Matthew 14:22-33 – How To Walk On Water

Jesus walks on water - Matthew 14

And Peter answered him and said, Lord, if it be thou, bid me come unto thee on the water. And he said, Come. And when Peter was come down out of the ship, he walked on the water, to go to Jesus. Matthew 14:28, 29

Very early in that morning, Jesus’ disciples were in their little boat on the sea of Galilee. A strong, contrary wind whipped boisterous waves against them. There was almost something personal about this adverse gale.

A Joyous Multitude

It had been a remarkable day. Thousands had come to hear Jesus. The disciples felt honored to be associated with the wonderful Teacher. The crowds hung on his gracious words. His doctrines and manner of teaching were delightful. There was a thrilling challenge in his message that searched the depths of their hearts.

Every hearer had some notion of the kingdom hope and the part Israel was to play in it. Most were natural, even carnal, concepts, appealing to human pride; were they not the people of God? But Jesus’ kingdom was beautiful—the Lord’s hallowed presence enthroned in every heart.

Blessing Now, Blessing Later

The throng was hungry for His teachings. They forgot their hunger for food. But the disciples became aware of practicalities. They noticed the descending sun, and became uneasy. They interrupted Jesus, whispering that he should dismiss his audience.

Then followed an experience that would make their minds tingle on every future recollection. They became instruments in an amazing demonstration of power: one lad’s supper fed the multitude. What a climax to the day! They witnessed a portrayal of that blessed time when all human needs would be divinely satisfied and they would again be the instruments used of the Lord to convey blessings to mankind. They were learning to live with the power of God.

This is essential to the preparation of the future ministers of the kingdom. Each was a vessel of divine grace, a channel of divine love, an instrument through which the Lord would exhibit the glory of his power to give life abundant to whosoever will.

A Need for Quiet

Finally, the crowds dispersed, and Jesus was left alone with his disciples—but not before another wonderful moment occurred. The people were so elated by the experience that groups gathered, rallying the support of all. The disciples realized that the hopeful congregation wanted to proclaim Jesus their king!

Knowing the people’s intent, Jesus motioned to his disciples, climbing higher up the mountain trail to be alone with God. He longed for that future day when men would respond to divine love in a way more enduring than the fervor of that crowd.

Their Stormy Challenge

He told the apostles to proceed to Bethsaida, leaving him alone with his Father in prayer. The disciples in the midst of the sea, and Jesus on high with the Father, depicted the Gospel age night of weary toil for the Church.

It was hard for them. A hazardous storm had risen. They strained at the oars, their struggles seeming to avail nothing. Their Master’s presence seemed remote. For hours they toiled, the journey taking much longer than they had anticipated. They longed for the sight of dawn and the shoreline.

But Jesus knew. From his vantage point on high, he saw their plight. The watches of the night passed. In the fourth watch, they glimpsed a sight which frightened them. It was Jesus, but a Jesus they had yet to know. He was now demonstrating divine abilities.

Winds and waves threatened their ship;

               yet there was Jesus,

                                                     walking on that troubled water as though it was solid rock.

Consider their fear: Here was a being with superhuman power—power above that of the storm. Even earth’s gravity was impotent beneath his feet.

Our Stormy Challenges

This parallels the mighty power of One whose presence is now recognized by saints on earth. Can we comprehend the vast resources of divine power now available to our returned Lord? He is exercising in this earth’s atmosphere, in the midst of the storms that bring fear into human hearts, the power of the victor over sin, the conqueror of every evil force released on earth.

We do not cry out in fear, but let us shout in worship and praise to our returned King, no longer bound by flesh but glorious in majesty.

“Gird thy sword upon thy thigh, O most mighty, with thy glory and thy majesty. And in thy majesty ride prosperously on behalf of truth and meekness and righteousness” (Psalm 45:3, 4).

The disciples feared because they glimpsed a being with powers of another world. This recognition of spirit realm was awesome. Blessed are our eyes that see beyond human sight to celestial glory. In awe we see that One who today stands here amidst the earthly scene.

We Learn from Peter

We were not with him on Galilee. We cannot feel the might of battering waves, the force of gale, the surrounding darkness. But our proxy was there, Peter. How we love his earnest heart!

