In 13:44-50 we get three pictures from Jesus of what the kingdom of heaven is “like.” Think on them carefully and then answer His question at 13:51, “Have you understood all these things?” The first two pictures seem to show the great importance of the kingdom, its great worth, as well as the determination we need to get in and the joy we should have at discovering it. The third reminds us of the portion of the harvest which will be burnt up, that is those who don’t enter into the kingdom (even if they thought they’d bought season tickets) and will be cast into hell.
He was without honor only in His home town, and He was unable to do many miracle there because of their unbelief (13:57-58).
I remember the first time I heard a liberal speak on the feeding of the five thousand. Having grown up in church I was astounded to hear a pastor suggest that there was no miracle, but that “perhaps” Jesus just got the folks to share the lunches they had all brought! (14:13-21). It seems obvious to me that Matthew is describing ANOTHER miracle. (He has already mentioned MANY healings and numerous times that they were ALL healed). In verse fifteen we are told that the disciples knew the people had no food with them and were concerned that the people did need to eat and thought they should be sent into the surrounding villages to procure food for themselves. But Jesus told the disciples that the people did NOT need to go away, the disciples should feed them (verse 16). And they responded that they didn’t have enough for themselves, let alone the people, “we have here ONLY five loaves and two fish” (verse 17). Matthew’s telling of the story leaves out details that the other Gospel writers include. But he does tell us that Jesus had the people sit down in an orderly fashion, He prayed to the Father, He gave the food to the disciples, they in turn gave the food to the people. They ALL ate, had enough and still there was food left over – 12 full baskets of food! (verses 18-20). Then in verse 21 we are told that there were 5000 men, NOT COUNTING their wives and children!
After this Jesus sent everyone away and went out by Himself to pray (14:22-23). The disciples left in a boat and Jesus walked to them on the water. Meanwhile there was a storm on the sea which had the disciples very concerned. Having been very seasick myself on at least three occasions which I can remember, I think I can understand their situation. I was concerned about the stability of the boat each time too. So when they saw Jesus walking on the water the squealed like school girls. Notice His words to them. Three short phrases: “Take courage, it is I; do not be afraid” (14:27). Nine words in English, in the Greek only five: three verbs, a pronoun, and a negative particle. The first and last noun are in the imperative (commands to ALL of you). The pronoun makes His “It is I” emphatic. Actually it is the same as the “I AM” famous in John’s Gospel and could be understood that way – the Creator is speaking to His creatures to comfort them.
Peter wanted to walk on the water too. I sometimes refer to him as “Impetuous Peter.” He was either hot or cold, never lukewarm! He did walk on the water, but he got scared. Now I’m not trying to encourage us to doubt, but I do find it an encouragement to note that Peter, who spent three plus years learning from Jesus and then wrote some of the New Testament and was a central figure in Acts had some moments of doubt. There is still hope for me! And in his fear he did seek the LORD’S help.
And then a delegation of the religious officials arrived with a tough theological question (I am being facetious). When they asked why His disciples ate without washing their hands they were really saying, “Why do your disciples not follow the traditions that we have established? (15:1-14). These traditions were goofy intricate rituals which twisted God’s commands and enforced these on all others. They were very in-depth, time-consuming, and needlessly tedious–not to mention, oppressive. Jesus does not get defensive like we do. He turned on the offensive: “And why do YOU YOURSELVES transgress the commandment of God? . . . You invalidated the word of God for the sake of your tradition. You hypocrites. Isaiah was certainly right about you. Then He explained to all the people that it was not anything from outside entering into a person which defiled him, but it was that which was already in his own mind which defiled him! (15:3-11, 15-20). His disciples seemed to try to reprove Him and tell Him that He had offended the Pharisees. His statement in return did not back down at all (15:12-14).
Jesus’ treatment of the Syrophoenician woman (15:21-28) has confused many. I think that knowing her heart (mind) He used this as a teaching tool. She would have been considered as a dog to the Jews (despicable to them) and so He says it is not right to give the children’s (Jew’s) food (healing from the Messiah) to the dogs (her and her daughter). She had great faith and wisdom. She replied that the dogs ate the crumbs which fell from the children’s table. She was content with second best–because with God it is all the best! Jesus acknowledged her great faith and told her that because of it her daughter was healed (right then).
Yet again Jesus miraculously fed a multitude, this time “only” four thousand men (and families; 15:32-39). This time the disciples had seven loaves and a few small fish (verse 34) and seem to have learned nothing from the first miraculous feeding. This time there were only seven full baskets left over. I think this is important – Jesus asks if they have missed the implication in tomorrow’s reading (16:8-11). Twelve is a number that should remind us of the twelve tribes of Israel/Jacob, his own twelve sons. Seven was a number that represented wholeness and completion to the Jews (days in a week). But it could also be representative of the Gentiles. The first crowd was Jewish, the second seems to have been Gentile! He is saying that He has come to save all, not just Jews, even though He at first restricted the disciples to minister to Jews only.
He again calls them an evil generation (and adulterous this time too), and refuses to give them a sign (16:1-4). How was it that they missed the feedings and the healing miracles? These were the kinds of signs that God had promised through His prophets.
Proverbs: Keep God’s commandments, seek and learn His wisdom and you will not only be able to walk sure-footed in life, but will also have no fear, and you will be well-adorned. Do not be envious of the wicked, and do not be wicked yourself.