And departing from there, Jesus went along by the Sea of Galilee, and having gone up to the mountain, He was sitting there. And great multitudes came to Him, bringing with them those who were lame, crippled, blind, dumb, and many others, and they laid them down at His feet; and He healed them, so that the multitude marveled as they saw the dumb speaking, the crippled restored, and the lame walking, and the blind seeing; and they glorified the God of Israel. And Jesus called His disciples to Him, and said, “I feel compassion for the multitude, because they have remained with Me now three days and have nothing to eat; and I do not wish to send them away hungry, lest they faint on the way.” And the disciples said to Him, “Where would we get so many loaves in a desolate place to satisfy such a great multitude?” And Jesus said to them, “How many loaves do you have?” And they said, “Seven, and a few small fish.” And He directed the multitude to sit down on the ground; and He took the seven loaves and the fish; and giving thanks, He broke them and started giving them to the disciples, and the disciples in turn, to the multitudes. And they all ate, and were satisfied, and they picked up what was left over of the broken pieces, seven large baskets full. And those who ate were four thousand men, besides women and children. And sending away the multitudes, He got into the boat, and came to the region of Magadan.
Location, location, location
In real estate, context isn’t king, rather, location, location, location. The context of Matthew continues to give us the location of Jesus. Last time we read that Jesus left the region beyond Galilee and went to the coast of the Mediterranean, namely the cursed Tyre and Sidon, which contained a Canaanite woman. In today’s text we read, “And departing from there, Jesus went along by the Sea of Galilee, and having gone up to the mountain, He was sitting there.” This information would have meant more to Matthew’s 1st century audience, yet it is important to us as well. First, it gives settings to the stories and allows us to understand the movement and travels of Jesus. We see how much ground he covered and how many multitudes of people he saw. It also fits into Matthew’s aspiration to his audience that Jesus was transitioning from a come and see religion to a go a tell way of life. Biblically speaking, there is much more than meets the eye revealed by the locations. We will see this unfold soon.
Yet for us, the context is king and the locations of Jesus are part of the context. For example; today’s text sounds very familiar with healings and feeding of four thousand men plus women and children. In fact, one must only flip back one chapter to read a very similar story with a very familiar setting. Only now we have read that Jesus goes up to the mountain rather than comes down from the mountain. Numbers are also important in the context of the Bible. The previous healings and feeding had 5000 men plus women and children. In today’s text, the men equal 4000. We also notice that previously 12 full baskets where left over but today we read that seven full baskets are left over–two different feedings in two different settings. Also notice the number three, referring to the days they were in the wilderness and the seven, or complete, loaves. Is Jesus foreshadowing his death, resurection and communion? We are not even close to there yet. First we need to consider the context and see the scenes and study the stories. Certainly there are several similarities between the settings but the context tells us these similar situations are separate scenarios, yet they are woven together to teach the truth. Numbers and locations may seem somewhat strange to record, based on the fact that Matthew only has so many words to tell the tales of Jesus. Why waste valuable time describing the departures and arrivals of Jesus? They must be important, other than the obvious, that is Matthew’s clear continuation of context–we will come back to this.
“And great multitudes came to Him, bringing with them those who were lame, crippled, blind, dumb, and many others, and they laid them down at His feet; and He healed them, so that the multitude marveled as they saw the dumb speaking, the crippled restored, and the lame walking, and the blind seeing; and they glorified the God of Israel.” Jesus keeps on healing. Notice the types of healing Jesus performed; “they saw the dumb speaking, the crippled restored, and the lame walking, and the blind seeing.” People who couldn’t speak, spoke. People who couldn’t see, saw. People who couldn’t walk, were walking. And most fascinating, the crippled were restored. These were real, tangible healings and on a large scale. Large enough of a scale that the people glorified the God of Israel. We will get back to this. We also see in the context compassion for the people from Jesus because they had been with him three days and food was scarce in that place. So scarce that the disciples who have already witnessed the feeding of five thousand question where they might find food. We will revisit this again, briefly.
