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Bible Commentaries

Spurgeon's Verse Expositions of the Bible
Matthew 14

 

 

Other Authors
Verses 13-36

Matthew 14:13. When Jesus heard of it, he departed thence by a ship into a desert place apart:

It is well for us to get alone with God when he takes home the best and most faithful of his servants. Neither the Church nor the world could afford to lose such a man as John the Baptist; so it was well for Christ’s disciples to retire with him to a desert place that he might teach them the lesson of that proto-martyr’s death.

Matthew 14:13-14. And when the people had heard thereof, they followed him on foot out of the cities. And Jesus went forth, and saw a great multitude, and was moved with compassion toward them, and he healed their sick.

He needed quiet, but he could not get it; yet he was not “moved” with indignation against the crowd that had sought him out, but he “was moved with compassion toward them, and he healed their sick.” Out of the fullness of his heart of love, he condescended to do for the people what they most needed.

Matthew 14:15. 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.

Human compassion might have moved the disciples to say something more kind than that heartless request, “Send the multitude away.” Perhaps they wished to spare themselves the sight of so much distress; but they evidently did not expect the answer that Christ gave them: —

Matthew 14:16. But Jesus said unto them, They need not depart; give ye them to eat.

Christ seemed to say to his disciples, “If you only exercise the power that is within your reach, with Me in your midst, you are equal to this emergency:

‘Give ye them to eat.’ “

Matthew 14:17-18. And they say unto him, We have here but five loaves, and two fishes. He said, Bring them hither to me.

“They are little enough in your hands, but they will be ample when they get into mine.” When everything that we have is in the hands of Christ, it is wonderful how much he can make of it. Bring your talent to the Lord Jesus, be it never so little; sanctify to him every possibility that lies within your reach; you cannot tell how much he can and will do with it.

Matthew 14:19. And he commanded the multitude to sit down on the grass, —

It must have been a beautiful sight to see those thousands of men, women, and children at once obeying his command. There were five loaves and two fishes, — probably five small barley cakes and a couple of sardines; so the people might have said, “What is the use of such a multitude sitting down on the grass to partake of such scanty fare as that?” But they did not say so; there was a divine power about the very simplest command of Christ which compelled instant obedience: “He commanded the multitude to sit down on the grass,” —

Matthew 14:19. And took the five loaves, and the two fishes, and looking up to heaven, he blessed, —

This was that “blessing of the Lord” of which Solomon says that “it maketh rich, and he addeth no sorrow with it.” If you get this blessing on your five loaves and two fishes, you may feed five thousand men with them, besides the women and the children.

Matthew 14:19-20. And brake, and gave the loaves to his disciples, and the disciples to the multitude. And they did all eat, and were filled: and they took up of the fragments that remained twelve baskets full.

Much more than they began with; for it is a law of the Heavenly Kingdom that he who gives to God shall be no loser; his five loaves and two fishes shall turn to twelve baskets full after thousands have eaten, and been satisfied. The more there is of complete consecration to Christ, and his blessed service, the more reward will there be in the world to come; and,

possibly, even here.

Matthew 14:21-22. And they that had eaten were about five thousand men, beside women and children. 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.

He always takes the heavier task upon himself. They may go off by themselves, but he will remain to send the multitudes away. Besides, no one but Christ could have done it, only he who had made them sit down to the feast could make them go to their homes.

Matthew 14:23. And when he had sent the multitudes away, he went up into a mountain apart to pray:

He had had a long day of preaching, and healing, and distributing the bread and fish, and now he closed the day with prayer to his Father.

Matthew 14:23. And when the evening was come, he was there alone.

Dr. Watts was right in saying to his Lord, —

“Cold mountains, and the midnight air

Witnessed the fervor of thy prayer.”

He is not now on the bare mountain side, but he is engaged in the same holy exercise up yonder before his Father’s throne.

Matthew 14:24. But the ship was now in the midst of the sea, tossed with waves: for the wind was contrary.

This is the case with the good ship of the Church of Christ today; it is “tossed with waves,” and “the wind” is “contrary.” It is very contrary just now; but, then, Christ is still pleading for the ship and all on board; and while he pleads, it can never sink.

