There are many things we can glean from Matthew 14, but there is one over-arching truth that springs off the page, and it is this: Our worship of Christ is a reflection of our belief in Christ. We could also put it this way: What we believe about Jesus will determine everything about how we worship Jesus.
Finally, Jesus meets needs in us in that He is the Messianic host. Many scholars believe that Jesus' feeding of the crowds was a foretaste of what He talked about earlier (Matt 8:11) concerning those who would recline with Him in the kingdom of heaven to enjoy a feast (Osborne, Matthew, 566). For every soul that is hungry to be satisfied, and for those who have tried to fill their stomachs with the things of this world only to come up empty every time, Jesus invites you to taste and see that the Lord is good (Ps 34:8). He alone is able to meet the needs of our souls.
Jesus not only meets needs in us, as if that weren't enough, but Jesus meets needs through us. If the point of this story was only to show us Jesus' sufficiency, He could have called down bread from heaven right into people's laps. The people would have seen and maybe even recognized Him as the new Moses. However, Jesus not only prays for the193 Father's blessing, but He also calls His disciples to do the serving. Jesus did not give out a single piece of bread; instead, He gave the bread to the disciples, and they distributed it. We're not told exactly how this miracle took place, so we can only imagine how five loaves suddenly, or maybe slowly, began to multiply from Jesus' hands into the hands of the disciples and eventually into the hands of the crowd. So yes, Jesus alone is sufficient to meet needs in us, but He is also gracious to use us to meet needs in others. Disciples of Jesus are an extension of Christ's mercy and His miraculous power.
How might this miracle impact you where you live? Are you surrounded by needs among the people you live with and work around—in your own city and across the world? Are you aware of urgent spiritual and physical needs? If so, do not think, "Well, what can I do about it? I have so little." Follower of Christ, you are standing at Niagara Falls! Don't you see that there is plenty of water? Jesus stands ready to meet the deepest needs of our souls and to use our lives, with all of His resources at our disposal, to meet others' needs. Oh, let us be the most generous, giving, serving, sacrificing, proclaiming people on the planet as an extension of the mercy and miraculous power of Christ. May He use us for the good of others and the glory of His name.
As Jesus' disciples learned to reflect His compassion and rely on His resources, they also learned to receive His blessing. Can you even imagine the blessing of being involved in this miracle? You initially saw five loaves and two fish, but then you passed out loaf after loaf and fish after fish to thousands of people without knowing where it was coming from. It's hard to fathom the joy and elation associated with this scene. And as if that's not enough, Jesus made sure to take care of the disciples as well. It's no coincidence that when the disciples picked up leftovers, there were 12 basketfuls. When you serve with the resources of Christ and the compassion of Christ, you will be blessed in the process. As you serve others, Jesus will always show Himself to be enough for you.
In verses 13-21 we saw faith in the face of need. Now in the second picture of faith, we see faith in the face of fear. We know from John's account of these stories that after this miraculous feeding the people were ready to crown Jesus as king right there on the spot (John 6:14-15). Of course, Jesus knew that that was not the Father's plan, and therefore He and the disciples needed to get away as quickly as possible.194
The story of Jesus walking on water reveals a number of truths about His character and His sustaining power on behalf of His people. These are glorious truths for all disciples in all times, particularly in difficult times. Even if you're not facing difficult trials right now, these truths are crucial to remember for the time when the circumstances of your life begin to toss you back and forth across the waves of this world. There are at least five truths illustrated in this story.
First, Jesus is sovereign over you. Jesus is the One who sent the disciples off into the boat, probably sometime around seven to nine o'clock at night. Later, the text tells us that Jesus came out to them on the sea in the fourth watch of the night, which is anywhere between three and six o'clock in the morning. This means that the disciples were in the boat by themselves for at least six hours, if not more, while Jesus was over on the mountainside. During this time a windstorm arose, and we know from Matthew 8:23-27 that Jesus had control over such things. This entire episode was His design. During the time that these disciples were battling this wind, Jesus was holding both the disciples and the wind in His hands.
We too need to remember these truths as we walk through difficult circumstances. Jesus is not unaware of what we're going through. He is familiar with our weaknesses (Heb 4:15; 2 Cor 12:9), and He is working for our good in all things (Rom 8:28). He is sovereign over our lives and our trials.
