is, perhaps, unfortunate that verse and chapter divisions were required. With
computer search tools it is much easier to find things these days. The chapter
divisions suggest that there is a logical break point at verse 1. This is not
the case in this session, which we shall take piece by piece.
from there, Jesus went along by the Sea of Galilee, and having gone up on the
mountain, He was sitting there. And large crowds came to Him, bringing with
them those who were lame, crippled,
blind, mute, and many others, and they laid them down at His feet; and He
healed them. So the crowd marveled as they saw the mute speaking, the crippled
restored, and the lame walking, and the blind seeing; and they glorified the
God of Israel. And Jesus called His disciples to Him, and said, "I feel compassion for the people, because they have
remained with Me now three days and have nothing to eat; and I do not want to
send them away hungry, for they might faint on the way." The
disciples *said to Him, "Where would we get so many loaves in this desolate place to satisfy such a large
crowd?" And Jesus *said to them, "How many
loaves do you have?" And they said, "Seven, and a few small
fish." And He directed the people to sit down on the ground; and He took
the seven loaves and the fish; and giving thanks, He broke them and started
giving them to the disciples, and the disciples gave
them to the people. And they all ate and were satisfied, and they
picked up what was left over of the broken pieces, seven large baskets full.
And those who ate were four thousand men, besides women and children. And
sending away the crowds, Jesus got into the boat and came to the region of
(Mat 15:29-39 NASB)
is a fact: if you’re going to convince the average human of something, you
will need his attention first. The method of getting that attention matters
too, for if you get his attention by robbing him, for example, you can convince
him – that you are a thief.
understands this fact. So it is that Christ performs his healing first,
convincing the crowd that here is a man from God (at the very least). But in
every group there are those who are waiting for the main course: feed me. In
our own time we find the “prosperity Gospel” – God wants you to be rich; He
will make you rich if only you will give to His cause, and no better place than
right here in our television ministry. Which brings up the question: what if
God doesn’t make you rich?
usual answers run along the lines of “you weren’t really sincere about
giving.” There’s something to be said for that; but often enough God is
concerned first with your healing. If the wounds of life still bleed, it’s
healing you need, not riches. So if you are expecting riches – monetary or not
– and not getting them, perhaps He is healing you before feeding you.
is a parallel to this in our own lives. Sometimes the sinner walks through the
church door only to find that he is shuffled off to the “right” Bible class.
We are sometimes so anxious to feed that we forget there is healing to be done
first. So it is that we have the example of our Lord to remind us: first
not, and you shall receive
is not usually noted, but see that the crowd does not ask Him for bread. They
may or may not have heard of His feeding the five thousand, but they are
willing to starve themselves (or at least fast) so that they might have His
healing. The phrasing in the Greek here means that Christ was restoring lost
hands and feet; I suspect the awe was at such a level that it would have
seemed inappropriate to ask for such a feeding.
Christ’s compassion flows this way. His blessings do not depend upon our
righteousness but His compassion. Speaking for at least one sinner, I’m glad
that it does.
often works this way; before we perceive the problem, the people of God have
turned to Him, petitioning a solution. So it is that we often find ourselves
puzzled at what God is doing, only to see later that His compassion was meeting
needs we did not feel were important. He knows us better than we know
in the faith
you make the comparison with the feeding of the five thousand, you will see a
growth in faith.
people no longer thought they must touch Him or His garment; it is
sufficient now to lay the crippled at His feet. The example asks the
question: who should we be bringing to Him?
disciples no longer challenge Him as to how this can be done. Not after
the feeding of the five thousand. They’re not sure how it will be done –
but they know He can do it. The example asks the question: are we
telling Him what must be done first?
Pharisees and Sadducees came up, and testing Jesus, they asked Him to show them
a sign from heaven. But He replied to them, "When
it is evening, you say, 'It will be fair weather, for the sky is red.' "And in the morning, 'There
will be a storm today, for the sky is red
and threatening.' Do you know how to discern the appearance of the sky, but
cannot discern the signs of the times? "An
evil and adulterous generation seeks after a sign; and a sign will not be given
it, except the sign of Jonah." And He left them and went away.
(Mat 16:1-4 NASB)
should be noted that the very earliest manuscripts have neither the ending of
the second verse nor all of the third verse. These apparently are additions;
Jerome was aware of the difference, however, and considered the additions
valid. (AD 391-403).