In Peter we see ourselves. His lessons were enjoyed by saints throughout the age. Yet now, the lessons are for us. When Jesus and the disciples were united in the boat, the storm abated, the wind dropped, the sea became a great calm. Soon they reached the other shore.

The time of trouble will not end, nor the testing of the saints, until the last is gathered to be with the Lord. That is the dispensational message. There is also a personal message for each saint, pertaining to their walk this side of the veil. It has special meaning for us, in this time of the Master’s presence in the very midst of earth’s troubled scenes.

Peter was reassured by the Master’s voice,

Take courage. It is I! Do not be afraid!”

 What comfort we find in recognizing One who stands before us now endowed with wondrous powers. The earth hears and trembles; Zion hears and is glad. In the midst of so much disturbance, so many demonstrations of the powers of darkness, when all human existence on this earth is threatened, what comfort to our hearts to hear the voice of our Beloved saying,

Be not afraid. It is I!”

 Peter was stirred. He saw that Jesus’ powers could overcome all limitations of flesh. He glimpsed a higher realm. A blessed truth confronted him, and dear, impulsive Peter, wanted to taste that power divine.

Water-walking

The Lord created a scenario, teaching us what Peter sought to learn—how to walk on water.

When Jesus walked upon that sea, he was upheld by an invisible force superior to any power on earth. Here was faith in its fulness, faith-fulness that finds the rock on which to walk throughout life.

Peter asked, “Lord, if it is you, command me to come to you on the water.”

We should not presume, but meekly ask. The invitation comes from him, “Come. Follow me.”

Peter was not testing God. He was asking for the Master’s power to resist the downward force that gravitates the mind to earth. Peter wanted to experience the power of God.

It was an impulsive request. He had not learned that long-sighted vision which the Spirit would later endow. That Spirit recognizes that a heavenly purpose is working on a grand scale. It is our privilege to co-work with God toward that goal. And the Lord utilized Peter’s impulse to teach us lessons.

First we request the Lord’s help to follow him. He does not ask us to do the impossible. God makes ALL things possible.

We are called to walk in Jesus’ steps. How can we do that? He was holy; we are corrupt. Then Peter had to believe that if Jesus gave the word, Jesus had the power. Believe!

Step out of the rocking boat into the stormy sea.

The power is there. This means more than believing when comfortable, in good health. It means to put ALL our confidence and trust on Someone truly worthyto accept him as our TOTAL means of support.

PSALM 20, 7

Jesus walked on water with no visible support. Our visible support refers to job, home, health, family, friends, position, income, material possessions. We cannot depend on them for our peace of mind.

PSALM 118-8

Our Rocky Boats

Believing meant stepping out of the boat. Even a rocky boat is some means of support. Each human strength is like that rocky boat. Stepping out of the boat requires faith.

HEBREWS-11-1-6

Are we then at the mercy of the waves? No, we are abandoning the things that can be shaken and placing our feet on solid rock. Matthew 14:30 records the situation: “When he saw the wind boisterous, he was afraid; and beginning to sink, he cried, saying, Lord save me! And immediately Jesus stretched forth his hand, and caught him, and said unto him, O thou of little faith, wherefore didst thou doubt?”

No one can see what supports the child of faith through tribulation and weakness. But the visible effect of faith can be seenpeace, confidence, joy, at times when the world would expect utter dejection and expect us to sink!

The window of the heart opens to heaven when this body of death is locked in its prison.

PSALM 61, 1-2

The attitude of prayerful praise is the visible evidence of the rock of faith. The confining of the body quickens the spirit of perception that enjoys glorious liberty as God’s sons.

Paul, too, stepped out of a boat and walked on water: “Bonds and afflictions wait for me, but none of these things move me, neither count I my life dear unto me.” We look not at the things that are seen, but at the things that are unseen. No overcomer cowers in the boat. How frightening, when poor Peter found himself sinking!

Our failures teach us deep and permanent lessons.

All saints experience boisterous winds and waves, dark and threatening contradictions to our faith.

Every step of walking on water is a test of faith.

