King Herod hears about Jesus and wonders about His identity. Some speculate that He could be John the Baptist risen from the dead, Elijah, or one of the prophets. However, Herod believes that Jesus is John the Baptist, whom he had previously beheaded.
Herod had imprisoned John because he had spoken out against Herod’s unlawful marriage to Herodias, his brother Philip’s wife. Herodias wanted to kill John, but Herod protected him because he knew John was a just and holy man. When Herod throws a birthday feast, Herodias’ daughter dances and pleases the king and his guests. In his enthusiasm, Herod promises to give the girl whatever she desires, up to half his kingdom. Prompted by her mother, the girl asks for the head of John the Baptist on a platter. Although this request saddens Herod, he doesn’t want to break his oath in front of his guests, so he orders the execution of John.
When John’s disciples hear about his death, they come and bury his body. They then inform Jesus about what happened. Jesus suggests they go to a deserted place to rest, but the crowds follow them, eager to hear His teachings. Moved with compassion for the people because they are like sheep without a shepherd, Jesus teaches them.
As the day progresses, the disciples express concern about the lack of food in the deserted place and suggest sending the crowd away. However, Jesus instructs them to provide food for the people. The disciples question if they should buy bread with a large sum of money, but Jesus asks how much food they have. They find five loaves of bread and two fish. Jesus blesses the food, breaks it, and distributes it to the disciples, who then distribute it to the crowd. Miraculously, everyone eats and is satisfied, and there are even leftovers—twelve baskets full of fragments.
In this passage, we see Herod’s mistaken identification of Jesus, the unjust execution of John the Baptist, Jesus’ compassion for the crowds, and the miraculous feeding of the multitude with the five loaves and two fish.