Matthew 14:25-29. And in the fourth watch of the night Jesus went unto them, walking on the sea. And when the disciples saw him walking on the sea, they were troubled, saying, It is a spirit: and they cried out for fear. But straightway Jesus spake unto them, saying, Be of good cheer; it is I be not afraid. And Peter answered him, and said, Lord, if it be thou, bid me come unto thee on the water. And he said, Come. And when Peter was come down out of the ship, he walked on the water, to go to Jesus.

You, who are wanting to get to Jesus, should make a desperate effort to get to him; even walk on the water to get to Jesus. Walking on the water might be an idle and evil exhibition; but to walk on the water to go to Jesus is another matter. Try it, and the Lord enable you to get to him!

Matthew 14:30-32. But when he saw the wind boisterous, he was afraid; and beginning to sink, he cried, saying, Lord, save me. And immediately Jesus stretched forth his hand, and caught him, and said unto him, O thou of little faith, wherefore didst thou doubt? And when they were come into the ship, the wind ceased.

The Greek word implies that the wind was tired, weary, “done up,” as we say. It had had its boisterous time, and spent its force; and now it knew its Lord’s voice, and, like a tired child, fell asleep.

Matthew 14:33. Then they that were in the ship came and worshipped him, saying, Of a truth thou art the Son of God.

This seems to have been the first time that the disciples arrived at this conclusion so as to state it so positively; yet, do you not think that, after the miraculous multiplication of the loaves and fishes, they might have very fitly said, “Of a truth thou art the Son of God”? Sometimes, however, one wonder will strike us more than another; and, possibly, it was because they were in danger when this second miracle was wrought, and therefore they the more appreciated the coming of Christ to them at midnight. They were in no danger when the multitude were fed; perhaps they were not themselves hungry. That strikes us most which comes most home to us, as this miracle did.

Matthew 14:34-36. And when they were gone over, they came into the land of Gennesaret. 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; And besought him that they might only touch the hem of his garment: and as many as touched were made perfectly whole.


Verses 14-33

Matthew 14:14. And Jesus went forth, and saw a great multitude, and was moved with compassion toward them, and he healed their sick.

Different persons take different views of multitudes, according to the state of their minds. Many an officer when he sees a multitude considers how long it would take to march them from a certain place. Another man begins calculating how much food they will all need. Another begins to estimate their wealth, another to calculate how many per cent will die in the year. But the Lord Jesus Christ’s heart was full of pity and mercy, that the thing for him to do as he looked upon them was to have compassion upon them. He healed their sick, and helped them in their sorrows.

Matthew 14:15. And when it was evening, his disciples came to him, saying, This is a desert place, and the time is now past; send the multitudes away, that they may go into the villages, and buy themselves victuals.

This really meant “Get us out of the difficulty.” There was no hope that so many of them could get victuals in the villages; but the disciples as good as said “We cannot bear to see them starving. Help us to forget it.”

Matthew 14:16. But Jesus said unto them, They need not depart; give ye them to eat.

“You do not know what you can do, seeing I am with you,” the Lord answered. “You can feed them all.” O Christian church, never give up the most difficult problem. It may be worked out. The city may be evangelized, crowded as it is; the nations may to brought to Christ superstitious though they be; for he is with us.

Matthew 14:17-18. And they say unto him, We have here but five loaves, and two fishes. He said, Bring them hither to me.

He will not work without us. Whatever little gift or ability we have must be consecrated. Christ could easily have made loaves and fishes without taking their little stock, but that is not his way of working. “Bring what you have hither to me.” Whenever we have a church that brings all its store to Christ — (when shall we ever see such a church?) — then he will be pleased to make sufficient for the multitude.

Matthew 14:19-21. 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. And they did all eat and were filled: and they took up of the fragments that remained twelve baskets full. And they that had eaten were about five thousand men, beside women and children.

A wonderful evening that must have been. Just as the sun’s slanting rays would fall upon the mighty mass of people, Jesus Christ, the sun of righteousness, was scattering his beams of mercy over them at the same time. To him it is nothing to feed five thousand — nothing to do it with five loaves. Where he is present we may expect wonders, unless indeed our unbelief should hamper him, for sometimes it is too sadly true he could not do many mighty works there because of their unbelief. O my soul, chide thyself if thou hast ever thus hampered the hands of Christ.

