Too often we think that faith comes by circumstances. Jesus taught the disciples about faith, and He did not always make it easy to have faith. These disciples would need much faith to get them through the crucifixion, the persecution, and the beginning of the church age. Jesus had to teach these disciples what faith was, the source of faith, and the power of faith.
"Herod, the tetrarch (Greek = tetartos = a fourth, ruler over a fourth of a country), heard of the fame of Jesus. And said unto his servants, This is John the Baptist, he is risen from the dead, and therefore mighty works do show forth themselves in Him. For Herod had laid hold on John and bound him, and put him in prison for Herodias' sake, his brother Philip's wife. For John said unto him, It is not lawful for thee to have her. And when he would have put him to death, he feared the multitude, because they counted him as a prophet. When Herod's birthday was kept, the daughter of Herodias danced before them, and pleased Herod. Whereupon, he promised with an oath to give her whatsoever she would ask. And she, being before instructed of her mother, said, Give me here John the Baptist's head in a charger. And the king was sorry; nevertheless, for the oath's sake, and them which sat with him at meat, he commanded it to be given her. And he sent, and beheaded John in the prison. And his head was brought in a charger (a wooden platter), and given to the damsel, and she brought it to her mother. And his disciples came and took up the body, and buried it, and went and told Jesus."
Herodias was both wife and niece to Philip and Herod. She was the daughter of Aristobulus, the son of Herod the Great. First, she married Philip, and had a daughter, Salome. She left Philip to live with Herod. Herod had been married to the daughter of Aretas, king of Arabia Petra. Aretas was angered at the arrangement with Herodias, and made war against Herod. Aretas destroyed the army of Herod.
Herod Philip would have been sole heir to his father's kingdom. However, Herod was very paranoid, and changed his will to allow Philip great wealth, but not the kingdom. Herodias was very ambitious.
When Herod Antipas visited Philip in Jerusalem, an affair began. Herod Antipas decided to repudiate his current wife and marry Herodias after his important visit to Rome. Aretas' daughter, the current wife of Herod Antipas, learned of the plot, and fled to her father.
John the Baptist, like other great prophets of God, spoke out against sin. Herodias was determined to rid herself of this bold prophet of God. She was incestuous, bloody, adulterous, and depraved. Jerome says that after gloating over the head of John, she drew out his tongue and pierced it with a needle.
After the defeat by the army of Aretas, Herodias encouraged Herod Antipas to go to Rome to seek the title of King. He could not so persuade Rome to do so, and was banished to Lyons, in Gaul. Herodias did not stay true to Herod Antipas in his fallen state.
The day came when the news of the death of John the Baptist was brought to Jesus. This hated Herod Antipas had killed the cousin, the forerunner of Jesus the Messiah, the prophet of God, and the friend of Jesus.
Imagine the dismay, the surprise, the disappointment and the uncertainty of the disciples of John, and the disciples of Jesus. This was a real test of their faith. They had seen miracles, heard wonderful teaching, and watched multitudes follow Jesus. But if John the Baptist was killed by this horrible ruler, what would happen to Jesus? Would their faith be enough for the trial of these times?
"When Jesus heard of it, He departed thence by ship into a desert place apart, and 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."
Instead of mounting a vengeful attack on Herod Antipas, Jesus "withdrew". The Jewish people expected a Messiah that would have vengefully sought revenge. Jesus tried to retire to a place alone, but moved with compassion for the needy people of the area, He ministered and healed the sick in their midst.
Jesus knows the faith of the disciples was shaken, and the faith of people is also disappointed. Therefore, Jesus determined to strengthen their faith.
"And when it was evening, His disciples came to Him, saying, This is a desert place, and the time is now past; sent the multitude away, that they may go into the villages, and buy themselves victuals. Jesus said unto them, They need not depart, give them to eat. They said, We have here but five loaves and two fishes. He said, Bring them to Me. He commanded the multitude to sit down on the grass, and took five loaves and two fishes, 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 took up the fragments, and remained twelve baskets full. And they that had eaten, were about 5000 men, beside women and children."
Did Jesus really expect the disciples to have enough food to feed 5000 men, and their families? They could not have possibly carried enough food to the desert place, and if they had tried certainly Jesus would have noted their struggle. Jesus knew beforehand what miracle He would do, and He was "setting them up" to behold the miracle that would allow them to build their faith.
It was at the time of the "first" evening, that Jesus did this miracle. The Jewish people had two evenings at 3 p.m. it was the time of the evening sacrifice and later at 6 p.m. it was about sunset, the end of the Jewish day.
In verse 15, this is the first evening, and in verse 23, this refers to the second evening.
The bread was baked in thin cakes, and it had to be broken and divided. To "break bread" means to eat the food. The word used for "fish" here is "opsarion" which refers to small dried or pickled fish eaten with bread, as we do sardines.
They gathered up twelve baskets remaining after 5000 men, their wives, and their children had eaten as much as they desired. The word for "baskets" is "kophinoi" which refers to a wicker or willow basket, of the poorest kind. The twelve is indicative of the twelve disciples who each had a basket to carry away from the event filled with fish and bread.
