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phets. 16 'But when Herod heard thereof, he said, It is John, whom I beheaded he is risen from the dead. 17 For || Herod himself had sent forth and laid hold upon John, and bound him in prison for Herodias' sake, his brother Philip's wife: for he had married her. 18 For John had said unto Herod, "It is not lawful for thee to have thy brother's wife. 19 Therefore Herodias had fa quarrel against him, and would have killed him; but she could not: 20 For Herod 'feared John, knowing that he was a just man and an holy, and ‡observed him; and when he heard him, he did many things, and heard him gladly. 21 "And when a convenient day was come, that Herod on his birth-day made a supper to his lords, high captains, and chief estates of Galilee; 22 And when the daughter of the said Herodias came in, and danced, and pleased Herod and them that sat with him, the king said unto the damsel, Ask of me whatsoever thou wilt, and I will give it thee. 23 And he sware unto her, Whatsoever thou shalt ask of me, I will give it thee, unto the half of my kingdom. 24 And she went forth, and said unto her mother, What shall I ask? And she said, The head of John the Baptist. 25 And she came in straightway with haste unto the king, and asked, saying, I will that thou give me by and by in a charger the head of John the Baptist. 26 "And the king was exceeding sorry; yet for his oath's sake, and for their sakes which sat with him, he would not reject her. 27 And immediately the king sent ||an executioner, and commanded his head to be brought and he went and beheaded him in the prison, 28 And brought his head in a charger, and gave it to the damsel: and the damsel gave it to her mother. 29 And when his disciples heard of it, they came and took up his corpse, and laid it in a tomb.
r Matt. xiv. 2; Luke iii. 19. I A. D. 30. s Lev. xviii. 16; xx. 21. Or, kept him, or, saved him. u Matt. xiv. 6. r Gen. xl. 20. § A. D. 32. one of his guard.
† Or, an inward grudge.
t Matt. xiv. 5, xxi. 6. ≈ Matt. xiv. 9.
The wild notions that the people had concerning our Lord Jesus, ver. 15. His own countrymen could believe nothing great concerning him, because they knew his poor kindred; but others, that were not under the power of that prejudice against him, were yet willing to believe any thing rather than the truth-that he was the Son of God, and the true Messias. They said, He is Elias,whom they expected; or, He is a prophet-one of the Old Testament prophets raised to life, and returned to this world; or, As one of the prophets a prophet now newly raised up, equal to those under the Old Testament.
When Herod heard of Christ, the name and fame of what he said and what he did, he said, "It is certainly John the Baptist whom I beheaded (ver. 16). He is risen from the dead; and though while he was with us he did no miracle, yet, having removed for awhile to another world, he is come again with greater power, and now mighty works do shew forth themselves in him."
On this passage it may be observed,-1. Where there is an idle faith there is commonly a work. ing fancy. The people said, It is a prophet, risen from the dead. Herod said, It is John the Baptist, risen from the dead. It seems, by this, that the rising of a prophet from the dead, to do mighty works, was a thing expected, and was thought neither impossible nor improbable; and it was readily suspected, when it was not true; but afterward, when it was true concerning Christ, and a truth undeniably evidenced, yet then it was obstinately gainsaid and denied. Those who most wilfully disbelieve the truth, are commonly most credulous of errors and fancies. 2. They who fight against the cause of God, will find themselves baffled, even when they think themselves conquerors. They cannot gain their point; for the word of the Lord endures for ever. They who rejoiced when the witnesses were slain, fretted as much when, in three or four days, they rose again in their successors. Rev. xi. 10, 11. The impenitent, unreformed sinner, that escapeth the sword of Jehu, shall Elisha slay. 3. A guilty conscience needs no accuser or tormentor but itself. Herod charges himself with the murder of John, which perhaps no one else dared charge him with," I beheaded
