In June and July 2012, Dr. Sleight was invited to serve as the Bible teacher at the Emerald Heights Retirement Community in Redmond, WA. In the “Matthew” category are just some of the notes and thoughts presented at this well-attended summer study.
Have you ever wondered why Scripture paints such an indistinct watercolor of Heaven? We hear of it, we even get brief eye witness accounts from prophets like Isaiah, Ezekiel, and Daniel and from the apostles John and Paul, and from Jesus himself. We get glimpses of heaven in words – but words alone cannot do it justice.
But with Jesus we got a sharper image. The prophets and apostles were still painting with words but instead of a fuzzy watercolor, we got a portrait more like a Rembrandt.
There’s a reason Scripture portrays Jesus in sharp detail and Heaven in a beautiful blur. It’s because Jesus is the Door to heaven, He’s the Shepherd that drives His sheep through that door, He’s the Way, the Truth and the Life and no one comes to the Father except through Him. That’s how the Apostle John says it – and we’ll see today that Matthew says exactly the same thing.
If we aim our lives toward Heaven, or any other good thing, we miss Jesus. But if we aim for Jesus, we get Him and all His promised blessings on into eternity.
Jesus made house calls to all who invited Him, yet since they were not all “the right sort of people,” His detractors jumped to the conclusion that He was complicit in the sins of His clients. Just that fact that He ate with them at all, made him a glutton (‘and I’ll bet He’s not even keeping kosher’ ― I suspect they added.) And the fact that he enjoyed a glass of wine from time to time, a very common beverage in that culture and locale, was empty grounds for slandering Him as an alcoholic.
They didn’t really know Him. And what’s worse, they didn’t want to know Him. There was a failure to commit. They’d enjoyed the spectacle of his healings and exorcisms, and maybe even enjoyed one of His surprise picnics when He had preached to thousand.
Their failure to choose sides and to follow Jesus (or even John for that matter) came from the most popular delusion of all – thinking we’re not that bad. And if the Pharisees are right, maybe were even better than Jesus. So why follow Him?
People don’t want to see themselves as sinners – and certainly they don’t want to admit it publicly. Even in 1st century Judaism, with its religious system of Temple sacrifices still in place and its Day of Atonement, people bought Satan’s propaganda and discounted Jesus’ good news. The religious teachers of Israel had built up an elaborate system of rituals and rules to make sure the people did not trespass the Law of God. Rabbi Hillel called this a hedge around the Torah. But its purpose was to guarantee that sins would be suppressed and good works would outweigh whatever inadvertent sins might remain.
It’s the classic heresy. Many people and most religions of the world assume that if our good works outweigh our sins, we’re in.
a curse, it’s an announcement. Bad news Chorazin, bad news Bethsaida. It turns out following Jesus is not an elective. If you thought it was an invitation you could decline, politely or otherwise, you are sadly mistaken. It’s a command from your Sovereign. In fact, it’s a do or die imperative. And Jesus will make that perfectly clear, finally, in verse 25 and following.
If you think John the Baptist was harsh, or the Old Testament prophets I quoted last week in whose steps John had followed ― they didn’t hold a candle to Jesus.
If Jesus was to have success in attracting disciples, it should have first and foremost been in Galilee. The Galileans were the eyewitnesses to his healings, exorcisms, natural wonders like feeding thousands with just a little, and even resurrections. But most of them had the faith of demons, seeing the deeds and knowing them to be valid (as evidenced by their praise of God whenever Jesus performed another miracle), but they still refused to repent and follow.
Old Jonah got coughed up on shore by a big fish, and all of Nineveh repented. So come on you guys! What’s it gonna take?
But, while Jesus’ miracles produced lots of wonder, excitement and entertainment, it produced little change of heart. But this, and this is key, was both predicted and expected. (See Isaiah 6:8-10)
A child sees something special and says “Wow!” “Do that again Daddy.” A Pharisee sees the same miracle and says, “You can’t do that on the Sabbath!” Who made them the Umpires and Referees of the faith?
