Follow by Email

Popular Posts

Sunday, February 23, 2014

Jesus Calls Us to Come to Him


Jesus Calls Us to Come to Him

Matthew 11



The main theme of the eleventh chapter of Matthew I believe is simple –that there are two kinds of cities – two kinds of people.  Those who accept God and those who don’t.  Jesus is comparing the cities that accepted God’s Word in this chapter with the cities that didn’t.  When a prophet would come to a city proclaiming God’s Word, some cities would turn from their sins and come to God – like Nineveh did when the prophet Jonah came to them with God’s warning- while other cities would not turn from their sins and would reject God and the prophet too.  Often prophets were stoned for bringing God’s message.   


 I think Jesus was broken hearted because even though He has healed so many, cast out demons, raised the dead, caused the lame to walk and the blind to see as he has traveled around Israel, these same people who wanted his healings don’t want Him or his message! The religious leaders are influencing them, but still it hurts.  Jesus has come to his own and his own are not receiving Him. 


Jesus says that John the Baptist “came neither eating or drinking, and the people said, ‘He has a demon.’  And then the Son of Man (Jesus) came eating and drinking, and the people said, ‘Look a glutton and a winebibber, a friend of tax collectors and sinners!’  (Matthew 11:18-19a)  Jesus seems to be saying that the people He loves – the Jewish people of that day - are critical and rejecting no matter how the gospel is presented to them. 


 Jesus goes on to say that the city of Capernaum (His city) rejected God even after Jesus had done many mighty works there.  Jesus preached and healed many people and performed many miracles in Capernaum.  Capernaum was given so much light and still refused to see!  And Jesus added that if the city of Sodom had experienced the mighty works that Capernaum had experienced that Sodom would still be close to God.  He explained that each city will be judged by the light that they are given.  And there will be a Judgment Day when judgment will come down for all the cities and all the people of the world!   


Jesus continues telling his disciples that if a person or a city rejects Him they are rejecting God and if they reject God they are rejecting Him.  And of course if a person accepts Jesus they are accepting the Father as well.  We read: “All things have been delivered to Me (Jesus) by My Father and no one knows the Son except the Father.  Nor does anyone know the Father except the Son, and the one to whom the Son wills to reveal Him.”  (Matthew 11:25)  At another time Jesus also said: “I am the Way, the Truth and the Life.  No person comes to the Father but by Me.”  (John 14:6)  When Jesus said that He and the Father were one it drove the religious establishment mad! 


Matthew chapter 11 begins with John the Baptist sending his friends to Jesus to ask Him if He really is the Messiah or should they look for another.  Poor John is languishing in a dark prison and he probably is depressed knowing that he will be put to death soon.  Bible scholars believe that John the Baptist was expecting Jesus to usher in the great judgment of sin (Matthew 3:10-12) and instead Jesus had been loving the people and healing and preaching.  It seems that physical healing and spiritual healing go together. 


 Prophecies say that Jesus will come again and usher in this great judgment at the end of the age.  But John the Baptist had expected the judgment to come when Jesus came to earth that first time.  So when Jesus came and did not bring judgment with Him at that time, John the Baptist wondered if Jesus was the real Messiah. 


It is easy for us to make the same mistake John the Baptist made and decide what we think God must do on our schedule.  And then we get confused when God doesn’t do what we feel He should in our time frame.  Of course God’s time frame is different than ours.  We need to trust God because He sees the whole picture and of course we don’t.