The second way to have faith in the face of fear is to realize that Jesus is interceding for you. While the disciples were being tossed around in the middle of the sea, there on the mountainside Jesus was on His knees in prayer. Imagine that scene in light of Romans 8:31-39:
You can look at your trials differently when you know that the very Son of God is at the right hand of the Father, at this moment, interceding for you. He is ready to give you strength and sustenance through His Spirit at every single moment you need it. You are not alone, which leads to the third truth: Jesus is present with you. When Jesus came out to His disciples walking on the water, they were understandably frightened, thinking He was a ghost. Jesus responded by saying, "Have courage! It is I. Don't be afraid" (v. 27). The language Jesus uses directly echoes God's revelation of Himself to Moses in Exodus 3:14, when God revealed Himself as the Lord, as "I AM."30 Jesus not only stills storms, but He also uses storms as a pathway to a greater revelation of Himself.
According to the Bible, there is no question that God sovereignly ordains trials in our lives at various points in order to reveal His character and nature to us in ways that we would never know apart from the storm. And it is in the middle of the storm that the presence of Christ becomes all the more real. This is a truth that Jesus will reiterate at the end of Matthew's Gospel, as He promises to be with His disciples as they go to the ends of the earth with an unpopular gospel message (28:20). He is with us; therefore we have no reason to fear.
Fourth, you can face fear confidently because Jesus is strength in you. When Peter saw Jesus walking on the water, he decided he wanted196 to be with the Lord. Rather than reading Peter's request as an "if" (Lord, if it's You...), this request might be better translated, "Since it's You, command me to come to You on the water" (Osborne, Matthew, 575). Recognizing that it was Jesus, Peter trusted that he could join Jesus on the water in light of the Lord's power and authority. How comforting to know that when you face trials, you may not have strength, but Jesus does, and as you trust in Him, you experience His strength in you. The key is that we must trust Him, something Peter found out the hard way. When he stepped out of the boat and saw the wind (or more appropriately, the effects of the wind on the waves all around him), he began to sink. He cried out, "Lord, save me!" (v. 30). Jesus then reached out His hand and saved Peter, exclaiming, "You of little faith, why did you doubt?" (v. 31).
There is a pastoral caution when it comes to faith. If we are not careful, we will hear Jesus' criticism of "little faith" here and miss the point of this story. We will begin to think that we need to muster up more faith, and if we do, the result will be healing or some other immediate benefit. But that is not the point of what Jesus was saying. That kind of thinking skews faith because it makes faith entirely dependent on what man can manufacture or muster up. Scripture, however, gives us different guidelines for understanding faith. We'll consider three of them.
First, what matters most is not the measure of your faith. Even when Jesus referred Peter's faith as "little" (v. 31), He was not primarily referring to faith as something subjective that we must create. Instead, what matters most is always the object of your faith. Peter's faith was little because he took his eyes off of Jesus, the object of his faith. This is what caused Peter to sink. The point, then, is clear: your faith is strong only when the object of your faith is strong. As long as your faith is in your circumstances, or as long as your faith is focused on anyone or anything apart from Christ, then it won't matter how much faith you have. You will fall sooner or later.
On the other hand, when your eyes are on Christ, the all-sovereign, gracious, loving, and merciful Savior and King of creation, you can always rest secure. Your faith will be constant, because Christ is constant. Hebrews 12:2 tells us to be "keeping our eyes on Jesus, the source and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that lay before Him endured a cross and despised the shame and has sat down at the right hand of God's throne." Instead of trying to be stronger, trust in Jesus' strength. When you are weak, He is strong.197
The final reason we can have faith in the midst of fear is that Jesus is peace around you. Almost as a passing note at the end of the story in verse 32, we read that the wind immediately ceased when Jesus got into the boat. He is the only One able to bring peace in the middle of the storm, and there is coming a day when He will bring total and complete peace to His people. This gives us encouragement to persevere amid trials and temptations.
The climax of the chapter occurs in verse 33. Following Jesus' miracle of walking on the water, the disciples in the boat responded to Jesus by saying, "Truly you are the Son of God." This is the first time that the disciples addressed Jesus in this way. We've seen the Father call Jesus the Son (3:17), and we've even seen demons call Jesus the Son of God (8:29), but this is the first time the disciples identify and worship Him in this way. We see once again the relationship between belief and worship: Once you recognize who Jesus is, you realize how He is to be worshiped. The same principle holds true for us as well. As we come to know Jesus through His Word, we too should respond in adoration. Let us fall at the feet of the One who saves the perishing, and feast at the table with the One who satisfies the hungry.