Text: Matthew 15:29-38
FCF: We often struggle trusting the Lord even when we have witnessed His providence before.
Prop: Because Christ enables us to do anything we are called to, we must walk by faith and not by sight.
Scripture Intro: NET
[Slide 1] Turn in your bible to Matthew 15. Last week we saw an incredible story of a gentile woman that would not take no for an answer. She was humbly and recklessly depending on Christ to help her. And even though Christ told her no, 3 times, she made it clear that He was her only hope. So, recognizing her great faith, He did as she asked. Through the eyes of this Canaanite woman we learn about Christ’s identity. That He is the only hope for us. Today we will see a similar concept, but from a different perspective, and with a more specific application. I’m in Matthew 15, I’ll start reading in verse 29. I am reading today from the NET but follow along in whatever version you prefer.
With permission I have asked Eric Daum if I could share a conversation I had recently with him. It has been a long journey for he and his wife, but now they are over 75% supported and poised to enter their next phase in going into a tribe in Indonesia. But only a month or two ago, he and I were having a very different conversation. At the time they were just shy of 60% supported. It was looking more and more that they were going to miss their window and probably have to wait a few more months to go. He was even talking about other things that he could do around the church to help for that time.
I brought this up to him recently and he confided in me telling me that it has really always been this way in his life. That God provides for him, sometimes at the last moment. That at various points in his life God has done things that were impossible or at least highly unlikely. Then this conversation naturally led to how fickle we are.
I told him that Kadie and I too have had several circumstances where we were facing some pretty impossible things and we didn’t even ask God to help us. He just did it. Then the inevitable guilt would overwhelm us as we realize that we didn’t even seek Him for aid.
At the end of the conversation we agreed that God is always faithful – worthy of our dependence. That there is absolutely nothing that stands before us that is unachievable if God wants it to happen. So we have to depend on Him.
This conversation happened this Monday… and lo and behold, that is exactly what this message is about. God does that often for me. I think it is because He wants to make sure I don’t miss it. J
I’m gonna try my best to make sure you don’t either. Because we often struggle trusting the Lord even when we have witnessed Him do mighty things. And this ought not be the case. His faithfulness should be the catalyst to our growing faithfulness. And our dependence on Him should never have us saying I can’t. So how do we move from saying I can’t to in your strength, I will?
That is what we will see today. From the eyes of two groups of people, we’ll see Jesus as the Canaanite woman did. The provider of all that we need. But what we learn from that will move the ball down the field a little for us.
I.) There is no need that Jesus cannot meet, so we must walk by faith and not by sight. (29-31)
a. [Slide 2] 29 – When He left there, Jesus went along the Sea of Galilee. Then He went up a mountain where He sat down.
i. Matthew is extremely vague here about where exactly Jesus went after He was in the region of Tyre and Sidon.
ii. [Slide 3] Mark reveals to us more of Jesus’ travels which indicate, probably, a loop around and down into Decapolis.
iii. Decapolis is a region we have already discussed. This was most certainly the site of the demoniac of Gadera. And if you remember, He cast out the demons into swine, and because of the fear of God on the hearts of these gentiles, They asked Him to leave their region.
iv. [Slide 4] So why is Matthew being vague? Perhaps he did not see these details as important. Or perhaps he does not want to pollute his intended meaning of this episode, with another meaning. I’ll explain in just a moment.
v. So Jesus comes to this region next to the sea of Galilee – which is in gentile territory – and he sits down on the side of a mountain. Which is a posture that a teacher would normally take to teach. It is safe to assume that Jesus is preaching here – but Matthew wants to show us the compassion of Jesus.
vi. And you might be thinking – but he has already shown us that.
vii. That is exactly the point. Just hang with me. There are a lot of moving pieces here that when they come together it will make sense, but until then it may be a bit obscure.
b. [Slide 5] 30 – Then large crowds came to him bringing with them the lame, blind, crippled, mute, and many others. They laid them at His feet, and He healed them.
i. As is Matthew’s style, he has a flair for quick summarization.
ii. In two sentences Matthew packs in no doubt hundreds of miracles.
iii. So many that they were on the side of that mountain for 3 days. Which we will see a little later.
iv. Lame, blind, crippled, mute – all these ailments have deep connections to prophesy. Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel – all speak of the Messiah being a healer and having the ability to heal all these things.
c. [Slide 6] 31 – As a result, the crowd was amazed when they saw the mute speaking, the crippled healthy, the lame walking, and the blind seeing, and they praised the God of Israel.
i. He was loosening tongues to speak that had never spoken before.
ii. He was restoring limbs that didn’t exist or didn’t work.
iii. He was helping people to stand up and walk who had never stood up and walked before.
iv. He was peeling mud from people’s eyes and the first thing they ever saw in their entire life was the face of Jesus.
v. They were amazed. Gee I wonder why?
vi. And what did they do? They praised the God of Israel.
vii. Do you understand what this means? There are a few layers to this so hang with me ok.
