The Feeding of the Five Thousand and Peter Walking on Water – The Miracle Side of the Christian Life is for Everyone
Full Transcript of Matthew #44:
Let me remind you that we’re presently discussing Matthew 14:13 through 16:20. For those of you who were here last time, you saw that we tried to look at that whole big section as a whole. Though it’s made up of several different stories, yet it seems to be connected, and that intentionally by the Spirit of the Lord. I believe the Holy Spirit was deliberately tying those six stories together. I showed last time that they are held together in at least two ways. Let me review that and then we’ll get on with our new material.
All of the stories center around the truth of physical food, physical food meeting the physical appetites of physical men. It’s all about food, I believe, as a picture of the Lord Jesus Christ Himself who is spiritual bread and how He satisfies the spiritual appetites of those who are hungry. The second way all these stories are tied together is by the fact that the Lord is instructing His disciples. He’s teaching them. His disciples are the students. If you read this rapidly you might miss that. It looks like He might be dealing with others. When He fed the multitudes it was more than the appetites of the nine thousand people—you take the five thousand and the four thousand, besides women and children—He was doing more than dealing with them. He was dealing with His disciples.
The same thing was true when He dealt with the Syrophoenician’s daughter. Even there He always had a heart for human need and He always reached out in compassion. But in a special way His students were the disciples. I really believe if you are going to catch the Spirit of this section, then you’ve got to see these events as the curriculum. That’s His study. They are not the students. The miracles that He does here are the exhibits of His teaching. They are visual aids for the disciples’ sake. We use a blackboard or a flannel graft or an overhead projector or a tape or a relic, or something like that, as a teaching aid; something that you can see. The Lord Jesus used these events as teaching aids, something that they could see, and He not only dangled them in front of them, like you do if front of a class, but He involved His disciples in those events. By involving them in those historic events, they were instructed in the great ways of God which, by the way, that method has not changed.
God continues to teach His children in exactly that same way. God involves you in redemptive history. He involves you in the things that take place in your life, and He takes you into certain hot spots, or He engineers certain relationships in your life, or He takes you through some experiences, whether it’s in the fellowship of believers or in the world or in the neighborhood or on the job, or in the family, He’s always bringing you into a different situation, because Psalms says, “Without changes, they fear not God.” So, He’s constantly pouring you from vessel to vessel, so you won’t settle on your lees. He engineers changes, deliberately, in order that He might teach you. He involves you in books and He involves you in tapes and He involves you in conversations and difficulties, so that all through life you might be in class and He might instruct you and teach in the way that you should go, that He might guide you with His eye upon you. He’s always teaching and He’s always instructing and He’s always speaking and He’s always desiring to instill His great unchanging ways into our hearts and lives.
To be sure, our eyes are not always open to that instruction and our ears don’t always hear the voice of the Son of God when we’re going through exams and tests and pop quizzes. Sometimes we get so ministry conscience, so service conscience, that we think God arranges everything for the sake of somebody else; He arranges everything for them. He gave me a chance to witness, and He gave me a chance to share, and He gave me an opportunity to minister unto somebody, or to radiate His gospel. So, He brings me into their lives for their sakes. Sometimes, but I have an idea, not very often. I think it’s the other way around. He brings them into your life for your sake.
He’s constantly instructing His own, those that fear the Lord. He wants to teach you. He wants to instruct you. He wants to enculturate you as His dear child in the ways of God, that we might know Him and enjoy Him and embrace Him and fulfill the fullness of our redemptive experience in union with Him. We get so anxious to be used all the time and to be ministers, that we sometimes miss His voice when He’s trying to teach us. Anyway, in this context, that’s what He is doing. He’s teaching His disciples and He brought at least ten thousand people into their lives in these short chapters, in order that He might instruct them. They had a very little ministry in the lives of those ten thousand, but the ten thousand had a mighty ministry in the lives of these disciples.
In our overall scan of the passage that we looked at last time, I suggested that there were at least three principles that He was trying to teach. Here are the verse divisions again; Chapter 14:13-33, which embraces two stories—the feeding of the five thousand and the miracle of calming the stormy sea (also the miracle of storming the calmly sea). He was teaching the vital truth of union with Jesus Christ. I can’t do, He won’t do it, but together we can and will. Everything depends upon union with Christ. That’s why He wanted to teach them that. The chapter 15:1-20, along with 16:1-12, and here, He uses the Pharisees and the Sadducees as His visual aid, and He instructs them in this great truth; the difference between spiritual things and physical things. In other words, he was giving them a heart line of the true disciple, and everything depends upon inward reality. So, He had to teach them about inward reality, so they wouldn’t get all bogged down in forms and rituals, and just the mechanics. And then in 15:21-39, embracing the story of the Syrophoenician woman and also the feeding of the four thousand, He was teaching them that everything in life depended upon their vision of God. If they had a small vision of God, they’d have a small life. If they had a large vision of God, they would have a large life. And everything depends on that. So, you can see, as a panorama, those are three pretty big lessons; union with Christ, inward reality and your view of God. That’s why He used all these events, in order to burn indelibly into their lives those great truths.
