Devotional Thoughts on Matthew 14:13-33
February 2-8, 2015
Monday, February 2, 2015
“Now when Jesus heard this, he withdrew from there in a boat to a deserted place by himself. But when the crowds heard it, they followed him” (14:13).
In everything else Jesus is a role model, but I don’t think he is in this story. Maybe as a God/Man Jesus can pull off grieving for a couple of hours before jumping back into ministry. For most of us, though, it doesn’t work that way. There are tremendous pressures, however, in our society, which force us to rush through our grief. After a few weeks our friends wonder why we are still so sad and why we aren’t “getting over it.” Businesses give employees three or four days off before expecting them to get back to work. Of course everyone has advice to give us on how to grieve.
One thing that Jesus does do is acknowledge that a person needs to grieve. Jesus did withdraw to a deserted place by himself—at least for a time—in order to grieve. Grief isn’t caused by a lack of faith. The pain and sorrow of grief are not anti-Christian, but they are very human. We grieve in different ways and whatever way we grieve the Bible assures us that God is with us in our grief.
Jesus returned to his ministry of healing the sick, casting out demons and proclaiming that the kingdom of God had arrived. We too will arise from our grief and be empowered once again to use our gifts and talents in service to others.
O God of the Resurrection, comfort us in our grief and grant us a sure and certain hope in the resurrection—that after death comes life. Amen.
Tuesday, February 3
“He saw a great crowd and he had compassion on them” (Matthew 14:14).
When Lu Li walked into the school cafeteria she noticed the student who had just transferred into Lu Li’s school sitting by herself. Lu Li felt sorry for her and after Lu Li had purchased her food she sat down beside the new student and made a friend. Jason saw a group of homeless men crowded together trying to escape the heat and blistering sun. Having compassion on them, Jason purchased a case of bottled water for them from a nearby store. He gave the water to the men and then organized a bottled water drive in his congregation.
To have compassion is to notice others and see their need. Jesus looked at the multitude of people and had compassion on them. Compassion is one of characteristics of Jesus that the Holy Spirit brings in the life of each and every disciple of Jesus Christ.
Jesus’ words and actions reveal to us that God is a compassionate God. God’s compassion has flooded our lives. We respond to God’s compassion by living compassionate lives of service. To be perfect as God is perfect is to be compassionate as God is compassionate.
God of love and mercy, soften our hearts and open our eyes so that we might see others, sense their need and move to meet that need. Amen.
Wednesday, February 4, 2015
“We have nothing here but five loaves and two fish” (Matthew 14:17).
“We can’t afford it,” the church treasurer said slapping the table for effect. “We’re barely making ends meet and the summer is ahead of us. We can’t give to that mission.” The treasurer’s comments were echoed by Janice and she and her husband discussed their pledge to the church. “If we increase our pledge like you want us to,” Janice argued, “we won’t be able to save for our trip to Hawaii.” Esteban shook his head when the pastor invited him to help lead the congregation’s youth group. “I don’t have anything that I can give them,” he confessed.
We never feel like we have enough, and we’re always making excuses not to use what we do have. The disciples only had two fish and five loaves of bread. It was clearly not enough to feed five thousand or more people. Jesus took what the disciples had to offer, though, and used it to provide for the needs of the people. In the same way the Holy Spirit takes what we have to offer and uses it to minister to the people. What we have to offer may seem too small to us, but it is just what the Spirit needs to accomplish God’s purposes.
God of Abundance, thank you for all that you have given us. May we use our abundant blessings to honor you. Amen.
Thursday, February 5, 2015
“Taking the five loaves and two fish, he looked up to heaven, and blessed and broke the loaves and gave them to the disciples” (Matthew 14:19).
Loaves and fish were simple food. They were the staple diet of the Israelite populace. It was not a gourmet meal that was enjoyed by the multitude, but it was a nourishing one. The people were able to eventually return to their homes on the strength that the loaves and fish provided. They were sustained by food given as a gift.
The feeding of the five thousand, as it is described in the gospel is deliberately similar to the celebration of communion. The words looked, blessed, broke and gave are from the words of the last supper and the words used by the Christian gatherings at that time. Though bread and wine is simple food, it is food that nourishes, sustains and empowers. We receive the bread and the wine, also, as a gift.
