At that time Herod the tetrarch heard of the fame of Jesus,Matthew 14:1-2. Now at that time — When our Lord had spent about a year in his public ministry, and had sent out his disciples to preach the gospel, to cast out devils, and to heal diseases, and they, by virtue of his name, had been successful in that work; Mark 6:12-14; Luke 9:6-7; Herod the tetrarch — King of Galilee and Peræa, the fourth part of his father’s dominions; (see note on Matthew 2:1;) heard of the fame of Jesus — Now everywhere spread abroad, in consequence of the marvellous works done by him and his apostles; and said, This is John the Baptist: he is risen from the dead — Herod was a Sadducee; and the Sadducees denied the resurrection of the dead: but Sadducism staggers when conscience awakes. See the note on Mark 6:14-28.
And said unto his servants, This is John the Baptist; he is risen from the dead; and therefore mighty works do shew forth themselves in him.
For Herod had laid hold on John, and bound him, and put him in prison for Herodias' sake, his brother Philip's wife.Matthew 14:3-7. For Herod had laid hold on John — Had formerly seized him; and put him in prison for Herodias’s sake — On account of the reproof which John gave him for marrying Herodias, his brother Philip’s wife — Who was still living. For John said to him — Probably in some private conference he had with him, It is not lawful for thee to have her — Indeed it was not lawful for either of them to have her. For her father, Aristobulus, was their own brother. John’s words were rough, like his raiment. He would not break the force of truth by using soft words even to a king. And when he would have put him to death — In a fit of passion; he feared the multitude — He knew his abuse of his power had already rendered him odious to the people, and as their resentments were much excited already, he was afraid if he should proceed to put a prophet to death, they would break out into a flame which he could not quench. He was then restrained by fear of the multitude; and afterward by the reverence he had for John, Mark 6:19, &c. But when Herod’s birthday was kept — Some think, that by γενεσια, here rendered birthday, the day of Herod’s accession to his tetrarchy is meant: and the word may perhaps be sometimes used with this latitude; but, unless where there is positive evidence that it has that meaning, the safer way is to prefer the customary interpretation. The daughter of Herodias — Whose name was Salome, and who was afterward infamous for a life suitable to this beginning, danced before them — Doubtless in consequence of a previous plan laid by her mother. For “in ancient times, it was so far from being the custom for ladies of distinction to dance in public, that it was reckoned indecent if they were so much as present at public entertainments. Queen Vashti thought it so dishonourable, that, rather than submit to it, even when commanded by King Ahasuerus, she forfeited her crown. Esther 1:12. It may, therefore, be believed, that this dancing of Herodias’s daughter in such a large company of men, at a public entertainment, was a very extraordinary circumstance, and must have been brought about by some contrivance of her mother.” And pleased Herod — And also his guests, Mark 6:22, whereupon, being delighted with her dancing and heated with wine, he promised with an oath — Profanely and foolishly sware unto her, and that, it seems, more than once, both the evangelists using the plural, ορκους, oaths, (see Matthew 14:9, and Mark 6:26;) to give her whatsoever she would ask, even to the half of his kingdom, Mark 6:23. “Thus profusely would he reward a worthless dance; while a prison and death were the recompense of the man of God who honestly sought the salvation of his soul?” — Scott.
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.
