The audio wasn’t recorded on Sunday. But you’ll find the notes below of our week 11 message in our Journey through Matthew series with Ellen Kim teaching.
Welcome: Welcome let us take a Deep Breath look around and take a moment to be grateful for each person that is here today.
Review: Why read through the whole book of Matthew at this blistering pace? Well here are just a couple of reasons; First It enables us to experience the Gospel from Matthew’s perspective, his uniquely and divinely inspired account. Second Jesus is Savior, healer, preacher, teacher, king. I believe it is important not to chop up scripture too much for our own purposes, but rather to experience how Jesus embodied all these aspects of his character in order that we might gain deeper understanding of who he is, and how he taught us to live.
So I begin today with a question. Have you ever experienced “word vomit” saying or doing something so wretched, that you almost don’t even recognize it as something coming from you? Or perhaps you’re the hold it in type with metaforic word vomit swirling in your mouth making you feel sick? Where does it come from? What do we do with the sick feeling? In our story today Jesus is going to reveal to us the truth about this “word vomit.”
But before we get to that We pick up in Matthew 14 it opens like a soap opera flash back… like a Korean Soap Opera with Computer generated sparkles effects.
The Death of John
14 1-2 At about this time, Herod, the regional ruler, heard what was being said about Jesus. He said to his servants, “This has to be John the Baptizer come back from the dead. That’s why he’s able to work miracles!”
3-5 Herod had arrested John, put him in chains, and sent him to prison to placate Herodias, his brother Philip’s wife. John had provoked Herod by naming his relationship with Herodias “adultery.” Herod wanted to kill him, but he was afraid because so many people revered John as a prophet of God.
6-12 But at his birthday celebration, he got his chance. Herodias’s daughter provided the entertainment, dancing for the guests. She swept Herod away. In his drunken enthusiasm, he promised her on oath anything she wanted. Already coached by her mother, she was ready: “Give me, served up on a platter, the head of John the Baptizer.” That sobered the king up fast. Unwilling to lose face with his guests, he did it—ordered John’s head cut off and presented to the girl on a platter. She in turn gave it to her mother. Later, John’s disciples got the body, gave it a reverent burial, and reported to Jesus.
Supper for Five Thousand
13-14 When Jesus got the news, he slipped away by boat to an out-of-the-way place by himself. But unsuccessfully—someone saw him and the word got around. Soon a lot of people from the nearby villages walked around the lake to where he was. When he saw them coming, he was overcome with pity and healed their sick.
15 Toward evening the disciples approached him. “We’re out in the country and it’s getting late. Dismiss the people so they can go to the villages and get some supper.”
16 But Jesus said, “There is no need to dismiss them. You give them supper.”
17 “All we have are five loaves of bread and two fish,” they said.
18-21 Jesus said, “Bring them here.” Then he had the people sit on the grass. He took the five loaves and two fish, lifted his face to heaven in prayer, blessed, broke, and gave the bread to the disciples. The disciples then gave the food to the congregation. They all ate their fill. They gathered twelve baskets of leftovers. About five thousand were fed.
What happens in this part?
Put yourself in the mind of Jesus. What is he thinking? What is he trying to teach?
I believe Matthew opens this part with the backstory of what happened to John the Baptist for a couple of reasons. First it’s generally agreed that Matthew was writing to Jewish believers, perhaps some of them where first followers of John the Baptist. John’s role in the gospel story held extra weight and added to the credibility of Jesus. Second it gives us insight into Jesus’ mood and character. He was surely saddened by his cousin’s death, he just wanted to be alone, but when the crowd follows him we see a testament to his character that he has compassion on them and healed them despite the fact that he was weary.
Is this not a challenge for us? Although I am an advocate for life work balance. I see that sometimes it is appropriate to push through for the sake of others.
Walking on the Water
22-23 As soon as the meal was finished, he insisted that the disciples get in the boat and go on ahead to the other side while he dismissed the people. With the crowd dispersed, he climbed the mountain so he could be by himself and pray. He stayed there alone, late into the night.
24-26 Meanwhile, the boat was far out to sea when the wind came up against them and they were battered by the waves. At about four o’clock in the morning, Jesus came toward them walking on the water. They were scared out of their wits. “A ghost!” they said, crying out in terror.
27 But Jesus was quick to comfort them. “Courage, it’s me. Don’t be afraid.”
28 Peter, suddenly bold, said, “Master, if it’s really you, call me to come to you on the water.”
29-30 He said, “Come ahead.”
