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Bible Commentaries

The Biblical Illustrator

Matthew 14

 

 

Verses 1-11

Matthew 14:1-11

Herod the tetratch heard of the fame of Jesus.

A Court preacher

Herod is favourable to John, how could he be more unfortunate than to strike in the face the king who protects him? Is not the confidence of Herod an indication of the providence of God, not to be cast aside? This is what Court preachers of almost all epochs say to themselves. Moses was taught at the Court of Pharaoh, but said to the King, “Let the people of God go.” John says to Herod, “It is not lawful.”

I. His fidelity. He might have taken another means of fulfilling his mission, completely saving his life. He might have aroused the people against the King, and have made himself a popular hero. That is the protestation which God demands, not noisy indignation, but that humble and firm testimony in the presence of evil. But you suffer for your frankness; but who has found the secret of loving truly without suffering. False love always seeks itself; it will not alienate a heart to save it. True love, which seeks the good of others, and not its own interest, consents to be forgotten, sacrificed.

II. The recompense of this fidelity. Life for us so easy and for the old saints so terrible; we are tempted to accuse God of inexplicable severity. John dead! are you sure? Ask the authors of the crime. Herod sees him haunting him everywhere. Dead!-one cannot die when one has served God. To-day John speaks to us, his example has cheered our souls. Dead! no, in the cause which he has served nothing is useless, and if the most obscure devotion does not lose its recompense, what will be the recompense of a martyrdom such as his? Dead! but is that dying, to go to rejoin those who were witnesses of God on earth. “Let me die the death of the righteous,” etc. (E. Bersier, D. D.)

The Church built and enlarged by humble but heroic fidelity to truth

It is from similar devotedness that the Church has been able to arise and enlarge. When you see glittering in the air some massive cathedral, which remains standing as a testimony to the faith of past generations, think, then, of the blocks buried in the depths of the ground. None look to see them, but without those layers the edifice would fall at the first gust of a storm. Well, if to-day there is in the world a Christian Church, if there is a refuge accessible to all the sorrows of earth, an asylum where the soul escapes for ever from the oppressions of this world, a spiritual home where faith, hope, and love abide for ever; if we ourselves have been able to find there a place; it is certain that at its base there are acts of devotion without number, obscure deaths, unknown sufferings, silent sacrifices, which none can count. (E. Bersier, D. D)

Compromising Court preachers

Who knows now but that the favour of the monarch is a providential arrangement by God, for the furtherance of His Truth? Will you go, and by an early and unseasonable speech overthrow the designs of God:” Yes, my brethren, this is that which Court preachers of almost all epochs say to themselves. This is that which was said at the Court of Constantine, and thus it was that that emperor was deified who murdered his own son. Alas! this is that which was said in the sixteenth century, at the Court of Henry VIII., while that monarch stained the English Reformation with his disgraceful profligacy. This is that which was said at the Court of Philip of Hesse, and it was thus that Luther, in a day of weakness, covered, with a cowardly compromise, the profligacies of that prince. This is that which was said at the Court of Louis XIV., and it was thus that Bossuet, so implacable upon this point against Luther himself, had scarcely a courageous word, in presence of scandals far more crying still. This is how Massillon reassured himself at the Regent’s Court. This is how, upon the free soil of America, in the face of negro slavery and of all the infamy which accompanied it, some thousands of ministers of the gospel remained a long time silent, or only spoke so peaceably that a clap of thunder might have come to startle their sleeping consciences. Ah! deplorable allurement of the favour of the world! That is why dishonoured Religion has had some Te Deum for every fortunate action of power, some absolutions for all scandals, and why to-day it is miserably compromised in all the complications of human politics, when, alone, and without other support than its very truth, it would have, perhaps, brought over the world to Jesus Christ. (E. Bersier, D. D.)

Conscience and the moral law

Herod had a motive which shut our all reason and argument. It was his guilty conscience told him this was John the Baptist. The use I make of this passage is to set before you such considerations as naturally arise from it, and are proper for the direction and government of ourselves.

I. Observe the great force and efficacy of conscience. The fears which surround the guilty are so many undoubted proofs and records of the Judge’s authority.

II. This moral law is promulgated to every rational creature: the work of the Law is written in the heart. The rebukes of conscience will sooner or later restore the true sense to the Law, which was darkened by the shades of false reason serving the inclinations of a corrupted heart.

III. What care the wise author of our being has taken, not only to manifest himself and his laws to us, but likewise to secure our obedience, and thereby our eternal happiness and welfare. (T. Sherlock, D.D.)

The rewards and punishment of religion are in the present as well as in the future

It is thought a great disadvantage to religion that it has only such distant hopes and fears to support it; and it is true that the great objects of our hopes and fears are placed on the ether side of the grave, whilst the temptations to sin meet us in every turn and are almost constantly present with us. But then to balance this it must be considered that though the punishments and rewards of religion are at such a distance, yet the hopes and fears are always present, and influence the happiness of our lives here, as much, and often much more, than any other good or evil which can befall us. The peace of mind which flows from doing right, the fear, anxiety, the torments which attend the guilty, will inevitably determine the condition of men to happiness or misery in our life. (T. Sherlock, D.D.)

The terrors of conscience

The state of the wicked is a very restless one. The wildness and inconsistency of Herod’s imagination.

I. The reproaches of conscience unavoidable, proved from

II. To account for the difficulties that attend the proof of this proposition, it is to be observed-

1. That our judgments often mislead us when they are formed only upon the outside and surface of men’s actions.

2. That the reprehensions of conscience are not a continued, but intermitting, disease.

3. The few instances of wicked men that go out of the world without feeling the stings of conscience, to be ascribed either to ill principles early and deeply imbibed, or to an obstinacy of temper, or to a natural and acquired stupidity. These only prove that there are monsters in the moral, as well as in the natural world, but make nothing against the settled laws of either applications. Even for pleasure’s sake we ought to abstain from all criminal pleasures. It is the best way to secure peace to ourselves by having it always in our consciences. Let those chiefly listen to this reprover who are otherwise set in great measure above reproof. (F. Atterbury.)

Wounds of conscience

Whatever doth violence to the plain dictates of our reason concerning virtue and vice, duty and sin, will as certainly discompose and afflict our thoughts as a wound will raise a smart in the flesh that receives it. (F. Atterbury.)

Herod, a man governed by fear

I. He is an example of how cowardice, superstition, and cruelty naturally go together.

1. Fear of his bad wife leads him to imprison John.

2. Fear of the multitude stays him from killing him.

3. Fear of his oath and fear of ridicule drive him to carry out a vow which it was wicked to make, and tenfold more wicked to keep.

4. Fear of a bad conscience makes him tremble lest Jesus should prove to be John risen from the dead to trouble him.

II. Only when Jesus is brought bound before him, and is surrounded by his men of war, does the coward gain courage to mock him. (J. P. Norris.)

Conscience a preacher

I. There can be no dispute that he is lawfully in office.

II. He has been long in office.

III. This preacher never lacks clearness of discrimination.

IV. Boldness is another characteristic of this preacher.

V. Awakening.

VI. Preaches everywhere.

VII. And as for effectiveness, wizen has this preacher been surpassed?

VIII. Benevolent.

IX. Will never stop preaching.

1. All other preaching can be effective only as it harmonizes with that of this preacher.

2. Shall the everlasting ministrations of this preacher be to us a blessing or a curse? (H. B. Hooker, D. D.)

Herod; or, the power of conscience

I. Conscience will not be silenced by wealth or earthly surroundings.

II. A guilty conscience is troubled with not only real, but imaginary, troubles.

III. A guilty conscience will torment a sinner in spite of his avowed scepticism. (T. Kelly.)

Conscience-fears

A man will give himself up to the gallows twenty years after the treacherous stroke. Nero was haunted by the ghost of his mother, whom he had put to death. Caligula suffered from want of sleep-he was haunted by the faces of his murdered victims. We can still see the corridors recently excavated on the Palatine Hill. We can walk under the vaulted passages where his assassins met him. “Often weary with lying awake,” writes Suetonius, “sometimes he sat up in bed, at others walked in the longest porticos about the house, looking out for the approach of day.” You may see the very spot where his assassins waited for him round the corner. Domitian had those long wails cased with clear agate. The mark of the slabs may still be seen. The agate reflected as in a glass any figure that might be concealed round an angle, so that a surprise was impossible. It is said that Theodoric, after ordering the decapitation of Lysimachus, was haunted in the middle of his feasts by the spectre of a gory head upon a charger. And how often must a nobler head than that of Lysimachus have haunted a more ignoble prince than Theodoric as he sat at meat and muttered shudderingly aside, “It is John whom I beheaded!(H. R. Haweis.)

Conscience in defiance of sceptical decrial

Herod was a Sadducee; he appears to have been the avowed patron and protector of that sect which believed neither in the existence of spirit, whether angels, men, or devils. Yet see how the conscience of Herod crushes his creed to pieces; though he believed not in the resurrection of the dead, yet he feared that John had risen from the dead; though he despised the idea of hell as a fable, and as a bugbear, he felt within him all the horrors of Gehenna, the gnawings of a “worm that dieth not,” the scorchings of a “fire that is not quenched.” Men may try to believe that there is no existence beyond the grave; they may write upon the sepulchre, “Death is an eternal sleep”; these flimsy pretences burst through them like a river rushing through a mound of sand, or a roaring lion through a spider’s web. (Dr. Thomas.)

Head in a charger

History tells of similar instances of barbarity. Mark Antony caused the heads of these whom he had proscribed to be brought to him while he was at table, and entertained himself by looking at them. Cicero’s head being one of those brought, he ordered it to be placed on the very tribune whence Cicero had spoken against him. Agrippina, the mother of Nero, sent an officer to kill Lollia Paulina, her rival for the throne. When her head was brought, she examined it with her hands, till she discovered some mark by which the lady had been distinguished.

Troubled conscience

Though Herod thought good to set a face on it to strangers, unto whom it was not safe to bewray his fear; yet to his domestics he freely discovered his thoughts; “This is John Baptist.” The troubled conscience will many a time open that to familiars, which it hides from the eyes of others. Shame and fear meet together in guiltiness. (Bishop Hall.)

Need of ministerial faithfulness

There was a foolish law among the Lacedaemonians, that none should tell his neighbour any ill news which had befallen him, but every one should be left to find it out for themselves. There are many who would be glad if there was a law that could tie up ministers’ months from scaring them with their sins; most are more offended with the talk of hell than troubled for that sinful state that should bring them thither. But when shall ministers have a fitter time to tell sinners of their dangers, if not now, for the time cometh when no more offers of love can be done for them. (H. Smith.)

Bold in reproof

A minister without boldness is like a smooth file a knife without an edge, a sentinel that is afraid to let off his gun. If men will be bold in sin, ministers must be bold to reprove. (Gurnall.)

