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Matthew 14:1-21

When Little is Much

  • Rich Jones
  • Weekend Messages
  • February 6, 2011

Matthew gives us much more detail about what brought about John the Baptist’s death. It's certainly a sad story, but also gives insight into human nature and why people need the Lord to save, to redeem, and to transform. So, in this chapter, there are two different feasts that we read about. In one, we see just how dark is the heart of man and in the other we see how great is the heart of God.

  • Sermon Notes
  • Scripture

When Little is Much

Matthew 14:1-21

As we turn to to Matthew chapter 14, we come to the famous story of when Jesus fed the 5,000. Actually, there were many more than that there. The scripture tells us that there were 5,000 men not counting the women and children, so the crowd Jesus fed that day was probably more like 10-15,000.

This event was so important in the ministry of Jesus that it is included in all four of the gospels. The background of this story is also very important because it sets the scene and helps us understand what Jesus was teaching the disciples as he was preparing them to bring the good news to the world.

From the other gospels we understand that Jesus had sent out the disciples to the cities and towns of Israel teaching and healing in Jesus’ name and they were now coming back from that journey excited about what had happened but also needing rest.

We also understand that Jesus had just heard about the death of John the Baptist and wanted to withdraw from there to a lonely place by Himself.

Matthew gives us much more detail about what brought about John the Baptist’s death. It's certainly a sad story, but also gives insight into human nature and why people need the Lord to save, to redeem, and to transform. It should remind us of the scripture that says, "The heart is desperately wicked above all things, and who can know it." Jeremiah 17:9

So, in this chapter, there are two different feasts that we read about. In one, we see just how dark is the heart of man and in the other we see how great is the heart of God.

I. Exalting One’s Self Won’t End Well

  • The chapter begins by giving us an inside look at the family of Herod the Great. If there ever was a dysfunctional family, this would be it.
  • In those days, they didn't have soap operas, nor did they need them. All they needed to do was to follow the intrigues and betrayals of this family.
  • It all started with Herod the Great. Though he was called "the Great” that wasn't a good description. Kings were often given the designation of either being called great or terrible according to what they accomplished.
  • Considering the fact that Herod had several wives and sons killed he could hardly be called great. Caesar said of him, "It's safer to be Herod’s pig than his son.”
  • But that Herod died and his territory was given by Rome to several of his sons and that's where the soap opera begins.
  • Herod Antipas went to Rome and while there, took up a relationship with his step brother's wife, Herodias, who also happened to be their neice.

A. Pride will keep you from hearing

  • One of the things we've been hearing from Jesus over and over is, "He who has ears to hear, let him hear." As we saw last week, this is a key to being spiritually transformed. "Faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of Christ," the scriptures say.

Romans 12:2, And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect.

  • These scriptures so clearly tell us how important it is to be able to receive, to hear, what God is speaking into our lives.
  • But then we read the story in Matthew 14 and the problem becomes clear. In every one of the players in that soap opera, pride was the driving force.
  • The chapter actually begins with Herod hearing of Jesus’ fame and thinking that he was John the Baptist risen from the dead. No doubt he had a guilty conscience for what he did to John and you have to wonder if you didn't have nightmares about John.
  • We gain a little more insight in the gospel of Mark. In Mark's account we read that Herod liked to listen to John.

Mark 6:14-28 Herod listened but would not change

B. Pride can only be seen through humility

  • An interesting thing about pride is that it cannot identify itself. It hides behind other thoughts that sound much more appealing to the conscience, such as, "You deserve this,” or “If you don’t look after your needs, who will?”
  • But when you identify pride for what it is, now you're speaking from humility.
  • Earlier we read Romans 12:2 about being transformed by the renewing of your mind. What's interesting is that in the very next verse Paul tells us what thoughts need to be renewed.

Romans 12:3, For through the grace given to me I say to everyone among you not to think more highly of himself than he ought to think; but to think so as to have sound judgment, as God has allotted to each a measure of faith.