Jumping out of the boat, Peter walked on the water to Jesus. But when he looked down at the waves churning beneath his feet, he lost his nerve and started to sink. He cried, “Master, save me!”
31 Jesus didn’t hesitate. He reached down and grabbed his hand. Then he said, “Faint-heart, what got into you?”
32-33 The two of them climbed into the boat, and the wind died down. The disciples in the boat, having watched the whole thing, worshiped Jesus, saying, “This is it! You are God’s Son for sure!”
34-36 On return, they beached the boat at Gennesaret. When the people got wind that he was back, they sent out word through the neighborhood and rounded up all the sick, who asked for permission to touch the edge of his coat. And whoever touched him was healed.
This is one of those really vivid stories in the Bible. Tell me what you saw/ smelt/ felt/ tasted in your mind?
The question I once heard posed in a sermon; “Who does Peter doubt, Jesus or himself?” We can assume that when it came to salvation Peter trusted Jesus “Lord, save me!” Peter says, but then Jesus says “Why did you doubt?” I believe Peter doubted that Jesus had empowered him to walk on the water. Is this not true of us as well? We trust Jesus with our salvation, but don’t believe that he’s given us what we need to step out on the metaphoric water. This week that has meant for me writing this sermon. I find myself saying Jesus save me take this keyboard and write this sermon…. But he didn’t… what he did do was give me was no reason to doubt that I am smart enough, humble enough to be trusted with the truths that I am sharing with you today.
Framing the Passage: In this part we see Jesus as teacher reforming the teaching of the Jewish religious leaders the Pharisees. Along with the law given to Moses at Mount Sinai there were also oral traditions for which Jews at that time would hold as weightier than God’s Word.
What Pollutes Your Life
15 1-2 After that, Pharisees and religion scholars came to Jesus all the way from Jerusalem, criticizing, “Why do your disciples play fast and loose with the rules?”
3-9 But Jesus put it right back on them. “Why do you use your rules to play fast and loose with God’s commands? God clearly says, ‘Respect your father and mother,’ and, ‘Anyone denouncing father or mother should be killed.’ But you weasel around that by saying, ‘Whoever wants to, can say to father and mother, What I owed to you I’ve given to God.’ That can hardly be called respecting a parent. You cancel God’s command by your rules. Frauds! Isaiah’s prophecy of you hit the bull’s-eye:
These people make a big show of saying the right thing,
but their heart isn’t in it.
They act like they’re worshiping me,
but they don’t mean it.
They just use me as a cover
for teaching whatever suits their fancy.”
10-11 He then called the crowd together and said, “Listen, and take this to heart. It’s not what you swallow that pollutes your life, but what you vomit up.”
12 Later his disciples came and told him, “Did you know how upset the Pharisees were when they heard what you said?”
13-14 Jesus shrugged it off. “Every tree that wasn’t planted by my Father in heaven will be pulled up by its roots. Forget them. They are blind men leading blind men. When a blind man leads a blind man, they both end up in the ditch.”
15 Peter said, “I don’t get it. Put it in plain language.”
16-20 Jesus replied, “You, too? Are you being willfully stupid? Don’t you know that anything that is swallowed works its way through the intestines and is finally defecated? But what comes out of the mouth gets its start in the heart. It’s from the heart that we vomit up evil arguments, murders, adulteries, fornications, thefts, lies, and cussing. That’s what pollutes. Eating or not eating certain foods, washing or not washing your hands—that’s neither here nor there.”
Remember that word vomit I asked you about earlier? Well here we see Jesus getting to the core of the problem. For the Pharisees keeping kosher, and ceremonial cleansing, adding their own knit picky traditions was their first priority all the while forgetting the intention of the law. The intention of the law was to connect the physical with the spiritual.
Jesus says,“It’s from the heart that we vomit up evil arguments, murder, adulteries, fornications, thefts, lies and cussing.” So the questions is, how do we change the heart? Dae gave me a book called Switching On Your Brain by Dr. Caroline Leaf in which she proposes that you can change your brain to overcome toxic thoughts. This question sent me on a tangent through several articles via the good old internet.
I’m not here to endorse Dr. Leaf or anyone else. But I did learn some interesting things about neuroplasticity and neurogenesis. First there has been a paradigm shift in psychology. Where it was once believed that adult brains were hard wired, and all damage was permanent. It is now predominantly believed that our brains are changeable this is known as neuroplasticity. I learned that the connections we make in the brain are like paths, the more we travel one idea path the stronger it becomes, but if we choose to follow a new idea path that idea becomes stronger until it is second nature which is known as neurogenesis.
