How sad for the followers of John the Baptist when he told them that he was not the Messiah, but encouraged them that the Messiah would be with them soon. They believed John that Jesus was coming to fulfill the prophecy, but what a terrible sorrow they must have felt after John’s death. He had been their teacher and mentor. Literally sent by God to prepare the way for the Messiah and now he is beheaded by Herod. I’m sure they wondered how they would carry on without him. They would have to rely on his teachings and put their faith in Jesus. The voice crying out in the wilderness was silenced. This story has always been hard to grasp. I can’t even imagine the horror that his followers felt when they heard the news. How would they keep the faith and carry on?
Sometimes in this life we have things, people, and even ideas that we feel that we could NEVER live without. The grief that we feel when lives are torn from us, even though it is temporary, is terribly hard. We feel that there is nothing left to give. We may even question God’s presence in our lives, His care or concern for us.
Immediately after John’s beheading, Jesus needs to find a place to be alone. He feels so much sorrow for His cousin. Later He met with multitudes of people and is compassionate toward all who were followers of John. He begins to heal them from their sickness and disease; He feeds them spiritually, and physically. Jesus is providing for the needs of the people, in the midst of His sadness and personal grief. Jesus knew that John would be with Him again someday, because pain and death was NEVER part of God’s plan. We see His grief again when He weeps over the death of Lazarus.
The climax of this chapter is the image of Jesus walking on the water toward the disciples. They are afraid, and question the figure they are seeing. They don’t recognize it as Jesus and speculate that it is a ghost, perhaps even if it was the ghost of John the Baptist. But Jesus makes Himself known to them. They are filled with peace and awe. You can be sure that when Jesus speaks to us, He will not leave us wondering and confused. He gives us comfort and peace. And in the grief we experience and the temporary loss we face, He is our HOPE.
Joey Norwood Tolbert
M.A. in Religious Studies