Australian Bible Church - November 19, 2006
A CONTINUATION OF THE THRUST
AND BASE OF THE
OF AUSTRALIA ON BIBLICAL LINES …
THE MOUTH OF MAN AND THE MOUTH OF GOD
The Piercingly Apparent Situation between Man and God-
The Works of the Son of Man, as the Son of God
You have only to look at what happened in Matthew 14-16, to see just one example of the sheer splendour of the magnitude of His mercies. How easy to debunk would these things have been, as at Pentecost, had they not resounded like trumpets in and around Jerusalem to the knowledge of thousands! But they did not so act; for there are things, like the presence of General MacArthur in the north of Australia during the Japanese war, that if denied, bring question of the sanity of the critic. It is vain.
Hence Christianity spread like wild fire, as the apostles showed the MEANING and the outcome of these events which had arrested the nation and impaled the puniness of much in a corrupted priesthood - and even this, was as foretold (Ezekiel 34).
What then do we find in Matthew 14-16, but a continuum of wonder, relished by the reasonable, delighted in by the afflicted, regaling the cured, relieving the fed: all finding not imposition but exposition, not charges but challenges and power with the work of the Messiah before their very eyes!
Following the death of John the Baptist at the hand of Herod, Christ proceeds to feed five thousand, not as a gimmick for publicity but as a fulfilment of the need of those who had been following Him for a great time (John 6:1-14, Mark 6:30ff., Matthew 14:13-14). He taught and they listened (Mark 6:33, John 6:34). Many had seen His healings (John 6:2, cf. Matthew 8-11 – indeed He had even sent out the twelve who healed in His name – Matthew 10, Luke 9:6). Masses heard His teaching and came, indeed, as before, so also after this display of miraculous combination of compassion and control, grace and power (Matthew 14:34-35, Mark 6:53ff.).
It was after the feeding of the 5000, that there came a spiritual challenge. As seen in John 6, they wanted to make Him king; but this He refused, instead praying alone as He sent off His disciples; and in the night coming, He was seen walking on water as they crossed the sea, to their amazement and fear, as if He had been a ghost. Not satisfied with this, He was at once involved in another sort of challenge. Peter, in his impetuous faith, wanted to come to Him on the water. He permitted this, so that Peter set out on foot on the sea. When however that disciple saw the state of the waves under his feet, he was overwhelmed in spirit, and began to sink in body also (Matthew 14:31).
To meet this, Christ on the waters, stretched out His hand to deliver Peter, and reproved him for his 'little faith'. Then they got into the boat.
From Mark 6:51-52, we find that the disciples were amazed at Christ’s walking on the sea and the wind stopping when He entered the boat; and it notes that their heart was hardened, for they had not understood about the loaves!
This was not an item, but the very nature of the Lord. Earlier, in Matthew 8:26, we see that Christ marvelled at their fear of maritime furies, before proceeding to order the wind and waves to be still! The point was this: they did it! It was now clear: if He could invoke the supernatural power even to feed those who hungered for teaching, could He not do so to deliver them on mission from untimely decease, being majestically in charge! For no small reason, then, after the feeding of the 5000 and the water episode and Peter’s deliverance, they declared, "Truly You are the Son of God!" (Matthew 14:33). Demur there was not. He let the works speak (John 14:1-14).
A little later, as seen in John 6:59-69, we find that following Jesus' exposition of the spiritual message behind the bread, they declared "... we have come to believe and know that You are the Christ, the Son of the living God." (though Christ already was well aware that one heart was not where its mouth was - John 6:70-71). This was to be consolidated at Caesarea Philippi!
Having crossed to the land of Gennesaret, they were met by expectation. The people at once sent out to the surrounding districts for the sick, begging that they might only touch the hem of His garment. This being permitted, it was observed that every one who did this, was healed, so that here was a multitudinous successor to the healing action of Matthew 9:18ff., which had as its own sequel, the raising of the dead.
From Mark 6, we learn that they even carried out people on beds to meet Him, to wherever they heard He was in their district. In whatever villages He entered, there they laid their sick in market places, begging for that touch to the hem of His garment, and those who did - small wonder the begging! - were healed.
