Worship The King
Worship The King187
Worship The King
Main Idea: What we believe about Jesus will determine everything about how we worship Him.
- Two Pictures of Unbelief
- Jesus' hometown
- They heard His words.
- They saw His works.
- They denied Him worship.
- Herod the tetrarch
- A flashback to John the Baptist's beheading
- A foreshadowing of Jesus' crucifixion
- Jesus' hometown
- Two Pictures of Belief
- Faith in the face of need
- Reflect Jesus' compassion.
- Rely on Jesus' resources.
- Receive Jesus' blessing.
- Faith in the face of fear
- Jesus is sovereign over you.
- Jesus is interceding for you.
- Jesus is present with you.
- Jesus is strength in you.
- Jesus is peace around you.
- Faith in the face of need
- The Picture of Worship
- Fall at the feet of the One who saves the perishing.
- Feast at the table with the One who satisfies the hungry.
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.
If we believe Jesus is a good man who did good things for us, then we will honor Him as we honor good men who do things for us. But188 if we believe Jesus is the majestic, glorious, universal King over all creation, then that belief will be evident in the way we sing to Him, the way we pray to Him, and the way we worship Him. Pastor and theologian Sinclair Ferguson has said,
It is God who gives us the spirit of worship (Psalm 133:3), and it is what we know of God that produces this spirit of worship. We might say that worship is simply... what we think about God going into top gear! Instead of merely thinking about Him, we tell Him, in prayer and praise and song, how great and glorious we believe Him to be! (Ferguson, A Heart for God, 111)
Our goal, then, in reading Matthew 14 is to believe in Jesus more deeply, and as a result, to grow in our worship of Him.
In chapter 13, Jesus told eight different parables to describe what the kingdom of heaven is like. The first parable was about a sower and the four kinds of soil representing the human heart in response to the message of salvation. This parable is especially relevant for Matthew 13:53-14:36, for here we see examples of the various heart conditions that Jesus spoke of. The hard heart that rejects the gospel is evident in the people of Nazareth (13:53-58) and in Herod (14:1-12). The superficial heart that believes in Jesus as long as He provides food can be found among the large crowds who ate the loaves and fish (14:13-21). There is no real root to the faith of such people, as is evidenced by their later abandoning of Jesus (John 6:22-71). Though we don't specifically see the divided heart, we know that lurking in the midst of the disciples is Judas, a man who saw everything Jesus did yet still rejected Him. Underneath the surface, the ways and wealth of this world choked out the faith of this imposter. Finally, the receptive heart represented by the good soil was evident in the disciples as they rose to new heights in their faith (14:33).
As we consider those four kinds of heart responses to Jesus, I want to hone in on two general categories of people—those who were believing in Jesus and those who were not believing in Jesus. We'll consider the two pictures of unbelief in the first part of the text and then the two pictures of belief in the second part of the text. Our worship will be determined by which category we fit into.189
Two Pictures of Unbelief
Jesus' hometown (13:53-58)
The first picture of unbelief comes from the reaction of Jesus' hometown. Jesus' ministry in Galilee up to this point in Matthew's Gospel had lasted approximately two years, beginning around the time of Matthew 4:12. Christ's death on the cross was about a year away, and during this last year of His earthly ministry Jesus made a decided turn toward His inner group of disciples. Even when He spoke to the crowds, He focused on His relationship with His disciples. In Matthew 13:53 Jesus left Galilee and came to Nazareth, His hometown, and He began teaching. The people were "astonished," asking, "How did this wisdom and these miracles come to Him?" (13:54). Yet just like the crowds at Capernaum (11:23-24), they refused to believe in Jesus (13:58). They questioned where His authority came from, doubting that it came from God. Verse 57 says that they were "offended" by Jesus.
The picture we get of the crowds in Jesus' hometown is this: they heard His words, they saw His works, and yet they denied Him worship. The text says they were "offended," a term indicating their strong negative reaction,28 so that they failed to honor Him (v. 57). And so it goes today: many people hear about Jesus and even see evidence of Jesus at work, yet they deny Him the worship He is due.