PSALM 73-26

There is no retirement from the life of faith. As the years advance, we become like Enoch: this walk with the Lord becomes so absorbing to our mind that we do not see death, only the victorious Lord at the side of God’s throne, his voice ringing out, “Come!” This is the victory . . . your faith.”

At Golgotha, visible evidence indicated that Jesus had been abandoned. Yet that ultimate contradiction to his faith proved its very reality, faith FULL unto death. Faith is knowing our Father’s abiding faithfulness. We know he is there, he is for us, he knows every detail required to bring us to himself in the bond of perfect trust.

When Peter stepped out, he needed something more sure than the rocking ship made with human hands. He needed the most dependable power that exists. To reach for it, he needed faith that can let go, as surely as it can cling!

Reaching to Jesus

Matthew 14, Mark 6, and John 6, each add some precious detail. We read in Mark 6:48, that as the wonderful Master walked upon those waves, he seemed to be passing them by, proceeding towards the shore. It was this realization that spurred Peter on to request the Lord’s command to follow him.

Peter did not want the Lord to pass him by. He wanted to walk with Jesus. We do not want the Lord to pass us by. We cannot merely watch him from the uncertain safety of our storm-dashed ship.

We are not arm-chair saints.

Our faith is on trial NOW.

THIS is the hour to realize the power of total trust.

Why wait for that hour of tribulation when our ship may break on the rocks? The truth is staring at us today. Jesus defies that which is seen by natural sight. Contradictions are real. This body of humiliation contradicts the high aspirations of the new mind. It humiliates our pure desire for a holy life. Let our clay vessels manifest the miracle of God’s power.

2 COR. 4, 16

Everyone, not just the Lord’s people, eventually lose the things on which human security depends—health, strength, partner, friends. All have a coded date-stamp beyond which corruption will set in. How vital to our peace that we learn to walk on water NOW, before that evil day.

Then shall we know the triumph of faith that conquers the fury of every storm. Then shall we say:

Let the chill mists gather round me.
Let the lights of earth grow dim.
Leave me Jesus, only Jesus.
I am Satisfied with him.

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HEB. 10, 23

 

Acknowledgment

Br. Donald Holliday — for the above study.

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Jesus Feeds The Multitudes With Fish and Loaves of Bread

feeding 5000-1.jpg

There are two miraculous feedings of the multitudes, recorded among the Gospel accounts in the New Testament. As suggested in what follows, these two occasions appear to represent a blessing for the Church at the beginning of the Gospel Age, and another blessing at the end of the Gospel Age.

The Number Two

The Gospel Age is often represented by the number 2, or its greater magnitudes 20, 200, 2,000. A 20-cubit length for the Holy of the Tabernacle fits the symbolism. Perhaps two is used because the fruits of this age of the spirit are nourished by the two sources of instruction, the Old and New Testaments. The following examples of two in the Bible all relate in one way or another to the Gospel age, or to the nourishment and care of the saints during it —

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In the 1st miraculous feeding of a multitude, 5000 men were fed with 5 loaves of bread and 2 fishes (Matthew 14:13-21, Mark 6:30-44, Luke 9:10-17, John 6:1-15).

In the 2nd miraculous feeding, 4000 men were fed with 7 loaves of bread and 2 fish (Matthew 15:29-39, Mark 8:1-10).

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The Bread

  • John 6:35, 48 — Jesus explains he is “the bread” of life.
  • Matthew 26:26“this is my body.”
  • 1 Corinthians 10:16, 17“Is not the cup of blessing which we bless a sharing in the blood of Christ? Is not the bread which we break a sharing in the body of Christ? Since there is one bread, we who are many are one body; for we all partake of the one bread” (NASB).
  • 1 Corinthians 11:26 — This verse concerns the Lord’s memorial which we daily remember as we sojourn in the footsteps of our Master. The fully consecrated receive the benefits of Christ’s sacrifice for us, and also share in his sufferings. “We are the children of God … if so be that we suffer with him, that we may be also glorified together” (Romans 8:16, 17). We mortify the fleshly mind, and renew the new mind in Christ (Romans 8:13).

Our share in these benefits, and experiences, are memorialized together with other ecclesia members in our annual observance of the memorial supper of Jesus’ sacrifice — receiving the bread, and drinking the “fruit of the vine.” It is an opportunity for us to renew our consecration vows, with our fellow yoke bearers around us.