Jesus sent an answer back to John the Baptist concerning whether He was the Messiah or not.  This is His answer: “The blind see and the lame walk: the lepers are cleansed and the deaf hear: the dead are raised up and the poor have the gospel preached to them.  And blessed is he who is not offended because of Me.”  (Matthew 11:5-6)  Jesus answered John the Baptist by calling attention to his healings and miracles which John the Baptist would recognize as something that only God could perform.  (Isaiah 29:18-19: 35:5-6: 61:1) 


And then Jesus reminds John the Baptist: “And blessed is he who is not offended because of Me.”  (Matt.11:6)  This would encourage John the Baptist but it will also encourage all of us who are not offended by Jesus – all of us who believe in Him.  Jesus is saying that the people who are not offended by Him – who believe in Him - are spiritually blessed.  “by believing we have life in His Name.”  (Jn. 20:31b)


We wonder what makes people accept or reject Jesus and his message and while Jesus was talking about this subject He made this comment:  “the kingdom suffers violence, and the violent take it by force.”  (Matthew 11:12b)    I do not know what Jesus means here, but Bible scholars suggest that the upheaval or violence caused by the expansion of the kingdom of God into a life or a city is not caused by political forces or armed advance.  But this violence is the result of God’s order shaking relationships and households and cities and nations by the entry of the Holy Spirit’s power working in people. 


The Holy Spirit comes into the hearts of those that open to Him and He often leads these ones to do things differently than the world around them.  They may even do things differently than the churches they are part of.  Let us remember that it was the religious establishment that insisted that pilot the Roman governor, put Jesus to death.  The Jewish people looked to their Pharisees and Saducees – their priests and those who studied God’s Word to lead them to God.  But now these “godly” leaders who should have recognized Jesus as the Messiah that God’s Word had promised  - these religious leaders were the ones who were influencing the people that Jesus was not of God!  Some of the violence was coming from the very establishment that claimed to be on God’s side.  And perhaps things haven’t changed that much today.   


I was watching television last night and two political advertisements were shown within a few minutes of one another.. One ad was showing a candidate who is running for a political office here in Texas.  First the ad showed the candidate praying with his family while holding hands around the dinner table.  Then the ad informs us that this political candidate is a “Values” voter!  (Does that imply that the person running against him isn’t?)  Next this candidate comes on the screen seething with hate and tells us that he not only hates President Obama but he has sued Obama.  Then he shows a dark unflattering picture of the candidate who he is running against and tells us that this awful man allowed the little children of illegal immigrants here in Texas to go to public schools!  How awful of him!  And his opponent won’t work as hard to stop affordable healthcare for folks who are hurting and without it as he will. The ad closes reminding us that he is a churchgoing man.  He believes in God and guns!    


Within five minutes a second political ad was shown on television.  This time a woman with long flowing hair walks to a blackboard and begins drawing a tree with different colors of chalk.  I suppose the tree symbolizes all the people in our country with each branch a different group of people all building a community together and all being nourished by the same roots of democracy that run so deeply. Soft music plays in the background as the woman talks about the dream of everyone making a better life together and everyone respecting each another.  A civilized  caring community with a safety net so no one will fall through the cracks.  Affordable health care, people compromising with one another.  There was no mention anywhere in this ad about God or the value of praying or going to church.  But somehow I felt like this ad was more “Christian” than the other one where the candidate in between all of his hating was shown praying and going to church!


The crowds in Jesus’ day loved Him and followed Him for His healings.  But eventually the crowds turned on Him because the religious leaders told the people that God was on their side and that Jesus should be killed.  The religious establishment just kept on spreading hate talk and more hate talk about Jesus. Finally the crowds thought they were doing God’s will when they agreed with their religious leaders to crucify Him.  Reminds me a little of what is going on today in the U.S.A.  So much political hate is constantly being spread around today in the name of Christianity!  It scares me.  Wouldn’t real Christianity be more about spreading love?       


The eleventh chapter of Matthew ends with Jesus talking about those persons who do not reject Him.  Jesus thanks God that the “babes” accept Him but often the learned and the wise do not accept Him because the spiritual fact that He is the Son of God is hidden from their eyes.   Spiritual awareness of Jesus and his Kingdom is not arrived at through intellect or common sense.  One may need to be humble to recognize their own spiritual helplessness in order to receive His spiritual teaching.  The glory of the Gospel is that both the learned and the ignorant may become babes.


