BSF Study Questions Matthew Lesson 15, Day 5: Matthew 14:22-36; Mark 6:45-56; John 6:14-21

Summary of passages:  Matthew 14:22-36:  After feeding the 5000, Jesus made the disciples go ahead of him in a boat while he dismissed the crowds.  Then he went up on a mountainside by himself to pray.  The boat was a distance away from shore so Jesus walked on the water to get to the boat.  The disciples thought Jesus a ghost and were afraid.  Peter decides to ask the ghost to allow him to walk on water if the ghost is really Jesus.  So Peter does.  But Peter becomes afraid, loses faith, and starts sinking.  Jesus then grabs him and reprimands him for his lack of faith.

Then the disciples worshipped Jesus and declared him the Son of God.  They reached Gennesaret on the other side of the Sea of Galilee where the people recognized Jesus and brought him their sick, which he healed.

Mark 6:45-56:  Mark reveals that the disciples were straining against the oars so Jesus was about to walk by them when they were all terrified.  Jesus told them to not be afraid and he climbed in their boat.  They were amazed for they had not understood about the loaves and had hardened hearts.  All throughout the region people came and the sick were healed.

John 6:14-21: After Jesus performed the miracle of feeding 5000 people with 5 loaves of bread and 2 fish, the people began to believe this was the Prophet sent to save them.  Thus, Jesus retreated to a mountaintop by himself so the people would not make him king.

That evening the disciples went off the mountain and set off across the lake for Capernaum.  It was dark and Jesus was still on the mountaintop.  The sea was rough and they weren’t making any progress towards shore.  Soon, they saw Jesus approach by walking on water and they were afraid.  But the disciples took Jesus in and immediately they landed on shore.

Questions:

12a)  Unsure what BSF means by “in the will of God”.  The answer is yes because we are all in the will of God no matter if we are believers or not.  God is in control of everything and everything happens due to his will to allow it to happen.  Verses referring to the storm:  Matthew 14:24, 32; Mark 6:48, 50; John 6:18, 21)

b)  Personal Question.  My answer:  I didn’t “learn” anything but I am reminded that God is in control; He sends storms be it sudden or not into our lives for a reason and He is there to rescue us and end the storms in our lives.  All storms pass and your storm will as well.

13a)  Peter had faith enough in Jesus to jump out onto a lake in the middle of a storm and walk on water

b)  Peter had faith until the storm got too intense and when his faith wavered he began to sink.

c)  Jesus rescues Peter despite his unbelief but then chastises him for his unbelief in the hope he will be strengthened.

d)  Personal Question.  My answer:  It’s a reminder that God is always there in our troubles, right beside us, and He will rescue us at the moment we begin to drown even if our faith wavers.  All storms are temporary and this too shall pass.

14a)  The wind died down

b)  They worshipped Jesus, saying “Truly you are the Son of God.”

c)  Personal Question.  My answer:  It reminds me of Jesus’ compassion on all his flock.  It reminds me that God is infinite and His love is infinite and I pray every day to live that out to the best of my human ability.  Reading this of Jesus walking on water does not change my life; but God does.  With every breath I breathe, He works in and through me.  And that is life-altering.

Conclusions:  This is one of those lessons I did not enjoy because not everything I read in the Bible is life-changing in that instant or ever.  It may also not be manifest to the point I even realize it is life-altering.  It may just be a soaking up of God that adds to my reservoir of knowledge of God and my appreciation and love of Him.  I already know God is there for me.  I already know my storms will pass.  I already know who my rescuer and savior is.  Jesus’ walking on water does not “change my life”; it only adds to my life, making it more fuller and giving me a better picture of Jesus, who he is/was, and a deeper love of him.  Disappointing.

I complained yesterday about not reading John so I was eagerly looking forward to analyzing the John passage here.  Once again, disappointed for no questions even address John and the differences between the passages. I would have liked to know why they are so drastically different and why the towns are different, etc.  Why have us read John if no questions are asked on the passage?