When you’ve heard of this yoke that Jesus speaks of here, perhaps you’ve been encouraged to picture a yoke for oxen, with you yoked in with Jesus – and God therefore doing the heavy lifting. But “yoke” in the Scriptures is a metaphor for the burdens of life. The yoke of the law, the yoke of slavery, yoke of Nebuchadnezzar, the yoke of Rehoboam, and the yoke of oppression in general. Surely, “yoke” is an agrarian term – for these were an agrarian people. So the common yoke for carrying is what’s pictured by Jesus, but the burdens of life, especially the added weight from corrupted religion is his meaning.
(See how Isaiah 9 matches these lines in Matthew.)
Up to this point in Matthew’s biography of Jesus, there’s only been push back from the Pharisees (and, of course, from Satan and his demons.) But in Chapter 11 we’re about to see that one of Satan’s chief counter attacks is well underway. The gambit called DOUBT.
And if doubt gains a beachhead against God’s good news,
that means the battle is joined. And we’re about to discover that Satan has been very careful in the selection of targets.
Matthew wrote in chapter 4 that Jesus didn’t begin His public ministry until His forerunner, John the Baptist, had been imprisoned by the Tetrarch Herod Antipas, called King Herod by courtesy, not by right. This Herod was one of the many sons of Herod the Great who had been made King of Judea by the Roman Senate and ruled at the time of Jesus’ birth – but that’s a different lesson!
John has been locked up for all this time – and he’ll lose his head famously in chapter 14. But for now he’s got a lot of time on his hands and he’s clearly confused about what Jesus is up to. He’s wrestling with doubt about Jesus’ messiahship.
You can find similar calls for and predictions of God’s wrath throughout the Prophets. (Amos 9:1, Isaiah 63:4-6, Malachi 4:1)
But Jesus is wandering about playing the Good Shepherd and the Great Physician. The reports from John’s disciples seemed to reveal a real mismatch between John’s expectations and Jesus’ performance. So he sent those disciples to Jesus to ask Him, point blank, if He was “the Expected One” – The Christ.
And, by the way, other than in Matthew’s introduction in Chapter 1, and the question by Herod the Great on behalf of the Magi in Chapter 2 ― where the Christ was to be born, this is the first time in the actual narrative, that Matthew has used the Greek title for the Messiah – the Christ.
And Jesus’ answer is magnificent. He says in essence,
“Just watch me work.” His detractors can still think, “Well,
He didn’t say yes.” And His disciples can recognize that He didn’t say no. But those that have been really paying attention to what Jesus has said and done since John the Baptist was first arrested, shouldn’t have had any doubt at all that Jesus was just who He’s claimed to be. Son of Man, seeker and savior of the lost, the bridegroom, the one who answered to “Son of God,” and like the blind men had shouted, the promised “Son of David.” (Ya, He’s the One.)
The Prophet’s view of the future is problematic. John can see the future but like mountain ranges in the distance. He can see the foothills and the Rockies, if you will, but he can’t see the distance between them. Jesus has come first to be the Suffering Servant of Isaiah Chapter 53, and as John himself said, as the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world. He’ll return again as the King of Glory and Judge of all the Earth. Or “King of Kings and Lord of Lords” as his monogram reads in Revelation 19.
What John is not seeing is that his own ministry ― calling all to repentance, and baptizing them, will continue uninterrupted until the Lord returns. John the Baptist has the chronological misfortune of being put into service as the last Prophet before the Cross.
I almost think Jesus had a smile on his face when he sent His answer back to His eccentric cousin. John has heard of Jesus healing the sick, casting out demons, even raising the dead and the rest, and he still has to ask “Are you the Christ (or did I get it all wrong?)” Satan has got him simmering in Doubt. And John, when he gets the reply of his own disciples, must think, “What kind of answer is that? That’s just a laundry list of why I asked my question in the first place.”
