Lesson 17

Matthew 14

“Lesson 17: Matthew 14,” New Testament Seminary Teacher Manual (2016)


After learning of John the Baptist’s death, Jesus sought solitude but was followed by a multitude of people. He had compassion on them, healed their sick, and miraculously fed more than five thousand of them. That night, Jesus walked on the sea to His disciples who were struggling on the Sea of Galilee against a powerful storm.

Suggestions for Teaching

Matthew 14:1–21

Jesus seeks solitude and then feeds more than five thousand people

Ask students to think of a time when they experienced great sadness. Invite them to reflect on what they did to endure and overcome their sadness.

  • What are some different ways people try to endure and overcome sadness?

Invite students as they study Matthew 14 to look for ways they can endure and overcome sorrow, trials, and doubts.

Summarize Matthew 14:1–11 by explaining that at the urging of his new wife (Herodias), King Herod had unjustly imprisoned John the Baptist. After his wife’s daughter (Salome) danced before him, Herod publicly promised that she could have “whatsoever she would ask” (Matthew 14:7). The daughter consulted with her mother and asked for the head of John the Baptist, and as a result, Herod had John beheaded.

Remind students that John the Baptist was a friend and relative of Jesus Christ and was chosen by God to be the prophet who would prepare the way for the Messiah.

  • Imagine being a close friend of John the Baptist. How would you have responded upon hearing of his unjust death?

Invite a student to read Matthew 14:12–13 aloud, and ask the class to look for what Jesus did when He heard about John’s death.

  • What did Jesus do when He heard about John’s death? (You may want to explain that “a desert place apart” refers to a solitary place [see Mark 6:31, footnote a].)

  • What happened when Jesus tried to be alone?

  • How would you feel if you were sad and wanted to be alone, but others were seeking your attention?

Invite a student to read Matthew 14:14 aloud. Ask the class to follow along, looking for how Jesus responded when He saw the multitude following Him.

  • What example did the Savior set for us to follow when we experience sadness? (Students may use different words, but make sure they identify the following truth: By showing compassion for others even when we are experiencing sadness, we follow the example of Jesus Christ.)

  • Why can it be difficult to show compassion for others when we are suffering?

  • How can showing compassion for others help us when we ourselves are suffering?

  • When have you or someone you know experienced great sadness and still demonstrated compassion for another? In what ways did serving someone else help?

Invite several students to take turns reading aloud from Matthew 14:15–21. Ask the class to follow along, looking for how Jesus continued to show compassion for the multitude. (Note: The miracle recorded in Matthew 14:15–21 will be taught in greater depth in the lesson that addresses Mark 6:35–44.)

  • How did Jesus continue to show compassion for the people who had followed Him?

Matthew 14:22–36

Jesus walks on the sea during a storm

To help students consider circumstances in which they may experience doubt and fear as they follow Jesus Christ, ask two students to read the following scenarios aloud:

  1. A young woman feels helpless as she watches her mother suffer from a terminal illness. She begins to question if Heavenly Father is aware of her family’s pain. She desperately wants to believe in God, but her doubts are beginning to overwhelm her.

  2. A young man has recently joined the Church. Many of his old friends have been openly critical of his decision to join the Church. He is starting to wonder whether he should continue to be an active and faithful member of the Church.

  • What are other ways people may experience doubt or fear as they seek to follow Jesus Christ?

Ask students to look for truths as they study the remainder of Matthew 14 that can help them overcome fears, doubts, and discouragement.

Summarize Matthew 14:22 by explaining that the Savior instructed His disciples to travel by ship to the other side of the Sea of Galilee while He sent the multitudes away. Invite a student to read Matthew 14:23 aloud. Ask the class to follow along, looking for where Jesus went once He had sent the multitudes away. Invite them to report what they find.

Invite a student to read Matthew 14:24–25 aloud, and ask the class to look for what happened while the disciples were crossing the Sea of Galilee.

  • What happened to the disciples while they were crossing the Sea of Galilee?

  • What does it mean that “the wind was contrary”? (verse 24). (It was blowing in the opposite direction of their destination.)

According to verse 23, it was evening when Jesus was alone on the mountain and the disciples were crossing the Sea of Galilee. The distance to cross the sea was about five miles (about eight kilometers) and should have been crossable in two to three hours in good weather.

  • According to verse 25, when did the Savior come to the disciples on the water? (The fourth watch was from 3:00 a.m. to 6:00 a.m.)

  • About how long had the disciples likely been fighting the wind to cross the sea? (Likely around 9 to 12 hours.)

Invite students to read Mark 6:47–48 silently, looking for additional details Mark provided about this event. Ask students to report what they find.

  • Could Jesus have spared the disciples from their struggles sooner? What might have been the purpose of letting the disciples struggle for a time before they were delivered?

  • What truth can we learn about our own struggles from these accounts of the disciples trying to cross the sea? (Students may use different words but should identify the following truth: Even though God might not always spare us from struggles, He knows what we are experiencing and will, in His own time, come to our aid.)

  • What good can come from our struggling for a time rather than being immediately delivered from our trials by the Lord?

  • How can knowing that the Lord is aware of our struggles strengthen our faith in Him even when He does not immediately deliver us from them?