Consequences of too many expectations, I guess.

End Notes:  The Prophet the people are referring to is found in Deuteronomy (18:15) where Moses is speaking.

Mark 6:48 has Jesus keeping his eyes on his disciples the entire time.  We are never out of God’s sight.

The disciples have been rowing for hours and still have only made it about half-way across the lake because of the storm (John 6:19).  I think this is why Jesus decides to help.  The wind is too strong.  The same in our lives. Jesus and God help when the winds become unbearable for us to bear.  Note also rowing is not easy.  Our lives are not easy and they are not meant to be easy.  Doing God’s work is hard for that tests us and grows us.  As believers, we should not expect the easy road.

God’s timing is perfect.  He appears at the precise moment we need comfort and reassurance, affirmation and just plain companionship.  He walks by our side all the days of our lives, through the calm and the storms, lifting us up and setting us down, encouraging us every step of the way, guiding us if we mis-step and re-directing us, as we do His work here on earth.

Jesus performs miracles for our benefit, not for His glory as we see vividly when he turns down the crown (John 6:15).  It is all for us.  Imagine how much greater our lives would be if we truly believed that in our heart of hearts.

Merry Christmas!!

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BSF Study Questions Matthew Lesson 15, Day 4: Matthew 14:22-36; Mark 6:45-56

Summary of passages:  Matthew 14:22-36:  After feeding the 5000, Jesus made the disciples go ahead of him in a boat while he dismissed the crowds.  Then he went up on a mountainside by himself to pray.  The boat was a distance away from shore so Jesus walked on the water to get to the boat.  The disciples thought Jesus a ghost and were afraid.  Peter decides to ask the ghost to allow him to walk on water if the ghost is really Jesus.  So Peter does.  But Peter becomes afraid, loses faith, and starts sinking.  Jesus then grabs him and reprimands him for his lack of faith.

Then the disciples worshipped Jesus and declared him the Son of God.  They reached Gennesaret on the other side of the Sea of Galilee where the people recognized Jesus and brought him their sick, which he healed.

Mark 6:45-56:  Mark reveals that the disciples were straining against the oars so Jesus was about to walk by them when they were all terrified.  Jesus told them to not be afraid and he climbed in their boat.  They were amazed for they had not understood about the loaves and had hardened hearts.  All throughout the region people came and the sick were healed.

Questions:

10a)  He went up on a mountainside by himself to pray.

b)  Mark says that after the feeding of the 5000 miracle, the crowds began to believe him to be the Prophet so Jesus, knowing they intended to come and force him to be king, withdrew to a mountain by himself.

11a)  Jesus preached to a huge crowd in Bethesaida and fed them all and healed them all.

b)  Both just as we are to do.

c)  He prayed probably for strength in his ministry and to commune with the Father.  He probably thanked him for the strength and healing powers he had, the ability to do his Father’s will, and for his needs being fulfilled.  He probably asked for more people to heal and for more strength to persevere to the end.

d)  Personal Question.  My answer:  Thank God for everything:  my needs being met and my desires; for all my blessings. I will ask for the ability to continue in His work and pray for others and their needs as well.

Conclusions:  I’m wondering why we didn’t read John’s take on the walking on water (John 6:16-24) but we read John’s reasoning for Jesus’ seeking solitude.  I’m confused especially since we read all the passages in the previous days.

John’s is significantly different than Matthew and Mark’s.  Would have liked to have explored that instead of questions on prayer that although helpful for new believers are intuitive for believers who are close to God.

[Note:  We read John's take tomorrow; however, in my opinion, the passage is still left thoroughly unexplored.]