  • It's interesting that Paul brings up faith in that verse. Pride is lifting up of oneself; a sense of self-sufficiency, of thinking highly of one's ability; in which case, there's little need or room for faith.
  • In fact, there is a great scripture by the prophet Habakkuk that puts it in perfect perspective…

Habakkuk 2:4, “Behold, as for the proud one, his soul is not right with him; but the righteous will live by his faith.”

  • While pride and humility are opposites, it's not quite as obvious as it may seem. If pride is thinking highly of oneself, then is humility thinking lowly of oneself? Answer; not at all.
  • “Humility is not thinking less of yourself,” as someone once said, “but rather, thinking of yourself less.”

Philippians 2:3-4, Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit, but with humility of mind regard one another is more important than yourselves; do not merely look out for your own personal interests, but also for the interests of others.

  • I submit that the opposite of pride is faith, which is what we read in Habakkuk 2:4. If pride is self-sufficiency, then faith is God-sufficiency. This
  • And that is the very thing we understand from the next part of our story in Matthew 14…

II. Rest in What God Can Do

  • After Jesus heard about the death of John He withdrew from there in a boat, to a lonely place by Himself. From those words we can understand how much Jesus loved John and even though he knew John was safely brought into the presence of His Father, it still grieved Him.
  • I love the scene of Jesus crossing over to the other side of the Sea of Galilee here. There's just something so beautiful and peaceful about being on the water when your soul needs refreshing.
  • It reminds me of Psalm 23, "He leads me beside still waters and restores my soul."
  • But the crowds can see where Jesus is heading so they run across to meet him by going around the northern edge of the sea so that when Jesus arrives there is a huge crowd of people longing for Him to minister to them.

Mark 6:34, When Jesus went ashore, he saw a large crowd, and He felt compassion for them because they were like sheep without a shepherd; and He began to teach them many things.

A. Don’t see only what you lack

  • While Jesus was ministering to the crowd that day, apparently, the disciples were holding a meeting and had come to the conclusion that Jesus could use their advice.
  • Never mind the fact that He is called Wonderful Counselor, many people still find it necessary to help the Lord out by telling Him what's best.

Isaiah 40:13-14, Who has directed the spirit of the Lord, or as His counselor has informed him? With whom did He consult and who gave Him understanding?

  • Their advice was to send the multitudes away, that they may go into the villages and buy food for themselves.
  • But Jesus said to them, "They do not need to go away; you give them something to eat!"
  • Clearly, this is not just about feeding the multitude that day. Jesus was instructing them and it's instructive to us as well.

Luke 22:35-36, And He said to them, "When I sent you out without money belt and bag and sandals, you did not lack anything, did you?" They said, "No, nothing."

  • But their first response was to see how little they had. Philip must have tried to do some calculations because he responded…,

John 6:7, Philip answered Him, "Two hundred denarii worth of bread is not sufficient for them, for everyone to receive a little."

Illus - when God called Moses to lead the Jewish people out of Egypt, Moses continued to give God reasons why he was inadequate for the job.

B. In God’s hands little is much

  • The whole story turns on one statement. Jesus responded to their lack of faith by saying, "Bring them here to Me."
  • Andrew had found a young boy with five barley loaves and two fish but then said, "But what are these among so many people?"

  • This is a very difficult lesson for us to understand, because it is so common for us to focus on what we do not have. But Jesus is increasing their faith and will increase our faith as well that we should bring what little we have to Him, for in His hands little is much.
  • Without His hand, we actually do have little, but faith that trusts Him, also pleases Him.

Psalm 127:2, It is vain for you to rise up early, to retire late, to eat the bread of painful labors; for it is He who gives to His beloved even while he sleeps.

Hebrews 11:6, And without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is and that He is a rewarder of those who seek Him.