Jesus calls out again for people to accept Him.  He tells us what it will be like if we do.  Here’s what He says:  “Come unto Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.  Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.  My yoke is easy and My burden is light.”  (Matthew 11:28-29) 

Jesus’ words make it sound like his follower’s lives will be filled with such good things!  And they are, it’s true!  Everyone who follows Jesus finds rest and joy in their soul.  Nothing else can even begin to compare with it!

Saturday, February 15, 2014

Jesus Gives Power to His Followers

Jesus Gives Power to His Followers

Matthew 10


Jesus had traveled around Israel preaching and healing thousands of people, but there were thousands more that needed to hear the good news and receive His healing touch.  So Jesus called His twelve disciples together and He gave them His authority over evil spirits and His power to heal diseases!  Scripture says: “Jesus gave them power over unclean spirits, to cast them out, and to heal all kinds of sickness and all kinds of diseases.”  (Matthew 10:1b) 


Then Jesus sent the twelve disciples out and told them to travel around Israel and “teach that the Kingdom of God was near.  And they were to heal the sick, cleanse the lepers, raise the dead and cast out demons.” (Matthew 10:8)  And He told his disciples, “Freely you have received, freely give.”  (Matt.10:8b)


Jesus called these twelve men to go about healing and preaching without charging money.  They had freely received these miraculous gifts from Jesus so they were to give them out freely.  They were not to worry about how they would eat or where they would stay.  Support would come from grateful hearts!  They were to live by faith.  The disciples were given this amazing freedom in Christ. (and we are too!)


 If a family invited the disciples to stay in their home when they were on their mission, they were to “let their peace come upon that home.”  (Matt.1013b)  Jesus gives all of his followers peace!  And if some of the people didn’t want the disciples around and threw them out of their town, they were to “shake off the dust from their feet.”  (Matt.10:14)  Perhaps Jesus was telling them not to be angry and hold a grudge against the folks who rejected their ministry and didn’t want them around.  I think that Jesus would give His followers that same message today.  We are commanded to forgive and love our enemies.  Shake the dust off of our feet and move on. 


Jesus gave His power and authority to these twelve men to go out on this mission around the towns and villages of Israel.  And Scripture says that the disciples came back excited and enthusiastic because they were healing the sick and casting out demons.  And they preached the good news and brought lost people back to God.  They were so excited about being given this wonderful power!


The twelve disciples spread spiritual light to a dark and sinful world back then, but today we are the ones who Jesus is sending out to do that job.  Now it is our turn!  We are the ones who receive spiritual help to use on our mission.  Before Jesus went back to heaven He called all of his followers to go be his hands and feet in the world.  This was his commission to all of His own:  “Go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.  Teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you.  And lo, I am with you always even to the end of the age.”  (Matthew 28:16-20


Like those first twelve disciples, every follower of Jesus who is alive today or has ever lived has been called on a mission by Jesus to go out in the world and pray for the sick, give to the poor and preach the good news of a Savior.  Just as Jesus gave his power to those first twelve disciples, He promises to give everyone who belongs to Him a gift so that they can do his work.


 Scripture says:  “And God appointed these in the church: first apostles, second prophets, third teachers, after that miracles, then gifts of healings, helps, administrations, and tongues.  Are all apostles?  Are all prophets?  Are all teachers?  Are all miracle workers or do all have gifts of healings?  Do all speak in tongues?  Or interpret? “  (1 Corinthians 12:28) 


Along with receiving the “gifts” of the Spirit the followers of Jesus also receive the “fruits” of the Spirit.  Scripture says: “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.”  (Galatians 5:22-23)  Some immature Christians fail to use these “fruits” in their lives, but they are there for them to grow into if they so desire.


