1 – Matthew 14:13-14 (ESV) 13 Now when Jesus heard this, he withdrew from there in a boat to a desolate place by himself. But when the crowds heard it, they followed him on foot from the towns. 14 When he went ashore he saw a great crowd, and he had compassion on them and healed their sick.
RAF: There is no question that Jesus withdraws at least in part to deal with His own personal grief. John, above all others, knew who Jesus was, and shared the most with Him. He paved the way for Him. He was His cousin, and uniquely called to his prophetic office in direct connection with Jesus. Now, John was senselessly and brutally murdered because a spineless, immoral political leader driven by impulse at the sight of a young girl acting lewdly for his illicit pleasure – didn’t even have the decency to stop himself in the face of something so heinous. So it is, upon hearing this news, Jesus withdrew. But look at how wonderful our Savior is. Withdrawing in these moments, nevertheless, refusing to shut His heart at the sight of these people. He does not let His own grief destroy His compassion for them. Still, He meets out mercy, while reeling from the blows of such wickedness. This is our Lord.
2 – Matthew 14:15-18 (ESV) 15 Now when it was evening, the disciples came to him and said, “This is a desolate place, and the day is now over; send the crowds away to go into the villages and buy food for themselves.” 16 But Jesus said, “They need not go away; you give them something to eat.” 17 They said to him, “We have only five loaves here and two fish.” 18 And he said, “Bring them here to me.”
RAF: Scant resources are no barrier to meeting great needs, when they are given into the hands of our God, and consecrated to His ends. He will be glorified in our lack – if we look to Him in it. Trust Him.
3 – Matthew 14:22-24 (ESV) 22 Immediately he made the disciples get into the boat and go before him to the other side, while he dismissed the crowds. 23 And after he had dismissed the crowds, he went up on the mountain by himself to pray. When evening came, he was there alone, 24 but the boat by this time was a long way from the land, beaten by the waves, for the wind was against them.
RAF: Obedience to Christ is no barrier to trial, danger and struggle. This scenario will be repeated in the lives of His disciples both in similar circumstances as well as in very different ones. There they were, doing what He had specifically asked, while facing inhuman and insurrmountable opposition. It is in these hours we are to look for His visitation.
4 – Matthew 14:29-30 (ESV) 29 He said, “Come.” So Peter got out of the boat and walked on the water and came to Jesus. 30 But when he saw the wind, he was afraid, and beginning to sink he cried out, “Lord, save me.”
RAF: Could there be a more eloquent prayer? It is but 2 words in the Greek – “Lord! Save!” It wasn’t dismissed for its brevity. It wasn’t ignored because it was uttered in terror. It wasn’t denied because the very thing which occasioned it was lack of faith – but it was answered because it was directed at our Lord. Because Christ is a Christ who saves those who call upon Him. Because He is merciful. Because He is faithful. Because He is compassionate. Because He is full of grace. Because He loves us. It is not the power or glory of our prayers – but the wonder of the One we pray to.
5 – Matthew 15:10-11 (ESV) 10 And he called the people to him and said to them, “Hear and understand: 11 it is not what goes into the mouth that defiles a person, but what comes out of the mouth; this defiles a person.”
RAF: Several great matters are being dealt with here. First, there is the necessary distinction between tradition – man made rules, and commandments of God. Man made rules are not to have the same authority over us, especially when they may contradict God’s commands – as is the case here. Irrespective of this, we are clearly exhorted here NOT to be teaching merely human rules (v. 9) as it vacates our worship – renders it vain.
The second issue at hand is to recognize that even in God’s commands regarding certain foods, it is not the food itself which carries some defiling property to it, but the command of God that is at the crux of it. Here, eating with unwashed hands was not even God’s command. What is going on in the heart? What is proceeding from it? This is what must be paid attention to.
6 – Matthew 15:21-28 (ESV) 21 And Jesus went away from there and withdrew to the district of Tyre and Sidon. 22 And behold, a Canaanite woman from that region came out and was crying, “Have mercy on me, O Lord, Son of David; my daughter is severely oppressed by a demon.” 23 But he did not answer her a word. And his disciples came and begged him, saying, “Send her away, for she is crying out after us.” 24 He answered, “I was sent only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.” 25 But she came and knelt before him, saying, “Lord, help me.” 26 And he answered, “It is not right to take the children’s bread and throw it to the dogs.” 27 She said, “Yes, Lord, yet even the dogs eat the crumbs that fall from their masters’ table.” 28 Then Jesus answered her, “O woman, great is your faith! Be it done for you as you desire.” And her daughter was healed instantly.
