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Not all of the moments and sayings in the life of Jesus can be read as a sequence of events. We have stories and sayings that we can’t always connect. But in today’s study we can see things in sequence, which adds meaning to the story. This includes the feeding of the 5,000, the rescue of the apostles while they are struggling against great winds on the Sea of Galilee, and the Bread of Life speech which motivated many of Jesus’s followers to desert Him.

Maurine and Scot Proctor have spent extensive time in the Holy Land, researching the life of Christ. They have taught the New Testament in the Institute program for many years and have written books and numerous articles on the life of the Savior.

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Approximate Transcript:


Welcome to Meridian Magazine’s Come Follow Me Podcast. We are Scot and Maurine Proctor and today’s study is on “Be Not Afraid” including Matthew, chapters 14-15, Mark, chapters 6-7 and John chapters 5-6.


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John the Baptist Beheaded—Mark 6: 14-32


When Herod died, whom we erroneously call Herod the Great, his kingdom was divided between four sons who each became tetrarchs, meaning rulers of the quarter part. Herod Antipas was one of these who ruled in Galilee and Perea.

He divorced his wife, offending the people in his kingdom, to marry the former wife of his half-brother Philip. Her name goes down in infamy. It was Herodias.

John, the Baptist who was ever bold in speaking the truth, condemned the marriage, and Herodias goaded her husband into imprisoning him. That wasn’t enough. She took it further. Her enticing daughter Salome was invited to dance before a great feast, and so pleased—and we might add incautious—was Herod that he said. “Ask of me whatsoever thou wilt, and I will give it thee.”


This was the moment her mother had schemed for and she asked that John the Baptist be beheaded and his head be brought on a charger and given to her. Herod was reluctant to do it, perhaps not for any twinge of conscience, but because he had heard reports of John’s spiritual power.  In fact, later when he heard of Jesus’s many miracles, he thought it was maybe John risen from the dead.

One might ask, couldn’t John have just stayed quiet and kept his head? Or couldn’t the Lord have protected this mighty prophet from a petty tyrant?


Elder Jeffrey R. Holland gave a talk called “The Costs and Blessings of Discipleship,” and there are both.  April 2014

He said, “For example, a sister missionary recently wrote to me: “My companion and I saw a man sitting on a bench in the town square eating his lunch. As we drew near, he looked up and saw our missionary name tags. With a terrible look in his eye, he jumped up and raised his hand to hit me. I ducked just in time, only to have him spit his food all over me and start swearing the most horrible things at us. We walked away saying nothing. I tried to wipe the food off of my face, only to feel a clump of mashed potato hit me in the back of the head. Sometimes it is hard being a missionary because right then I wanted to go back, grab that little man, and say, ‘EXCUSE ME!’ But I didn’t.”

“To this devoted missionary I say, dear child, you have in your own humble way stepped into a circle of very distinguished women and men who have, as the Book of Mormon prophet Jacob said, “view[ed Christ’s] death, and suffer[ed] his cross and [borne] the shame of the world.”1


“Indeed, of Jesus Himself, Jacob’s brother Nephi wrote: “And the world, because of their iniquity, shall judge him to be a thing of naught; wherefore they scourge him, and he suffereth it; and they smite him, and he suffereth it. Yea, they spit upon him, and he suffereth it, because of his loving kindness and his long-suffering towards the children of men.”2

“In keeping with the Savior’s own experience, there has been a long history of rejection and a painfully high price paid by prophets and apostles, missionaries and members in every generation—all those who have tried to honor God’s call to lift the human family to “a more excellent way.”

“Surely the angels of heaven wept as they recorded this cost of discipleship in a world that is often hostile to the commandments of God.


Jesus Goes to a Desert Place

This death of his cousin and the mighty prophet deeply affected Christ and his apostles, so many who have been tied to John. He invites:

Mark 6: 31,32

Come ye yourselves apart into a adesert place, and rest a while: for there were many coming and going, and they had no bleisure so much as to eat.

And they departed into a adesert place by ship privately.

Though the Galilee is small, the fastest way to the other side is still in a boat, rather than around the outside, but the people were not about to let Him have rest and peace. Remember it is a “great multitude” that is always clamouring for Him, and they beat Him to the place “running afoot” as Mark said.