Matthew 14:22-23. 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. And when he had sent the multitudes away, he went up into a mountain apart to pray.

It was a very busy day that he had had. If you read the narrative for yourself you will be astonished at the number of miracles which he wrought that day, and all of them in addition to the preaching, so he must have been well worn with weariness, but he sought rather the rest and refreshment of prayer than that of sleep.

Matthew 14:23-24. And when the evening was come, he was there alone. But the ship was now in the midst of the sea, tossed with waves: for the wind was contrary.

It did not matter however. For if his disciples be in a storm, so long as Christ is praying for them all the storms in the world are unable to sink them. They had a good protector. From the outlook of that hill his eyes, which could see through the distance, observed and regulated every breath of wind, and every wave upon the lake.

Matthew 14:25-26. And in the fourth watch of the night Jesus’ went unto them, walking on the sea. And when the disciples saw him walking on the sea, they were troubled, saying, It is a spirit;

“A phantom!” Having all the superstition so natural to sailors, they thought that this was something quite supernatural and boded ill to them.

Matthew 14:26-28. And they cried out for fear. But straightway Jesus spake unto them, saying, Be of good cheer it is I, be not afraid. And Peter answered him and said, Lord, if it be thou, bid me come unto thee on the water.

Strange impulse! It showed genuine faith mixed with that imperfection and presumption which was so common a feature in Peter’s character.

However, his master admired the confidence.

Matthew 14:29-30. And he said, Come. And when Peter was come down out of the ship, he walked on the water, to go to Jesus. But when he saw the wind boisterous, he was afraid; and beginning to sink, he cried, saying, Lord, save me.

When he began to be afraid he began to sink. As long as his confidence in his Master lasted he could walk the waves.

Matthew 14:31-33. And immediately Jesus stretched forth his hand, and caught him, and said unto him, O thou of little faith, wherefore didst thou doubt? And when they were come into the ship, the wind ceased. Then they that were in the ship came and worshipped him, saying, of a truth thou art the Son of God.

Well might they worship, for they had seen abundant proof of his deity. They worshipped him, saying, “of a truth thou art the Son of God.” They could not have meant by this, “Thou art a superior person, an excellent character.” They would not, if they were Jews, have worshipped a mere man; for of all things you ever saw in this life, you never saw a Jew that would worship any form that was visible to the eye. The captivity of Babylon delivered the Hebrew race from idolatry altogether. They may fall into superstition of another sort, but never into idolatry. Mark that. There has not been since that time a man of Jewish race who would have worshipped Christ if he had not believed him to be God.


Verses 22-33

Matthew 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.

Straightway is a business word: Jesus loses no time. No sooner is the banquet over than he sends off the guests to their homes. While they are well fed he bids them make the best of their way home. He who made the multitude sit down was able also to send the multitude away, but they needed sending, for they were loth to go. The sea must be crossed again, or Jesus cannot find seclusion. How he must run the gauntlet to get a little rest! Before he starts again across the sea, he performs another act of self-denial; for he cannot leave till he sees the crowd happily dispersed. He attends to that business himself giving the disciples the opportunity to depart in peace. As the captain is the last to leave the ship, so is the Lord the last to leave the scene of labour. The disciples would have chosen to stay in his company, and to enjoy the thanks of the people; but he constrained them to get into a ship. He could not get anyone to go away from him at this time without sending and constraining. This loadstone has great attractions. He evidently promised his disciples that he would follow them; for the words are, “to go before him unto the other side.” How he was to follow he did not say, but he could always find a way of keeping his appointments. How considerate of him to wait amid the throng while the disciples sailed away in peace He always takes the heavy end of the load himself.

Matthew 14:23. 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.

Now that the crowd is gone, he can take his rest, and he finds it in prayer. He went up into a mountain apart: in a place where he might speak aloud, and not be overheard or disturbed, he communed with the Father alone. This was his refreshment and his delight. He continued therein till the thickest shades of night had gathered, and the day was gone. “Alone,” yet not alone, he drank in new strength as he communed with his Father. He must have revealed this private matter to the recording evangelist, and surely it was with the intent that we should learn from his example. We cannot afford to be always in company, since even our blessed Lord felt that he must be alone.