Conscience a tormentor

A wicked man needs no other tormentor, especially for the sins of blood, than his own heart. Revel, O Herod, and feast and frolic; and please thyself with” dances, and triumphs, and pastimes: thy sin shall be as some Fury, that shall invisibly follow thee, and scourge thy guilty heart with secret lashes, and upon all occasions shall begin thy hell within thee. (Bishop Hall.)

Herod a hypocrite

Is there a worldly-minded man, that lives in some known sin, yet makes much of the preacher, frequents the church, talks godly, looks demurely, carries fair? Trust him not; he will prove, after his pious fits, like some testy horse, which goes on some paces readily and eagerly, but anon either stands still, or falls to flinging and plunging, and never leaves till he have cast his rider. (Bishop Hall.)

Influence of Balls

I was employing a very respectable woman a few days to do some work for me, and one evening she said to me, “You must please to let me off earlier to-night, ma’am; I’m going to the bail.” “To the ball,” I exclaimed in amazement, “to the ball!” “Yes,” she said: “I am at all the balls.” I could not understand her; for, never going to such places myself, I am somewhat ignorant of what goes on. So she added, “I am keeper of the china and am tea-maker; so I am obliged to be there; and I shall not get to bed before six o’clock to-morrow morning. Oh ma’am!” she burst out, “it’s a dreadful life! I have seen young ladies, when they first came to this town, looking so bright, their cheeks so rosy, their eyes so dancing with joy; and before the winter was over I have not known them, they looked so old and pale and haggard and miserable.” (S. S. Teacher’s Journal.)

Dancing

Dancing in itself, as it is a set, regular harmonious motion of the body, cannot be unlawful, more than walking or running. Circumstances may make it sinful. The wanton gesticulations of a virgin, in a wild assembly of gallants warmed with wine, could be no other than riggidh and unmaidenly. (Bishop Hall.)

Known by our pleasures

There cannot be a better glass, wherein to discern the face of our hearts, than our pleasures; such as they are, such are we; whether vain or holy. (Bishop Hall.)

Blundering wickedness

I. Herod in his first act moves too late. Herod imprisoned John, intending a crushing blow against the good cause; but it was ineffectual. He was powerless to hinder John’s work. That work was done, and not to be undone. His influence was already abroad in the air. His words were pricking the hearts of thousands. Herod could not arrest this, any more than he could lock up the atmosphere within prison bars.

II. Even if Herod could have stopped the revolution he had seized the wrong man. John had passed over the leadership to his chief. The Messiah was spreading His truth in the villages, to the northward, out of reach.

III. In bringing John to his castle to confront his royal authority, he only gives the fearless prophet A chance to come to close quarters with him. The ruler furnished a great opportunity to God’s prophet and he took it.

IV. incontinent depravity reels through revelry to blood-guiltiness. Poor and comfortless is evil’s triumph. (W. V. Kelley.)

The dead prophet yet alive

The prophet’s voice is not silenced by the executioner’s hand, but sounds on in the guilty, haunted soul. John troubles Herod more now than when he was alive. The prisoner does not stay down in the dungeon any more, but rooms with Herod, sits spectral at the Tetrarch’s feasts, makes festival doleful as funeral, wakes him in the night, and keeps saying unpleasant things on the inner side of his ear-drum. (W. V. Kelley.)

Martyrdom of John Baptist

Learn from this-

I. That if we faithfully do our duty, we must be prepared to suffer for it. John would have received many marks of favour and acts of kindness from Herod, if only he would have kept silence on one subject; because he dared not be silent, he met with prison and death. So with us. If we are really in earnest in serving God, Satan will be sure to stir up some opposition against us. These hindrances are the tests of our faithfulness.

II. That God’s grace is always sufficient. The Baptist’s life and death were lonely; but, though separated from Jesus in the body, he was nearer to Him in spirit than the multitude which thronged Him. It is blessed to be constantly in God’s house, to live in an atmosphere of Divine consolation; but it is even more blessed to be content if, through no fault of our own, we are deprived of this: nothing can take away from us the satisfaction of reposing our soul simply upon the will of God.

III. That death may be viewed not with horror but with joy. Herodias sought to wreak cruel vengeance on John; she did but release him from a weary imprisonment, and open the door to his eternal bliss. If only we are ready for death can death come too soon? It is the door of release from storm and cloud, sorrow and sin. (S. W. Skeffington, M. A.)

Contrast

Herod’s marriage with Herodias

The marriage was unlawful for three reasons.

1. The former husband of Herodias, Philip, was still living. This is expressly asserted by Josephus.

2. The former wife of Antipas was still living, and had fled to her father, Aretas, on hearing of his intention to marry Herodias.

3. Antipas and Herodias were already related to one another within the forbidden degrees of consanguinity.

Dislike of faithful rebuke

Lais broke her looking-glass because it showed the wrinkles on her face. Man; men are angry with those who tell them their faults, when they should be angry with the faults that are told them.

A charger

A somewhat capacious platter, often made of silver, which was charged or loaded with meat at banquets. The sight of the Baptist’s head would be a feast to Herodias and her daughter. (J. Morison)

Monarchs subject to law

How different a part did John act from that of the judges of Persia in the times of Cambyses. That madman of a monarch wished to marry his sister; and he demanded of the judges whether there were any Persian law that would sanction such a marriage. They pusillanimously answered that they could find no such law but they found another-that the monarch of Persia was at liberty to do whatsoever he pleased. (J. Morison.)

Reproving the rich

It is not uncommon for men to reprove the poor and the humble in society for their offences, but it is a rare virtue to charge crime, with unflinching fidelity, upon the higher classes. The poor are lectured on all hands, and the most contemptible clap-traps are adopted to catch their ear. But where are the Johns to lecture the rich and the royal, the Herods? (D. Thomas, D. D.)

Fidelity often provokes

Faithful rebukes, if they do not profit, usually provoke. (M. Henry.)

Faithful prelates

So Latimer presented for a new-year’s gift to King Henry VIII., a New Testament, with a napkin, having this posy about it. “Whoremongers and adulterers God will judge.” Archbishop Grindal lost Queen Elizabeth’s favour, and was confined, for favouring prophecies etc., as it was pretended; but in truth, for condemning an unlawful marriage of Julio, an Italian physician, with another man’s wife. (John Trapp.)

Herod’s birthday

A mere plot. A great feast must be prepared, the states invited, the damsel must dance, the king swear, the Baptist thereupon he beheaded, that the queen may be gratified. And this tragedy was new acted at Paris. A.D. 1572, when the French massacre was committed under pretence of a wedding royal. (John Trapp.)

Like mother, like daughter

Neither good bird nor good egg. Such another hussy as this was dame Alice Pierce, a concubine to our Edward III. For when, as at a parliament in the fiftieth year of that king’s reign, it was petitioned that the Duke of Lancaster, the Lord Latimer, chamberlain, and this dame Alice might be removed from court, and the petition was vehemently urged by Sir Peter la Mare; this knight afterwards, at the suit of that impudent woman, was committed to perpetual imprisonment at Nottingham. And another such history we have of one Diana Valentina mistress to Henry II., King of France whom she had so subdued that he gave her all the confiscations of goods made in the kingdom for cause of heresy. Whereupon many were burned in France for religion, as they said, but indeed to maintain the pride and satisfy the covetousness of that lewd woman. (John Trapp.)

Herod’s oath

Were his oaths an absolute bar upon retraction? No doubt the original promise was the original sin. He should not have made such an unconditional promise. He made it in the spirit of a braggart and a despot. His oaths were hatched in wickedness. But though thus hatched, was he not bound, when they were once in existence, to adhere to them? There was something good in adhering to them-something of respect and reverence for the Divine Being, who is either explicitly or implicitly appealed to in all oaths. But there was also something appallingly bad. There was adherence to what was utterly unlawful and wicked. He had no business to peril such lives as that of John on the freak and pleasure of Salome, or on the hate of Herodias, or on any rash words of his own. It was criminal to put any lives in such peril. If his oath had merely perilled valuable goods and chattles, then, though he had sworn to his own hurt, it would have been his duty not to change. But no oath whatsoever, and no bond whatsoever within the limits of possibility, could constitute an obligation to commit a crime. Illegitimate oaths are immoral, and should be repented of, not fulfilled. (J. Morison, D. D.)

Herod’s sorrow at death of the Baptist

As Andronicus, the Greek Emperor, that deep dissembler, would weep over those whom he had for no cause, caused to be executed, as if he had been the most sorrowful man alive; so this cunning murderer craftily hides his malice, and seeming sad in the face is glad at heart to be rid of the importunate Baptist, that he may sin uncontrolled. (John Trapp.)

The last struggle of conscience

In that moment there must have come before his mind his past reverence for the prophet, the joy which had for a time accompanied the strivings of a better life, possibly the counsels of his foster-brother, Manaen. Had there been only the personal influence of Herodias, these might have prevailed against it; but, like most weak men, Herod feared to be thought weak. It was not so much his regard for the oath which he had taken (that, had it been taken in secret, he might have got over), but his shrinking from the taunt, or whispered jest, or contemptuous gesture, of the assembled guests, if they should see him draw back from his plighted word. A false regard for public opinion, for what people will say or think of us in our own narrow circle, was in this, as in so many other instances, an incentive to guilt, instead of a restraint. (Dean Plumptre.)

Salome’s death retributive

A tradition or legend relates that Salome’s death was retributive in its outward form. She fell upon the ice, and in the fall her head was severed from the body. (Dean Plumptre.)


Verses 1-36

Verse 12

Matthew 14:12

And went and told Jesus.

Salve for the sore heart

I commend the behaviour of these disciples-

1. To all who are sinful and unpardoned. Go and tell Jesus the unpardoned sins of your life.

2. To all who are tempted.

3. To all who are slandered and persecuted.

4. To all who have been bereaved.

5. Christ is always near. (Dr. Talmage.)

The true Friend and Interpreter

1. In Jesus we have the true, Divine Friend of humanity, not of our circumstances, but of ourselves, who undertakes for us just what no one else can.

2. The providence which permitted the removal of John from their head was necessary to send them forward to the great Teacher.

3. When we make great ones, heroes, of the servants, we are in danger of dishonouring and keeping at a distance from the Master.

4. By this critical turn in their history, John’s disciples were not only brought forward to Christ, but actually brought closer and nearer to Him than they otherwise could or would have been. They round the grace to help in time of need.

5. They learnt and did the right thing. They brought the mystery of the Divine providence to Him who alone could throw light upon 2:6. Of what use is it to have such a Friend unless we make use of Him? No religious means can be put in place of Ibis; we may be with Him more intimately in the spirit than His disciples in the flesh. (W. Smith.)