Jesus gave his twelve disciples his power to heal diseases and cast our demons and preach.  Some have wondered why every Christian doesn’t automatically have that same level of dynamic power to heal diseases and cast out demons as those first twelve disciples did.  I don’t know the answer but perhaps things were different then than now.  Back then there were only twelve disciples of Jesus but now there are millions and millions of Christians.


 We are not all given the gift of healings today according to 1 Corinthians 12:28.  Each believer is given a different gift and ability so that we can work together as the body of Christ and as the Church.  One of the gifts is the gift of “helps” and another gift is of “administrations”.  Not every believer is good at managing and administrating and not every believer is good at evangelizing.  But we are to work together to accomplish Christ’s call!


The church had not yet been established when Jesus first sent out his twelve disciples. And Jesus had not gone to the cross then or died for our sins and the Holy Spirit had not yet fallen on the believers as He did at Pentecost.  It was a different situation then than now so the gifts were given out differently to those first twelve disciples I would think.   


Jesus encourages his followers as they obey his call and go out to confess Him before others.  In fact He says: “Whoever confesses Me before others, I will confess that person before My Father who is in heaven.  But whoever denies Me before others, I will also deny him before My Father who is in heaven.”  (Matthew 10:32-33) 


Jesus told his disciples – and all of his followers – that we would be persecuted for spreading the good news of the Savior.  We would be persecuted for healing the sick and for following Him.  Jesus was persecuted and murdered on a cross and since we are his followers we can expect to be persecuted also.  Jesus tells us: “Behold, I send you out as sheep in the midst of wolves.”  (Matthew 10:16) 


He even tells his followers that their own families may turn against them because they are following Him.  “Do not think that I came to bring peace on earth.  I did not come to bring peace but a sword.  For I have come to set a man against his father, a daughter against her mother, and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law.  And a man’s enemies will be those of his own household.”  (Matthew 10:34-36)  He adds: “He who finds his life will lose it, and he who loses his life for My sake will find it.”  (Matthew 10:39) 


There are not many sermons preached on these upsetting words of Jesus because these are not nice words to hear.  But since Jesus spoke these words, we should take them seriously.  We know that God’s will, expressed throughout the Bible, is that families stay together and be strong and loving.  But here in Matthew 10 Jesus is predicting that his followers can expect persecution even within their own families.  Jesus explains that his followers will be going out and delivering his message in a rebellious and wicked world.  And often they will be met with hostility.  And when a family is divided and several in the family are Christian and several are not, there may be conflict and division right in the family. 


After Jesus warns his followers of the persecution that they can expect, He comforts them and tells them not to be afraid.  He reminds them that God has them covered.  That the very hairs of their head are all numbered.  (Matthew 10:30)  That the person who holds out under stress and perserveres under pressure will be taken care of in the end.  (the end of the age) (Matthew 24:13)  And we have the amazing promise in Scripture that all of our problems will be taken care of in the end.








Saturday, February 8, 2014

Jesus Has Compassion on the People

Jesus Has Compassion on the People

Matthew 9


Jesus is on the move with his disciples, traveling from town to town preaching the good news and healing the lame and the blind and every sick person He finds.  Huge crowds are following after Him and camping out so they can just be near Him.  They will not leave Him alone because no one has ever done the wonderful miraculous things that He is doing!  The crowds love Him and are amazed at how much He loves them.


And Jesus does love these people with all his heart.  But His heart is broken when He looks out over the crowds and sees how desperate these peoples’ lives are.  Scripture says: “He was moved with compassion for the people, because they were weary and scattered, like sheep having no shepherd.”  (Matthew 9:36)  These Jewish people are not only burdened down with poverty and disease but they are “weary and scattered” like lost sheep not knowing which way to go.  They struggle just to stay alive and obey their Roman captors and then their religious leaders are burdening them down with legalistic dogma and guilt trips instead of bringing them closer to God.   