Jesus has a whole world to save and mankind’s ultimate enemies of Sin and Death to triumph over. His mission is incredibly bigger than rescuing the Jewish nation from the Romans and their pagan neighbors within and without.
The fact is, Jesus is saying rather boldly, that there’s already enough evidence to prove He is the Christ. First, and this might seem trivial, but it’s of the highest importance. When asked if He was the Messiah, Jesus didn’t say no.
When John the Baptist was asked the very same question he himself had answered an emphatic NO! (Luke 3:15-16)
15 The people were waiting expectantly and were all wondering in their hearts if John might possibly be the Christ. 16 John answered them all, “I baptize you with water. But one more powerful than I will come, the thongs of whose sandals I am not worthy to untie. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and with fire.
If Jesus is just an honest and gifted Jewish rabbi and not the Messiah, He has to answer no, especially to this most important question, anything less would be blasphemy (unless, of course, He really is God.) But for those with ears to hear and eyes to see, Jesus wove an emphatic YES I AM into his reply. While John had been only telling of the Messiah, Jesus had been actually performing as the Messiah.
Here are commands about their attitude and their message,
with a bold warning to remind them of the stakes involved.
This is not a summer vacation hike these disciples are about to take. This is a skirmish in a war that will certainly cost them their lives – and if they’ve been paying any attention at all, even the life of their Commanding Officer Jesus. They’ve enlisted for the duration.
This is headline news. The news that the Kingdom of God is real and present is, as the angels sang to the night shift Shepherds, “good news of great joy.” But to Satan and his minions, or the Roman authorities, or the Jewish religious establishment, or just the garden variety self-preoccupied pagan, this are fightin’ words.
But don’t be afraid – at least not of God’s enemies. Fear does one thing preeminently well. It shuts the mouth of the messenger. Fear of losing one’s job shuts up the whistleblower. Fear is the tool of the bully. It’s the stock in trade of false religion, and it’s the last resort of desperate politicians too.
This battle for the hearts and minds of mankind is ultimately a war of words. It’s, at its core, a war between Truth and falsehood. And we win when the truth gets out.
But if you want something to really be afraid of, Jesus adds,
“Do not fear those who kill the body but are unable to kill the soul; but rather fear Him who is able to destroy both soul and body in hell.”
Jesus uses multiple words that are translated as “hell.” This one is the word Gehenna, the place of burning, or eternal punishment.
Jesus here and elsewhere makes it clear that resurrection is in the future for all people. Death is just, as C.S. Lewis puts it, the doorway to “further up and further in.” Resurrection of the body is the reality for all — but not the reward. All those parables of wheat and tares, sheep and goats, or the heavenly blessed and the eternally cursed speak to a judgment to come.
And finally, this notion of “shouting the good news from the
housetops.” It’s a distinguishing mark of the Truth, that it doesn’t hide in the corner. The Christianity that God approves is the kind that doesn’t keep secrets. It’s so simple and so clear that blind Fanny Crosby can see it. It is so public and prolific that Helen Keller can comprehend and cherish it. These two ladies, and faithful witnesses for Jesus they were, knew as clearly as anything, that the eternal fate of their bodies rested on the equally eternal fate of their souls. I like this quote from Helen Keller.
“Death is no more than passing from one room into another. But there’s a difference for me, you know. Because in that other room I shall be able to see.”
On this point of “shouting it from the housetops” alone you can rule out Scientology, Jehovah’s Witnesses, Christian Science, Mormonism and any other brand of good old-fashioned Gnosticism. Any religion that purports to have secret knowledge that only the initiated or the adept or the favored few get in on – disqualifies itself from the start. Jesus says when His words go public, there’s no stopping them or hiding them under a basket as He says later.
Sharing something you’ve learned with others, saved or not-yet-saved, is another way we “confess Jesus”. The word here for confess is a very common one in Scripture. It is homologeo. Literally, “the same word.” It can mean profess or confess or promise but it means literally to “say the same thing.” We confess Jesus when we say about Him what He says about Himself.