1. Israel’s mission, a mission that God gave to them when He chose Abraham to be their father, was to be a blessing to all nations. To point all nations to Him. To drive all nations to worship and bring glory to Him. Here Jesus is doing what Israel struggled to do for thousands of years.
2. A second item is like the first. Jesus in the Sermon on the Mount told those who would be Kingdom citizens that their purpose, their job, was to live in such a way that men would see their good works and glorify their Father in heaven. Again Jesus is doing just that.
3. The third thing I’d like us to see is that although we KNOW from Mark that these people are Gentiles, Matthew still has not quite overtly said it to be the case. And this statement is the closest he comes. Would it ever be appropriate for it to be said of a Jew that he praised the God of Israel? Many commentators and even some great preachers use the ethnicity of these people as an interpretational guide for this episode.
4. Indeed I was tempted to make this all about Jesus’ expansion of His ministry to the Gentile people. But I do not believe that is what Matthew is leading us to. Let me explain why. And I know that this doesn’t seem like it matters but I promise it does.
d. [Slide 7 (blank)] While I understand, that it is definitely a Gentile audience that Jesus has before Him – of that there is no doubt – Matthew does not tell us that overtly. A detail that seems important, he leaves out.
e. And although praising the God of Israel seems like a description that would prove a gentile crowd – in Luke 1 Zechariah after insisting on naming his son John, could now speak having his tongue loosed and enters into a prophesy of praise. In this prophesy he praises the God of Israel. Several psalms include praises to the God of Israel. It is not abnormal or even farfetched for an Israelite to praise the God of Israel.
f. So what does that mean? It means that this is not an overt reference to a gentile crowd. Meaning that there is absolutely no indication as to the ethnicity of these people.
g. Why does this matter?
h. Well you see, if this passage is about Jesus with Gentiles then it produces an inevitable conclusion. That coupled with the story of the Canaanite woman, Jesus is now officially expanding his ministry to the Gentiles. Which obviously is true… but in this gospel of Mattthew, and in this narrative portion of this gospel account, Matthew is trying to show who Jesus is through the eyes of those who understand and those who do not. And we actually have two examples in this passage. The first of which is the crowd here – praising the God of Israel for Jesus’ Messianic power. And the second response to Jesus is yet to come.
i. Can I submit to you that Matthew did not mention anything about gentiles in this text because he did not want us to assume what many commentators and preachers assume here. He does not want his Jewish reader to focus on Jesus changing his ministry to gentiles. He wants his readers to focus on the people’s understanding or lack thereof.
j. And this is important because we could miss it if we focus on something that Matthew has not asked us to focus on. Gentiles cannot be the subject matter of this particular episode because Matthew has not taken pains to make it clear they are Gentiles as he did with the Canaanite woman. Who was actually Syrophoencian. Matthew didn’t hesitate to make it clear that SHE was a gentile.
k. So through the eyes of these ethnically unidentified people we see Jesus more messianic than He has ever been. He fulfills what the Jews were supposed to be. He heals and restores and causes them to praise God. With Him, there is no need that cannot be met. For the Jew first, and also for the Gentile.
So now, we can move on to the second point Matthew is drawing us to. And this point is drawn in direct comparison to the crowd’s response.
I.) In Christ, there is nothing beyond our capability either, so we must walk by faith and not by sight. (32-39)
a. [Slide 8] 32 – Then Jesus called the disciples and said, “I have compassion on the crowd, because they have already been here with me three days and they have nothing to eat. I don’t want to send them away hungry since they may faint on the way.”
i. This sounds awfully familiar does it not?
ii. Didn’t we just talk about something similar to this? What was it? Yes the feeding of the 5,000.
iii. Given travel time and the many events that transpired here, and even the reference later to Jesus having the crowd sit on the ground and not the grass, probably indicates that several months have elapsed since the feeding of the 5,000. An event that happened a little farther north of where they were now.
iv. Unlike before, Jesus expresses His desire to the disciples very bluntly. I want these people fed.
v. And I don’t care who you are, miracles tend to stick out in your minds. You tend to remember things like 15,000 people being fed by 5 loaves and 2 fish.
vi. And if you will remember, Jesus wanted them to feed the crowd then. But once it was clear that they were focusing on what they could do not what God could do, Jesus takes the lead and provides miraculously.
vii. So on this second chance, this take two, what should have been the disciples response?
