Life-Study of Matthewby Witness Lee
Printed Copy: Available Online from Living Stream Ministry
Printed Copy: Available Online from Living Stream Ministry
In this message we come to 14:14-21, the record of the Lord’s miraculous feeding of the crowd in the wilderness.
Many times after we have experienced rejection and have passed through it, we have been happy and released. But after we experience this release, we realize that we are in want and do not have anything to live on. We are lacking in necessities. This was the situation of the crowd that followed the Lord into the desert.
I believe that those who followed the heavenly King to the desert were enjoying a happy, pleasant time. They might have been so happy that they even forgot about eating. Verse 15 says, “Now when evening was come, the disciples came to Him, saying, This place is a desert, and the hour has already passed; therefore send the crowds away so that they may go into the villages and buy food for themselves.” Peter might have taken the lead to remind Jesus that they were in the desert, that the hour was late, and that the crowds needed something to eat. He might have been the one to suggest that the Lord send the crowds away into the villages to buy food for themselves. The disciples seemed to be saying, “Lord, You see now that it is evening. Don’t keep the crowd here. Send them away.” Was not this a good idea that proceeded out of a good heart? Today’s Peters all have good hearts. In the church life the good-hearted ones often make proposals. Do not be such a Peter.
In reading the book of Matthew we need to take care of the doctrinal arrangement of the book. Many readers consider Matthew either a storybook or a history book. But it is not a history book; it is a book of doctrine. The Lord’s word in verse 16, therefore, is significant: “They do not need to go away; you give them something to eat.” The disciples asked the Lord to send the crowds away that they might go and buy food for themselves. But the Lord told the disciples to give the crowds something to eat. Their concept was to ask people to do something; this was the principle of the law. But the Lord’s concept is to give people something to enjoy; this is the principle of grace. What the disciples proposed was wholly based upon the principle of the law.
In verse 16 the Lord Jesus stopped the disciples. The Gospels record a number of times that Peter was stopped. He was very experienced in this matter of being stopped in speaking. On the mountain, when he proposed building three tabernacles, he was stopped by God. When he told the man who collected the half-shekel tax for the temple that his Master paid the tax, he was stopped by the Lord. The Lord Jesus always stopped the good-hearted one. If you do not have such a good heart, the Lord will not stop you. But if you have a good heart, be prepared to be stopped by Him. Your good heart needs to be stopped because it is natural. The Lord Jesus stopped the disciples by saying, “You give them something to eat.” The Lord seemed to be saying, “Do not ask the crowd to do something in order to get something. That is law. You should give them something to eat. This is grace. I’m not here as Moses telling people to do something in order to get something. I am Jesus Christ. I came with grace. I always give people something. The law came through Moses, but grace came with Me. Therefore, you must give the crowd something to eat. You disciples are completely wrong, for you are still under the law, telling people to do certain things. Are the people hungry? Certainly they are. I know this. I haven’t done anything up to this point in order to expose you. I waited for evening to come just so that you might be exposed. If I had done something about their need, you would never have been exposed.” Often in the Lord’s recovery such instances occur. The Lord has deliberately done certain things to exhaust the patience of the natural ones. However, the good-hearted ones cannot bear this. Often, minutes before the end, they make a proposal. If they had waited for another few minutes, their folly would not have been exposed. Nevertheless, we must learn to get away from the regulations and commandments of the law. Instead, we must learn to know grace, to exercise grace, and to give to others according to the principle of grace.
When the Lord Jesus told them to give the crowd something to eat, the disciples said, “We have nothing here except five loaves and two fishes” (v. 17). When you are about to exercise grace, you will see that you have nothing. If you simply issue commandments to others, you will not realize how poor you are. You may think that you are very smart and say to yourself, “How smart I am! No one else has noticed that evening has come. But I know everything. I can even instruct Jesus. In the Lord’s recovery I am the most intelligent one. I can tell others to do this and that. I know the time, I know the situation, I know what to say, I know what to do, I know everything. I even know how to command the Lord Jesus.” However, when we are told by the Lord to exercise grace, we shall say, “When I am under the law, I am blind and don’t know myself. Under the law, my poverty is not exposed. But now the Lord Jesus, speaking a word of grace, has told me to give them something to eat. This gracious word exposes my poverty. Immediately, I see that I have nothing. I have only a commanding mouth. I can give commands, I can instruct, and I can teach, but I have nothing to give.” The law does not expose us that much. But whenever we are about to exercise grace, our poverty is exposed. We see that we have nothing to give to others, even nothing to feed ourselves.
May the Lord be merciful to us! Do not think that this is merely a story about the Lord Jesus feeding five thousand men plus women and children with five loaves and two fishes. You may be familiar with the story of this miracle, but you may still lack the revelation or the light it contains. But today we are under the Lord’s enlightenment. All of us are Peters. When we think that we know what to do and can tell others what to do, we are a Peter under the law. We are not one under grace. One who is under grace will always say, “Lord, I have nothing to give. There is a great need, but I cannot meet it. I realize that today is the day of grace, not the day of the law. Nevertheless, I have nothing to give. Grace exposes me.” Are you under the law or under grace? If you are under the law, you will still feel that you have something to boast of—your smart mind, your foresight, your knowledge, your ability to instruct others. But when the Lord puts you under grace, your poverty and nothingness will be exposed, and you will have to admit that you have nothing to give, even nothing with which to feed yourself. Here we see clearly the principle of the law and the principle of grace.
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