At about this time, Herod, the regional ruler, heard what was being said about Jesus.
He said to his servants, "This has to be John the Baptizer come back from the dead. That's why he's able to work miracles!"
Herod had arrested John, put him in chains, and sent him to prison to placate Herodias, his brother Philip's wife.
John had provoked Herod by naming his relationship with Herodias "adultery."
Herod wanted to kill him, but he was afraid because so many people revered John as a prophet of God.
But at his birthday celebration, he got his chance. Herodias's daughter provided the entertainment, dancing for the guests. She swept Herod away.
In his drunken enthusiasm, he promised her on oath anything she wanted.
Already coached by her mother, she was ready: "Give me, served up on a platter, the head of John the Baptizer."
That sobered the king up fast. Unwilling to lose face with his guests, he did it
- ordered John's head cut off
and presented to the girl on a platter. She in turn gave it to her mother.
Later, John's disciples got the body, gave it a reverent burial, and reported to Jesus.
When Jesus got the news, he slipped away by boat to an out-of-the-way place by himself. But unsuccessfully - someone saw him and the word got around. Soon a lot of people from the nearby villages walked around the lake to where he was.
When he saw them coming, he was overcome with pity and healed their sick.
Toward evening the disciples approached him. "We're out in the country and it's getting late. Dismiss the people so they can go to the villages and get some supper."
But Jesus said, "There is no need to dismiss them. You give them supper."
"All we have are five loaves of bread and two fish," they said.
Jesus said, "Bring them here."
Then he had the people sit on the grass. He took the five loaves and two fish, lifted his face to heaven in prayer, blessed, broke, and gave the bread to the disciples. The disciples then gave the food to the congregation.
They all ate their fill. They gathered twelve baskets of leftovers.
About five thousand were fed.
As soon as the meal was finished, he insisted that the disciples get in the boat and go on ahead to the other side while he dismissed the people.
With the crowd dispersed, he climbed the mountain so he could be by himself and pray. He stayed there alone, late into the night.
Meanwhile, the boat was far out to sea when the wind came up against them and they were battered by the waves.
At about four o'clock in the morning, Jesus came toward them walking on the water.
They were scared out of their wits. "A ghost!" they said, crying out in terror.
But Jesus was quick to comfort them. "Courage, it's me. Don't be afraid."
Peter, suddenly bold, said, "Master, if it's really you, call me to come to you on the water."
He said, "Come ahead."
But when he looked down at the waves churning beneath his feet, he lost his nerve and started to sink. He cried, "Master, save me!"
Jesus didn't hesitate. He reached down and grabbed his hand. Then he said, "Faint-heart, what got into you?"
The two of them climbed into the boat, and the wind died down.
The disciples in the boat, having watched the whole thing, worshiped Jesus, saying, "This is it! You are God's Son for sure!"
On return, they beached the boat at Gennesaret.
When the people got wind that he was back, they sent out word through the neighborhood and rounded up all the sick,
who asked for permission to touch the edge of his coat. And whoever touched him was healed.
Published by permission. Originally published by NavPress in English as THE MESSAGE: The Bible in Contemporary Language copyright 2002 by Eugene Peterson. All rights reserved. (The Message Bible Online)