Matthew, Chapter 14
Matt. 14:1 "At that time Herod the tetrarch heard of the fame of Jesus,
2 And said unto his servants, This is John the Baptist; he is risen from
the dead; and therefore mighty works do show forth themselves in him.
3 For Herod had laid hold on John, and bound him, and put him in prison
for Herodias' sake, his brother Philip's wife. 4 For John said unto him,
It is not lawful for thee to have her. 5 And when he would have put him
to death, he feared the multitude, because they counted him as a
prophet. 6 But when Herod's birthday was kept, the daughter of Herodias
danced before them, and pleased Herod. 7 Whereupon he promised with an
oath to give her whatsoever she would ask. 8 And she, being before
instructed of her mother, said, Give me here John Baptist's head in a
charger. 9 And the king was sorry: nevertheless for the oath's sake, and
them which sat with him at meat, he commanded it to be given her. 10 And
he sent, and beheaded John in the prison. 11 And his head was brought in
a charger, and given to the damsel: and she brought it to her mother.
12 And his disciples came, and took up the body, and buried it, and went
and told Jesus."
This Herod was the son of the Herod that had killed those who were two
years old and younger in an attempt to kill Jesus when he was a baby. He
was called the tetrarch. The tetrarch was the ruler of a fourth part of
a country. Caesar had given Herod the title of King and he was ruler
over a fourth part of that section of the Roman Empire. He derived his
authority from Caesar. Herod was not of the nation of Israel, but was an
Edomite ruling over Judah.
Herod like many others in that day had heard of the fame of Jesus. He
had heard of the many mighty works that he had done. Herod declared unto
his servants, "This is John the Baptist; he is risen from the dead; and
therefore mighty works do show forth themselves in him." He said this
not because he really believed it or because he even believed in the
resurrection of the dead. He said this to take some of the political
heat from himself because he had beheaded John the Baptist. If he could
convince people that Jesus was the resurrected John the Baptist then
people would forget about the monstrosity of his murderous deed in
killing what the people believed to be a great prophet.
"For Herod had laid hold on John, and bound him, and put him in prison
for Herodias' sake, his brother Philip's wife. 4 For John said unto him,
It is not lawful for thee to have her. And when he would have put him to
death, he feared the multitude, because they counted him as a prophet."
John had told Herod that he was committing adultery by taking his
brother Philip's wife. In the eyes of God, the prophets are greater in
importance than the earthly kings. This view is not shared by most
earthly kings, however. Herod took one who was greater and more
important than himself and had put him in prison. The multitude of
people took John as a prophet. This fact that the people held John to be
a prophet kept Herod for a while from killing John. Herod would
immediately have killed John, but he feared the multitude. Great unrest
in the country he reigned over would have hurt Herod before Caesar.
Apparently Herodias, Herod's unlawful wife did not care about the
political fall out of killing John. "But when Herod's birthday was kept,
the daughter of Herodias danced before them, and pleased Herod.
Whereupon he promised with an oath to give her whatsoever she would ask.
And she, being before instructed of her mother, said, Give me here John
Baptist's head in a charger." Herodias had planned in detail the
beheading of John Baptist. There was a feast celebrating Herod's
birthday with many invited guests. Herodias daughter had danced before
Herod and pleased him. Herodias had known what Herod would do,
"Whereupon he promised with an oath to give her whatsoever she would
ask." Herodias had instructed her daughter to ask for John Baptist's
head in a charger. She knew that Herod would not go back on his word
before his invited guests.
"And the king was sorry." The king was not sorry because he believed
that what he was doing was wrong, for he had previously desired to kill
John. He was sorry because he knew that it would damage him politically.
But the kings pride was greater than the sorrow for his political
damage. He carried out the oath by having John beheaded in the prison
and having his head brought on a charger to give to the damsel who gave
it to her mother Herodias.
John was indeed a great prophet and was the forerunner of Jesus as
Elijah had been the forerunner of Elisha. A greater than John had come
on the scene as John disappeared from the scene of this life.
