section has a very rare characteristic: it is told in each of the four
Gospels. It evidently was a very powerful experience.
the Five Thousand
when Jesus heard about John, He withdrew
from there in a boat to a secluded place by Himself; and when the people heard of this, they followed Him on foot from the
cities. When He went ashore, He saw a large crowd, and felt compassion for them
and healed their sick. When it was evening, the disciples came to Him and said,
"This place is desolate and the hour is already late; so send the crowds
away, that they may go into the villages and buy food for themselves." But
Jesus said to them, "They do not need to go away;
you give them something to eat!" They *said to Him, "We have here
only five loaves and two fish." And He said, "Bring
them here to Me." Ordering the people to sit down on the grass, He
took the five loaves and the two fish, and looking up toward heaven, He blessed
the food, and breaking the loaves He
gave them to the disciples, and the disciples gave
them to the crowds, and they all ate and were satisfied. They picked
up what was left over of the broken pieces, twelve full baskets. There were
about five thousand men who ate, besides women and children.
(Mat 14:13-21 NASB)
into the desert
so often hear of Christ going away into some desolate place to pray that we
think little of it. But the question must be asked: why this time? It is on
the heels of the news that John the Baptist has been executed; Herod seems to
think that Jesus is John, risen from the dead. Is this simply fear of the
authorities? It is certainly reasonable to think that John’s execution caused
his escape to the desert; but the connection might not be what you think.
is certainly convenient to escape Herod’s clutches. But consider that
Christ leaves no chance to Herod to “add murder to murder.” There is
little chance that Herod will repent; but not “no chance.”
primary reason is this: it is not time. His sacrifice on the Cross is
about a year away. The Divine Appointment will be kept.
it is an example to us. Some of us will stick around to be martyrs to the
cause; but most of us want to run away. Jesus sets us the example of
hasn’t exactly made it easy for the crowds. See what barriers those who want
to follow Jesus had to face:
going after him on foot – in the desert. For those of you who have ever
walked the desert, you know how quickly the urge to give up comes.
is their companion; there is nothing to eat where they are going.
is no surprise, then, that Christ heals the sick among them. But note
carefully: their good work in following Him is not the reason He heals – His
of the old creation
value of this section of Scripture is that it defines, by example, two
different kinds of miracles. This is a miracle of the old creation; a point
which may be determined by its action.
loaves are divided and then are multiplied. Isn’t this a picture of the
natural method? Barley seeds (the pieces) are planted and much barley
grows, making for more bread. As it is with the seed, so with the Master.
loaves are given to the disciples to give to the people. God speaks to
the people only through His children.
a principle of the Christian life: Christ often starts with what you will
bring to Him, and then multiplies it in kind.
He made the disciples get into the boat and go ahead of Him to the other side,
while He sent the crowds away. After He had sent the crowds away, He went up on
the mountain by Himself to pray; and when it was evening, He was there alone.
But the boat was already a long distance from the land, battered by the waves;
for the wind was contrary. And in the fourth watch of the night He came to
them, walking on the sea. When the disciples saw Him walking on the sea, they
were terrified, and said, "It is a ghost!" And they cried out in
fear. But immediately Jesus spoke to them, saying, "Take
courage, it is I; do not be afraid." Peter said to Him, "Lord,
if it is You, command me to come to You on the water." And He said, "Come!" And Peter got out of the boat, and
walked on the water and came toward Jesus. But seeing the wind, he became
frightened, and beginning to sink, he cried out, "Lord, save me!"
Immediately Jesus stretched out His hand and took hold of him, and *said to
him, "You of little faith, why did you
doubt?" When they got into the boat, the wind stopped. And those
who were in the boat worshiped Him, saying, "You are certainly God's
Son!" When they had crossed over, they came to land at Gennesaret. And
when the men of that place recognized Him, they sent word into all that surrounding district and brought to Him all
who were sick; and they implored Him that they might just touch the fringe of
His cloak; and as many as touched it
(Mat 14:22-36 NASB)
this might strike you as unimportant; but let’s look at the disciples, first.
Their actions and attitudes form the background for Peter’s actions.
had to send the disciples away. They went unwillingly, but obediently.
He had to make them get into the boat.
are sent into the storm – so that they will know on whom they should
call. We teach our children to dial 911; He teaches His disciples much
action is in the 4th watch – approximately 3:00 AM to 6:00 AM.
