THE LIFE OF CHRIST
In our last lesson on the Life of Christ, we finished looking at Jesus’ instructions to His disciples as He prepared them for what they would face on their limited commission. These instructions would also apply to them later on as well. Most of what Jesus taught them applies to us today. Jesus’ disciples go on their limited commission while Jesus goes to Galilee to preach.
In this lesson, we are going to learn more about John the Baptist and another miracle that Jesus does. The events we will be covering are found in Matthew 14, Mark 6, Luke 9 and John 6. We will mainly focus on Mark’s account in the beginning. Remember, at this time the disciples are out on their limited commission and they are casting out demons and healing people. No doubt, Jesus is doing the same. Next we read:
Mark 6:14 Now King Herod heard of Him, for His name had become well known. And he said, "John the Baptist is risen from the dead, and therefore these powers are at work in him." 15 Others said, "It is Elijah." And others said, "It is the Prophet, or like one of the prophets." 16 But when Herod heard, he said, "This is John, whom I beheaded; he has been raised from the dead!" 17 For Herod himself had sent and laid hold of John, and bound him in prison for the sake of Herodias, his brother Philip's wife; for he had married her. 18 For John had said to Herod, "It is not lawful for you to have your brother's wife." 19 Therefore Herodias held it against him and wanted to kill him, but she could not; 20 for Herod feared John, knowing that he was a just and holy man, and he protected him. And when he heard him, he did many things, and heard him gladly.
This Heord is one of the sons of Herod the great. He is Herod Antipas. Though he is called a king in our text, this is unofficial title that he was called because he was just a tetrarch (Mt. 14:1), which means that he ruled a fourth part of a domain. His reign began in 4 B.C. and ended A.D. 39. He is the one that Jesus called "that fox" (Luke 13:32), and he is the one that Pilate sent Jesus to when the people wanted Pilate to put Jesus to death.
Mr Coffman tells us this:
His first marriage was to a daughter of Aretas, (AIR-IT-TUS) the Arabian king; but on a visit to Rome he met Herodias his brother's wife (Philip, not the tetrarch), whom he seduced and married. The outrage of this union was compounded by the element of incest. Aretas took vengeance upon Herod by defeating him in a war. Herod applied to Caesar for a crown, but was banished to Lugdunum, in which exile Herodias shared.
He continues on to say this about Herodias:
This woman was a daughter of Herod I's son, Aristobulus. She first married her uncle Philip who was living as a private citizen in Rome, and by him she had Salome. When Herod Antipas was visiting in Rome, she left Philip and married his brother Herod Antipas.
They like to keep things in family because not only was she Herod’s brother’s wife, she was also his half niece, and Philip was her uncle.
We learn that Herod had a healthy dose of fear for John the Baptist and knew that he was a holy man, so he protected him while he was in his custody. However, his fear only ran so deep because he did arrest him for Herodias. She did not like John the Baptist or his message and she wanted him dead, but Herod would not grant that request. Matthew’s account gives us some more information in:
Matthew 14:4 Because John had said to him, "It is not lawful for you to have her." 5 And although he wanted to put him to death, he feared the multitude, because they counted him as a prophet.
John had many disciples, though many of them had started following Jesus. So, Herod was not just afraid of John the Baptist, He was afraid of what the people would do who would rise up against him. We can learn a general truth from this. When a person is righteous and seeks after the will of God, they tend to gain the respect of those around them, and many times those same people would be quick to defend such an upstanding person. We are taught this same general truth in:
1 Peter 3:15 But sanctify the Lord God in your hearts, and always be ready to give a defense to everyone who asks you a reason for the hope that is in you, with meekness and fear; 16 having a good conscience, that when they defame you as evildoers, those who revile your good conduct in Christ may be ashamed.
Just because Herod and his wife did not like the truth that John has spoken about their unlawful marriage it did not stop John from speaking the truth. Let’s take a minute to see why this was an unlawful marriage from:
Leviticus 18:16 'You shall not uncover the nakedness of your brother's wife; it is your brother's nakedness.
Leviticus 20:21 'If a man takes his brother's wife, it is an unclean thing. He has uncovered his brother's nakedness. They shall be childless.
All John did was preach the truth. He was not ashamed of it and neither should we. Though many today like to try and look for loopholes in God’s Word to justify their sins, it cannot be done. God’s Word means what it says about unlawful marriages and everything else.
Look at the last part of original text again:
And when he heard him, he did many things, and heard him gladly.
