The Coming Kingdom
December 4, 2016
Chapter 13 was the Kingdom parables. They explained various aspects about the coming Kingdom. In this chapter, we see the further transition of the coming Kingdom. John Baptist is imprisoned and eventually murdered by Herod Antipas. This marks the literal end of the Old Testament prophets. John was the very last.
If you were looking for a particular transition point from the old to the new, this is it. How does Jesus respond? Does He then pursue the overthrow of Herod and the Roman occupation?
Yes, but not as anyone had imagined. He does so through the proclamation of the gospel. Furthermore, He does not do this directly, through His own immediate power. It becomes clear that His methodology is going to be the coming kingdom. He is coming into power but that means that His workers, the apostles and disciples are going to be the means of establishing, maintaining and growing the kingdom.
I believe this is somewhat of a surprise to the disciples. They were expecting the Son of God to use His miraculous power to overthrow the powers and establish them as vice-regents in the land. They wanted to see a return of the Davidic Kingdom the way it had been a 1000 years before. But they were thinking too small.
Jesus had to teach them how to think big. How to feed 5000 with a lunch for 12. How to feed 5 million with a 12 baskets of bread and fish.
At that time Herod the tetrarch heard of the fame of Jesus, 2 And said unto his servants, This is John the Baptist; he is risen from the dead; and therefore mighty works do shew forth themselves in him.
3 For Herod had laid hold on John, and bound him, and put him in prison for Herodias’ sake, his brother Philip’s wife. 4 For John said unto him, It is not lawful for thee to have her.
Herod Antipas was the son of Herod the Great. His brother Phillip was also a ruler after Herod the Great’s death. Antipas ruled in Galilee. He had married Herodias. Herodias was married to Philip, who was her uncle. That, too, was an unlawful marriage. Herod compounds the unlawfulness by taking both his niece and his brother’s wife in marriage.
This is an excellent passage to comment on what are and are not lawful marriages. John Baptist had no problem telling the secular ruler what should be lawful. He was making this claim solely from the Bible. The Romans had laws concerning incestual marriages but they were applied variously. Some of the Caesars were known for unlawful relations with family members but were able to get away with it because they were in power.
This was clearly also the case in the Herod family. But we must keep in mind that these families represent a secular power established by the Roman overlords. The Phrisees even acknowledge authority of Roman law when they arrest Jesus and condemn Him to death. They appeal to Pilate to condemn Him because they said it was no lawful for them to do so. Historically, the Jews could have condemned a man to death but the sentence would have been carried out by the civil authorities. The Pharisees were making the claim that the Jewish religious law condemned Jesus but that they themselves were unable to carry out the sentence of death. They needed the Romans to do that. Thus, it was Roman law that was operable in the land.
When John Baptist tells Herod that it is not lawful for him to have his brother’s wife, who is also his niece, he is appealing to Deuteronomy. He is saying that God’s law applies to Herod, even if Herod can get away with it because he is the king or because the current enforcers of the law have no problem with your marriage. John Baptist is clearly saying that God’s law for marriage is the one that applies.
We should learn the lesson. No matter what the current culture says is marriage, if God says that the marriage is unlawful, then it is unlawful, period.
5 And when he would have put him to death, he feared the multitude, because they counted him as a prophet.
Herod wanted to just kill John Baptist but he was afraid it would cost him political brownie points. He may have feared some kind of protests or riots. That was unlikely and it did not in fact, occur. But it was clear from his behavior that John Baptist had a significant and influential following.
6 But when Herod’s birthday was kept, the daughter of Herodias danced before them, and pleased Herod. 7 Whereupon he promised with an oath to give her whatsoever she would ask.
This was likely a large and lascivious event. These were unscrupulous people and Herodias used her daughter to arouse and manipulate her husband. Herod is so moved by her dance that he makes a foolish promise to her.
8 And she, being before instructed of her mother, said, Give me here John Baptist’s head in a charger.
Herodias knew her husband well. She had planned on him making a foolish offer to Salome. Salome asks for John Baptist to be killed.