Tell Jesus-a word to the troubled

I. Some of the grounds upon which the believer is warranted to repair to the Lord Jesus in every trying hour.

1. His mediatorial work-anticipates every objection, and answers every argument growing out of a deep and painful sense of unworthiness, etc. Ever accessible.

2. His earthly experience enables him to sympathize with all the forms of human suffering.

3. The mutual relations which exist between the Christ and the believer.

4. The invitations and declarations of His Word.

II. Some of the blessings that will follow the cultivation of this habit.

1. Intimate communion.

2. It will nourish and strengthen all the Christian graces.

3. It will free us from anxious care.

4. It will bring continuous honour and glory to Jesus. (C. Winslow, D. D.)

A complaining Christian once said to a cheerful, happy Christian, “Things always seem to go smoothly with you; I never hear you make any complaints.” To which he replied, “I have found out an effectual way of guarding against that fault-telling Jesus all, and telling Him before I tell any one else; then, I find, I seldom need tell any one else, for in telling Him about my troubles, I often find the burden entirely removed.” (A. Tucker.)

“Go and tell Jesus”

I. A lesson of encouragement for weary labourers. The twelve disciples fatigued from their mission.

II. A lesson for Christian mourners.

1. The last act of affection-“They took up the body and buried it.”

2. The best step for consolation. There is access to Jesus, sympathy with Jesus, relief from Jesus. (C. J. P. Eyre, M. A.)

The body, not the man, buried

“The disciples came and took up the body and buried it.” I like that way of speaking of human burial; it is the true way; it is emphatically the Christian way of speaking of the act. You buried it, not Him. “By and by,” said Socrates to his friends, “you will be saying, ‘ Socrates is dead, but Socrates will not be dead. By and by you will be saying, ‘ Socrates is in his coffin,’ but Socrates will not be in his coffin. By and by you will be saying, ‘ We are going to bury Socrates,’ but you will not bury Socrates, you will only bury something that belonged to him.” Well spoken, thou Old World philosopher; the fuller light of Christianity comes to confirm thy conjecture, and to verify thy reasoning. No; there is no burying a man. You cannot bury a soul. (J. B. French.)


Verse 13-14

Matthew 14:13-14

When Jesus heard of it He departed thence by ship.

The sorrowing Saviour

Jesus hears of John’s death, and thereupon seeks seclusion.

I. Here we learn How to behave in time of trouble.

1. Christ was deeply affected by John’s death-that event gave Him great sorrow.

2. There was good reason for Christ being deeply affected. John from the first had been a faithful friend; his sole object was to magnify Christ.

II. How Christ acted when this great sorrow filled his soul.

1. He sought the desert; He desired to be alone. That He might pray. The multitudes come; He meets them.

2. His sorrow for the dead is changed into compassion for the living. He must now work, not weep. God finds work for every sorrowing heart that trusts in Him, in which relief is found. (A Scott.)

Solitude not permanent

There are some occurrences that simply make us quiet. There are shocks we can only answer by eloquent dumbness. He departed and went into a wilderness: it was better to be among the barren sands than among murderers and most cruel-minded men. There are times when we are all but inclined to give up our work. Our rain is lost, our dews fall in stony places, our best endeavours are returned to us without echo or answer of joy and gratitude, and we sigh for a lodge in some vast wilderness, some boundless contiguity of shade. This will be only for awhile, however, in the case of Jesus Christ. “When He went forth and saw great multitudes He was moved with compassion towards them, and He healed their sick.” He was bound to come back again: the sickness would have a greater effect upon Him than the murder. He will not relinquish His work because of instances that might have shocked Him with fatal distress. He looks upon the multitudinous man and not only upon the individual mischief-doer and murderer. He was the Son of Man; Jesus Christ always took the broad and inclusive view, and this held Him to His work when individual instances might have driven Him away from it and afflicted Him with fatal discouragement. (Joseph Parker, D. D.)


Verses 15-21

Matthew 14:15-21

They need not depart; give ye them to eat.

Christ feeding the multitude

The miracles of Jesus were:

I. The nature and circumstances of the miracle.

1. When was it wrought? In “the evening.” The evening of a day that had been well spent.

2. Where was it performed? In “a desert place.” The miracle as to time and place encourages our confidence in Christ in the most trying and destitute situations.

3. What was the order of its performance.

II. Reflections.

1. In this provision see an emblem of Jesus Christ. He is the true Bread.

2. In the distribution of this provision learn the office and work of Christian ministers.

3. In the apparent deficiency of this provision we are reminded of the treatment of the Saviour and His gospel by an unbelieving world. “Five loaves and two fishes” appeared nothing to the supply of such an assembly.

4. In the real sufficiency of this provision we are instructed in the glorious ability of Christ to complete the happiness of all that believe. The multitude “ did all eat and were filled.” (T. Kidd.)

The five barley loaves in the desert

I. Christ’s retreat into the desert. He sought retirement; multitude intruded, yet Christ was not disappointed or annoyed.

II. The men sitting down to the barley loaves.

1. There is the want of bread for the congregation in the desert.

2. Jesus asks the disciples what supply they have.

3. Jesus orders the disciples to bring the loaves to Himself. Christ’s way of giving us more is to begin with what we have.

4. Jesus next commands the multitude to sit down in order. The multitude needed great faith. We cannot first eat and then believe; must believe and eat. The disciples need faith and courage; sent by Christ on a trying errand-“Give ye them to eat. The foolishness of preaching becomes the power of God.

III. The bread blessed end multiplied.

1. Jesus gave thanks to God for the bread in the face of all the multitude.

2. Jesus blesses the bread before he breaks and gives to the people; and His blessing breathed upon it fills the bread with an infinite fulness. Christ is the Bread of Life to the sinner dying for want; sweet to the soul in the desert.

3. Jesus breaks the bread and multiplies in the using; He breaks and distributes to the apostles, and they break and distribute to the people; and probably the people break and distribute to each other. Christ breathes upon and blesses the Word.

IV. The fragments remaining.

1. After the feast is finished there are many fragments over.

2. Jesus and His disciples live upon these fragments. The fragments are more than the entire supply for the feast. The more we feed on Christ, the more always is there of Christ to feed on; He increases to us. (A. M. Stuart.)

The food of the worm

I. Christ feeds the famishing world by means of His Church.

1. The food, though supernaturally provided, is carried to the hungry by the ordinary means.

2. The disciples were prepared for their work. They had to learn the absolute disproportion between the means at their command and the needs of the crowd.

3. We must carry our poor and inadequate resources to Christ.

II. The bread is enough for all the world-“They did all eat and were filled.”

III. The bread that is given to the famishing is multiplied for the future of the distributors. (American Homiletic Review.)

The miracle of the loaves and fishes

I. Explain and illustrate the various circumstances connected with the miracle.

II. The spiritual lessons which the miracle affords. In the people we see a striking representation of the moral condition of the human family. In the provision we see a true exhibition of the blessing of the gospel. In its distribution we see the nature of the office of the Christian ministry. In the abundance remaining we see the boundlessness of gospel supplies. What personal participation of gospel blessing is necessary to our happiness and satisfaction? (Dr. J. Burns.)

The food of the world

Scripture miracles are not merely wonders, but signs. This one is a symbolic revelation of Christ supplying all the wants of this hungry world. Three points-the distribution, the meal, the gathering up.

I. Christ feeds the famishing world by means of his church.

1. Economy of power. God does not interfere supernaturally, any further than is necessary. Christ’s incarnation and sacrifice are the purely supernatural work of the Divine power and mercy; but, after their introduction into the world, human agency is required for the diffusion of the new power. Christian people are henceforth Christ’s instruments.

2. Preparation of the disciples for this work. Looking at their own resources, they felt utterly inadequate to the work. Humility and self-distrust are necessary if God is to work with and in us. He works with bruised reeds, and out of them makes polished shafts, pillars in His house. In His hands our feeble resources are enough.

3. The disciples seem to have partaken first. Those only can distribute and impart, who have themselves found sustenance and life in Christ. And an obligation lies on them to do so. Power to its last particle is duty.

II. The bread is enough for all the world. The gospel addresses itself to universal wants, brushing aside all surface distinctions, and going right down to the depths of our common nature. The seed of the kingdom is like corn, an exotic nowhere, for wherever man lives it will grow-and yet an exotic everywhere, for it came down from heaven. Other food requires an educated palate for its appreciation; but any hungry man in any land will relish bread. For every soul on earth this living, dying love of Jesus addresses itself to and satisfies his deepest wants. It is the bread which gives life to the world.

III. The bread given to the famishing is multiplied for the future of the distributors. To impart to others is to gain for oneself. If you would learn, teach. If you would have your own spiritual life strengthened and deepened, remember that not by solitary meditation or raptures of silent communion alone can that be accomplished, but by these and by honest, manful work for God in the world. (A. Maclaren, D. D.)

The work of the Church in a starving world

An emblem of the whole work of the Church in this starving world. The multitudes famish. Tell Christ of their wants. Count your own small resources till you have completely learned your poverty: then take them to Jesus. He will accept them, and in His hands they will become mighty, being transfigured from human thoughts and forces into Divine words, spiritual powers. On that bread which He gives, do you yourself live. Then carry it boldly to all the hungry. Rank after rank will eat. All races, all ages, from grey hairs to babbling childhood, will find there the food of their souls. As you part the blessing, it will grow beneath His eye; and the longer you give, the fuller handed you will become. Nor shall the bread fail, nor the word become weak, till all the world has tasted of its sweetness, and been refreshed by its potent life. (A. Maclaren, D. D.)

The miracle of the loaves

I. The urgency of the need.

1. What is wanted-food.

2. The urgency of the want-in the wilderness.

II. The abundance of the supply-“He openeth His hand and filleth all things living with plenteousness.”

1. Like the five loaves the word is, in the letter of it contemptible and mean.

2. The miracle instructive on account of its typical character; the disciples received the food they set before the people from the hands of Jesus. We should determine:

Compassion for the multitude

I. Our mission and our weakness. Hungry men around us. To feed them, superstition offers stones instead of bread. Infidelity tries to persuade that they are not hungry. You say “ Who are we that we should feed this multitude, who can count them?” Do not let the magnitude of the work dispirit you. “The supply is scant” you say. There is a tendency to shift responsibility. “Let us send them away into the villages to buy meat.”

II. Our line of duty and the master’s strength.

1. “In immediate obedience to Christ’s commands.