End Notes:  John just mentions this passingly but this is extremely important:  after the miracle of feeding the 5000, the crowd was probably in an uproar, excited and agitated for what was to come.  Jesus just provided bread as God had done, the first sign many of these people had of him.  Think of mob mentality and how easy it is to get caught up in the emotion of the moment.  Jesus and his disciples had to escape before it got out of hand.  It was not yet time to reveal himself as the Messiah and Jesus still had much work to do.  He couldn’t afford to get derailed here.

The fourth watch of the night would have been somewhere between 3 and 6 am.  We can assume Jesus was praying that entire time.

Peter’s walk is a picture of faith.  He believes in Jesus and follows him but the moment he began to doubt Jesus and his ability to save him, Peter began to sink.  But Peter called out to Jesus for rescue and protection and Jesus answered.  So it is with us as well.  Even if we are sinking, salvation is there, waiting for us to take it by the hand.

We can learn from Jesus when he asks Peter, “Why did you doubt?”  We should ask ourselves the same question for our doubt is often ill-founded.  We must examine ourselves so the next time we trust instead of doubt.  For with God, there is NO reason to doubt.

John tells us that as soon as Jesus got in the boat, “immediately the boat reached the shore”.

So did Jesus land in Gennesaret as Matthew and Mark say or Capernaum as John says?  It’s hard to say.  Gennesaret was also a region as well as a town in Jesus’ day.  Scholars don’t really know mainly because they don’t really know the exact location of these towns and the borders of the regions.  Here’s two sites I found helpful but ambiguous in answering the question:

http://www.welcometohosanna.com/LIFE_OF_JESUS/026_Ministry6Capernaum.htm

http://dqhall59.com/walking_on_water.htm

BSF Study Questions Matthew Lesson 15, Day 3: Matthew 14:13-21; Mark 6:30-44; Luke 9:10-17; John 6:1-13

Summary of passages:  Matthew 14:13-21:  Jesus was distraught over word of John the Baptist’s death so he withdrew to a solitary place.  The crowds followed him and Jesus had compassion on them and healed the sick.  When evening came, the disciples told Jesus to send the people away so they could eat.  Jesus told the disciples to feed the people with 5 loaves of bread and 2 fish.  Jesus took the food, prayed over it, giving thanks and broke the loaves.  Then he gave the food to the disciples who distributed the food to the people, never running out and having leftovers.  They fed 5000.

Mark 6:30-44:  Here, Mark reports the press of the crowds so Jesus took the disciples to a quiet place to get some rest.  Yet the crowds saw them leave and followed them and Jesus had compassion on them and taught them many things.  It was getting late so the disciples urged Jesus to send the crowds away to eat.  Jesus told the disciples to feed them themselves.  They said that would cost a fortune.  Jesus asked for the food they did have, directed the people to sit in groups, and then gave thanks for the food and broke the loaves.  The disciples distributed the food, never running out, with some leftover.  They fed 5000.

Luke 9:10-17:  Only new detail we learn is Jesus and the Twelve retreated to a town called Bethsaida (Great map and Historical background and modern pictures HERE.)

John 6:1-13:  Here we are told Jesus retreated to the far shore of the Sea of Galilee (where Bethsaida lies) on a mountainside.  The Jewish Passover Feast was approaching.  Jesus tests Philip by asking him how they were going to feed the people and it is Philip (not they) who said they don’t have enough money to feed them.  We learn Andrew, a disciples, sees a boy with a lunch of 5 loaves of bread and 2 fish that Jesus blesses.

Questions:

7a)  Mark tells us the press of the crowds around Jesus and his disciples.  They retreated to a quiet place to escape the crush of the crowds.  Mark records this in 5 places (3:7-9; 6:31; 6:45; 7:24; 9:30).

b)  Personal Question.  My answer:  It is recorded that Jesus had compassion on the crowds and taught them and healed the sick amongst them.  We also learn though that Jesus (like any human) needed a break to rest and recharge so we see him going to quiet places to escape the crowd.  Good lesson for us as well when we need down time!