9 And the king was sorry: nevertheless for the oath’s sake, and them which sat with him at meat, he commanded it to be given her.
Herod could have refuse Salome’s request. However, at this point, he no doubt knows that he was duped by his wife and thought he could not refuse the promise.
10 And he sent, and beheaded John in the prison. 11 And his head was brought in a charger, and given to the damsel: and she brought it to her mother.
This was a grizzly meal. Talk about a turn of events. It went from a lavish and likely lascivious birthday party to a head dripping with blood brought out on a platter. Furthermore, can you imagine a young woman delivering the head to her mother?
12 And his disciples came, and took up the body, and buried it, and went and told Jesus.
John must decrease and Jesus must increase. This was the end of an era, the end of the Old Testament as we know it. From this time on, the church belonged to the New Testament.
We should see from the rest of the chapter that Jesus is going to inaugurate a new kind of Kingdom. His reign begins and He immediately sends the message that His disciples will be the rulers of the new kingdom. YOU give them something to eat.
13 When Jesus heard of it, he departed thence by ship into a desert place apart: and when the people had heard thereof, they followed him on foot out of the cities.
Jesus went to mourn, to pray, to prepare for His kingdom which had now arrived. The people flock to Him.
14 And Jesus went forth, and saw a great multitude, and was moved with compassion toward them, and he healed their sick.
Jesus is in the business of meeting needs and we should be, too. He was moved with compassion toward them and He healed their sick. Jesus still does this in a spiritual sense. He heals the sick of heart. But He calls us to more than this. The disciples were told to feed the crowd. They were to give them food.
Furthermore, it has been Christians through the ages that have healed the sick by starting hospitals, developing mercy ministries and providing for the needs of the poor. This work has become the province of the modern nanny state. It should not be so. As we pray for and work towards Reformation and Revival, one of the aspects of this revival will be that the government will do less in these areas and the Church will do more.
15 And when it was evening, his disciples came to him, saying, This is a desert place, and the time is now past; send the multitude away, that they may go into the villages, and buy themselves victuals.
Jesus gathers a multitude and the disciples want to send them away. Can we relate to this? Do we want a multitude? But they are sick. But they have problems. But they are sinners. And, we have to feed them!
Shall we be like Jesus or His disciples. Do we want to send away the weak, the lame, the infirm or do we want to heal them? Shall they go away and see to their own needs or shall we be moved with compassion to feed them?
16 But Jesus said unto them, They need not depart; give ye them to eat.
It is as if Jesus responds, “What are you talking about? We are here so that they would be here and would seek me out. We do not want them to leave. We want them to stay. Let us trust in God to feed them. You trust. You feed them.”
17 And they say unto him, We have here but five loaves, and two fishes.
There is a lot of doubt here and very little faith. Thank God that Jesus works well with very little faith.
18 He said, Bring them hither to me.
What have you got to offer? Only just a little bit. Not much at all. Certainly, concerning all of these needs? Almost nothing. It will not due. They will all starve, for sure. But Jesus takes our little offerings and makes a feast.
Whatever you have to offer before the Lord, then bring it to Jesus. He will make something of it.
19 And he commanded the multitude to sit down on the grass, and took the five loaves, and the two fishes, and looking up to heaven, he blessed, and brake, and gave the loaves to his disciples, and the disciples to the multitude.
Jesus gave thanks to His Father. He acknowledged that whatever they did have, came from the Father of all provision. He gave to the disciples and the disciples distributed. That is how God works. Most of the blessing that He provides is through people. In that sense, God’s people are the hands of Jesus.
20 And they did all eat, and were filled: and they took up of the fragments that remained twelve baskets full. 21 And they that had eaten were about five thousand men, beside women and children.
I think it fitting to spiritualize these verses as long as we don’t leave them there. Jesus fills up His people. There is no lack and there is great abundance. If we have the blessing of Jesus, we filled up to overflowing. This is true whether our bellies are full or not, whether we in sickness or health, whether we struggle or walk in victory.