RAF: No man or woman is to imagine God owes them anything. He owes us nothing. His salvation is free, all of grace, all of mercy. And this it seems, is what gave this woman her boldness. She had no promise to stand upon, since the revelation that the Gentiles were to share in Abraham’s inheritance by faith had not yet been openly given (though prophesied in Gen. 12:1-3). What then is her appeal based upon? She had seen Him act in these ways toward others. And if she had not witnessed it herself, she believed their reports. And this is the essence of faith – believing the report about Christ. She saw or heard that He had compassion on the sick, the oppressed and the needy. She believed He had the power to do what she needed. And so undaunted, she sought Him out. And her faith was rewarded with what she asked for. How instructive for us all. Maybe you are lost in your sins today, and are outside the company of the redeemed. Have you seen how God forgives sins for Christ’s sake? Have others told you of His mercy and grace toward them? Do you believe that He has the power to forgive sins? Then flee to Him! Cast yourself before Him. Cry out for His mercy upon your soul. You have more reason to trust than this dear woman. The Word of God says clearly He was sent to save lost sinners. If this is you – if you know your guilt and your shame; If you have left off any attmepts to justify yourself and know that you need to be forgiven, cleansed and reconciled to God – then come to Him! Apply to Him! Plead with Him! He will not leave you waiting. His promise is true. His compassion remains. Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and you WILL be saved.
7 – Matthew 16:1-4 (ESV) And the Pharisees and Sadducees came, and to test him they asked him to show them a sign from heaven. 2 He answered them, “When it is evening, you say, ‘It will be fair weather, for the sky is red.’ 3 And in the morning, ‘It will be stormy today, for the sky is red and threatening.’ You know how to interpret the appearance of the sky, but you cannot interpret the signs of the times. 4 An evil and adulterous generation seeks for a sign, but no sign will be given to it except the sign of Jonah.” So he left them and departed.
RAF: When men are unwilling to see the obvious, then we can do little for them.
8 – Matthew 16:17-20 (ESV) 17 And Jesus answered him, “Blessed are you, Simon Bar-Jonah! For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my Father who is in heaven. 18 And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it. 19 I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.” 20 Then he strictly charged the disciples to tell no one that he was the Christ.
RAF: When we know we are acting upon the revelation of God’s Word, then we need not fret that we will be walking and acting outside of God’s will. To let His revelation govern all we think and do, will find us making decisions and living in such a way that providence is rightly fulfilled, even when do not have the “answers” right in front of us. Frame your life according to the revelation of Christ – His plan and His purposes, and your steps will be ordered.
9 – Matthew 17:19-21 (ESV) 19 Then the disciples came to Jesus privately and said, “Why could we not cast it out?” 20 He said to them, “Because of your little faith. For truly, I say to you, if you have faith like a grain of mustard seed, you will say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move, and nothing will be impossible for you.”
RAF: We are wont to think of faith in terms of quantity. Perhaps we think this way because we conceive of Jesus’ word regarding “little” faith – as though that is quantitative. Here, Jesus dispels that idea completely. It is not that the disciples needed greater faith, that but the size of the tiny mustard seed would do. It is that it must be exercised, rested fully upon God. Indeed, the word rendered “little” here is more often translated “few” in the New Testament. It is faith not utilzed everywhere it can be. We believe for this, but not for that. We trust God in some things, but not in all things. We only believe in a few areas, not in many. Oh Father, grant that our eyes might be opened, to trust you in everything, everywhere, at all times. For it is not our faith in and of itself that accomplishes anything – but the One we have faith in – You.
10 – Matthew 17:24-27 (ESV) 24 When they came to Capernaum, the collectors of the two-drachma tax went up to Peter and said, “Does your teacher not pay the tax?” 25 He said, “Yes.” And when he came into the house, Jesus spoke to him first, saying, “What do you think, Simon? From whom do kings of the earth take toll or tax? From their sons or from others?” 26 And when he said, “From others,” Jesus said to him, “Then the sons are free. 27 However, not to give offense to them, go to the sea and cast a hook and take the first fish that comes up, and when you open its mouth you will find a shekel. Take that and give it to them for me and for yourself.”
RAF: We see a most striking balance in our Lord here. When it came to truth, especially the truth of the Gospel or about God, Jesus didn’t hesitate to offend anyone or everyone. But when it was not such a matter, here, in what is nothing more than a social custom, Jesus is concerned not to give any needless offense. This is greatly instructive to us. For we are ever needing to be clear which hills are those to die upon, and which are not so grave. It also gives us occasion to be reminded that in the whole of the New Testament, neither Christ nor His Disciples are ever recorded as having been offended or taking offense themselves. And they were most certainly ill-treated. This tendency to take offense it seems is found only in their opposers. I wonder at how easily, I, we, in this generation make so much of offenses. Percieved or real ones. We imagine ourselves wounded at almost every turn. Something conspicuously absent both in our Lord and those who suffered with Him. Perhaps the ease of our circumstances, the “rights” upon which our society prides itself, the general acceptance we have as Christians – which opens us to precious little true persecution – has made us imagine the world (and people in general) owe us some level of courtesy and regard. Our skins grow exceedingly thin. Every bump is considered battery. Every slight, real sin. But this is not the Biblical model. We are to be more concerned with not giving unnecessary offense to others, than whether or not they may offend us. We, are about to inhereit eternity. And will we wrangle with one another over momentary sensitivities?