2. In consecrating what we have to Christ.

3. In prayer.

4. In active service. (C. H. Spurgeon.)

Communication begets plenty

I. The productions of the earth and of the earth’s industry, outward possessions and benefits, the things that are consumed in the using. Shut up your bread-corn in a granary, and though it may not rot, it cannot grow; but strow it Abroad over the furrows of the ground, and it will swell into a harvest. Lock up your piece of silver or gold, and it is no better than dead; but send it out into the world’s free commerce, and the rusty solitary shall become a glittering host. An avaricious policy is dull-sighted and thriftless. It saves, but to be barren. Modern science teaches us that public wealth is born of trust and free communications.

II. Intelligence and knowledge, the power of learning and the treasures of learning, are multiplied by distribution. The human mind is not less ready than the soil to render back with interest what is sown in it. Jesus gave to the disciples, and the disciples to the multitude. That is the way in which instruction is imparted. It passes from one to the many. It finds companions. Truth begets truth; and you must have a company to show the supply. What would have seemed inconsiderable if left by itself, grows into great account as it is sent forward among those who apprehend it, and transmit it in new and manifold forms. It is manifested, it is accumulated, by travelling down among the sympathies and wants of those whose hearts love it, whose natures crave it, and whose ability and experience reproduce and recommend it to all men.

III. Joy, hope, and all cheering influences are increased by being sent round from a single mind among the ranks of the world’s poor sojourners. Nothing is more heightened by communication than just such impulses as those we here require. Joy and hope are social; they ask for companionship; they spread by contact and mutual encouragement. He who has awakened them in his own breast, finds them greatly enhanced by expressing them; and their expression is caught up and repeated by numberless voices that had till then slept. (L. N. Frothingham.)

Sitting on grass

The tall grass which, broken down by the feet of the thousands there gathered together, would make as it were “couches” for them to recline upon. (Dean Stanley.)

Multiplied by giving

From whence God multiplies the crops of corn from a few grains, from thence He multiplied the loaves in His own hands. For the power was in the hands of Christ. For those five loaves were, as it were, seed, not indeed committed to the earth, but multiplied by Him who made the earth. (Augustine.)

When you give a loaf or a coin to a poor man, you do not lose it, but you sow it; for, as from one grain of seed many grains grow, so it is likewise with loaves and money. (Lapide.)

Increase by distribution

Christ could as welt have multiplied the loaves whole; why would He rather do it in the breaking? Perhaps to teach us that in the distribution of our goods we should expect His blessing, and not in their entireness and reservation. There is no man but increaseth by scattering. (Bishop Hall.)

Strong charity, weak faith

“Send them away, that they may buy victuals.” Here was a strong charity, but a weak faith: a strong charity, in that they would have the people relieved; a weak faith, in that they supposed they could not otherwise be so well relieved. As a man, when he sees many ways lie before him, takes that which he thinks both fairest and nearest, so do they: this way of relief lay openest to their view and promised most. (Bishop Hall.)

Baskets for fragments

The Roman poet Juvenal describes a large provision-basket, together with a bundle of hay, as being part of the equipment of the Jewish mendicants who thronged the grove of Egeria at Rome. The motive for this custom was to avoid ceremonial impurity in eating, or in resting at night. (A. Cart.)

Our Lord in prayer

Likely he was weary in body, and also worn in spirit for lack of that finer sympathy which His disciples could not give Him being very earthly yet. He who loves his fellows and labours among those who can ill understand him will best know what this weariness of our Lord must have been like He had to endure the world-pressure of surrounding humanity in all its ungodlike phases. (George Macdonald.)


Verse 22

Matthew 14:22; Matthew 14:27

And straightway Jesus constrained His disciples to get into a ship, and to go before Him unto the other side.

The midnight voyage home

I. The feast followed by humiliation and trouble.

1. The feast in the desert was the greatest work in which the apostles were ever engaged during the ministry of Jesus. The miracle was of a more kingly character than others, shared by a greater number(and more plainly typical of great things to come in the kingdom of heaven. In this glorious work the twelve have been active ministers. They were not to remain to receive the congratulations of the multitude; they must go away at once. Jesus constrains them to return to the ship. Ministers must not intrude themselves into the Lord’s place; they must be willing servants, and then go their way and leave the rest to the Lord. The apostles had been highly exalted, and now they must be humbled. In the sight of the congregation they are sent away in charge of the empty boat, as if they were mere fishermen still.

2. But they are sent also into the midst of trouble. After we have had faith to distribute the bread of life comes the trial of obedience. It seemed as if providence were contrary to their course.

II. The storm aggravated by Christ’s absence, and stilled by his coming.

1. Jesus sent the twelve away alone, and all that the people saw was that “He went not in the ship with them.” Jesus was to come to them by the coast.

2. Jesus, meanwhile, has not walked along the coast, whence they expected to take Him in; but has left the shore altogether, and gone up into a mountain apart. In the retired mountain He cannot be seen by the disciples; but in His prayer to the Father they will not be forgotten.

3. Jesus comes to them according to His promise; but not according to their thoughts, either in time or in manner.

4. There is yet one more element of trial mingled for these midnight wrestlers with the waves. Jesus often appears to be “going past “ in our time of need. Also His manner of coming alarms the disciples. In our trials we often mistake the coming of the Lord Jesus.

5. Jesus enters the ship; and how glorious is the effect of deliverance out of danger, of seasonable help, when obeying Christ’s command, against all adversity.

6. An unlooked-for blessing now awaits them on the shore. (A. M. Stuart.)

Jesus constrained His disciples

Why?

1. Lest they should take part with the rash, many-headed multitude, who would have made Him a king.

2. To inure them to the cross, and teach them to suffer hardship.

3. To give them proof of His power,

Nature and grace

The story of this miracle has instruction for us in connection with the material world in which we live. Nature is not, in all respects, to be separated off too sharply from grace; and this miracle reminds us that it is the Lord of this universe who is the Head of the Church and the Saviour of our souls. (Dean Howson.)

The government of nature

These miracles, dealing with nature, show themselves as interfering with what we may call the righteous laws of nature. Water should wet the foot, should engulf him who would tread its surface. Yet even in this, I think, the restoration of an original law-the supremacy of righteous man, is foreshown. While a man cannot order his own house as he would, something is wrong in him, and therefore in his house. I think a true man should be able to rule winds and waters, loaves and fishes, for he comes of the Father who made the house for him. Man is not master in his own house, because he is not master in himself, because he is not a law unto himself-is not himself obedient to the law by which he exists. (George Macdonald.)

Secret of Christ’s power over nature

A higher condition of harmony with law may one day enable us to do things which must now appear an interruption of law. I believe it is in virtue of the absolute harmony in Him, His perfect righteousness, that God can create at all. If man were in harmony with this, if he too were righteous, he would inherit of his Father a something in his degree correspondent to the creative power in Him; and the world he inhabits, which is but an extension of his body, would, I think, be subject to him in a way surpassing his wildest dreams of dominion, for it would be the perfect dominion of holy law-a virtue flowing to and from him through the channel of a perfect obedience. I suspect that our Lord, in all His dominion over nature, set forth only the complete man-man as God means him one day to be. I believe that some of these miracles were the natural result of a physical nature perfect from the indwelling of a perfect soul, whose unity with the Life of all things and in all things was absolute-in a word, whose sonship was perfect. (George Macdonald.)

The glorifying of Christ’s body

The difficulty here is our Lord’s withdrawing Himself personally from the control of earthly natural laws. It is common to conceive of the glorifying of Christ’s body as the work of a moment, at the Resurrection, or, at least, at the Ascension. But if we suppose the Spirit’s work in glorifying and perfecting Christ’s body to have been spread over the Saviour’s whole life, certain periods-such as this walking on the sea, and the transfiguration-being still distinguished as seasons of special activity, much that is obscure will be made clear. A body thoroughly of the earth, chained down by unseen hands to earthly matter, cannot shake itself free from its origin, but that a higher bodily frame, teeming with the powers of a loftier world, should rise above the earthly level is less surprising. This manifestation of Christ’s hidden glory was designed to build up His disciples in the faith. They saw more and more clearly with whom they had to do, and perceived that He was the revelation of the invisible Father, who alone spreadeth out the heavens, and treadeth upon the waves of the sea. (Olshausen.)

The Divine coming unrecognized

It often happens that the coming of Christ to His disciples for their relief is that which frightens them most, because they do not know the extent of God’s wardrobe; for I think that as a king might never wear the same garment but once, in order to show his riches and magnificence, so God comes to us in all exigencies, but never twice alike. He sometimes puts on the garments of trouble; and when we are calling upon Him as though He were yet in heaven, He is walking by our Ado; and that from which we are praying God to deliver us is often but God Himself. Thus it is with us as with children who are terrified by their dreams in the night, and scream for their parents, until, fully waking, behold they are in their parents’ arms! (H. W. Beecher.)

The sea on which Jesus walked

Shortly after passing the spot which was the scene of the terrible discomfiture of the Christian hosts by Saladin, we came to the brink of a vast hollow, and the Lake of Tiberius lay slumbering far beneath our feet. The sun was nearly at the zenith, and diffused a flood of dazzling light upon the waters, just ruffled by a passing breeze, on which we beheld a solitary bark, a mere speck, slowly making its way toward Tiberias. That city, with its huge castle and turreted walls, a pile of melancholy ruins, lay scattered along the nearer shore. The lake, about ten miles long, add five or six broad, was embosomed in mountains, or, to describe it more correctly, was like a great caldron sunk in the lofty table-land, which broke down to its edge in steep cliffs and abrupt ravines. At one end we could see where the Jordan flowed into it, and, beyond, the lofty peak of Mount Hermon covered with eternal snow. There was no wood on the hills, there were no villages on the shore, no boats upon the water; there was no sound in any direction. If there was beauty, it was that of the intense blue sky of Palestine, reflected in the blue expanse of waters, and over-canopying a landscape of serene, but corpse-like, placidity, like a countenance fixed in death, but upon which there yet lingers something of a parting smile. (W. H. Bartlett.)


Verse 23

Matthew 14:23

He went up into a mountain apart to pray.

Religious retirement

It hath been disputed which is a state of greater perfection, the social, or the solitary; whereas, in truth, neither of these estates is complete without the other: as the example of our blessed Lord (the unerring test and measure of perfection) informs us.

I. Under what limitations may the duty of religious retreat and recollection be recommended? No man is, or ought to be, so deeply immersed in the affairs of this world as not to be able to retire from them now and then into his closet.

II. The advantages attending the practice of religious retirement. There are such as these-that k unites and fixes our scattered thoughts; places us out of the reach of the most dangerous temptations; frees us from the insinuating contagion of ill examples, and hushes and lays asleep those troublesome passions which are the great disturbers of our repose and happiness. (F. Atterbury.)

Refreshment in prayer

The celebrated Haydn was in company with some distinguished persons. The conversation turned on the best means of restoring the mental energies, when exhausted with long and difficult studies. One said he had recourse, in such a case, to a bottle of wine; another, that tie went into company. Haydn being asked what he would do, or did do, said that he retired to his closet and engaged in prayer; and that nothing exerted on his mind a more happy and efficacious influence than prayer.