viii. OH OH I KNOW – PICK ME JESUS ! PICK ME! I’ll DO IT!
ix. Their response should have been like Peter’s initial response in the boat. If it is your will Jesus, then command me to trust you to provide the food through me. I will depend on God. I’ll raise the basket in the air. I’ll ask for God’s blessing. I’ll stand back and watch Him provide.
x. But what do they say?
b. [Slide 9] 33 – The disciples said to him, “Where can we get enough bread in this desolate place to satisfy so great a crowd?”
i. Some commentators say that the “we” here is emphatic. Meaning that they were saying well there is nothing that WE can do but we know someone who CAN do something.
ii. While I can’t find in the Greek evidence to support that – it really doesn’t matter, because Jesus was not wanting them to depend on Him to do it for them. He was wanting them to depend on Him to do it through them. Before – in the feeding of the 5000 that was His desire. He said – YOU get them something to eat. They couldn’t do it then – so now after having seen Jesus do it – you’d think they would be ready to trust that He could use them to accomplish the same thing He did on His own. In this we see Jesus trying to teach His disciples. Trying to disciple them. In fact…
iii. In the next couple sections we see Jesus grooming His disciples to take over His ministry for Him. Why? Because Jesus is about to turn toward JERUSALEM AND DIE. He has already been ministering for almost 2 years in Galilee. He is going to spend another year in Judea and then He will be killed. Jesus is trying to get them to stand on their faith. But the problem as we’ll continue to see is that their faith is so small, so paper thin that nothing can stand on it.
iv. That compared to the Canaanite woman their faith is tiny.
v. Where can we get enough bread… Guys I gave you the ability, at least for a time, to cast out demons, raise the dead, and heal the sick. What do you think I am training you for? What do you think I have been doing all this time? Isn’t it obvious that I am preparing you to be without me? To depend on me even though I am not with you physically.
vi. Where did I get the bread from guys? It was God’s will and by dependence on God HE provided the bread before.
vii. I AM YOUR CONNECTOR TO HIM. You want to come to the father you go through ME.
viii. Depend on me and let me work this miracle through you.
ix. Jesus just told these men that it was His will to feed the crowd. Their response was – that is impossible for us. WE. CAN’T.
x. Yet, Jesus continues to be compassionate and patient, waiting on His disciples to get it.
c. [Slide 10] 34 – Jesus said to them, “How many loaves do you have?” They replied, “Seven – and a few small fish.”
i. So Jesus asks what bread they have available. He asks this question because it is clear that their hearts are still only focused on what they could humanly provide.
ii. And not only are there fewer people than last time, but there are greater provisions than last time too.
iii. They’ve seen Jesus do more with less.
iv. I feel like this question is kinda like when God asked Adam and Eve where they were in the garden.
v. This is impossible guys? Really? How many loaves you got? And how many did we have last time?
d. [Slide 11-12] 35-38 – After instructing the crowd to sit down on the ground. He took the seven loaves and the fish, and after giving thanks, he broke them and began giving them to the disciples, who then gave them to the crowds. They ate and were satisfied and they picked up the broken pieces left over, seven baskets full. Not counting children and women, there were four thousand men who ate.
i. The details of this episode are largely the same as before
ii. Aside from there being 7 baskets full instead of 12.
iii. Does that mean more or less than before? Is this symbolism of some kind. We don’t know.
iv. What we do know is that Jesus did it again. And instead of responding to the prompts of Jesus for the disciples to do this – they still saw no physical way for it to be done.
[Slide 13 (blank) (end)] So what does Matthew want us to see, and how then do we live?
First we clearly see that there is no need that Christ is unable to meet. Physical or spiritual, temporal or eternal – Christ is the answer to all. Then as Jesus turns His eyes on His disciples, he expects them to be able to do as He has done. We have seen him give them power to raise the dead, to heal the sick, to cast out demons. His discipleship method is to teach, teach with, and then send out to do. And they have seen and helped him feed 5000 people. Now Christ wonders if they will depend on Him to be used.
Will they depend on Him enough to have Him work through them to feed these people?
Sadly for them – the answer was no. They would not.
D.A. Carson said “we must never lose sight of a human being’s vast capacity for unbelief.”
That even after witnessing Jesus do this very thing, to a greater capacity, only a few short months prior, they still did not believe. To the point that they are convinced they are completely incapable of providing the need. Even with Christ standing right there with them.
But before we get too poised to mount our very high horse… we are exactly the same. Aren’t we?