But I don’t want to leave this blessing as merely spiritual. Jesus actually fed the people. He gave them bread. God has promised to provide our earthly need. He feeds and clothes us. We have every confidence that He will do this. He provides for the sparrows but we are of much more worth to Him than them. Trust Him. Do not worry about these things.
Over 15,000 people were fed with five loaves of bread and two fish. Think about that for a moment. Imagine the Vine Center full and everyone hungry. Now imagine five loaves and two fishes. They all eat heartily and are full. Moreover, the food keeps growing. There is excess.
Twelve basket fulls were taken up. Twelve is enough for every tribe in Israel. If you can feed 15,000 with five loaves and two fishes, how many can you feed with twelve bushels of bread and fish? The number is unlimited. You can feed everyone who is hungry.
Matt. 14:22 And straightway Jesus constrained his disciples to get into a ship, and to go before him unto the other side, while he sent the multitudes away. 23 And when he had sent the multitudes away, he went up into a mountain apart to pray: and when the evening was come, he was there alone.
After this great work, Jesus got alone to pray.
24 But the ship was now in the midst of the sea, tossed with waves: for the wind was contrary. 25 And in the fourth watch of the night Jesus went unto them, walking on the sea. 26 And when the disciples saw him walking on the sea, they were troubled, saying, It is a spirit; and they cried out for fear. 27 But straightway Jesus spake unto them, saying, Be of good cheer; it is I; be not afraid.
Jesus waited in prayer while He sent His disciples into a storm to be threatened by the wind and the waves. He intended to save them but they really were in danger.
It was late in the middle of the night when Jesus came to them. He came walking on the sea. The feeding of the 5000 and walking on the sea revealed who Jesus was.
They saw Jesus but in their state of alarm did not recognize Him. Instead of being comforted by His presence, they were fearful.
Is that not the case with many of us? We are in the storms of life and we fail to recognize that Jesus is near. Listen to Jesus. He says, “It is I; be not afraid.”
28 And Peter answered him and said, Lord, if it be thou, bid me come unto thee on the water.
Peter responds in faith but with a somewhat odd and perhaps even foolish request. But it appears that the Lord does want us to do what He does. He feeds the five thousand as we should. He walks on water as we can.
29 And he said, Come. And when Peter was come down out of the ship, he walked on the water, to go to Jesus.
Don’t you wish you could have seen this? Peter got out of the boat and began to walk on the water.
30 But when he saw the wind boisterous, he was afraid; and beginning to sink, he cried, saying, Lord, save me.
The Lord does want us to have faith in Him. He is the rule of the wind and the sea. Do we really believe that? Then get out and walk on the water. But what if the waves are contrary? What if things look really bad? Then do you believe Him? Or do become afraid and start to sink?
We need to grow up into Jesus. We need to understand that He is ruler of troubled waters. But we also need to learn that if we start to sink, He is there to save us.
31 And immediately Jesus stretched forth his hand, and caught him, and said unto him, O thou of little faith, wherefore didst thou doubt? 32 And when they were come into the ship, the wind ceased. 33 Then they that were in the ship came and worshipped him, saying, Of a truth thou art the Son of God.
We tend to think of the great faith of Peter to get out of the boat and walk on the water. But Jesus upbraids him for his little faith. Once Jesus got in the boat, the wind ceased. Then they worshipped Him knowing that He really was the Son of God. They got the point of the feeding of the 5000, of the walking on the water, of the command of the wind and waves. That is what Jesus can do because that is what God can do.
Matt. 14:34 And when they were gone over, they came into the land of Gennesaret. 35 And when the men of that place had knowledge of him, they sent out into all that country round about, and brought unto him all that were diseased; 36 And besought him that they might only touch the hem of his garment: and as many as touched were made perfectly whole.
After these events Jesus immediately resumes His healing ministry. He came to heal the land, heal the people and that is what He does.
All who are diseased must come to Jesus. And as many as touch Him or as many as He touches are made perfectly whole.