The chapter I have read brings out the lovely features of Christ, as He passed through the scene where you and I have to walk. You will see how at the close of this chapter there is developed that which I believe He looks for above everything else, namely, that appreciation of Himself which leads to worship. The first worship meeting in the New Testament was in a stable (2:11). The next in a boat at the end of a dark night (14:33). The first was the homage due to Him as King; this as the Son of God.
We have what led up to it brought before us from verse 16. John’s disciples learned the great tenderness—the deep sympathy of the heart of Christ in their sorrow. If we turn to Mark 6, where the same incident is recorded, you will find in verse 29 that these disciples when their master was dead took up his corpse and laid it in a tomb. There is no mention there of their coming and telling Jesus, but we read the apostles gathered themselves together and told Him all things they had done and taught. That is to say, at the very same moment, down two separate roads, but coming to the same blessed Person, were two very different companies. Down one road came a company of dejected, disappointed disciples, who were heart-broken because all their hopes were shattered; they had lost the one whom they had followed and on whom they had leaned. You can understand their feelings as they came and told Jesus.
If you are in sorrow, in trouble, in difficulty, imitate them. They went and told Jesus. There is pressure, sorrow, and trouble all round, and you cannot escape it—you cannot be in a world like this and escape it. If you have escaped it up to now, it will come. What are you going to do? When it comes, and your heart is broken, just go and tell Jesus, tell Him the smallest thing as well as the greatest.
At the same moment up come twelve men full of energy and life and vigor, and they come back and tell the Lord “Oh, we have had a splendid time; even the very devils have been subject to us.” They are a company of disciples flushed with victory.
Picture these totally different companies together, one sorrowful and despondent, the other successful and rejoicing. Mark what the Lord said to them: “Come ye yourselves apart into a desert place, and rest a while.”
It seems to me that the company of mourners and the company of rejoicers are just taken aside by the blessed Lord at the same moment; He says, “You come into a desert place with Me.” Ah, brethren, it is a great thing to get alone with Him, it is that by which He preserves us.
Are you broken-hearted? He will comfort you. Are you flushed with success in His service? Be quiet. He quietens us down and teaches us that His own company is better than the most brilliant service or success that He could give as. How those broken-hearted mourners learned the grace, the tenderness of Christ, as He took them apart, and they found a desert with Jesus a place of the deepest blessing.
The sympathy of the Lord not only comes out here, but the way He is able to support in sorrow. Hebrews 9 says, “He is able to succor”; Hebrews 4, “He is able to sympathize;” and Hebrews 7, “He is able to save.”
Able to succor? Yes!
Able to sympathize? Yes!
Able to save? Yes! to the very end.
What the Spirit of God puts in such striking language with regard to His priesthood, we see in all His blessed life down here. I have no doubt He bore in His spirit all the sorrows He took away when He was on earth, thus qualifying Him to be the great and blessed High Priest which by grace your soul and mine know Him to be.
Think of His wonderful compassion. He sees the multitudes and He want to bless them. Oh, what a heart He had; what a tender heart! I do not doubt God has told us of this incident to encourage us and stimulate us, as well as to rebuke us. He has compassion on this huge company; He healed their sick, and when it was towards evening the disciples come, and the suggestion they make to the Lord is most appalling. “Send them away.” “Send the multitude away, that they may go into the villages and buy themselves victuals.” It was a most inhumane proposal. Think of it. Five thousand men, and I suppose three times as many women and children, and the disciples say, “Let them go and get food for themselves,” forgetting they might die whilst in search of it. “Ah,” says Christ, “give ye them to eat.”
Are there hunger and misery round about, brethren? The Lord’s word is, “Give ye them to eat.” “Oh, but I have nothing.” Quite true. That is exactly what they said here. “We have here but five loaves and two fishes.” What did that mean? They left the Lord out. “Oh,” but you say, “we would not do that.” No, I do not think you would in words, but sometimes practically we do leave Him out; we do not count on our resources in Him.
They bring the five loaves and the two fishes to Him, and although they had been so callous, how blessed it is to see the gracious way of the Lord with them. He took them into partnership in this happy work of meeting the need of this hungry multitude. This He does as Israel’s Shepherd leading them in green pastures. He makes them sit down on the grass in ranks by fifties and hundreds. Why was that? In order that nobody might be passed over. Everybody got attended to. The twelve minister to their need, the five loaves and two fishes grow as they are carried round, and the multitude were all fed, their need met, each blessed.
