These last chapters of Matthew are revealing Jesus’ training of His disciples. His training philosophy was to make disciples that were like Him.
“A disciple is not above his teacher, nor a servant above his master. It is enough for a disciple that he be like his teacher, and a servant like his master.” Mat 10:24-25
So He gave them His power to cast out unclean spirits and heal all kinds of sickness and disease, Mat 10:1;
He taught them how to preach that the kingdom of heaven was at hand, Mat 10;
He opened their eyes to understand the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven, Mat 13:11, 16;
He trained them to feed the hungry – not by raising funds, but by trusting Him to supply the need miraculously if need be, Mat 14:15-16;
He even trained them to walk on water, as an example of doing the impossible, by trusting Him for the impossible, Mat 14:28-31.
I could not get away from the walking on the water. What purpose would walking on water serve? To show His disciples that He had power over the natural world? I think they already had seen that. No, this chapter is about bringing His disciples to the place where they were doing the same things that He was doing (Joh 14:12).
Preaching, yes. We are comfortable with that. Teaching the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven, yes. We are comfortable with that. Alleviating suffering by building hospitals and orphanages, yes. We are comfortable with that.
But also, if we are believers (if we believe Him and His Word), casting out demons. We are not comfortable with that.
Healing sickness and disease miraculously. We are not comfortable with that.
Multiplying food. We are not comfortable with that.
Walking on water. We are not comfortable with that.
How about moving mountains (Mat 21:21)? We are not comfortable with that.
You know, Jesus was working full time to bring the kingdom of heaven to earth. He had long days of preaching and healing the sick. The people who could benefit from His compassion were limited to the time and place where He was. His goal, in making disciples that would be like Him, even in walking on water, and then giving them His same Spirit (Act 1:8), was so that the kingdom of heaven could come to every time and every place – through His disciples who were like their Master.
Heidi Baker is a good example. She and her husband are missionaries in Madagascar, and have built orphanages all through the country. She was comfortable with expressing compassion and alleviating suffering like that. But then God told her to start raising the dead. So from obedience, for the next year, every dead person she saw, she layed hands on them and commanded them to live in the name of Jesus. And none of them did. But God had given her a command, and she fulfilled her part. Actually making them live, was God’s part. She concerned herself with her part, and let God concern Himself with His part. In the second year, they started getting up and living!
We serve a big God, and because He is moved with compassion, He wants to do big things. Let us not limit Him by our comfort level. Let us be believers, and place our trust in Him, and do our part, so that as He wills, He can do His part.
For further reading:
Matthew 14, Jesus, moved with compassion (2009)