Matthew 13:53–14:36. A Display of Various Receptivities.
Key Notes: A summary of Jesus' work. Examples of degrees of faith. Herod kills John. Peter goes overboard.
This passage can be read at two levels: how people reacted to Jesus and what we can learn about who Jesus is, His character and personality. We have read parables about receptivity and now can look for examples of people who interacted with Him. What was He really like?
I would be like Jesus. Was He
Outgoing or reclusive?
Optimistic or pessimistic?
Friendly or austere?
Helpful or aloof?
Jocular or serious?
Powerful or weak?
Static or mobile?
Prayerful or too busy?
Multitasking or single-tasking?
The class was unwilling or perhaps unable to deal with these categories, preferring not to choose between them. Although we are studying a human being Whom we want to emulate, He defies classification.
Some information may help us organize our thoughts.
Jesus has the attributes of God (justice, mercy, holiness, truthfulness and righteousness, etc.) (cf. Col.1:19) and the fruit of the Spirit in full measure: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. Gal.5:22–23
Jesus is recorded as praying 15–16 times in three years. The first was at His baptism (Lk.3:21). The last was when giving up His spirit on the cross. Lk.23:46
The word “crowd” or multitude or tumult is used 50 times in Matthew, and represents at least 18 encounters between Jesus and large numbers of people. At the funeral of a young girl, Jesus had to hush the tumult. (Matt.9:23). What kind of person attracts crowds and how does He deal with them? Would He be like a modern politician, plunging into the crowd, shaking hands, kissing babies and greeting friends?
He preached to them, fed and healed them.
There are six mass-healings in Matthew.. 4:23, 8:16, 9:35, 14:36, 15:31,’:2
His mobility is indicated by the number of times (9) it says “he went on from there” or the equivalent. (Matt.11:1, 12:9, 12:15, 13:53, 14:13, 14:23, 15:21, 15:29,’:1). He is clearly on the move much of the time.
There are a number of times when Jesus is described as fixing His gaze on people. (Gr.”emblepo”)
*He looked at Peter and said “So you are Simon, the son of John…. “(Jn.1:42)
*He looked on the rich young ruler and loved him. Mk.10:21
*When the disciples asked who can be saved, Jesus looked at them and said “With men it is impossible but with God all things are possible." (Matt.19:26; Mk.10:27)
*He looked at the leaders and said “What then is this that was written ‘the very stone which the builders rejected has become the head of the corner?’’ (Lk.20:17)
*Jesus looked at Peter after Peter denied Him the third time. Lk.22:61
Jesus is recorded in the Gospels as performing 36 miracles. Eight of these did not involve healing.
Four were in the sea.
Calming the storm Matt.8:26
Walking on the water Matt.14:25
Two miraculous catches of fish Lk.5:1–11; Jn.21:1–11
Three were feedings of large numbers of people.
He turned water into wine for a wedding. Jn.2:1–11
He fed 5000. Matt.14:15–21
He fed 4000. Matt.15:32–38
Three miracles involved His own body. (The resurrection stands by itself.)
He walked through a hostile crowd at Nazareth. Lk.4:29–30
He walked on the water. Matt.14:25
He was transfigured before Peter, James and John. Matt.17:2
He worked constantly for three years. He died at 33, but some thought He might be 50. (Jn.8:57). His hard work aged Him. The information we have emphasizes His deity, His super-humanness.
Actually, our working knowledge of Christ comes from much more than the Gospels and is quite complex. It is a composite of His OT work of creation, appearances as the Angel of the Lord and other theophanies. We have the prophetic writings such as the Servant Poems of Isaiah which emphasize His vulnerability.
After the Resurrection, we have the writings of the apostles (notably Phil.2:5–11), as well as the great minds of 2000 years. The devotional literature and hymns about Christ fill shelves. And finally, we have the personal and intimate knowledge of our own experience, our own life with Christ.
Let us continue to glean from Matthew, studying Jesus and also the faith of the people He deals with.
