Jesus is rejected by the people in his hometown of Nazareth, and about the same time, hears that John the Baptist had been executed. After feeding 5,000 people, Jesus rescues us from another storm and I walk on the water with him.
After this we left the territory of the Gerasenes and went to Nazareth, Jesus’ hometown. When the Sabbath came, he went to the synagogue to teach. Many of those who heard what he had to say were astounded. “Where did he learn all that?” they asked. “What new insight has been given to him? How is he able to perform such miracles? Isn’t this fellow simply the carpenter, the son of Mary? We all know his brothers — James, Joseph, Judas, and Simon. His sisters live right here in town, don’t they?” So those who heard what Jesus had to say were deeply offended. He responded by reminding them of the ancient saying that prophets are respected everywhere except in their own country. Because they wouldn’t believe, Jesus was unable to perform even a single miracle there — except he did lay his hands on a few of the sick and heal them. He was amazed that they would not believe, so he left Nazareth and went elsewhere teaching as he went (1-6).
Jesus called us together in preparation for sending us out on a mission, two by two. We were given authority to cast out evil spirits. He told us not to take any of the normal provisions for such a journey, like a staff, food, a traveling bag, or money. It was okay to wear sandals but we shouldn’t take any extra clothes. He told us that in whatever house we were staying, we should remain there until we left that village. However, if the people of the village were not cordial and refused to listen to us, then we were to leave. As we left town, we were to shake the dust of the town off our feet. That would serve as a warning to them. So we left on our mission, telling everyone we met that they should repent. (7-13)
By this time, Herod Antipas (who was regarded as king although his father Augustus was the ruling monarch) had become aware of Jesus’ reputation. Some people were saying, “He must be John the Baptist raised from the dead; how else can you explain his power to perform such miracles?”
Others were saying, “No, he is the prophet Elijah.”
Still others were saying, “Well, he certainly is a prophet; he’s just like one of the great prophets of old” (14-16).
Herod himself sent soldiers to arrest John. He ordered them to bind John with chains and throw him into prison. This was to please his wife Herodias, whom he had married even though she was already married to his brother Phillip. John the Baptist had told Herod more than once, “It’s against God’s law for you to marry the wife of your brother.” So Herodias nursed a grudge against John and would have liked to put him to death, but wasn’t able because Herod had a high regard for him. Herod knew that John was a just and righteous man, so he granted him protection. He enjoyed listening to him talk, but every time he heard him, he came away thoroughly confused (17-20).
It was on Herod’s birthday that Herodias finally got her chance. The king was giving a big party and had invited the nobles of his royal court, the military commanders and other prominent figures in Galilee. When the festivities were well underway, the daughter of Herodias came in and performed a dance for the group. This greatly pleased Herod and his guests. To the young girl the king blurted out, “Wow! After a dance like that you can ask me for whatever you want. Just name it and its yours.”
He kept promising her, with an oath, that he would give her whatever she asked for, even up to half of his kingdom. So she left the room and asked her mother, “What should I ask him for?”
Herodias was ready with an answer: “The head of John the Baptist.”
Without hesitation the girl hurried back to the party and said to the king, “I want the head of John the Baptist, right now, on a tray.”
When Herod realized what he had done he was filled with remorse. But because he had made the promise with an oath — to say nothing of his reputation with the guests — he had no option but to grant her what she wanted. So without delay he sent one of his bodyguards to carry out the task. Serving as executioner, the guard went to the prison, beheaded John and brought the head on a tray to the girl. She handed it over to Herodias, her mother. When John’s disciples heard what had happened, they came for the body and laid it in a tomb. (21-29)
We returned from our mission trip and met with Jesus to report all that we had done and what we had taught. So many people crowded around us that we didn’t have time even to eat. Jesus said, “Let’s slip away to some quiet place so you can get a good rest.” So we left by boat to a place where we could be alone. But there was no way to get there without been seen. Many from the surrounding towns recognized us and ran along the shore arriving there ahead of us.
When we landed, Jesus stepped out of the boat and, seeing the large crowd, was filled with compassion. They were like lost sheep — sheep without a shepherd. This so moved him that he began immediately to teach them all sorts of important truths.
Later in the afternoon we went to him and said, “We’re in a remote area and its already getting late. Tell the crowds to go to the farms around here or the villages and buy themselves something to eat.”
His answer came as a surprise, “No, you yourselves are to give them whatever food they need.”
We asked, “How can we do that? It would take more than six months wages to buy enough bread for a crowd this size.”
Jesus asked us, “How many loaves do you have in the boat? Go check it out.”
When we came back we said, “We’ve only got five loaves of bread — plus a couple of little fish.”
Then Jesus told us to have all the people sit down on the grass in groups of fifty or a hundred. This they did in an orderly fashion. It was spring and the grass was green. Jesus took the loaves of flat bread and the little fish, and raising his eyes to heaven gave thanks for the Father’s provision. Then he broke the bread into pieces and handed it to us to distribute among the people. He also divided the fish so all could share. Everyone ate until they were full. When we picked up what they didn’t eat, the scraps filled twelve baskets. All in all, some five thousand men plus their families were fed on that occasion. (30-44)
Jesus had us get back in the boat and return to Bethsaida on the far side of the lake. Meanwhile, he himself dispersed the crowd, wishing them a safe trip home. Then he went up into the hills to pray.
As the night wore on we were nearing the middle of the lake and Jesus was standing alone on shore. He could see us straining at the oars against the high wind and heavy sea. In the early hours of the morning he came toward us walking on the water. It looked to us like he would pass us by. When we saw him walking on the water we were terrified — every last one of us. We cried out, “It’s a ghost!”
Immediately Jesus spoke to us saying, “Take courage! It is I. Don’t be afraid.” Then he climbed into the boat with us and the wind died down. His power over wind and wave was amazing to us since our hearts were still too dull to understand a miracle even like the feeding of the five thousand.
We came to shore at Gennesaret and tied up our boat. When we got out, the people recognized Jesus at once. They hurried through the entire region and carried the sick to wherever Jesus was said to be — in some village, or town, or rural area. They would lay down their sick in open places and beg Jesus to let the sick touch the edge of his robe. Everyone who managed to touch him was healed. (45-55)