Last time we looked in that panorama—that sweeping way—at those events. So, now what I’d like to do is go back again, as I said I would, and pick them up one by one, and spend a little more time. We’re going to go a little bit deeper and make a couple of observations about those great principles. This evening we’ll only look at the first principle. It’s in chapter 14:13-33. The principle that He’s teaching is “union with Christ.” I think the best way to get at it is to first get the text before our hearts. Matthew 14:13-33,
“When Jesus heard what had happened, he withdrew by boat privately to a solitary place. Hearing of this, the crowds followed him on foot from the towns. When Jesus landed and saw a large crowd, he had compassion on them and healed their sick. As evening approached, the disciples came to him and said, ‘This is a remote place, and it’s already getting late. Send the crowds away, so they can go to the villages and buy themselves some food. ‘Jesus replied, ‘They do not need to go away. You give them something to eat.’ ‘We have here only five loaves of bread and two fish,’ they answered. ‘Bring them here to me,’ he said. And he directed the people to sit down on the grass. Taking the five loaves and the two fish and looking up to heaven, he gave thanks and broke the loaves. Then he gave them to the disciples, and the disciples gave them to the people. They all ate and were satisfied, and the disciples picked up twelve basketfuls of broken pieces that were left over. The number of those who ate was about five thousand men, besides women and children.Immediately Jesus made the disciples get into the boat and go on ahead of him to the other side, while he dismissed the crowd. After he had dismissed them, he went up on a mountainside by himself to pray. Later that night, he was there alone, and the boat was already a considerable distance from land, buffeted by the waves because the wind was against it.Shortly before dawn Jesus went out to them, walking on the lake. When the disciples saw him walking on the lake, they were terrified. ‘It’s a ghost,’ they said, and cried out in fear.But Jesus immediately said to them: ‘Take courage! It is I. Don’t be afraid. ’Lord, if it’s you,’ Peter replied, ‘tell me to come to you on the water.’‘Come,’ he said. Then Peter got down out of the boat, walked on the water and came toward Jesus. But when he saw the wind, he was afraid and, beginning to sink, cried out, ‘Lord, save me!’Immediately Jesus reached out his hand and caught him. ‘You of little faith,’ he said, ‘why did you doubt? ‘And when they climbed into the boat, the wind died down. Then those who were in the boat worshiped him, saying, ‘Truly you are the Son of God.’”
Let me give a little outline of what I’d like to share, and hope to give a little logical connection, so you’ll know where I am. First of all I’d like to give a little background of these two stories, in order that our heart might catch the Spirit of this passage. And then, since the main message that Jesus was teaching is union with Christ, and we developed it last time, I want to show you two keys that are in this passage that help make the message of union with Christ a beautiful and a simple reality to your soul. He’s teaching union and He gives two simple keys on how to enter in to the truth and the beauty of union.
Let me give a little background. Without counting the miracle that took place when Jesus died and rose again… Of course, all the gospel writers—Matthew, Mark, Luke and John—record that, and that is a miracle. But, aside from that, the miracle of the five thousand, where the Lord fed the five thousand, is the only other miracle that is mentioned in all four gospels. It’s in Matthew 14, Mark 6, Luke 9 and John 6. Each gospel writer, of course, lays a special emphasis on different facts, because they are telling a different aspect of the glory of the Lord Jesus.
Matthew leaves out a lot of detail and seems to jump right into the heart of the message, namely union with Christ. For example, Matthew doesn’t say anything about the fact that they used barley loaves. Matthew doesn’t say anything about the fact that Phillip took out his calculator and tried to dissuade the Lord Jesus from doing the miracle. Matthew doesn’t say anything about the fact that Andrew located a little boy who had a lunch, nor does he say anything about the little boy and his lunch. Matthew doesn’t say anything about the fact that after the miracle it was such a great sign, that all of the people tried to take Jesus by force and force Him to be king. He leaves out all of that because he’s talking about a spiritual principle. Later on when you study Mark, he’ll teach you something else. Luke teaches something else, but Matthew leaves out all of those interesting details. He gets right into the heart of it—the truth of union with Christ.
It helps to understand the single message, if you study the two stories together. God put them together. One is a lesson and the other is a test on the lesson, to see if you passed the lesson. One is a classroom, as I suggested last time, and the other is the lab. In the feeding of the five thousand the Lord attempted to teach His disciples a great truth. Notice verse 22, “And immediately He made the disciples get into the boat and go ahead of Him to the other side.” The Greek word for “made”, “He made His disciples do it,” is a very strong word. It means that He constrained them. He urged them. He pressured them. It almost goes as far as to say, “He forced them,” but I won’t say that because He doesn’t force your will, but He certainly knows how to make you willing. He constrained them to go, and I think it’s implied in the Greek word that they didn’t want to go, and He constrained them to go.