Now how does this relate to the “heart” Jesus spoke of? Well In modern terms we can think of the frontal cortex of the brain as the heart. I make this connection because empathy, personality, and impulse control are just a few of the things that the frontal cortex controls. There is increasing evidence that “double mindedness” is real, that we can essentially direct our brain’s frontal cortex to turn on good pathways and off the toxic ones. You can’t control the crap life throws at you, but you can let it leave your system. As Jesus said “Don’t you know that anything that is swallowed works its way through the intestines and is finally defecated?” Bet you never thought about Jesus engaging in potty analogies.
The Pharisee's obsession with ceremonial cleansing was really a small example for a much greater problem. Their religion was magniloquent, it was fake. What we are called to as Christians is more subtle, and sincere. “Be transformed by the renewing of your mind.” Romans 12:2
Framing the Passage: Before we begin this next passage here are a couple things you will need to know.
The Canaanites were a separate people group who practised a polytheistic religion.
It was not uncommon for Jews to refer to Canaanites dogs as an insult, but Jesus uses the greek word for pet puppy (kynarion). Ask yourselves why?
Healing the People
21-22 From there Jesus took a trip to Tyre and Sidon. They had hardly arrived when a Canaanite woman came down from the hills and pleaded, “Mercy, Master, Son of David! My daughter is cruelly afflicted by an evil spirit.”
23 Jesus ignored her. The disciples came and complained, “Now she’s bothering us. Would you please take care of her? She’s driving us crazy.”
24 Jesus refused, telling them, “I’ve got my hands full dealing with the lost sheep of Israel.”
25 Then the woman came back to Jesus, went to her knees, and begged. “Master, help me.”
26 He said, “It’s not right to take bread out of children’s mouths and throw it to dogs.”
27 She was quick: “You’re right, Master, but beggar dogs do get scraps from the master’s table.”
28 Jesus gave in. “Oh, woman, your faith is something else. What you want is what you get!” Right then her daughter became well.
29-31 After Jesus returned, he walked along Lake Galilee and then climbed a mountain and took his place, ready to receive visitors. They came, tons of them, bringing along the paraplegic, the blind, the maimed, the mute—all sorts of people in need—and more or less threw them down at Jesus’ feet to see what he would do with them. He healed them. When the people saw the mutes speaking, the maimed healthy, the paraplegics walking around, the blind looking around, they were astonished and let everyone know that God was blazingly alive among them.
Tell this part of the story back to me.
What questions do you ponder?
Provocative story isn’t it? Jesus is borderline racist, or so it appears. But let's think more critically about this. Earlier In the book of Matthew 8 Jesus had no problem healing the servant of the Centurion who was a Roman aka a different race and religion. Furthermore why use the greek for pet/puppy dog instead of ***? Jesus draws us out of our religious racist boxes in order to teach us the power of faith. I’m sure this was made all the more poignant in the minds of the disciples after their recent experience with the Pharisees. And now yours too because we’ve read these stories together instead of separate.
32 But Jesus wasn’t finished with them. He called his disciples and said, “I hurt for these people. For three days now they’ve been with me, and now they have nothing to eat. I can’t send them away without a meal—they’d probably collapse on the road.”
33 His disciples said, “But where in this deserted place are you going to dig up enough food for a meal?”
34-39 Jesus asked, “How much bread do you have?”
“Seven loaves,” they said, “plus a few fish.” At that, Jesus directed the people to sit down. He took the seven loaves and the fish. After giving thanks, he divided it up and gave it to the people. Everyone ate. They had all they wanted. It took seven large baskets to collect the leftovers. Over four thousand people ate their fill at that meal. After Jesus sent them away, he climbed in the boat and crossed over to the Magadan hills.
Put yourself in the shoes of the disciples, what are they thinking?
Now that we’ve finished chapters 14-15 What big ideas were revealed?
Summation: Some of the things I hope you take away from this passage are that Jesus gives us an example of unending compassion. He saves us when we need it, but he has also empowered us to step out on the water. Word vomit comes from the heart, but we can overcome. He is always more interested in the condition of the heart, and true faith more than the man made rituals. And our story today comes back full circle with second miracle of feeding the masses. A cyclical reminder that God has empowered us to do great things.
Benediction: In the words of our Lord Jesus Christ “Courage, it’s me. Don’t be afraid.” “Come out on the water.”