It doesn’t matter how many times God’s has proven that He can do anything, we still do not trust Him. Or – and what may be worse – we trust Him to do it for us. And He operates that way sometimes – but as His ambassadors, it is most often His desire to do it through us. Why? Because it wins our hearts and brings Him more glory. When we allow ourselves to be used of God to accomplish something unimaginable - we become trumpets of praise to bring Him greater glory and our hearts are knit closer and stronger to His because of His great work. When He does it for us He is a genie granting a wish, when He does it through us, He is Sovereign master making us into new creatures.
Do we really believe that we can do all things through Christ who gives us strength? Do we believe that we can accomplish God’s will for our lives through the power of His son? Or do we just believe that this verse is only for football games or beating cancer?
Too often we convince ourselves of the opposite. Oftentimes when counseling people struggling with sins of various kinds, they will say something to the effect of “well I would love to get victory over this but I just can’t. I’d love to trust the Lord but I just can’t. I’d love to be sweet and kind to my wife but I just can’t do it.” And so on.
Do you hear the unbelief of the disciples?
In Christ, there is nothing in the Father’s will that we are unable to do. There are many things we are unwilling to do, or that we lack faith to do, but there is nothing we are unable to do.
There is no command is scripture, no guiding of the Spirit, no purpose that God sets you to that you are not able to accomplish in Christ.
Now hear me correctly because I am afraid you might misunderstand. This is not the gobletygook message of our world that says you can do whatever you put your mind to. This is not the silliness of this culture that says that you can be what you dream. No. This isn’t name it claim it. This isn’t faith healing.
What I am saying is that anything God wants from you – He can get from you – if you depending on Christ. That Anything God wants to do through you – He can do through you - if relying on Jesus. Why? Because it is in Christ that the Father is well-pleased.
This is the greatness of the Gospel. It transforms us not to just be theoretically right with God – but to be able to be used of God. After all – what does being His ambassador mean if not this?
This means that every answer to defeat is to run to Christ. Every strategy for victory is to run to Christ. Every hope for every day for every cause for every man is to run to Christ.
But we do not preach Christ this way do we? We hear sermons about dependence on Christ as if it is only for our salvation. Why do you think that is?
Friends we live in a culture and a nation, where Independence is not only cherished but it is sought. And that isn’t all bad. Even now I am teaching my daughters to be independent. But this culture with its affluence and ambition can communicate a very dangerous worldview that says, essentially, we can pull ourselves up by our own bootstraps. We can do all that we need done. That if we need something, we need only to put enough elbow grease into it and we can make it happen. Is it any wonder than, that Jesus has been sequestered to only providing us love, happiness, and salvation. The most elusive and impossible to grasp have been given to Jesus. And that is all.
But it is so much more than this friends. This dependence we have on Jesus is always deepening, Always widening, Always expanding and always continuing.
Are you having marital issues – depend on the power of Christ to forgive and love
Are you having addiction issues – depend on the power of Christ to set you free
Are you having difficulty sharing your faith – depend on the love of Christ to loosen your tongue
And it seems like a trope. It seems like platitudes. And you might be thinking – yeah yeah – depend on Christ – I hear ya but you just don’t understand. This advice doesn’t help me Chris. I’ve tried depending on Jesus and it hasn’t really worked.
Really? And what have you actually done to depend on Christ? Can you TRY to depend on anything? Isn’t dependence on Him and saying it doesn’t work the opposite of one another. What I mean friend is that dependence is not pragmatic. It does not last only as long as it works. Dependence says this is all I have! There is no other great hope on which I can Trust!
True dependence is the dependence of the Canaanite woman. She wouldn’t stop – because where else would she go?
Our first step in conquering sin is not to memorize scripture, or to pray, or to flee, or to flick a rubber band on our wrist. No. Our first step must be to cry out for Christ to help us. And to continue to do so until we see Him work through us to victory.
Our first step in being part of the church is not forcing ourselves to go to a building. Our first step in reading the bible is not finding the right version. Our first step in going to a mission field is not raising support. And the first step for the disciples to feed this crowd was NOT to look at how much bread they had or how much bread they needed, or where they could find more.
Our first step has nothing at all to do with us whatsoever. Because that is not dependence on Christ. That is not faith in Christ. It is dependence on us – it is faith in ourselves.
Do you see? That if you depend on Christ and still fail, that you have no other options but to continue to depend on Him? You can’t just TRY to depend on Him.
So when we face the impossible. And friends that is every day. Every day we face the impossible goal of holiness. The impossible goal of being like Christ. The impossible goal of worshipping our creator. The impossible goal of loving God with the kind of love that He loves us with. The impossible goal of loving others as much as we love ourselves. When we face these impossibilities we must walk by faith and not by sight. With patience, looking unto Jesus. Why? Because He is the originator, the beginner, the creator, and the object of our faith. But He is also our faith’s finisher, completer, and perfecter.