Matthew 14:1-21 – Death of John the Baptist


Matthew’s gospel is not written in chronological order.  Rather, the Holy Spirit instructs him to write in a way that communicates truths from Jesus life and teaching to his Jewish brethren.  In this case, the truth being communicated is that rejection and death are sometimes part of the God’s patient plan to save sinners in this world.  Not only was Jesus rejected by those closest to Him at the end of chapter 13, but John the Baptist gave his life for speaking truth boldly.  Rejection and death are not signs of failure in God’s economy.  They are realities which show us the kingdom of heaven in this world.  Many wrongly believe that following Jesus always leads to rainbows, health, wealth, and winning.  This is not what we see in the Bible though.  True, there are some who get to conquer kingdoms and build cities.  However, there are many others who pay in blood for their faithfulness to Christ (Hebrews 11:32-38).  Suffering is a part of the human experience and no one is exempt.  We see this in the life of the great wilderness prophet.  When Jesus hears the news of John the Baptist he looks for solitude.  He knows that He also must drink the cup of suffering to accomplish the will of His Father in the world.  We should reflect deeply on this, because his cup is ours as well (Matthew 20:22-23; I Peter 2:21).  This is not to say that we won’t have joy or hope in this world.  It is to say we find our joy and hope in laying down our lives if necessary to follow Jesus (Philippians 2:17; 2 Timothy 4:6-8).



Jesus is looking for a quiet place.  He is tired and mourning the loss of His friend John.  However, we see that the crowd finds Him once again.  What Jesus does next is an example of why He is the Good Shepherd.  Instead of being frustrated by the crowd and lashing out at all the needy people interrupting Him, He responds completely opposite.  He has compassion upon them.  Even though He is tired, He loves people and has a job to do.  His Father’s business is of utmost importance (Luke 2:49).  Jesus spends the day ministering to the crowd and His disciples begin thinking of dinner.  It’s time for the crowds to go and for everyone to eat.  Jesus tells His disciples that they are going to feed the crowd.  This is an impossible task and the disciples know it.  The food they have is very little.  It is at this moment that we learn an important principle in what it means to be a disciple of Jesus.  Of course we have little.  Of course we are inadequate.  However, when we place the little that we have in the hands of Jesus, He is able to do what we cannot and multiply the little into a great work of God.  It doesn’t matter who you are.  We all have something to put into the hands of our master.  Are you holding on to your sack lunch or are you allowing Jesus to use it for His glory?


Study Questions

  1. Why do Christians expect that life will not have setbacks, disappointments, or suffering?  How are we to respond to suffering (Romans 5:1-5)?
  2. We all tend to organize our lives to make things easier on us.  What example does Jesus leave us concerning His compassion for others?  Can we do more for others than we think we are able to do?
  3. This world is so hopelessly broken we tend to think we cannot make a difference.  How does knowing Jesus change our perspective?