The Lord fed the bodies, and the spirits of these people with this miracle. At a time of low faith, people need physical strength and also spiritual food. Too often, the Christian tend to try to satisfy one, and not the other. Fasting has its place, but so does a good meal. Jesus taught the Word, then wanted to feed the body, and with that meal came the miracle to build their faith. The order, composition, and purpose of this event need to be used to build faith.
We must not neglect the teaching of the Word, for "faith comes by hearing the Word of God.". Then we need to beware trying to expect great things from the hungry, the tired, and those who are weak physically. The feeding, nourishment, and strengthening of the body will allow the faith to grow. The miracle arrives to aid the plan of the Lord and thereby people are encouraged, strengthened, and revived from the despair, the discouragement, and the low ebb of faith - caused by the disappointing news about John the Baptist.
"And straightway, Jesus constrained His disciples to get into a ship, and to go before Him unto the other side, while He sent the multitude away. 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. But the ship was now in the midst of the sea, tossed with waves, for the wind was contrary. And in the fourth watch (between 3 a.m and 6 a.m.) 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 ghost, and they cried out for fear. But straightway, Jesus spake unto them, saying, Be of good cheer, it is I, be not afraid. Peter answered, Lord if it be Thou, bid me to come to Thee on water. 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. And immediately, Jesus, stretched forth His hand, and caught him, and said unto him, O thou of little faith, wherefore didst thou doubt? (Greek = 'distadzo' = 'to waver mentally,' not the word 'dipsukos' = 'double minded,' and not 'diakrino' = 'hesitate, doubt') when they were come into the ship, the wind ceased. They that were in the ship came and worshipped Him, saying, Of a truth, Thou art the Son of God."
When Jesus "constrained" the disciples to go ahead of Him, they must have expected Him to walk around the lake, or take a small boat by Himself. Sometimes, people would go about by land, and Jesus' custom was to go by boat, so that the people could not follow Him.
The lake was about 6 miles wide, and they had gone about 25 to 30 furlongs, which would put them about half way across. The stormy winds began to toss the disciples about within the boat. This was a test of their courage and faith. Then suddenly, they see what they assume to be a "ghost" or "spirit".
Jesus calls out- "Be of good cheer!" This sounds hard under the circumstances. They are still amidst a storm, and the waves and wind are still frightening them. Then the "spirit" tells them He is the Lord Jesus. What would you think?
Peter asks to come to the Person if it be Jesus, he knew that the Lord could make a miracle so he too could walk upon the water. Taking his eyes off the Lord, and onto the storm and waves, Peter begins to sink. Jesus responds to his call for help.
LESSONS OF FAITH
Faith is not needed in the calms of life, but in the storms and trials of life.
The key is not to eliminate the problem, but to get ones eyes upon the Lord... and not simply on the problem.
When we call out for the Lord to help while in the midst of a storm of life, He will respond.
What if the rapture is during the fourth watch of these last days i.e. during a very unexpected hour? The parable of the ten virgins is a lesson of warning, that the Lord will come when we may be weary of waiting, sleeping spiritually, and low in spiritual faith as were the virgins.
Will the saints at the rapture be like the disciples? Will the congregations be like "shaky" boats? The Lord is coming soon, but will arrive at a time when most Christians are not expecting Him. We will be in the midst of persecutions, and storms from the world. He will bid us to come up to Him, with a call of "Come up hither." (Revelation 4:1) Will you be ready to step in faith toward our coming Lord or will you be like the other disciples, sitting in shock?
WHO WILL HAVE ABUNDANCE OF MIRACLES?
Jesus did these miracles before the disciples, not before the Pharisees, and doubters. They did not see Him walk on the water, or calm the storm, or raise Jairus' daughter from the dead. The believing disciples saw these miracles. Some want to see miracles to produce within themselves some kind of faith. God will not do the miracles to produce faith.
If we seek miracles to produce faith, they are withheld. If we believe and follow Jesus, miracles will be frequent in our lives. God is the source of faith, and He will show us His miraculous power, and generate within us faith. But if we just seek miracles, we will be disappointed. God is not a magician to do tricks and make you applaud. He wants a relationship, a constant gaze upon Him, and a worshipful friend. If we choose to seek Him, and not the miracles, we shall see many miracles.
"...when they were gone over, they came into the land of Gennasaret. And when the men of that place had knowledge of Him, they sent 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."
When faith is used, and an air of expectancy fills the location, miracles will occur. The faith needs to be in the right Person, i.e. Jesus Christ. The glory needs to be given the right Person, i.e. Jesus Christ. The focal point needs to be upon the right Person, i.e. Jesus Christ. For Jesus is the Author and Finisher of our faith. He is the One to whom we may turn in times of crisis, as Peter or in times of sickness, as the people of Gennasaret or when in need of the necessities of life, as the hungry people that had been listening to the teachings of Jesus.
"...let us run with patience the race that is set before us, looking unto Jesus, the Author and Finisher of our faith."
It is not in building some mountain of faith, nor in the building up of hopes and dreams, nor in the piling up of good deeds to be worthy of a miracle.
NO!!! It is rather in the building of a relationship with JESUS, and learning to turn to Him with all our needs MIRACLES WILL THEN OCCUR OFTEN!