Matthew 14-17
(Removing All Doubt)
October 7th

Produced by The Listening for God Ministry
Copyright 2016

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Please refer to one or more Bible versions of your choice to read this section. We recommend that you read at least two versions for added understanding. For your convenience, we have provided six links below, each of which takes you directly to today's chapters in a specific version:

Key Verse

“But what about you?” he asked. “Who do you say I am?”
Simon Peter answered, “You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God.”

- Matthew 16:15-16 (NIV)

Summary of Chapters

This group of chapters covers a broad spectrum of topics, including a theme of removing doubts regarding who Jesus might be.

Today's reading begins in chapter 14 with the tragic description of the death of John the Baptist at the hands of the evil King Herod. In chapter 17, near the end of our assignment for today, Jesus explained that John was the prophet Elijah who had come to prepare the way for the Messiah, but the people did not recognize him and mistreated him. John suffered at the hands of the unfaithful and the Son of Man who follows him would also suffer. In between these stories we read of more miracles, including the feeding of thousands with a few crumbs on two different occasions and the report of Jesus walking on the water.

The Pharisees continued to stalk Jesus, attempting to trap him with new questions, but Jesus persisted in outsmarting them on each occasion and uses them as examples of what to avoid.

Peter demonstrates his wide range of attributes and emotions in these chapters. In one scene, he climbs out of a boat to join Jesus walking on the water, but then begins to sink and is saved by Jesus:

    Then Peter got down out of the boat, walked on the water and came toward Jesus. But when he saw the wind, he was afraid and, beginning to sink, cried out, "Lord, save me!"

    Immediately Jesus reached out his hand and caught him. "You of little faith," he said, "why did you doubt?"

    And when they climbed into the boat, the wind died down. Then those who were in the boat worshiped him, saying, "Truly you are the Son of God."

    -Matthew 14:29-33 (NIV)

In chapter 16, Peter correctly acknowledges Jesus as the Messiah. In return Jesus calls him the rock. But then when Jesus described the suffering that he would endure Peter ill-advisedly suggests that Jesus should not sacrifice himself for the world. In this case Jesus abruptly responds, "But he turned, and said unto Peter, Get thee behind me, Satan: thou art an offence unto me: for thou savourest not the things that be of God, but those that be of men. (Matthew 16:23 - KJV)."

Chapter 17 wraps up this section with the scene of the Transfiguration, in which Peter, James, and John witnessed Jesus talking to Elijah and Moses. The remainder of the chapter described how Jesus healed a demon-possessed boy, once again predicted his death, and explained why he need not pay the temple tax (but pays it anyway).

Reflection and Application

John the Baptist told the truth and was imprisoned and killed because of that action. Sometimes there is a sacrifice to be paid for telling God's story. Herod did not want to hear John's rebuke of him for seducing his sister-in-law, yet he was intrigued by what John had to say. When he heard about Jesus, he thought it was John who had returned from the dead.

What type of sacrifice are we willing to make to spread God’s word? Giving up valuable time that could have been used to make money or take part in leisure activities? Are we afraid we may lose friends or clients if we speak openly about God? It may be that we win over more friends and clients with our honesty if we speak respectfully to them about God. Not with hard rules like the Pharisees, but with love and forgiveness as Jesus did.

If we are bold enough to speak about God's love, then we too become rocks that build the church. Peter was the first rock, Jesus is the capstone, but the building of the church continues and each of us can add to it.

If we find ourselves praising God one minute and then challenging him the next, then we can know we are in good company with the first rock, Peter. His vacillation, however, did not lead to his condemnation. Jesus instructed him to "get thee behind me!" In other words, Jesus said to follow him instead of trying to instruct him with the myopic guidance from a mere human. Jesus forgave Peter on this occasion and on a later occasion, and Peter was able to lead the church - in spite of his shortcomings, but because of God’s Grace.

What doubts do you have? We get a glimpse into the hearts and faith of the disciples during the scene in which both Jesus and Peter walk on water. In a sermon on this topic, the Rev. Ed Danks advised us not to "get hung up on the undeniable element of miracle" in the story, but instead focus on the "lessons of faith (1)." Danks explained that Peter began to sink when he had doubts, but Jesus was there to answer his call and also gently reprimand him:

    There was no scolding. This was not chiding. It was rather a reprimand of encouragement to believe more fully! The same word of encouragement is given to us. "Do you think I will leave you alone amid the storms of life? Do you think I will not honor my promises? Do you think you are not the object of my love and concern? Do you think I am not aware of you and your circumstances? Do you think you are limited to your own wits and strength? Do you think I’ve lost control of life? Do you think the winds of this world are too strong for me? (2)"

Danks spoke as one who had first-hand experience with the storms of life, as he had explained in other sermons. Danks understood the constant presence of our Lord and the struggle to maintain one’s faith during difficult times. He explained multiple levels of faith, the deepest of which is realized faith, "which will not be (fully) completed until we enter God's presence." Danks notes that the disciples demonstrated this level of faith when they saw Jesus rescue Peter. All doubt was removed in their hearts and minds as they exclaimed, "Truly you are the Son of God (14:32 - NIV) (italics added here for emphasis)." Danks encouraged us to reach this level of faith as we reflect on our own adverse experiences and compare those experiences to the story of Peter walking and sinking on the water(3).

For further reflection on the miracles of Jesus we recommend the song, "Mary Did You Know." You can hear a performance by clicking the GodTube object below:

"Mary Did You Know?" performed by Clay Aiken

Questions and Prayers for Further Reflection

    Related Questions
    1. What experiences do you have crossing lakes by boat or other means?
    2. What type of sacrifice are you willing to make to share God’s word?
    3. What is the storm that you want Jesus to save you from?
    Recommended Prayer
    Father in Heaven we know that your Son walked on earth with us and we did not always recognize him. Help us to follow him, wherever he takes us.

    Suggested Prayer Concerns
    Tax Collectors


    (1) Danks, The Reverend Edward R., "Sinking in the Storms of Life" (Matthew 14:22-23), October 23, 1994, The Noroton Pulpit, Sermons from the Noroton Presbyterian Church, Darien, CT
    (2) IBID
    (3) IBID

    Looking Ahead

    Tomorrow's reading: Matthew 18-20 (Disciples Struggle to Understand)

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