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Divine Revelation

Date: May. 1, 2016

Author: Dan Bockenfeld

Matthew 14:13-36

Key Verse: Matthew 14:33

“Then those who were in the boat worshiped him, saying, ‘Truly you are the Son of God.’”

Has anyone here seen The Lord of the Rings movies? Did you know that The Lord of the Rings movie trilogy is 15 years old? The first movie The Fellowship of the Ring came out in 2001. Man, I feel old. It’s like realizing that The Matrix came out in 1999. I was a freshman in college when that came out. At any rate, I’m talking about The Lord of the Rings because there is a character in it that I want to talk about Gandalf. In the first movie, Gandalf goes by Gandalf the Grey, because of the grey robes he wears. You see, Gandalf is a wizard, for lack of a better word. There are different colors to the wizards that denote their superiority. There are blue and brown, which are lower than grey, and there is white which is for the head of their order and the most powerful, Saruman. Gandalf realizes the ring in possession of a little hobbit Frodo is, in fact, the One Ring, Sauron’s evil master ring. If that ring came into Sauron’s possession, the world would be plunged into darkness. So, Frodo, Gandalf and a bunch of other people go on a quest to destroy the ring in a volcano. While on their way, the group encounters a fiery beast called a Balrog underneath the Misty Mountains. While fleeing the beast, Gandalf turns to face it, giving the rest time to escape. In the battle, both Gandalf and the Balrog plunge down a deep crevasse seemingly to their death. In the next movie, The Two Towers, we find out that Gandalf kept fighting all the way down and all the way up to the top the mountain, where Gandalf smites the beast at last, only to succumb to his own death. But it’s not over yet, he comes back with a great power upgrade; he is now Gandalf the White. The other white wizard, Saruman has turned his back on the rest of the world and allied himself with Sauron, and he takes over the mind and body of Theoden king of Rohan, aging him beyond his years. Gandalf goes disguised in a grey cloak to hide his new power to free Theoden. He approaches the king and appears to try to remove Saruman. The king laughs with the voice of the turned wizard, “You have no power here Gandalf the Grey.” At the moment, Gandalf reveals the truth, that he is now Gandalf the White and the room brightens with his power, and he expels Saruman from Theoden. Saruman thought that he knew Gandalf, but in a moment he found out the truth of Gandalf’s power. Likewise, in today’s passage, Jesus’ disciples have been with Jesus every day for more than a year. They thought that they knew who Jesus was, but with just a few acts, Jesus revealed the truth of who he is, and the disciples realized that truth for the first time. Let’s see what that revelation is.

At the end of the last passage, John the Baptist was killed by being beheaded. If you remember, he was the forerunner to Jesus’ ministry. John prepared people’s hearts by proclaiming a message of repentance and he baptized Jesus. After John was beheaded, his disciples buried his body and went to tell Jesus what had happened. Our passage today begins with Jesus’ response to hearing about John. “When Jesus heard what had happened, he withdrew by boat privately to a solitary place. Hearing of this, the crowds followed him on foot from the towns.” (13) When Jesus heard what had happened, he wanted to get away and pray, so he and his disciples got into a boat and set sail for somewhere private. Unfortunately, the crowd of people noticed that Jesus was leaving and the followed on foot around the lake. “When Jesus landed and saw a large crowd, he had compassion on them and healed their sick.” (14) Jesus and his disciples left the crowd at one place and took off in a boat. When they landed, they saw the familiar faces of the people they just left behind. The disciples must have been confused by some of the faces as they wondered how the people arrived there faster than they did by going the long way around, and apparently, they had sick people with them.

Now, Jesus could have turned the boat around at the sight of the crowd. He had just left a crowd and was trying to get some alone time to pray, but the crowd followed on foot. It would have been normal for someone to feel frustration that the crowd was preventing him from having some prayer time. He could have been upset and scolded the people or he could have just avoided the situation. Instead, however, Jesus had compassion on them. Elsewhere in the Bible, it says that Jesus saw them like sheep without a shepherd. The people were scattered and wandering aimlessly. They needed direction and structure, and Jesus knew that he was to help them. So instead of pushing the crowd away, Jesus welcomed them and healed their sick. As the passage says, Jesus had compassion on the crowd. He is obviously not like me. If I get focused on something, I really don’t like being distracted off of it. Jesus, on the other hand, had compassion and waited to do what he wanted to do. He served instead of avoided. He was with them for a while until it was nearly nighttime.

