Matthew 14:34–36 ESV
34 And when they had crossed over, they came to land at Gennesaret. 35 And when the men of that place recognized him, they sent around to all that region and brought to him all who were sick 36 and implored him that they might only touch the fringe of his garment. And as many as touched it were made well.
We have now come to the end of chapter 14 of Matthew’s Gospel account. In this chapter, we’ve seen the power of Christ unveiled in a manner that I would like to call a cosmic sign that says ‘the King of kings is here’. After the death of the forerunner, John the Baptist, who was sent to prepare the way for the Lord, Jesus now walks the prepared road.
John was Jesus’ cousin and out from the sorrow of his death, and the weariness of the ministry that went on day and night, He feeds thousands as he did through Moses in the wilderness, and tramples on the ocean riding its proud waves in the manner that only God could.
And now, we come to the third act of Christ in this chapter and it is just as amazing.
But before we look at the text, let me first explain to you what I intend to do with today’s sermon. I want to preach to you what I would call an applicatory sermon. Here’s what I mean by that. I want to preach to you a sermon that is heavier on its application as opposed to its interpretation. Let me give you three reasons why I want to do that.
- Sometimes great and wonderful truths do us no greater good because we don’t know what to do with them. We know they mean well and that our lives ought to be shaped by them, but we are seldom intentional or knowledgeable enough to find worthwhile applications in our daily lives.
If we consider what we’ve learnt in this chapter so far, how much of all this has changed the way we live our lives? How much have we changed in the way we think because of it?
- As a pastor, I’m well aware of many of the struggles that many of you face. And applications of a sermon can be very tricky because everyone ends up feeling like this or that was aimed at them. I’ve often had people come up and say, “I know who that was meant for.”
But I for one can neither confirm nor deny that that is the case. However that may be, whether an application is more relevant to one than the other at this point in time, you can be sure that it is not meant only for them but for all of us.
- The third reason is the same one that I gave during the introduction of our bible study this past week. There is a theological shift that we as a church are going through, and I think it is important that you both know that and understand why we do many of the things that we’re doing. Much of our thought and pursuit in ministry as a leadership has shifted since we’ve inherited what is known as an optimistic eschatology.
- Our belief of the end times is an optimistic one and not a pessimistic one. In other words, we do not believe that the world will keep getting worse and that Christ will soon return to set things right. Rather, we believe that through the work of the church, the world will keep getting better and that Christ will return at a point in time when much of the world has been Christianised.
- This changes the way one does ministry. One does not easily prioritise the planting of trees, and the establishment of the Christian influence upon all the social strata encouraging men to be in the arena of sports, media, education, politics, and more if one believes that everything is going south anyway.
We would applaud an IAS officer who quit his job and went as a missionary to unreached places, but we would just as much applaud the Christian IAS officer who glorifies God through his job. One is not greater than the other, more pious than the other, or more holy than the other. Your vocation does not sanctify you, you sanctify your vocation.
So what this shift does to us is that we’re no longer thinking short term but long term. I once used to say that I don’t think about where Redemption Hill will be 100 years from now. In fact, I used to say that I am not bothered about it. That all I can do is for this present time and leave the future up to God.
But ever since I’ve become postmillennial, I desire to do much to aid the church leaders 100 or 500 years from now. I want to preach in such a way, right in such a way, and put out as many resources as I can so that the people then have much to help them stay the course.
I would also pray for those people that I might never meet. I think of not only my children but my great-grandchildren and their children.
Psalm 78:5–8 ESV
5 He established a testimony in Jacob and appointed a law in Israel,
which he commanded our fathers to teach to their children,
6 that the next generation might know them,
the children yet unborn,
and arise and tell them to their children,
7 so that they should set their hope in God and not forget the works of God,
but keep his commandments;
8 and that they should not be like their fathers,
a stubborn and rebellious generation,
a generation whose heart was not steadfast,
whose spirit was not faithful to God.
It is never easy to change a habit that we’ve personally gotten used to, let alone the habit of a church. In fact, there are two things (if I may draw broad categories) that are difficult to change – the way we think, and the way we do things. Neither changes overnight since both are a matter of practice and habit. A lot of it is just involuntary muscle memory – you just do it cause you’ve always done it.