Matt. 14:13 "When Jesus heard of it, he departed thence by ship into a
desert place apart: and when the people had heard thereof, they followed
him on foot out of the cities. 14 And Jesus went forth, and saw a great
multitude, and was moved with compassion toward them, and he healed
their sick. 15 And when it was evening, his disciples came to him,
saying, This is a desert place, and the time is now past; send the
multitude away, that they may go into the villages, and buy themselves
victuals. 16 But Jesus said unto them, They need not depart; give ye
them to eat. 17 And they say unto him, We have here but five loaves, and
two fishes. 18 He said, Bring them hither to me.
19 And he commanded the multitude to sit down on the grass, and took the
five loaves, and the two fishes, and looking up to heaven, he blessed,
and brake, and gave the loaves to his disciples, and the disciples to
the multitude. 20 And they did all eat, and were filled: and they took
up of the fragments that remained twelve baskets full. 21 And they that
had eaten were about five thousand men, beside women and children."
A lot of emphasis is placed on the events that took place in this
passage. The events of this passage are recorded in all four gospels. It
is one of the very few things that are recorded in all four gospels.
Thus, the Lord is showing us the great importance of what took place in
this passage. The account is also found in Mark chapter 6, Luke chapter
9, and John chapter 6.
First, we notice that a great multitude had followed Jesus out to the
desert place where he and the disciples had gone. The Lord described
this multitude in Mark 6:34 as follows: "And Jesus, when he came out,
saw much people, and was moved with compassion toward them, because they
were as sheep not having a shepherd: and he began to teach them many
things." There are many responsibilities that a shepherd has toward the
sheep. He must watch over the sheep. He must protect the sheep from
predators. He must nurse the sick sheep. He must see that the sheep are
fed and watered. It is this latter responsibility that the Lord is
manifesting to us in these passages of scripture.
At the same time that the Lord was seeing that the multitude were fed
and watered, he also taught them many things concerning the kingdom of
God and he healed all that needed healing. Most people never get past
natural healing in the study of the scriptures, but internal healing is
often more needed by God's people. Often we need to be healed of the
hurts, pains, difficulties, and troubles of this life. The Lord provides
such healing to us through the preaching of the word.
Next, we notice the place where this feeding took place. In all four
accounts, it is described as a desert place. A desert place is not where
you would normally go to find food to eat. We associate barrenness with
a desert place. This world is a spiritual desert place to the child of
God. The world cannot provide spiritual food. Spiritual food must come
from the Spirit. As born-again children of God, we need spiritual food.
Our souls become very hungry without this spiritual food. In John 6:10
we are told there was much grass in this place. Now that is unusual in
that you do not normally associate much grass with a desert place,
unless it is an oasis in a desert. When the children of Israel had
crossed the Red Sea and had gone out into the desert, they came to a
place where there were 12 wells of water and 70 palm trees. They rested
and refreshed themselves there in that oasis. However, this place where
Jesus was with the multitude was a desert place yet it was also a place
of much grass where the people could rest and refresh themselves. The
Lord's church is described as being in a wilderness:
1. Acts 7:38 "This is he, that was in the church in the wilderness with
the angel which spake to him in the mount Sina, and with our fathers:
who received the lively oracles to give unto us:"
2. Rev. 12:6 "And the woman fled into the wilderness, where she hath a
place prepared of God, that they should feed her there a thousand two
hundred and threescore days."
3. Rev. 12:14 "And to the woman were given two wings of a great eagle,
that she might fly into the wilderness, into her place, where she is
nourished for a time, and times, and half a time, from the face of the
The church is a resting place and oasis in the wilderness of this world
to which God's people can resort and be fed spiritually.
The desert place to which they resorted belonged to the city of
Bethsaida: Luke 9:10, "And he took them, and went aside privately into a
desert place belonging to the city called Bethsaida." Bethsaida means
fishing place. The Lord told Peter, "Follow me and I will make you to
become fishers of men." It is in the church that the "fishers of men"
draw men into the kingdom of heaven. The church is a fishing place where
the gospel ministry draws men into the kingdom of heaven here on earth.
The disciples wanted to send the multitude away that they might go and
buy food through their own efforts. The gospel is not for sale. You do
not buy the gospel. The gospel is a gift of God. God gives it to us. The
food that the multitude ate was free to the multitude and they did not
have to provide it themselves.