Jesus’ travels on through Capernaum where He is met by a group of people bringing a paralyzed man to Him on his bed.  The bedridden man’s friends have carried him to Jesus because they believe that Jesus can heal their friend.  Scripture says: “When Jesus saw their faith He said to the paralyzed man, ‘Son, be of good cheer.  Your sins are forgiven you.”  (Matthew 9:2)    


Some of the scribes standing nearby were shocked to hear Jesus forgiving the paralyzed man of his sins.  They thought to themselves that Jesus was blaspheming, since only God can forgive sins.  Of course they did not know that Jesus is God the Son.  But Jesus knew their thoughts and He asked them whether it was easier for Him to forgive this paralyzed man’s sins or to heal him.  And before they could answer He said:  “So that you may know that the Son of Man has the power on earth to forgive sins” then He turned to the paralyzed man and said: “Arise and take up your bed and walk and go to your house.”  (Matthew 9:6)  And the paralyzed man was immediately healed and he got up and picked up his bed and walked back to his house, leaving the crowds amazed and praising God.  What if this man’s friends had not had the faith to bring him to Jesus?  Does it make a difference in the lives of our friends and family when we bring them to Jesus in our prayers?   


Jesus demonstrated his authority over disease by healing every sick person who came to Him.  And He demonstrated his authority over demons by ordering them out of people who were afflicted.  He demonstrated his authority over nature by rebuking the wind and the waves on the Sea of Galilee during a terrible storm (Matthew 8:23) and when He spoke the wind and waves immediately became calm.  But when Jesus healed the paralyzed man, He demonstrated his authority to forgive sin.  These many healings that Jesus performed are just a preview of what is to come.  The Day will come when, through Jesus, sin and disease and death will be no more and nature will cooperate and the new earth will blossom! 


Next, in his travels Jesus ran into a tax collector named Matthew.  Jesus smiled and stopped and asked Matthew to come and follow Him. And Scripture says that Matthew immediately jumped up and followed Jesus, without any hesitations or excuses!  I am sure Jesus valued that spirit in Matthew.  And I wonder if Jesus asked Matthew to be his follower because He knew that Matthew would put Him first and not make excuses.  Do we make excuses for not following Jesus?    


Matthew invited Jesus to his house for dinner and many other tax collectors and sinners came and ate dinner with them.  Jewish tax collectors were thought to be traitors in Israel because they worked for the hated Roman government.  Also Jewish tax collectors did not have a good reputation because they often collected more money from their Jewish neighbors than they were supposed to.  But even though Matthew was a despised tax collector, Jesus still called him to be one of His disciples!  Money, power and status didn’t mean anything to Jesus.


But money power and status did mean a lot to the Jewish religious leaders of that time.  These religious leaders hated Jesus and were trying to find a reason to bring Him down.  They believed that Jesus’ healings and miracles were a threat to their power and status and their pocket book– as religious leaders.


  Instead of wondering how Jesus could be stopping disease and bringing back the dead unless God was with Him, these religious leaders closed their hearts and minds and refused to believe what was happening right before their eyes.  Instead they wanted to kill Jesus for raising the dead and healing the sick!  Since Jesus was famous and dearly loved by the crowds, the religious leaders knew that the crowds would be angry with them if they killed Him.  So they were waiting for the right time and carefully watching Jesus’ actions hoping to find a good reason to kill Him. 


When the religious leaders caught Jesus eating with Matthew and the tax collectors and sinners they were furious and asked why He would eat with these bad people and defy their accepted social customs.  Religious leaders considered themselves to be too pure to eat with questionable people.  Why was Jesus breaking their religious customs?  But Jesus is the Son of God and He has authority over man-made customs.


Jesus heard the religious leaders criticizing him for eating with sinners so He answered them with these words: “Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick need one.  But go and learn what this means, ‘I desire mercy and not sacrifice.’  I came to call sinners to repentance, not the righteous.”  (Matthew 9:12b-13)  Perhaps Jesus is saying here that sinners need Him just like a sick person needs a physician.  He (Jesus)  has come to call sinners to turn from their sins.  And a friendly smile and a helping hand toward the spiritually needy is better than formal religious duties and sacrifices.  God desires us to be kind and merciful and loving toward others. 