We have displayed here love, sympathy, compassion, and power, as He makes those five small loaves feed that empty multitude. The disciples meanwhile are told to cross the lake whilst He dismisses them in His own inimitable way. I have no doubt He did this to rebuke them. They had been saying, the multitudes must go and get on as best they can. Now the Lord says, “Go, get aboard the ship, and look after yourselves.” That is what they deserved, I need not say. If He left us in the lurch, it is what we deserve oftentimes. But though they were alone on the storm-tossed lake, He had them in His thoughts. He went on high to pray, spending the night in intercession.
The Lord Jesus constrained the disciples to go into a ship to the other side, while He sent the multitudes away. I should like to have been there and seen Him dismiss them.
Ah, those disciples—so like us—if they had had their way, there would have been five thousand witnesses against Christ scattered through the country that night. They would all have said, “We were hungry, and He could not, or would not, help us a bit.”
The sun was setting when the blessed Lord sent them home bright and happy, full and satisfied, so many witnesses of His compassion and of His power.
We, like the disciples, have to cross the angry waves of trouble and difficulty, want and woe. How blessed to know He thinks of us; He ever liveth to make intercession. We may forget Him, but blessed be His name, He never forgets us, His priestly care is ever over us.
After interceding on the height He descends and walks on the water to meet them. As they saw Him, not recognizing Him, fear took possession of them; but by and by, in a way they had never seen before, they have brought before their souls the glory of His Person. I think they read Deity in Him as He walked on the water that night, and when He comes near, and they are full of fear and fright, mark what He says: “Be of good cheer; it is I; be not afraid.”
This is what we might call the music of His voice.
Are you in trouble? Are you in difficulty? Are you in distress? Are you under pressure? “Yes,” you say, “I know what that means.” I wonder whether you know what it is to hear His voice saying to you in the midst of your deepest troubles, “Be of good cheer; it is I; be not afraid.” There is no music like the music of His voice, when He comes near to us in a moment like that. Now this is the Jesus that you and I are to know—full of power, full of cheer, delighting to banish our fear.
Peter now speaks: “Lord, if it be Thou, bid me come unto Thee on the water.” “If it be Thou” I do not think implies doubt, but what was moving in that disciple’s soul was the charm of the company of Christ. We not only get the music of His voice at a moment when difficulties press, but we are privileged to reach Him, to be found in His company.
“Come.” Ah, the authority of that word on Peter’s soul! We find that when Peter was come down out of the ship, he walked on the water to go to Jesus—a most touching scene. We see that feeble disciple walking on the water. Perhaps somebody says, “Oh, but you know he sank.” True, but why point to that? Why do you not draw attention to the wonderful fact that he walked? He walked on water as really as his Master so long as his eye was fixed on Christ. It was divine power, of course, that sustained him there. Whether the water be stormy or whether the water be smooth, neither we nor Peter can surmount the waves unless sustained by divine power. It is as impossible in the trough of the sea as on the crest of the wave.
How could we walk on either? If the water were like a millpond, how could we walk on it? We could not. There are no circumstances under which any saint can walk rightly unless he is sustained by the blessed grace of Christ. That is the whole point. “Lord, if it be Thou, bid me come unto Thee on the water.” Well, out he comes, and you tell me he sank. Yes, he sank; but I will tell you what, he sank so near to Jesus that the Lord had only got to put out His hand to touch him.
Beloved fellow-Christians, set your hearts on getting so near Him that if you are in danger of sinking you will sink within touch of His hand. The Lord lifted him up, He will lift you up.
The next thing is they get back to the land. John’s Gospel tells us that the moment they get into the boat they are back to land. This gospel tells us that the moment they got back into the boat they fell down and worshipped Him.
What led them to do that?
They had discovered His sympathy, His compassion, the tenderness of His heart, the glory of His Person, the charm of His company, and the authority of His word, in the way He sustained and upheld the one that looked to Him. The effect on the company was they worshipped Him and said, “Thou art the Son of God.”
In the sixteenth chapter Peter confessed Him as the Son of God. The Father revealed the glory of the Son of God to him, but in the fourteenth chapter there were a dozen others who confessed Him Son of God, who were bowed in His presence, in the discovery of His worth and beauty and tenderness and grace, and they worshipped Him.
This confession of the glory of His Person flowing from the lips and hearts of those disciples is the first united burst of worship to the Son of God we find recorded. Let us seek to perpetuate it.