Herod listened to John preach and heard him gladly. It is strange that some people just like to hear what someone says whether they agree with it or not. No matter how much truth they hear, they just say amen, but they never allow the message to change them. It reminds me of what Ezekiel wrote in
Ezekiel 33:31 "So they come to you as people do, they sit before you as My people, and they hear your words, but they do not do them; for with their mouth they show much love, but their hearts pursue their own gain. 32 "Indeed you are to them as a very lovely song of one who has a pleasant voice and can play well on an instrument; for they hear your words, but they do not do them. 33 "And when this comes to pass -- surely it will come -- then they will know that a prophet has been among them."
Sometimes preachers feel like that because they preach their hearts out trying to get people to listen to what God’s Word says. Even though the people are not falling asleep and seem to be listening carefully, the preaching is falling on deaf ears because the hearers are not changing, they are just floating down the river to enjoy the ride.
As we are about to see, Herodias is going to make sure the John the Baptist is going to be killed.
Mark 6:21 Then an opportune day came when Herod on his birthday gave a feast for his nobles, the high officers, and the chief men of Galilee. 22 And when Herodias' daughter herself came in and danced, and pleased Herod and those who sat with him, the king said to the girl, "Ask me whatever you want, and I will give it to you." 23 He also swore to her, "Whatever you ask me, I will give you, up to half of my kingdom."
Herod throws this elaborate birthday party with all these important people. We can see that Herodias found this to be the perfect opportunity to finally get her way. The word “feast” in our text tells us that this was an evening meal. Though most believe this would have been a drinking party as well, which it probably was, but our text does not specifically say this.
The way verse 22 is worded, it seems to indicate that others had already danced. From all the different sources I looked at, it was typical for men like Herod to have these parties, which including drinking and prostitutes, many of which would dance in a provocative way to please the men. Usually, royalty would not lower themselves to dance like this in front of men. So, when Herodias daughter came in and danced, this would be like an extra special event in the eyes of these nobles and other men.
This certainly makes sense when we consider what Herod offers her in front of all his peers. He said he would give her up to half of his kingdom. This was not to be taken literally because he did not have the authority to give any of the kingdom away that the Romans allowed him to be over. This was just an expression to say “ask for what you want, and I do my best to make it happen.” I can imagine these men being stirred up and Herod feeling like this was the best birthday ever. So, he made this ridiculous oath without even thinking about the consequences. Next we read:
Mark 6:24 So she went out and said to her mother, "What shall I ask?" And she said, "The head of John the Baptist!" 25 Immediately she came in with haste to the king and asked, saying, "I want you to give me at once the head of John the Baptist on a platter." 26 And the king was exceedingly sorry; yet, because of the oaths and because of those who sat with him, he did not want to refuse her.
This put Herodias in the perfect position to make her husband put John the Baptist to death. To make sure that he was actually put to death, she asked for his head on a platter. When Herodias’ daughter made her request to Herod, this went from the best birthday party to the worst. There was nothing he could do to get out of this and save face because he made and oath before his peers. So, we read:
Mark 6:27 Immediately the king sent an executioner and commanded his head to be brought. And he went and beheaded him in prison, 28 brought his head on a platter, and gave it to the girl; and the girl gave it to her mother. 29 When his disciples heard of it, they came and took away his corpse and laid it in a tomb.
There was no delay, he sent the executioner after John and he brought back his head on a platter. He gave the head to the daughter, and she gave it to her mother. This just goes to show how far some are willing to go when it comes to persecuting the righteous. Since this bothered Herod so much and he knew that John was a holy man, when he heard about what Jesus was doing, he thought for sure that John had bee resurrected into Jesus’ body.
What a shame that John had to die this way, but notice what Jesus said about Him:
Luke 7:28 "For I say to you, among those born of women there is not a greater prophet than John the Baptist
John the Baptist serves as a great example of one who spoke the truth and was not afraid of what man might do to Him. We would do well to have his courage and tenacity. The disciples buried John’s body and they went and found Jesus and told him about John according to Matthew’s account. We learn more about their meeting as we read in:
Mark 6:30 Then the apostles gathered to Jesus and told Him all things, both what they had done and what they had taught. 31 And He said to them, "Come aside by yourselves to a deserted place and rest a while." For there were many coming and going, and they did not even have time to eat. 32 So they departed to a deserted place in the boat by themselves.
I sure these disciples had some amazing stories to tell Jesus about their limited commission, but unfortunately those stories are not recorded for us. We can see that they were still busy dealing with all the people, which caused them not to be able to eat. Jesus stresses the need for them to rest because everyone needs to take a break from time to time from their labors. So, they go out on a boat to rest.