They have been obliged to struggle throughout most of the night.
our Lord puts us in the boat, sends the boat into the storm and lets us
struggle until, in His time, He comes to our rescue.
is a man of action, if nothing else. We may learn from his actions how we are
to behave as well.
starts with the lordship of Christ . He won’t come out of the boat except
by the command of his Lord. But he has the courage to ask that the
command be given.
still not sure if it is Jesus – but he is sure of Jesus.
there is one picture we may gain from this episode, it is this: fear and
faith are opposites. Often our problem with faith is not doubt – it’s
demonstrates something that may surprise Christians: one man can be both
strong and weak in the faith. Would you have the courage to ask that the
command be given? To walk on the water? Would you then be so weak as to take
counsel of your fears? Strong and weak in the faith – same man, same time.
reaction to Peter (and the disciples) is instructive:
Peter begins to sink, He does not chide him for his lack of faith.
Rather, He reaches out to save him. Everyone who calls on the name of the
Lord shall be saved.
too, that only after He gets into the boat does he calm the storm –
and then it’s a short trip to harbor.
only after the storm they worship Him as the Son of God. Like many of us, they
wait until the storm is over to praise God.
is a miracle of the new creation – the creation coming at Christ’s return. He
walks on water; He passes through locked doors after the Resurrection. We
know little about it, but it seems that some direct control over nature is
implied. Someday we will know. Soon, please Lord, soon.
is a good deal of misunderstanding about miracles, especially in this
scientific age. You will often hear something like: “Miracles are
scientifically impossible, and therefore they don’t happen.” This is a
tautology. It presumes its conclusion. Imagine the sequence as follows:
definition of “miracle” is something which appears contrary to the known
laws of the universe. Both the incidents listed here qualify.
have a book that records many miracles.
miracles are scientifically impossible; therefore the book must be false.
there is no historic evidence for miracles.
they never happened.
you see that step three presumes the conclusion? It’s a logical fallacy which
used to be familiar to Americans. But we decided to make high school geometry
more relevant – and stopped teaching logic therein.
I give you a non-miraculous parallel? Consider the Yeti – the “abominable
snowman” of the Himalayas. Scraps of evidence surround many physical sightings
of this creature. Yet the biologists insist (and rightly) on a full specimen
before they will believe the creature is real. It is not unreasonable to
believe that the Yeti exists (from the historical evidence); it is not
scientifically proven, either.
source records of the miraculous are historical, not scientific. Let me give
you an example of why this must be. A few days ago, the Los Angeles Times, in
its role as bulwark of the truth, published the results of a scientific study.
In this study, two groups of patients having serious illnesses were selected.
One group was simply there as a comparison; the other group names were passed
on to devout Christians to be prayed for. The results were then compared.
may come as a surprise to you to find that the study concluded that prayer had
absolutely no effect upon the outcome for these patients. This sounds odd at
first (prayer changes things) but it isn’t. God is not fooled by the labels.
This is an attempt to manipulate God and measure the results. Such a god is
one who can be commanded by men – if you have the right incantation.
if God is who the Scriptures describe, He is far above our puny experiments.
Would He not be insulted by the arrogance of the investigators? They, after
all, are trying to manipulate the God of creation. Hint for you fellows: it
is the central problem of any experiment purporting to determine the existence
or characteristics by scientific means. God is not “the force”. As Richard
Feynman once pointed out, such an experiment is doomed from the start. The
basic method of science is to set up two identical situations, and for one of
them you have God, and in the other you don’t. The problem with this is simply
this: if God doesn’t exist, how do you turn Him on. And if He does exist, how
do you turn Him off?
and magic, twins
has the same presumption as magic: if you manipulate things in accordance with
the laws of the universe, you can produce desired results. Either with the
right chemicals or the right incantation, there is power. The only real
difference is that, in western civilization, magic doesn’t work very well –
then, how is that miracles can possibly happen, given our faith in science?
There are two common explanations:
puts it this way: there is a hierarchy of natural laws. Miracles appeal
to higher ones; daily life is run by the lower ones.
S. Lewis (after Boethius) put it this way: miracles are an injection into
reality by God. Drinking too much miraculous wine makes you drunk, not
is all this important?
this: the church is at a crossroads. Either miracles happen or they don’t.
Either the histories are right or they’re not. In particular, two miracles are
intrinsically linked with orthodox Christianity: the Incarnation and the
Resurrection. If there are no miracles, then Christ is not God in the flesh.
If He is not God in the flesh, he is not an acceptable sacrifice for sin. If
He did not rise from the grave, then everyone who believes in Him is a complete
fool. It’s that important.
church has come to the point in the last fifty years where she must either
embrace or explain away miracles. Those who embrace them stay within the ranks
of orthodox Christians of all times.
who do not find themselves without a compass. They can no longer trust the
Bible; it is no wonder that they find themselves picking and choosing the bits
and pieces of Christianity (and other religions) as they see fit. But do you
not see that this puts the purported Christian in the position of judging God?
It appears that all religions are equally valid; but as Orwell might have put
it, some are more equally valid than others.
touched the hem of His garment; we touch His body and blood. They believed
and took hold. As for us, …