Matthew 14:22-33; Walking on Water

Here is another story designed to tell us who Jesus really is. Truly, he is the Son of God.

After the time with the large crowd, Jesus wants some alone time, so he sends the disciples ahead of him to the other side of the lake. He apparently spent quite a long time praying, because he shows up again in the 3-6 am time period.

And when he shows up he makes quite an appearance: walking on the surface of the lake in the storm. This is normally not done except in Minnesota in January.

After calming the fearful disciples, bold Peter wants to share in the fun and Jesus invites him to do so. But when he realizes what he is doing, he begins sinking. Jesus often saves or heals people by reaching out, and he reaches out and saves Peter, calling him a name, oligopistos, meaning you-little-faith-one. Quite different from Peter’s nickname, which means Rock and is also how he would have sunk if Jesus had not reached out.

Personally, I’m impressed by Peter’s faith in at least trying. He is bolder than I.

At this point, it’s a good idea to insert the sermon you have heard ten or twelve times about what happens when you take your eyes off Jesus and look at your circumstances.

The upshot is that the disciples see who Jesus really is and they worship him by confessing what they see and know.

Truly, he is the Son of God.

Matthew 14:13-21; Jesus Feeds a Crowd

You and I both have probably heard dozens of sermons on this story in our lifetime. It’s the only miracle story in all four gospels; it must be important. On the other hand, we are so familiar that we can hardly read it without interpreting as we go.

Matthew doesn’t spiritualize the miracle at all. He simply tells the story and leaves it to us to think about the significance. At the base of it, Jesus fed ten thousand people or more from a small amount of food that maybe would have barely been enough for him and his close disciples.

The story begins when Jesus is told about the death of John. He withdraws to a wilderness, either because he senses danger or because he wants to mourn in relative privacy. Privacy is impossible at this stage of his career—the crowd followed him.

  • Jesus showed compassion. His compassion never fails.
  • His compassion took two forms, healing and feeding.
  • There is an echo of Elisha feeding a large group from a small amount of food, but this is even bigger.
  • There is a foreshadowing of the Last Supper; he took, he blessed, he broke, he gave.
  • He involved his disciples in the miracle. We also are to be involved in his work.
  • He can start with little and use it.
  • His provisions are enough, even more than enough, but not wildly more. He takes care of his people, but not extravagantly.
  • He shows himself to be Emmanuel, God with us.
  • He shows himself to be in control.

I think we are to take from this story a better notion of who Jesus is. As his disciples began to see him more clearly, so should we.

Matthew 14:1-12; Death of John

Herod Antipas, having killed John the Baptist, seems to be having a guilty conscience. He wonders if Jesus might be John redivivus, manifesting powers that someone like that might manifest.

Then follows a flashback story of how John died. He was imprisoned for being a gadfly, challenging the tetrarch about his incestuous marriage.

The marriage of Antipas and Herodias would probably not raise an eyebrow today. That says more about us than them.

Herodias wants John to die, but Antipas is fearful of public reaction. She finds a way to get her way. John is beheaded

The leaderless disciples of John take his body and bury him, then go to tell Jesus about what happened.

The heroes of this story meet an untimely and grisly end. That’s what you call foreshadowing.

Matthew 13:53-58; Rejected in his Hometown

People are usually glad for reflected glory from a native son (daughter). The town we live in is proud of its Olympic gymnast. The town next door is proud of the national championships of its high school marching band. The next town over is the hometown of Forrest Tucker and Joanne Worley. Talk about reflected glory!

But Jesus hometown stumbled over him, was offended by him. Perhaps they saw him not as bearing glory, but infamy. Back in 11:6, Jesus said:

And blessed is the one who is not offended by me.” (Matthew 11:6, ESV)

Well, Nazareth failed that test.

Perhaps they had as low an opinion of themselves as did Nathanael. They would have been proud to be the home of the region’s best carpenter, most likely, but not someone who seemed to be claiming to be the messiah. They knew his family (and a good-sized family it was) and they knew his background and training. Why was he being so uppity?

Seems to me they have a very particular version of the scandal of particularity. People want God to be general and nebulous. They have trouble accepting God at work in a particular situation or a particular individual. In Nazareth this is amplified by the fact that they know Jesus so well.

Like the Nazarenes, some modern church members “stumble” over Jesus with less justification than the bewildered disciples in Gethsemane. Jesus’ claims and demands appear excessive to secularists in a world come of age. While including God as a necessary principle in their worldview, they are offended by the claim that the Creative Force of the Universe chose to do something unique and unrepeatable in the life and death of one ancient carpenter. Matthew will not countenance this evasion. Those who are confronted by Jesus must make a decision not only about him but also about his heavenly Father.

Douglas R. A. Hare, Matthew, Interpretation, a Bible Commentary for Teaching and Preaching (Louisville, KY: John Knox Press, 1993), 163.

It looks to me like most people around here are acting like the epidemic is over. I predict a huge surge of cases for us in the days ahead. If I get it, I’ll die within days. People don’t seem to understand that.

Matthew 13:47-52; The Net and Kingdom Scribes

The last parable in this series is at least partially interpreted by Jesus. A large net was used to indiscriminately gather fish, which were subsequently sorted. This parable is somewhat parallel to the weeds story earlier in the chapter.

Bad fish are thrown away and good fish are kept. Does this apply to the world, to the church, or both?

There is a day of judgment coming when evil people will be separated from the righteous ones. There is every reason to believe that this judgment will include the church. Even in Matthew’s day, there were already rotten fish in the church.

Jesus finishes off this series by asking the disciples if they understand, and they do understand. He then compares discipleship to scribal studies, a rigorous course of understanding the Bible. Jesus says the scribe-disciple will display the kingdom treasures. There are new treasures brought by Jesus, but the old treasures of scripture are not to be ignored.

I don’t hear much preaching from the OT. I’ve been trying to improve my OT game in recent years to make up for that lack. It is a treasure.

I’m always surprised when people in the church show no desire to learn more about the Bible, about Jesus, about God. Of course, some do, but most do not. Based on this passage, I’d say Jesus expects his disciples to be fairly rigorous in their pursuit of understanding scripture. Am I wrong?