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.Matthew 14:8. And she, being before instructed of her mother — Namely, before she made her request: for, after the king had made her this promise, she immediately went forth and said to her mother, What shall I ask? And her mother, having now obtained the wished-for opportunity of executing her revenge, eagerly replied, Ask the head of John the Baptist; representing, no doubt, to her daughter, that he had attempted to expel and ruin them both; and that, considering the opinion which the king still entertained of him, he might some time or other, though in irons, regain Herod’s favour and accomplish his design; for which reason, the opportunity of taking his life was not to be neglected, if she regarded her own safety. These, or such like arguments, wrought up the young lady to such a pitch, that she not only consented to do as she was bidden, but became hearty in the cause: for, Mark 6:25, she came in straightway with haste, Greek, ευθεως μετα σπουδης, immediately with eagerness; and while all the guests sat mute, expecting what mighty thing would be asked, she demanded the holy Baptist’s head, as of greater value to her than the half of the kingdom. Give me here — Fearing if the king had time to consider, he would not do it; John Baptist’s head in a charger — Επι πινακι, a large dish, or bowl. And the king was sorry — Knowing that John was a good man; yet, for the oath’s sake, &c. So he murdered an innocent man for mere tenderness of conscience! Such was the tenderness of the consciences of those Jewish rulers, who, while they were using their utmost efforts to take away, by a most unjust and cruel process, the life of Christ, yet scrupled going into the judgment-hall of Pilate, lest they should be defiled! But Herod was influenced also by a regard for those who sat with him at meat. Doubtless he was unwilling to appear either rash, or fickle, or false before them, as they were probably the first persons of his kingdom for rank and character. Thus out of a misplaced regard to his oath and his guests, this king committed a most unjust and cruel action, which will ever reflect the greatest dishonour upon his memory.
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.
And he sent, and beheaded John in the prison.Matthew 14:10-11. And he sent and beheaded John in the prison — How mysterious is the providence of God, which left the life of so holy a man in such infamous hands! which permitted it to be sacrificed to the malice of an abandoned harlot, the petulancy of a vain girl, and the rashness of a foolish, perhaps drunken prince, who made a prophet’s head the reward of a dance! But we are sure the Almighty will repay his servants in another world, for whatever they suffer in this. And his head was brought and given to the damsel. The head of the prophet, whose rebukes had awed the king in his loosest moments, and whose exhortations had often excited him to virtuous actions, was immediately brought, pale and bloody, in a charger, and given to the daughter of Herodias, in the presence of the guests; and she brought it to her mother — The young lady gladly received the bloody present, and carried it to her mother, who enjoyed the whole pleasure of revenge, and feasted her eyes with the sight of her enemy’s head, now rendered silent and harmless. But the Baptist’s voice became the louder for his being murdered, filling the earth, reaching up to heaven, and publishing the woman’s adultery to all ages and to all people! St. Jerome tells us that Herodias treated the head in a very disdainful manner, pulling out the tongue, which she imagined had injured her, and piercing it with a needle. Thus they gratified themselves in the indulgence of their lusts, and triumphed in the murder of this holy prophet, till the righteous judgment of God overtook them all. For, as Dr. Whitby, with many others, observes, Providence interested itself very remarkably in the revenge of this murder on all concerned; Herod’s army was defeated in a war occasioned by his marrying Herodias, which even many Jews thought a judgment sent upon him for the murder of John. Both he and Herodias, whose ambition occasioned his ruin, were afterward driven from their kingdom in great disgrace, and died in banishment at Lyons in Gaul: and, if any credit may be given to Nicephorus, Salome, the young lady who made this cruel request, fell into the ice, as she was walking over it, which closing suddenly cut off her head. See Macknight and Doddridge.
And his head was brought in a charger, and given to the damsel: and she brought it to her mother.
And his disciples came, and took up the body, and buried it, and went and told Jesus.Matthew 14:12. And his disciples came and took up the body — Which it seems had been thrown over the prison walls, without burial, probably by order of Herodias. And buried it — Laid it, says Mark, doubtless with great reverence and due lamentation, in a tomb, belonging to some of them who were willing to pay this last act of duty to their master’s memory. And went and told Jesus — What had happened; and, remembering the repeated testimony which John had borne to him, probably continued their attendance upon him.
