God’s Work, God’s Disposition, and God Himself III (Part Four)
Next, let us look at the following passages of scripture:
9. Jesus Performs Miracles
1) Jesus Feeds the Five Thousand
Jhn 6:8–13 One of His disciples, Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother, said to Him, There is a lad here, which has five barley loaves, and two small fishes: but what are they among so many? And Jesus said, Make the men sit down. Now there was much grass in the place. So the men sat down, in number about five thousand. And Jesus took the loaves; and when He had given thanks, He distributed to the disciples, and the disciples to them that were set down; and likewise of the fishes as much as they would. When they were filled, He said to His disciples, Gather up the fragments that remain, that nothing be lost. Therefore they gathered them together, and filled twelve baskets with the fragments of the five barley loaves, which remained over and above to them that had eaten.
2) The Resurrection of Lazarus Glorifies God
Jhn 11:43–44 And when He thus had spoken, He cried with a loud voice, Lazarus, come forth. And he that was dead came forth, bound hand and foot with grave clothes: and his face was bound about with a napkin. Jesus said to them, Loose him, and let him go.
Among the miracles performed by the, we have selected only these two because they are adequate to demonstrate what I want to speak about here. These two miracles are truly astonishing and highly representative of the miracles the Lord Jesus performed during the Age of Grace.
First, let us take a look at the first passage: Jesus Feeds the Five Thousand.
What is the idea of “five loaves and two fish”? Ordinarily, how many people could be sufficiently fed with five loaves of bread and two fish? If you base your measurement on the appetite of an average person, this would only be enough for two people. This is the idea of “five loaves and two fish” at its most basic. However, in this passage, how many people were fed by five loaves and two fish? The following is what is recorded in the Scripture: “Now there was much grass in the place. So the men sat down, in number about five thousand.” Compared to five loaves and two fish, is five thousand a large number? What does it show that this number is so large? From a human perspective, dividing five loaves and two fish between five thousand people would be impossible, because the difference between people and food is too great. Even if every person only had one tiny bite, it still would not be enough for five thousand people. But here, the Lord Jesus performed a miracle—He not only ensured that five thousand people could eat their fill, but there was even food left over. The Scripture reads: “When they were filled, He said to His disciples, Gather up the fragments that remain, that nothing be lost. Therefore they gathered them together, and filled twelve baskets with the fragments of the five barley loaves, which remained over and above to them that had eaten.” This miracle enabled people to see the identity and status of the Lord Jesus, and to see that nothing is impossible for God—in this way, they saw the truth of God’s omnipotence. Five loaves and two fish were enough to feed five thousand, but if there had not been any food, would God have been able to feed five thousand people? Of course He could have! This was a miracle, so inevitably people felt it was incomprehensible, incredible and mysterious, but for God, doing such a thing was nothing. Since this was something ordinary for God, why should it be singled out now for interpretation? Because what lies behind this miracle is the Lord Jesus’ will, which has never before been perceived by mankind.
First, let us try to understand what type of people these five thousand were. Were they followers of the Lord Jesus? From the Scripture, we know that they were not His followers. Did they know who the Lord Jesus was? Certainly not! At the very least, they did not know that the person standing in front of them was Christ, or maybe some people only knew what His name was and knew or had heard something about things He had done. Their curiosity about the Lord Jesus had merely been roused when they heard stories about Him, but you certainly could not say that they followed Him, much less understood Him. When the Lord Jesus saw these five thousand people, they were hungry and could only think of filling their stomachs, so it was in this context that the Lord Jesus satisfied their desire. When He satisfied their desire, what was in His heart? What was His attitude toward these people that only wanted to eat their fill? At this time, the Lord Jesus’ thoughts and His attitude were in relation to God’s disposition and essence. Facing these five thousand people with empty stomachs who only wanted to eat a full meal, facing these people full of curiosity and hope for Him, the Lord Jesus only thought of utilizing this miracle to bestow grace upon them. However, He did not raise His hopes that they would become His followers, for He knew that they just wanted to join the fun and to eat their fill, so He made the best of what He had there, and used five loaves of bread and two fish to feed five thousand people. He opened the eyes of these people who enjoyed seeing exciting things, who wanted to witness miracles, and they saw with their own eyes the things that God incarnate could accomplish. Although the Lord Jesus used something tangible to satisfy their curiosity, He already knew in His heart that these five thousand people just wanted to have a good meal, so He did not preach to them or say anything at all—He just let them see this miracle as it happened. He absolutely could not treat these people in the same way as He treated His disciples who truly followed Him, but in God’s heart, all creatures are under His rule, and He would allow all creatures in His sight to enjoy the grace of God when it was necessary. Even though these people did not know who He was and did not understand Him or have any particular impression of Him or gratitude toward Him even after they had eaten the loaves and fish, this was not something that God took issue with—He gave these people a wonderful opportunity to enjoy the grace of God. Some people say that God is principled in what He does, that He does not watch over or protect nonbelievers, and that, in particular, He does not allow them to enjoy His grace. Is that actually the case? In God’s eyes, as long as they are living creatures that He Himself created, He will manage and care for them, and in manifold ways He will treat them, plan for them, and rule them. These are the thoughts and attitude of God toward all things.
