“Labour not for the meat which perisheth but for that meat which endureth unto everlasting life, which the Son of man shall give unto you, for Him hath God the Father sealed.”
These words of Jesus were spoken in the midst of a large company of people who had all experienced the same manifestation of the power of a sovereign God yet in different settings. Herod had just beheaded John the Baptizer and his disciples had come and joined themselves unto Jesus. He took these disciples into a desert place for a time of rest, “for there were many coming and going and they had no leisure so much as to eat (Mk. 6:30f). Yet even this excursion into the wilderness did not stop the mass of people whom the Father drew unto His Son, who “ran afoot thither out of all the cities and out-went them (out ran the others) and came together unto Him” (6:33). Now began a deliverance from the necessities of the flesh, a deliverance from the power of the flesh and a deliverance from the maladies and weakness of the flesh.
The first group of people consisted of a contingency of a ‘great multitude’ of about five thousand men, besides women and children. These had come into a desert place to hear the teachings of Jesus of Nazareth and to witness His healing of the lame, blind, dumb and maimed. They were astonished and amazed at what they saw and wondered at this man who taught with authority. But none had brought a watch with them to keep track of the time. As the day wore on into the evening, the disciples were faced with a dinner party, in excess of ten thousand people, and they had nothing to feed them with. The disciples had no answer to this dilemma. These fishermen were not by the sea where they could employ the talents God had given them to try and provide for this throng. They had no money to buy sufficient food, they had no knowledge of the area as to where to send the people for proper accommodations and they had no time to reconnoiter for either. They did not advance the location to organize this event, they had not considered this contingency and they were completely passive in all the activities. They did not do any teaching or healing. They simply watched and listened as Jesus turned to them and said; “They need not depart, give ye them to eat” (Matt. 14:16). Like the widow at Zaraphath, they had only enough for one.
Jesus fed this group with five barley loaves and two small fishes that were provided from a small boy who ‘just happened’ to have caught these probably for his dinner and who ‘just happened’ to be passing by and who ‘just happened’ to be willing to surrender his provender to Andrew, a man whom he did not know for he had never met him before. Every man woman and child ate until they were filled. Each one reached his or her hand into a seemingly empty basket and took such as they wanted and ate. This was repeated by the twelve until all had been sufficiently fed. Then, at the direction of the Master, the disciples recovered twelve baskets of fragments so that nothing was lost. Jesus demonstrated to the masses that He was the Lord and giver of all things needful for subsistence. He had delivered them, on the verge of starvation, from the needs of the flesh having manifested His sovereignty in a dramatic testimony of His Lordship. He set the time and the place where this assembly would be gathered. He caused them to sit still before Him for the whole day without food, depleting the strength of Adam. Yet in the appointed time, He abundantly satisfied their need. He alone sustained them who were without the basic necessities of life. His provisions were so plentiful that a full basket of His blessing remained as a type of the blessing for the house of Israel of our God, one for each tribe of the redeemed (Rev. 7:4). “Then those men who had seen the miracle that Jesus did said, “This is of a truth that prophet that should come into the world” (John 6:14; Deut. 18:15).
After such a magnificent display of compassion, authority and grace, Jesus knew that the hearts of the people were turned, by His hand, to desire to come, take Him and make Him their King. But this was not the manner in which the kingdom was to be manifested. His kingdom was not of this world. His advent upon the earth for the salvation of His people from their sin which required a blood sacrifice for a propitiation. And so, He sent the people away and departed into the mountains to pray. He commanded His disciples to enter into a boat and to cross the Sea of Galilee. These men had also been there in the wilderness all day without food. They served the food to the multitude, they gathered up the fragments and now they were instructed to travel about twelve miles from Tiberius to Capernaum in the land of Gennesaret, over against Bethesda, at night without rest.
Now these were experienced sailors. Peter and his brother Andrew were partners with James and John, the sons of Zebedee, as fishers. It was here, in this capacity, that Jesus came to them, while they were tending to their nets after a long night of fishing, and commanded them to follow Him (Luke 5:1-11). There is no indication that they knew who He was. There is nothing recorded about Jesus explaining to them what he had for them to do, setting forth the time that they would follow Him or the sufferings they should endure. He simply demonstrated His authority over the fish of the sea and the draft of the fishing nets and, rather than making Him a business proposition, they abandoned all and followed Him. These had been made willing in the day of His power.
It would be very consistent to conclude that at least these four men had been involved in their share of maritime adventures. They were not unaccustomed to spending all night fishing or to the occasional storm so when they cast off from the shore of Tiberius, it was probably a calm night and they supposed, smooth sailing. When they arrived in the midst of the sea, they encountered a strong head wind which made the waves choppy. Rather than turn back, which would indicate that the conditions were not deemed to be too bad, they resorted to the training of their youth. They began to row the boat and in the power of the strength of the arm of the flesh, they had covered about twenty five or thirty furlongs (between 3 and 3 1/2 miles) in about ten hours, for it was the fourth watch.. These men began the trip tired and became exhausted as they did exactly what God had prepared them to do. He had properly equipped them with sufficient strength, knowledge and skill to fail in accomplishing their objective (reaching the other shore line). He had also equipped them with precise amount of natural abilities and stubbornness to bring them to the exact place where they would look up and see Jesus walking on the water. They arrived at the appointed place, in complete ignorance of where they were or why they were there, with pin-point accuracy and impeccable timing. The labour they had been assigned stripped them of their might, reduced the confidence of the flesh to a minimums amount and fear gat hold of them. This is how God worked in them to both will and do His good pleasure!