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.Matthew 14:13-14. When Jesus heard it, he departed thence — It appears from Mark 6:30, that the disciples of John arrived with the news of their master’s death at, or immediately after, the time when the apostles returned from their mission, and gave Jesus an account of the miracles which they had performed, and of the success of their ministry. Perhaps tidings of John’s death had reached them before their return, and had caused them to hasten it. Be this as it may, it is probable that the distressing intelligence had thrown them into great consternation, and that our Lord retired into the desert with them with a view to allay it, and to give them an opportunity to indulge such meditations as were suitable to so awful a dispensation. Mark assigns also another reason of our Lord’s retreat on this occasion, namely, the continual hurry the apostles were kept in by the multitude, which thronged about Jesus to such a degree, that they had not leisure so much as to eat without interruption, and much less for religious retirement and recollection. Perhaps, likewise, by this retreat, our Lord proposed to shun Herod, who desired to see him, and might be contriving some method of obtaining an interview with him; for Jesus had perfect knowledge not only of the conversation which passed at the court of Galilee, but also of Herod’s thoughts and designs. When the people heard thereof — That is, heard to what place he was going, they followed him on foot out of the cities — They went after him by land, and travelled with such eagerness that they arrived at the place before him, having increased their numbers out of all the cities by which they passed. And Jesus went forth and saw a great multitude — Much greater, it appears, than that which he had left at Capernaum. On this occasion, as on many others, he was moved with compassion toward them, because, says Mark, they were as sheep not having a shepherd. Therefore, he both preached to them and healed their sick — Healed them, says Luke, that had need of healing — Even all, it appears, that were brought to him.
And Jesus went forth, and saw a great multitude, and was moved with compassion toward them, and he healed their sick.
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.Matthew 14:15-18. And when it was evening his disciples came to him — That is, the first evening, which began at three in the afternoon. That this is the meaning is plain from Matthew 14:23, where another evening is said to have come after the people were fed and dismissed. Accordingly, Mark says, they came when the day was now far spent; and Luke, when the day began to wear away: saying, This is a desert place — Where there is neither food nor lodging to be had; and the time is now past — The word ωρα, here translated time, denotes the season of doing any thing. Here it seems to signify the season of the people’s attending on Christ, which was now past, because they had continued with him as long as they could without receiving some refreshment. Send the multitude away, that they may go, and buy themselves victuals — Thus the disciples manifested their concern for the temporal as well as spiritual relief of the people: and it be comes all ministers of Christ to imitate them herein, and regard the bodily necessities of their hearers, as well as those of their souls. But Jesus said, They need not depart — Namely, in order to procure victuals. He would neither dismiss them hungry, as they were, nor detain them longer without food, nor put them to the trouble and charge of buying victuals for themselves, but orders his disciples to provide for them: Give ye them to eat — Alas, poor disciples! they had nothing for themselves: how then should they give the multitude to eat? Observe, reader, when Christ requires of us what of ourselves we are unable to perform, it is to show us our weakness, and to excite us to look to him that worketh all our works in us and for us. They said, We have here but five loaves and two fishes — Provision certainly very insufficient to satisfy the hunger of five thousand men, and a great multitude of women and children. It must be observed, that Christ had not yet shown his power in any such way as that in which he was now about to manifest it, and the proofs he had given of it in other instances were not now recollected or adverted to by the disciples. Christ’s ordering them, therefore, to give food to this immense multitude of men, women, and children, seems to have greatly surprised them. But, as John observes, John 6:6, he himself knew what he would do. He said, Bring them hither to me — That I may bless them. Observe, reader, the way to have our temporal blessings, blessings indeed, is to bring them to Christ; for they can only be sanctified by his word, and by prayer to him. That is likely to prosper, and be a comfort to us, which we put into the hands of our Lord Jesus, that he may dispose of it as he pleases, and that we may receive it back from his hand, and then it will be doubly sweet to us. And what we give in charity, we should bring to Christ first, that he may graciously accept it from us, and graciously bless it to those to whom it is given.
But Jesus said unto them, They need not depart; give ye them to eat.
And they say unto him, We have here but five loaves, and two fishes.
He said, Bring them hither to me.