The passage continues, “As evening approached, the disciples came to him and said, ‘This is a remote place, and it’s already getting late. Send the crowds away, so they can go to the villages and buy themselves some food.’” (15) The place where they all were was off in the country. Remember, it was intended to be a solitary place. So the disciples had the idea that that Jesus should dismiss the crowd so that they could find food. It all sounds very thoughtful. There were five thousand men, plus women and children. It was getting late and the people were probably getting hungry. They had been with Jesus for hours without anything to eat. They also decided on the spot to leave wherever they were from and follow Jesus to the other side of the lake. I doubt many were prepared to spend hours away from home. It was nice of the disciples to think about the crowd, but, again, since this trip was intended for Jesus and his disciples to have some private time, they might have just been trying to get rid of the crowd.

Despite the disciples’ machinations, Jesus still had compassion for the people and he wanted his disciples to have the same. “Jesus replied, ‘They do not need to go away. You give them something to eat.’” (16) Here they were in the middle of nowhere with a large crowd and Jesus wanted his disciples to give the people something to eat. Nobody had anything and the disciples relied as much. All that they could find was five loaves of bread and two fish. None of it was very special or very large. Elsewhere in the Bible, it is revealed that the five loaves and two fish are just the lunch of a poor boy. It is impossible for that food to feed so many. But Jesus once said, “What is impossible with man is possible with God.” (John 18:27)

“‘Bring them here to me,’ he said. And he directed the people to sit down on the grass. Taking the five loaves and the two fish and looking up to heaven, he gave thanks and broke the loaves. Then he gave them to the disciples, and the disciples gave them to the people. They all ate and were satisfied, and the disciples picked up twelve basketfuls of broken pieces that were left over.” (18-20) It was a miracle! The tiny little amount of food fed everyone there. In fact, it wasn’t as if everyone had just a crumb, but all the people ate and were satisfied. Everyone had enough to be full. On top of that, there were leftovers. The disciples went out and gathered what was left over. After they gathered it all together, the found out that there were twelve basketfuls of broken pieces. What was left over was more than what they started out with.

What we see here is Jesus creating something out of almost nothing. Only a tiny bit was given and it was multiplied. Jesus provided food for the people. It is reminiscent of what God spoke of in Psalm 132:15, “I will bless her with abundant provisions; her poor I will satisfy with food.” So, over a thousand years before the time in the passage, during the time of Moses, the Israelites were wandering in the desert. As you might guess, in the desert there is very little food, but God provided for the people. In the morning, there was a layer of dew surrounding the Israelite camp. When the dew was gone, there were flakes like frost on the ground. It was bread from heaven, or as the Israelites called it manna, which means “What is it?” The people were to gather all that they needed each morning and everyone would have exactly enough to feed them and their families. They were provided for by God. Everybody was satisfied just like with Jesus and the feeding of the five thousand. Again, it was all miraculous.

Immediately, Jesus put his disciples in a boat and told them to go to the other side. The crowd might have been a little too satisfied with their meal. Elsewhere in the Bible, it is mentioned that the people wanted to make Jesus their king by force because of the food they received. I think that Jesus didn’t want his disciples to get caught up in the crowd’s desires so he had them leave by boat immediately. Jesus, then dismissed the crowd and finally was able to have that time alone to pray. He went up a mountainside to pray and stayed there for hours. It was early evening when the disciples talked about sending the crowd away. By the time, the disciples were put in the boat, it was nighttime but it shouldn’t have been too late and just before dawn Jesus went out to meet them.

In the boat, the disciples were struggling to go in the right direction. There was a strong wind causing waves that kept the boat from going very far. Have you ever seen Lake Michigan on a windy day? The waves get pretty tall and they splash up on those concrete barriers along the shore. On days like that you don’t see many boats out on the water because it’s not all the much fun. In fact, it was a difficult situation, but it wasn’t a very scary one. Back in chapter 8, the disciples were in a boat with Jesus during a horrible storm. That one was bad enough to make the disciples afraid think that they were going to drown. This time, however, it was just some wind and waves. They were able to row three to four miles across the four- to five-mile-wide lake. It was hard work as the disciples struggled to maintain their course.

