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Week 13: Matthew 14-15; Mark 6-7; John 5-6

From buzzsprout.com

Verses 1-13: John the Baptist's beheading has caused some consternation to some as Josephus gives a slightly different account as to what happened. The important thing to note here is that Herod thought Jesus was some living embodiment of John who had come to haunt him. John the Baptist had one for himself a 'martyr's crown' and is enthroned in everlasting glory.

We learn in verse  13 that Jesus was grieved by the news of John's beheading. He sought to be alone in a deserted place either to sulk alone, or, to seek communion with the same angels he sent earlier to comfort John in prison.

Verses 14-21: The events of the multiplying of the loaves and fishes occurs in all four gospels. This might suggest the importance of the event. What is its significance?

Elder Holland gives a very brief commentary when he said, "Don’t worry about Christ running out of ability to help you. His grace is sufficient. That is the spiritual, eternal lesson of the feeding of the five thousand."(1)

This miracle probably happened in front of arguably Jesus's largest audience during his mortal ministry. The implications are that there is enough to go around and to spare. Matthew claims that only the men were counted and not the women and children. We can safely, therefore, at least add another few thousand to the reported number of 5 thousand.

Verses 22-33: After originally landing on land to be alone, Jesus once again gets into a boat to escape the crowd. Once he reaches the other side of the Sea of Galilee, He leaves his disciples in the boat while he ascends onto the top of a hill to pray. We can only speculate what he experienced on top of the hill, but I imagine it was communion with the Father and Divine Council to receive comfort and instruction regarding the death of John the Baptist. 

The disciples were far away from land. Earliest manuscripts of the gospel of Matthew say in verse 24 that the boat was "many stadia from the land". Stadia, according to Dr. Wayment, is the measure of the length of a Greek athletic stadium. This was about 600 feet. The fact that they were 'many stadia' away from land gives a clearer picture of Jesus walking towards them and why it would have frightened them. We can speculate maybe that it was around a half mile to a mile walk on the water for Jesus before he reached their view.

Peter, in faithful fashion, desired to come out unto Christ. The power of the waves and wind were very strong. After initially walking on the water, Peter falls into the water and is saved by Jesus. In a confusion exchange of words, instead of commending Peter for doing what hardly any other person had done before, the Savior mildly rebukes him for having little faith and doubting. Why would the Savior do this? I think it might suggest that the Savior, in his perfect love, never lessens his expectations for us, even if the intentions for doing such are pure.

The Savior then enters the boat and the wind ceases. McConkie comments:
"Why did Jesus walk on the water and then quell the storm?
(1) To reach the boat, keep a planned rendevous with the apostles, and save them in their hour of despair and physical exhaustion.
(2) To teach again by concrete means, under circumstances where no natural explanation could spiritualize the miracle away, that faith is a principle of power by which natural forces are controlled. (Mormon Doctrine, pp. 242-248.)
(3) To bear testimony that he was indeed the promised Messiah, the Son of God, the Incarnate Word, who though made flesh to fulfil the Father's purposes, yet had resident in him the powers of divinity. Here in the boat with weak mortals was he "who hath gathered the wind in his fists, who hath bound the waters in a garment" (Prov. 30:4), he who "spreadeth out the heavens, and treadeth upon the waves of the sea." (Job 9:8.) And that the disciples knew him for what he was, and saw in this renewed manifestation of his power the proof of his eternal godhood, is evident from the fact that they then worshiped him and acclaimed, "Of a truth thou art the Son of God." (Matt. 14:33.)" (DNTC, digital copy, p. 284-285)
Verses 34-36: Jesus performs many healings after he lands after a night on the Sea of Galilee. McConkie comments:
"This region -- a rich, fertile, and productive plain -- extended southward along the western shore of the Sea of Galilee from Capernaum on the north to the region around Magdala and Tiberias. Though having set out for Capernaum, apparently because of the storm, Jesus and the apostles landed somewhat south of that city. It was while traveling northward to Capernaum that the sick and diseased from the cities, villages, and whole region of Gennesaret were brought to him to be healed. This day his grace and goodness were bounteously manifested. Truly but few of his healings and miracles find place in recorded writ.
Perhaps they had knowledge of the woman who, plagued for twelve years with an issue of blood, had been healed by touching the hem of his garment (Mark 5:25-34); perhaps they considered the garment fringe as holy because of the divine command that garments be bordered in blue so that all Israel might "look upon it, and remember all the commandments of the Lord, and do them" (Num. 15:37-41); or perhaps, overpowered in the divine presence, they sought even the slightest and least physical contact with him. But in any event, so great was their faith that all partook of his infinite goodness and were healed." (DNTC, digital copy, p. 287-288)