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.Matthew 14:19-21. He commanded the multitude to sit down on the grass — Mark says, by companies, as we render the phrase συμποσια, συμποσια, which is literally, companies, companies, that is, in separate companies. These, as appears by comparing Mark 6:39 with Luke 9:14, consisted some of fifty persons, some of a hundred, according as the ground would admit. Our Lord probably ordered them to be ranged in this manner that they might sit compactly, that their numbers might appear, that the meat might be divided among them with ease, and that none might be neglected in the distribution. And no sooner did Christ signify his will to the disciples, and they intimated it to the multitude, than they all instantly did as they were ordered: so great an opinion had they of Christ’s wisdom and power! Though they thus sat on the ground, under no canopy but the sky, and had only barley bread, and, as it seems, cold or dried fishes to eat, and probably nothing but water to drink; yet, as Mr. Henry truly and beautifully observes, there was more real grandeur displayed by the Master of this feast than by Ahasuerus, in that royal feast which was intended to show the riches of his glorious kingdom, and the honour of his excellent majesty. And took the five loaves, &c. — Thus acting like the master of a family among the Jews, who was wont to take the bread into his hands and to give thanks to God, before any at the table was permitted to eat any thing: And looking up to heaven — With great reverence and affection; he blessed — That is, says Dr. Whitby, with whom agree many other commentators, he blessed, or gave thanks to God, the liberal giver of all good, for his infinite beneficence in furnishing food to all flesh, and for the power he had conferred on him of relieving mankind by his miracles, particularly that which he was about to work, and which perhaps he prayed for, to raise the attention of the multitude, as we find him doing before the resurrection of Lazarus, John 11:41. They apprehend that his looking up to heaven when he blessed, shows that his blessing was directed to God, and that it imported a thanksgiving for his great goodness. Accordingly John expresses it by ευχαριστησας, having given thanks, he distributed, &c. It must be observed, however, that most commentators refer the expression, he blessed, to the loaves and fishes, because Luke says expressly, ευλογησεν αυτους, he blessed them; that is, he commanded upon them that singular blessing by which they were multiplied in the distribution. Thus God is said to bless the springing of the corn, Psalm 65:10. And gave the loaves to his disciples, and the disciples to the multitude — “It is not to be supposed,” says Macknight, “that twelve persons could put first a piece of bread, and then a piece of fish, into the hands of five thousand men, besides the women and children, who were all fed with such expedition, that, notwithstanding the thing was not so much as proposed to the disciples till about three, all was over by five o’clock in the afternoon, as may be gathered from John 6:16, where see the note. It is natural, therefore, to conclude, that, in distributing the meat, the disciples used the most expeditious method, putting, by their Master’s direction, the bread first, and after that the fish, into the hands of those only who sat at the ends of the ranks, with orders to give it to their companions. On this supposition, the meat must have extended its dimensions, not in our Lord’s hands only, but in the hands of the multitude likewise, continuing to swell till there was a greater quantity than they, who held it, could make use of; so that breaking off what was sufficient for themselves, they gave the remainder to the persons next them, who, in like manner, saw the bread and fish swell in their own hands till they also had enough and to spare. The meat being thus created among the hands of the multitude, and before their eyes, as long as there was a single person to be fed, they did all eat, and were filled, to their unspeakable astonishment. In this manner did he who is the Bread of Life feed about ten thousand people, (for doubtless the women and children were as numerous as the men,) with five loaves and two small fishes, giving a magnificent proof, not only of his goodness, but of his creating power. For after all had eaten to satiety, the disciples, at Jesus’s command, (see note on John 6:12,)
took up twelve baskets full of the broken pieces of meat, each disciple a basket, in which there must have been much more than the quantity at first set before the Lord to divide. The stupendous miracle, therefore, without all doubt, was conspicuous, not to the disciples only, who, carrying each his basket in his hand, had an abiding, sensible demonstration of its truth, but to every individual guest at this divine feast, who had all felt themselves delighted, filled, refreshed, and strengthened by the meal. This being one of the most astonishing, and at the same time the most extensively convincing of all the miracles Jesus performed during the course of his ministry, every one of the evangelists has recorded it; and, which is remarkable, it is the only one found in each of their histories.
And they did all eat, and were filled: and they took up of the fragments that remained twelve baskets full.
And they that had eaten were about five thousand men, beside women and children.
