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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?    











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