Verses 1-20: When reading closely, you find Jesus here not condemning the law of Moses (he never does that), but he condemns oral law that has been passed down. McConkie comments:
"Rabbinical ordinances and interpretations were added to the Mosaic law by the scribes and teachers over the years. These traditions were actually and formally deemed to be more important and have greater binding force than the law itself. Among them, as supposed guards against ceremonial uncleanness, were the ritualistic washings which Jesus and his disciples had ignored." (DNTC, digital copy, p. 303)
In a nutshell, the oral tradition that Christ is complaining about here is that kids who grow up and accumulate wealth did not have to support/honor their parents if they had pledged their goods to God and or the temple. This oath was seen as more important to keep than what is written in Exodus 20:12 and Deuteronomy 5:16. Jesus goes on to quote Isaiah 29:13 to describe the state of Israel at that current moment. McConkie points out that similar wording is used by the Lord when he appeared with his Father to Joseph Smith in the spring of 1820. 

Verses 12-15: Here we have Christ advocating to disregard the thoughts and ideas of the Pharisees. This is the scriptural precedent of why we should quarrel with those steeped in religious tradition. Not even the Savior could make a dent in their pride.

Verse 19: The word 'fornications' comes from the Greek 'pornia' which is where we get the word 'pornography' from.

Verses 21-28: This instance in the scriptures is made more clear when we understand that the Lord's ministry was to Israel. His reasoning to the Canaanite woman was two-fold. He was to make it plain that His ministry was to those of covenant Israel at this time. Secondly, he was trying the Faith of the woman and her response was sublime. Such a humble and faithful answer from one who was frantically trying to save her child.

Jesus calling her and the Gentiles dogs might come off as offensive. It should be remembered though that we are dealing with another culture and time period. It should also be remembered that Jesus showed compassion despite this. Our western eyes sometimes can cause us to needlessly marvel over these details.

Verses 29-31: Jesus starts to multiply his healing. He heals all manner of ailments among a people that were filled with Jews and Gentiles. Perhaps this is to serve as a supplement to what occurred with the Canaanite woman previously.

Verses 32-39: In the space of one chapter we get a repeat of a miracle that is so similar one wonders if they were the same event. McConkie suggests they were not the same event and extrapolates on the importance of this particular miracle:
"This miraculous feeding of the four thousand is not a mere duplication or repetition of the feeding of the five thousand which took place a short time before near Bethsaida. Then our Lord was mingling with his own kindred of Israel; now he is teaching other hosts who in substantial part, being inhabitants of Decapolis, are presumed to be Gentile. Then he was laying the foundation for his incomparable sermon on the Bread of Life; now he is prefiguring the future presentation of the living bread to the Gentile nations. And significantly, this mixed multitude from the east of the Jordan were more receptive, and took a more sane and sound view of the matchless miracle of feeding thousands by use of the creative powers resident in him, than did the members of the chosen seed." (DNTC, digital copy, p. 311)
The events of chapter 15 seem to serve as a bridge in Jesus's ministry were he starts to hint that the times of the Gentiles is approaching. The miracles and teaching done in this chapter were done among a mixed crowd and should be seen as purposeful the way Matthew positions it in the narrative. 

Mark chapters 6-7 are skipped here because most of the events therein are also in Matthew 14-15