In Mark chapter 6 the Lord told the disciples, "He answered and said
unto them, Give ye them to eat. And they say unto him, Shall we go and
buy two hundred pennyworth of bread, and give them to eat? He saith unto
them, How many loaves have ye? go and see. And when they knew, they say,
Five, and two fishes." In John Chapter 6 Philip said even two hundred
pennyworth was not enough: "Philip answered him, Two hundred pennyworth
of bread is not sufficient for them, that every one of them may take a
little." The number of people to be fed was 5000 men besides women and
children. Conservatively, there were probably at least 15000 to 20000
people to be fed. If 200 pennyworth was not sufficient that all may have
a little, then how could this multitude be fed with five loaves and two
Furthermore, we note that the five loaves was not the common bread made
of wheat, but it was barley bread: John 6:9 "There is a lad here, which
hath five barley loaves, and two small fishes: but what are they among
so many?" Barley was the bread of the poor people. God's humble people
in the church are an afflicted and poor people: Zep. 3:12 "I will also
leave in the midst of thee an afflicted and poor people, and they shall
trust in the name of the LORD." The gospel is designed for those who
feel themselves afflicted with sin and poor in spirit. It is spiritual
food to the poor and afflicted.
There were five loaves. Five is associated with the covenant death of
Jesus Christ. This five-part covenant is set forth in Rom. 8:29, 30,
"For whom he did foreknow, he also did predestinate to be conformed to
the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many
brethren. Moreover whom he did predestinate, them he also called: and
whom he called, them he also justified: and whom he justified, them he
also glorified." This covenant of redemption is spiritual food for the
consumption of God's poor and afflicted people. It satisfies their
longing soul and reveals to them that they have a savior who has saved
them from their sins and has quickened them into spiritual life and
prepared them for and given them a promised home in heaven. It is rest
for the weary souls and food for the spiritually hungry.
Fish is meat to eat for the hungry. There were two small fishes. Two is
associated in the scripture with the subject of witness. When we rejoice
in the gospel, we are rejoicing in the teaching of the Old and New
Testaments. In addition, we are rejoicing in the work of one who was
both God and man. Through the preaching of the gospel, we feast on the
finished work of this God-man.
Before the Lord fed the multitude, he had them to sit down in companies
of 50 and 100 on the green grass. The Lord's local churches are not
large, but rather are of a size such as 50 to 100 members in number that
can be served by an under shepherd (pastor). Churches with membership
larger than 100 will often be too large for a single under shepherd
(pastor) to serve adequately.
How can a gospel minister take a subject or a passage of scripture and
feed a congregation of people? He generally knows not what the people in
the congregation need. How can he even know what subject to preach?
The Lord took the 5 loaves and 2 fishes and blessed them and break them
and gave them to the disciples who gave the food to the multitude. The
Lord must first give the message he wants the preacher to preach to the
preacher. It does nobody any good for the preacher to choose out his own
message. The preacher must wait for the Lord to give him a message.
Next, the Lord must bless the message before the preacher can deliver it
to the congregation. Without the Lord's blessing and breaking (opening
up the message to the preacher's and the congregation's understanding)
the message, it would not be beneficial. As preachers of the gospel, we
are dependent upon the Lord to give us the messages we preach, to open
up our understanding of the message, and to bless us to deliver the
message. Furthermore, the congregation must be prepared to receive the
message. This work is also dependant upon the Lord.
When the Lord blesses the 5 loaves and 2 fishes, it is sufficient to
feed to the full the entire congregation. The Lord, regularly fulfills
what would seem impossible to us. This, indeed, was a notable miracle
that the Lord did in the sight of the people. Similarly, every time the
gospel is preached in power and demonstration of Spirit, a miracle of
feeding the congregation takes place. The very little that the gospel
minister knows himself to have, the Lord blesses and multiplies so as to
prepare a feast to God's waiting people.
The Lord told the disciples to gather up the fragments that remained
after the people had finished eating so that nothing be lost. Through
the preaching of the gospel the people are filled and there remains
spiritual food for the coming days that God's people may feast upon.
This happens often when the gospel is preached. People are fed by what
is preached and then they go home and meditate upon it during the week
and study upon it, so that their souls are continuously fed throughout
They picked up twelve baskets of fragments that remained over and above
what the people had eaten. Twelve is a representative number in the
scriptures. This teaches us that the gospel is sufficient to feed all of
God's people when not only it is first preached but also with the
fragments that remain after the preaching service is over.