AUSTRALIAN BIBLE CHURCH
JUNE 20, 2004
MOURNING AND SERVING
FEEDING AND HEEDING
Matthew 14 with John 6
1.QUALITY OF SPIRIT WHEN DEATH SURGES
John the Baptist inspires awe (Mark 6:20), in Herod Antipas, but pride inspires atrocity in the cunning king (‘fox’), who would rather swelter in hell, than learn humility. His illicit marriage brought much trouble from Herodias’ ambition, and Herod was later deposed, his wife choosing to go into exile with him, his integrity challenged before the Emperor by his own nephew!
While these disastrous perfidies on all sides proceeded, Jesus soon learned of the barbarous murder of John, and went to a desert place, by Himself. Perhaps this was to mourn, to consider, to experience wisdom in the midst of this terrible conflict with evil.
Yet He had to meet need, for even to that place, the people pursued Him, they left cities to follow Him. Imagine wishing solitude, only to find a throbbing throng of need urging upon you: labour and act! It was Passover time, and religious fervour was strong (John 6:3), and the knowledge of healing pulsed in their midst.
2.QUALITY OF POWER WHEN NEED KNOCKS
Christ did not worry, resent or ignore them. Moved with compassion (Matthew 14:14), He heard His disciples suggest He send the people away, to feed themselves. Jesus however not only provided for those who came to Him, but met their need to the point of convenience, supplying from what had come, 5 loaves and 2 fish, far more than was needed even for 5000 people. In this, He greatly enlarged on Elijah’s miracle (II Kings 4:42) in feeding 100, and using what was natural (the boy’s lunch), He showed that God can multiply our yieldedness in its fruit, many times. It is not power He needs; it is hearts broken in contrition, ready for service, disposed to act (Luke 13:1ff., 14:27ff.).
Thus He was concerned not only in a vast personal tragedy with his relative through Mary, John the Baptist, but in a Messianic crisis in the butchery of that prophet who had announced Him the Messiah (John 1:29). Jesus had then to act after many healings (John 6:2, Mark 3:10, Matthew 12:15), and indeed after even sending out His own power with the disciples as they went to preach and heal (Luke 9:1-6). Thus, we find that when later 70 were similarly sent out, on their return they rejoiced at His works through them, even when He was not physically with them (Luke 10:20ff.).
Thus did events crowd, but He mastered them all.
Having heard of the disciples’ works in His name (Luke 9:10), and of John’s death, and being in hope of solitude, then, it was not long before Christ SAW the people surging out to meet Him, having realised where He had gone. He FELT PITY for them, ARRANGED to meet their needs, beyond normal kindness, and fed them all more abundantly than they could handle! (Matthew 14:20-21). This is our lesson, to have the same spirit of service, self-control, reliability, unselfishness, and to rely on God’s power. Come as a man, Christ showed its availability. Moreover, it is not only service, but this in HIS NAME which is important, so that your time on this earth should not be like some neutral: but buoyed in truth and frank in testimony to Christ.
3.QUALITY OF SACRIFICE WHEN AMBITION ENTICES
With all these healings, and this feeding, the excitement, the drama, the dynamic, the grace of Christ, His compassion, the people were amazed and sought to make Him king! While Christ prayed alone, His disciples left alone in their boat. Then, walking on water, buoyed by power greater than that of gravity, He let them recognise Him. He even allowed Peter to call to Him and attempt to walk on the water to Him, crying, Lord, if it is You, command me to come to you on the water! Knowing Peter, Christ readily saved him from the drowning which threatened, catching him, when that disciple’s faith faltered. This teaches us not to allow circumstances to dictate, to defy ambition and find our work for God and do it! (Matthew 14:22ff., John 6:15). Nothing can get in the way!
If God has directed your work into some field, then nothing is able to prevent it. You may be killed, but you cannot be stopped. Your works follow you. It is only when HE is ready that you may be imprisoned, like John the Baptist, or Paul. That too serves.