Verses 19-30: These verses are light intensive according to the following commentaries:
"We suppose that our Lord's Jewish detractors by this time are completely overawed. How could it be otherwise, so comprehensive are the concepts of which he speaks, so infinite their application! But Jesus continues: 'For as the Father hath life in himself so hath he given to the Son to have life in himself.' 'The Father is an immortal, exalted, resurrected being, who cannot die. He is the Creator of the lives of men. Life dwells in him independently he has life in himself all things live because of him. He is the source of life, and the one who upholds, preserves, and continues it. And he has given this same power to the Son the Son inherits from the Father an immortal Father passes on to his mortal Son the power of immortality it comes as a natural inheritance.'
"'And hath given him authority to execute judgment also,' Jesus continues, 'because he is the Son of man.' Why will Jesus be the Judge of the living and the dead? Because he is the Son of Man of Holiness-the Son of an Immortal Man, a Holy Man, who is God-because he is the Son of God who has received the power to do all things, from his Father whose right it is to grant such infinite power." - Bruce R. McConkie (The Mortal Messiah: From Bethlehem to Calvary, 4 vols. Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Co., 1979-1981, 2: 74.)
"The prophet paraphrases the meaning of this verse 'I do the things I saw my Father do before worlds came rolling into existence. I saw my Father work out his kingdom with fear and trembling, and I must do the same. Then I shall give my kingdom to the Father so that he obtains kingdom rolling upon kingdom,' so that Jesus treads in his tracks as he had gone before.
"...He laid down his life and took it up, same as his Father had done before. He did as he was sent, to lay down his life and take it up again." - Joseph Smith (Kent P. Jackson, comp. and ed., Joseph Smith's Commentary on the Bible Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Co., 1994, 131-132.)
"It is the first principle of the Gospel to know for a certainty the character of God, and to know that we may converse with him as one man converses with another, and that he was once a man like us yea, that God himself, the Father of as all, dwelt on an earth, the same as Jesus Christ himself did. . . .
"I will go back to the beginning before the world was, to show what kind of a being God is. What sort of a being was God in the beginning? Open your ears and hear, all ye ends of the earth . . .
"God himself was once as we are now, and is an exalted man, and sits enthroned in yonder heavens. That is the great secret. If the veil were rent today, and the great God who holds this world in its orbit, and who upholds all worlds and all things by his power, was to make himself visible,-I say, if you were to see him today, you would see him like a man in form-like yourselves in all the person, image, and very form as a man" (Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, pp. 345-346.)
"When and how Jesus saw the Father working out his salvation prior to the Father’s exaltation and, therefore, prior to Jesus’ own spirit birth has not been revealed. However, it may be that Jesus was granted a vision of the Father’s past experiences much as we might observe films of historical events. The pre-mortal Christ dwelt in the presence of the Father “on a globe like a sea of glass and fire, where all things for their glory are manifest, past, present, and future” (D&C 130:7 emphasis added)." - Rodney Turner (The Doctrine of the Firstborn and Only Begotten, note 20)
Verse 29: According to various scholars, this verse is what spurred Joseph Smith's mind to receive section 76 of the Doctrine and Covenants. Many revelations Joseph received were a result of him asking questions during his translation of the Bible.

Verses 31-47: The moral of this part is that living oracles are more important than the written word. Jesus does not dismiss searching the scriptures, but he criticizes those who search the scriptures but ignored the living word that came from Him and John the Baptist. Verse 39 makes the case and point that we can search the scriptures all we want, but until we accept the living prophets we will not even understand the written word properly.


Verses 22-40: The sermon on Christ being the bread of life is light intensive and fitting after Christ had just feed thousands on two different occasions. Margaret Barker comments:
"The bread of God is that which [or he who] comes down from heaven and gives life to the creation is not, however, Passover imagery: it is Day of Atonement imagery, when the bread/flesh of the great high priest gives life to the world. Like the woman of Samaria who wanted the water of life, so too the crowd want this bread. Jesus then explains: 'I am the bread of life', and he describes his work as offering high-priestly theosis to all." (King of the Jews, p. 255)
The bread of life is a metaphor that finds its way into our modern day sacrament. Truman Madsen explains it this way:
"... the fullest flow of the Spirit of God comes to us through His appointed channels or ordinances. The sacrament is the central and oft-repeated ordinance that transmits that power to us. Indeed, it is the ordinance that gives focus to all other ordinances. … Eventually, through a lifetime, His spirit can sanctify the very elements of our bodies until we become capable of celestial resurrection. In baptism we are born once — born of the water and of the spirit. In the sacrament, we are reborn, over and over, of the bread and of the wine or water and we are truly what we eat." - Truman G. Madsen (“The Savior, the Sacrament, and Self Worth,” BYU Women’s Conference (1999))
 Verses 66-71: We find that Jesus had disciples fall away after this sermon. The sermon of the bread of life went so much against their traditions that they could not bear it. It is an interesting parallel that when Joseph started to teach such things in his day along with the revelation of the temple ordinances, persecution and rejection reached an all-time high. For some reason, in our day and in Jesus's day, to teach that theosis is available to all is something that causes man to shutter and to shatter to pieces.


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