Religious retirement

From the behaviour of our Lord, as it is here described, we may draw these observations for our own use.

I. That we ought to set apart some portions of our time for private and silent acts of religion for conversation with God and our own hearts. The duties of such times consist-

By securing times of meditation, we may hope to keep ourselves free from vicious habits; to learn what the defects are to which we are prone, which usually escape our notice; to rule over our passions; to discover what abilities God has given us; to confirm in ourselves all good dispositions, and thus we shall be able to converse in safety with the world.

II. That we ought to employ all the powers and abilities which God has conferred upon us to the glory of their author, and to the benefit of mankind, and lose no opportunity of doing good. The actions and the behaviour by which we can be useful to others are, Liberality, Justice, Instruction, Counsel and Advice, Reproof and Correction, Commendation and Encouragement, Patience and Meekness, Compassion, Condescension, Courteousness, and Affability; and a life suitable to the religion which we profess.

III. That the active and social duties are more valuable and more important than the contemplative virtues which are of a private and solitary nature.

1. Man is not sufficient to his own happiness; finds himself made for society, to which his wants, his imperfections, and his desires incline him; it cannot therefore be his duty to check and overrule these innocent desires.

2. By society we are assisted not only in the conveniences of life, but in the improvement of our understanding and in the performance of our duty.

3. Of two persons who live soberly and righteously, the one in a public station, the other in retirement, the former must be allowed to be the more excellent person, and the brighter example of virtue.

4. The accounts which we have of the old solitary saints, though written by their admirers and adorers, is often little to their advantage or to the credit of Christianity.

IV. That we may have sufficient time and proper opportunities for the exercise of public and private duties and virtues, and that therefore neither should be omitted. (Jortin.)

Closet prayer

Christ often proposed His own temper and actions as the model, after which all His disciples should copy. The multitude and variety of His public services neither prevented His spending a social hour among the families to which His disciples stood related, nor His finding opportunity for secret devotion. For this, Christ was singularly eminent. An old divine used to say three things were requisite to make a good minister: “meditation, temptation, and prayer.” If Jesus Christ found it needful and advantageous to engage in retired devotion, how much more so must it be for such weak and imperfect creatures as we are-not only ministers, but private Christians also.

I. The nature and grounds of this duty-

(a) Precepts of Scripture;

(b) Example of Jesus Christ;

(c) Practice of saints in every age;

(d) Important and indispensable part of religion.

II. The manner and spirit in which it should be performed-

(a) Sense of God’s presence;

(b) Solemn and devout;

(c) Joined with reading the Scriptures, and meditation, and self-examination.

III. The particular objects in relation to which it is practised, Our progress in knowledge, grace, and holiness, and the obtaining guidance and assistance from God in all seasons of peculiar need. There are some particular occasions in regard to which this duty may be practised to advantage. There are some particular seasons in which Christians should be much in private prayer; such as times of affliction, public calamity, prevailing departure from the knowledge, experience, and practice of true religion; seasons of suspense and embarrassment; seasons of ease and prosperity.

IV. The difficulty of a constant and successful attention to closet prayer. (J. Townsend.)


Verse 24

Matthew 14:24

For the wind was contrary.

The wind was contrary

The Sea of Galilee lies low, being, in fact, six hundred feet beneath the level of the Mediterranean, and the water-courses on its banks have cut out deep ravines which act like funnels to draw down the winds from the mountains, so that the storms are often both sudden and severe. On the present occasion the wind came down with such fury that even strong rowers like the fishermen apostles could make little way against it, and after “toiling” for nine hours they had made no more than three miles.

I. The way of duty is not always easy. Even when constrained by love of Christ to undertake any particular work, we are often beset by difficulties and obstacles: no plain sailing, always breakers ahead.

II. We may take comfort to ourselves from the following facts;

1. We are not responsible for the “contrary wind.” This takes the sting out of the trial. If a difficulty rises before me in God’s Providence, apart from any agency or culpability of my own, then I am in better mood to meet and overcome it than I should be if I knew it to be the result of my own folly.

2. The attention required for bearing up against the contrary wind may take us, for the time being, out of some subtle temptation. It would seem that our Lord sent His disciples away across the lake that night to keep them out of harm’s way, and to give them something more to think about than the glittering allurements of worldly greatness. Is it not often so with us? We have not been conscious of it at the moment, but we have seen afterwards that the seeming interruption kept us but of the path of danger. Better far a strong head-wind than a fog; for in the fog an iceberg may be veiled, and collision with that would be destruction.

3. The contrary wind may prepare us for higher service in the cause of Christ. In this night upon the deep the apostles had, as it were, a rehearsal of the difficulties they would have to contend with after their Master was taken up into heaven. Probably much of their persistence in the face of persecution had its root in the remembrance of what they had learned in this night’s contest with adverse winds. It was one of their first experiments in walking alone, and it helped to steady them. The very necessity of rowing against the wind develops new strength, and brings latent resources into play. Had it not been for his deafness, John Kitto would probably never have become an author.

4. The Lord Jesus is closely watching us. The apostles knew not that He “saw them toiling in rowing,” for it was dark. Had they known it, what new heart it would have put into them! To us this knowledge is given-that though Jesus is unseen, He is still looking down with interest upon us, and will at the right time come and succour us. So we may leave all care about the issue, and attend, meanwhile, to the rowing. Let us, then, toil on! It is but a little while at the longest. No contrary wind can last for ever. By and by Christ will come to us, and then there will be peace. Yes, and after a time we shall reach the other shore; and when we touch that, we shall be done with difficulties. So, as one said, just before entering the boat in which he lost his life, “Ho! for heaven!” What though the waves be rough? Ho! for heaven! What though the wind be contrary? Ho! for heaven! What though the labour be exhausting? Ho! for heaven! (W. M. Taylor, D. D.)


Verse 26

Matthew 14:26

And when the disciples saw Him walking on the sea, they were troubled.

Christ walking on the sea

Here are presented two points.

I. Human need.

II. Divine help. These two facts are involved in the two aspects of humanity.

I. I ask you to consider the attitude of man towards the supernatural and the unknown. “They cried out for fear.” This was the cry of men tossed and toiling on the wild deep, in the gloom of night. Very startling must have been to them the appearance of that form, advancing through the shadow and over the sea. But that was a cry of our common nature; it was a spontaneous human utterance from a mysterious depth, which under all forms of civilization, and all kinds of religion, abides in the soul of man. Every man awakens to the conviction that there is something beyond this world. It may not be a very practical conviction; thousands may live without any steady appreciation of that to which such a conviction points. But there are occasions when it is suddenly realized. There are three conditions of nature which are especially adapted to stir these feelings of mystery and awe, and all three are involved in the circumstances of the text. These are night, the night sky, and the sea.

1. Witness the common terror of the dead night-time and the dark, not a mere childish superstition, but a solemn awe creeping over the innermost fibres of the heart, “In thought from the visions of the night,” said Eliphaz, “when deep sleep falleth on men,” etc. Even the sceptical mind has acted upon the conviction that something must people that undefined space into which the visible world melts away.

2. Or, again, who has ever looked up through the darkness and gazed upon those orbs of light and glory that shame all splendours of the earth, without the spontaneous conviction of powers and intelligences dwelling outside these beaten ways of our traffic and our thought? What influences rain upon us from those starry depths? What unseen messengers glide down these awful solitudes?

3. Or, once more, consider that element in which the greatness and the mystery of nature and of life are represented. What suggestions of the supernatural and the unknown rise upon us from the bosom of the sea. What intimations beyond our sight; what a conviction of our impotence. Regarding thus this attitude of human need, what help has been found for it?

Two answers have come-one from the side of human sentiment, the other from human reason.

1. One answer elicited in this attitude of human need appears in various forms of superstition. Rock-temples and bloody altars, and human sacrifices proclaim the fact that human nature does not all gravitate to sense and the darkness of annihilation. The superstitious sentiments need some explanation.

2. The answer that comes from the side of reason. Law, force, order, are sublime facts, but not enough for human nature. You cannot by scientific explanation of the seen repress man’s earnest inquiry about the unseen. To our human need, and our attitude towards the supernatural, Christ has come. There is only one voice that can say, “Be of good cheer, be not afraid.”

II. Consider the attitude of man respecting the natural and the known, and here you will observe the conditions of human need and divine help. These men who “cried out for fear” had been “toiling in rowing.” We are troubled here amidst the perplexities and trials of daily life. In one way or another many of us are “toiling in rowing”-the toil of pleasure-or we are rowing through heavy waves of care. Our need calls for Divine help. In seasons of gloom, looking out upon the world around us through shadows, we discern objects at which we shudder. That which excites our fears may be a blessing; but we know it not, and need the assurance that can bid us be of good cheer. (E. H. Chapin)

Jesus no phantom

I. It is too common an error to make a phantom of Christ.

1. How often is this done in the matter of sin and the cleansing of it. Our sin is real to us; but is Christ as real to us?

2. In the matter of our acceptance with God after pardon. Our shortcomings real; equally real the righteousness of Christ.

3. In the matter of sanctification.

4. In times of trial.

5. In time of death.

6. In Christian work.

II. We make Christ a phantom most when he is most really Christ. When He walked on the waves there was more of Christ visible than on land; His Godhead visible. In the pardon of great sin you see most of Christ; so in great distress and danger.

III. Our greatest sorrows arise from our treating our Lord as unreal. TO some Christ is an indifferent spirit. Many a poor sinner imagines Him to be an angry spirit and cries out for fear.

IV. If we could but be cured of this desperate mischief, our Lord Jesus Christ would have a higher place in our esteem, and many other beneficial results would follow:

1. Knowledge.

2. Worship.

3. Service. (C. H. Spurgeon.)

Eastern belief in Spirits

The belief is quite general in the East that there exists a class of beings whom they call “Jins,” both male and female, good and bad, which hold an intermediate position between angels and men, were created before the latter, are made of fire, or perhaps of gas, and are capable of assuming a variety of forms, or of becoming invisible at pleasure. They eat, drink, and marry-sometimes human beings-as well as die, though they live several centuries. Many events are accounted for in the East by the agency of the Jins; so that they do not exist in stories alone, but are recognized as active agents in human affairs, (Van Lennep.)

The magic of the Saviour’s voice

It is a wonderful organ, this human voice-wonderful in itself, and no less so in its effects. It is wonderful as an exponent of individual mind and character, being somehow very closely connected with a man, and contributing largely to constitute that aggregate of special qualities we call individuality. So much so, that one is known, is revealed and recognized, by his voice almost as much as by anything outward.. And it is wonderful as an instrument for affecting others. The Saviour’s voice on this occasion operated like a charm; it wrought like magic upon them. It is amazing what power the living voice, especially a long-known and much-loved voice, has to touch the heart, and to awaken confidence and peace, and emotions of all kinds, that may have been long dormant in the soul. (A. L. R. Foote.)