It is in the utmost degree edifying and delightful to consider the unbroken spirits, the untiring resolve of those so treated who for a better resurrection and as constrained as God's children, overcome every wall, leaping it, every burden, being lifted into heavenly places themselves, and conclude, complete the work assigned to them. If for a moment, Cranmer, Archbishop recanted before the awful furies of carnal Rome, did he not merely mount the pulpit to denounce it utterly, and then famously burn first his right hand, when Rome gave this interpretation of the Gospel to force his death, as the instrument which, if only for a little, had betrayed him. Thus this action has made more focus than might have been, even if he had not for a small moment, wavered. Ambition must be, if present, to FIND CHRIST's MIND AND WILL FOR YOU, and DO IT! It must ignore the waves and walk on water if need be.
As to that Victor over all temptation for all time, Jesus the Christ, He did not yield even for a moment to the blandishments of notoriety, fame, power or majesty from man. Was not HIS majesty eternal with His Father! What more could this pittance offer! How much less is any bending to man's ploys, or the devil's dictates!
To be KING (which is His place) for the WRONG REASON could not be contemplated; and ‘success’ or wealth for the wrong reason should not even be considered. Christ PRAYED, conquered, and in peace walked to resume His work with His disciples. Since they were at sea, at sea was His path, and He found them amazed as His action. It is not power which lacks, but purity; and in Him, it never lacked.
Dealings with God are in Christ’s name, and with Him who is SPIRIT. One must therefore be purified in heart, and cleansed in spirit, consecrated to His will and work (John 4:23). It is then that all necessary power overturns the tables of the spurious, and conquers the heat of the furious.
4.QUALITY OF GRACE WHEN IMPETUOSITY IMPELS]
As to Peter’s impetuous-seeming act, of asking Christ to call to him to come, walking to meet Him on water, it is not that Christ minded the faith that this could be done: teaching us that to find the work of God and the will of the Maker, yes and the company of our Redeemer, there is NO IMPEDIMENT of any kind which can ever stop us. He calls you ? then come direct to Him, for your need! No, it was not too much faith, but rather that Peter allowed waves and fear to misdirect his vision, so that, looking away from the Lord, he began to sink. He had the wisdom to CALL on the Lord, which is the answer in ANY predicament, especially when serving the Lord and seeking Him, and Christ answered the call as the Lord does (Psalm 145:19, Philippians 4:4-6).
Ready faith like Peter’s is far preferable to distant self-trust, mouthing the Lord’s name but minimizing His power. NEVER allow your principles to overshadow His, and never allow fear to disturb your work or way in and for Him! It was then that Christ, meeting many on the next day, rebuked their sensationalism in seeking Him for food, and turned the occasion into a sermon on the meaning of His salvation, that HE is the living bread from heaven, like manna which sustained them physically – so does He spiritually. Eating His flesh and drinking His blood (John 6:50ff.), the counterpart in reality of the former symbolic sacrifices of the pass over lamb and such offerings, this conferred eternal life. HERE was the sacrifice which the power and person of God provided. It covered sin, it covered vitality like bread, it met thirst, it provided a ransom just and full, and a reality that made entry into His kingdom assured, safe and cost-covered.
Moreover, it is inseparably linked to the resurrection of that same body, for this sacrifice is not of meat, but of the Master, that inured in death, He could endure it, overcome it, break it, take it, and make through its overthrow the coping stone of the archway into life of His Gospel: total triumph in all phases of life, physical, biological, mental, moral and spiritual. It is this Christ who works in us who are His, both to will and to do. If taking up your Cross and following HIM seems 'success Christianity', then we must re-define success apart from this world's measure of it. Yes, it is success, though you die amid calamitous shame from sham judges as have many Christians.
It is success if and ONLY if (IFF as the mathematicians say), you have done what you were called to do, and fulfilled His design for you, yes abiding and obeying. But if in any thing you fail, as Peter did momentarily on the water, that is covered by the cry, "Lord, save me!", for He hears (Psalm 145:17ff.), and answers. THIS barrister is not only the legal representative to answer the charge of death for sin, by admitting we deserve it and paying it Himself, not only the barrister who argues the case with power and truth, not only the Power who resurrects, but the Lord who undertakes, declaring, I will raise you up on the last day (John 6:50ff.), and that you will NEVER THIRST AGAIN! (John 4). These, instead of costs, are his gifts to HIS clients!