The storm was the test and was the exam. They were supposed to learn something in the miracle of the five thousand and the storm was the test as to whether or not they learned it. You say, “How do you know that for sure?” Well, you don’t know it from Matthew’s account, but you know it for sure from Mark’s account. Mark 6:51-52 shows that they flunked the test. “And He got into the boat with them, and the wind stopped, and they were greatly astonished, for they had not gained any insight from the miracle of the loaves.” Boy, their hearts were hard. “When He got into the boat, they were astonished, for they had not gained any insight from the miracle of the loaves.” They failed; they flunked. As soon as He teaches them the principle, He puts them out into the storm. We have an expression, “Back to the drawing board.” Well, the disciples had many trips back to the drawing board, and I think all true disciples have many trips back to the drawing board. He teaches us something and we think we learned it, but we haven’t learned it. He tests it in reality and life—“Back to the drawing board.” And He has to teach us again and again.
What was the lesson that they were supposed to learn at the miracle of the loaves? We summarized it in three words, “Union with Christ.” That’s easy to say; just three simple words, “Union with Christ.” He laid down the principle but when He tested them, they didn’t seem to understand union with Christ. Let me try to get into the matter of union with Jesus a little deeper. I’m going to do a little donkey work here. Bear with me, please, because I think it will help when we get into the heart of what He was saying.
There is no message in all of your Bible, Old or New Testament, more basic than what we can summarize in three words—union with Christ. That’s your whole Bible. You get that in reality, you are done. You are on your way to the millennium. You’ve arrived and are in the suburbs of heaven. The more you get into that truth, union with Christ, the more you are living in the purpose for which you were created and redeemed, by the blood of Christ. There is no more often repeated expression in the New Testament than the expression “in Christ”; “in Christ Jesus.” That was God’s burden since the Garden of Eden. That was always His plan; union with Him, fellowship with Him; “In Christ Jesus.”
What does it mean to be in Christ? What does it mean to have Christ in you? When you begin to read your Bible, especially when you get into the epistles where the truth is fully developed and explained, union with Christ is all over the place. You have the vine and the branches, which is the union of life, the head and the body, which is the union of cooperation. You have the super structure and the foundation, which is the union of strength. You have the husband and wife, which is the union of love. You have the master and slave, which is the union of submission. Even the Trinity in John 17 becomes an illustration of our union with Christ; the union of mystery. Every place you turn, “In Christ, in Christ, in Christ.” 1 Corinthians 1:30, “Of Him are you in Christ Jesus.” By Him you are in Christ. It’s the fundamental idea underlying every other doctrine in the whole Bible. Every preacher and every teacher and every commentary who has ever attempted to sound the depths of the truth of union with Jesus Christ, has felt the inadequacy of words and his mind and his tongue and his clay lips. There is no way to sound the thrill of what it means to be in Christ Jesus. It’s too full to grasp and yet it’s simple enough, that a little child might understand it and lay hold of it.
Believers are in Christ, partakers of all that He does, all that He is and all that He has. We died with Him, and we rose with Him, we live with Him, we’re seated with him, we’re coming with Him, we’re righteous in His righteousness. We are loved with the same love that rests upon Him. We inherit in His inheritance. We are overcomers through the overcomer. We’re sons in His Sonship. We’ll be glorified together one day. Christ is before our eyes, He’s above us, He’s around us, He wraps us all up in every direction, He’s the ground on which we stand, He’s the air that we breathe, He’s the sphere in which we live and move and have our being.
In Christ Jesus the churches are said to be in Christ Jesus. People are said to be in Christ Jesus. The Bible says that we’re bound in Christ, preserved in Christ, saved in Christ, sanctified in Christ, rooted in Christ, built up in Christ, made perfect in Christ Jesus. Our ways are said to be, “ways in Christ Jesus.” We are to have a good conversation in Christ Jesus. Our life is in Christ Jesus. The Bible says that our faith and our hope and our love and our joy is to be in Christ Jesus. We are to think in Christ, speak in Christ, walk in Christ, labor in Christ, suffer in Christ, rejoice in Christ, conquer in Christ; everything is in the Lord. We’re told to receive one another in the Lord. We’re told to marry only in the Lord. We’re told to forgive one another in the Lord. Children are told to obey their parents in the Lord. We’re told to do all things in the Lord. We hold the truth as it is in Christ Jesus. We live in the will of God in Christ Jesus. Some day we’ll lay our burdens down, and when we do, it says, “We die in the Lord. We sleep in Christ Jesus. We’re dead in Christ.” And when He appears, we’ll appear in Christ and with Him we’ll come again.
This is not a doctrine; it’s a life, in Christ Jesus. And yet if you ask the average Christian, since that’s all over the place and since the Bible doesn’t teach anything else, really, what does it mean to have union with Christ? “Well, hmmm, give me a B, another B.” That’s all they know. What does it mean to be in Christ Jesus? Some get very doctrinal and they’ll say, “I’ll tell you what it means. It means to live from God’s viewpoint; how does God see you? That’s what it means to be in Christ. God sees you in His Son.” So, they talk about your standing in Christ and your position in Christ. In Christ He sees you. You are seated in the heavenly places. “How are you in the eye of God?” Boy, you have a free access there. You appear in Him. Those who explain it that way, they go into “the finished work”. It’s all done and nothing else needs to be done. It’s doctrine and it’s finished and it’s settled and it’s over and it’s through, and when God sees Christ, He sees you, because you are united with Christ and are in Christ, and He’s the head, and you’re the body, and He’s the soil, and you’re the root, and you’re in Christ Jesus. And you say, “Oh, that’s wonderful,” but you think in your heart, “What about my sin? How come I keep blowing it?” If all that wonderful truth is really true, how come I’m having such a struggle down here? What does it mean to be in Christ? The fact that God sees me perfect doesn’t really help me when my neighbor slaps me on the cheek. My standing is one thing, but what about right now as I go on?