John 6:2

John adds this detail, telling us why they were so eager.

“And a great multitude followed him, because they saw his miracles which he did on them that were diseased.”

The gospels repeat each other, saying that the Savior was moved with compassion on them and heals them. But He is also moved with compassion because as the evening draws on, they are hungry, this regular, every day need.  I am comforted to know that the Lord may be moved with compassion for me.

Now what is the number here? We are told specifically that it is 5,000 men, which means if you add the women and children, there could be as many as 20,000 in this crowd. Since John tells us specifically that this is the season of Passover, these could be travelers on the way to Jerusalem, since it was the Jewish religious tradition to return each year at Passover to worship in the temple.


John 6: 5-15

When Jesus then lifted up his eyes, and saw a great company come unto him, he saith unto Philip, Whence shall we buy bread, that these may eat?

And this he said to prove him: for he himself knew what he would do.

Philip answered him, Two hundred pennyworth of bread is not sufficient for them, that every one of them may take a little.

One of his disciples, Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother, saith unto him,

There is a lad here, which hath five barley loaves, and two small fishes: but what are they among so many?

10 And Jesus said, Make the men sit down. Now there was much grass in the place. So the men sat down, in number about afivethousand.

11 And Jesus took the loaves; and when he had given athanks, he distributed to the disciples, and the disciples to them that were set down; and likewise of the fishes as much as they would.

12 When they were filled, he said unto his disciples, Gather up the fragments that remain, that nothing be alost.

13 Therefore they gathered them together, and filled twelve baskets with the fragments of the five barley loaves, which remained over and above unto them that had eaten.


There are some interesting observations here pointed out by Elder Gerrit W. Gong

  1. Our Savior is compassionate.
  2. He starts with what they have.
  3. Our Savior proceeds in an orderly manner. He makes them sit down.

He expresses gratitude to His Father.  “He took the loaves and fishes, and ‘looking up to heaven, he blessed them, and brake,’” Elder Gong taught. “Creator of heaven and earth, the King of kings Himself gives thanks before He divides the loaves and fishes and multiplies them among them all, ‘as much as they would’ eat.”

  • Our Savior feeds the 5,000 and the one at the same time.
  • He ensures that nothing is lost.
  • With our Savior, we end with more than we began.
  • For those with eyes to see and ears to hear, our Savior teaches and testifies of sacramental abundance.
  • “His is a world of loaves and fishes, of abundance,” Elder Gong said.

In another time, He would feed 4,000 in a similar manner.


They Clamor to Make Him a King

This was also not lost on this crowd of observant Jews. Jehovah had fed manna to the Children of Israel in the wilderness and now Jesus was multiplying these loaves and fishes for them.

14 This is of a truth that bprophet that should come into the world {they said].

15 ¶ When Jesus therefore perceived that they would come and take him by force, to make him a aking, he departed again into a mountain himself alone.

We have a cultural picture here on the one hand and a picture of humanity on the other. Culturally, these are people who are oppressed under the hands of the Romans. That means that they are taxed. They are impoverished because they are not free. Some of them are farmers or fishermen that lead a hand-to-mouth existence. Someone who can supply bread is their idea of a king, a messiah. They want their most earthly, practical needs met.

Sometimes we are the same. We just want our earthly, practical needs met by God, and when He asks something more of us like growth and patience, we can be disappointed.


Christ comes to His Apostles on the Water

When he fed the 5,000, the crowds had pressed him, wanting more bread, following him on foot, plying him with requests—and, as he so often did, he retreated to a mountain apart to be with his Father.

Meanwhile the apostles were on the Sea of Galilee when a storm arose creating boisterous, threatening waves.  Based on Matthew 14, we often tell this story in terms of Peter’s attempt to walk on the water, and then his sinking with fear in the storm, a little like we are all tempted to do when waves dash at us.  But something else is particularly noteworthy in this story.


Jesus had departed into a mountain and was alone on the land, but “he saw them toiling in rowing for the wind was contrary unto them” (Mark 6:48).  Saw them though he was not close by.  Saw them though it was the fourth watch.

What is a watch?