And straightway Jesus constrained his disciples to get into a ship, and to go before him unto the other side, while he sent the multitudes away.Matthew 14:22. And straightway Jesus constrained his disciples to get into a ship, &c. — According to John 6:15, the people were so affected with the above-mentioned miracle, that they were about to take him by force, and make him a king, very naturally supposing, doubtless, that he, who with five loaves and two fishes could feed so many thousands, was able to support armies any length of time he pleased. And it is probable that his disciples were disposed to encourage and aid them in these intentions. Jesus, therefore, knowing both the purposes of the multitude and the inclinations of the disciples, ordered the latter to get into a vessel, and make for Bethsaida, while he should dismiss the former. This they were unwilling to do: it is therefore here said that Christ constrained them.
And when he had sent the multitudes away, he went up into a mountain apart to pray: and when the evening was come, he was there alone.Matthew 14:23. When he had sent the multitudes away — As well as his disciples, and was now alone, he went up into a mountain apart — Though Christ had so much to do with and for others, yet he chose sometimes to be alone; and those are not his followers who are averse to solitude, and out of their element when they have none to converse with, none to enjoy, but God and their own souls; to pray — This was our Lord’s business while alone; not merely to meditate, but also, and especially, to pray to his heavenly Father. It is true, he had not the same reasons for prayer that we have, for he had no sins to be pardoned or conquered, nor any depravity of nature to be subdued and taken away; but he had a variety of infinitely important services to perform, many temptations to overcome, and unparalleled sufferings to endure; and in all these, as man, “of a reasonable soul, and human flesh subsisting,” he had need of divine supports and consolations. He had also to pray for mankind in general, and his church in particular, and now especially for his disciples, whom he had just sent to sea, and who, he foresaw, were about to be over-taken by a dreadful storm, and therefore it was necessary he should pray for their preservation, and that their faith might not fail in the midst of their trouble. But in thus retiring to pray, as he often did, our Lord seems chiefly to have intended to set us an example, that we might follow his steps. Like him we must use private, as well as public and social prayer; and, as he directed, Matthew 6:6, must perform it privately. As he dismissed the multitude and his own disciples, we must disengage ourselves from our worldly affairs, cares, and concerns, and even withdraw from our Christian friends and the members of our own families, that we may converse with God in secret. The ministers of Christ, in particular, must take care to mix secret devotion with their public labours for the instruction and salvation of mankind, if they would secure that divine blessing without which neither the most eloquent preaching, nor the most engaging or benevolent conduct, can command or promise success. And when the evening was come — This confirms the observation made on Matthew 14:15, that the Jews had two evenings. The latter is here meant, beginning at sunset, and termed by us the twilight: he was there alone — And, it appears from Matthew 14:25, there he was till toward morning. The night came on, and it was a stormy, tempestuous night, yet he continued instant in prayer. It is our duty, at least sometimes, upon special occasions, and when we find our hearts enlarged, to continue long in secret prayer, and to take full scope in pouring out our hearts before the Lord.
But the ship was now in the midst of the sea, tossed with waves: for the wind was contrary.Matthew 14:24. But the ship — In which the disciples were; was now in the midst of the sea, tossed with waves, &c. — A striking emblem of his church, in the sea of this world, tossed, as it often is, on the waves of affliction and trouble, and assailed by the contrary wind of persecution. It is worthy of notice here, 1st, That the disciples were now where Christ had sent them, and yet they met with this storm. Had they been flying from their Master and their work, as Jonah was when he was arrested by the storm, it would have been less surprising that they should be thus assaulted; but they had a special command from their Master to go to sea at this time, and were going about his work, and yet a storm overtakes them! We see, therefore, that Christ’s disciples may meet with troubles and afflictions in the way of their duty; and be sent to sea when their Master foresees a storm. They ought not, however, to take it unkindly; for what he does they know not now, but they shall know hereafter that Christ designs hereby to manifest himself with the more wonderful grace to them and for them. 2d, This storm did not attack them immediately on their setting out: they had got into the midst of the sea when it arose. We may have fair weather in the beginning of our course, and yet meet with storms before we arrive at the port we are bound for. Therefore let not him that girds on the harness boast as he that puts it off: after a long calm, expect some storm or other. 3d, It was a great discouragement to the disciples, that now they had not Christ with them, as they had formerly when they were in a storm: for though he was then asleep, he was soon waked, Matthew 8:24, but now he was at a distance from them. Thus Christ inures his disciples first to lesser difficulties, and then to greater, and so trains them by degrees to live and walk by faith, and not by sight. 4th, Though the wind was contrary, and they were tossed with waves; yet, being ordered by their Master to go to the other side, they did not tack about and come back again, but made the best of their way forward. Hereby we learn, that though troubles and difficulties may assault and annoy us in our duty, they must net drive us from it; but through the midst of them we must press forward.