And is there anything Jesus says about Himself that is more important than what He says here? The most common name he uses for God is Father. And here, twice, He makes it clear that He’s not just talking about some generic heavenly parent. He says “My Father.”
This is the second time in Matthew’s biography of Jesus that Jesus has called God in Heaven, “My Father.” (7:23) He’ll do it ten more times.
I want Jesus as my defense attorney. He didn’t defend Himself much before Pilate and not at all before King Herod. But He’s promised to take the case of everyone that speaks well of Him here and now and believes what is said.
There are no secret service Christians. I’m skeptical of anyone who claims to be a follower of Christ but who says, “Well, mine is a personal, private faith. I don’t feel the need to share it about.” They put themselves on the sidelines, with the possibility that Jesus will put them right out of the game.
If you remember the old Mission Impossible TV Show. At the beginning of the show, the voice on the tape recorder would always say:
“As always, should you or any of your IM force be caught or killed, the Secretary will disavow any knowledge of your actions. Good luck, Jim. This tape will self-destruct in five seconds.” The same word “deny him” is the word disavow. It’s the same as when He says to the lost in chapter 7 verse 23 `I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!’
What we studied in June (chapters 8 and 9) were a series of miracles that authenticated the identity of Jesus of Nazareth as the Son of Man, Son of God, bridegroom of Israel, and Son of David or Messiah.
Like the combination to a lock or the password to a computer, what Jesus does has to match what is claimed for the prophesied Messiah in the Jewish scriptures.
Healing the sick, calming the storms, casting out demons, and raising the dead, just opens the lock ― or satisfies the password authentication. His miraculous deeds tell us He’s the one we’ve been waiting for. But Matthew’s biography of Jesus also includes five carefully crafted sermons in a very logical order. The first was the Sermon on the Mount in chapter 5 throught 7. The second, on discipleship, is here in chapter 10.
On sixteen occasions Matthew, as the narrator, or someone in his biography of Jesus, specifically points out that the ancient prophesies are being fulfilled. And Matthew will directly quote the Old Testament over 60 times, and he’ll allude to it many, many more times. He does it here in verse 36.
36 Seeing the people, He felt compassion for them, because they were distressed and dispirited like sheep without a shepherd.
The Old Testament has many references to shepherdless sheep (or sheep with corrupt shepherds), but the first such reference is in Numbers 27 where Moses asks God for a successor, and God selects Joshua.
In a similar way, in Matthew 10, we see Jesus promote twelve of His disciples to become His twelve ambassadors or “apostles,” his own earthly lieutenants to speak and act for Him and to represent Him when He returns to Heaven.
Jesus has been traveling from town to town, preaching in synagogue after synagogue. It’s critical that the Church be born in Israel and be populated with Jews for Jesus – to coin a phrase.
The whole program of God depends upon His Church being built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, and that means Jews. Saint Paul will make this abundantly clear in Romans 11.
But I like this quote from Karl Barth.
Jews have God’s promise and if we Christians have it, too, then it is only as those chosen with them, as guests in their house, that we are new wood grafted onto their tree.
When these disciples enter a town they are not to shop for better accommodations, or even accept them from grateful citizens they may have healed or preached to. God is no respecter of persons – and these future pillars of the Church must learn early not to be either.
And if it sounds harsh that they are instructed to judge the towns that will not receive them, it’s no different than for any individual around the world and across two millennia who has heard of the incomparable offer of eternal life provided by Jesus Christ and has not welcomed the messengers to at least learn more.
There’s no time like the present for learning one’s ultimate trade. In Matthew 19:28 Jesus says to these same disciples… “I tell you the truth, at the renewal of all things, when the Son of Man sits on his glorious throne, you who have followed me will also sit on twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel.”
And, to be sure, there will be miracles!!!