him;" and the terror of it made him imagine that Christ was John risen. He feared John while he lived, and now, when he thought he had got clear of him, fears him ten times worse when he is dead. One might as well be haunted with ghosts and furies, as with the horrors of an accusing conscience; those, therefore, who would keep an undisturbed peace, must keep an undefiled corscience. Acts. xxiv. 16. 4. There may be the terrors of strong conviction, where there is not the truth of a saving conversion. This Herod, who had this notion concerning Christ, afterward sough: to kill him (Luke xiii. 31), and did set him at nought (Luke xxiii. 11); so that he will not be persuaded; though it be by one risen from the dead-no, not by a John the Baptist risen from the deal A narrative of Herod's putting John the Baptist to death is brought in upon this occasion, as was in Matthew. And here we may observe, the great value and veneration which Herod had some time had for John the Baptist-which is related only by this evangelist, ver. 20. Here w see what a great way a man may go towards grace and glory, and yet come short of both, and peris eternally. He feared John, knowing that he was a just man, and an holy. It is possible that a man may have a great reverence for good men, and especially for good ministers, yea, and for tha in them which is good, and yet himself be a bad man. He observed him; he had a regard to his exemplary conversation, and took notice of that in him which was praise-worthy, and commended it in the hearing of those about him. He heard him preach; which was great condescension, considering how mean John's appearance was. To hear Christ himself preach in our streets will be but a poor plea in the great day. Luke xiii. 26. He did many of those things which John in his preaching taught him. He was not only a hearer of the Word, but in part a doer of the work. Some sins which John in his preaching reproved, he forsook, and some duties he bound himself to ; but it w not suffice to do many things, unless we have respect to all the commandments. He heard his gladly; he did not hear him with terror, as Felix heard Paul, but heard him with pleasure. There is a flashy joy, which a hypocrite may have in hearing the Word. Ezekiel was to his hearers as a lovely song (Ezek. xxxiii. 32); and the stony ground received the Word with joy.
Herod had married his brother Philip's wife, ver. 17. John reproved him-told him plainly, It is not lawful for thee to have her. This was Herod's own iniquity, which he could not leave, when he did many things that John taught him; and therefore John tells him of this particularly. Though he were a king, he would not spare him, any more than Elijah did Ahab, when he sail, "Hast thou killed, and also taken possession?" Though it was dangerous to offend Herod, and much more to offend Herodias, yet John would run the hazard rather than be wanting in his duty. Those ministers that would be found faithful in the work of God, must not be afraid of the face of man. If we seek to please men, farther than is for their spiritual good, we are not the servants of Christ.
There is reason to suppose that Herod had a part in the plot laid to take off John's head, notwithstanding his pretences to be displeased and surprised, and that the thing was concerted between his and Herodias; for it is said to be when a convenient day was come (ver. 21), fit for such a purpose. There must be a ball at court, upon the king's birth-day, and a supper prepared for his lords, high captains, and chief estates of Galilee. To grace the solemnity, the daughter of Herodias must dance publicly, and Herod must pretend to be wonderfully charmed with her dancing; and if he be, they that sit with him cannot but, in compliment to him, be so too. The king hereupon must make her an extravagant promise, to give her whatever she would ask, even to the half of the kingdom. This promise is bound with an oath; he sware unto her, Whatsoever thou sha ask, I will give. She, being instructed by Herodias, her mother, asked the head of John the Baptist, vers. 24, 25. Herod granted it, and the execution was done immediately, while the company were together; which we can scarcely think the king would have done, if he had not deter mined the matter before. But he pretends to be very backward to it, and that he would not for all the world have done it, if he had not been surprised into such a promise. The king was exceeding sorry; that is, he seemed to be so-he said he was so-he looked as if he had been so; he was really pleased that he had found a pretence to get John out of the way. And yet he was not without sorrow for it; he could not do it but with great regret and reluctancy. Natural conscience will not suffer men to sin easily; the very commission of it is vexatious-what, then, will the reflection upon it be? He takes on him to be very sensible of the obligation of his oath; whereas if the damsel had asked but a fourth part of his kingdom, I doubt not but he would have found out a way to evade his oath. The promise was rashly made, and could not bind him to do an unrigh teous thing. Sinful oaths must be repented of, and therefore not performed; for undoing of what we have done amiss, as far as is in our power. If we may suppose that Herod knew nothing of the design when he made that rash promise, it is probable that he was hurried into the doing of it by those about him, only to carry on the humour; for he did it for their sakes who sat with him-whose company he was proud of, and therefore would do any thing to gratify them.