  • Jesus had them sit in groups of 100s and 50s and then looking up to heaven, He blessed the food and gave it to the disciples who gave it to the multitude.
  • And then it says that they were satisfied. But that word, "satisfied," means that they were completely satisfied, filled to the full.

Illus – When we were in Kinshasa, DRC we held a dinner for the pastors we were working with, but little did we know that they would all come with their associate pastors and all their wives and children. We had only prepared a handful of small chickens…

Illus – He giveth more grace as our burdens grow greater,
He sendeth more strength as our labors increase;
To added afflictions He addeth His mercy,
To multiplied trials He multiplies peace..

His love has no limits, His grace has no measure,
His power no
boundary known unto men; And when we’ve come to the end of our hoarded resources, He giveth, and giveth, and giveth again.

C. God can even use little faith

  • Jesus said that faith even as the mustard seed can be multiplied by God. But the key is, "Bring it to Me." We can even bring our small faith and ask the Lord to increase it.
  • When the disciples could not release a boy from a demon they brought him to Jesus. Later, they asked why they could not release the boy.

Matthew 17:20, And He said to them, "Because of the littleness of your faith; for truly I say to you, if you have faith the size of a mustard seed, you will say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move; and nothing will be impossible for you.”

  • As we remember, the mustard seed is very small, yet grows into a large bush.
  • Even if you have just a little faith, come to Jesus and He will multiply it and use your life for His glory.
  • What can God do with our lives if we would only bring it to Him?

Herod’s Soap Opera

Herodias is ambitious so she goes back to Galilee. She divorces her husband Philip and forces Herod Antipas to divorce his wife. Actually, Herod Antipas’ wife already heard about the affair and so she went to her father who just happened to be an Arabian King of Nabatea, in the area of Petra. That divorce would later result in a war between them.

So Herod Antipas divorced his wife so he could take Herodias from his half-brother Philip. Herodias then brings with her her daughter Salome who was Herod Philip's daughter, Herod Antipas’ half-brother, which makes her his great niece because he's married to his niece’s brother’s wife.

Matthew 14:1-21    NASB

1 At that time Herod the tetrarch heard the news about Jesus, 2 and said to his servants, "This is John the Baptist; he has risen from the dead, and that is why miraculous powers are at work in him." 3 For when Herod had John arrested, he bound him and put him in prison because of Herodias, the wife of his brother Philip. 4 For John had been saying to him, "It is not lawful for you to have her." 5 Although Herod wanted to put him to death, he feared the crowd, because they regarded John as a prophet.
 
6 But when Herod's birthday came, the daughter of Herodias danced before them and pleased Herod, 7 so much that he promised with an oath to give her whatever she asked. 8 Having been prompted by her mother, she said, "Give me here on a platter the head of John the Baptist." 9 Although he was grieved, the king commanded it to be given because of his oaths, and because of his dinner guests. 10 He sent and had John beheaded in the prison. 11 And his head was brought on a platter and given to the girl, and she brought it to her mother. 12 His disciples came and took away the body and buried it; and they went and reported to Jesus.
 
13 Now when Jesus heard about John, He withdrew from there in a boat to a secluded place by Himself; and when the people heard of this, they followed Him on foot from the cities. 14 When He went ashore, He saw a large crowd, and felt compassion for them and healed their sick. 15 When it was evening, the disciples came to Him and said, "This place is desolate and the hour is already late; so send the crowds away, that they may go into the villages and buy food for themselves." 16 But Jesus said to them, "They do not need to go away; you give them something to eat!" 17 They said to Him, "We have here only five loaves and two fish." 18 And He said, "Bring them here to Me." 19 Ordering the people to sit down on the grass, He took the five loaves and the two fish, and looking up toward heaven, He blessed the food, and breaking the loaves He gave them to the disciples, and the disciples gave them to the crowds, 20 and they all ate and were satisfied. They picked up what was left over of the broken pieces, twelve full baskets. 21 There were about five thousand men who ate, besides women and children.

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