Matt.13:53–58. He went back to visit Nazareth and preached in the synagogue. They were astonished by His teaching but then they reflected on His origins. His family--His mother and four brothers and their sisters were sitting in their midst, looking like ordinary people--and they decided (therefore) that He could not be anything special. Jesus was restrained and kind enough to make a general statement to the effect that proximity breeds contempt, and distance lends enchantment. He was able to do little in the way of healing. This is an example of one plus faith, seed on the rock that fails because it has no root.
Matt.14:1–12 We come to Herod and our third reference to John the Baptist. Jesus was beginning His work when John was put in prison. (Matt.4:12). John’s wavering faith was supported. (Matt.11:1–19). Now John is dead. Herod Antipas, the Tetrarch of Galilee and Perea heard of Jesus and his conscience was troubled. He envisioned John the Baptist coming back from the dead.
Herod had divorced his wife and induced his brother’s wife Herodias to divorce her husband and marry him. Herodias was also the daughter of Herod’s half-brother Aristobolus. So there was incest as well as adultery. Herodias was furious with John for challenging their legitimacy. When the wine and the dancing of her young daughter (“Salome” according to Josephus) weakened Herod's reason, she got her revenge.
Lust, adultery, incest, murder and now guilt stalk this family.
This is an example of the hard path where there is no hope of the seed taking root. They died faithless.
Matt.14:13–21 Jesus had to go away with the disciples to grieve the death of John.
Walking is faster than boating, however, and the crowds met Him at the landing. Instead of going away to get rest and meditation, Jesus felt compassion on the crowd and healed them. By evening the disciples were ready to stop and let the crowd go but Jesus said they should feed them. The logistics of feeding perhaps 20,000 people was more than the disciples could imagine. Jesus was testing their faith. (Jn.6:6). Jesus took food for two and multiplied it ten thousand -fold. There was a lot left over. Jesus’ celebrated discourse on the Bread of Life (Jn.6:25–29) was given the next day on the other side of the lake.
This is an example of disciples’" two+two=four" faith choked by the difficulties of working with miracles by God's power.
Matt.14:22–33. Jesus sent the disciples off in the boat, and dismissed the crowds. Then He went up into the mountain to pray alone. He might have prayed for six hours. Between 3 and 6AM (the Romans divided the night into four quarters), the boat was going nowhere, being driven off course by contrary winds. Jesus came to them walking on the water. How else could He have reached them? Nevertheless Jesus’ decision to do that bothered me until I came across three OT references to walking on water.
“Who commands the sun, and it does not rise;
who seals up the stars;
who alone stretched out the heavens
and tramples the waves of the sea;” (Job 9:7–8)
“Have you entered into the springs of the sea,
or walked in the recesses of the deep?” (Job.38:16)
“Thy way was through the sea,
thy path through the great waters;
yet thy footprints were unseen.” (Psa.77:19)
These references are not apparently prophetic, yet they remind us that Jesus is God at work in His world.
When the disciples saw this apparition they were petrified. Was Jesus’ body luminous? His word is “Take courage! It is I! Don’t be afraid!”
“It is I” is the Gr. “ego eimi”, “I am” that Jesus used in Jn.8:58 and many other places in John. It is the "I AM", the personal name of God.
Peter did the unthinkable. He impulsively asked Jesus to command him to come out on the water. Jesus said “Come”. Peter walked on water! Then Peter looked around at his incredible circumstances and went down like a Rock. Jesus saved him. The storm was over. Those in the boat, perhaps sailors as well as disciples, worshiped: ” Truly You are the Son of God”.
Peter had full faith that choked under stress. Don’t take your eyes off Jesus.
14:34–36 The people of Gennesaret quickly gathered all the sick and Jesus healed all who so much as touched the hem of His garment. The word for healed is intensive and can be translated “saved”.
Here Jesus’ patience and loving-kindness are repeatedly exhibited at the expense of His own needs. There is a note of wry humor. His power is great. His humanity is quite visible. Yet docetism--denying Jesus' humanity--remains a temptation for us. The next lesson may give us a different perspective.