Pharisees – though they would be shocked to understand it – share something in
common with the modern agnostic. They believed they were in a position to pass
judgment upon God. In the Pharisees time this was due to hypocrisy and
arrogance, as they were the “experts” on God; no one knew God better. The
agnostic today relies upon arrogance and hypocrisy; arrogance, in that he
passes judgment upon God; hypocrisy in proclaiming himself a seeker – but only
a seeker after the God he wants, not the God Who Is.
sits in judgment on God; in this manner he prevents himself from knowing who
God really is. It is important to do this; otherwise, He may introduce you to
yourself, sinner that you are. But if know God as He really is, you will
discover yourself honestly – and know that He seeks the wandering and lost.
the signs of the times
tend to fall into one of two categories when it comes to “signs of the times.”
are those who, by the grace of Darby, Lindsay and Peretti, know all the
answers. Everything that is happening in Israel is a sign of the times –
and a lot more outside. Those who follow such a theory often find
themselves with more signs than they know what to do with.
are those who don’t follow such a crowd, and wonder whether or not such
things are indeed signs of the times.
answer is relatively simple: God’s timing is hidden (“no man knows the hour”)
but His plan is not. He tells you that He is returning – and He also tells you
how to behave in the meanwhile:
goof off, but do what you are assigned to do
be a hypocrite; He, after all, is not a false God. Why should you be a
neglect the good works He has commanded you. Analyzing the signs of the
times is no substitute for Christian charity.
no other sign?
why, then, doesn’t God hang out a few signs for the wicked? It would be so
very convenient to have fire and brimstone hit every now and then. So why not?
there are signs and there is seeing. To see God requires the pure heart –
clearly not present here.
you seek God earnestly, he will be found. The question is one of intent.
if you seek only your own good, you will see nothing of the things of God.
of Little Faith
the disciples came to the other side of the sea,
but they had forgotten to bring any
bread. And Jesus said to them, "Watch out and
beware of the leaven of the Pharisees and Sadducees." They began to
discuss this among themselves, saying,
"He said that because we did not
bring any bread." But Jesus, aware
of this, said, "You men of little faith, why do
you discuss among yourselves that you have no bread? "Do you not yet understand or remember the five loaves
of the five thousand, and how many baskets full you picked up? "Or the
seven loaves of the four thousand, and how many large baskets full you picked up? "How is it that you do not understand that I did
not speak to you concerning bread? But beware of the leaven of the Pharisees
and Sadducees." Then they understood that He did not say to beware
of the leaven of bread, but of the teaching of the Pharisees and Sadducees.
(Mat 16:5-12 NASB)
is a connections not often made: little faith means you often “don’t get the
point.” Why should this be?
faith means little obedience. As Bonhoeffer once observed, “Only those
who believe, obey. But it is equally true that only those who obey, can
believe.” Our lack of obedience is often a barrier to understanding what
God is trying to tell us.
we have so little faith (looking forward) we see no sense in looking at
the past to find our faults. We have our children study history for a
faith means little results; little results make us disinclined to ask for
big ones. Given our track record, what else would we expect?
for a variety of reasons, isn’t really the example it used to be. But if I
used the word “cancer” you would see the threat:
like leaven, is a slow, silent and insidious threat. So it is with false
teaching; there are no neon lights to proclaim its arrival.
like leaven, does its work best when the body suffering from it does
nothing – wishful thinking that it will go away by itself. Or perhaps
it’s a refusal to see the obvious. Doing nothing helps false teaching
like leaven, may at first seem like something multiplying good, not evil.
Its victims may start to lose weight, usually welcome in our society.
False teaching often comes with real enthusiasm.
leaven still has one good example for us: when baked in, a hard crust conceals
the airy lightness inside.
such leaven be with us today?
in our church,” is the proud proclamation. The phrase, “Bible believing
church,” is presumed to ward off all elements of false teaching (especially
those of the Bible believing heretics down the street). We don’t see the
problem, staunch Christians that we are. But consider:
Scripture is profitable – so why is this in the Bible if not to warn us of
the dangers of false teaching? This is not Biblical babbling, but a
warning to the body of Christ.
insidious nature of false teaching tells us how it is done: the matter
seems good to most people. Only the stuck in the mud don’t see the
virtues of the new way of looking at things.
we argue, it’s trivial. What difference can it make?
me give you an example of “what difference?” Consider the doctrine of marriage
now proclaimed from the pulpits of Bible believing churches:
- Despite the Bible to the contrary, a woman owes neither obedience
nor submission to her husband. Isn’t this what the church has always
- Despite the Bible to the contrary, men and women are interchangeable
parts – either can be the leader in marriage.
- Despite the Bible to the contrary, our views on marriage really
don’t have any impact on the frequency of adultery, fornication and
surely, you say, surely this is not all that important, is it? We’re modern
people; we know better, right?
then what our picture of marriage has done to the doctrine of the church. The
ancient church – by which I mean from the beginning to perhaps a hundred years
ago – used marriage and Christ’s relationship with his church as logically
interchangeable. You knew the relationship of Christ and the church by looking
at marriage; you knew the ideal of marriage by looking at the relationship of
Christ and the church.
now tolerate adultery nicely; we also tolerate “other” religious views as
being broadminded. The thought that Christ is the only way is viewed as
narrow minded and old fashioned. (Think what this does for evangelism,
woman need only “respect” her husband; the bride of Christ need only
respect Him – no real obedience required. We need only call Him, Lord, Lord.
Obedience is now seen as “legalistic.”
husband was required to be the spiritual leader of the family, as Christ
is of the church. Now, we expect little more than attendance and
tithing. As the church, we expect little of Christ. Perhaps this is why
He disappoints us; we expect too little of Him.