Herod the tetrarch (14:1-12)
The second picture of unbelief can be seen in Herod the tetrarch, a man whose story reads like a twisted soap opera. Herod was also known as Herod Antipas, with Antipas being a reference to the region he ruled over. This is the region where much of Jesus' ministry took place, and Herod heard all about Christ's fame. Herod got scared because he thought that Jesus was John the Baptist come back to life. Matthew is prompted at this point to pause and look back at how John the Baptist had died. Chronologically, verses 3-12 are a flashback to John the Baptist's beheading. Salome, Herod's daughter, did a seductive dance190 before what was likely a group consisting of her drunken father and his friends. This prompted Herod to offer her whatever she wanted. It's at this point that Herodias (Salome's mother) told her daughter behind the scenes to ask for "John the Baptist's head on a platter!" (v. 8). At great risk to his own life, John had called out Herod on the king's adulterous, incestuous actions with Herodias. In response, Herod imprisoned John in a dungeon, though Herod didn't want to kill John because he knew John's righteous reputation (Mark 6:20) and he feared the reaction of the people.
Recall that John the Baptist was previously described as the prophet Elijah (Matt 11:14; cf. Matt 3:4 and 2 Kgs 1:8). One of the parallels between these two prophets can be seen in their confrontation of the sins of ungodly leadership. Just as Elijah confronted King Ahab in 1 Kings 18, John confronted the sin of Herod. There's an application here for anyone who speaks the truth of God's Word: as long as you and I call sin for what it is in our culture, it will be costly. However, regardless of the cost, speaking the truth is worth it. As one writer has put it, "It cost [John] his head; but it is better to have a head like John the Baptist and lose it than to have an ordinary head and keep it" (A. T. Robertson, as cited in MacArthur, Matthew 8-15, 420). Let us stand for Christ with conviction no matter the cost, and let us pray for our brothers and sisters around the world who are doing so at this moment at the risk of their lives.
John the Baptist's beheading was not only a flashback in Matthew's narrative, but it was also a foreshadowing of Jesus' crucifixion (France, The Gospel of Matthew, 522). Matthew is linking John the Baptist and Jesus together, particularly in terms of their place under Herod's rule. Herod had charge over the region where John the Baptist was preaching, and his leadership (or lack of leadership) led to John's beheading. Likewise, when we fast forward to Jesus' trial, we see that Pilate sent Jesus to this same Herod, and there Herod the tetrarch played another passive role that set the stage for Jesus' death (Luke 23:6-12). Herod's unbelief led to both John the Baptist's beheading and Jesus' crucifixion.
Two Pictures of Belief
There is a clear shift in the next two stories concerning the disciples and Jesus' relationship with them. Jesus was moving on from those who191 would not believe to those who did believe, and it is here that we begin to see the disciples' faith grow.
Faith in the face of need (14:13-21)
Jesus' feeding of the five thousand is the only miracle recorded in all four Gospels. It's a story that is familiar to most Christians, as Jesus took five loaves and two fish and fed more than five thousand people. Each Gospel writer tells the story from a different angle to emphasize different points. Matthew is telling this story in a way that emphasizes its effect, not so much on the large crowd that ate that day, but more specifically on the disciples. As the disciples observed Jesus in this story, their faith began to grow in several ways.
First, the disciples learned to reflect Jesus' compassion. Jesus withdrew into a boat for rest, as He was almost certainly weary from dealing with the thronging crowds as well as the gathering opposition. Yet in His few moments of quiet, and despite His attempts to withdraw, the crowds found Him. As soon as Jesus arrived on land, He was swarmed with people who were hurting, sick, and in need of healing (vv. 13-14; cf. vv. 34-36). Notice what Jesus didn't do at this point: He didn't order the crowd to go home and come back the next day. Instead, Matthew tells us that Jesus was (once again) moved with compassion for them (v. 14), even for those who were superficially attached to Him. These individuals were like the second type of soil in the parable of the Sower, people who received Jesus gladly one moment, and then rejected Him completely the next (13:20-21). Even in the face of such shallowness, Jesus was compassionate.