The Jews, like the Greeks and Romans, divided the night into military watches instead of hours, each watch representing the period for which sentinels or pickets remained on duty. The proper Jewish reckoning recognized only three such watches, entitled the first or “beginning of the watches,” (Lamentations 2:19) the middle watch, (Judges 7:19) and the morning watch. (Exodus 14:241 Samuel 11:11) These would last respectively from sunset to 10 P.M.; from 10 P.M. to 2 A.M.; and from 2 A.M. to sunrise. After the establishment of the Roman supremacy, the number of watches was increased to four, which were described either according to their numerical order, as in the case of the “fourth watch,” (Matthew 14:25) or by the terms “even,” “midnight,” “cock-crowing” and “morning.” (Mark 13:35) These terminated respectively at 9 P.M., midnight, 3 A.M. and 6 A.M.


 This is a time when the Lord might have been sleeping, but their exertion against the waves did not escape Him.

Coming down from the mountain, He walked across the water to them because they needed him then—and what did he say?  “Be of good cheer; it is I;  be not afraid” (Matt. 14:27).

I am here for you in your desperate hour. I have seen you when you need help.

In a desperate moment, there is the Lord, saying, “It is I.”  That is another way to say, “Here I am” or “Here am I.”


“Here am I,” is not a random saying, but we learn in scripture that, it is in fact, a code phrase that signifies a covenant relationship.  It means we are bound together by covenant.  This covenant creates for us a relationship of mutual trust.  The Lord says that because we are in a covenant together, we have a grasp on his hand—not a slippery grasp or a fickle one, but a firm, one.  “Here am I” is the phrase the two parties in a covenant use to answer one another.  “The Lord promises, ‘I will come unto you,’ and the mortal beings reply, ‘I believe you will come.’”[i]

We speak often of the promises that come with having made a covenant with the Lord, but is there anything really more important than the simple assurance that we find in Isaiah 58:9 “Then shalt thou call, and the Lord shall answer; thou shalt cry, and he shall say, Here I am.”


In fact, when the Lord gives the covenant promises to Abraham with which we are so familiar, promises of posterity, priesthood, a promised land and more, he prefaces all of this with an overarching promise that says essentially,  I am here for you. “My name is Jehovah, and I know the end from the beginning; therefore my hand shall be over thee” (Abraham 2:8).  It is this context in which we understand the rest of the covenant.

If we misunderstand this assurance, we may cast ourselves in shivers of insecurity in this life, but knowing it, we can be secure.  The very Creator of the universe won’t keep us cooling our heels while he takes another appointment or forgets our names.  We call and he answers.  He is neither aloof nor indifferent.


I am frightened, we say.  “Here  am I,” he answers. I am alone. “Here am I.”  My life did not comply to the script I had so perfectly designed for it. “Here am I,” he assures us.  “It is I, be not afraid.”

Most of all we examine the enormous chasm that separates us from home and from him, and he stretches out his arm and says, “Here am I.  We can cross this together.”

He is the firm, steadfast and immovable one, the one who announces that he is I AM, and with our covenants in place, that is our foundation.  Eternally present, eternally now.


“Here am I.” This assuring phrase is a familiar one that rings from the pre-mortal world.  “And the Lord said:  Whom shall I send?  And one answered like unto the Son of Man:  Here am I, send me” (Abraham 3:27).  With all the personal risks associated, he said, “Here am I.”  This has been our anchor from before time, before memory.

That assurance continues in this scripture:

“For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, saith the Lord, thoughts of peace, and not of evil, to give you an expected end.

“Then shall ye call upon me, and ye shall go and pray unto me, and I will hearken unto you.

“And ye shall seek me and find me, when ye shall search for me with all your heart.

“And I will be found of you, saith the Lord” (Jeremiah 28: 11-14).


Could he be more clear?  We will have an expected end if we keep our covenants.  If we seek him, we will find him. There will be no change of administration with him.  He will not be only a fair weather friend.  He will not feel after us only when we are perfect, for we have been born into a place where that is a standard beyond us.

Instead, when we have covenanted with him, his answer to us is “Here am I” whether we are on the Sea of Galilee of the seas of heartbreak or pain or inadequacy.  “It is I, be not afraid.”

