What is the relationship between time with God and serving the needs of the people around us?
This week’s lesson covers several stories often taken independently of one another: the death of John the Baptist, feeding 5,000 people from a small sack lunch and 4,000 people on another occasion, and a windy night when Jesus walked on the surface of a lake. And yet, they are related as Jesus begins to withdraw from the conflicts of previous chapters over His teachings, His miracles, and His Sabbath-keeping.
Matthew 14:1-12—John’s Death and Jesus’ Response
John the Baptist courageously confronted the immorality of Herod Antipas, ended up in prison, and then lost his life at the request of Herod’s wife Herodias. After John dies, his disciples report John’s passing to Jesus.
What is Jesus’ response to the disciple’s return? Does this story prescribe seclusion at certain times in our lives due to stress, disappointment, or grief?
Matthew 14:13-22—Feeding 5,000
One of the very few stories outside the passion events that close the gospels that occur in all four gospels, Jesus feeds 5,000 men (plus women and children) from a small amount of food. The disciples asked Jesus to send the people away to get food, but instead Jesus tells them to feed the multitude. They can only see their small possession, not what God is able to do with it.
Consider how God may want to use you, or some possession or ability He has granted you, to help others or spread the good news of His Kingdom. Can my inability to envision God’s plans hold me back from using what I have? Does God still multiply “loaves and fish”? Might a person be inclined to hold back from serving if they think they may not make a large impact?
Matthew 14:23-36—Jesus’ Need for Solitude
After sending the disciples on ahead, Jesus finally gets the seclusion He was unable to enjoy because of the hungry crowd. He spends the evening in prayer. Alone.
Our connected culture keeps us in constant contact with others, to media—reading material, news, music, video, etc. What kind of reaction do you have to absolute solitude? Is there value in it?
Jesus comes to the disciples via water-walking. The disciples think they see a ghost (Greek: “Phantasma”) and become troubled by the sight. But Jesus encourages them to the point that Peter joins Jesus walking on the water. But when he sees the wind, he sinks, crying out for help. After helping Peter back into the boat, the disciples worship Jesus.
When Peter cries out, what does Jesus do? What does Jesus say?
Jesus deals with the very real struggles of life here on earth: grief and loss, hunger, fear, and devotion. He models the balance between spending time with His Father recharging, connecting to the divine source of life, and then meeting the needs of people, which will never end this side of Christ’s return.