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The Fish

The fish came to symbolize a Christian, since the Greek letter alpha (Α or α) looks like this image below and “alpha,” the first letter of the Greek alphabet, is mentioned in Revelation 22:13 as one of the descriptions of Jesus.

fish image.png

From the 2nd, 3rd, and 4th centuries, the symbol of a fish was used to represent Christians. Partly this drew from the two miracles of Jesus in which fishes were multiplied to feed his followers.

The word for “fish” is spelled in Greek as iota-chi-theta-upsilon-sigma. These are the first letters in the Greek words for Jesus, Christ, God’s, Son, Savior — thus brief for “Jesus Christ is God’s Son, our Savior.” (See Wikipedia, “Ichthys”).

Fish are mentioned and given symbolic meaning several times in the Gospels.

(1) Matthew 13:47-50 — The parable of the dragnet.

(2) Matthew 17:24-27 — The coin in the fish’s mouth.

(3) Matthew 12:38-45 — Jesus would be in the heart of the earth for three days, as Jonah was in the belly of the fish for three days.

(4) John 21:11 — The harvest of the saints is represented in the 153 fish.

(5) Matthew 4:19 — Jesus commissioned his disciples to be “fishers of men.”

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Feeding of the 5000

The two feedings of the multitudes with fish and bread represent Jesus feeding the Church at and following the two advents of Christ.

  • The bread apparently represents the “bread of life” (John 6:35), Jesus.
  • As fish can represent either Jesus, or his disciples, in this case it seems the fish given to the multitudes also represents Jesus as our life-giver, andsustainer, through his redemption.

Who was fed —5000 men besides women and children” (Matthew 14:21, NIV). Five seems to be a number associated with the new creation. Perhaps this is because we are developed through the holy Spirit, two, and the blood of redemption, three, and the sum of these is five. As there were five posts at the entrance to the holy, so here we have 5000 men being fed, in a picture of the beginning of the Gospel Age.

Other related uses of the number five are —

  • Matthew 25 — Five wise virgins.
  • Genesis 41:34 — In the time of Joseph one part in five of the grain was saved up for a time a need.
  • Numbers 31:27-31 — God’s share of the goods collected by the Israelites was one part out of 50, or out of 500, depending on the circumstance.

As with the 2, 20, 200, and 2,000, this meaning of the number also pertains to various orders of magnitude: 5, 50, 500, and 5,000.

12 baskets of “broken pieces” (NIV), “fragments that remained” (KJV) at the end of the first feeding — the remainder perhaps represents that the teachings of the 12 apostles were the resource for feeding the Church after Christ’s first advent.

Five barley loaves —

  • Barley represents Jesus.
  • Barley was the first crop of the year, and Jesus was raised on the day of the barley waving (Leviticus 23:11). Five in this case may pertain to Jesus as part and leader of the New Creation.

Green “grass” (Matthew 14:19, Mark 6:39 Suggests the new age of life then just opening.

After the first feeding — Jesus went to the mountain alone (Matthew 14:23) representing that Jesus after his first advent went to heaven alone (1 Thessalonians 4:16, John 14:6).

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Feeding of the 4000

The 2nd feeding, this time of 4000, is recorded in Matthew 15:29-39 and Mark 8:1-10.

Who was fed — 4000 men, beside women and children” were fed with 7 loaves of bread and “few little fishes” (Matthew 15:34), or “a few small fishes” (Mark 8:7). (The Alexandrian text says “two fishes” in Mark, but this may be a transcription error remembering the two fishes in the first case.)

Four represents judgment, and the harvest period of the Gospel Age is a time of judgment for the saints. As there were four posts at the end of the holy, so these 4000 men picture a time in the ending period of the Gospel Age.

Time Period: The 2nd feeding refers to Jesus Christ’s second presence, his “parousia” since 1874.

7 baskets of: “broken pieces” (NIV) — Perhaps shows that during the harvest, we have the accumulated benefit of the seven messengers (See the Book of Revelation) of the Church. Brethren sometimes have small variations of opinion about the specific identification of these messengers. The following is our best understanding —

(1) Messenger for the Church of Ephesus (AD 33-73) = the Apostle Paul.