Verse 27

Matthew 14:22; Matthew 14:27

And straightway Jesus constrained His disciples to get into a ship, and to go before Him unto the other side.

The midnight voyage home

I. The feast followed by humiliation and trouble.

1. The feast in the desert was the greatest work in which the apostles were ever engaged during the ministry of Jesus. The miracle was of a more kingly character than others, shared by a greater number(and more plainly typical of great things to come in the kingdom of heaven. In this glorious work the twelve have been active ministers. They were not to remain to receive the congratulations of the multitude; they must go away at once. Jesus constrains them to return to the ship. Ministers must not intrude themselves into the Lord’s place; they must be willing servants, and then go their way and leave the rest to the Lord. The apostles had been highly exalted, and now they must be humbled. In the sight of the congregation they are sent away in charge of the empty boat, as if they were mere fishermen still.

2. But they are sent also into the midst of trouble. After we have had faith to distribute the bread of life comes the trial of obedience. It seemed as if providence were contrary to their course.

II. The storm aggravated by Christ’s absence, and stilled by his coming.

1. Jesus sent the twelve away alone, and all that the people saw was that “He went not in the ship with them.” Jesus was to come to them by the coast.

2. Jesus, meanwhile, has not walked along the coast, whence they expected to take Him in; but has left the shore altogether, and gone up into a mountain apart. In the retired mountain He cannot be seen by the disciples; but in His prayer to the Father they will not be forgotten.

3. Jesus comes to them according to His promise; but not according to their thoughts, either in time or in manner.

4. There is yet one more element of trial mingled for these midnight wrestlers with the waves. Jesus often appears to be “going past “ in our time of need. Also His manner of coming alarms the disciples. In our trials we often mistake the coming of the Lord Jesus.

5. Jesus enters the ship; and how glorious is the effect of deliverance out of danger, of seasonable help, when obeying Christ’s command, against all adversity.

6. An unlooked-for blessing now awaits them on the shore. (A. M. Stuart.)

Jesus constrained His disciples

Why?

1. Lest they should take part with the rash, many-headed multitude, who would have made Him a king.

2. To inure them to the cross, and teach them to suffer hardship.

3. To give them proof of His power,

Nature and grace

The story of this miracle has instruction for us in connection with the material world in which we live. Nature is not, in all respects, to be separated off too sharply from grace; and this miracle reminds us that it is the Lord of this universe who is the Head of the Church and the Saviour of our souls. (Dean Howson.)

The government of nature

These miracles, dealing with nature, show themselves as interfering with what we may call the righteous laws of nature. Water should wet the foot, should engulf him who would tread its surface. Yet even in this, I think, the restoration of an original law-the supremacy of righteous man, is foreshown. While a man cannot order his own house as he would, something is wrong in him, and therefore in his house. I think a true man should be able to rule winds and waters, loaves and fishes, for he comes of the Father who made the house for him. Man is not master in his own house, because he is not master in himself, because he is not a law unto himself-is not himself obedient to the law by which he exists. (George Macdonald.)

Secret of Christ’s power over nature

A higher condition of harmony with law may one day enable us to do things which must now appear an interruption of law. I believe it is in virtue of the absolute harmony in Him, His perfect righteousness, that God can create at all. If man were in harmony with this, if he too were righteous, he would inherit of his Father a something in his degree correspondent to the creative power in Him; and the world he inhabits, which is but an extension of his body, would, I think, be subject to him in a way surpassing his wildest dreams of dominion, for it would be the perfect dominion of holy law-a virtue flowing to and from him through the channel of a perfect obedience. I suspect that our Lord, in all His dominion over nature, set forth only the complete man-man as God means him one day to be. I believe that some of these miracles were the natural result of a physical nature perfect from the indwelling of a perfect soul, whose unity with the Life of all things and in all things was absolute-in a word, whose sonship was perfect. (George Macdonald.)

The glorifying of Christ’s body

The difficulty here is our Lord’s withdrawing Himself personally from the control of earthly natural laws. It is common to conceive of the glorifying of Christ’s body as the work of a moment, at the Resurrection, or, at least, at the Ascension. But if we suppose the Spirit’s work in glorifying and perfecting Christ’s body to have been spread over the Saviour’s whole life, certain periods-such as this walking on the sea, and the transfiguration-being still distinguished as seasons of special activity, much that is obscure will be made clear. A body thoroughly of the earth, chained down by unseen hands to earthly matter, cannot shake itself free from its origin, but that a higher bodily frame, teeming with the powers of a loftier world, should rise above the earthly level is less surprising. This manifestation of Christ’s hidden glory was designed to build up His disciples in the faith. They saw more and more clearly with whom they had to do, and perceived that He was the revelation of the invisible Father, who alone spreadeth out the heavens, and treadeth upon the waves of the sea. (Olshausen.)

The Divine coming unrecognized

It often happens that the coming of Christ to His disciples for their relief is that which frightens them most, because they do not know the extent of God’s wardrobe; for I think that as a king might never wear the same garment but once, in order to show his riches and magnificence, so God comes to us in all exigencies, but never twice alike. He sometimes puts on the garments of trouble; and when we are calling upon Him as though He were yet in heaven, He is walking by our Ado; and that from which we are praying God to deliver us is often but God Himself. Thus it is with us as with children who are terrified by their dreams in the night, and scream for their parents, until, fully waking, behold they are in their parents’ arms! (H. W. Beecher.)

The sea on which Jesus walked

Shortly after passing the spot which was the scene of the terrible discomfiture of the Christian hosts by Saladin, we came to the brink of a vast hollow, and the Lake of Tiberius lay slumbering far beneath our feet. The sun was nearly at the zenith, and diffused a flood of dazzling light upon the waters, just ruffled by a passing breeze, on which we beheld a solitary bark, a mere speck, slowly making its way toward Tiberias. That city, with its huge castle and turreted walls, a pile of melancholy ruins, lay scattered along the nearer shore. The lake, about ten miles long, add five or six broad, was embosomed in mountains, or, to describe it more correctly, was like a great caldron sunk in the lofty table-land, which broke down to its edge in steep cliffs and abrupt ravines. At one end we could see where the Jordan flowed into it, and, beyond, the lofty peak of Mount Hermon covered with eternal snow. There was no wood on the hills, there were no villages on the shore, no boats upon the water; there was no sound in any direction. If there was beauty, it was that of the intense blue sky of Palestine, reflected in the blue expanse of waters, and over-canopying a landscape of serene, but corpse-like, placidity, like a countenance fixed in death, but upon which there yet lingers something of a parting smile. (W. H. Bartlett.)


Verse 28

Matthew 14:28; Matthew 14:33

And Peter answered Him and said, Lord, if it be Thou, bid me come unto Thee on the water.

Impulse and regulation

There are two powers working side by side under which Christ has taught us He means every true Christian life shall move forward, undervaluing neither the one nor the other. One of these is the impelling power, impulse. This impulsive part of religious character is indispensable. St. Peter was right in his outset “Bid me come to Thee,” etc. The other is the regulating power. It is this that keeps alive the life that has been awakened, and fulfils the good intentions. Impulses spring up in the region of feeling. Their continuance, regulation, and practical results, depend on the conscience and the will. It is easy to reach the transition point between impulse and principle; some reach it as soon as danger threatens. How shall I turn the ardent impulse of penitent faith into consistent piety? By leaving no good impulse to grow cold or waste in a neglected sentiment, but by embodying it immediately in its corresponding action; in other words, by Christian regulation. Steadfastness will come as you are really planted in Christ. (Bishop Huntingdon.)

The religion of impulse

The religious feeling is the soul of humanity. It may exist in these three forms:

I. Acting without intellect, under the control of the external.

II. Acting under intellect-controlled by the judgment. This is as it should be.

III. Acting against intellect. This is the religion of impulse, and it is here exemplified by Peter in three aspects.

1. Urging an extravagant request. Men are not made to walk on water; were never known to do so; have no capacity for it. To guard against this evil, we must study general laws, cultivate self-command, and seek Divine guidance.

2. Impelling to perilous conduct. One foolish act has often plunged men into a sea of difficulties.

3. Corrected by a merciful God. Christ first allows full liberty for the play of passion and freaks of folly. Then He helps, if asked to. And, lastly, He exposes the error-“Wherefore didst thou doubt? “ Peter ought not to have engaged in the act without faith-and faith implies the full action of intellect. Do not act from impulse-nor even from custom or habit. Act ever from faith. Remember that faith implies intellect, evidence, and reliance. (D. Thomas, D. D.)

Peter’s unwise experiment in faith

1. His walking on the sea was needless. There is no pressing necessity shutting him up to this sea-walk-ing; but it is faith experimenting in high and holy things. No important end to be served.

2. He asks permission to do that which is not commanded by Christ. Peter asks help to do what Christ had not done; to walk on the sea for the walking’s sake. This Christ permits to prove what is in him, but not to his honour or comfort. A salutary discipline.

3. Yet Christ does not fail Peter; it is not the power or word of Christ that gives way, but only the faith of Peter in this power or word. So long as he looks to Jesus this word supports him. It is easier to believe in the ship than on the waters. Now he fears, his faith gives way. Peter in his extremity cries aloud to Jesus. He has not faith enough to walk on the waters, but enough to cry for help. (A. M. Stuart.)

Walking on the waters

It is not difficult to discover the characteristics of St. Peter as they come out here. Whatever he felt for the moment was sure to come out in his words or actions. It is easy to blame and say that Peter should not have been so eager to meet his Lord, or he should have maintained his faith to the last. But we must not forget that the very height to which his faith had for the moment attained, exposed him, more than others, to the temptation of unbelief. They who sit securely in their boats are not liable to sink. The men of even temperament cannot understand an experience such as this. They know nothing of ups and downs. Where the hills are highest the ravines are deepest, Peter must not, therefore, be unduly blamed. We learn from the incident:

1. That when His disciples are in danger of being carried away by earthly influences, Christ sends them into trial. If we are bent on something which shall endanger our spirituality, God may send us serious affliction to keep us out of mischief.

2. That while our trial lasts the Lord prays for us.

3. That when Christ comes to us in our trials we are able to rise above them. He did not come at once. He came over the big waves which constituted their trial. He makes a pathway into our hearts over the affliction which distresses us. The disciples did not know Christ when he came. Have we never mistaken him? When Christ comes, and is recognized, He brings relief. (W. M. Taylor, D. D.)

