How did Jesus hear about the death of John the Baptist? See Mat 14:12. Considering the influence of John among the multitudes of people who regarded him as a prophet, why is it significant that upon his death “they went and reported to Jesus”? I.e., what does such action indicate about the regard they had for Jesus as the one to go to when they could no longer go to John, and why in light of John’s ministry is that especially significant? Cf. Luk 1:16-17,76, 3:15-16, Joh 1:6-8,15,29-42. Why is it all the more significant in light of the type of Messiah the people were expecting, and how Jesus was not fulfilling those expectations?
What was Jesus’ reaction to the news of John’s death? See Mat 14:13a. Why do you think He responded as He did? Think: what vivid reminder would John’s death have foreshadowed in regard to His own future? In spite of Jesus being fully God, what does His reaction reveal about Him being fully human? What was the response of the multitudes when Jesus withdrew to be by Himself? See Mat 14:13b. In light of John’s popularity and recent death, why do you think that they did so? Again, what does this indicate about who the people were now especially looking to when they could no longer look to John? Consider the historical situation in which the people were in bondage to the Romans, their own political and religious rulers were corrupt, and the one man who offered them a real hope from God for standing up to the establishment and calling upon men to repent had just been beheaded. How would John’s death have demoralized the people and crushed any hope they had for deliverance from the Romans? From the Roman perspective, why was this a good thing? From God’s perspective, was all lost, or was He completely in control of the situation to accomplish His purpose in providing an even greater, true, and lasting deliverance? What insight does this give us into the wisdom of God for allowing His righteous servants and prophets to suffer and even perish? See Joh 3:30 and think: would the people have been as drawn to Jesus, who was not fulfilling their expectations in regard to the Messiah, had John remained on the scene? What does this indicate about how much higher are God’s ways than our ways? Should we ever despair, even when it seems that evil has triumphed, the righteous have perished, and there is no longer any hope of deliverance? Is it not at such dark and hopeless hours when people have exhausted all their last efforts that God is able to best demonstrate His own power and faithfulness? What events from Israel’s past does this call to mind when the people’s hopes for deliverance were crushed to despair but it was at such time that God wrought a great salvation? See Exo 5:1-21, 1Ki 17:8-16, 2Ki 4:1-7, 6:24-25,7:1-8, 18:13-19:37, etc… Was it any different during Jesus’ ministry on earth? Cf. Luk 8:40-42,49-56, Joh 11:17-21,38-44. Do you think it will be any different at His second coming? See Rev 11:1-18; cf. Dan 12:7. What hope should this give us to remain completely faithful to God, even, and perhaps especially, unto death? Cf. Rev 12:10-11.
1. “Though the cause of evil prosper, Yet the truth alone is strong; Though her portion be the scaffold, And upon the throne be wrong, Yet that scaffold sways the future, And, behind the dim unknown, Standeth God within the shadow, Keeping watch above His own.” (James Lowell, from the hymn Once to Every Man and Nation.)↩