Thus do princes make themselves slaves to those whose respect they covet, and both value and secure themselves by.
30 And the apostles gathered themselves together unto Jesus, and told him all things, both what they had done, and what they had taught. 31 And he said unto them, Come ye yourselves apart into a desert place, and rest a while for there were many coming and going, and they had no leisure so much as to eat. 32 And they departed into a desert place by ship privately. 33 And the people saw them departing, and many knew him, and ran afoot thither out of all the cities, and outwent them, and came together unto him. 34 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. 35 And when the day was now far spent, his disciples came unto him, and said, This is a desert place, and now the time is far passed: 36 Send them away, that they may go into the country round about, and into the villages, and buy themselves bread: for they have nothing to eat. 37 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? 38 He saith unto them, How many loaves have ye? go and see. And when they knew, they say, iFive, and two fishes. 39 And he commanded them to make all sit down by companies upon the green grass. 40 And they sat down in ranks, by hundreds, and by fifties. 41 And when he had taken the five loaves and the two fishes, he looked up to heaven, and blessed, and brake the loaves, and gave them to his disciples to set before them; and the two fishes divided he among them all. 42 And they did all eat, and were filled.
43 And they took up twelve baskets full of the fragments, and of the fishes. 44 And they that did eat of the loaves were about five thousand men.
a Luke ix. 10.
b Matt. xiv. 13. c Chap iii. 20. d Matt. xiv. 13. e Matt. ix. 36. xiv. 14. f Luke ix. 11. g Matt. xiv. 15; Luke ix. 12. h Num. xi. 13, 22; 2 Kings iv. 43. The Roman penny is sevenpence halfpenny; as Matt. xviii. 28. Matt. xiv. 17; Luke ix. 13. John vi. 9. See Matt. xv. 34; chap. viii. 5. k1 Sam. xi. 13; Matt. xxvi. 26.
In these verses we have the return to Christ of the apostles whom he had sent forth to preach and work miracles, ver. 7. They had dispersed themselves into several quarters of the country for some time; but when they had made good their several appointments, by consent they gathered themselves together to compare notes, and came to Jesus, the centre of their unity, to give him an account of what they had done pursuant to their commission. As the servant that was sent to invite to the feast, and had received answers from the guests, came and showed his lord all those things; so did the apostles here-they told him all things, both what they had done, and what they had taught. Ministers are accountable both for what they do and for what they teach; and must both watch over their own souls and watch for the souls of others, as those that must give account. Heb. xiii. 17. Let them not either do any thing, or teach any thing, but what they are willing should be related and repeated to the Lord Jesus. It is a comfort to faithful ministers, when they can appeal to Christ concerning their doctrine and manner of life-both which, perhaps, have been misrepresented by men; and he gives them leave to be free with him, and to lay open their case before him-to tell him all things-what treatment they have met with-what success, and what disappointment.
The tender care Christ took for their repose, after the fatigue they had, is noticed, ver. 31. He said unto them, perceiving them to be almost spent, and out of breath, Come ye yourselves apart into a desert place, and rest awhile. It should seem that John's disciples came to Christ with the mournful tidings of their Master's death much about the same time that his own disciples came to him with the report of their negotiation.-Christ takes cognizance of the fears of some, and of the toils of others, of his disciples, and provides suitable relief for both rest for those that are
tired, and refuge for those that are terrified. With what kindness and compassion doth Christ say to them, Come and rest! The most active servants of Christ cannot be always upon the stretch of business, but have bodies that require some relaxation, some breathing time. We shall not be able to serve God without ceasing, day and night, till we come to heaven, where they never rest from praising him. And the Lord is for the body, considers its frame, and not only allows it time for rest, but puts in mind of resting. "Come, my people, enter thou into thy chambers; return to thy rest." And those that work diligently and faithfully, may cheerfully retire to rest The sleep of the labouring man is sweet.
