From the first six verses of this chapter, we learn about the evils which arise from yielding to prejudice. In Nazareth, the place where our blessed Savior had grown up and been known as a carpenter, the minds of the people were prejudiced against Him. It is one of the infirmities of our corrupt nature that we are all liable to be thus influenced in our opinion of others by very trifling circumstances. Upon hearing our Savior preach, the Nazarenes were astonished at the excellency of His discourse. They acknowledged that His wisdom was evident, and that His miracles were true; and yet they had no respect for Him. They would by no means listen to Him for instruction, or believe what He said, because they were prejudiced against Him on account of His lowly birth. In fact, they refused to acknowledge Him as the Teacher Who was sent from God – even though He gave sufficient proofs to satisfy any candid mind. So entirely had these Nazarenes closed their ears and eyes against believing the truth, that the text tells us that Jesus could do no mighty work among them (verse 5).
Just as our blessed Lord sent forth His Apostles with instructions to travel about during the days of His earthly ministry, and call upon all men to repent (verses 7-13); He has now appointed Gospel-ministers, who preach the same message of mercy. But if people do not repent and believe the Gospel, it would be better for them to have never been born. Sodom and Gomorrha were cities that were so notoriously wicked that God poured out His wrath upon them in a most unusual manner. Nevertheless, we are clearly told by our Lord that for those who turn a deaf ear to the preaching of His ministers, a heavier woe is prepared. Let us take heed. If the Jews refused to listen to the Apostles’ call to repentance, and they were to fare worse than the inhabitants of Sodom and Gomorrha; then how shall we escape if we neglect to listen to those preachers who not only show us the necessity of repentance, but who also tell us of the finished work of Christ? They tell us how He purchased heaven for us with His precious blood, and how He now offers it to us as a free gift – if we will only accept it with a thankful heart!
From the recap of the narrative of King Herod’s murder of John the Baptizer (verses 14-29), we may learn the danger of not going far enough in religion. We are told that he listened to John with pleasure, and did many things in obedience to his instructions; but he was not willing to be thoroughly guided by him. If we stop short of an entire surrender of ourselves to God’s commandments; and if we are unwilling to listen, in any one particular, to the voice of conscience – our religion is of no value at all. If there is any one thing which you know to be wrong, and yet indulge in; be assured that in this one thing, Satan has a hold over you, which he will use for his own advantage. By gradual steps, he will make you entirely his slave unless you immediately make a serious resolution – in the strength of the Lord – to cast off his power, and to give yourself up entirely to the guidance of conscience and the teaching of the Holy Spirit.
No one can attentively read verses 30-34 without being deeply moved by the extreme tenderness and compassion of our loving Savior. When the Apostles returned and told Him all that they had done, how kindly He felt for them! Since it was evident that they had labored hard and were weary, He said, “Come ye yourselves apart into a desert place and rest awhile.” And no doubt He also equally needed repose. Yet when the multitude of people who constantly followed Him perceived His plan, and when they saw that He had taken a boat to cross the lake; they ran speedily around it, so as to get to the other side before Him. And thus, upon landing, He was still in a crowd. But did He find fault with them for coming to Him when He wanted rest? No! Such was His pity for them, that instead of complaining of their troubling Him, He laments over them as sheep without a shepherd. He saw that they were teachable, and willing to be led like sheep; and He knew that they only needed someone to guide them. So, forgetting His own weariness, He immediately began to teach them many things.
The miracle of feeding these 5,000 men with five loaves and two fishes (verses 35-44) is the only one of our Lord’s miracles that is recorded by all four of the evangelists; and from this fact, we should be led to consider it as having very great importance. It was surely the most convincing of all His miracles to those who witnessed it because they all personally experienced the benefit of it, and nothing affects our minds so much as that in which we have a personal interest. If there had been 5,000 persons present to witness the raising of the widow’s son in Nain, they would not so easily have been convinced of the miraculous power of Christ as when they were all fed and fully satisfied in a desert place, with only five loaves and two fishes – and when they saw that there was more remaining after they had all eaten, than there was before they began to eat! There could be no deception here; they must have been quite sure that their needs were perfectly satisfied; and they must have also been certain that He Who had thus multiplied the small supply of food, in such a place, must have the power of God.