And for those who recognize that these are the loving acts of their own Hebrew God, their blessing will be well deserved. But for those who have bought the lie that these good and amazing deeds are being done by minions of Satan, any curse on them will be equally deserved.
People are going to choose sides. Like all people, they’ll believe either the Truth or the Lie. And God will confirm their choices when He returns as Judge.
We just celebrated the 4th of July yesterday. And it reminds me that, like any soldier in a war, if you wear the King’s colors, you make yourself a target for the King’s enemies. But even here, Jesus reminds these men that God will have their backs – giving them the right words to say. You won’t need to waterboard these soldiers of the Cross to get them to tell you everything they know. But, for the most part, their interrogators won’t want to listen.
And you see at the end of verse 18, the Gospel will get out to the Gentiles – just not on this first little excursion. And if there is a promise to hold onto here, it is in the two words “your Father” in verse 20. Eleven times in the Sermon on the Mount in chapters 5, 6, and 7, Jesus spoke of “your Father.” If we have been adopted into God’s family so that we too can call Him “our Father,” then can any sacrifice for Him be too small?
But I misspeak.
The famous African explorer and Scottish medical missionary David Livigstone wrote, “If a commission by an earthly king is considered an honour, how can a commission by a Heavenly King be considered a sacrifice?”
Jesus is teaching His Church here about persecution. Sure it applies to these few disciples who first heard it – but it’s also true for anyone who claims to follow Jesus.
Persecution has been the norm for believes since the first day of the Church. They crucified her founder, imprisoned and executed her apostles, martyred her faithful around the world and across the ages and yet today, Christianity is by far the largest faith community on the planet.
Re: Matthew 10:24-25
He’s actually saying two things together. The second is clear enough. If they think I’m Beelzebul, the Lord of Dung, what does that make you in their eyes?
But you’ve been with Me and have begun to realize just who I really am. If you really want to be My disciples, you’ll take Me for the model for your life. You’ll never quite manage to perfect your imitation of Me. But that’s the target you need to shoot for.
In closing, I want to read the poem No Scar by Amy Carmichael.
I first heard this poem in December 1983 when it was read to us at a national Campus Crusade for Christ conference in Kansas City by Elizabeth Elliot. You may remember Elizabeth Elliot as the widow of Jim Elliot, one of the missionaries killed in 1956 by the Auca Indians in Ecuador, at the age of 29.
Now about the author of this poem, Amy Carmichael. She had a successful ministry to mill girls in Ireland and England but felt the call to foreign missions after hearing Hudson Taylor, and spent the last 55 years of her life in India operating an orphanage and rescuing children from the sex trafficking that was promoted by the Hindu priests – she never took a furlough and she died in India in 1951. She writes about what Matthew has just shared with us about following Jesus.
Hast thou no scar?
No hidden scar on foot, or side, or hand?
I hear thee sung as mighty in the land,
I hear them hail thy bright, ascendant star,
Hast thou no scar?
Hast thou no wound?
Yet I was wounded by the archers, spent,
Leaned Me against a tree to die; and rent
By ravening beasts that compassed Me, I swooned:
Hast thou no wound?
No wound? No scar?
Yet, as the Master shall the servant be,
And pierced are the feet that follow Me;
But thine are whole; can he have followed far
Who has nor wound nor scar?
From earlier in Matthew 9 . . .
Jesus went on to talk about not putting new patches on old cloth or new wine into old wineskins. You see, the disciples of John had just admitted they were fasting just like the Pharisees. But Jesus was calling them to something new. The Pharisees had concocted a legalistic, ritualistic religion out of Judaism. It was a contorted caricature of the belief system Abraham, Moses, David and God’s Prophets had taught to the Children of Israel. The Messiah, the bridegroom, was here to set them free, not keep them bound to empty man-made rules and traditions built up over centuries, layer upon layer, obscuring the truth about God.