Yet we have to admit so often we are afraid. Our children will get lost. The bills won’t be paid. We are sick. Our seas are rough. Can we trust the Lord so we don’t have to be afraid?


Elder Jeffrey R. Holland said,

“I submit to you, that may be one of the Savior’s commandments that is, even in the hearts of otherwise faithful Latter-day Saints, almost universally disobeyed;  and yet I wonder whether our resistance to this invitation could be any more grievous to the Lord’s merciful heart” (“Come unto Me”, Ensign, April 1998)

We may think of a phrase like “let not your heart be troubled” as a word of comfort, a comforting pat on the back from a loving parent, but a commandment?  Doesn’t that seem a little hard, in fact, almost impossible?


What could be more natural than to be troubled or frightened when distress can come upon us at any moment and we swallow it like sea water, gulping for life?   Why not be afraid?  After all, we live in a world where we are always at the mercy of thousands of forces that are far beyond our control and yet impact our lives dramatically. Tomorrow is dim and subject to surprises that disappoint and burn.  We cannot prepare well enough to sidestep them.  It is not surprising that we may not feel entirely safe.

After all, we didn’t choose to be on edge and on the line.  Isn’t it just part and parcel of the mortal condition?  When we came to mortality weren’t we just cast into a whirlpool of uncertainty?  So how can we be commanded to be neither troubled, nor afraid?  Isn’t that just a lot to ask?


Elder Holland continues, explaining why our living in a fearful or anxious state would grieve the Lord : “I can tell you this as a parent: as concerned as I would be if somewhere in their lives one of my children were seriously troubled or unhappy or disobedient, nevertheless I would be infinitely more devastated if I felt that at such a time that child could not trust me to help or thought his or her interest was unimportant to me or unsafe in my care. In that same spirit, I am convinced that none of us can appreciate how deeply it wounds the loving heart of the Savior of the world when he finds that his people do not feel confident in his care or secure in his hands or trust in his commandments.”

What he suggests here is that anxious, over-wrought living is a manifestation that we do not understand the very nature of God and his personal, intimate care of us as his child.  Oh, we may be able to give lip-service to his attributes, reciting his characteristics of loving kindness with the best of them in Sunday School class, but it is in the hollow chambers of our own soul that we must make that knowledge soul-deep.  It is when life presents us or our loved ones with the challenges that harrow the heart, that we are left having to come straight up against it.  Is God who he says he is, and am I safe or have I only been giving lip service to a beautiful idea?


We truly do have to know God’s attributes in our bones.  Elder Holland again, “Just because God is God, just because Christ is Christ, they cannot do other than care for us and bless us and help us if we will but come unto them, approaching their throne of grace in meekness and lowliness of heart. They can’t help but bless us. They have to. It is their nature.”

The world is an anxious place, but that is because most of us two-legged creatures roaming here, have forgotten him, amnesiac about his nature.  He tells us not to fear as an expression of the nature of our relationship with him.  We have to trust that he is able to do his own work.  He is watchful, not careless.  His memory is everlasting, not spotty.  His notice penetrates to our individual level—and he cannot do otherwise.


Fourth Watch

Some have suggested that the apostles might have been rowing a long time in this storm since it is the fourth watch when the Lord comes. It is true that though the Lord is helping us, he invites us to develop our strength and to grow.

Peter out of the boat

28 And Peter answered him and said, Lord, if it be thou, bid me come unto thee on the water.

29 And he said, Come. And when Peter was come down out of the ship, he walked on the water, to go to Jesus.

30 But when he saw the wind boisterous, he was aafraid; and beginning to sink, he cried, saying, Lord, save me.


Some fault Peter for beginning to sink, but he is the only totally mortal person that we know of who has ever walked on water.

What is important is that as long as Peter had an eye focused on Christ, he was able to do something remarkable, but it was when the boisterous wind that he became  afraid.

Paul tells us Cast not away therefore your confidence…

For ye have need of patience, that, after ye have done the will of God, ye might receive the promise. [Hebrews 10:35–36]


Elder Holland again.

After you have gotten the message, after you have paid the price to feel his love and hear the word of the Lord, “go forward.” Don’t fear, don’t vacillate, don’t quibble, don’t whine.