(2) Messenger for the Church of Smyrna (AD 73-325) = the Apostle John.

(3) Messenger for the Church of Pergamos (AD 325-1157) = Arius.

(4) Messenger for the Church of Thyatira (AD 1157-1517) = Peter Waldo (supplemented by John Wycliffe).

(5) Messenger for the Church of Sardis (AD 1517-1667) = Martin Luther.

(6) Messenger for the Church of Philadelphia (AD 1667-1874) = William Penn.

(7) Messenger for the Church of Laodicea (AD 1874-2043) = Charles Taze Russell.

Seven loaves — Perhaps identifying Jesus, the bread of life, as the perfect one (seven). Or perhaps indicating that he is the bread of life for the Church that is depicted in Revelation as in seven stages (of the Church) through the Gospel Age.

After the 2nd feeding — Jesus took his apostles with him, representing the Church “going with him.” They are raised to life from the return of Christ forward, until the end of the Harvest, and will be with Christ thereafter.

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Lessons From These Two Miraculous Feedings

What lessons can be learned from Jesus’ two feedings with the loaves and fish? 

(1) The numbers of men are given, but there were also “women and children” fed as well. Perhaps the men represent the consecrated ones, and the unnumbered additional ones represent the “household of faith” who believe in Jesus, and have faith in him as the “bread of life,” but are less committed.

(2) A lesson of humility.

  • Plain, humble common food was provided. Perhaps we also should not concentrate our efforts on elaborate provisions, but be grateful for meeting the basic needs of life.
  • We should focus more on what comes out of our mouths than what we put into them.
  • Our desires should be plain and simple — to do the will of the one who hath called us out of darkness into his marvelous light, and run the race with cheerful patient endurance. Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, who for the hope set before him endured the cross. “Set your eyes on not what is seen but what is unseen,” and run in so as to gain the prize of the High Calling.

“Delight thyself also in Jehovah, and He shall give thee the desires of thine heart” (Psalm 37:4). These hopes and promises, with reverent prayer, are the best analgesia and safety against adversity. The tests of Faith will qualify us as members of the Bride class, to be sympathetic priests for the world during the Millennium.

(3) These comparisons between feedings help us see the benefit of Present Truth for the saints during the Harvest of the Gospel Age, since 1874, before the blessing of the world comes.

(4) We need not wait for someone to ask us for “food of Truth,” but like the disciples of Jesus, we are to feed others by offering the words of life to them that we have been blessed with.

“He said unto them, Give ye them to eat” (Luke 9:13).

Even if inconvenient for the flesh, do not decline to give help, show compassion, and offer the Truth of God’s love and plan. The fruits of the Spirit in Galatians 5:22-23 includes kindness and long-suffering — hence it involves spiritually “feeding” others at the expense of our own comfort.

There is a saying:

“To the world you may be one person,
but to one person you may be the world.”

If we think our “feeding” does not bring results, or that this or that other Brother or Sister in Christ should or could do more spiritual “feeding,” yet if we gladly accept the Lord’s prompting to proceed in the effort, spiritual blessings will follow.

(5) A lesson of not to be anxious about the cares of life (Matthew 6:31), for “God will supply every need of yours according to his riches in glory in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:19). In Matthew 15:32 we read, “Jesus called his disciples unto him, and said, I have compassion on the multitude, because they continue with me now three days, and have nothing to eat: and I will not send them away fasting, lest they faint in the way.” Similarly, in our experiences of life, our Heavenly Father’s just and loving provisions of meeting our essential needs of life, reflect His compassion and merciful aid of help through Christ, the captain of our salvation. By the full surrender of our will to the will of God, we learn to trust in God’s perfect plan and depend on the Giver of all good things to supply us with what He sees is best for the New Creature in Christ (James 1:17).

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Below is an extract from “Discourses by Robert S. Seklemian” — (http://www.heraldmag.org/olb/contents/treatises/seklemians%20discourses.htm).