Others say, “Oh, you can’t deal with it doctrinely. Even though that’s true, you’ve got to rest in it doctrinely; the finished work and how God sees it, and all of that. We’ve got to deal with this mysticly. Instead of talking about a doctrine and about a finished work and appearing representively before God in our federal head, that doesn’t do much for our soul. You’ve got to see that but, you’ve got to also know that there is a living God within. You have Christ living in your heart. The God of the universe indwells your soul and lives in you and He wants to live through you,” they say. So, some have worded it this way, “The more you go on in union with Christ you can stand on the sidelines and actually watch God live through you, and you are just watching and you are just observing. The fact is that you are dead and He’s alive, and He’s alive in you. It’s all Him. He walks in you and He speaks in you and He studies in you and He raises your children through you, and He works through you. It’s no longer you, but Christ, and all you have to do is stay out of the way, and allow the Life of God to flow through you, because He’s in there.”
Some get a little more mystical and talk about a deep inward, sweet, rich fellowship with God; an experience that feels like someone is constantly dipping a jug of honey over inside your soul, just a wonderful sweet experience, and He fills your life and actually grows. He’s in there and He’s growing and He begins to take up the whole landscape of your life. After a while He takes over your mind, and He takes over your will, so that you begin to move as one. You and God are one. In fact, you are so one that you don’t even exist anymore. You are Him and He just uses your body as His temple. I remember one statement that says, “The same eye with which God sees you, you see Him. You’re one.” You can’t mediate on something like that too long. It will blow your mind. You’ll wonder what in the world he’s talking about.
The average Christian, like me, is tempted to throw his hands up in the air in despair and say, “I think I’ll quit on this. I’ll never get it into my soul. The doctrine helps for a while. It comes and goes. Every once in a while I see myself as God sees me and I get a thrill and I get all excited. I do fine for a little while but then I start to blow it again. I get confused about so many things. I wonder why I can’t be more like Him. Everybody talks about this great spiritual life. Of course, the mystical sounds so good, too. It sounds spiritual. I like that. It sounds “unearthy”. It sounds like I’m heavenly minded, or something like that. God is walking around in my body as His temple. That sounds good. The more I let Him, then the more Christ uses me.”
Don’t get me wrong. I love the doctrine of the finished work. I rejoice in how God sees me. I’m not blind. I can see that in the Bible. I rejoice as I stand before you that God doesn’t see me in me, that He sees me in Christ Jesus. I love that truth that 100% of God dwells in me, and not just the Spirit of God. There are verses that show that God the Father dwells in you and God the Son dwells in you and God the Holy Spirit dwells in you. Every Christian has all of God in His heart. That’s thrilling. But it’s a whole lot simpler than that. I like the doctrine and I like the mystical approach, but that just tells you why it works. It doesn’t tell you how it works. The doctrine, that mystical approach, that’s the mechanics of it.
I know how to drive a car. It’s easy. I open the door, I get in, I sit in the seat, I put a little key inside of a key hole, I turn it, put it in gear, and I drive happily away. I know how to drive a car. Let someone open the hood; I’m in trouble. I look inside and I see the mechanics of it; all of the wires, and all of the belts, and all of the gadgets. I admit that I don’t understand the mechanics of a car. Those that know me, know that I’m not kidding when I say that. You can take my mechanical ability and put it in a thimble, and have a lot of room left for a golf game. I know nothing about mechanics, but that didn’t keep me from driving a car for the last twenty years. I enjoy driving a car. I don’t know anything about it, but I do enjoy driving a car.
Union with Christ is to be enjoyed, and not understood. And thousands of Christians go after the mechanics of it, and they get all confused, when all God is really calling them to do is enjoy it, and not understand it. So many Christians are so busy trying to struggle with the mechanics, instead of enjoying the thrill and the simple truth of union with Christ. I don’t know the mechanics of anything, just about. I know how to push a few buttons. Because I’ve learned to push a few buttons on my microwave, I can have hot soup. I don’t know a thing about microwave. I don’t know how it works and I don’t really care how it works, if it heats my coffee, and it heats my soup. I look at a clock and I can tell you what time it is. I don’t know why it works. I don’t understand electricity. I see all of those springs in there and those gears and those levers on the inside, and my head spins. I don’t know anything about it. And I don’t care. I can look at a clock and I know when it’s dinner time. I know how to use it. I can enjoy.