The passage continues, “Shortly before dawn Jesus went out to them, walking on the lake.” (25) While it was still dark, Jesus goes out walking on the lake to catch up with his disciples. It is a crazy situation that I don’t think that we can fully visualize. Jesus was walking on the surface of the water. This is a story that most people have heard about Jesus. Everybody has heard about Jesus walking on water, so much so that this act has become nearly cliché as a measure of a person’s righteousness. You might think you are so good, but are you able to walk on water? It is so well known that when a lizard was discovered to have the ability to run across the water, it was nicknamed the Jesus lizard. Now this lizard walks around normally on all fours, but when it is startled, it rises up on its back legs and is able to run across the water for a period of time.

People have tried to explain a way for Jesus to have walked on the water. Some think that if you get enough speed you can run on the water. People have tried it without success. People just can run fast enough to run on water. Nobody is like the superhero The Flash who is so fast that he can run up walls and run on water. Some people think that Jesus was walking on a sandbar. You know, that some distance from the shore a pile of sand can form and the water can get shallow again, but the passage says that the disciples were a considerable distance from shore, which translates into miles from shore. Sandbars don’t form that far out. Another theory that I heard, which has got to be one of the most ridiculous ones that I have heard, was that since Jesus was up on a mountainside, he was able to get a piece of ice and use it like a surfboard on the lake. So, they say that Jesus wasn’t walking; he was surfing. But the passage says he was walking and the disciples’ reaction shows the situation more, “When the disciples saw him walking on the lake, they were terrified. ‘It’s a ghost,’ they said, and cried out in fear.” (26) The disciples thought that they saw a ghost. Jesus’ passage across the lake was so smooth that it defied natural logic. He was not affected by the wind and the waves. He just walked like it was a bright and sunny day. It didn’t make sense to the disciples and they had a Scooby-Doo moment, “It’s a g-g-g-g-g-ghooost!”

Jesus sensed their fear and wanted to allay their fears. “But Jesus immediately said to them: ‘Take courage! It is I. Don’t be afraid.’” (27) Jesus tells them to not be afraid. He wasn’t a ghost gliding over the water. It was Jesus. Interestingly, when Jesus said, “It is I,” the literal translation is “I am”. This isn’t some weird grammar issue. Jesus is identifying himself as God. Way back in Moses’ time, at the burning bush. God told Moses to go and tell his enslaved people that he was to lead them to freedom. Moses was unsure of how the people would respond, so he asked the voice, “What about if the people asked who sent me?” To that the voice responded, “I am who I am. This is what you are to say to the Israelites: ‘I am has sent me to you.’” (Exodus 3:14) “I am” is the name of God. He is preexisting and not defined by anyone else. So, it was not a ghost that the disciples saw walking across the water; it was God.

At this revelation, Peter wants to get out of the boat too. “Lord, if it’s you,” Peter replied, “tell me to come to you on the water.” (28) “Since it is you, Lord, tell me to come to you,” is Peter’s response. He might have been trying to show off or he had some sort of share with Jesus this great miracle. At any rate, Jesus tells Peter to come and at first, things are going ok, until Peter takes a look around. Remember, it is still very windy and there are a lot of waves on that water. Once Peter sees all that, he gets afraid and starts to sink. I get the sense from the passage that Peter didn’t just fall into the water but was sinking relatively slowly. He cried out for help and Jesus reached out his hand to save him. As soon as they got into the boat, the wind stopped and the lake was calm.