And in the fourth watch of the night Jesus went unto them, walking on the sea.Matthew 14:25. And in the fourth watch of the night — The Jews, as well as the Romans, usually divided the night into four watches of three hours each. The first watch began at six, the second at nine, the third at twelve, the fourth at three. During these many tedious and distressing hours of storm and tempest, of darkness and danger, Jesus saw his disciples, though they saw not him: he beheld their perplexity and fear, while they were conflicting with the winds and waves, and observed how they toiled in rowing: Mark 6:48; yet he delayed all this time to go to their relief; seeing it proper so long to try their faith and patience. But in the fourth watch — When, it is probable, as the storm was not at all abated, they had begun to despair of deliverance; Jesus went unto them, walking on the water — agitated, stormy, and tumultuous as its billows were. Thus God often lengthens out the troubles of his people, and defers the time of their deliverance. But when things are come to an extremity, and they are ready to think he hath forgotten them, he unexpectedly appears for their relief and rescue; of a sudden the storm becomes a calm, and they are happily brought into a safe port. Thus, in the morning watch he appeared for Israel in the Red sea, troubled and dismayed their pursuing enemies, and delivered his people: and in all ages the extremity of his church has been his opportunity to visit and appear for her. He that keepeth Israel neither slumbers nor sleeps, but has constantly his eye upon them, and, when there is need, walks in darkness for their succour, support, and comfort. What a wonderful proof have we here of Christ’s sovereign power over the creatures, which are all under his feet, and at his command, forgetting their natures, and changing their most essential qualities at his word! “To walk on the sea was thought so impracticable, that the picture of two feet walking on the sea, was an Egyptian hieroglyphic for an impossible thing. And in the Scripture it is mentioned, as the prerogative of God, that he alone treadeth on the waves of the sea, Job 9:8.” — Doddridge.
And when the disciples saw him walking on the sea, they were troubled, saying, It is a spirit; and they cried out for fear.Matthew 14:26-27. And when the disciples saw him, they were troubled — “It is well known that it is never entirely dark on the water not to urge that the moon might perhaps now be in the last quarter, as it must have been, if this was about three weeks before the passover.” By that little light, therefore, which they had, the disciples, seeing him, but not perfectly discerning who he was, were much terrified: saying, It is a spirit, Οτι φαντασμα εστι, It is an apparition: for they justly supposed that no human body could be supported by the water. Although the original word here used is not spirit, but apparition, yet that the Jews in general, particularly the Pharisees, believed in the existence of spirits, and that spirits sometimes appeared, is evident from Luke 24:37; Luke 24:39, and Acts 23:8-9. And they cried out with fear — Through their dread of what might be the consequence: for, Mark 6:50, they all saw him, and were troubled. We see here, that even appearances and approaches of deliverance may be the occasions of trouble and perplexity to God’s people, who are sometimes put into great fear when they are most highly favoured. See Luke 1:29, and Exodus 3:6. To allay the fears of his disciples, Christ immediately drew near and spake to them, in a tone of voice with which they were all perfectly acquainted, saying, θαρσειτε, Take courage: it is I — Your Lord and Master; be not afraid — Either of me, who am your friend, or of the violent tempest, which cannot hurt you while you are under my protection.