The diligence of the people to follow him. It was rude to do so, when he and his disciples were desirous, for such good reason, to retire; and yet they are not blamed for it, nor bid to go back, but bid welcome. A failure in good manners will easily be excused in those who follow Christ, if it be but made up in a fulness of good affections. They followed him of their own accord, without being called upon. Here is no set time, no meeting appointed; yet they thus fly like a cloud, and as the doves to their windows. They followed him out of the cities-quitted their houses, their callings and affairs, to hear him preach. They followed him afoot, though he was gone by sea, so, to try them, seemed to put a slight upon them, and to endeavour to shake them off; yet they stuck to him. Nay, they followed him, though it was into a desert place, despicable and inconvenient. The presence of Christ will turn a wilderness into a paradise.
Christ gave them entertainment, ver. 34,- When he saw much people, instead of being moved with displeasure, because they disturbed him when he desired to be private, as many a man, many a good man, would have been, he was moved with compassion toward them, and looked upon them with concern, because they were as sheep having no shepherd. They seemed to be well-inclined, and manageable as sheep, and willing to be taught; but they had no shepherd-none to lead and guide them in the right way-none to feed them with good doctrine; and therefore, in compassion to them, he not only healed their sick (as it is in Matthew), but he taught them many things; and we may be sure that they were all true and good, and fit for them to learn. All his hearers he generously made his guests, and treated them at a splendid entertainment: so it might truly be called, because a miraculous one. The disciples moved, that they should be sent home. When the day was now far spent, and the night drew on, they said, This is a desert place, and much time is now past; send them away, to buy bread, vers. 35, 36. Christ ordered that they should all be fed (ver. 57),-Give ye them to eat. Though their crowding after him and his disciples hindered them from eating (ver. 31), yet he would not therefore, to be even with them, send them ing; but, to teach us to be kind to those who are rude to us, he ordered provision to be made for them that bread which Christ and his disciples took with them into the desert, that they might make a quiet meal of it for themselves, he will have them to partake of. Thus was he given to hospitality. They attended on the spiritual food of his word, and then he took care that they should not want corporal food. The way of duty, as it is the way of safety, so it is the way to supply.
The disciples objected to it, as impracticable,-Shall we go and buy two hundred penny-worth of bread, and give them to eat? Thus, through the weakness of their faith, instead of waiting for directions from Christ, they perplex the cause with projects of their own. It was a question, whether they had two hundred pence with them, whether the country would of a sudden afford so much bread if they had, and whether that would suffice so great a company; but thus Moses objected.— "Shall the flocks and the herds be slain for them?" (Num. xi. 22.) Christ would let them see their folly in forecasting for themselves, that they might put the greater value upon his provision for them.
Christ effected it to universal satisfaction. They had brought with them five loaves, for the victualing of their ship, and two fishes perhaps they caught as they came along; and that is the bill of fare. This was but a little for Christ and his disciples, and yet this they must give away, as the widow her two mites, and as the Church of Macedonia's deep poverty abounded to the riches of their liberality. We often find Christ entertained at other people's tables-dining with one friend, and supping with another; but here we have him supping a great many at his own charge; which shows, that when others ministered to him of their substance, it was not because he could not supply himself otherwise-if he was hungry, he needed not tell them; but it was a piece of humiliation that he was pleased to submit to nor was it agreeable to the intention of miracles, that he should
work them for himself.