Although the five thousand people who ate the loaves of bread and the fish did not plan to follow the Lord Jesus, He made no exacting demands of them; once they had eaten their fill, do you know what the Lord Jesus did? Did He preach to them at all? Where did He go after doing this? The scriptures do not record that the Lord Jesus said anything to them, just that He left quietly when He had performed His miracle. So did He make any requirements of these people? Was there any hatred? No, here were none of these. He simply no longer wanted to pay any mind to these people who could not follow Him, and at this time His heart was in pain. Because He had seen the depravity of mankind and He had felt mankind’s rejection of Him, when He saw these people and He was with them, He was saddened by human obtuseness and ignorance, and His heart was in pain, all He wanted was to leave these people as quickly as possible. The Lord did not make any requirements of them in His heart, He did not want to pay them any mind, and even more, He did not want to expend His energy on them. He knew that they could not follow Him, but in spite of all this, His attitude toward them was still very clear. He just wanted to treat them kindly, to bestow grace upon them, and indeed this was God’s attitude toward every creature under His rule—to treat every creature kindly, to provide for them and nourish them. For the very reason that the Lord Jesus was God incarnate, He very naturally revealed God’s own essence and treated these people kindly. He treated them with a heart of benevolence and tolerance, and with such a heart He showed them kindness. No matter how these people saw the Lord Jesus, and no matter what kind of outcome there would be, He treated every creature based on His position as the Lord of all creation. Everything that He revealed was, without exception, God’s disposition, and what He has and is. The Lord Jesus quietly did this thing, and then quietly left—what aspect of God’s disposition is this? Could you say that this is God’s lovingkindness? Could you say that this is God’s selflessness? Is this something that a regular person is capable of? Definitely not! In essence, who were these five thousand people that the Lord Jesus fed with five loaves and two fish? Could you say that they were people who were compatible with Him? Could you say that they were all hostile to God? It can be said with certainty that they absolutely were not compatible with the Lord, and their essence was absolutely hostile to God. But how did God treat them? He used a method to defuse people’s hostility toward God—this method is called “kindness.” That is, although the Lord Jesus saw these people as sinners, in God’s eyes they were nevertheless His creation, so He still treated these sinners kindly. This is God’s tolerance, and this tolerance is determined by God’s own identity and essence. So, this is something of which no human created by God is capable—only God can do this.
When you are able to truly appreciate God’s thoughts and attitude toward mankind, when you can truly understand God’s emotions and concern for each being of creation, you will be able to understand the devotion and the love spent on every single one of the people created by the Creator. When this happens, you will use two words to describe God’s love. What are those two words? Some people say “selfless,” and some people say “philanthropic.” Of these two, “philanthropic” is the word least suited to describe God’s love. This is a word that people use to describe someone who is magnanimous or broad-minded. I loathe this word, because it refers to dispensing charity at random, indiscriminately, with no consideration for principle. It is an overly sentimental inclination, which is common to foolish and confused people. When this word is used to describe God’s love, there is inevitably a blasphemous connotation. I have here two words that more aptly describe God’s love. What are they? The first one is “immense.” Is this word not very evocative? The second is “vast.” There is real meaning behind these words which I use to describe God’s love. Taken literally, “immense” describes a thing’s volume or capacity, but regardless of how big that thing is, it is something that people can touch and see. This is because it exists—it is not an abstract object, but something that can give people ideas in a relatively accurate and practical way. Whether you look at it from a two- or a three-dimensional perspective, you do not need to imagine its existence, because it is a thing that actually exists in a real way. Even though using the word, “immense,” to describe God’s love can feel like an attempt at quantifying His love, it also gives the feeling that His love is unquantifiable. I say that God’s love can be quantified because His love is not empty, and nor is it a thing of legend. Rather, it is something shared by all things under God’s rule, something that is enjoyed by all creatures to varying degrees and from different perspectives. Although people cannot see or touch it, this love brings sustenance and life to all things as it is revealed, bit by bit, in their lives, and they count and bear witness to God’s love that they enjoy in each passing moment. I say that God’s love is unquantifiable because the mystery of God providing for and nourishing all things is something that is difficult for humans to fathom, as are God’s thoughts for all things, and particularly those for mankind. That is to say, no one knows the blood and tears the Creator has poured out for mankind. No one can comprehend, no one can understand the depth or weight of the love that the Creator has for mankind whom He created with His own hands. Describing God’s love as immense is to help people appreciate and understand its breadth and the truth of its existence. It is also so that people can more deeply comprehend the actual meaning of the word “Creator,” and so that people can gain a deeper understanding of the true meaning of the