But straightway Jesus spake unto them, saying, Be of good cheer; it is I; be not afraid.
And Peter answered him and said, Lord, if it be thou, bid me come unto thee on the water.Matthew 14:28-31. And Peter said, Lord, if it be thou — Or, since it is thou, (the particle if frequently bearing this meaning;) bid me come unto thee on the water — This was a rash request, proceeding from the warmth and forwardness of Peter’s natural temper. And he said, Come — Our Lord granted his request, doubtless with a view to show him the weakness of his faith, and thereby to give a check to the high opinion he seems to have entertained of himself, as well as to demonstrate the greatness of his own power: for in supporting Peter on the water along with himself, he manifested greater power than if he had walked thereon singly. And when Peter was come down out of the ship — Being fully satisfied that Jesus was able to uphold and bear him up; he walked on the water — For a while; no little pleased, we may suppose, to find it firm under his feet. But when he saw the wind boisterous — Doubtless it became more so than before, making a dreadful noise, and causing the sea to rage horribly: he was afraid — His faith failed, his courage staggered, and, in the hurry of his thoughts, he forgot that Jesus was at hand, and was seized with a sudden terror. And now the secret power of God, which, while Peter confidently relied on Jesus, had made the sea firm under him, began to be withdrawn, and in proportion as his faith decreased, the water yielded, and he sunk. In this extremity he looked round for Christ, and on the very brink of being swallowed up, cried, Lord, save me — Peter, being a fisherman, had been used to the sea, and it appears from John 21:7, was a skilful swimmer. And probably he ventured on the attempt he now made with some secret dependance on his art, which God, for wise reasons, suffered to fail him. The word καταποντιζεσθαι, here rendered to sink, is very expressive, and may intimate that he felt himself sinking with such a weight that he had no hope of recovering himself, and expected nothing but that he should go directly to the bottom of the sea. Immediately Jesus stretched forth his hand, and caught him — Dealing thus mercifully with his servant, in not suffering him to perish as a punishment of his preceding rashness and self- confidence, and his subsequent diffidence and distrust of Christ’s power: And said, O thou of little faith, wherefore didst thou doubt? — Namely, of my protection, when I was so near? when thou hadst my commission to make the trial, and hadst in part experienced my power in supporting thee thus far on the waves? The reader must observe, Peter did not doubt that it was Jesus who walked upon the water. He was convinced of that before he left the vessel; yea, and while he was sinking; otherwise he would not have called to him for assistance: but he was afraid that Jesus could not, or would not support him against the wind, which blew more fiercely than before; a doubt most unreasonable, since it was as easy for Christ to support him against the storm, as to keep him up on the water, which Jesus had virtually promised to do in his permission, and which he had actually performed while Peter relied on him. “The people of God, warned by this example, should beware of presumption and self-sufficiency, and in all their actions should take care not to be precipitate. Wherever God calls them, they are boldly to go, not terrified at the danger or difficulty of the duty; his providence being always able to support and protect them. But he who goes without a call, or proceeds further than he is called; who rushes into difficulties and temptations without any reason, may, by the unhappy issue of his conduct, be made to feel how dangerous a thing it is for a person to go out of his sphere.” — Macknight.
And he said, Come. And when Peter was come down out of the ship, he walked on the water, to go to Jesus.
But when he saw the wind boisterous, he was afraid; and beginning to sink, he cried, saying, Lord, save me.
And immediately Jesus stretched forth his hand, and caught him, and said unto him, O thou of little faith, wherefore didst thou doubt?
