Matthew 14 took place in approximately a day's time as Jesus continued his ministry with his disciples. To me, it was a day of Jesus teaching all of us to trust him in faith and continue on no matter what the circumstances are and how hopeless they may appear.
The day started with the news reaching Jesus and his disciples that John the Baptist had been brutally murdered by Herod as a gift for a frivolous dance that pleased Herod. John the Baptist had baptized Jesus and had said that Jesus' ministry would increase as John's decreased, but surely Jesus could have spared John from imprisonment, suffering, and death, but strangely did not. No doubt the disciples wondered about Jesus's ministry and why Jesus did not intervene to save his friend who had prepared the way for Jesus's ministry.
I try to imagine how the disciples may have felt about John's death. They had witnessed so many miracles performed by Jesus – and yet in this instance, he chose to let it happen. I wonder if they thought to their future and what might await them. Perhaps they even recalled the event of John’s death at the time Jesus died on the cross as they huddled together in fear until the third day when Jesus was resurrected and delivered the good news of his defeat over death.
While John’s death was devastating news and clearly affected Jesus deeply because he “withdrew to a lonely place apart,” he did not stay in that place for long. Rather, he saw the needs of the people around him and had compassion on them and in turn, returned to his ministry of healing the sick.
We hear on the news of so much suffering in the world today and wonder, as the disciples did, how brutality can be worked out in God’s overall plan. In the U.S., we don’t experience the brutal ways of Herod but we hear about the senseless acts of violence, greed, and hate perpetrated by those in power.
Jesus shows us he is a very different kind of ruler—one who is the ultimate ruler and who serves others and is compassionate and kind and can be trusted for all eternity. We may encounter the death of a loved one, the abrupt end of a relationship, good health, or of home or job security. But regardless of the changes and their effects on our lives, we have the example set by Christ to pick up the ministry God has given us, and for us, and to the extent God enables us, to continue in faith. In my case with the abrupt end of a job and a career, I come face to face with the question of what is next. I pray that with God’s grace I will have the faith and understanding to follow God’s direction and go forward in that way rather than follow demands on my life leading in other directions.