Today, we start off with the story of the feeding of the 5,000. It is recorded in all four gospels. And each gospel brings a few unique insights that the others don’t include. But together, the story presents us with an incredible picture.
Jesus and His disciples retreated to a “desert place”, but they were followed by a “great multitude” of people. Jesus “was moved with compassion toward them, and he healed their sick.”
Matthew 14:15 “And when it was evening, his disciples came to him, saying, This is a desert place, and the time is now past; send the multitude away, that they may go into the villages, and buy themselves victual.” – meaning food. Now watch as the Master startles his disciples.
Verse 16 “But Jesus said unto them, They need not depart; given ye them to eat.” If the disciples really knew who Jesus was, they would have asked Him to produce manna from heaven or call forth some quails to feed the masses. Instead, they only comment on how the situation looks impossible – how there are no options readily available to solve the problem. After witnessing miracle after miracle, they never considered another one for this situation. Their response to the Lord Verse 17 “And they say unto him, We have here but five loaves (of bread), and two fishes.” Now, I’m sure the disciples were thinking, “but what’s that going to amount to?” Verses 18-20 “He said, Bring them hither to me. And he commanded the multitude to sit down on the grass, and took the five loaves, and the two fishes, and looking up to heaven, he blessed, and brake, and gave the loaves to his disciples, and the disciples to the multitude. And they did all eat, and were filled: and they took up of the fragments that remained twelve baskets full.” So, the Master not only provided enough for all to eat till full, but enough to have twelve full baskets left over.
You recall in a previous episode, I mentioned the number 12 was significant in Scripture. Perhaps the twelve baskets full was a picture of the twelve tribes of Israel, and of His twelve apostles. Gathering up the fragments has great meaning as well. We have a Lord who loves leftovers, who does not discard that which goes unused. In fact, He is the greatest user of things long discarded, the fixer of things broken, and the healer of things wounded.
And to point out just how impressive this miracle was – Verse 21 tells us “And they that had eaten were about five thousand men, beside women and children.” Estimates are – counting men, women and children – there were approximately 15 to 20 thousand people receiving nourishment that evening.
Verses 22-23 “And straightway Jesus constrained his disciples to get into a ship, and to go before him unto the other side (of the Sea of Galilee), while he sent the multitudes away. And when he had sent the multitudes away, he went up into a mountain apart to pray: and when the evening was come, he was there alone.” He needed some alone time and to commune with His Father in Heaven.
The story now takes us out to the disciples on the Sea of Galilee. Verse 24 “But the ship was now in the midst of the sea, tossed with waves: for the wind was contrary.” So, there are the disciples trying to make it across to the other side. Verse 25 “And in the fourth watch of the night (between 3 am and 6 am) Jesus went unto them, walking on the sea.” And while out there in the face of the wind and the waves, I wonder if any of the disciples were questioning silently or out loud, why the Lord would send them out over the sea in such conditions. When we are allowing God to operate in our lives, I am of the opinion that He has His hands in most things as a means to teach and mold us. And this situation with His disciples is no different.
It must be a helpless feeling being tossed about on the waves with the howling winds in the dark and wet night. Verse 26 “And when the disciples saw him walking on the sea, they were troubled, saying, It is a spirit; and they cried out for fear.” They thought they were seeing a ghost! In this creepy atmosphere its no wonder these twelve grown men started howling out like frightened children. In any case, Jesus, being full of love quickly calmed them down. Verse 27 “But straightway Jesus spoke unto them, saying, Be of good cheer; it is I; be not afraid.” It must have been reassuring to hear the Savior’s voice calm their fears. But what we read next is perhaps one of the most amazing things ever to happen to a mere mortal man. Verse 28-29 “And Peter answered him and said, Lord, if it be thou, bid me come unto thee on the water. And he (Jesus) said, Come. And when Peter was come down out of the ship, he walked on the water, to go to Jesus.” I admire and appreciate Peter’s love for the Lord. There were no waves or wind or darkness of night that were going to get in his way. The Lord was out on the water and Peter wanted to be with Him. I mean the guy was willing and ready to step out of the safety of the boat to be with the Lord. Peter did in fact, walk on water! He is the only human being – who was not God in the flesh – to experience such a feat. And, remember he did ask the Lord before jumping out of the ship. Jesus’ response was to “come”. This is the exact call Jesus has on every single person’s life. He is inviting all of us to step off the ship and to walk with Him, in faith, and to not fear.