Failure teaching humilit

y:-Peter required a lesson in humility: and it is instructive to observe in what way he received the lesson from our Lord. He did not meet the erring disciple with sharp and sudden reproof. He did not refuse the man’s petition; but He taught the required lesson by its very fulfilment. We have seen a father adopt the same plan in giving a lesson to his son. The boy was anxious to carry a heavy burden, believing that he was able for the task. The father let him try; and as the little arms struggled’ and quivered, and failed, the little mind was taught its own weakness, and the little heart was truly humbled. Just so when Peter asked to walk with Jesus upon the water. He said, “Come.” The request is granted, but not approved; and Peter is left to try the work in his own strength, and fail through inglorious weakness. (P. Thompson.)

Failure in the midst of success

He failed in the midst of success. It is difficult to carry a full cup, or walk upon the high places of the earth. It is more difficult to walk erect, and firm, and far among the tossing waves of adversity. The movement of Peter at the outset was grandly courageous. How truly the other disciples would gaze upon him with admiration! He stepped over the little boat; placed his foot upon the rising billow; walked step after step with perfect safety. It was a great moment in the man’s life; but it was a greatness for which the man was not equal. His nerve was too weak to carry the full cup, or bear the heavy burden, or tread the stormy water. He failed in the hour of triumph, and lost all by not looking to Jesus. The word is very touching. “When he saw the wind boisterous, he was afraid.” There was the defect. He looked to the raging winds and the surging waters. He looked to the danger, and not to the Saviour. He forgot the power of Christ, and trusting to himself, and trembling like a breaking wave beneath the boisterous wind, he began to sink. The work was done, and the lesson learned, with great rapidity. His faith, and courage, and devotion, were not so great as he imagined. He discovered his helplessness, and prayed for safety. “Lord save me;” and now the daring man was brought to regard the Lord’s band as the fountain of spiritual strength. (P. Thompson.)

Peter in the storm

1. The presumption of faith-“Bid me come to Thee on the water.”

2. The power of faith” Come.”

3. The weakness of faith.

4. The power of prayer. (T. Dale, M. A.)

The earnest prayer

I. We must feel our need of salvation.

II. We must know the only source of salvation.

III. We must pray individually for salvation. (W. D. Harwood.)

The fear of Peter when walking on the water

I. The fear which Peter betrayed on this occasion.

1. The transient nature of our best and strongest feelings when they are not kept alive by Divine grace.

2. The danger of needlessly putting to the trial cur highest graces. Never make a presumptuous display of grace.

II. The cause of Peter’s fear. “When he saw the wind boisterous,” etc. Here we are taught not to be unmindful of our dangers, but to keep our thoughts fixed on the greatness and faithfulness of Christ when we are surrounded by them.

III. The consequence of Peter’s fear. He began to sink. Our support in dangers and trials depends on our faith.

IV. The prayer which the fear of Peter drew from him.

1. In all our troubles, if we are Christians, we shall be men of prayer.

2. The fears of the real believer, however strong, are still accompanied with a cleaving to Christ.

V. The connect of Christ towards him.

1. There is no situation in which Christ cannot help us.

2. There is no state in which Christ will not save us. (C. Bradley.)

Doubting a hindrance to the Christian life.

I. St. Peter’s desire-“Bid me come unto Thee.” The truthfulness of the Bible seen in the striking preservation of the individuality of the characters brought into view. Peter uniformly rash. Many a time does the yearning spirit of the believer say, “Bid me come,” etc.

1. There is the memory of joys of which earth knows nothing, experienced in His Presence.

2. There is the consciousness of security from every harm.

3. The confidence created by so many trials of His love. No wonder that this desire of Peter should be the longing of Christ’s faithful followers.

II. St. Peter’s failure. The first part of the history show us his daring zeal; now his failing faith. At first his faith laid hold on Divine power, and he was able to tread the waves without sinking. There was an element of wrong in the undertaking; self-confidence again. It was regarding the danger more than the Saviour that made him weak.

III. At the reproof ministered to St. Peter by our Lord. The rebuke was gentle. After all seen of the power of Christ could he doubt? Christ bids us “ come” to Him in the gospel. His power works in those who heed the message. The need and value of true faith in our Lord. There is no happiness without it. (R. H. Baynes, B. A.)

Beginning to sink

There are three conditions of soul.

1. Some think they are sinking, and are not.

2. Some are sinking and do not know it.

3. Some are sinking and miserably do know it.

4. The consequent is evident, what was below you is now over you, your servant has become your master, cares, and anxieties.

5. Your escape is in looking again to Jesus. (J. Vaughan, M. A.)

The cause of sinking

Let me gather up the steps to the “ sinking:”-an emotional state, with abrupt and strong reactions-a self-exaltation-a breaking out, under a good and religious aspect, of an old infirmity and sin-a disproportion between the act and the frame of mind in which the act was done-neglect of ordinary means, with not sufficient calculation of difficulties-a devious eye-a want of concentration-a regard to circumstances more than to the Power which wields them-a certain inward separation from God-a human measurement-a descent to a fear, unnecessary, dishonouring fear-depression-a sense of perishing-“beginning to sink.” (J. Vaughan, M. A.)

No safety in mere feeling

In the spiritual navigation, it is well to remember that the feelings are the sails, and very quickly and very beautifully do our feelings carry us along while all is favourable. But let once difficulties and temptations come, and if we have only feelings, we shall stop. The best-spread feeling, if it be only feeling, will never make head against a contrary wind. (J. Vaughan, M. A.)

Presumption of early martyrs

Of this nature was that extravagant desire of martyrdom in many of the Primitive Church, when even novices in Christianity, and those of the weaker sex, must needs be thrusting themselves into the hands of the persecutors, when they might easily, and without sin, have escaped them; and thereby exposed themselves to such cruel torments as they were not able to endure, and then did very ill things to be free from them again, to the great dishonour of their holy religion, the deep wounding of their consciences, and their lasting shame and reproach, which they could not wipe off but by a long and very severe repentance. And, indeed, ‘tis no better than knight-errantry in religion thus to seek out hazardous adventures, and lead ourselves into temptations, and then expect that God should support us, and bring us safely off. ‘Tis not faith, but presumption, that engages men so far. (Francis Bragge.)

Christ and men’s fears

In this verse are considerable.

1. The Person that spake; the Lord Jesus Christ.

2. Those to whom He spake, viz., the disciples in their present distress.

3. The kind nature and design of Christ’s speech to them at this time.

4. The argument He used to silence their fears.

5. The time when He spake to them thus comfortably-straightway.

I. Whence is it, that even real delievers may be ready to sink under their troubles. Causes of despondence are: we have not thought of the cross as we ought, or not counted upon it at all, and so have taken little care to prepare for it. Perhaps from our being so long spared, we promised ourselves an exemption from any remarkable trials; or perhaps we mistake the nature, end, and design of afflictions when they come, and so are ready to faint under Divine rebukes. There is a peculiar anguish with which some are overtaken, when they are under apprehensions of approaching death. As to the springs of this-

(a) We are too prone to put from us the evil day.

(b) Death may find us in the dark as to our title to the life to come, or meetness for it.

(c) Conscience may be awakened in our last hours to revive the sense of past sins, and so may increase our sorrows and terrors.

(d) Satan sometimes joins in with an awakened conscience, to make the trial the more sore.

(e) God sometimes withdraws the light of His countenance.

II. What Christ spake to his disciples now, when they were in great distress, He is ready to speak to all His members, whenever they are any of them distressed.

III. What is carried in these comfortable words, and may be gathered from them, for their support. It notes His presence with them and His wisdom, power, faithfulness, and love to be engaged for them. (Daniel Wilcox.)


Verse 31

Matthew 14:31

Wherefore didst thou doubt.

Doubting Christians

1. It perverts all they do by directing them to a wrong end.

2. It withdraws the mind from Christ.

3. It sours the temper. It breeds fears.

4. It gives Satan peculiar advantage against the soul.

5. The providence of God appears dark to such a soul.

6. It occasions false comfort.

7. It tarnishes the profession of such a person. (J. Cooke.)

Safety of believers in seeming perils

A British subject may be safe although surrounded by enemies in a distant land-not that he has strength to contend alone against armed thousands, but because he is a subject of our Queen. A despot on his throne, a horde of savages in their desert, have permitted a helpless traveller to pass unharmed, like a lamb among lions-although, like lions looking on a lamb, they thirsted for his blood-because they knew his sovereign’s watchfulness, and feared his sovereign’s power. The feeble stranger has a charmed life in the midst of his enemies, because a royal arm unseen encompasses him as with a shield. The power thus wielded by an earthly throne may suggest and symbolize the perfect protection of Omnipotence. A British subject’s confidence in his Queen may rebuke the feeble faith of a Christian. “O thou of little faith, wherefore didst thou doubt?” What though there be fears within and fightings without? He who bought His people with His own Blood cannot lose his inheritance, and will not permit any enemy to wrest from His hand the satisfaction of His soul. The man with a deceitful heart and a darkened mind, a feeble frame and a slippery way, a fainting heart and a daring foe-such a man would stumble and fall; but the member of Christ’s body cannot drop off; the portion of the Redeemer cannot be wrenched from His grasp. “Ye are His.” Christ is the safety of a Christian. (W. Arnot.)


Verse 33

Matthew 14:28; Matthew 14:33

And Peter answered Him and said, Lord, if it be Thou, bid me come unto Thee on the water.

Impulse and regulation

There are two powers working side by side under which Christ has taught us He means every true Christian life shall move forward, undervaluing neither the one nor the other. One of these is the impelling power, impulse. This impulsive part of religious character is indispensable. St. Peter was right in his outset “Bid me come to Thee,” etc. The other is the regulating power. It is this that keeps alive the life that has been awakened, and fulfils the good intentions. Impulses spring up in the region of feeling. Their continuance, regulation, and practical results, depend on the conscience and the will. It is easy to reach the transition point between impulse and principle; some reach it as soon as danger threatens. How shall I turn the ardent impulse of penitent faith into consistent piety? By leaving no good impulse to grow cold or waste in a neglected sentiment, but by embodying it immediately in its corresponding action; in other words, by Christian regulation. Steadfastness will come as you are really planted in Christ. (Bishop Huntingdon.)

The religion of impulse

The religious feeling is the soul of humanity. It may exist in these three forms:

I. Acting without intellect, under the control of the external.

II. Acting under intellect-controlled by the judgment. This is as it should be.

III. Acting against intellect. This is the religion of impulse, and it is here exemplified by Peter in three aspects.

1. Urging an extravagant request. Men are not made to walk on water; were never known to do so; have no capacity for it. To guard against this evil, we must study general laws, cultivate self-command, and seek Divine guidance.