Matthew 14:24. But the ship was now in the midst of the sea, tossed with waves: for the wind was contrary.

While Jesus was alone, they, in the ship, were in the same condition, but not occupied with the same spiritual exercise When they first quitted the shore it was fair sailing in the cool of the evening; but a storm gathered hastily as night covered the sky. On the lake of Galilee the wind rushes down from the gullies between the mountains, and causes grievous peril to little boats; sometimes fairly lifting them out of the water, and anon submerging them beneath the waves. That deep lake was peculiarly dangerous for small craft. They were far from land, for they were “in the midst of the sea,” equally distant from either shore. The sea was furious and their ship was “tossed with waves.” The hurricane was terrible. “The wind was contrary,” and would not let them go to any place which they sought. It was a whirlwind, and they were whirled about by it, but could not use it for reaching either shore. How much did their case resemble ours when we are in sore distress! We are tossed about and can do nothing; the blast is too furious for us to bear up against it, or even to live while driven before it. One happy fact remains: Jesus is pleading on the shore though we are struggling on the sea. It is also comfortable to know that we are where he constrained us to go (See verse 22), and he has promised to come to us in due time, and therefore all must be safe, though the tempest rages terribly.

Matthew 14:25. And in the fourth watch of the night Jesus went unto them, walking on the sea.

Jesus is sure to come. The night wears on and the darkness thickens; the fourth watch of the night draws near, but where is he? Faith says, “He must come.” Though he should stay away till almost break of day, he must come. Unbelief asks, “How can he come?” Ah, he will answer for himself: he can make his own way. “Jesus went unto them, walking on the sea.” He comes in the teeth of the wind, and on the face of the wave. Never fear that he will fail to reach the storm-tossed barque: his love will find out the way. Whither it be to a single disciple, or to the church as a whole, Jesus will appear in his own chosen hour, and his time is sure to be the most timely.

Matthew 14:26. And when the disciples saw him walking on the sea, they were troubled, saying, It is a spirit, and they cried out for fear.

Yes, the disciples saw him; saw Jesus their Lord, and derived no comfort from the sight. Poor human nature’s sight is a blind thing compared with the vision of a spiritual faith. They saw, but knew not what they saw. What could it be but a phantom? How could a real man walk on those foaming billows? How could he stand in the teeth of such a hurricane? They were already at their wits’ end, and the apparition put an end to their courage. We seem to hear their shriek of alarm: “they cried out for fear.” We read not that “they were troubled” before: they were old sailors, and had no dread of natural forces; but a spirit — ah, that was too much of a terror. They were at their worst now, and yet, if they had known it, they were on the verge of their best. It is noteworthy that the nearer Jesus was to them, the greater was their fear. Want of discernment blinds the soul to its richest consolations. Lord, be near, and let me know thee! Let me not have to say with Jacob, “Surely God was in this place; and I knew it not!”

Matthew 14:27. But straightway Jesus spake unto them, saying, Be of good cheer; it is I be not afraid.

He did not keep them in suspense: “Straightway Jesus spake unto them.” How sweetly sounded that loving and majestic voice! Above the roar of waves and howling of winds, they heard the voice of the Lord. This was his old word also, “Be of good cheer.” The most conclusive reason for courage was his own presence. “It is I be not afraid.” If Jesus be near, if the spirit of the storm be, after all, the Lord of love, all room for fear is gone. Can Jesus come to us through the storm? Then we shall weather it, and come to him. He who rules the tempest is not the devil, not chance, not a malicious enemy; but Jesus. This should end all fear.

Matthew 14:28. And Peter answered him and said, Lord, if it be thou, bid me come unto thee on the water.

Peter must be the first to speak, he is impulsive, and besides, he was a sort of foreman in the company. The first speaker is not always the wisest man. Peter’s fears have gone, all but one “if”; but that “if” was working him no good, for it seemed to challenge his Master: “Lord if it be thou.” What a test to suggest: “Bid me come unto thee on the water!” What did Peter want with walking the waters? His name might have suggested that like a stone he would go to the bottom. It was an imprudent request: it was the swing of the pendulum in Peter from despair to an injudicious venturing. Surely, he wist not what he said. Yet we, too, have put our Lord to tests almost as improper. Have we not said, “If thou hast ever blessed me, give me this and that”? We, too, have had our water-walking, and have ventured where nothing but special grace could uphold us. Lord, what is man?

