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Matt 14-15: Examples of Life in the Kingdom Print E-mail
Monday, 29 August 2005

What does life in the Kingdom look like?  If we are living in the already, not yet reign of God, then what are we to expect?  In the parables of the Kingdom that we looked at last week, we learned, specifically from the parable of the weeds and the net, that for a time in the Kingdom evil will exist along side the children of the King.  We have also seen that Jesus brought healing and power to work miracles to his ministry on earth.  Likewise, the call to respond to the King with faith in all that he has done has been another theme throughout the book of Matthew.  It is these lessons that we see exemplified in Matthew 14-15.

As we identify these examples of life in the Kingdom from Matthew 14-15, I want us to notice how Matthew makes a point and then a counter-point with his narrative.  We see some difficult examples of life in the Kingdom followed by encouraging examples of life in the Kingdom.  This serves to teach us that life in the Kingdom is filled with struggles and victories, difficult times and joyous times, days filled with longing for the King to simply return, along with days filled with glimpses of what life will be like when he does.  Thus, letís look at these examples of life in the Kingdom.

First, we see examples of rejection and suffering.

Matthew 14 begins with the story of the execution of John the Baptist.  The story actually begins with Herod hearing about the ministry and miracles of Jesus.  He concludes that Jesus is really just John, who has come back from the dead.  Then Matthew explains how Herod had had John arrested for speaking out against his relationship with Herodias, his brotherís wife, and later had him executed at his birthday celebration at the request of Herodiasí daughter, who had won his favor by dancing for him and his guests. 

We had talked about a couple of weeks ago that John was struggling while in prison with whether or not Jesus was the expected Messiah or not.  He, like the Jews, was expecting the Messiah to come with justice and judgment and it seemed to John that this was not the case with Jesus.  And now this week, we see the injustice taken even further with the actual execution of John the Baptist.

Yet, we see in all this an example of what Jesus has been teaching about the Kingdom.  Yes, when Jesus came he brought the Kingdom of heaven with him.  Yes, he was and is the promised King of the Jews and he will set up his reign forever.  And yes on that day there will justice and judgment, the wheat will be separated from the weeds.  But what they failed to see was that there would be a time between the inauguration of the Kingdom, or the first coming of Christ, and the actual bringing of justice and judgment, which is still to come at the second coming of Christ.  As Jesus taught in the parable of the weeds, there will be a time when the weeds and the wheat will grow and flourish together.  And in this time there will be difficulty for the true children of God as they live in a world that continues to be plagued by sin and Satan.

This is what we see exemplified in the story of the execution of John the Baptist.  Was John a faithful follower of the Lord?  Yes, even greater than Moses and the prophets as Jesus taught us (see Matthew 12:11).  Was John right in condemning the immoral action of Herod?  Yes, Herodís actions deserved to be condemned.  So, then, how could John be executed at the hands of this wicked King?  The answer lies in the Ďnot yetí aspect of the Kingdom.  We are still awaiting the Day of justice and judgment.  Until that day, even true followers of Christ will suffer as Jesus suffered.

In fact, even Johnís suffering foreshadowed what would happen to Christ.  Look at Matthew 17:12-13.  Even as John the Baptist came as Elijah and suffered at the hands of wicked men, so too, the Son of Man will suffer at the hands of evil men and be rejected.  Thus, we see, even at this point in the book of Matthew, that suffering will be a part of life in the Kingdom.  This is a theme that runs throughout the New Testament writings.  We should not be surprised when suffering comes in our lives for we still live in a time of expectation for the final Day.  On that Day, all wrongs will be righted, but until then, we stand in a long line of those who have been willing to suffer at the hands of evil men for the sake of the Kingdom.

We also see in 15:1-20 the continued rejection of the scribes and Pharisees.  Basically, they had a tradition of washing their hands before eating and could not believe that Jesusí disciples did not obey their tradition.  Jesus turns their criticisms on its head by asking them in 15:3, And why do you break the commandment of God for the sake of your tradition?  His question revolved around their tradition of being able to get out of the command to honor your father and mother by saying that whatever you owed them (seemingly a financial obligation) was being given to God.  Thus, they were using their traditions to get out of their obedience to the commands of God. 

Concerning their question about the washing of hands, Jesus goes on to explain in verses 10-20 that it is not what goes into the mouth that defiles a person but what comes out of the mouth because that flows from the heart.  Thus, we must be wary of what comes out of the mouth and not with some tradition of man to wash our hands before we eat.

Now, it is important that we recognize at this point the real problem of the Pharisees and how it relates to our own struggles.  They had developed traditions that were more precious to them than the commands of the Lord.  The Church today struggles with the same issue.  We go about doing things the way they have always been done, never asking the question whether or not our traditions are in line with the commands of God.  Even in our own Church, my challenge to you is simple: let us govern our Church and carry out our ministries in a way that is obedient to the Word of God.  It is our standard.  And it is not as if traditions in themselves are always bad.  No, in fact, some traditions are very good because they are in line with the Word of God.  All traditions that are not in line with the Word must be forsaken if we really are to be obedient to the commands of God.  Thus, we too, must labor to avoid the error of the scribes and Pharisees.  As we live in the Kingdom of God we must labor to make the Word of God our ultimate authority on everything.  People will continue to question and reject, but our call is to stand firm.

Second, we see examples of the compassion and power of our King.

First, we see Jesusí compassion to miraculously feed the 5,000 in 14:13-21.  After healing many of their sick, Jesus decides to feed these people and meet their physical need of hunger as well.  The disciples, not really recognizing the power of Jesus at this point, could only see a few loaves and a couple of fish.  Yet, they missed the fact that Jesus could take such meager offerings and turn it into a massive feast that would feed 5,000 men and still have food left over.