Sometimes it takes difficult situations, like being far away from towns without any food, to remind ourselves that life is a gift. God provides the sustenance that we need each day. With this realization, thankfulness rises to our lips. Thank the Lord that God gives to us and provides for us in every area of our lives. Grabbing hold of this truth enables us to live with gratitude even in times of abundance.
Great gift giver, thank you that you have never failed to give us our daily bread. Enable us to remember this truth and to give thanks each day for your abundant provision. Amen.
Friday, February 6, 2015
“He made the disciples get in the boat and go to the other side” (Matthew 14:22).
David drove to a rather run down area of town. He had never been there before and he would not have been there now except he had said, “Yes,” when the director of “The Five Loaves,” soup kitchen invited him to help out one night. David was uncomfortable with the idea of serving food to the homeless. He really wanted to say, “No,” but, something inside him made him feel that this was something he should do. So, David pulled into the parking lot, turned the engine off and paused a few seconds before he took a deep breath and opened the door. David wasn’t sure what lay ahead of him, but he was sure that he was where he was supposed to be and he was doing what he was supposed to do.
Jesus didn’t hope, suggest or ask the disciples to cross the Sea of Galilee. The writer of the gospel of Matthew records that Jesus “made” the disciples get into their boats and sail east. Perhaps they sensed a storm was coming. They might not have been comfortable sailing to the land of the Gentiles—a place that they avoided. They were reluctant to obey, but they did as they were told.
We may have a similar reluctance when the Spirit leads us out of our comfort zone to a place where we have never been before. We are disciples of Jesus Christ, though, we follow him and go where he directs us. We may not know what lies ahead, but we do know that we are where we are supposed to be and doing what we are supposed to do.
O Holy Guide, direct our footsteps, give us the courage we need to follow you and the comfort of knowing that you are with us. Amen.
Saturday, February 7, 2015
“So Peter got out of the boat started walking on the water … But when he noticed the strong wind he became frightened and beginning to sink” (Matthew 14:29-30).
We don’t really know why Peter decided that he needed to walk on water. Perhaps he needed to prove something to himself, or maybe he needed to prove something to the other disciples. Peter might have wanted to imitate Jesus—“If Jesus can walk on water, then so can I.” We do know that Peter requested and Jesus beckoned Peter out of the boat. Whether Peter’s action was foolishness or an act of obedience we will never know. We do know that Peter got out of the boat, started to walk on the water, felt the strong wind, experienced fear and began to sink.
Peter’s story has been used throughout the centuries as a lesson to keep our eyes on Jesus. This is a good lesson, but many of us content ourselves by keeping our eyes on Jesus while we stay in the boat. Peter’s actions can inspire us to risk, to dare and to attempt the impossible. We can learn from Peter’s experience that we shouldn’t fear. We can also take comfort that when we do fear Jesus reaches out, takes hold of us and lifts us up.
Faithful Lord, forgive our doubts of your presence and power in our lives. Inspire us to follow you unconditionally and willing risk all as we faithfully follow you. Amen.
Sunday, February 8, 2015
“Those in the boat worshiped him saying, ‘Truly you are the Son of God’” (Matthew 14:33).
There are many reasons that motivate us lift our arms, clap our hands, sing God’s praise and worship the Lord. The beauty of the earth and the universe inspire us to worship God. Our attitude of gratitude—seeing all of life as a gift—enables us to give God thanks and worship God. The Lord’s touch upon our lives in our time of need moves us to respond in worship and praise.
The disciples show us another reason for worshiping God. They had been faithfully obedient to Jesus. They had followed his instructions (though perhaps reluctantly) to get in their boats and sail to the other side of the Sea of Galilee, to the land of the Gentiles. While obeying Jesus they had encountered powerful storms. The chaotic waves threatened to sink their boat and drown them. In their crisis they discovered that Jesus knew of their plight, he was present with them and he came to their aid. Jesus quieted the storm and calmed their fears. The response of the disciples was to worship Jesus.
Following Jesus is never a guarantee of smooth sailing. Frequently being Jesus’ disciples causes us to be tested and tempered. When we go where Jesus directs us, though, we discover that Jesus goes with us and miracles happen. We realize that the Spirit accomplishes great things through us. Surely these inspire us to bow down and worship the King of kings and the Lord of lords.
Powerful God, we worship you for your creation, your blessings and your presence and power in our lives and in the world. We worship you for who you are. Amen.