What is Matthew teaching by this incident—the feeding of the five thousand? The first lesson is stated clearly: Jesus cares about people, especially those who are poor or suffering. Verse says, "When Jesus landed and saw a large crowd, he had compassion on them and healed their sick.”

For some time now we have been looking at the change in Jesus' ministry that is found in the middle chapters of Matthew's gospel (chs. 11-16). Yet it is only in Matthew 14:13 that we come to it explicitly for the first time. We read in that verse, "When Jesus heard what had happened, he withdrew by boat privately to a solitary place.

What a collection of characters we have encountered in this story. They are a sad glimpse into the high life of antiquity, as well as what people are like today. There is Herod with his evil conscience. There is Herodias, a wicked vengeful woman. There is Salome, already corrupted by her evil mother at a young age. There are the sensuous friends of Herod. And against them all is John the Baptist, whom everyone knew to be an upright, outspoken and courageous man.

The story does not only tell us about John, however. It also tells us about Herod, and what it tells us is that he was the exact opposite of John at every point.

We have already learned about John’s strange appearance and his message of preparation for Jesus' work from earlier references to John the Baptist in Matthew. Here we learn several things about John's character.