The provision made was ordinary. Here were no rarities, no varieties, though Christ, if he had pleased, could have furnished his table with them; but thus he would teach us to be content with food convenient for us, and not to be desirous of dainties. If we have for necessity, it is no matter though we have not for delicacy and curiosity. God, in love, gives meat for our hunger; but, in
wrath, gives meat for our lusts. Psal. lxxviii. 18. The promise to them that fear the Lord is, that "Verily they shall be fed," he doth not say, They shall be feasted. If Christ and his disciples took up with mean things, surely we may.
A blessing was craved upon the meat,-He looked up to heaven, and blessed. Christ did not call one of his disciples to crave a blessing, but he did it himself (ver. 41); and, by virtue of this blessing, the bread strangely multiplied, and so did the fishes; for they did all eat, and were filled, though they were to the number of five thousand, vers. 42, 44. This miracle was significant, and shows that Christ came into the world to be the great feeder, as well as the great healer-not only to restore, but to preserve and nourish, spiritual life; and in him there is enough for all that come to him-enough to fill the soul, to fill the treasures; none are sent empty away from Christ, but those that come to him full of themselves.
Care was taken of the fragments that remained, with which they filled twelve baskets. Though Christ had bread enough at command, he would hereby teach us not to make waste of any of God's good creatures; remembering how many there are that do want, and that we know not but we may some time or other want such fragments as we throw away.
45 And straightway he constrained his disciples to get into the ship, and to go to the other side before unto Bethsaida, while he sent away the people. 46 And when he had sent them away, he departed into a mountain to pray. 47 "And when even was come, the ship was in the midst of the sea, and he alone on the land. 48 And he saw them toiling in rowing; for the wind was contrary unto them: and about the fourth watch of the night he cometh unto them, walking upon the sea, and "would have passed by them. 49 But when they saw him walking upon the sea, they supposed it had been a spirit, and cried out: 50 For they all saw him, and were troubled. And immediately he talked with them, and saith unto them, Be of good cheer: it is I; be not afraid. 51 And he went up unto them into the ship; and the wind ceased: and they were sore amazed in themselves beyond measure, and wondered. 52 For they considered not the miracle of the loaves: for their Pheart was hardened. 53 And when they had passed over, they came into the land of Gennesaret, and drew to the shore. 54 And when they were come out of the ship, straightway they knew him, 55 And ran through that whole region round about, and began to carry about in beds those that were sick, where they heard he was. 56 And whithersoever he entered, into villages, or cities, or country, they laid the sick in the streets, and besought him that they might touch if it were but the border of his garment: and as many as touched †him were made whole.
/ Matt. xiv. 22; John vi. 17.
Or, over against Bethsaida.
o Chap. viii. 17, 18. p Chap. iii. 5, xvi. 14. q Matt. xiv. 34.
m Matt. xiv. 23; John vi. 16, 17. n See Luke xxiv. 28. Matt. ix. 20; chap. v. 27, 28; Acts xix. 12. † Or, it.
This passage of story we had in Matthew (xiv. 22, &c.), only what was there related concerning Peter, is omitted here.
Christ constrained his disciples to go before by ship to Bethsaida, intending to follow them, as they supposed, by land. The people were loath to scatter, so that it cost him some time and pains to send them away. As long as we are here in this world we have no continuing city, no, not in communion with Christ. The everlasting feast is reserved for the future state.
Christ departed into a mountain, to pray. He prayed; though he had so much preaching-work on hands, yet he was much in prayer. He prayed often, and prayed long; which is an encouragement to us to depend upon the intercession he is making for us at the right hand of the Fatherthat continual intercession. He went alone, to pray; though he needed not to retire for the avoiding either of distraction or of ostentation, yet, to set us an example, and to encourage us in our secret addresses to God, he prayed alone -A good man is never less alone than when alone with God.
The disciples were in distress at sea. The wind was contrary (ver. 48), so that they toiled in rowing, and could not get forward. This was a specimen of the hardships they were to expect,