8a)  So they would have time to go to the villages and buy themselves something to eat.

b)  He was showing them that the impossible in their world is not the impossible in God’s world.  God can feed 5000 people with 5 loaves of bread and 2 fish. God will provide even when it seems impossible.  God cares for his people in all needs including physical.  With faith, they too can provide for others as well.

9a)  God provides for all of our needs with faith and in the face of impossibility and hopelessness.  He uses others to come alongside us and help us in this world when we are down.  The disciples distributed God’s love and provision.  So must we.

b)  Personal Question.  My answer:  Jesus’ compassion is infinite.  He does not leave his people wanting.  He provides for all of his people’s needs.  Nothing is impossible with him.

c)  Personal Question.  My answer:  To keep marching towards my life’s purpose despite the hard work and sacrifice.  And although I don’t see how God will provide, He will.  The how and uncertainty doesn’t matter.

d)  Personal Question.  My answer:  Shine God’s light everywhere I go by being like Jesus:  kind, compassionate, helpful, and warm.  Speak more about Him with strangers.  Give all the credit to Him.  Believe.  With my family.  At Christmas.

Conclusions:  When we have 4 sufficiently long Bible passages just for these questions alone, I don’t think a Challenge question is warranted (nor is it appreciated).  I answered it only because it was in my study bible in Mark.  But overall, much easier than yesterday where history played a major role.

Lots of reading but important and worthy messages.  One, nothing is impossible with God (Luke 1:37).  Two, Jesus’ compassion for his people is limitless.  Three, take quiet time when you need it to rest and recharge so you may face the crowds with renewed compassion and empathy.  Good reminder in this holiday season to remember what’s important (Christ, family, and giving to others) and what’s not all that important (Christmas parties, Black Friday, the latest gadgets and gizmos, and expensive gifts for your kids cause “everyone else has one”).

End Notes:  As Jesus said, “They do not need to go away.”  There is never any reason to go away from Jesus.  We are to run to him.  We always need him.  The more time we spend with him the better.

We also note the prominence of the disciples in this passage.  Jesus uses them to distribute and obtain the food.  Jesus could have done all this himself but he wanted to show the important role we all play in his purpose.

This event points to God’s provision of manna to his people as they wandered in the wilderness during the Exodus from Egypt.  The Jewish people of the day would have immediately remembered this and this would give more credence to Jesus as Messiah.

We must use what God gives us wisely.  Trust God who can do everything.  Note how the leftovers were not wasted.  We too must also not waste what God has given us, be it food, gifts, talents, etc.

Fun Fact:  This is the only story that appears in all 4 gospels, showing the importance this event held for Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John and God who told them to record it.  This story epitomizes just who Jesus is and how he cares for all people.  How God holds us all dear and is willing to do anything to prove it.

BSF Study Questions Matthew Lesson 15, Day 2: Matthew 14:1-12; Mark 6:14-29

Summary of passages:  Matthew 14:1-12:  Herod thought Jesus was John the Baptist risen from the dead and that is why he can perform miracles.  Herod had John arrested previously because John was telling the people his marriage wasn’t lawful since he had married his brother’s wife, Herodias.  Herod wanted to kill John but was afraid of repercussions from the people.

On Herod’s birthday, the daughter of Herodias danced for them and Herod was so pleased that he swore an oath she could have whatever she wished for at that moment.  Her mother told her to ask for John the Baptist’s head on a platter.  Herod was trapped and had to do it since he swore in oath in front of his dinner guests.

Hence, John the Baptist was beheaded and his head brought in on a platter, which Herodias received from her daughter.  John’s disciples came, buried him, and brought the news to Jesus.

Mark 6:14-29:  When Herod heard about Jesus, some were saying Jesus was John the Baptist raised from the dead or Elijah or a prophet.  Herod thought Jesus was John the Baptist resurrected for he had him bound and thrown in prison for speaking out against his marriage to his brother Phillip’s wife, Herodias.  She nursed a grudge against John and wanted to kill him but she couldn’t figure out how since Herod liked John and protected him.