When Jesus fed the five thousand, He was teaching His disciples how to enjoy union with Christ, not how to understand it. He wasn’t giving a doctrine of union. He was giving them the practical lesson on how to drive; how to push buttons, and how to enjoy union with Christ. He didn’t flood their minds with a bunch of technicalities. He didn’t try to lay down before them, “Here’s how the full nature of God, with His unlimited attributes, was satisfied by the propitiation of the finished work of Jesus Christ, and how He shed in a moment of time eternal blood, and crushed eternity into three hours. He didn’t give any of that. He lay down the principle of how to use it, and how to enjoy it, and how to live it. I can’t explain digestion but I know how to eat. I can’t explain respiration; some people can—I can’t. It doesn’t stop me from breathing. I don’t know the great mysteries of reproduction, but I have six children. I don’t understand union with Christ, but I’ve been enjoying it since 1965. And this is what Jesus Christ is telling His disciples. He’s laying down the “how.” He’s giving this great principle, and not the mechanics of it. Praise God, as you go on, and you begin to see how wonderfully it is fit together, and you begin to see the mechanics of it and the great symmetry of the wise plan of God, praise God when you see that. But I don’t start there. Begin with enjoying union with Christ. Take it by simple faith, and then as you go on, study some of those details. But begin where God begins. These disciples were simple folk. The Lord Jesus was not concerned that they have a seminary degree. He wanted them to know the purpose of their creation; the purpose of their redemption. He was telling them the secrets of union.
So much for the background. I told you that I want to show you two keys, open secrets; call them whatever you want. There are two things He lays down here that help get the message of union with Christ into your soul; not the mechanics of it, not the internal working, but the practical every day experience of union. Let me state the first one as a principle, and then go back and try to develop it a little and illustrate it. The first key of enjoying union in Christ, illustrated by these two stories, is stated in a couple of ways. Know that God never expects one single thing more from you than that you be your yielded self; just be yourself, surrendered. Be your yielded self. God has not called you to do miracles. There is a miracle side to your life, but that’s His responsibility. He hasn’t called you to do miracles. He’ll do miracles, but He hasn’t called you to do miracles. Don’t try to do impossible things, like turn the other cheek and go the second mile and love your wife as Christ loved the church. Those are all impossible things. Don’t try to do impossible things, because He hasn’t called you to that. There’s a miracle side to your experience, which we’ll talk about, but you just be your yielded self. Don’t try to be anybody else. For sure, don’t try to be God. Just be your yielded self; just you, who you are, what He’s equipped you with, and what He’s given you. Surrender all you are and all you have to Him. That’s all He’s ever called you to, and that’s all He’s ever expected. He’ll never ask more than that, ever. He never will. That key, if you’ll learn it, and just come as you are, and give what you have to Him, you will begin to enjoy union with Christ, and all the mechanics of the union experience will work beautifully in your life, and you’ll begin to taste and enjoy union with Christ.
Let me illustrate it. The Lord selected this illustration of feeding the five thousand for a couple of reasons. I believe one of them was this, that it was an everyday experience. As I meditated on this I thought it was sort of a waste of a miracle. Here’s what I mean by that. He went through an awful lot of supernatural energy and power (I speak as a fool), and went through an awful lot to do an awful little. I know it’s a great thing to multiply loaves and fishes, but He just provided a meal. A few hours later they’d be hungry again. This was one of those miracles that die away very, very quickly. Certainly by the next day that miracle would have been spent. At least in His other miracles they lasted a bit of a while. I’m sure the blind saw more than a couple of hours. When He healed the blind they probably saw until they died. I think the leper stayed cleansed. I don’t think all of sudden a week later he went back into his leprosy. I think the lame were able to walk all the way to their graves, and the deaf heard. But this miracle was different. He deliberately chose a miracle that would die out in a couple of hours. As great as it was, it was soon over, and they were in need of another one, another miracles, and another meal. I thought if I were Him I probably would have created a tree there, instead, that constantly gave forth fruit. Then, at least I’d have a perpetual miracle. He could have done that easily enough. Everybody could line up and get their food. Next day if they came the tree would still be there giving food. That would be a good miracle. He’d feed the five thousand by doing it.
But I believe He was trying to teach something else. This wasn’t an accident. He was laying down a simple day by day, hour by hour principle. He deliberately chose this kind of a miracle. The other reason that He chose this one is because the details show how absolutely helpless, what an absolutely impossible situation these disciples were in. I almost have to laugh when I read Matthew 14:16, picture yourself there, “And Jesus said, ‘They do not need to go away. You give them something to eat.” We just read that, “la, la, la,” but say you were there, and when you mustered your whole group together you’ve got twelve of you. Twelve of you are there, and there’s at least 10,000 people; five thousand men, and we don’t know how many women and children. Great day, if they had a family like mine, there would be 60,000 there. At least, there were probably twelve or fifteen thousand people there. And He says, so calmly, “They don’t need to go away. You give them something to eat.” Right!