The next event we are going to examine is recorded all 4 gospel accounts. Matthew 14, Mark 6, Luke 9, and John 6 record the feeding of the 5000. For this event, I will mainly focus on John’s account.
John 6:1 After these things Jesus went over the Sea of Galilee, which is the Sea of Tiberias. 2 Then a great multitude followed Him, because they saw His signs which He performed on those who were diseased. 3 And Jesus went up on the mountain, and there He sat with His disciples. 4 Now the Passover, a feast of the Jews, was near.
The Sea of Galilee has had many names such as, Sea of Chinnereth (Num. 34:11), Sea of Chinneroth (Jos. 12:3), Lake Genessaret (Lk. 5:1), and the Sea of Tiberias as used here. It received this latter name because of the city Tiberius located on the western shore, which Herod Antipas founded around A.D. 20 and named in honor of Emperor Tiberius (F.F. Bruce - The Gospel & Epistles of John p. 142).
The only quiet time they had was while they were traveling across the lake because Mark’s accounts says that the people ran to where Jesus and His disciples were going and they beat them there. So, shortly after they got off the boat, these people gathered around Jesus.
Our next verses record the miracle of Jesus feeding the 5000 men not including the women or children. This is the only miracle, other than the resurrection, that is recorded in all four Gospels. While each account offers additional information about the details of this event, John’s account is more unique. As we examine this miracle, I will put the events in the most logical order based on all the accounts.
John 6:5 Then Jesus lifted up His eyes, and seeing a great multitude coming toward Him, He said to Philip, "Where shall we buy bread, that these may eat?" 6 But this He said to test him, for He Himself knew what He would do. 7 Philip answered Him, "Two hundred denarii worth of bread is not sufficient for them, that every one of them may have a little."
I do not know with certainty if the people that ran to meet Jesus gathered around Him as soon as He docked His boat or if it was a little while afterwards, but at some point they made their way to the mountain (Jn. 6:3). John’s account records what happened when Jesus saw these multitudes of people coming toward Him. As they were approaching Jesus, He asked Philip, "Where shall we buy bread, that these may eat?"
Jesus did not ask this question because He did not know the answer to it because He already knew what He was going to do. He asked him this question to test him. Philip did not have any idea how they could feed such a crowd. When Philip alludes to the sum of 200 denarii, this was most likely the amount of money they were carrying. One denarii was the typical pay for a day’s worth of work, but 200 denarii would not be enough to feed this crowd.
The other three accounts say that Jesus taught these people and healed them at this time as well (Mt. 14:14; Mk. 6; 34; Lk. 9:11). These events happened earlier in the day, but now evening was approaching.
Mark 6:35 When the day was now far spent, His disciples came to Him and said, "This is a deserted place, and already the hour is late. 36 "Send them away, that they may go into the surrounding country and villages and buy themselves bread; for they have nothing to eat." 37 But He answered and said to them, "You give them something to eat." And they said to Him, "Shall we go and buy two hundred denarii worth of bread and give them something to eat?" 38 But He said to them, "How many loaves do you have? Go and see." And when they found out they said, "Five, and two fish." (See also Mt. 14:15-17; Lk. 9:12-13)
Since the day was almost over, Jesus’ disciples wanted Him to send these people away so they could go and buy themselves something to eat. But Jesus tells His disciples to feed them. They did not understand how Jesus expected them to feed this massive amount of people. Once again, we learn that they had 200 denarii in their money bag, but just as Philip had said earlier, this would not be enough money to feed all these people. While Jesus’ disciples thought about their situation, Jesus wants them to find out how many loaves they have. The first three Gospels say they had five loaves and two fish. However, John’s account gives us more detail.
John 6:8 One of His disciples, Andrew, Simon Peter's brother, said to Him, 9 "There is a lad here who has five barley loaves and two small fish, but what are they among so many?"
These five loaves and two small fish came from this little boy. These loaves were not big loaves of bread like we have today. Thayer’s Lexicons describes it this way: “ Food composed of flour mixed with water and baked; the Israelites made it in the form of an oblong or round cake, as thick as one's thumb, and as large as a plate or platter …” The common people usually made their loaves from barley. The disciples knew this was not enough food to feed all these people.
John 6:10 Then Jesus said, "Make the people sit down." Now there was much grass in the place. So the men sat down, in number about five thousand.
The KJV says that these people were in a desert place, which can be confusing because we understand a desert as being a place where there is little life, and there is nothing but dirt all around. The other versions translate the meaning of this Greek word better because the NKJV uses “deserted”, the NIV uses “remote place”, and the ESV uses “desolate place.” This place was a quiet uninhabited place with green grass (Mk. 6:39). Jesus had His disciples sit these people down in groups of 50 and 100 (Mk. 6:40).