The crowds were waiting nearby for Jesus and after He finished dinner a ruler came out of the crowds to Jesus and tells Him that his daughter has just died.  The ruler is crying and asks Jesus to come to his house and raise his daughter up from the dead and Jesus agrees to go and bring her back to life.  Jesus tells the crowds that He will be back soon and as He is following the ruler to his house a woman comes out of the crowd and touches the hem of Jesus’ robe.  This poor woman had had a flow of blood coming from her body for twelve years and it is sapping her energy.  She could never get well.  We can only imagine that this woman was desperate. 


“The woman said to herself,’ If only I may touch His robe, I shall be made well.’  And when she touched His robe Jesus turned around, and when He saw her He said, ‘Be of good cheer, daughter: your faith has made you well.’  And the woman was made well from that hour.” (Matthew 9:21-22)


 Jesus seems to be telling many of the sick people that He healed that it was their faith that had made them well.  Many of these sick folk appeared to have had just enough faith to walk out their door and come to Jesus to see if He could help them.  Not a whole lot of faith but it seems that that was all it took!  Jesus had said that you only needed the faith of a grain of mustard seed.  (a tiny seed) Scripture says: “Without faith it is impossible to please God.” (Hebrews 11:6) and (Matthew 17:20)


When Jesus arrived at the ruler’s house He found several flute players playing music and a noisy crowd weeping and wailing for the dead girl.  When a death occurred back then families would hire mourners to come and stand around and cry and moan loudly.  Jesus told the mourners that the little girl was not dead but just asleep, and they all laughed at Him.  Then Jesus went into the house and took the dead girl’s hand and miraculously she came back to life and got up!  The ruler, her father and her mother were there crying and laughing and dancing all at the same time and the crowds went wild!  The news about Jesus raising this little girl from the dead spread all over the land!


The crowds were waiting when Jesus left the ruler’s house and soon two blind men were following Jesus crying out to Him: “Son of David, have mercy on us!” (Matthew 9:27b)  Jesus asked them if they believed that He could heal their blindness and they said they believed.  So He touched their eyes saying, ‘According to your faith let it be to you.’  (Matt.9:29)  And their eyes were healed and they could see!  Then Jesus heals another man who could not talk.  Scripture says that this man was demon possessed and when Jesus commanded the demon to leave the man was able to speak!  Again the crowds marveled and Jesus’ fame spread far and wide! 


Jesus loved these people so much.  But He could see into their hearts and He knew that their lives were empty and difficult. Jesus turns to his disciples and says: “The harvest truly is plentiful, but the workers are few.  Please pray that the Lord of the harvest will send out workers into His harvest.”  (Matthew 9:37-38)  Jesus compared these hurting people to a ripe field of wheat.  They were ripe and ready to follow God but there were no workers to bring them in – no pastors to show them the way or tell them the good news of the Savior - or open up the Scriptures to them and give them hope.  Jesus was praying for more followers willing to follow Him and go out into the fields and do the work of bringing in this harvest of precious people.


The crowds today are not much different from those crowds two thousand years ago.  There are vast crowds of people today who would follow Jesus but they don’t know who He is or how to follow Him.  And often there is no one around to tell them.  There are still not enough workers to bring them in.  I am sure Jesus is moved with compassion today when He looks into the hearts of the empty people in our generation just as He was back then.  The crowds today are also weary and scattered, like sheep having no shepherd.  They are lonely and confused.  And I can almost hear Jesus saying: “The harvest is plentiful, but the workers are few.  Who will follow Me and work in the fields and bring in this harvest?  Who will go for Me?”  Jesus is calling out for help today just as He was back then.  Will you answer the call?    