Matthew 14:29. And he said, Come. And when Peter was come down out of the ship, he walked on the water, to go to Jesus.

When good men are unwise and presumptuous, it may be for their lasting good to learn their folly by experience. “He said, Come.” Peter’s Lord is about to teach him a practical lesson. He asked to be bidden to come. He may come. He does come. He leaves the boat, he treads the wave. He is on the way towards his Lord. We can do anything if we have divine authorization, and courage enough to take the Lord at his word. Now there were two on the sea, two wonders! Which was the greater? The reader may not find it easy to reply. Let him consider.

Matthew 14:30. But when he saw the wind boisterous, he was afraid, and beginning to sink, he cried, saying, Lord, save me.

“But”: a sorrowful “but” for poor Peter. His eye was off his Lord and on the raging of the wind: “he saw the wind boisterous.” His heart failed him, and then his foot failed him. Down he began to go — an awful moment is this “beginning to sink”, yet it was only a “beginning,” he had time to cry to his Lord, who was not sinking. Peter cried, and was safe. His prayer was as full as it was short. He had brought his eye and his faith back to Jesus, for he cried, “Lord!” He had come into this danger through obedience, and therefore he had an appeal in the word “Lord.” Whether in danger or not, Jesus was still his Lord. He is a lost man, and he feels it, unless his Lord will save him — save him altogether, save him now. Blessed prayer: “Lord, save me.” Reader, does it not suit you? Peter was nearer his Lord when he was sinking than when he was walking. In our low estate we are often nearer to Jesus than in our more glorious seasons.

Matthew 14:31. And immediately Jesus stretched forth his hand, and caught him, and said unto him, O thou of little faith, wherefore didst thou doubt?

Our Lord delays not when our peril is imminent and our cry is urgent: “Immediately Jesus stretched forth his hand.” He first “caught him” and then taught him. Jesus saves first, and upbraids afterwards, when he must needs do so. When we are saved is the fit time for us to chasten ourselves for our unbelief. Let us learn from our Lord, that we may not reprove others till we have first helped them out of their difficulties. Our doubts are unreasonable: “Wherefore didst thou doubt?” If there be reason for little faith, there is evidently reason for great confidence. If it be right to trust Jesus at all, why not trust him altogether? Trust was Peter’s strength, doubt was his danger. It looked like great faith when Peter walked the water; but a little wind soon proved it to be “little faith.” Till our faith is tried, we can form no reliable estimate of it. After his Lord had taken him by the hand, Peter sank no further, but resumed the walk of faith. How easy to have faith when we are close to Jesus! Lord, when our faith fails, come thou to us, and we shall walk on the wave.

Matthew 14:32. And when they were come into the ship, the wind ceased.

So that Peter’s walk and his rescue had happened in the face of the tempest. He could walk the water well enough when his Lord held his hand and so can we. What a sight! Jesus and Peter, hand in hand, walking upon the sea! The two made for the ship at once: miracles are never spun out to undue length. Was not Peter glad to leave the tumultuous element, and at the same time to perceive that the gale was over? “When they were come into the ship, the wind ceased,” it is well to be safe in a storm, but more pleasant to find the calm return and the hurricane end. How gladly did the disciples welcome their Lord, and their brother, Peter, who though wet to the skin, was a wiser man for his adventure!

Matthew 14:33. Then they that were in the ship came and worshipped him, saying, Of a truth thou art the Son of God.

No wonder that Peter “worshipped him,” nor that his comrades did the same. The whole of the disciples, who had been thus rescued by their Lord’s coming to them on the stormy sea, were overwhelmingly convinced of his Godhead. Now they were doubly sure of it by unquestionable evidence, and in lowly reverence they expressed to him their adoring faith, saying, “Of a truth thou art the Son of God.”

 


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Bibliography Information
Spurgeon, Charle Haddon. "Commentary on Matthew 14:4". "Spurgeon's Verse Expositions of the Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/spe/matthew-14.html. 2011.

Lectionary Calendar
Thursday, November 14th, 2019
the Week of Proper 27 / Ordinary 32
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