You see, the resources were out of all proportion with the need. Let me show you how nothing these people were. One of the records calls attention to the fact, in John’s gospel, that the loaves that this boy had in his lunch (they amounted to about a pancake, is what they were really like), and they were barley loaves, which tells you a lot about that boy. He came from a very poor family. The average person didn’t eat barley. Barley was what they fed the animals, and when they had these barley loaves, it was a very low grade of food; low quality. You see, the miracle was more than multiplying quantity. I believe the Lord Jesus actually changed the quality of the bread. One reason I know that is that they came back for seconds; because it says, “They all ate and were satisfied.” He changed the quality, as well as the quantity. Not only was it a poor quality of food, but as you know from the record, there wasn’t near enough. It was only a drop in a bucket compared to what was needed. It wasn’t only a poor quality; it was not only an insufficient quantity, but there was no time, really, to meet the need. They had already been out there three days. It was already evening, and even if they shortcut and tried and go and buy enough food, by the time they got back and distributed it, they didn’t have the time to do that. I don’t think anybody would have starved to death. They were close enough to a town and they probably would have gone into town. But, especially if they did it the natural way, like Jesus did (of course, He sped up nature a little)…
Do you realize the processes Jesus bypassed in order to multiply these loaves? He bypassed plowing, and planting, and growing, and reaping, and grinding, and baking. He just did all of that in a moment of time, and He had all of these loaves. You add to the poor quality, the insufficient supply, the lack of ample time–—add to that the disciples, the human instrumentality. These disciples are only men. They can’t do miracles. How did God ever expect them to obey Matthew 14:16? Certainly not in themselves! They didn’t have it in themselves. They confessed, “We’re nothing. We have nothing.” It’s a positive victory when we see that are nothing and have nothing.
Matthew 14:18, “And He said, ‘Bring them here to me.’” “I am nothing; I have nothing.” “Okay, bring it to Me.” “I am nothing and I have nothing.” What happens when you bring it to Him. He breaks it. “Oh, that’s good. Now I’m a broken nothing.” What’s worse than being a nothing? The answer is being a broken nothing. Bring it to Him; He’ll break it, and what will He do with it?” He’ll give it back to you; so now you have what you started with–nothing. He says that now it’s broken, but now He’s done something. Now He has a part, and that’s the part we always worry about, and that’s the part we’re always worried about in the Christian life, the part we’re always anxious about, fretting about and concerned about. Every time we want to know about the Christian life, that’s the part we’re thinking about. How are we going to change the quality? How are we going to change the quantity? How are we going to meet a need? How are we going to minister to others? How are we going to satisfy our hunger? It’s His problem. It’s not our problem.
Our problem is bringing to Him all that we are and all that we have, and that’s it. When we bring to Him all that we are and all that we have, He begins to work with all we are and all we have, and that is usually in terms of breaking us, humbling us, making us weak. All God has ever expected from you is all you are and all that you have. All the rest is His problem. Forget the mechanics of union. Don’t worry about it. Just give Him all you are and all you have, and then you’ll begin to enjoy it. You don’t have to worry about anything else, because when you give Him all that you are and all that you have, all that you are and all that you have receives the anointing, receives the blessing of God, and receives the miracle. So, now you are still you, and you still have what you had, but with the blessing of God; with the unction of God, with the anointing of God. That’s the message of union. It’s no longer you. All you’ve done is given Him all that you are and all that you have and say the same words, “Wow! What a difference it makes!” You do the same acts that you did before you surrendered, but now it has the blessing of God on it, and eternity is stamped on it. You say the same thing and you preach the same sermons, and you write the same letters, and you visit the same people, you talk on the same telephone with the same words, but He changes the quality of it somehow, and the barley is changed into steak. He changes it all around and He begins to multiply it, and pretty soon, while you do nothing, you have a ministry in every family on the earth. It’s amazing!
Union with Christ; you say, “But I don’t understand union.” You don’t have to understand anything. Just give Him all you have, and the rest is His, and He begins to make your whole life a blessing for you, and for everyone who walks in your shadow. Is He doing any miracle? You’re not doing anything; He is. You’re gathering water, and somehow He’s turning it into wine. You are rolling the stone away from the door, and He’s calling back dead people, and Lazarus begins to live. You’re doing the same thing you always did. You just cast the net into the sea, but this time it’s full. Even the breaking; what makes the difference? The answer is union with Christ. What is union with Christ? It’s taking all that you are and all that you have, like they took that little lunch and they gave it to Jesus, and that’s it. That’s union with Christ. Forget the mechanics of it. The mechanics will work out, and when you do that, God takes over and God begins to turn your life into a blessing. You’ll begin to enjoy all those things you read about, and then other people begin to enjoy, and you don’t have to be some kind of a seminary graduate. You don’t have to know Greek and Hebrew. You don’t need to have a big library full of reference material. You just have to have a heart; I am nothing and I have nothing. Break my nothing. Give it to Him and He breaks it and begins to use you.