But the Bible is a double-edged sword that pierces the division of both. When in Romans 12:3 we are encouraged to be transformed by the renewing of our mind, that is precisely what happens.
This theological shift, although not directly, has also affected the way we’ve come to understand how a Christian community must be cultivated. Therefore the work of the church library, subtle changes we make here and there to our order of service, fellowship dinners the first of which we had at Ashok’s place, a pastoral internship we hope to start to train men specifically going into the ministry, the bible study, the newsletters, the services sheets; all of it is done with the intention of affecting or cultivating a culture in our church, a culture of word and deed.
Therefore, an applicatory sermon such as this one might help from time to time.
Matthew 14:34 ESV
34 And when they had crossed over, they came to land at Gennesaret.
- Gennesaret was the plain on the western shore of the Sea of Galilee, southwest of Capernaum. From what we know this was the first time Jesus came to this land, having only gone so far over all the regions of Galilee as we see in Matthew 4:23.
- Jesus was now in the boat with the apostles after the incredible night when he crossed over to them in the storm by walking on the water. They worshipped him on that boat as the Son of God. And now they had crossed over and journeyed to the land at Gennesaret.
Matthew 14:35 ESV
35 And when the men of that place recognized him, they sent around to all that region and brought to him all who were sick
- Though this was Jesus’ first time there, the men of that place recognized him. Word of Christ’s mighty works and his heading in a certain direction clearly reached them well in advance. The tragedy of human sin according to John the Apostle is that it prevents us from recognising God.
The tragedy of human sin according to John the Apostle is that it prevents us from recognising God.*some translations render it as ‘did not recognize him’
We are not told what these men recognized, whether they saw him as the Messiah who was promised to come, or as a great healer who was travelling through the land. But they knew that this was the Jesus that does all that healing and miracles.
We are not told what these men recognized, whether they saw him as the Messiah who was promised to come, or as a great healer who was travelling through the land. But they knew that this was the Jesus that does all that healing and miracles. It also appears from the other Gospel accounts that many of the crowd that were fed by Jesus also followed.
It also appears from the other Gospel accounts that many of the crowd that were fed by Jesus also followed.
John 1:10 ESV
10 He was in the world, and the world was made through him, yet the world did not know him.*some translations render it as ‘did not recognize him’
- And so they sent word around to all the region and brought him all who were sick.
Matthew 14:36 ESV
36 and implored him that they might only touch the fringe of his garment. And as many as touched it were made well.
- they implored him. I wonder why they had to implore him. It could be that Jesus’ did not appear to have the intention of ‘healing’ as his priority in that area. When Jesus earlier crossed the sea of Galilee into the desolate land, we are told that he had compassion on the crowd and healed many who were sick. But here we are told that the crowd had to implore him, the phrase could also be rendered ‘begged him’.
It must be that he knew the heart of these people that sought after a sign of quick relief and not the healing of the souls from sin.
John 6:26–27 ESV
26 Jesus answered them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, you are seeking me, not because you saw signs, but because you ate your fill of the loaves. 27 Do not work for the food that perishes, but for the food that endures to eternal life, which the Son of Man will give to you. For on him God the Father has set his seal.”It was to them that Jesus said that he was the bread of life coming from heaven and that unless they ate of his flesh and drank of his blood they would not enter the kingdom of heaven. And in:
John 6:60 ESV
60 When many of his disciples heard it, they said, “This is a hard saying; who can listen to it?”John 6:66 ESV
66 After this many of his disciples turned back and no longer walked with him.So they had to implore him.
- that they might only touch the fringe of his garment. Possibly having heard of the woman with the bleeding that was healed in Matthew 9:20 by touching the hem of his garment, the people pleaded with Jesus.
- Now, interestingly enough we are not told that Jesus agreed but only that as many who touched him were healed. It might have been that they were pressing against Jesus desperately, and as many as touched him were healed.
Though Jesus does not appear to sit down and heal all who were coming to him, he was willing for them to be healed that touched him.
So we have three amazing encounters in this chapter following John’s beheading and the question is what do we learn from it all? How do we apply what we’ve learnt to our everyday life?
- As ambassadors of Christ, we are to hold the entire world accountable to God’s law just as John the Baptist held Herod, the Governor of the land, accountable.