Lessons from the Feeding

Now let us consider the lessons contained in the feeding of the multitude. First, we can make a personal application. When the disciples reminded Jesus what a large quantity of bread would be required, Jesus asked, “How many loaves have ye? Go and see” (Mark 6:38). The disciples returned and said to Jesus, “There is a lad here which hath five barley loaves, and two small fishes. But what are they among so many?” (John 6:9). Someone may say, “My talents are so few and so small. What are they among so many? There are so many who have so much more than I have.” But what did Jesus tell his disciples when they reported their meager resources? “Bring them hither to me” (Matthew 14:18).

The Lord wants you.

 

He will accept your small offering of five barley loaves and two small fishes.

He can greatly multiply the effects of your small efforts in ways you never dreamed of.

“Bring them hither unto me!”

If nothing else give a little word of encouragement to someone, a little smile. Write a little letter of cheer and consolation, a little visit to someone sick or suffering. Give a little witness to a neighbor or relative. Put a tract under someone’s door. Build someone up a little in the truth. Let your light, dim though it be, shine out just a little in the darkness of this world. If you can do nothing else, offer a little prayer for the harvest work.

These are small things but they are things the Lord can bless and use.

If we cannot do them all, we can do some of them, at least one of them.

The Lord can greatly amplify their effect just as he increased the loaves and fishes.

Let us bring the Lord ALL we have whether great or small.

There is another more general application of this incident. Jesus said:

“Ye shall be witnesses unto me, both in Jerusalem, and in all Judea, and in Samaria, and unto the uttermost part of the earth” (Acts 1:8).

This gospel of the kingdom shall be preached in all the world, for a witness unto all nations, and then shall the end come” (Matthew 24:14).

The gospel must first be published among all nations” (Mark 13:10).

It seems to me that a mere circulation of the Bible without explanation does not completely fulfill this requirement. It must be the gospel of the Kingdom which Jesus preached because he plainly said, “THIS gospel of the Kingdom.”

Have there been any missionaries since the early church who have preached the Millennial Kingdom of Christ beside Brother [Charles Taze] Russell and those with him?

“Gospel” means “good news.”

Certainly the hell-fire doctrine preached by nominal church missionaries is not the good news which must be published among all nations. The handful of true Christians today who have the true gospel may say, “Lord, this task is too great for us. What are we among so many? We cannot reach them all. Let others feed them. Let them just take the Bible and find their own spiritual food therein.”

But Jesus says to his people:

“Give ye them to eat!”

“Others do not have the truth, the gospel of the Kingdom. Others cannot feed them like you can.”

We may answer, “But Lord, we are so few, and have very limited resources. We have only five barley loaves and two small fishes! We do not have enough!”

Bring ALL you have to me,” Jesus answers, “I will bless what you have, and make it do. It will be more than enough. There will even be some left over.”

Miracles of Our Day

In the account Jesus performed a staggering miracle and the multitude ate and were filled. What a magnificent fulfillment of this we now see possible with only a limited expenditure of money aptly comparable to only five barley loaves and two small fishes. By an equally staggering miracle — that of radio, television, tapes, and mass media, facilities Brother Russell never had — the power to give a tremendous, worldwide public witness is now in our hands! Instead of thousands, millions can be fed with the sound, satisfying message of truth, the true gospel. Many ecclesias are taking full advantage of these opportunities. Although we are not seeking to convert the world, but only to garner the wheat, who can say what a powerful effect our sowing of the seed of truth may have in preparing the hearts of men to receive the blessings of the kingdom?

Then there is still another application of this event. That multitude that Jesus fed also pictures the world during the Millennial Age. As Jesus gave the bread to his disciples to pass on to the people, those who are now the Lord’s faithful disciples will in the Kingdom be the dispensers of this Bread of eternal life to all the families of the earth. Jesus told the multitude later:

“The bread of God is he which cometh down from heaven, and giveth life unto the world” (John 6:33). The Church glorified will be the channel through which the merit of Jesus’ sacrifice will be applied to the world. As the hungry multitude ate all they wanted and were filled, life will then be freely dispensed to all the willing and obedient. We read of that time: “The Spirit and the bride say Come. And let him that heareth say, Come. And let him that is athirst come. And whoever will, let him take the water of life freely” (Revelation 22:17).

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