Brothers and sisters in Christ, don’t make the glorious truth of union with Jesus Christ difficult. It’s not hard. It’s simple. It’s not difficult at all. I’m not saying it’s on the surface. There’s no bottom to it. My, we’ll be in heaven for billions of years, and we’ll still be sounding new depths of the glorious mystery of union with Christ. We’ll never come to the end of that. But to enjoy it, just open the door, sit down, put the key in, turn it, and drive happily away. That’s life in Christ Jesus. You don’t have to try to copy Paul or Peter. You don’t have to try to imitate Christ. You don’t have to try to write a bunch of books or try to try to copy other Christians. You say, “But I have nothing.” What does that have to do with anything? Give it to Jesus. It doesn’t matter if you have nothing. “All I have is poor barley.” So, that has nothing to do with it. It doesn’t matter what you have or what you don’t have. “Oh, but I’m blind. I can’t be used of God because I’m bedridden. I’m paralyzed. I’m lame. I’m divorced. I’m retarded. I’m not a full time worker. I have to work hard in the factory all day. I have no talent. I’m shut in.” So what! That has nothing to do with anything. You take what you are and what you have. You give it to Jesus, and He begins to do things you couldn’t dream are possible. Take those same things without yielding them, and nothing will happen. The same nothing; “I’m going to the nursing home and visiting that lady,” is a waste of time. Yield it to Christ and do the same thing. He’ll make it sound like a thousand thunders in that person’s heart. As He begins to transform you; that’s union with Jesus Christ.
So, it’s simple. Don’t do anything different. Just yield yourself unto Him, and what a joy as He begins to use you and multiply you and break you, and satisfy others through you. That’s the first key; just be your surrendered self. Don’t try to be anybody else. Don’t try to be cloned into a bunch of rules and regulations that somebody has stereotyped and said, “There’s a Christian; he does this, and doesn’t do that, and he doesn’t go there, and he’s with this one and not that one, doesn’t play this game or that game.” Don’t go through those stupid machines that stamp out little dumb Christians that don’t know how to do anything. Be yourself. My, God has created you unique! There is no one like us on the earth. Give yourself to Him, and how he’ll use it! That’s the first principle. Let’s test it. Let’s bring out the ocean, bring out the storm and let’s see if you’ve learned that. It’s easy enough. Just be your yielded self. Nothing hard about that and nothing difficult.
Let me give you the second key, and then we’ll illustrate it through the storm, and then we’ll close. Not only be your yielded self, but let me illustrate it this way through the storm. Know that He is the Lord of your life. Just know that by faith; that He is the Lord of your life. Here’s what I mean. We don’t need to be afraid of anything. He’s the God of the stormy sea, and He hurled the stormy sea into Peter’s life and into these disciples’ life. Notice the fear. Verse 26, “And when the disciples saw Him walking on the sea, they were frightened, saying, ‘It’s a ghost,’ and they cried out for fear. But immediately Jesus spoke to them saying, ‘Take courage, it is I. Do not be afraid.’” Verse 30, “Seeing the wind, he became afraid, and beginning to sink, he cried out saying, ‘Lord, save me.’ And immediately Jesus stretched out His hand and took hold of him and said to him, ‘Oh, you of little faith; why did you doubt?’”
The disciples and Peter were not only afraid of the seeming apparition that they saw in Christ, the ghost, but the storm. I used to think that the big miracle here was Peter walking on the water. That certainly was a great miracle but it’s deeper than that. Peter was afraid. He was scared to death. The storm was threatening their lives and their boat. Jesus walked on the waves, and when Jesus walked on the waves it was designed to show them that there is nothing to worry about, that He is Lord, and is the God of the stormy sea. He is in charge, and He walked on it as the Lord would rule over it. He was ruling the storm. He’s in control. Why did Jesus let Peter walk on the water? I don’t think His point is that you can walk on water, too. I don’t think that’s His point. I think His point is this, Jesus walked on the stormy sea to say, “There’s nothing to worry about. Look, I’m in charge and in control.” But Peter was afraid, and Jesus wanted to give him confidence, and he said, “If it’s really safe, and there’s really nothing to worry about, then let me come out there, too.” And Jesus said, “Come on. I’ll show you there is nothing to worry about.”
His point was not to walk on water. His point is that there is nothing to fear and to come out and test it, if you don’t believe me. So, Peter began to walk out. Then you know the story. He took his eyes off the Lord and he began to fear again. When he began to fear again and see all of those waves and everything around him, he went down again. It’s a glorious picture of union with Christ; not the doctrine of it and not the theory of it, not the mystery of it, but the beauty of it. Union with Christ. When I look in simple faith to Jesus Christ, I know He’s Lord of all. He’s in control. When I look away, I begin to fail and I begin to sink. Fear is an enemy of union with Christ. God’s people are not to be afraid.
If you can get these two keys to union, you’ll be able to drive. If you get these two ideas; I’ll just give everything to Jesus, on one hand, and surrender it all, and then know that everything that happens in your life; He’s Lord, you’ll begin union with Christ. Those two things—it’s so simple! Give all that you are and have to Him, and then know that He’s in charge of everything else that ever takes place in your life. You have nothing to worry about. You are as safe as a baby in its mother’s arms. You need to know that He’s in charge. We need to know that when something happens in our life, it wasn’t an accident and it wasn’t by chance and it’s not luck, and there is no arrangement of the stars, and it’s not fortune. It’s God. The hand that gives is also the hand that takes; blessed be the name of the Lord. It’s God–everything that takes place in our lives. You won’t drown apart from His will. Know those two things and you’ve got the key to union, not the mechanics of it, but the enjoyment of it. Give everything that you are and have to Him, and just know that He’s in charge of everything that comes into your life.