With the spirit of revelation, dismiss your fears and wade in with both feet. In the words of Joseph Smith, “Brethren [and, I would add, sisters], shall we not go on in so great a cause? Go forward and not backward. Courage, brethren; and on, on to the victory!” (D&C 128:22).” Jeffrey R. Holland “Cast Not Away Your Confidence”


Bread of Life

It is after the feeding of the 5,000 and after the people clamor to make Him king, that Jesus gives the bread of life speech in the synagogue at Capernaum. He is teaching them that there is a more lasting way to be fed and to drink.

John 6

26 Jesus answered them and said, Verily, verily, I say unto you, Ye seek me, anot because ye saw the miracles, but because ye did eat of the loaves, and were filled.

27 aLabour not for the meat which perisheth, but for that meat which endureth unto everlasting life, which the bSon of man shall give unto you: for him hath God the Father csealed.

28 Then said they unto him, What shall we do, that we might work the works of God?


29 Jesus answered and said unto them, This is the work of God, that ye abelieve on him whom he hath sent.

30 They said therefore unto him, What asign shewest thou then, that we may see, and believe thee? what dost thou work?

31 Our fathers did eat manna in the desert; as it is written, He gave them abread from heaven to eat.

32 Then Jesus said unto them, Verily, verily, I say unto you, Moses gave you not that bread from heaven; but my Father giveth you the true bread from heaven.

33 For the bread of God is he which cometh down from heaven, and giveth life unto the world.

34 Then said they unto him, Lord, evermore give us this bread.

35 And Jesus said unto them, I am the abread of life: he that cometh to me shall never hunger; and he that believeth on me shall never bthirst.


They don’t understand Him.

41 The Jews then murmured at him, because he said, I am the bread which came down from heaven.

42 And they said, Is not this Jesus, the son of aJoseph, whose father and mother we know? how is it then that he saith, I came down from heaven?

38 For I acame down from heaven, not to do mine own bwill, but the cwill of him that sent me.


Will Ye Also Go Away?

66 ¶ From that time many of his adisciples went back, and bwalked no more with him.

They wanted favors and not doctrine. They wanted food more than salvation.

67 Then said Jesus unto the twelve, Will ye also go away?


68 Then Simon Peter answered him, Lord, to whom shall we go? thou hast the awords of eternal life.

69 And awe believe and are sure that thou art that Christ, the bSon of the living God.


“To Whom Shall We Go” Elder M. Russell Ballard Oct. 2016

Elder Ballard said of this:

…Today is no different. For some, Christ’s invitation to believe and remain continues to be hard—or difficult to accept.

If any one of you is faltering in your faith, I ask you the same question that Peter asked: “To whom shall [you] go?” 

Where will you go to find others who share your belief in personal, loving Heavenly Parents, who teach us how to return to Their eternal presence?

Where will you go to be taught about a Savior who is your best friend, who not only suffered for your sins but who also suffered “pains and afflictions and temptations of every kind” so “that his bowels may be filled with mercy, according to the flesh, that he may know according to the flesh how to succor his people according to their infirmities,”7 including, I believe, the infirmity of loss of faith?


Where will you go to learn more about Heavenly Father’s plan for our eternal happiness and peace, a plan that is filled with wondrous possibilities, teachings, and guidance for our mortal and eternal lives? Remember, the plan of salvation gives mortal life meaning, purpose, and direction.

Where will you go to find a detailed and inspired Church organizational structure through which you are taught and supported by men and women who are deeply committed to serving the Lord by serving you and your family?

Where will you go to find living prophets and apostles, who are called by God to give you another resource for counsel, understanding, comfort, and inspiration for the challenges of our day?


Where will you go to find people who live by a prescribed set of values and standards that you share and want to pass along to your children and grandchildren?

And where will you go to experience the joy that comes through the saving ordinances and covenants of the temple?

“To Whom Shall We Go” Elder M. Russell Ballard Oct. 2016


There is no other place. Thanks for being with us today on this podcast. Next week’s lesson is “Thou Art the Christ” which is Matthew 116-17; Mark 9; Luke 9.


And thanks to Paul Cardall for the music that begins and ends this podcast.

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