We also see in 15:32-39 that Jesus repeats this miracle and feeds 4,000 Gentile men.  Look at verses 32-33 with me again.  Jesus tells his disciples that out of his compassion for the people he wants to meet their need of hunger.  This time, apparently completely forgetting about the previous time, the disciples ask: Where are to get enough bread in such a desolate place to feed so great a crowd.  It seems they still had not realized just who they had with them.  They were focused on their limited resources and the size of the problem and paid no attention to the fact that the Son of God was there with them.

Yet, how much do we know of the Son of God, his life, death, burial, and resurrection, and still we doubt his ability to provide for our needs.  We like the disciples focus more on the need and our lack of resources than we do on the greatness of our King.  If we are going to be faithful children of the Kingdom then we must remember just who it is we serve.  He is the God whose resources have no end.  Much like the disciples, we need to be faithful in distributing these resources to those who have real need.

Second, we see the compassion of our King to miraculously heal many.  Three times in these two chapters, we see Jesus healing those who are sick in the crowds.  In 14:14, before Jesus feeds the 5,000, Matthew tells us that he healed the sick.  Then, in 14:34-36, we see Jesus healing the people in Gennesaret.  Also, in 15:29-31, we see Jesus heal many among the Gentiles.  In all of these instances we see the great compassion and miraculous power of our King.


Matthew also tells us of the power of our King in the story of Jesus walking on the water found in 14:22-33.  After the disciples had gotten a great distance off of the shore, Matthew records that Jesus came to them, walking on the sea (v. 25).  I have ridden in a boat across the Sea of Galilee, much like the disciples were doing that night and I cannot help but be amazed at the thought of Jesus walking out on that water.

As we said at the beginning, we see a point and counter-point pattern in these stories.  It is difficult to read of the evil of Herod and the death of John the Baptist.  We see that evil still flourishes in the Kingdom.  It is difficult to read of the Pharisees and their rejection of Christ and the commands of God and to even recognize our own difficulties with the traditions of men.  Yet, this is not all we see.  Yes, life in the Kingdom is filled with difficulties and temptations and battles with evil men, but it is also filled with the compassion of our King and the power of our King.  Even in the midst of difficult times, we must remind ourselves of the great compassion of our King and the great power that is at work in our lives.

Third, we see examples of the struggle to believe.

In the account of Jesus walking on the water, we read that Peter walked on the water as well.  Look at verses 28-29.  Indeed, it is amazing that Jesus walked on the water and now we see that Peter walked on the water as well. 

Yet, that is not the end of the story.  Pick up again at verse 30.  Peter did believe enough to get out of the boat and follow after Christ.  But when he saw the wind, he became afraid and began to doubt.  Before he sank into the Sea, Jesus reached out his hand and saved him.

Let me make a couple observations concerning Peterís faith, or lack thereof.  First, we must remember where we are in redemptive history.  Christ has come, but he has yet to die and be resurrected.  Thus, it is no wonder that they continue to struggle to believe.  We will see with Peterís confession next week that they are fighting for faith and laboring to understand.  Second, before we get overly critical, we must realize where we are in the history of redemption.  We are aware of the death, burial, and resurrection of our Lord.  We have read in Acts 2 concerning the gift of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost.  In fact, we have the whole Bible to read and learn about the greatness of our God and his plan for redeeming his bride.

So then the question comes to us: why do we doubt so much?  Why do we struggle so much with believing that Christ is the King and our relationship with him is more valuable than any other pursuit on this earth?  Why do we find it so difficult to follow after our Lord when trouble shows its ugly head?  We know it is coming, we have been promised that by our Lord.  But when it comes, like Peter, we often struggle to believe.

A second story dealing with the issue of faith is found in 15:21-28.  Here, a Canaanite woman, who would be a Gentile, comes to Jesus and asks for healing for her daughter.  Yet, he tells her that his earthly mission will focus upon the Jews.  Oddly, he then compares the Gentiles to dogs at a table begging for food from children, who would be the Jewish people.  Even though it is strange that Jesus would make such a statement, we see what he is driving at with the womanís reply: Yes, Lord, yet even the dogs eat the crumbs that fall from their mastersí table.  This woman well understood her place before the Lord.  She knew that she was not worthy of her request, be her Jew or Gentile.  Yet, humbly and boldly she pleaded with Jesus for mercy because she knew he could provide.  And provide he did.  Because of the womanís great faith, Matthew tells us that Jesus healed her daughter.

Oh, that we could be honest with ourselves in recognizing that we are not worthy of our Masterís care.  We, like the Canaanite women, are Gentiles.  The promises to the children of Israel did not come to us.  Yet, through Christ, all the nations of the world will be blessed.  And by the grace of God, and that alone, such blessing has come to us.  We must remember, that as we struggle to believe while we wait for the return of our Lord, that faith begins with recognizing just who Jesus Christ is and how desperate we are for his mercy.

Our faith will continue to be challenged as we wait the coming of Christ.  We will continue to encounter complete rejection of our Lord and persecution under evil men.  We will fight with others, and even ourselves at times, to let go of the traditions of men if they are hindrances to our obedience to the commands of God.  In considering such struggles and the examples we see of them in Matthew 14-15, we must be reminded of the compassion of our Lord, who even in a moment of doubt reaches out to care for his disciple.  We must remember his compassion toward physical needs as well as spiritual needs.  We must remember his power to heal and to provide through us for the needs of others.  And we must remember that even though we are nowhere close to being worthy of such love, that even while we sinners and Gentiles, Christ died for us that we might know forgiveness and fellowship with our heavenly Father.  Amen.

~ William Marshall ~

Last Updated ( Tuesday, 21 February 2006 )

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