Saturday, February 1, 2014

Jesus Goes About Healing Everyone


Jesus Goes About Healing Everyone

As told in Matthew 8




Jesus walked around the Sea of Galilee with his disciples preaching and healing as He went.  He became instantly famous and thousands of people left their homes and followed after Him!  Word spread all over Israel, Syria and other countries, that Jesus was healing every sick person who came to Him and the crowds went wild!  This had never happened before!  No man could do the things Jesus was doing!  He must be the Messiah that the prophets of old had promised God would send!  Everyone wanted to see Him for themselves!  


After Jesus finished preaching the sermon on the mount a leper came out of the crowd and fell down and worshipped Him saying: “Lord, if You are willing You can make me clean.”  (Matthew 8:2)  Then Jesus put out His hand and touched the leper saying, “I am willing: be cleansed.”  And immediately his leprosy was cleansed!”  (Matthew 8:3) 


Next a Roman centurion came to Jesus.  (A centurion is a soldier who is in charge of 100 soldiers.)   This centurion told Jesus: “Lord, my servant is lying at home paralyzed, dreadfully tormented.”  So Jesus said: “I will go to your home and heal him.”(Matthew 8:5-14)     


But the centurion told Jesus that he was not worthy for Jesus to come under his roof and he didn’t want Jesus to go to all of that trouble.  It was probably a days’ journey or more back to his house.  The centurion believed that Jesus had the authority over disease and that all He needed to do was to say the word and his servant’s disease would be healed.  He told Jesus that as a centurion he had authority over 100 soldiers and could call out the order and his men would do whatever he ordered.  And he believed that Jesus had this kind of authority over disease and He could speak and the disease would be gone. So this Roman soldier asked Jesus to speak the word.  He trusted that Jesus could heal his servant (from a long way off) by just saying the word.


The centurion got that one right.  As Son of God Jesus does have power and authority over disease!  Jesus was thrilled that the Roman centurion, a non-Jew, had so much faith in Him!  At that time Israel was the only nation that had the Word of God.  Also they had the rich tradition of a long line of prophets (sent from God) who taught the Jewish people Gods’ ways


. So faith in God was expected of the Jewish people since God had been protecting and leading them from the days of the patriarchs, Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.  2,000 years earlier. Every Jewish child had been taught that God would send the Messiah who would save them.  Now their Messiah had come and they didn’t recognize Him. 


All of the other countries were thought to be “heathen” by the Jewish people and indeed most of Israel’s neighbors worshipped and sacrificed their children before idols.   

But here was a Roman soldier from a heathen land who did not have the advantage of being brought up in a God fearing nation.  And yet this Roman soldier had more faith in Jesus than many of the Jews did!  Jesus announces that his Messianic kingdom would be enjoyed by many who are not Jews.  (The Jews did not like to hear Jesus say that!  They believed that the “unclean” Gentiles could never get into the kingdom of heaven!)  


Jesus smiled at the Roman centurion as the crowds were watching and said:  “I have not found such great faith, not even in Israel!  Many will come from the east and west (non-Jews) and sit down with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob in the kingdom of heaven.  But the sons of the kingdom will be cast out into outer darkness…” (Matthew 8:10b-12a)


 The figure of a banquet is often used to describe the Kingdom of heaven.  (Isa.25:6: Luke 14:15)  When Jesus said: “The sons of the kingdom will be cast into outer darkness,” I think He was referring to the unbelieving Jews.  I think that the Jewish people who rejected Jesus are being told here that without faith, just being Jewish is not enough.  I believe this “outer darkness” Jesus spoke about might mean the darkness outside the lighted banquet hall.  They miss out on the banquet, the fellowship and all that was meant for them to enjoy because of their rejection of the One who made it all possible.   


Jesus turned to the Roman centurion and said: “Go your way: and as you have believed, so let it be done for you.”  (Matthew 8:13)  When the centurion got to his house he found that his servant had been healed at the same time that Jesus had spoken the word. 