This myriad expression of mercy and mastery was precisely like that in His walking in the sea, rescuing people, feeding the hungry: it was not only that it did not cease. It never was confounded, there was no dither, there was only dynamic, compassion and grace, while on the other side, there was denunciation of hypocrisy and ecclesiastical corruption. This was precisely as told from the outset, in Ezekiel 34, concerning the outrage of the Lord at such things, linked with His decision to come to earth to show the way as the Good Shepherd (Christ announcing Himself as such, as recorded in John 10). The thing rang with integrity, tolled with the bells of power, was melodious in majesty like music announcing the king, incessant as if tiredness, though a real danger, were subject itself to first meeting need.
Nor, by any means, was this a surge of easy power. The Pharisees and the scribes had their far more numerous than annual outing to try to flout the grace and expose the wonder of Christ by their tongues, traducing truth itself. Envy was a massive thrust on the part of those derelict in duty and unfaithful in profession.
They sought to trap Him (Matthew 15). Washing hands was a nice ritualistic sort of expression of superior sanctity, and the routine prescribed in this by tradition (up to the elbows was one format) being not met by Christ and His disciples, He was confronted. On the very topic of tradition, He then exposed their hypocrisy and greed, and proceeded to point out that such excessive concern could be obsessive, and that in fact the real danger was to be found in what proceeded OUT OF the heart, more than INTO the stomach! These, He told His disciples, are blind, blind leaders of the blind: leave them alone!
If only many in our own generation had the same wisdom, to leave alone what departs from the word of God (cf. Matthew 5:17-20)! Yet they continue to seek to worship where it is openly flouted, as if it moved by some lure, caught and unable to detach themselves! Such was the case with many of the priests - though not all, for some believed as we read in Acts 6.
Moving now in His itineracy to the area of Tyre and Sidon, Christ was met by a request for the healing of the daughter of Canaanite woman. Severely demon-possessed, the girl needed the masterful word of One who had control in the spirit world, as in the material. Christ at first demurred, declaring He was not sent except to the lost sheep of Israel; but she persisted, saying that even the little dogs under the table could take some of the scraps. She was rewarded and congratulated on her vital faith, and at that same hour, her daughter was healed. Thus the primary aim of Christ was clear, and His opening up to the Gentiles no less, a thing to be consummated in its time, as also forecast in Isaiah 42:6, 49:6.
Travelling next to Galilee (Matthew 15:29ff.), Jesus ascended a mountain and took up His post. We learn that "great multitudes" - as you might imagine if you sought to translate this into a contemporary scene! - came to Him. Lame, blind, mute, maimed, it was indifferent: they all came. Many more, they laid before Him. Was He internally involved, tired, overmastered by numbers ? Not at all. He "healed them all." There was no failure, failing or faintheartedness. There was nothing to expose but compassion and power, with supernatural constancy; for as John put it, He was not given the Spirit by measure!
In the midst of such a multitude, Christ might now be thought to need re-charging; but moved with compassion again, in the presence of so many now gathered and milling, He Himself took the initiative and instructed His disciples to prepare food for the multitude.
Again the disciples ask the obvious: there being no fast-food lines in those days, they wanted to know where the food would be gained ? They had however on this occasion, to hand, seven loaves and a few little fish. Christ as before, took the small offering and having had the multitude sit, He took the food and having given thanks, broke and gave to the disciples for distribution. Last time, they wanted Him king; but this time having eaten their fill, some 4000 men, women and children, they were simply sent away, while He moved to Magdala by boat.
Thus the routine of marvel continued, with multiples of endless-seeming healings as if it were routine to do the impossible. He feeds the 5000, the soul, the 4000, has baskets full in each case, heals abundantly further, rejects a desire to have Him crowned, walks on water, rescues Peter from drowning when he wants to do the same maritime walk. Then, as we shall see, He asks for identification of His mission from the mouths of His disciples, yes more, of His nature in reality; and it is Peter, who saved a little earlier, roundly declares Him the Christ, the Son of the living God.
What other possible interpretation could you give, right down to the defacing of His name ? and that before there came that brutal defiling of His face literally. All this was part of His prophetic depiction (Isaiah 52:13-15), of the identikit for the Messiah as in Isaiah 49:7 with the practical outcome of Isaiah 53! This declaration of Peter came when all the actions outlined above having made their impact, with whatever thoughts and understanding mounting like waves crashing on the rocky shores of life, the vital question of His identity was put. But first we have in Matthew 16, record of a further and obfuscatory, obstinate and obstructive question from the Pharisees.
