wailing Wall in Jerusalem today. Why God allows wicked people to rule people is beyond me. He has a plan for everything, but I wonder sometimes why God allowed people like Herod and all the evil rulers throughout history to kill and oppress innocent people.
Next is the story of the feeding of the 5,000. This must have been a favorite of those who saw it, because it is the only miracle recorded in all four Gospels. The message of this miracle is that God uses what we have. He doesn't need our help, but in His mercy He allows us to take part in His plan.
Next we have the story of Jesus (and Peter) walking on the water. Peter must have been a lot of fun to be around. He was always impulsive, saying or doing things no one else would dare to. I'm sure his wife got exasperated at his antics many times. He was the undisputed leader of the 12, probably because he was older than the others. He is an interesting study in contrasts. At times he was boldly assertive, such as this situation and early in the book of Acts when he boldly pronounced to the Sanhedrin, "We must obey God rather than men." (Acts 5:29, ESV) But then at other times he was very eager to please others at his own expense. This tendency caused him to deny Christ while He was being sentenced to death and later led to Peter's compromise with the Judaizers described in Galatians 2. We'll get into more detail on that incident when we get there.