On Herod’s birthday he had a big party where Herodias’ daughter danced so well that Herod promised to give her whatever she asked for up to half his kingdom.  She asked her mother what to ask for and her mother said, “The head of John the Baptist.”  Herod’s hands were tied so despite his distress he granted her wish.  John was beheaded, given to Herodias’ daughter and his body buried.

Questions:

3a)  This is a hard question since all we have to go off of is this one example in the Bible. Obviously, not good.  She made her daughter commit murder (against the Ten Commandments) and a blatant disregard for God’s chosen people.  Of course, they were Roman so they did not believe in God so we shouldn’t expect much from them.  She used her daughter and made her just as much of a sinner as herself.  Thus, she had no regard for her daughter’s moral or spiritual upbringing.  We could also postulate and she made her daughter dance provocatively for the men. We are not told why a princess who normally wouldn’t degrade herself in such a way did.

b)  She nursed a grudge against John for his disapproval of her marriage and wanted to kill him. She committed murder in her heart before the actual deed.  And she carried a grudge when she should have forgiven.

4a)  Herod had an open mind and heart towards John.  He liked to listen to what John was saying.  He was a seeker, wanting to find out more about this King who was coming.  He protected John because he could see he was a holy and righteous man.  He also feared repercussions if he did kill John as well so it was political and spiritual.

b)  Herod feared man more than he feared God (Matthew 14:9; Mark 6:26).  He cared more about his reputation and what others would think of him than he did of doing what was right and what God would think of his actions.  In the end, he followed man’s laws instead of God’s.

c)  This is difficult to answer as we are not a Roman leader in first century AD.  Obviously, as Christians, we say no.  Herod shouldn’t have killed John the Baptist for several reasons.  One, it was murder (against God’s laws).  Two, it was the morally wrong thing to do with no valid reason except the whim of a girl for John was not guilty of any crime and had no trial.  Three, there could have been riots from the people over John’s death.  So there were many reasons not to kill John.

Yet on a personal level, Herod did have John killed.  As a ruler, especially a Roman ruler, your word was your power.  If you said you were going to do something, you kept your word. Otherwise, you were considered unworthy to rule.  Here, Herod was trapped.  He had sworn an oath and in those times he had to keep it or face losing his position.  There were too many witnesses to go back on your word.  Herod was tricked, trapped, and outwitted.  He had no choice 2000 years ago.

Note:  Some scholars say this shows Herod feared his wife as well to honor her wishes and that she held political power as well.

d)  Jesus was performing all these miracles that the people had never before seen.  They were looking for an earthly explanation for these miracles and the superstitious people were saying how Jesus was John the Baptist or Elijah or another prophet.  Herod was confused and John the Baptist had been the most powerful man he had known in terms of miracles so the assumption made sense in those times.

Herod could also have been overwhelmed by guilt of killing John (I think this one unlikely). Some scholars say John the Baptist and Jesus did in fact resemble one another.  This would make more sense since they were in fact related.

5a)  As a fox (a Jewish expression at the time for a worthless or insignificant person).

b)  Jesus gave no answer to Herod.  He said not one word.

c)  Personal Question.  My answer:  That Herod was not worth Jesus’ time.  Jesus knew nothing he would say to Herod would make any difference in his life so Jesus just didn’t bother.  He knew Herod for what he was:  a worthless soul, heartless, one who would not change.

6)  Personal Question.  My answer:  Truthfully, I don’t see a progress of sin.  In my opinion, both Herod and Herodias were evil from the start.  Their sins do not surprise me.

Note:  We don’t see a progress of sin with Herodias since this is the only place in the Bible she is mentioned so this question should not apply to her.