Challenge of the mouth of Man, Answer from the Mouth of God
The Mouth of Man
You see it in Matthew 16. The Pharisees, up to their unthinkable games, dared to ask the Performer of these Prodigies for a sign! A sign ? Do you ask Einstein for a sign of mental competence after E = MC2 ? do you ask a lion for evidence of being carnivorous, after it destroys a pile of prey ? Do you ask Christ for a sign when His very work has been sending signals like yacht as it passes every buoy, miles in the lead! Yet they dared. None for you, said He. You can see for yourselves weather signs, yet when it comes to the signs of the times you are blind! How blind were they to even dare to ask!
Having warned His disciples after this, to beware of the style of thought and teaching which such people had, He proceeded Caesarea Philippi. It was there that He asked: "Who do men say that I, the Son of Man, am ?"
In using the Danielic term 'Son of Man', He was already giving no small clue (Daniel 7). After all, Daniel there showed the Messiah in glorified rule, dominion and authority in the very presence of the Ancient of Days.
“I was watching in the night visions, and behold, One like the Son of Man,
Coming with the clouds of heaven!
He came to the Ancient of Days, and they brought Him near before Him.
Then to Him was given dominion and glory and a kingdom,
That all peoples, nations, and languages should serve Him.
His dominion is an everlasting dominion, which shall not pass away,
And His kingdom the one which shall not be destroyed.”
What was to be their reply to Christ’s question then ? They traversed news item material - well, they replied, some thought Him John the Baptist, resurrected, some Elijah, others Jeremiah or one of the prophets. There had to be SOME explanation and the most remotely unrealistic ideas had been assembled, rather than facing the simple actuality of the long and lavish prophecy concerning the Messiah. Christ, pursuing the theme, asked who they thought He was! They had had something more even than we, in being personally present whereas we gain it by reading.
Peter answered in bold, ringing tones: "You are the Christ, the Son of the living God!"
The 'son of man' had been the phrase used in the Lord's question. For answer Peter supplied the parallel, 'the Son of God.' Christ at once congratulated Peter, whose direct, frank answer had reality and not mere mouthing: vivid in form, clear in meaning, it struck home. Flesh and blood did not reveal this to you: spiritual reality is not available to casual thought or through mere personality traits on the part of the observer. We as sinners are alienated from God, whatever our words (Eph. 4:17ff.), and only by divine action can even the obvious be accepted.
Christ stressed that it was the Father who is in heaven who revealed to Peter on earth, the truth which faith grasped. The Lord then announced that Peter, on this basis of the One whom Christ by faith was recognised to be, would be given certain keys.
Of course, the others were given the power to bind also as in John 20, but here Peter is signalised. This 'key' feature would be fulfilled in Peter's opening up of the way for Christian Gospel and teaching to Samaria (Acts 8), to the Gentiles (Acts 10) and receiving Paul as a scripture writer (II Peter 3). Thus it was the Lord Himself, the Rock as ever in scripture, recognised by faith as exemplified in Peter, it was He on whom the church was to be built. He, of whom it is written (II Samuel 22:32), "who is a Rock except our God," whom Peter recognised, it is He who is maestro, master and massif, no other.
In so seeing, Peter showed the foundation, the only Rock that there is. What is that ? It is Christ, the Son of the living God, seen as such, and thus realised and received to BE the Lord, indeed exposed in this by the very power and work of God in heaven Himself: it is His Eternal Word (John 1), the Lord Himself as sent (John 8:58, Micah 5:3, Isaiah 48:16, Zechariah 12:10, Psalm 45), it is He who is and remains the Rock.
Do not therefore flurry, but rest on the Rock. Do not worry, but stand on the Rock. Do not tarry, but rely on the Rock and progress without fear. It is the living Rock, and from it come knowledge, wisdom, strength, peace and power to do the will of God. Let the storms and traveling ice-bergs do what they will. In the Rock is reliability, destiny (John 14) and from it a shadow proceeds, for one’s right hand, to build, and in it is a defence for rest.
Part II of this series should, Lord Willing, be available next week, and readers are urged to complete it, since this is but the prelude.