2. Impelling to perilous conduct. One foolish act has often plunged men into a sea of difficulties.

3. Corrected by a merciful God. Christ first allows full liberty for the play of passion and freaks of folly. Then He helps, if asked to. And, lastly, He exposes the error-“Wherefore didst thou doubt? “ Peter ought not to have engaged in the act without faith-and faith implies the full action of intellect. Do not act from impulse-nor even from custom or habit. Act ever from faith. Remember that faith implies intellect, evidence, and reliance. (D. Thomas, D. D.)

Peter’s unwise experiment in faith

1. His walking on the sea was needless. There is no pressing necessity shutting him up to this sea-walk-ing; but it is faith experimenting in high and holy things. No important end to be served.

2. He asks permission to do that which is not commanded by Christ. Peter asks help to do what Christ had not done; to walk on the sea for the walking’s sake. This Christ permits to prove what is in him, but not to his honour or comfort. A salutary discipline.

3. Yet Christ does not fail Peter; it is not the power or word of Christ that gives way, but only the faith of Peter in this power or word. So long as he looks to Jesus this word supports him. It is easier to believe in the ship than on the waters. Now he fears, his faith gives way. Peter in his extremity cries aloud to Jesus. He has not faith enough to walk on the waters, but enough to cry for help. (A. M. Stuart.)

Walking on the waters

It is not difficult to discover the characteristics of St. Peter as they come out here. Whatever he felt for the moment was sure to come out in his words or actions. It is easy to blame and say that Peter should not have been so eager to meet his Lord, or he should have maintained his faith to the last. But we must not forget that the very height to which his faith had for the moment attained, exposed him, more than others, to the temptation of unbelief. They who sit securely in their boats are not liable to sink. The men of even temperament cannot understand an experience such as this. They know nothing of ups and downs. Where the hills are highest the ravines are deepest, Peter must not, therefore, be unduly blamed. We learn from the incident:

1. That when His disciples are in danger of being carried away by earthly influences, Christ sends them into trial. If we are bent on something which shall endanger our spirituality, God may send us serious affliction to keep us out of mischief.

2. That while our trial lasts the Lord prays for us.

3. That when Christ comes to us in our trials we are able to rise above them. He did not come at once. He came over the big waves which constituted their trial. He makes a pathway into our hearts over the affliction which distresses us. The disciples did not know Christ when he came. Have we never mistaken him? When Christ comes, and is recognized, He brings relief. (W. M. Taylor, D. D.)

Failure teaching humilit

y:-Peter required a lesson in humility: and it is instructive to observe in what way he received the lesson from our Lord. He did not meet the erring disciple with sharp and sudden reproof. He did not refuse the man’s petition; but He taught the required lesson by its very fulfilment. We have seen a father adopt the same plan in giving a lesson to his son. The boy was anxious to carry a heavy burden, believing that he was able for the task. The father let him try; and as the little arms struggled’ and quivered, and failed, the little mind was taught its own weakness, and the little heart was truly humbled. Just so when Peter asked to walk with Jesus upon the water. He said, “Come.” The request is granted, but not approved; and Peter is left to try the work in his own strength, and fail through inglorious weakness. (P. Thompson.)

Failure in the midst of success

He failed in the midst of success. It is difficult to carry a full cup, or walk upon the high places of the earth. It is more difficult to walk erect, and firm, and far among the tossing waves of adversity. The movement of Peter at the outset was grandly courageous. How truly the other disciples would gaze upon him with admiration! He stepped over the little boat; placed his foot upon the rising billow; walked step after step with perfect safety. It was a great moment in the man’s life; but it was a greatness for which the man was not equal. His nerve was too weak to carry the full cup, or bear the heavy burden, or tread the stormy water. He failed in the hour of triumph, and lost all by not looking to Jesus. The word is very touching. “When he saw the wind boisterous, he was afraid.” There was the defect. He looked to the raging winds and the surging waters. He looked to the danger, and not to the Saviour. He forgot the power of Christ, and trusting to himself, and trembling like a breaking wave beneath the boisterous wind, he began to sink. The work was done, and the lesson learned, with great rapidity. His faith, and courage, and devotion, were not so great as he imagined. He discovered his helplessness, and prayed for safety. “Lord save me;” and now the daring man was brought to regard the Lord’s band as the fountain of spiritual strength. (P. Thompson.)

Peter in the storm

1. The presumption of faith-“Bid me come to Thee on the water.”

2. The power of faith” Come.”

3. The weakness of faith.

4. The power of prayer. (T. Dale, M. A.)

The earnest prayer

I. We must feel our need of salvation.

II. We must know the only source of salvation.

III. We must pray individually for salvation. (W. D. Harwood.)

The fear of Peter when walking on the water

I. The fear which Peter betrayed on this occasion.

1. The transient nature of our best and strongest feelings when they are not kept alive by Divine grace.

2. The danger of needlessly putting to the trial cur highest graces. Never make a presumptuous display of grace.

II. The cause of Peter’s fear. “When he saw the wind boisterous,” etc. Here we are taught not to be unmindful of our dangers, but to keep our thoughts fixed on the greatness and faithfulness of Christ when we are surrounded by them.

III. The consequence of Peter’s fear. He began to sink. Our support in dangers and trials depends on our faith.

IV. The prayer which the fear of Peter drew from him.

1. In all our troubles, if we are Christians, we shall be men of prayer.

2. The fears of the real believer, however strong, are still accompanied with a cleaving to Christ.

V. The connect of Christ towards him.

1. There is no situation in which Christ cannot help us.

2. There is no state in which Christ will not save us. (C. Bradley.)

Doubting a hindrance to the Christian life.

I. St. Peter’s desire-“Bid me come unto Thee.” The truthfulness of the Bible seen in the striking preservation of the individuality of the characters brought into view. Peter uniformly rash. Many a time does the yearning spirit of the believer say, “Bid me come,” etc.

1. There is the memory of joys of which earth knows nothing, experienced in His Presence.

2. There is the consciousness of security from every harm.

3. The confidence created by so many trials of His love. No wonder that this desire of Peter should be the longing of Christ’s faithful followers.

II. St. Peter’s failure. The first part of the history show us his daring zeal; now his failing faith. At first his faith laid hold on Divine power, and he was able to tread the waves without sinking. There was an element of wrong in the undertaking; self-confidence again. It was regarding the danger more than the Saviour that made him weak.

III. At the reproof ministered to St. Peter by our Lord. The rebuke was gentle. After all seen of the power of Christ could he doubt? Christ bids us “ come” to Him in the gospel. His power works in those who heed the message. The need and value of true faith in our Lord. There is no happiness without it. (R. H. Baynes, B. A.)

Beginning to sink

There are three conditions of soul.

1. Some think they are sinking, and are not.

2. Some are sinking and do not know it.

3. Some are sinking and miserably do know it.

4. The consequent is evident, what was below you is now over you, your servant has become your master, cares, and anxieties.

5. Your escape is in looking again to Jesus. (J. Vaughan, M. A.)

The cause of sinking

Let me gather up the steps to the “ sinking:”-an emotional state, with abrupt and strong reactions-a self-exaltation-a breaking out, under a good and religious aspect, of an old infirmity and sin-a disproportion between the act and the frame of mind in which the act was done-neglect of ordinary means, with not sufficient calculation of difficulties-a devious eye-a want of concentration-a regard to circumstances more than to the Power which wields them-a certain inward separation from God-a human measurement-a descent to a fear, unnecessary, dishonouring fear-depression-a sense of perishing-“beginning to sink.” (J. Vaughan, M. A.)

No safety in mere feeling

In the spiritual navigation, it is well to remember that the feelings are the sails, and very quickly and very beautifully do our feelings carry us along while all is favourable. But let once difficulties and temptations come, and if we have only feelings, we shall stop. The best-spread feeling, if it be only feeling, will never make head against a contrary wind. (J. Vaughan, M. A.)

Presumption of early martyrs

Of this nature was that extravagant desire of martyrdom in many of the Primitive Church, when even novices in Christianity, and those of the weaker sex, must needs be thrusting themselves into the hands of the persecutors, when they might easily, and without sin, have escaped them; and thereby exposed themselves to such cruel torments as they were not able to endure, and then did very ill things to be free from them again, to the great dishonour of their holy religion, the deep wounding of their consciences, and their lasting shame and reproach, which they could not wipe off but by a long and very severe repentance. And, indeed, ‘tis no better than knight-errantry in religion thus to seek out hazardous adventures, and lead ourselves into temptations, and then expect that God should support us, and bring us safely off. ‘Tis not faith, but presumption, that engages men so far. (Francis Bragge.)

Christ and men’s fears

In this verse are considerable.

1. The Person that spake; the Lord Jesus Christ.

2. Those to whom He spake, viz., the disciples in their present distress.

3. The kind nature and design of Christ’s speech to them at this time.

4. The argument He used to silence their fears.

5. The time when He spake to them thus comfortably-straightway.

I. Whence is it, that even real delievers may be ready to sink under their troubles. Causes of despondence are: we have not thought of the cross as we ought, or not counted upon it at all, and so have taken little care to prepare for it. Perhaps from our being so long spared, we promised ourselves an exemption from any remarkable trials; or perhaps we mistake the nature, end, and design of afflictions when they come, and so are ready to faint under Divine rebukes. There is a peculiar anguish with which some are overtaken, when they are under apprehensions of approaching death. As to the springs of this-

(a) We are too prone to put from us the evil day.

(b) Death may find us in the dark as to our title to the life to come, or meetness for it.

(c) Conscience may be awakened in our last hours to revive the sense of past sins, and so may increase our sorrows and terrors.

(d) Satan sometimes joins in with an awakened conscience, to make the trial the more sore.

(e) God sometimes withdraws the light of His countenance.

II. What Christ spake to his disciples now, when they were in great distress, He is ready to speak to all His members, whenever they are any of them distressed.

III. What is carried in these comfortable words, and may be gathered from them, for their support. It notes His presence with them and His wisdom, power, faithfulness, and love to be engaged for them. (Daniel Wilcox.)


Verse 36

Matthew 14:36

As many as touched were made perfectly whole.

Christ healing the diseased

I. Some of the antecedents of the healing. They felt they were diseased. They were anxious to be healed. They were in the right place to be healed.

II. The condition of healing. Contact with Christ. Illustrates the conditions upon which we become partakers of the life which is in Christ Jesus. This condition is simple, not only as regards its operation, but also as it springs out of a principle which all men possess.

III. The extent of the healing. This is seen in the numbers healed and in the completeness of the cures. (R. Henry.)

 


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Bibliography Information
Exell, Joseph S. "Commentary on "Matthew 14:4". The Biblical Illustrator. http://odl.studylight.org/commentaries/tbi/matthew-14.html. 1905-1909. New York.

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