February 7, 2015: Daily Bible Reading with Commentary for Matthew 14-16
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Context: Matthew 14 and 15 offer some parallel stories between Jews (14) and Gentiles (15), demonstrating that Jesus ministers to both and is willing to assist both. There is the feeding of the 5,000 (Jews) and 4,000 (Gentiles) and the Jews and Gentiles seeking Jesus' healing. All of these interactions serve as training for the disciples to help them develop faith. When the disciples began their ministry with Jesus, they had to learn to develop their faith, just as new Christians must learn to develop their faith.
Today's reading begins with the death of the last Old Testament prophet, John the Baptist. John had been arrested by Herod the tetrarch for speaking out against Herod's adulterous relationship. Herod only executed John after being tricked by his new wife. We are told that Jesus was informed of John's death. Was He trying to mourn with friends when the crowd came to Him? If He was, Jesus set it aside to teach the crowd; sometimes our own feelings must be set aside for the sake of others. It is in these chapters that Peter emerges as the speaker of the disciples. He is the first to demonstrate complete faith in the Lord by walking on water, only to become overwhelmed by the situation. Peter does what we all should do in times of trouble; call upon Jesus for help. Peter is also the first to acknowledge Jesus as the Messiah and the Son of God. Following that revelation, Peter is also quick to fall again. We see that the disciples had to learn their faith, just as we must. We also see that the religious leaders of the day failed to see the evidence proving Jesus as the Messiah, instead demanding that there be a sign in the sky. How often do we miss signs showing the power of the Lord?
World History: Herod the tetrarch, a/k/a Antipas, is one of three sons of Herod the Great, who killed all the children under the age of two in Bethlehem in an attempt to kill Jesus. Antipas was married to the daughter of King Aretas IV for over 15 years before meeting and falling in love with Herodias, his sister-in-law who was married to his younger brother. Herodias demanded that Antipas divorce his wife and marry her. It was for this relationship that John condemned him, as it was consider adulterous and incest. Roman-Jewish historian Josephus also recorded this event, which occurred during his time. Josephus acknowledges that John had committed no crime except the ability to stir the people, which Antipas feared. Therefore Antipas arrested John but held him out of fear of the people's reactions should he be killed.