Second, the disciples also learned to rely on Jesus' resources. As evening approached and the sun was beginning to set, the disciples suggested sending the crowds home to get something to eat (14:15). They were out in the middle of nowhere and they felt completely inadequate for the task; however, these men had no idea just how much they had for meeting the people's needs. It was like standing in front of Niagara Falls and still not being able to find anything to drink. Jesus looked at them and said emphatically, "They don't need to go away.... You give them something to eat" (v. 16).29 The disciples responded by pointing out that they only192 had five loaves and two fish, which was precisely Jesus' point. He was calling them to do something that they could not do in their own power and with their own resources. He wanted them to recognize their insufficiency and at the same time to realize His sufficiency in at least two ways.
First, Jesus meets needs in us. His sufficiency to meet the deepest needs in our lives is undoubtedly a key aspect of this story. In John's account of the story this point becomes even more clear, as Jesus used this miracle to teach the crowds that He is the bread of life (John 6:35). He isn't simply the One who gives what satisfies; He is the One who satisfies. To put it another way, He came not merely to give us bread, but rather to be our bread—to be the sustaining Satisfier of our souls. This truth is illustrated through several uses of Old Testament imagery and history that point to Jesus. He is the new Moses, a point made clear in John 6:32-33: "I assure you: Moses didn't give you the bread from heaven, but My Father gives you the real bread from heaven. For the bread of God is the One who comes down from heaven and gives life to the world." Here we have a reference to Exodus 16 and God's provision of bread to the children of Israel through Moses. Jesus is now the One who meets this need for God's people, the church.
In addition to Jesus' role as the new Moses, we also see that He is the greater prophet. The prophet Elijah had caused a widow's jar of flour and a jug of oil to last throughout a drought (1 Kgs 17:8-16), while Elisha had fed a hundred men with twenty loaves of barley and fresh ears of grain (2 Kgs 4:42-43). However, Jesus took these prophetic miracles to new heights by feeding over five thousand people with a very small amount of food.
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.
Faith in the face of fear (14:22-32)
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:
What then are we to say about these things?
If God is for us, who is against us?
He did not even spare His own Son
but offered Him up for us all;
how will He not also with Him grant us everything?
Who can bring an accusation against God's elect?
God is the One who justifies.
Who is the one who condemns?
Christ Jesus is the One who died,
but even more, has been raised;
He also is at the right hand of God
and intercedes for us.195
Who can separate us from the love of Christ?
Can affliction or anguish or persecution
or famine or nakedness or danger or sword?
As it is written:
Because of You we are being put to death all day long;
we are counted as sheep to be slaughtered.
No, in all these things we are more than victorious
through Him who loved us.
For I am persuaded that not even death or life,
angels or rulers,
things present or things to come, hostile powers,
height or depth, or any other created thing
will have the power to separate us
from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord!
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 Picture of Worship
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.
Reflect and Discuss
- How can the rejection of Jesus by His own hometown serve as a warning for you?
- Why is costly faith better than convenient unbelief? What means of grace does God use to strengthen our faith?
- Explain the difference in merely being amazed at Jesus' miracles and responding in faith.
- List two truths to be gleaned from Jesus' feeding of the five thousand.
- What people around you most need the compassion of Christ? What are some practical ways you might serve them?
- What evidence is there in your life that you are not relying on God to meet your needs? What anxieties and habits are indications of unbelief?198
- How does this passage present Jesus as greater than Moses? What does this teach us about the purpose of the Old Testament?
- Explain the following statement: The most important thing is not the measure of our faith, but the object of our faith.
- Make a list of Jesus' attributes that are on display in Matthew 14.
- In what ways does Matthew 14 demonstrate Jesus' deity?
The word translated "offended" in verse 57 comes from the verb skandalizo and could also be translated as "be repelled by someone." BDAG, s.v. "skandilizo," 926.
Osborne notes that the redundant use of "you" in the Greek emphasizes the responsibility of the disciples. Osborne, Matthew, 566.
The phrase "I AM" in the Greek version of the Old Testament—the Septuagint (LXX)—is ego eimi. This is precisely the wording Jesus uses in Matt 14:27 when He says, "It is I."