Reflections on Matthew 14-15

Matthew 14‑15  •  7 min. read  •  grade level: 8
I have been occupied with these chapters; for they occupy evidently a special place between the mysteries of the kingdom on the judicial rejection of the Jews at the end of chapter xii. (which goes on to the end of the age) and the Church and kingdom glory in chapters 16, 17. The contexts are naturally special; for the kingdom is set forth after the ruin of Judaism in chapter 13, and the Church, and glory of the kingdom come after. What is this special place?
It is plain that chapter 13 gives the kingdom of heaven in the peculiar character it assumes when the king is in heaven, not manifested, and, as Mark says, it grows and springs up he seemingly knows not how. What then is brought out between this and the revelation of the Church on earth? It is the actual proof of present rejection and the incapacity of the disciples to avail themselves of His then present power; the moral darkness of the Scribes and Pharisees, the intrinsic falseness of their religious principles, but the disciples really got no farther. The Pharisees were not plants of God's planting at all; the disciples were, blind on many things as they were. The Lord is here getting on strong moral ground—what God has planted, and the human heart being the source of evil. God, not Judaism or tradition, was the spring and guide of good, man's heart only evil.
But Christ, still in His own place, takes only His services in Israel; but He goes where one of the accursed races and of wicked Tyre has access to Him, owning him as Son of David. As such He could not help her. But this brings out what must go beyond these limits—the goodness of God. This, to faith, He could not deny. Thus, while man's heart even in the Jew was only evil, God was—could not but be—good to faith.
But He had not given up Israel, though all this was true; and the hungry multitude of Galilee are again fed, though the disciples are not now called to do it: He takes the loaves and does it Himself. The baskets that contained the remnant are not now the number which is the sign of perfect government in man, but of special or divine perfection—seven, not twelve. It is grace above promise, and not simply divine power able to fulfill it.
This leads me to say a few words more in detail of chapter 14. The work of rejection begins; John is beheaded, and Jesus retires, but only to find a multitude, whom He meets in grace. He then shows Himself as the Jehovah that was to satisfy the poor with bread, let Him be rejected by the nations as He may. He expects the disciples to understand and use this power; but they do not—they judge by sight. “Give ye them to eat.” “We have here but five loaves and two fishes!” Then He sends the disciples away while He is on high, and joins them still in the ship, connected, I apprehend, with Judaism which He had left to cross the world by divine power—our part. But Peter cannot—only but for being helped he was sinking and (like the Jewish remnant) re-enters the ship, but with Christ. The walking on water was in principle Church position, walking simply by faith to meet Jesus, with no known hold, only by faith. When He rejoins the ship, they own Him, not as Messiah in a carnal way and expectation as even the disciples had done, but as Son of God, which was just what the nation would not do, and the disciples practically never did, though God taught individuals so. The country of Gennesaret which once rejected Him now receives Him with open arms. It is a divine person then here when not only Israel but the disciples could not own or at any rate profit by His manifestation to Israel.
We have then, as noted above, the moral judgment of Israel's state and of their teachers; but again the disciples are without understanding. Yet in this very chapter, where essential divine principles of truth and grace are brought so clearly out, there is a special recognition of Israel. The Canaanitish woman not only called Him Son of David, but owned Israel as the children and herself as only a dog. The Lord takes this ground, though necessarily owning God to be good to others. And the people glorify the God of Israel.
On the whole we have Israel rejecting the witness of God; Christ present as Immanuel, but the disciples unable to profit by it, left and rejoined; moral principles of man's heart, and God's overflowing goodness; but plants must be of God's planting or rooted up; Israel rejected but owned. Still the Lord distinguished the disciples as possessed of personal faith (save of course Judas)—plants of the Lord's planting; and when He now simply leaves the Pharisees, He appeals to that faith. (Chap. 16) Ignorant as they were of God's ways and incapable of availing themselves of what Christ was, yet the inquiry addressed to their personal faith brings out the answer (given of the Father) of that on which the Church should be built. They cling to Him—to His person when the nation rejected Him, and when even they could not profit rightly by His presence in Israel. But then when Israel was for the time rejected, that person became the foundation of everything, and the Lord (who had put the question to draw out this distinctive faith, however prejudiced and buried in traditions even they were) at once recognizes the direct teaching of the Father. Now Israel was gone, on this the Church would be built. The contrast of verses 1-5, then 6-12, and what then follows, is very striking. Read in verse 18, “And I also say unto thee,” in contrast with or addition to the Father's revelation, and also to Peter's confessing. He had said, “Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God.” Christ says, “Thou art Peter;” but this was the authority, the really divine or divinely given title to give a name. The rest of the verse is a kind of parenthesis. By the revelation of what Christ was by the Father, he partook of the nature of the foundation, as all true believers do, though not distinguished as Peter. But the building of the assembly comes out as Christ's new revelation consequent on the setting aside of all preceding leading up to the Father's revelation of His Son (to Simon), triumphant by His divine person and nature over death, whence Satan's power could not prevail against it, though Israel's (even the disciples') hopes were ended by His death. But the Son of the living God would on this title build a Church over which Hades' gates could have no power to prevail. Not Peter, but Christ builds the Church; but Peter does administer the kingdom. Nothing is said to him as to having anything to do with the Church—save a name, which shows his confession, put him into connection with it. For if the Church was built on that truth, and he had confessed it as taught of God, he was in principle (though the Church was not yet revealed or begun) on the footing of it as to his acknowledgment of Christ. Hence they are charged not to say He is” the Christ.” The Father has revealed Him in another way. The kingdom of heaven Peter was to administer. Every scribe instructed into the kingdom of heaven brings out of his treasure things new and old. The name of Christ on which the Church was built was a wholly new revelation of the Father. So in the manifestation of the kingdom of the Son of man Moses and Elias disappear, the beloved Son in whom the Father was well pleased (not merely a faithful messenger) was to be bead. Now Peter was entrusted with the keys of the kingdom of heaven. What was administered on that ground did not exclude the old things thus. This again, though given in a voice, was the Father's revelation. Individually, Peter in both cases was as yet fully under the prejudices of a Jew as to the kingdom.