Ask students to visualize being on a fishing boat in the middle of the night, struggling against powerful wind and waves for many hours, and then seeing someone walking on the water.

  • What might you be thinking or feeling if you were in this situation?

Invite a student to read Matthew 14:26–27 aloud, and ask the class to look for how the disciples reacted when they saw Jesus.

  • How did the disciples react when they saw Jesus?

  • How did Jesus respond to their fear?

Ask another student to read Matthew 14:28 aloud, and ask the class to look for what Peter desired to do when He heard the Lord’s voice.

  • What did Peter desire to do when he heard the Lord’s voice?

Hold up a picture of Jesus in front of the class, and ask the class to imagine that they are Peter in the boat. Ask two students to take turns reading aloud from Matthew 14:29–30. After each verse is read, ask students what they might be thinking or feeling if they were Peter.

  • Why did Peter begin to sink?

  • What could the wind and waves in this account represent in our lives that can lead us to experience fear or doubt?

  • What can we learn from Peter’s experience about how to avoid being overcome by our fears and doubts? (Students may use different words, but make sure it is clear that if we keep our eyes fixed on Jesus Christ and maintain our faith in Him, we will not be overcome by our fears and doubts.)

Invite a student to read aloud the following statement by President Howard W. Hunter, and ask the class to listen for the danger of failing to maintain our faith in the Lord:

President Howard W. Hunter

“It is my firm belief that if as individual people, as families, communities, and nations, we could, like Peter, fix our eyes on Jesus, we too might walk triumphantly over ‘the swelling waves of disbelief’ and remain ‘unterrified amid the rising winds of doubt.’ But if we turn away our eyes from him in whom we must believe, as it is so easy to do and the world is so much tempted to do, if we look to the power and fury of those terrible and destructive elements around us rather than to him who can help and save us, then we shall inevitably sink in a sea of conflict and sorrow and despair” (“The Beacon in the Harbor of Peace,” Ensign, Nov. 1992, 19).

  • How do you think we can “fix our eyes” on Jesus Christ, as Peter did initially?

  • When have you seen an individual’s faith in Jesus Christ enable him or her to avoid being overcome by fear or doubt?

Testify that as we “fix our eyes” on Jesus Christ and maintain our faith in Him, we will find hope and courage to face our challenges. Invite students to consider changes they can make in their lives to better focus on and maintain their faith in Jesus Christ and to set a goal to make those changes.

Explain that like Peter, we might sometimes fail to maintain our faith in Jesus Christ and might succumb to fear, doubt, and discouragement.

Christ walking on water

Display a picture of Jesus Christ walking on the water (see Gospel Art Book [2009], no. 43; see also LDS.org). Invite a student to read Matthew 14:30–32 aloud.

  • According to verse 30, what did Peter do when he realized he was sinking?

  • What can we learn from this account about what the Lord will do if we seek His help when our faith wanes? (Students may use different words, but they should identify the following principle: If we seek God’s help when our faith wanes, He can lift us from our fears and doubts.)

  • In what ways does God lift us from our fears and doubts?

Invite a student to read Matthew 14:33 aloud, and ask the class to look for how the disciples in the boat responded after Jesus and Peter got into the boat.

Summarize Matthew 14:33–36 by explaining that after this event, Jesus and His disciples continued their journey and arrived on the far shores of Galilee. When the people learned that Jesus was there, they brought to Him people who were suffering from disease. Many were healed simply by touching the hem of His clothing.

Conclude by encouraging students to apply what they learned in this lesson by acting on any impressions they have received.

Commentary and Background Information

Matthew 14:25. “In the fourth watch of the night Jesus went unto them”

When we expect the Lord will give us quick solutions to our problems, we fail to see the greater purpose in the delay of His aid. Elder D. Todd Christofferson of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles spoke of a personal trial he faced for which there was no quick solution from the Lord:

“Though I suffered then, as I look back now, I am grateful that there was not a quick solution to my problem. The fact that I was forced to turn to God for help almost daily over an extended period of years taught me truly how to pray and get answers to prayer and taught me in a very practical way to have faith in God. I came to know my Savior and my Heavenly Father in a way and to a degree that might not have happened otherwise or that might have taken me much longer to achieve. … I learned to trust in the Lord with all my heart. I learned to walk with Him day by day” (“Give Us This Day Our Daily Bread” [Church Educational System fireside, Jan. 9, 2011], LDS.org).

Elder Bruce R. McConkie of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles said the following about the Savior’s awareness of His disciples’ toil to cross the Sea of Galilee in the storm:

“From the mountaintop where he prayed … , Jesus saw the peril and strugglings of his beloved friends as they sought the safety of the western shore of the Galilean lake. … His awareness of their plight must have come by the power of the Spirit rather than the natural eye, for they were more than four—perhaps were five or six—miles away. …

“… In some eight or ten hours they traveled less than four miles from the shore.

“Their peril was great. Even strong men cannot resist indefinitely the battering waves and the rolling power of a storm at sea. It was now the fourth watch of the night, sometime between three and six A.M. Jesus had left them to struggle and toil till their strength was spent. Now he came to the rescue” (The Mortal Messiah, 4 vols. [1979–81], 2:358–59).