appellation, “creation.” What does the word “vast” usually describe? It is generally used to describe the ocean or the universe, for example: “the vast universe,” or “the vast ocean.” The expansiveness and quiet depth of the universe are beyond human understanding; it is something that captures man’s imagination, something for which they feel great admiration. Its mystery and profundity are within sight, but beyond reach. When you think of the ocean, you think of its breadth—it looks limitless, and you can feel its mysteriousness and its great capacity to hold things. This is why I have used the word “vast” to describe God’s love, to help people feel how precious it is, to feel the profound beauty of His love, and that the power of God’s love is infinite and wide-ranging. I used this word to help people feel the holiness of His love, and the dignity and unoffendableness of God that is revealed through His love. Now do you think “vast” is a suitable word for describing God’s love? Can God’s love measure up to these two words, “immense” and “vast”? Absolutely! In human language, these two words alone are somewhat apt, and are relatively close to describing God’s love. Do you not think so? If I had you describe God’s love, would you use these two words? Most likely you would not, because your understanding and appreciation of God’s love is limited to the scope of a two-dimensional perspective, and has not ascended to the height of three-dimensional space. So if I had you describe God’s love, you would feel that you lack the words or perhaps you would even be rendered speechless. The two words that I have talked about today may be difficult for you to understand, or maybe you simply do not agree. This only shows that your appreciation and understanding of God’s love is superficial and limited to a narrow scope. I have said before that God is selfless; you remember this word, “selfless.” Could it be that God’s love can only be described as selfless? Is this not too narrow a scope? You should ponder this issue more, so that you may gain something from it.
The above is what we saw of God’s disposition and His essence from the first miracle. Even though this is a story that people have been reading for several thousand years, it has a simple plot, and allows people to see a simple phenomenon, yet in this simple plot we can see something more valuable, which is God’s disposition and what He has and is. These things that He has and is represent God Himself and are an expression of God’s own thoughts. When God expresses His thoughts, it is an expression of the voice of His heart. He hopes that there will be people who can understand Him, know Him and comprehend His will, and who can hear the voice of His heart and will be able to actively cooperate to satisfy His will. These things that the Lord Jesus did were a voiceless expression of God.
Next, let us look at the following passage: The Resurrection of Lazarus Glorifies God.
What impressions do you have after reading this passage? The significance of this miracle that the Lord Jesus performed was much greater than the previous one, because no miracle is more astounding than bringing a dead man back from the grave. In that era, it was extremely significant that the Lord Jesus did something like this. Because God had become flesh, people could only see His physical appearance, His practical side, and His insignificant aspect. Even if some people saw and understood something of His character or some special abilities that He appeared to possess, no one knew where the Lord Jesus came from, who He truly was in His essence, and what other things He was actually capable of doing. All of this was unknown to mankind. So many people wanted to find proof to answer these questions about the Lord Jesus, and to know the truth. Could God do something to prove His own identity? For God, this was a breeze—it was a piece of cake. He could do something anywhere, anytime to prove His identity and essence, but God had His way of doing things—with a plan, and in steps. He did not do things indiscriminately, but rather looked for the right time and the right opportunity to do something which He would allow man to see, something that truly was imbued with meaning. In this way, He proved His authority and identity. So then, could the resurrection of Lazarus prove the Lord Jesus’ identity? Let us look at the following passage of scripture: “And when He thus had spoken, He cried with a loud voice, Lazarus, come forth. And he that was dead came forth….” When the Lord Jesus did this, He said just one thing: “Lazarus, come forth.” Lazarus then came out from his tomb—this was accomplished because of just a few words uttered by the Lord. During this time, the Lord Jesus did not set up an altar, and He did not carry out any other actions. He just said this one thing. Should this be called a miracle or a command? Or was it some sort of wizardry? On the surface, it seems it could be called a miracle, and if you look at it from a modern perspective, of course you could still call it a miracle. However, it certainly could not be considered magic of the kind that is supposed to call a soul back from the dead, and it absolutely was not wizardry, of any sort. It is correct to say that this miracle was the most normal, tiny demonstration of the Creator’s authority. This is the authority and power of God. God has the authority to have a person die, to have his spirit leave his body and return to Hades, or wherever else it should go. The timing of a person’s death, and the place they will go after death—these are determined by God. He can make these decisions anytime and anywhere, unconstrained by humans, events, objects, space, or geography. If He wants to do it, He can do it, because all things and living beings are under His rule, and all things are born, live, and perish by His word and His authority. He can resurrect a dead man, and this too is something He can do anytime, anywhere. This is the authority that only the Creator possesses.