Author’s Aspirations to his Audience
And by the way, context is king. I don’t believe in direct democracy, because the 51% will oppress the 49%. Nor do I believe in collective consensus because the majority of the time, the majority malign the minority. Proof text: the history of the world. Seemingly benevolent benefactors beside, generally speaking, popular opinion does not constitute correctness. Nevertheless we need to have a consensus concerning the context of Matthew. In order to unlock and un-cage the the gospel of Matthew, we need to come to a consensus concerning the context. These seemingly similar yet seperate stories are strung together by Matthew who has a specific aspiration to his audience. We will come back to this.
Have you ever been to ametuer hour at a Bible study, led by one who is willing (most aren’t; that’s to their credit) to lead the Bible study but is entirely overwhelmed by trying to teach the truth? They say things like, “what Jesus is trying to say here is such and such.” I have done it myself and probably you have as well–that doesn’t justify it. In the same way, many pastors and preachers, theologians and teachers will also state things such as, “what Matthew is trying to convey in this story is that people glorified God because of the multitude of miracles that Jesus performed.” Wrong! Matthew clearly conveys that the people glorified God because of the multitude of miracles that Jesus performed. We will get back to this.
Matthew, with the ultimate co-author named the Holy Spirit, has an aspiration to his audience that is clearly contained in the context. We must consider the context completely, considering the thread of which Matthew makes manifest by his style and content. Matthew writes to first century Jewish people, that is his primary audience and we are secondary. We must attempt to see what they saw and place ourselves in their proverbial shoes. There were no chapter or verse breaks and in the context between the feeding of four thousand men and the feeding of five thousand men, which are seperated by only a few paragraphs, we read of the Canaanite woman, the land across from Galilee where people sought to touch the Fringe of Jesus’ cloak and offended Pharisees–all part of Matthew’s aspiration to his audience–all part of continuing context. We will come back to this.
Matthew’s stories are strung together, they don’t stand alone. He recorded in reverence the stories of Jesus to present to the Jewish people of the first century, Jesus as the Messiah and the true Israel. For review; Jesus: the son of David, the son of Abraham, born in Bethlehem, “out of Egypt I called my son,” baptized, tempted in the wilderness, law giving on the mountain and now, conquering the land of Israel. All that Israel failed to do, Jesus is now doing–it is unmistakable, despite common consensus. To this, we shall return.
Consider all the context thus far in Matthew. And we, like the multitude, must give glory to God. We are not looking for what Matthew is trying to say or what Jesus is trying to do. We must see what Matthew says that Jesus did. And this includes the entire context of the entire book. But we build on the base as we walk through the context because that is how it is written.
Therefore, we see clearly that the long awaited Jewish Messiah, named Jesus, is walking amongst his “countrymen” in Galilee, making a multitude of miracles and feeding four and five thousand of them for free. Don’t miss that. Not only does he heal them without charge, he then feeds them as well. Nevertheless there is hidden treasure for the first century audience, and also anyone else who holds high herminutical helps, such as the CAGED method. To the first century Jewish audience it came naturally because it was written specifically to them. However we are centuries removed and tripped up by tradition so that we need a reminder to consider the context. I always remind myself to keep it simple stupid. We don’t look for what Jesus was trying to do but what he did and how Matthew, with the Holy Spirit, recorded it.
Expository Exegesis of Examples–Our Old Testament Tutor
Before we come to a conclusion and divide rightly the word of truth, we must consider our Old Testament tutor. One who has a good grasp of the Old Testament has the proverbial leg-up in understanding as did the first century audience of Jewish readers of Matthew’s gospel. They were familiar with the geography of the Middle-East of that time and with the geography of days prior. We are half a world away and seperated by more than location, we are also seperated by time, almost 2000 years. It is therefore imperative that we have some sense of the Old Testament. We have discussed previously the curse of, and location of, Tyre and Sidon. We also looked at the advent of Canaan in Genesis.