And when they were come into the ship, the wind ceased.Matthew 14:32-33. When they were come into the ship, the wind ceased — And that so suddenly that all in the ship were sensible it was the effect of Christ’s presence and power. He seems, also, according to John 6:21, to have wrought another miracle at the same instant, for immediately on his entering the ship, it was at the land! These many wonderful miracles, succeeding each other so rapidly, greatly affected the minds of the disciples. They were sore amazed, says Mark, in themselves, beyond measure, and wondered, namely, at the astonishing power of their Master. For they considered not the miracle of the loaves, though so lately performed, and so wonderful, and though they had the sensible proof of it before their eyes in the baskets of fragments which they had taken with them into the ship; and perhaps had been talking of it before the storm came on; for their heart was hardened, and they were so stupified with their fear, that they did not reflect on that miracle. We need not, therefore, be surprised that they did not call to mind a similar exertion of his power, which they had beheld while they sailed to the country of the Gadarenes. Then they that were in the ship — Not only the disciples, but all others that were therein, came and worshipped him — Fell down at his feet in a rapture of wonder, devotion, and reverence, saying, Of a truth thou art the Son of God — That is, the Messiah, and a divine person, possessed of an unlimited power over the whole creation. Though on many occasions formerly, Jesus had given equal, if not greater evidences of his power, the disciples did not, till now, make open confession of his dignity. It seems, when his miracles came to be thus multiplied, out especially when they followed upon one another so closely, the apostles were more deeply affected with them than by seeing him perform any single miracle.
Then they that were in the ship came and worshipped him, saying, Of a truth thou art the Son of God.
And when they were gone over, they came into the land of Gennesaret.Matthew 14:34. They came into the land of Gennesaret — A large tract of ground on the western shore of the lake, in a part of which Capernaum appears from hence to have been situated. For though Matthew and Mark speak only of their coming to the land of Gennesaret and putting to shore there, (see Mark 6:53,) it is plain from John’s account that Jesus, at his landing, came to Capernaum, for it was there the people found him that followed him in the morning from the other side of the sea. See Doddridge, and compare John 6:22; John 6:25, with John 6:59. And when the men of that place had knowledge of him — Or rather, the men, &c., επιγνοντες αυτον, knowing, or having known him, namely, formerly; Jesus having ordinarily resided in that neighbourhood, and the inhabitants thereof having seen many of his miracles: sent out into all that country — Christ having been absent some time, the people were glad that he was now returned, and sent messengers to all their friends and acquaintance in the neighbouring places who were sick, desiring them to come and be cured. And they, rejoicing at the opportunity, came as soon as possible, in great crowds, carrying their sick on beds and couches, and bringing them to Jesus. Thus those who have obtained the knowledge of Christ themselves, should do all they can to bring others to be acquainted with him also. And when we have opportunities of receiving instruction and other spiritual blessings, we should invite as many as possible to share with us. More than we think of would embrace the opportunities, if they were but called upon and invited to them. On this occasion, the number of those that came to Jesus was so great, that he could not bestow particular attention upon each of them. They and their friends, therefore, besought him to grant them the favour of touching, if it were but the extremity of his clothes, being certain of obtaining thereby a complete cure. Nor were their expectations disappointed; for as many as touched him were made perfectly whole — Whatever the distempers were under which they laboured, not because there was any virtue in his garments, otherwise the soldiers to whom they were given at his crucifixion might have wrought miracles by them, but because Jesus willed it to be so: and because those who touched him confided in his power and goodness, and believed that he would thus heal them. It was in this neighbourhood that the woman mentioned Matthew 9:20, had been cured of a bloody issue by touching the hem of his garment, and probably the information which these afflicted people, who now applied to Christ, had received of this fact, gave occasion to this peculiar exercise of faith in him. Observe, reader, the healing virtue that is in Christ is put forth for the benefit of those that by a true and lively faith touch him. Christ is in heaven, but his word is nigh us, and he himself in that word. When we mix faith with the word, apply it to ourselves, depend upon it, and submit to the influences and commands of it, then we touch the hem of Christ’s garment. It is but this touching, and we are made whole. On such easy terms are spiritual cures offered by him, that if our souls are not healed, we have only ourselves to blame. He could have healed us, he would have healed us, but we would not be healed: so that our blood will be upon our own heads.
And when the men of that place had knowledge of him, they sent out into all that country round about, and brought unto him all that were diseased;
And besought him that they might only touch the hem of his garment: and as many as touched were made perfectly whole.