John 6:11 And Jesus took the loaves, and when He had given thanks He distributed them to the disciples, and the disciples to those sitting down; and likewise of the fish, as much as they wanted.
Luke tells us that Jesus took the loaves and fishes and looked up to heaven and blessed them (Lk. 9:16). Today we usually bow our head, but Jesus was looking up when He prayed. There are many postures of prayer given in the Bible, but the posture is not important, it is the condition of our hearts (Mt. 6:5-8; Lk. 18:9-14). Even though Jesus was the one providing all this food by the miracle He performed, He still gave the Father thanks for it. We should learn from His example and give thanks to God for the food we eat such as Paul wrote in:
1 Timothy 4:4 For every creature of God is good, and nothing is to be refused if it is received with thanksgiving; 5 for it is sanctified by the word of God and prayer.
We should give thanks to God for everything in our lives as well. Again, Paul writes:
Ephesians 5:18 And do not be drunk with wine, in which is dissipation; but be filled with the Spirit, 19 speaking to one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody in your heart to the Lord, 20 giving thanks always for all things to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ,
Once Jesus prayed over the food, He gave it to His disciples and they gave it to the people.
John 6:12 So when they were filled, He said to His disciples, "Gather up the fragments that remain, so that nothing is lost." 13 Therefore they gathered them up, and filled twelve baskets with the fragments of the five barley loaves which were left over by those who had eaten.
Jesus was able to multiply these five loaves and two fish so there was enough for all these people to eat and be full with twelve baskets full of leftovers, which was more food than they started out with. Keep in mind there was 5000 men and an unnumbered amount of women and children (Mat. 14:21). It is possible there were as many as 10,000 people fed that day by Jesus’ miracle. We are not told the exact size of the baskets, but based on the original Greek word, this was a common wicker basket they used to carry food in and it varied in size. These baskets were smaller than the large ones used when Jesus fed the 4000 in Matthew 15:32-38.
This miracle shows that God can provide more for us than we could possibly need. When Jesus made sure that all the fragments of bread were saved for later, it teaches us that we should not be wasteful with what God has blessed us with.
John 6:14 Then those men, when they had seen the sign that Jesus did, said, "This is truly the Prophet who is to come into the world."
Since Jesus worked this amazing miracle with the loaves and fish, they concluded that He was the prophet Moses spoke of (Deut. 18:15-19; Acts 3:22-26).
John 6:15 Therefore when Jesus perceived that they were about to come and take Him by force to make Him king, He departed again to the mountain by Himself alone.
Within this crowd, a mob began to form. Since they knew Jesus was from God and that He was the prophet Moses spoke of, they thought this would be their opportunity to fight against the Roman Empire and win. In their minds, they thought God would restore their physical kingdom to them like it was under King David, but Jesus did not come to establish a physical kingdom. He came to establish a spiritual one. He accomplished His goal, and His kingdom began on the day of Pentecost in Acts 2. He is still reigning over His spiritual kingdom right now (Acts 2:29-36).
Even Jesus’disciples thought He had come to establish a physical kingdom for the Jews all the way up to the time just before His ascension (Acts 1:6). After the day of Pentecost, they realized that Jesus’ kingdom was a spiritual one, and they preached that all Christians are a part of that kingdom today (Col. 1:13).
When Jesus read these Jews’ minds and what they were planning, He sent His disciples back across the Sea of Galilee. He also sent the crowds away and He went back on the mountain by Himself to pray (Mt. 14:22-23; Mk. 6:45-46).
I believe this is one of the reasons the Jews stopped believing in Jesus because He would not allow them to make Him a King. Those who teach the rapture view think Jesus failed to establish an earthly kingdom because the Jews were not ready yet, which is why they say Jesus will come again and establish a kingdom on the earth for 1000 years. However, the verses I just mentioned proves that Jesus did not fail to establish His spiritual kingdom. To say the Jews were not ready to accept Him as a king is proven wrong by the event we just examined in verse 15.
In this lesson, we learned about the death of John the Baptist and how it came about. We see Jesus and His disciples reunite after their limited commission. Finally, we see Jesus feed thousands of people with just some fish and some bread. Of course, we learned that John the Baptist serves as a great example of courage and faithfulness to the Lord. He was not afraid to speak the truth, and we should do the same. We learned that we should rest from our labors at times so we can recharge ourselves to do more work for the Lord. We saw another example of Jesus great compassion and another powerful miracle. In our next lesson, we will see Jesus defy gravity.