The Gospel of Matthew
"E. Schuyler English: The Gospel According to Matthew"
The Book of MATTHEW
The Herods were appointed by Rome as rulers over Israel. Theirs were kingdoms of awful cruelty and abominations, typical of world kingdoms and the coming reign of Anti-Christ. It was Herod the Great under whom the Jewish male children were slaughtered not long after the Lord Jesus was born; it was his son, Herod Antipas, who beheaded John the Baptist. John had denounced Herod because he was living in open adultery with Herodias, his brother Phillip's wife. Herod's anger was kindled against John, but he was afraid to take his life; then by a clever ruse Herodias demanded the head of the prophet, and he of whom our Lord said, "Among those that are born of women, there is not a greater prophet than John the Baptist" (Luke 7:28), was cruelly murdered. "And his (John's) disciples came, and took up the body, and buried it, and went and told Jesus" (Matt. 14:12). There is no record of the words of comfort which our Lord said to John's disciples, but we can be sure that He ministered to them. No one has ever come to the Lord Jesus for comfort and help that He has not met his needs. In the verse which follows, verse 13, "when Jesus heard it, He departed thence by ship into a desert place apart;" what He heard does not refer to the Lord's hearing of the death of John, but to the fact that Herod thought that He was John raised from the dead, and might have tried to lay hands on Him. The murder of John is recorded in parenthesis to tell why Herod was concerned about the mighty works of the Lord. The Lord Jesus came to earth to die at Calvary, but His time was not yet come, and so He departed into a desert place.
The multitude followed the Lord up into the desert place, and "He was moved with compassion toward them, and He healed their sick" (vs. 14). Could He Who felt compassion for those who soon should rise against Him and cry, "Crucify Him," have failed to have been touched by the death of John, and by the heart-broken wonder of John's disciples? Some have said that the Lord was cold in His attitude about John's death, but we know Him, and we know that He spoke words of comfort and joy and promise to the disciples.
The narrative before us needs no exposition. For a more detailed account, see John 6:1-14. Our Lord fed this multitude by the use of five barley loaves and two fishes which were in the possession of a small lad. Why did He do that? The Lord Jesus is God; He could have called down manna from the heavens, He could have created the food on the instant. It is to show us God's grace and mercy that the lad's supplies were used. It is through men that the Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ becomes known today. God could call witnesses from Heaven, He could make known the Name of the Lord Jesus in sundry ways, but because of His grace He uses His children and their personalities to reach the hungry souls in the world today. How can we be used? By following the example of the lad, who had little, much too little for the five thousand men and the women and children, but who gave all that he had. What was the result? They were all fed. If every born-again believer would give all that he has for the Lord's ministry, perhaps all who have never heard His Name might receive the Bread of Life, broken for them.
"And straightway Jesus constrained His disciples to get into a ship and to go before Him unto the other side, 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" (Matt. 14:22, 23). "He was there alone" -- alone with His Father. Steadfastly His face was set toward Jerusalem, and there was need of communion with His Father. If Christians would only go apart, alone with their heavenly Father, there would be a greater display of power in the Church today.
We have noted that the Gospel according to Matthew is dispensational in its teaching. Let us remember this as we look at the verses which follow which recount the miracle of our Lord walking on the water.
The Lord had gone apart, up into a mountain to pray. The ship in which the disciples were crossing to the other side "was now in the midst of the sea, tossed with waves: for the wind was contrary. And in the fourth watch of the night Jesus went unto them, walking on the sea." There is great teaching here. The ship is a symbol of Israel, the disciples are the remnant. He has dismissed them, and has gone apart, on high, for a time. The night is far spent, and Israel is tossed with the waves of the nations, and the wind of persecution is contrary. But the fourth watch is drawing nigh, when He shall return, and in power over the waves and the wind, shall succour His people. "And when the disciples saw Him walking on the sea, they were troubled, ... and they cried out for fear." There are many who are not looking for His coming, and who will not recognize Him and will cry out for fear. But He will speak to them, and will say, with a voice as the sound of many waters, "It is I" -- and He will calm their fears. Then "Peter answered Him, and said, Lord, if it be Thou, bid me come unto Thee in the water. And He said, Come." Peter here stands for the Church, called out from Israel among the nations. Peter is also a type of the Church which will be caught up to meet Him in the air, before persecution and distress cease, before He comes to Israel a second time. And when He comes, the wind shall cease, and they shall worship Him, saying: "Of a truth Thou art the Son of God." Nor do we want to over-dispensationalize this event. We may know that as we are in the world today, beset on every side by the waves and the wind, the fourth watch is at hand. He is absent, but He is watching, and at the proper time He will come and lift us up. Then forever the wind will cease for the Christian. God grant that meanwhile we may be looking for Him, and that in the power of the Spirit we may so live and teach that many may be brought to say before He comes: "Of a truth, Lord Jesus, Thou art the Son of God. My hope for eternity is based, not upon myself, but upon Thy Finished Work at Calvary."
So they came to Gennesaret. "And when the men of that place had knowledge of Him ... they brought unto Him all that were diseased, and besought Him that they might only touch the hem of His garment: and as many as touched were made perfectly whole." It may be that there is one who studies this passage who is sick in sin; only let the Lord Jesus come into your life -- if the knowledge of His redeeming work touches you, and you believe in Him you will be made perfectly whole.