Matthew 14

This devotional is written by Jenny Slater.

Matthew 14

John the Baptist beheaded
At that time Herod the tetrarch heard the reports about Jesus, 2 and he said to his attendants, ‘This is John the Baptist; he has risen from the dead! That is why miraculous powers are at work in him.’

3 Now Herod had arrested John and bound him and put him in prison because of Herodias, his brother Philip’s wife, 4 for John had been saying to him: ‘It is not lawful for you to have her.’ 5 Herod wanted to kill John, but he was afraid of the people, because they considered John a prophet.

6 On Herod’s birthday the daughter of Herodias danced for the guests and pleased Herod so much 7 that he promised with an oath to give her whatever she asked. 8 Prompted by her mother, she said, ‘Give me here on a dish the head of John the Baptist.’ 9 The king was distressed, but because of his oaths and his dinner guests, he ordered that her request be granted 10 and had John beheaded in the prison. 11 His head was brought in on a dish and given to the girl, who carried it to her mother. 12 John’s disciples came and took his body and buried it. Then they went and told Jesus.

Jesus feeds the five thousand
13 When Jesus heard what had happened, he withdrew by boat privately to a solitary place. Hearing of this, the crowds followed him on foot from the towns. 14 When Jesus landed and saw a large crowd, he had compassion on them and healed those who were ill.

15 As evening approached, the disciples came to him and said, ‘This is a remote place, and it’s already getting late. Send the crowds away, so that they can go to the villages and buy themselves some food.’

16 Jesus replied, ‘They do not need to go away. You give them something to eat.’

17 ‘We have here only five loaves of bread and two fish,’ they answered.

18 ‘Bring them here to me,’ he said. 19 And he told the people to sit down on the grass. Taking the five loaves and the two fish and looking up to heaven, he gave thanks and broke the loaves. Then he gave them to the disciples, and the disciples gave them to the people. 20 They all ate and were satisfied, and the disciples picked up twelve basketfuls of broken pieces that were left over. 21 The number of those who ate was about five thousand men, besides women and children.

Jesus walks on the water
22 Immediately Jesus made the disciples get into the boat and go on ahead of him to the other side, while he dismissed the crowd. 23 After he had dismissed them, he went up on a mountainside by himself to pray. Later that night, he was there alone, 24 and the boat was already a considerable distance from land, buffeted by the waves because the wind was against it.

25 Shortly before dawn Jesus went out to them, walking on the lake. 26 When the disciples saw him walking on the lake, they were terrified. ‘It’s a ghost,’ they said, and cried out in fear.

27 But Jesus immediately said to them: ‘Take courage! It is I. Don’t be afraid.’

28 ‘Lord, if it’s you,’ Peter replied, ‘tell me to come to you on the water.’

29 ‘Come,’ he said.

Then Peter got down out of the boat, walked on the water and came towards Jesus. 30 But when he saw the wind, he was afraid and, beginning to sink, cried out, ‘Lord, save me!’

31 Immediately Jesus reached out his hand and caught him. ‘You of little faith,’ he said, ‘why did you doubt?’

32 And when they climbed into the boat, the wind died down. 33 Then those who were in the boat worshipped him, saying, ‘Truly you are the Son of God.’

34 When they had crossed over, they landed at Gennesaret. 35 And when the men of that place recognised Jesus, they sent word to all the surrounding country. People brought all who were ill to him 36 and begged him to let those who were ill just touch the edge of his cloak, and all who touched it were healed.


John the Baptist, the forerunner to Jesus, the paver of the way; beheaded and killed at a party for one of the dancers so that Herod could save face in front of his guests. This passage in Matthew comes up quickly, and is also over pretty quickly for such an important character. John had been speaking out against Herod marrying Herodias, his brother's wife, as this was unlawful - she was technically part of the family as his brother's wife so this would have been seen as immoral to the people then. Herod was understandably mad with this as he's the ruler and the one who everyone is supposed to listen to and so he puts John in prison. He doesn't want to kill John as he fears the political repercussions of this i.e. a potential revolt from the people over killing a man who they saw as a prophet. However, when tricked into it, something he knows is wrong and isn't going to do him any favours, he feels obliged to give Herodias's daughter what she asked for: John's head on a platter. Even as a powerful tetrarch he was pressured into doing something he didn't want to, that was wrong, all because he didn't want to go back on his word in front of his party guests.

How often do we do the wrong thing to save face? To take the easier path? I know I have, and I pray that I, and you, will continue to strive to be more like John, bold in Jesus's truth, and much less like Herod, pressured by those around us into taking the easy road (and obviously, 100% less murderous!).

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