Now, for our own comfort, let us think frequently of the power and love of the Savior in working this miracle in order to supply the temporal needs of His followers. It ought to increase our faith in Him, and our dependence upon Him. We are often in great need of support. We feel as though we were in a desert place. Trials of various kinds arise continually, making it most necessary that our faith should be strong in the Almighty power of the only One upon Whom we can depend. When doubts and fears arise, let us turn our thoughts to this miracle which converted five loaves and two fishes into a supply for well over 5,000 men – perhaps representing a crowd of as many as 20,000 or even more, when we consider the number of women and children who were also present! Let us remember that this same power and love is watching over us at all times; and if we suffer from the lack of anything, it must be for a wise reason. For a time, it may be good for us that our faith and patience should be tried; but in God’s own time – and that is sure to be at the best time – relief will come! Perhaps we shall see reason for wonder at the unexpected manner in which our trouble will be brought to an end; it may be by means as little expected as the multiplying of loaves and fishes. However dark and distressing our path may be, let us call to mind this miracle – which has been told to us four times over, in order to deeply impress it upon our minds! And with the remembrance of it, our hope will be enlivened, our faith will be increased, and our patience will be called into exercise.
Immediately after feeding the crowd, our Lord “constrained his disciples to get into the ship” (verse 45). That word constrained leads us to conclude that they wished to be with Him; but nevertheless, He obliged them to leave Him. It was good that He should be alone for a time, so that He might enjoy prayerful communion with His Father and the Holy Spirit. And it was good for the disciples that they – for a short time – should be tossed upon a tempestuous sea, and left to struggle with a wind that was contrary. Similarly, it often happens that the true Christian feels a longing desire to be with Jesus Christ, and to serve Him in a manner which he cannot do while on earth; but still he is constrained to abide here below, and to struggle on – battling with the waves of trouble, and toiling to overcome the adverse winds which resist his progress heavenward. The remains of indwelling sin and the force of powerful temptations make his course on earth more or less like a very tempestuous voyage. How thankful we ought to be if, by the grace of God, we do feel a desire to be with Christ! And we ought to thank God if He has also led us to feel the evil of sin, and the unsatisfying nature of all earthly things. Why? So that we may be determined, no matter what the cost of toil and difficulty may be, to reach the haven of rest – the heavenly Jerusalem. It is a blessed thing to be found truly toiling against sin, even though the struggle may be painful. For a time, it may be easy and pleasant to let the current of worldly opinions guide our course; for there is no need for toiling and struggling, when we allow ourselves to float along according to the fashions of the world and the practices of those around us. There is no contrary wind to battle with when we quietly yield ourselves up to the force of every temptation. This may seem to secure us an easy and happy course over the sea of life. But where will it end? To what shore is the current bearing us along? Alas! Few will stop to consider and answer these questions.
But just as in the case of the distressed disciples on the Sea of Galilee, relief and consolation will come to the mourning Christian in due time! About the time of the fourth watch of the night (between 3:00 and 6:00 AM), Jesus came to His disciples – walking upon the sea. He saw their distress, and hastened to their relief. “Be of good cheer,” He said; “it is I; be not afraid!” And He got up into the boat with them, “and the wind ceased” (verse 51). So also, in the darkest night of trouble, Jesus is not far from us. He is walking by our side upon the rough billows, and He is watching for the right moment to bid the waves of sorrow to cease. Therefore, in faith and patience, let us wait for the happy hour when the storms of life shall have passed away forever!
When Jesus and His disciples landed on the shores of Gennesaret (verses 54-56), He was received with the greatest delight by the people of that country, on account of the miraculous cures which they expected that He would perform. Wherever He was known to be, the sick and afflicted were brought to Him to be healed; and they were not disappointed of their hopes. It is said that the people “knew him” (verse 54). They knew both His power and willingness to give relief. O that we, too, would know the Lord – all of us! To know Him is everlasting life. If we know His willingness and power to heal our sin-sick souls; and if we come with faith, so as to touch (so to speak) just the hem of His garment – then we shall be made perfectly whole. And then, when we ourselves have learned to know – by sweet experience – that the Lord is gracious, we shall wish others to know Him also! The zeal which the people of Gennesaret showed in bringing their friends to Christ is a great lesson to us. We are told that as soon as they knew of His having landed upon their shores, “they ran through that whole region round about, and began to carry about in beds those that were sick, where they heard he was.” In fact, there was a great excitement, for they felt that they had a valuable opportunity which was not to be lost. Nothing could be greater than the kind anxiety which those who were in health showed for those in sickness. In the same manner, will not all who have life and health in their own souls seek out and try to save those who – by reason of the disease of sin – are ready to perish? If there is enough kindness of heart among worldly people to make them endure fatigue and trouble on behalf of the sick and afflicted; surely there will be enough love in hearts that are renewed by the power of Divine grace, to make the real Christian willing to suffer anything in order to save an immortal soul! But let us remember that in order to present Christ to others, we must first have a saving relationship with Him ourselves.
O Lord Jesus, we praise You for the record which You have given us in His Word of the miracles which You have done, for that which You have done at one time is an index to what You will do again when emergencies arise among Your people! Amen.
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