Matthew 28:18 ESV
18 And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me.John the Baptist called not only the people of the land to repentance and turn away from their sin, but he required it also of the tetrarch, the governor of the land.
When the world condones abortion in the name of women’s rights & freedoms, you must be able to take them to the Bible and show otherwise.
We are not to join the world in the way they do things but to bring the world to do things the biblical way.
- Pointing out people’s sins in order to help them turn to Christ might come at the cost of your head.
I know of so many situations where people are afraid to point out another individual’s sin to them out of fear that doing so will affect their relationship with that person.
- Trust not in your plans because the greatest of you works for God can according to his will serve for a time and then come to a dismal conclusion. A tragic end to that work is not necessarily a defeat but a divine plan like the end of John’s ministry where he was beheaded as a gift to a teenage girl.
- A godly wife is to be her husband’s crown. She is his aid and his glory and does not manipulate the circumstance to meet her own ends like Herodias did. Such a wife is her husband’s curse.
- A godly mother will never use her son/daughter as an instrument or an ally in the pursuit of their selfish (and often sinful) desires. Herodias brought condemnation on her daughter.
- A godly child must be grown in the discipline and instruction of the Lord so that they might refuse their ungodly parents when called to partake of sin. Herod’s step-daughter is not the model child, and her obedience was sinful.
Proverbs 22:6 ESV
6 Train up a child in the way he should go; even when he is old he will not depart from it.Ephesians 6:4 ESV
4 Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord.
- A godly husband leads well. He is to govern his home well, heeding the needs and desires of his wife and children according to God’s word, but also able to deny them when he must. A good Father is able to discern the hearts of those in his household. Herod failed in this regard.
- Our God sympathises with us, he knows our weaknesses, so we can go to him with confidence knowing that he understands. When you are encouraged to be Christ-like, and respond by saying, “You don’t understand my situation”, remember that Christ does, and he still requires it of you. Jesus, exhausted from the healings that didn’t even give him or his disciples time to eat, did not delay helping the crowds that followed him to his place of rest. He knows our weaknesses but does not excuse them. He strengthens us in our weaknesses.
- Do not make promises you cannot keep, and do not sin by keeping those promises that you ought not to have made. Herod fell into this trap unintentionally but many try to fall into this trap intentionally to get what they want out of it.
- The true Gospel work is hard labour. It is also selfless labour. It is compassionate labour. So, work in such a manner as Christ worked.
- God is able to feed you in the barren lands where food and water are not found. Seek first the Kingdom of God as Jesus required of his disciples.
Matthew 6:25 ESV
25 “Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, nor about your body, what you will put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing?Matthew 6:27 ESV
27 And which of you by being anxious can add a single hour to his span of life?Matthew 6:32–33 ESV
32 For the Gentiles seek after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them all. 33 But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.
- Do not be dismayed at the greatness of the task that God has appointed you to do. Do it faithfully knowing that he will provide what you need. The disciples looked at the vastness of the crowd instead of looking to Jesus.
- Trust in God’s provision who is able to do much with the little you have. Bring your five loaves and two fish with great hope.
- Do not finish God’s plans for him, do not complete his sentences. Jesus did not want to be crowned King by the Jews then no matter how much they thought that was the obvious next step.
- Imitate Christ in your prayer life. Have your own mountains of seclusion where you can be alone with the Father in heaven and pray. Ever the virtue was drained out from him and ever it was filled by the Spirit when he prayed.
Prayer seemed more important to Christ than rest or sleep. He slept during the storms so he could work during the day.
- Do not fear the storm. There are many reasons for us to not fear the storm. Jesus is able to calm the storm and walk the storm. He is also able to make you walk the storm.
- Faith looks away from the storm and to Christ. Doubt looks away from Christ and at the storm. Train yourself to look at Christ during the storms. This was Peter’s lesson.
- Christ will hold you and keep you from drowning. Even your doubt as a Christian cannot keep you from Christ. In the end, you are not saved by your works but by his work. Jesus kept Peter from drowning.
- God causes all things to work together for our good. The storm, the desolate lands and the scarcity of food were all part of God’s plan to bless the people who gathered that day.
- Touch the hem of his garment. Chirst’s compassion healed those who were desperate to touch the hem of his garment. We can pray with confidence knowing that he hears our cry and is able to heal us if he wills.