The consolations of God - Fifteenth in a series
Matthew 14 comforts us by reporting how Jesus consoled himself, his disciples and his followers when John the Baptist was beheaded.
Herod had jailed John because John said to him about Herodias, his brother's wife, "It is not lawful for thee to have her." (Mat 14: 4) It would appear that John was concerned for Herod's eternal soul.
Herod did not put John to death at first because he feared the multitude who counted him as a prophet. (Mat 14:5) However, after ogling Herodias's daughter as she danced, enamored, he swore on an oath to give her whatever she asked. Her mother told her to ask for the head of John the Baptist on a charger, that is, a platter. This was done.
Jews had a somber understanding of how the body of a good man ought to be handled upon his death. This wonderful man had a severed head that was perhaps disposed of with the banquet garbage. But Jesus' disciples took his body and buried it, and went and told Jesus.
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. (Mat 14:13)
Did they think they might comfort him? All were deeply grieved and distressed about this terrible end to the life of their special prophet. John was also Jesus' cousin. He had led the people to the Lord. It was a time of heartache and no doubt, confusion and fear as it foretold of things to come.
Jesus had desired to be alone yet he was followed by his adherents, so his first need was to comfort them. He healed their sick. (Mat 14:14) Then he fed 5,000 men and their women and children miraculously with five loaves and two fish. Thus, his presence, power and love upheld them at their time of deep need. The twelve were specially comforted when exactly 12 baskets with the remains of the feast were collected.
Jesus constrained his disciples to get into a ship, and to go before him unto the other side, while he sent the multitudes away. And …he went up into a mountain apart to pray (Mat 14:22, 23). This is our example for how to seek consolation when we witness or hear of devastating events: First, help the weaker brothers; then seek God in private.
A further consolation was provided. Since the disciples' ship was now in the midst of the sea, Jesus chose to join them by walking on the waters. And when the disciples saw him walking on the sea, they were troubled, saying, It is a spirit; and they cried out for fear. But straightway Jesus spake unto them, saying, Be of good cheer; it is I; be not afraid. (Mat 14:26-27)
Though Peter sought to walk to him, he was sinking down, but Jesus did not say he could not do the same: "O thou of little faith, wherefore didst thou doubt?" (vs 31b)
The disciples understood then that God was still in control and were amazed that perhaps in time, they, too, may walk on water! The unspeakable tragedy that had torn their hearts was soothed. As Jesus and Peter came on board, the wind ceased and all worshiped the Lord, saying, Of a truth thou art the Son of God. (Mat 14:32,33) Then they landed and Jesus continued to heal all who came to him.
It's consoling to know that Jesus understands when we need special comfort and he will not disappoint.