Week of May 2

How Big is Your Savior?

Read: 2 Samuel 2; 1 Chronicles 11; Psalm 142; Matthew 14
“And those in the boat worshiped him, saying, ‘Truly you are the Son of God.’”
Matthew 14:33, ESV


If you take anything away from the devotional today, then it should be the focal verse. Imagine that you have written on a mirror so that it will be the first thing you see each day. How big are the letters? Perhaps I should state it this way: How big is your Savior? This question figures prominently in the middle sections of Matthew’s gospel. The gospel writer builds a strong case that Jesus is the Messiah, but he also shows us over and over again how many ways that we may limit the depth and width of that confession! Let’s invite Matthew to stretch our understanding of Jesus, our Messiah.

Let's See What the Bible Says

Our wider context supplies us with some important theology packed inside the receipt of the tragic news about John the Baptist, the narratives of feeding miracles, and Jesus’ own reflections upon them (cf. 14:13-21; 15:32-39; 16:5-12; NAC). Matthews shows us that two separate currents, Jews (14:13-36) and Gentiles (15:1-16:12), merge within the redeeming mission of the Christ. He displays the nature of God’s redemptive aim and the scope of his kingdom. Jesus truly shows us that God “so loved the world that he gave.” You and I have been included in that river of God’s grace where he joins all redeemed humanity into one people (cf. John 4:14; Ephesians 2:11-22)!

Jesus received the hard news that John had been killed by Herod, so he withdraws into the wilderness region east of Galilee (14:13). The “arabah,” as it is termed, was a thinly populated area that could also be termed a wasteland. Christ met some of his deepest challenges in this remote and forbidding place. In one sense, the harsh setting mirrored the severity of the situation he was facing (14:3-12). The physical brutality and political machinations that swirled around him were all faced in a time of retreat and total dependence upon his Father. Who better than the Creator of the desert to teach us how to blossom there? He gives rest and helps us to refocus even in the harshest of circumstances. He is bigger still!

Jesus feeds 5000, which is an extraordinary miracle, but we must not miss the deeper theological message. The narrative should call to mind God’s supernatural provision of bread to Israel in the wilderness. We often fail in our interpretation of the passage to consider the Jewish tradition that Messiah would come and do the same, but on an even “grander scale” (cf. Psalm 132:15; 1 Kings 17:9-16; and 2 Kings 4:42-44; NAC). Jesus creates a new Israel out of those who will follow him, and his actions foreshadow the coming messianic banquet (22:1-13; 26:29; NAC). Proper application of the passage must focus on Christology, then, and the spiritual provision that Jesus brings. He feeds us physically and spiritually, but there is even more!

The disciples have been sent ahead of Jesus who withdraws to pray (14:22). A storm comes up suddenly and they are being buffeted (“tormented”) by the wind and waves. The word is used elsewhere of demonic hostility toward people (cf. Matthew 8:6 & 29; Revelation 9:5). Sometimes there is spiritual evil in the natural calamities that we face. These experienced fishermen had rowed three to four miles (25-30 stadia at 600’ per stadia). The lake was 4-5 miles wide, so they were worn out and making little progress when Jesus came walking to them on the water. He calls out to them to take courage, “I am” (cf. Exodus 3:14). Jesus shows that he is Lord over nature. He does all these things, but miraculous feedings and calming of storms is hardly the basis for a redemptive faith (John 20:29). The point is to trust him to the depths of our being. He has the words of life and provides the way for our lives. He is Lord over nature, and we should worship him with all that we are and in all that we do.

Let's Deepen Our Walk

When our grandchildren were younger, we received a combination bounce house and water slide that was perfect for outdoor fun. We held parties and outdoor cookouts and enjoyed watching the little ones play. It was not a large inflatable, but it enabled us to provide fun for 7-8 children at a time. Our daughter hosted a birthday party, and I heard that there would be a bounce house. I immediately thought about the one that we had used for several years. Well, I turned the corner down their street, and I could see the bounce house all the way at the end of the block. My exact words were, “Now, that is a big bounce house!” Fifteen-plus children were soon climbing and sliding and squealing with excitement. Neighborhood folks and church friends converged on their home, and it was a memorable celebration. It also was great reminder of the goodness of God and how the Savior draws all people to himself.

Here is a thought for our spiritual growth. It may seem too obvious, but the size of our God is too small if our problems eclipse our view of him. Jesus leads through tragedy, scarcity, and calamity. Return to the introduction and consider again the size of your God when you look into the mirror each new day!

Let's Think and Discuss

1. Write down the largest trouble(s) that you face at present in your life. What resources are you bringing to bear on the difficulty? How does the view that we have gained about Jesus change the way that you look at your troubles?

2. For families: To help your children grasp a visual of the limitlessness of God next to their troubles, take the kids into your back yard. Have them write their troubles, or problems, one per page, on some printer paper. Give them as many sheets as they want, and allow them to help each other to write one word or draw a picture of each of their troubles. Then use a water-based spray paint to paint on the grass one word - the largest G-O-D that your yard can hold. Then have the children place their papers of “troubles” all around the grass. Let them see that their problems will never be bigger than God's ability to handle. Here is a song for them to learn about God’s might: “My God is so BIG...”

May all your paths be straight,
Larry C. Ashlock