I have to interject here a concern I have with LDS Church Leaders who are encouraging members to “stay in the boat.” Knowing that many Mormons are having a faith crisis over matters of Church history and doctrinal issues, they are warned about the dangers of seeking answers through study and research – particularly on line. They are told to just stay in the boat – the church – where it is safe and comfortable. What if Peter stayed in the boat for the same reasons? Jesus invited Peter to leave the boat. It takes faith to seek answers to the hard questions. What is there to fear when seeking truth – that we might find it? We should put our full trust in the Lord that He will be there to walk by our side and hold our hand as we navigate treacherous waters. We might come to realize that our personal relationship with Christ has been strengthened and we are more secure in our spiritual journey than remaining in any boat.
Obviously, when asking the Lord if he could come out, Peter’s eyes were on Jesus. He was focused on the Lord’s invitation and not focused or thinking about the dangers all around. The Lord had faith Peter could walk – and for a moment, so did Peter. Verse 30 “But when he saw the wind boisterous, he was afraid; and beginning to sink, he cried, saying, ‘Lord save me’.” Isn’t that the way it is? In faith we step forward and we are actually successful in the walk. We get out and away from our comfort zones, and then we take our eyes off Him. We find ourselves in self-doubt and opposition, and think – What have I done? I can’t do this. I am incapable of keeping myself afloat. And you know what – you’re right. We are incapable of ourselves. Peter learned the same lesson – without Jesus we can do nothing. So, in God’s call upon our lives we need to keep our focus on Him and Him alone. By calling out “Lord save me” Peter recognized there is no other name whereby men may be saved – either from hell or from the circumstances we find ourselves in as believers.
Verse 31 “And immediately Jesus stretched forth his hand, and caught him, and said unto him, O thou of little faith, wherefore didst thou doubt?” What a beautiful picture – Jesus stretched forth his hand and caught him. How many times has He stretched forth His hand and caught us? We will never know in this life, but I would suggest it is constantly. Sometimes he makes us tread water for a while, but He never abandons us. And in saving Peter, the Lord said something amazing “O thou of little faith, wherefore didst thou doubt?” If Peter had little faith, yet could walk on water temporarily, think what would be possible in our lives if we had even that much faith.
Matthew continues in Verse 32 “And when they were come into the ship, the wind ceased.” I can’t help but wonder – how far did Peter walk on water before he began to sink? Then, when Jesus caught him, did Peter walk again that distance on water with Jesus back to the boat? Can you imagine the conversation the other eleven apostles had with Peter about his experience. The reaction to Jesus is demonstrated in Verse 33 “Then they that were in the ship came and worshipped him, saying, Of a truth thou art the Son of God.” I believe this is the first time in the Book of Matthew that someone has referred to Jesus as the Son of God. And they are worshipping Jesus.
It’s important that we take a look at a few passages in the gospel of, John chapter 6. Verse 28 “Then said they unto him, What shall we do, that we might work the works of God?” In religion we might expect Jesus to say, “keep all the commandments and laws and ordinances and policies of the Church – works and performance are important!” Instead, Verse 29 “Jesus answered and said unto them, This is the work of God, that ye believe on him whom he hath sent.” The only work God desired was faith and trust in Jesus as the Messiah and Son of God – simply, just believe. After telling the Jews that He was the “Bread of Life” and that he that cometh to Him shall never hunger; and he that believeth on Him shall never thirst, it says in Verse 44 “No man can come to me, except the Father which hath sent me draw him.” “Draw” means drawing against some resistance. Our carnal nature would never want to listen to what Jesus had to offer, without The Father drawing us – wooing us to come to the Son. Why are people opposed to responding to the beckoning? Various reasons might be that: Satan has blinded their minds with the philosophies of men; they love darkness more than light; the cares of the world stop them; the fear of persecution; they love lies more that the truth; they are trapped in the bondage of legalistic religion; or sin has seared their hearts so badly they are numb to feeling. But for those who do respond to the drawing, Jesus declares, Verse 47 “Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that believeth on me hath everlasting life.”
I love the promise and assurance Peter makes for himself and the other disciples when asked by Jesus if they will leave Him and go away. Verse 68-69 “Then Simon Peter answered him, Lord, to whom shall we go? Thou hast the words of eternal life. And we believe and are sure that thou art that Christ, the Son of the living God.” At this juncture, the manual instructs the teacher to ask, “What are some doctrines, ordinances, or other ‘words of eternal life’ that can be found only in Christ’s restored Church?” It should be obvious to everyone after reading these passages in John, that an organization calling itself a “restored Church” is not following the Savior’s teaching. Jesus clearly said the “work of God” is to “believe on Him.” He didn’t mention anything about ordinances, policies and laws to keep – in order have eternal life. It all comes down to religion verse relationship. It is the relationship Jesus is seeking with us – not religion.