Jesus was basically saying, “You disciples of John the Baptist, are you going to slog along with old empty ritual or are you ready for the new thing I’ve got in store for Israel?” (See Jer. 31:27-34)
But in the very middle of this discourse, the dinner party is interrupted. Jesus will make his point about empty religion time and again over the coming few years of his ministry. But let’s pick up the story where we left off . . .
There’s an acute emergency at hand and Jairus has dialed the only 9-1-1 available in 1st century Capernaum. But we are hardly out of the door before we come to a different medical emergency, and this is a chronic one, not an acute one. (Re: the woman with the issue of blood…)
My sister-in-law is an M.D. and in an expert in Maternal Fetal Medicine. She’s also the Medical Director of Women’s & Children’s Services at a nearby hospital. I called her for a medical lecture on Dysfunctional Uterine Bleeding (or DUB). I’ll spare you from the uncomfortable details, but it’s not at all uncommon for women nearing menopause to have the symptoms described here. And, untreated, it can indeed last twelve years or longer. Hormone therapy can fix the problem, and surgical solutions are available if this fails.
It was His power that healed her, but it was her faith that reached out to take hold of her healing. J. I Packer says, “The necessary means, or instrumental cause, of justification is personal faith in Jesus Christ as crucified Savior and risen Lord.” Jesus is the one who saves us (or in this case heals the woman), but He uses the instrument or tool of our faith in Him for us to reach out and take hold of His help.
Few things attest more loudly to the spiritual blindness abroad in Capernaum than the laughter and derision of these professional mourners. Where have they been for the past months? This is Jesus, the miracle-working wonder man! Jairus, the synagogue official, gets it – but not these folks.
Now we have only one question to resolve. Was the daughter really dead, or as Jesus clearly says, is she just sleeping? You know I’m always going to side with Jesus. And in the end, it doesn’t actually matter.
By Jewish burial custom, they will bury her shortly, and if they believe her to be dead, or they can’t tell a coma from actual death, her imminent burial will certainly be the death of her anyway.
And whether she’s dead or she’s just sleeping, the rabble outside is convinced she’s dead, and in their minds there’s nothing Jesus can do about it. If he raises her from the dead or just wakes here from a coma or deep sleep, they will assume the former and the gossip will fly about a mighty miracle – which is just what happens.
And our story doesn’t need to have Jesus raise the little girl to life. He’ll later raise the widow’s son in the town of Nain right out of his coffin on the way to the graveyard, as reported in Luke 7, and of course, there’s his dear friend Lazarus in Bethany, already four days in his tomb.
Last March 13th (2011) at 7:21 a.m. at Evergreen Hospital, I sat beside my 90 year mother and watched her quiet and peaceful breathing until I watched her take her last breath on Earth. Her daughter, my twin sister, was on her other side holding her hand. Death is not hard to recognize, if you are watching for it. But I’ve read dozens of news accounts over the years, especially in third world environments, where folks have “miraculously” been recalled to life. The line between human ignorance and God’s mercy is apparently a blurry one.
Re: The Son of David (Matthew 9:27-31)
Compare Is. 9:6-7; Jer. 23:5-6; Luke 1:30-33; Acts 2:29-32; Rev. 22:16.
These two, now seeing men, had been calling out to the Son of David. Perhaps we can cut them a bit of slack for not keeping quiet about their healing. The first person they saw when they received their sight was the Son of David, the promised Messiah of Israel, in the flesh and face to face. And it’s hard to hide the fact, as the song says, that once I “was blind, but now I see.”
We believe this is the miracle You are eager
to do in all our lives, our own promised resurrection.
But until then, help us plant in faith,
water with hope, and harvest in love.
And we’ll trust You for all the increase.
In Jesus name,
Re: Healing the paralytic
To use Paul’s line, this was not done in a corner. This was not a, “But don’t tell anyone” event. Jesus waited until the crowds arrived, they were spilling out of the door, and it’s not just the easily impressed yokels this time. The Pharisees and the theology faculty are there
to see and hear Jesus for themselves.