After that Jesus moved on and healed Peter’s mother-in-law.  The lame and the blind and the desperately sick were all brought to Jesus and He healed them all.  Scripture says:  “They brought to Him many who were demon-possessed and He cast out the spirits with a word, and healed all who were sick.”  (Matthew 8:16)   Isaiah prophesied 700 years earlier that the Messiah would be a healer.  He said: “He Himself took our infirmities and bore our sicknesses.”  (Isaiah 53:4-5)  


While Jesus is walking with the crowd He comes across two demon-possessed men coming out of a graveyard.  These men are fierce and possibly dangerous and none of the crowd can pass by safely.  Jesus has compassion on the two men and He orders the demons to come out of the men and go into a nearby herd of pigs.  And when the demons are sent into the pigs it caused the pigs to run into the nearby sea (Galilee) and drown. 


The people who took care of the pigs run back to the nearby town to report what has happened.  And soon everyone from town rushes out to find Jesus.  Amazingly the folks from town beg Jesus to leave!  Jesus has healed two men from this town!  These men are probably fathers, husbands, and sons of families in this town.  Aren’t those families overjoyed to receive their loved ones back into their lives?  Wouldn’t the townspeople be grateful to Jesus for saving these two?  But then there was the issue of the herd of pigs that had run into the sea and drowned.  The owner of the pigs was expecting to make money off of those pigs and now that won’t happen.  Was an economic profit more important to these townspeople than the welfare of two of their citizens?  Is that why they all rejected Jesus and begged Him to leave?  Do others reject Jesus for economic reasons too?  


While Jesus was in the crowd healing and teaching, a scribe came to Him and asked if he could be one of Jesus’ followers.  And Jesus answered him, “Foxes have holes and birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay His head.”  (Matthew 8:20)


What is Jesus saying here?  I think Jesus is reminding this man that he needs to know what he is getting into before he follows Jesus.  He needs to count the cost.  That the demands of following Jesus are costly!  Jesus is telling this man that He often does not have any place to sleep at night- a place to lay his head.  And his followers may have to suffer deprivation too.  To follow Jesus is to take up your cross and deny yourself.  Give up control.  You cannot run the race set before you if you are weighed down with lots of stuff.  Jesus takes his followers outside their comfort zone.


 And then one of Jesus’ followers tells Jesus that before he can follow him he must first go and bury his father.  And Jesus replies: “Follow Me, and let the dead bury their own dead.”  (Matthew 8:22)  Again Jesus is saying that following Him is not easy!  Jesus expects his followers to love Him first and give Him first place.  Discipleship means forsaking all selfish personal ambition.  Followers must repent of their sin– turn around and change directions.  To follow Jesus is to leave your ego behind.  To leave everything behind. 


Jesus gets into a boat with his disciples to cross the Sea of Galilee.  But soon dark clouds fill the sky and a powerful storm blows in over the troubled waters.  High waves begin crashing into the boat and the terrified disciples wake up a sleeping Jesus and say: “Lord, save us!  We are perishing!”  (Matt.8:25)  Jesus tells his disciples not to be afraid and He stands up and rebukes the winds and the sea.  And immediately the storm is gone and there is a great calm!  It’s a miracle!  Word spreads and everybody hears about this and marvels.  “Who can this Jesus be?” they exclaim.  “Even the winds and the sea obey Him!”  (Matthew 8:27)  Yes, Jesus is the Son of God and He has authority over nature.   


We have just read through the eighth chapter of Matthew and we read here about how Jesus went about healing sick people.  But eventually those people He healed became sick again and died.  In this world because of sin we all die!  “The wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.”  (Romans 6:23)                    


Jesus not only has authority to heal physical diseases but He has the authority to forgive sins (1 John 1:9) (Matt. 9:6) and the power to take them away from us, if we want Him to.  He not only walked with the crowds in Galilee two thousand years ago, but He walks with us today.  He can take care of us in this world and in the next!  That is because He is the Son of God.