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Bible Commentaries

L. M. Grant's Commentary on the Bible

Matthew 14

 

 

Verses 1-36

Now authority in high places is seen to reject Him too, by the deliberate rejection of His forerunner and servant John the Baptist. When King Herod hears of His fame, his conscience is troubled, fearing that Christ is John risen from the dead. Yet John had done no miracle. His moral and spiritual power had however left a solemn impression on Herod. Again, it was common knowledge that John and the Lord Jesus had been contemporaries, the Lord having been baptized by John (Matthew 3:13-17); but ignorant of this, the gnawing discomfort of Herod's conscience gave him no little misery!

The history of his having murdered John is now recounted. He had first imprisoned him because John had faithfully told him it was unlawful for him to have taken his brother's wife. Clearly, it was she who was applying the pressure while Herod's fear of the people (not of God) delayed him from putting John to death. Mark tells us also that he feared John, and when hearing him "did many things, and heard him gladly" (Mark 6:20). Apparently John's, stirring ministry prompted him to do good things by which to solve his conscience.

Herodias only needed an occasion to appeal to the pleasure and pride of Herod In order to accomplish her purpose of murdering John the Baptist. Herod's birthday furnished this, the daughter of Herodias dancing for his amusement. Before his guests he made a foolish oath to give the girl whatever she wanted. Through her mother's coaching, the girl asked for the head of John. Though the king was sorry, yet the pride of keeping his word outweighed the moral outrage of his conscience in murdering the servant of God. In fact, he could have easily spared John without breaking his oath, by acknowledging honestly that John's life was not his to give, but he chose to ignore his responsibility to God.

The foul deed being done, it is appalling to think of the girl carrying John's head in a dish to her mother. Certainly the sight of that head would so burn into their consciences that the torment of this, no less than in the case of Herod, would continue through their miserable lives. What can be worse than the insistent torment of an accusing conscience ?

John's disciples are however allowed to take his body and bury it. The faithful ministry of this man of God was short-lived indeed; but he had done the work for which God had sent him. His disciples then bring the news to the Lord Jesus. But just as the Lord had accepted rejection by His own city, so He quietly accepts this cruel injustice and rejection by the ruler of the land. He left by boat to go to a deserted place apart from the crowds. This took place at the same time that the apostles gathered to tell the Lord of their labours in the cities of Israel. For both of these reasons, the quietness of the presence of God was necessary, both for Himself and for them. Compare Mark 6:29-32.

Yet the interlude was brief, for the crowds followed Him out of their cities. Still, having been In quietness before God, He was moved with compassion toward the people, and healed those who were sick. For it is beautifully precious that the day of His rejection is the day of His grace: rather then being discouraged by the world's refusal, He will virtually increase the efforts of pure grace in desire for the true blessing of mankind.

The beauty of this expands into a lovely picture of the abundant grace of the present dispensation, grace available for all., and denied to none who will receive it. The disciples urged the Lord to send the crowd away, so as to find provision for themselves. How little do our hearts enter into the sufficiency of the grace that is in the heart of the Lord Jesus! Where shall men find satisfactory bread if they are sent away from Him? In fact, He tells them, "Give ye them to eat." This is what the Lord is telling us today. He has supplied us with His grace, and He Himself is in glory: therefore it is our privilege to dispense that which He supplies and blesses.

They feel (and so should we) the poverty of their resources for such a crowd, only five loaves and two fishes. But we look in the wrong direction. If we look to Him we are lightened and our faces are not ashamed (Psalms 34:5). Though we feel how little we have, yet having Christ, in Him there is more than sufficient for all mankind. The loaves speak of Him as the bread of life, the way it is made implying suffering and death in various ways; the grain of wheat falling into the ground and dying, growing up, then cut down, threshed, then ground in the mill, mixed with other ingredients, kneaded, and finally exposed to the heat of the fire. The fishes too speak of Him as the 0ne who has passed through the waters of judgment for us. When these are brought to Him and He blesses them, their sufficiency is miraculously abundant. The crowd simply sits down in the attitude of receiving: nothing must infer their work.