As we learn in Matthew, Herod was a Roman tetrarch, a ruler.  One did not become a Roman ruler by being kind to others.  Roman rulers were ruthless, greedy, power-hungry men who did everything to obtain and keep their power.  Their crimes were many and unspeakable.  They killed hundreds and thousands of people just because they could.  They were heartless and brutal. Their crimes nor their sins should not shock us.

Conclusions:  Herod and Herodias’ sin does not affect me personally nor does it warn me for I am not comparing myself to them.  They were pagans, unbelievers and as a Christian I am held to a higher standard than them so comparing our lives is a fruitless endeavor.  I think the intent of question 6 was good but the specificity was not.

The message we should take away is to be wary of putting man’s laws above God’s.  To be wary of pleasing man instead of God.  To not give in to peer pressure.  To do what is right in God’s eyes and not man’s always.  God first, man a dismal last.

I liked Jesus’ example of not even deigning to address Herod.  We should have the same reaction to others who criticize our beliefs or challenge our lives or methods if we are following Jesus. Sometimes, the effort is futile and if we can recognize that in our own lives, we will save ourselves a lot of grief–especially with family members.

End Notes:  We must remember the times.  In the first century AD, murder was rampant.  The Roman Empire ruled the entire known world at the time.  They were brutal and ruthless.  No one challenged the Empire without risk to life as we see with John the Baptist.  To the ordinary people of the time, murder and death were all around them.  They would not have been shocked by a head on a platter as we would be today.  Nor would the request have seemed odd at the time.  These were pagan people who worshipped pagan gods.  They did as they (or the devil) pleased.  Jesus came at this time to be the light in such a dark world.  And he continues to shine today.

Herod:  This Herod is Herod the tetrarch, also known as Herod Agrippa (or even Herod Antipas).  He was one of Herod the Great’s sons who wasn’t murdered by his crazy dad.  When his dad died, he ruled Galilee.  Hence, we see him in Luke because he was handed over to Herod by Pilate because Jesus was from Galilee so Pilate wanted him to deal with Jesus.  Pilate did not want to kill Jesus and tried everything he could to get out of it including trying to have Herod deal with him (Luke 23:6-7).  [This is explained beautifully in Killing Jesus by the way.]

Tetrarch is a Greek word meaning “ruler of a fourth part” but it came to be used more commonly for a ruler below the Roman Emperor.  Herod actually asked the Roman Emperor Caligula (crazy himself) for the title of king and was refused.

Herod’s brother, Archaleus, ruled the south and his other brother Philip, ruled the north.

Herod sent Jesus back to Pilate when Jesus refused to perform a miracle.

Background on John:  As you may remember, John did speak out against Herod’s marriage (Luke 3:19-20).  Herod divorced his first wife, a princess of a neighboring kingdom, to take his brother Philip’s wife, Herodias.  The father of Herod’s first wife would later take revenge and attack Herod and defeat him in battle.  Later, Herod’s other brother, Agrippa, accused him of treason against Rome so he was banished to Gaul.  In Gaul, he and his wife, Herodias, committed suicide–a fitting end.

Background on Herodias:  She was Herod the Great’s grandaughter.  Hence, she married her uncle when she married Philip and they had Salome together according to the historian Josephus.

Is Salome the “daughter of Herodias” in this passage?  This is a popular belief but since no name is given to the girl in this passage, this belief is wrong despite modern labeling as such.  It is believed Herodias had a daughter with Philip named Salome but there is no Biblical proof this Salome was the dancer.  She could have been but we do not know.

We can assume the daughter of Herodias is dirty dancing here–enough to appeal to the men’s sexuality and obtain a promise for whatever she wishes for.

Herodias had this planned.  She knew her husband and the situation.  She used her daughter.  She demanded it to be done immediately in front of all the guests so Herod couldn’t go back on his word privately.  She was pure evil, plain and simple.

You cannot hold someone to an oath when the request is nefarious.  The oath is then null and void.  Yet, to save face, Herod caved.  The question for us is then:  will we?