When the Lord Jesus did things like bringing Lazarus back from the dead, His goal was to give proof for humans and for Satan to see, and to let humans and Satan know that everything about mankind, mankind’s life and death are determined by God, and that even though He had become flesh, He remained in command of the physical world which can be seen as well as the spiritual world which humans cannot see. This was so that mankind and Satan would know that everything about mankind is not under the command of Satan. This was a revelation and demonstration of God’s authority, and it was also a way for God to send a message to all things, that mankind’s life and death are in God’s hands. The Lord Jesus’ resurrection of Lazarus was one of the ways in which the Creator teaches and instructs mankind. It was a concrete action in which He used His power and authority to instruct and provide for mankind. It was a way, without using words, for the Creator to allow mankind to see the truth that He is in command of all things. It was a way for Him to tell mankind through practical actions that there is no salvation other than through Him. This silent means which He used to instruct mankind is everlasting, indelible, bringing to human hearts a shock and enlightenment that can never fade. The resurrection of Lazarus glorified God—this has a deep impact on every single one of God’s followers. It firmly fixes in every person who deeply understands this event the understanding, the vision that only God can command mankind’s life and death. Although God has this type of authority, and although He sent a message about His sovereignty over mankind’s life and death through the resurrection of Lazarus, this was not His primary work. God never does something without meaning. Every single thing He does has great value and is a surpassing jewel in a storehouse of treasures. He absolutely would not make “having a person come out of their tomb” the primary or the sole goal or item of His work. God does not do anything that is without meaning. The resurrection of Lazarus as a singular event is adequate to demonstrate God’s authority and to prove the identity of the Lord Jesus. This is why the Lord Jesus did not repeat this type of miracle. God does things according to His own principles. In human language, it could be said that God occupies His mind only with serious matters. That is, when God does things, He does not stray from the purpose of His work. He knows what work He wants to carry out in this stage, what He wants to accomplish, and He will work strictly according to His plan. If a corrupt person had that kind of ability, he would just be thinking of ways to reveal his ability so that others would know how formidable he was, so they would bow down to him, so he could control them and devour them. This is the evil that comes from Satan—this is called corruption. God does not have such a disposition, and He does not have such an essence. His purpose in doing things is not to show Himself off, but to provide mankind with more revelation and guidance, and this is why people see very few examples in the Bible of this type of occurrence. This is not to say that the Lord Jesus’ powers were limited, or that He was incapable of such things. It is simply that God did not want to do it, because the Lord Jesus’ resurrection of Lazarus had very practical significance, and also because the primary work of God becoming flesh was not to perform miracles, was not to bring people back from the dead, but was the work of redemption for mankind. So, much of the work that the Lord Jesus completed was teaching people, providing for them, and helping them, and events such as resurrecting Lazarus were merely a small portion of the ministry that the Lord Jesus carried out. Even more, you could say that “showing off” is not a part of God’s essence, so the Lord Jesus was not intentionally exercising restraint by not displaying more miracles, nor was this due to environmental limitations, and it certainly was not due to a lack of power.
When the Lord Jesus brought Lazarus back from the dead, He used only these few words: “Lazarus, come forth.” He said nothing aside from this. So, what do these words demonstrate? They demonstrate that God can accomplish anything by speaking, including resurrecting a dead man. When God created all things, when He created the world, He did so with words—spoken commands, words with authority, and in this way all things were created, and thus, it was accomplished. These few words spoken by the Lord Jesus were just like the words spoken by God when He created the heavens and earth and all things; in the same way, they held the authority of God and the power of the Creator. All things were formed and stood fast because of words from God’s mouth, and in the same way, Lazarus walked out from his tomb because of the words from the Lord Jesus’ mouth. This was the authority of God, demonstrated and realized in His incarnate flesh. This type of authority and ability belonged to the Creator, and to the Son of man in whom the Creator was realized. This is the understanding taught to mankind by God bringing Lazarus back from the dead. Now, we will finish our discussion of this topic here.