The disciples had the privilege of taking the loaves and fishes from the hand of the Lord Jesus to dispense them to the crowd, a function that has Its counterpart today in believers dispensing to others the spiritual food that they themselves receive from the Lord. When all five thousand, plus women and children, had eaten their fill, the remainder was greater than the original amount. For the abundant grace of God in the present day will issue in a full supply (twelve baskets) remaining for the blessing of the twelve tribes of Israel after the church is raptured to heaven.

Jesus then instructed His disciples to go by boat to the other side of Galilee, while He sent the crowds away, and went up into a mountain to pray. The typical picture here is simple to understand. Following the dispensing of grace in His coming into the world, the Lord has returned to the high elevation of heaven itself, there interceding for His people.

The boat in the midst of a turbulent sea however carries us on (in type) to the time of great tribulation, when the little remnant of the Jewish nation will be tossed on the sea of the Gentiles, in imminent fear of being overwhelmed. The fourth watch of the night is the morning watch, when the day breaks. Luke 12:35-38 refer to the Lord's coming for the church, and suggests only that He may come "in the second watch or come in the third watch." The second is the midnight watch, the third the cock crowing (Mark 13:35). The midnight watch is past now, therefore it appears clear that the Lord's coming for the church will be in the third watch, then of course His coming to Israel will be in the fourth watch.

In this watch therefore Jesus walked on the sea to meet His disciples. The sight was of course astounding, and they cried out for fear, thinking Him to be a spirit. The miraculous character of this is intended to impress us with the greatness of His power over the Gentile sea Of nations, He being in sovereign control even while they are still raging, and eventually subduing all under Him, as Son of Man. For He is Man, not a spirit, and His voice calms their troubled hearts.

Peter was in fact emboldened to request that the Lord should invite him to walk on the water to meet his Lord. In response to the Lord's "Come" he does walk on the water toward Him. No doubt we are intended to observe that the Lord is said to walk on the sea, all of it being under His dominion, while Peter is said to walk on the water, only a trifling part of the sea. Of course, it is by the power of his Lord that he is sustained, but Peter's eyes were turned from the Lord to the boisterous wind and waves, and of course he was afraid. It was not his fear that caused him to begin to sink: this was caused by his eyes being turned from the Lord; and his fear was caused by his eyes being on the troubled waves. If the sea had been perfectly calm, and Peter not afraid at all, he would still have begun to sink if his eyes had turned from the Lord. In this case he would likely have been so impressed with his being able to walk on the water that he would have looked around him with enthusiastic self-satisfaction, with the same result.

He did not cry out to the other disciples in the boat, but to the Lord, "Lord, save me." He was a swimmer (John 21:7), but the rough sea was too much for him: he needed the Lord. His right hand of power was immediately extended to lift Peter up, and together they entered the boat, the wind ceasing at this moment.

Peter provides a graphic picture of the faith of some godly Israelites when the security of the nation (the boat) is threatened by the raging of the Gentile nations. Some will realize that their safety is not dependent on the nation, but on their Messiah alone. Faith. depending on Him, will be sustained in spite of its weakness. He will bring them through, as He will bring the nation through.

The faith of the godly in Israel (typified by Peter's walking on the water to meet the Lord) reminds us that this is the very character of the present-day church of God. She is not given a vessel in which to surmount the waves, but is called upon to go forth to her Lord, who sustains her without the help of an organization like that of Israel. Sad to say, many have felt insecure with only the Lord to depend upon, and have for this reason formed organizations that they think are necessary to sustain a testimony for God. Why is our confidence not simply in the Lord alone?

Verse 32 however is typical of the hope of Israel being realized, the Lord's presence calming all the waves of adversity, and giving peace. This draws forth the clear confession of the disciples that He is truly the Son of God, just as Israel will fully confess when He is revealed to them in power and glory. Coming into the land of Gennesaret (which means "harp") He is welcomed, and the pleasant music of great blessing breaks forth, a picture of the precious work of the healing hand of the Lord in His introducing the peace and prosperity of the age to come, the millennium. From all the country around large numbers are brought to be healed, many only touching the hem of His garment and being perfectly restored. So all the world will share in the blessing of that glorious dispensation.

 


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Bibliography Information
Grant, L. M. "Commentary on Matthew 14:4". L.M. Grant's Commentary on the Bible. http://odl.studylight.org/commentaries/lmg/matthew-14.html. 1897-1910.

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