Then something different happened. “Then those who were in the boat worshiped him, saying, ‘Truly you are the Son of God.’” (33) The disciples worshiped Jesus as God. This is the first time that they made this severe connection. Back in that other storm in chapter 8 when the disciples thought that they were going to drown, when Jesus told the storm to stop, they said, “What kind of man is this? Even the winds and the waves obey him!” (8:27) They called Jesus a man. The first identified with Jesus’ humanity, but now they recognized his divinity. No longer did they ask, “What kind of man is this?” Now they proclaimed, “Truly you are the Son of God.” They had seen Jesus do so many things, but never before had the disciples known the gravity of who their teacher was. Back in chapter 11, John the Baptist sent some of his remaining disciples to see if Jesus was truly the one they were waiting for. Jesus replied, “The blind receive sight, the lame walk, those who have leprosy are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, and the good news is proclaimed to the poor.” (11:5) Jesus replied by telling them what he had already done, which is all that the Messiah was supposed to do. Jesus’ disciples had seen every single one of those miracles, but it is with these two miracles that the identity of Jesus was fully revealed to them.

The feeding of the five thousand was reminiscent of the manna in the desert and walking on water is alluded to in Job 9:8. In that Job speaks of God, “He alone stretches out the heavens and treads on the waves of the sea.” And Psalm 77:19 says of God, “Your path led through the sea, your way through the mighty waters, though your footprints were not seen.” These were only act that God could do on such a scale. With the bread and fish, Jesus was creating like God created the universe. From nothing came everything. The Law of the Conservation of Matter states that in a closed system matter cannot be either created or destroyed. It just changes in form. Yet, Jesus created so much bread from five loaves that everyone had plenty to eat and there were twelve basketfuls left over. More was at the end than there was at the beginning. Jesus created matter in a closed universe. He didn’t pull some bread out of an other-dimensional pocket. It was created like the universe. Only God could do such a thing.

You can also see that Jesus is God because his disciples worshipped him. The recognized that his power was God’s power, therefore Jesus is God. You might think that they could worship anybody. It is not proof. That might be true, but remember, the Jews were very religious. They had rules and regulations for everything. They were to worship only God. If they were caught worshiping anyone other than God, they would no longer be Jews. They would lose their identity and be kicked out of society. It was serious to do such a thing. Also, Jesus let them worship. It was blasphemous to be worshiped if you weren’t God. In fact, in the book of Revelation, the apostle John is so in awe he tries to worship an angel. But the angel said to John, “Don’t do that! I am a fellow servant with you and with your fellow prophets and with all who keep the words of this scroll. Worship God!” (Revelation 22:9) By Jesus letting his disciples worship him, he was acknowledging that he is God.

This is something that is so significant. The fact that Jesus is God is something that we know in our head. The disciples knew who Jesus was even prior to this point, but it is something that we know but we don’t feel. It is in our head like a piece of trivia. It is information that we pull out when it is convenient and helpful, but we don’t live our lives centered on that information. The disciples knew Jesus as their teacher and someone they lived their lives with every day. He was their leader and a man of great power and wisdom. He was more powerful than a prophet and had command over nature and demons. Jesus had compassion for the lost, but he is still God. To us Jesus is our comforter and our healer. He takes our weaknesses and binds them up. Jesus is the only person who truly understands who we are. He is like the closet friend we could ever have. He provides for our needs and helps us in our dark times. He is so kind and loving. Jesus died on the cross for our sins. His body was broken for us to lead us back to paradise. He saves us from the fires of hell.

All that is true, but there is more. Jesus is our friend and teacher, but he is also God. He is our comforter and healer, but he is also God. God is the one who truly understands who we are. God is the one providing for our needs. God is so king and loving. God is so patient with our shortcomings. God saves us from the fires of hell. God died on the cross for our sins. God had is body broken for us. God gives everything he has for you. Jesus is the only true God. There is no hierarchy between the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. There is only one God. Many times, we treat Jesus as a man. He is our advisor, our copilot, our helper and our example. He is someone that gives us benefit and blessing, but Jesus is so much more than that. Jesus is God, the almighty creator of heaven and earth. Jesus is the one who sewed your body together. Jesus is the one who put the breath in your lungs. It is through his will that the planets stay in orbit, and he is changing us to become perfect. This is the Jesus who walked on water and fed five thousand. He is to be worshiped and praised. His praise should ever be on our lips. He is the only one is worthy. He is the only one whose love covers over all our sins. He not our buddy. We shouldn’t treat him so lightly. Jesus is the almighty God, who has compassion. Let us worship the Lord Jesus as the one holy God.

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