They supposed the specter on the water to be a spirit and were sore afraid until Jesus spoke to them and said; “Fear not it is I”. Peter then challenged the vision and the voice. Seeking proof he said; “Lord if it be thou, bid me come unto thee on the water”. The first disciple stepped over the side rail of the ship and down onto the water in the midst of the contrary wind and the tossed sea and began to walk to Jesus. There is no record of how many steps he took but as he walked he noticed a contrary wind, his attention was drawn to a boisterous, angry and violent wind. When Peter left the ship and his natural element, then the storm began and his doubtful fear became terror. He had seen and experienced the wind and the waves but when he was brought to a point where he could not return to the safety of the ship, he was completely helpless. Adam was of no use to him with all his training and prowess. Now, as the horror of the moment took hold on him, he began to sink in the water. Of a certainty, this man had been in these very waters many times, swimming, bathing or falling out of a ship on numerous fishing expeditions but now, in his weakened condition, when the flesh was made weak by the decreed labours that God had assigned to him, he was blessed to cry out; “Lord save me”. The once proud and self-confident sailor had been reduced to a little child, for such is the kingdom of heaven.
Jesus reached forth His hand and delivered Peter from the sea and when He took him to the ship the storm ceased and they found themselves on the other side. These disciples of little faith had been delivered from the elements of nature, shown the futility of the arm of the flesh and the absolute impotence of Adam. They were as lost at sea and ready to perish, but they were delivered just as the multitude was in the wilderness. These men were sore amazed in themselves beyond measure and wondered. Worshiping Him they said; “Of a truth thou art the Son of God” (Matt. 14:33).
The next day, which would have been about three hours after the all night boating trip, the people who had been in the wilderness also took shipping and came to the land of Gennesaret to see Jesus. They had seen the ship leave with the disciples in it and wondered how Jesus made it over the sea but as soon as He landed on the shore, all knew Him and began to bring unto Him the sick and infirmed. This third group, which indeed was comprised of a majority of the same company as the first group, who had heard the teaching, seen the miracles and eaten the bread, wondered after Jesus and said; “Rabbi, when camest thou hither?” But instead of welcoming His followers and commending them for their fortitude, He rebukes them for following only to satisfy their carnal needs. As the beds carrying the sick and the halt came from across the region for Jesus to touch and heal, He speaks harshly saying; “Verily, verily I say unto you, Ye seek me not because ye saw the miracles but because ye did eat the loaves and were filled”. He was indeed about to touch many of the indigent and set them at liberty from the bondage of disease but first He addresses the bondage of the corruption of Adam.
Adam lives by what he can see and what he believes is profitable to him. These tangible goods are temporary and only satisfy for a moment and they are essential for the natural environment of Adam. God has created him that way. He assigned the labour of eating his bread by the sweat of his brow to him as he was expelled from the garden. This assignment is the labour wherewith he is exercised and disciplined in the frailties of his nature. It is here, in the very thing wherein he thinks himself strong, that God has ordained that his weakness should be found. His world is temporal, his logic is flawed and his strength is limited. His labours have been assigned to him to frustrate him, his pursuit of knowledge brings him sorrow and the truth slays him.
Herein those who have been born from above are made strong. When their carnal achievements are counted as dung and their delusions of grandeur are dashed, then is the Spirit of God revealed in all His power and might. When the clay pots are broken and all the things wherein they think they stand firm and strong are manifested as being weak and beggarly then do they see that they live by faith and that not of themselves. God treats both the children of wrath and the children of grace in the same manner. He breaks down the confidence in Adam. The child of wrath continues to blaspheme His name because of the pain and tribulation while the child of grace cries out, “Lord be merciful to me a sinner”
Adam continues to desire to work the work of God as he did in the garden when he devised a covering for he and Eve. His teachers preach that all one of his children has to do is create faith within themselves and in the exercising of that faith they can bring themselves acceptably before the throne of grace. But Jesus said that the work of the Father was that ye believe on the one He sent into the world. Because faith is a fruit of the indwelling of Immanuel, Adam has no right nor portion nor memorial in the matter. Because faith is evidenced by things unseen it is only natural that Adam would say, “What sign do you shew us then, that we may see and believe you?” Had they not seen enough signs and wonders? Had not the Word stood in their midst and proclaimed the gospel? Had they not eaten until they were filled? Had they forgotten about the twelve baskets of loaves and fishes? Indeed Adam, the natural man cannot receive the miracles that are set before him and no amount of miracles and wonders in the heavens or in the earth shall every convert one who is not a child or grace or condemn one who is of the house of the redeemed. Adam wants to see something so he can believe. The inner man, born of the Spirit, believes in that which cannot be seen.
Jesus said that he is the bread of life and who-so-ever comes to Him, being drawn by the everlasting love of the Father, shall never hunger and unto whom-so-ever it is given to believe on Him shall never thirst. They that hunger and thirst after the things of Adam shall labour their entire life trying to satisfy the urge and quench the drought. But they who hunger and thirst after righteousness are completely satiated. They who feel the weakness and vanity of the flesh are delivered. Those who are partakers of flesh and blood have a limit to the time of their habitations but who-so-ever is a partaker of His body, His death, burial and resurrection shall never die for “whosoever liveth and believeth in Me shall never die” (John 11:26). He is the Bread of life, He is the resurrection and the Life and He is the Life of His church against whom the gates of hell cannot prevail. Do not trust in Adam or his abilities but know of a surety that God has equipped the body of this death with such flaws and imperfections as are needful for His will to be performed with absolute perfection. The labour of Adam perishes as the grass of the field and fades as the flower but the ‘good works’ that His children have been created unto, shall endure unto everlasting life.
Your servant in Christ,
(Elder) Chet Dirkes
December 16, 2012