What is also important when reading these passages in Matthew is to understand the significance of the certain locations to which Jesus travels. It is also important to remember that the Pharisees came from Jerusalem. In Second Samuel 24:18 we read, “So Gad came to David that day and said to him, “Go up, erect an altar to the LORD on the threshing floor of Araunah the Jebusite.” This was the site of the future temple in Jerusalem. Let’s go back even further in our Old Testament tutor to Deuteronomy 16:16; “Three times in a year all your males shall appear before the LORD your God in the place which He chooses, at the Feast of Unleavened Bread and at the Feast of Weeks and at the Feast of Booths, and they shall not appear before the LORD empty-handed.” The place of which the Lord chose was the temple mount in Jerusalem where David built the altar. But remember what Jesus said in Matthew 12; “Or have you not read in the Law, that on the Sabbath the priests in the temple break the Sabbath, and are innocent? But I say to you, that something greater than the temple is here.” Yes, for time’s sake I am skipping a few steps in the progression. Notice what Paul wrote to the Colossian church referring to the Law and Temple; “These are a shadow of the things to come, but the substance belongs to Christ.” The Pharisees, who painstakingly pursued proper exegesis of the Old Testament should not have been offended by Jesus but at the least absolutely impressed. After all, the Law and the prophets spoke of him and him specifically.
In the same way the people within the boarders of ancient Israel should have glorified the God of Israel before the multitude of miracles. We will come back to this. Our, and their, Old Testament tutor records Moses saying, “The LORD your God will raise up for you a prophet like me from among you, from your countrymen, you shall listen to him,” in Deuteronomy 18:15. But we can go all the way back to the beginning when God said, “Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness; in Genesis. Then after the fall of man God promises Satan, “I will put enmity Between you and the woman, And between your seed and her seed; He shall bruise you on the head, And you shall bruise him on the heel.” Jesus was there in the beginning and promised from the beginning and at every turn. Some Scripture is more specific than others but it all points to Jesus, the long awaited Messiah in the midst of the people who Matthew described.
Dividing Rightly the Word of Truth
Back to boarders, locations, people and especially the long awaited Messiah and all this convincing context. Why does Matthew constantly and consistently describe the locations of the miracles of Jesus? One reason, as we have seen, is for continuation of context and progression of the narrative. Another reason is veiled by our culture of treating the Bible like a manual to a 2006 Toyota Corolla–our culture of taking verses out of context rather than mining for gold using the entire Word of God. Our culture of traditions that allow us to get our doctrines from Christmas songs and pageants that say angels sing, simply because it rhymes with the “newborn king.” Our culture of partaking of a daily crumb and calling it our daily bread. Or worse, our culture of church on Sunday for an hour then back to our lives.
Location matters, numbers matter, boarders matter, mountains matter, if it’s in the context, it matters. Can we have a consensus that if it’s in the Bible, it matters? Matthew doesn’t waste words. And as we Divide Rightly the Word of Truth, we must consider all that has happened in Matthew thus far. There is a definite continuation and progression to all that Jesus is doing and the reactions of the other cast of characters. This will become increasingly evident in my next missive–you won’t want to miss that one.
This Resurection Day I attended my former church in Massachusetts and the pastor concluded his short but oh so sweet sermon with the words, Jesus changed everything! Look at the context, right before our eyes. Jesus, in the past tense, is changing everything. Jesus is going from town to town and from dark place to dark place healing instantly the “lost sheep of Israel” but testing those who are”dogs.” You know the ones–they bow before him and display their great faith before he heals. From the Roman centurion to the Canaanite woman who have the faith of Abraham and recognized Jesus as the Messiah, to the Pharisees, Saudducees and Scribes, who did not. Everything is being turned upside down by the true Israel fulfilling that which the nation Israel could not. Consider that the “lost sheep of Israel” only glorified the God of Israel after he heals the multitude. It even appears that disciples don’t get it. Feeding five thousand seems more difficult than feeding four. Jesus, the true Israel has come and he is demonstrating the need for change and changing things based upon that need. Notice also that Jesus meets their physical needs as well. He heals and he feeds. Yes, these miracles are for more than the moment. Stay tuned as we watch it all unfold. For now focus on the”dogs,” and the”Lost sheep of Israel.” Notice the juxtaposition between their faith and the faith, or lack thereof of the “lost sheep of Israel.” Don’t worry about the Pharisees, Jesus will deal with them soon enough.