Let me close with the way the Holy Spirit presents the Lord Jesus in this passage. Let me give you four different revelations of Christ. I won’t develop them. They are just suggestions, and you can mediate upon them. Matthew 14:28&29, “Peter, answering Him, ‘Lord, if it’s You, command me to come to You on the water.’ And He said, ‘Come.’” When Jesus said, “Come,” to Peter, Peter represents all the people of God in every age. When Jesus said “come” to Peter, He was giving an invitation for every Christian to lead a supernatural life; a life described by walking on water. Most Christian education teaches you how to swim. It doesn’t teach you how to walk on water. The miracle side of your life is His, and it’s for every Christian, and not just an initiated few, and not just a handful. Every Christian is to walk in union with Christ, so that they find themselves doing impossible things.
Verse 23, “After He sent the multitudes away, He went up to the mountain by Himself to pray. When it was evening He was there alone.” Now, the Lord Jesus sent His disciples into the storm. Let me draw for you a picture of the present ministry of our Lord Jesus. For those who don’t know good art, that’s a boat. The Bible says that the Lord Jesus went to a mountain to pray, and the disciples were on a stormy sea, and there was a distance between the disciples and the Lord. Mark 6:48 says that the Lord Jesus was not only praying, but He was watching. And when He saw them straining at the oars, it says that He then went down among them and walked upon the water. This is the present ministry of our Lord Jesus right now. He has gone to heaven to pray for us as our high priest. He’s at the Father’s right hand interceding, and while He’s at the Father’s right hand interceding, we’re on the stormy sea, and He’s watching us. And when we don’t remember the lessons He’s taught us and we forget the message of union with Christ, and go back to the oars, when He sees us straining at the oars, He is so patient and compassionate, He begins to come down into our experience and into our lives.
The third thing we learn about Him is also in Mark. Mark 6:48 says, “And He intended to pass by them.” He will never force Himself into your life. He walks close enough, so that if you want to, you can see Him. Sometimes you can’t really make out that it’s Him. Sometimes we’re not quite sure if it’s Him. He’ll always come close enough, so that you can invite Him into the boat, no matter how terrible the storm is. This is a wonderful revelation of Christ, inviting all the church to walk that miracle walk upon the stormy sea, our high priest praying for us and watching. He’s so patient when we go back to the oars, and we struggle, and we begin to flunk the exam He takes us through, He says, “Alright.” And down again He comes again and walks by us, but He’ll never force Himself on us. He’ll walk right by us is we don’t invite Him into the boat. When we invite Him into the boat, the storm ceases, and we get a mild rebuke, and He starts all over and He begins to teach us again.
Matthew 14:30&31, the fourth revelation of Christ, “Seeing the wind, he became afraid, and beginning to sink, he cried out saying, ‘Lord, save me!’ And immediately Jesus stretched out His hand and took hold of him and said, ‘Oh, you of little faith. Why did you doubt?’” The Holy Spirit uses the word “immediately”, and He means immediately. Verse 30 says that Peter was beginning to sink. He didn’t sink. I don’t know how far he sunk. To his knees, to his waist, to his shoulders? Did his head go under water? I doubt it. The lightening hand of the Lord Jesus to rescue His sinking children, faith in the hand of God to rescue and redeem, so swift and so quickly. What a revelation of our Lord Jesus Christ! His love is as strong as His power; mighty love. Like these disciples, I speak for myself and not for you (I can guess for you), I have flunked many a test on union with Jesus Christ. It’s so simple. All I have to do is yield all I am and have. All I have to do is know that He’s Lord of everything. It’s so simple; surrender and faith. That’s all it is. And I blow it and go back to the oars, and begin to struggle, and think I can get myself through. Then I take my eyes off the Lord and I look at the circumstances and I begin to go down. In a moment of time, “Help, Lord.” And He’s there every time. And I start again. We have a wonderful Lord. He longed that they would learn the lesson of union with Christ. It’s not hard – not the doctrine of it. He’s going to unfold that later in Ephesians, but now He just wanted them to see the beauty of it, illustrated by the loaves and illustrated by the storm; surrender and faith; yield and trust; give it all to Him and know that He is Lord of all, and you watch what He’ll do in your life. Beautiful, beautiful; Jesus is beautiful. And Jesus makes beautiful things of my life; tenderly, carefully touching me, causing my eyes to see. Jesus makes beautiful things of my life.
Father, we do thank You so much for this chapter. We think of Luke 1:37, “Nothing shall be impossible with God.” Lord, we thank You that it doesn’t say, “Nothing shall be impossible for God.” We know that’s true, but how we rejoice that with You that it becomes possible for us. Nothing shall be impossible for us with God. Teach us union with Christ, the beauty of it, the simplicity of it. We ask in Jesus’ name. Amen