And Jesus does not disappoint. Later, (in Matthew 16 specifically), the Pharisees and Sadducees come seeking “a sign,” but Jesus only offers them the cryptic “sign of Jonah.” But today, Jesus uses this particular healing opportunity to, as we say these days, take His message to a whole new level.
He makes His strongest claim to deity to date. He’s more than a Prophet, more even than the Messiah that He is, He’s the one who forgives sin. And that’s, strictly speaking, a God-only thing.
The friends of the paralytic were bold enough to do whatever it took to get their needy friend to the front of the line. Their faith in Jesus’ ability to heal was profound. And Jesus took note of their faith in Him. But the paralytic got infinitely more than he came for. A repaired body would be amazing — and worthy of rejoicing, but a forgiven soul! Like the MasterCard ad, that’s “Priceless.”
With all the other many healings Jesus had performed, forgiveness of sin wasn’t offered. And it’s not mentioned very often later either. With this gentleman, Jesus is making a statement. He’s escalating His claims.
But these religious leaders had one thing absolutely correct. Only God can forgive sins. He is the legislative branch of His eternal government – it’s His laws that we have broken. And He’s the whole executive branch of Glory – His justice requires He enforce the letter of those laws. And will not the Judge of all the earth do right? He is also Heaven’s judicial branch and declares us eternally condemned or forgiven.
As soon as a priest or pope or denominational leader or guru starts offering forgiveness apart from Jesus, free or otherwise, they reveal themselves as counterfeits. Peter, speaking to the Centurion Cornelius, said in Acts 10:43 “All the prophets testify about Him that everyone who believes in Him receives forgiveness of sins through His name.”
Now from Jesus’ point-of-view, this single healing act is incredibly important. It means Jesus has taken that next big step toward Calvary. As long as Jesus speaks for God and acts for God – He’s a mighty Prophet worthy of honor. But in the eyes of the religious elite – as soon as He claims to speak as God and to act as God – He’s a marked man. On some future day, the Prophet Zechariah’s prophecy will come true, “And I will pour out on the house of David and the inhabitants of Jerusalem a spirit of grace and supplication. They will look on me, the one they have pierced, and they will mourn for him as one mourns for an only child, and grieve bitterly for him as one grieves for a firstborn son.” But it won’t be this day.
And the local residents crowding about the door? They are still the clueless crowd that will one day cry, “Crucify Him” and , “we have no King but Caesar.” It says here they were awestruck! That’s a great word. The Brits no doubt today would say they were gob smacked. But, alas, like the scribes and Pharisees, they still saw Jesus as just a man. They, “glorified God, who had given such authority to men.”
(9:10-13) Sides have been chosen. The Pharisees – that socially upstanding and highly religious party of laymen, appear to have spotted a flaw in Jesus’ behavior. As soon as the religious purists choose to disassociate with the lost and hurting in the world, they lose their credibility and mark themselves as the hypocrites they really are.
But just like Jesus’ response to Satan’s temptations in chapter 4, He answers them with scripture. He’s shown Himself to be the only really effective healer around. And He was doing what all Physicians did until the 20th century – He was making a house call.
On Fasting: The Prophet Isaiah painted a picture of what kind of fasting really honored God. (Isaiah 58:3-9)
“Yet on the day of your fasting, you do as you please
and exploit all your workers.
4 Your fasting ends in quarreling and strife,
and in striking each other with wicked fists.
You cannot fast as you do today
and expect your voice to be heard on high.
5 Is this the kind of fast I have chosen,
only a day for a man to humble himself?
Is it only for bowing one’s head like a reed
and for lying on sackcloth and ashes?
Is that what you call a fast,
a day acceptable to the LORD?
6 “Is not this the kind of fasting I have chosen:
to loose the chains of injustice
and untie the cords of the yoke,
to set the oppressed free
and break every yoke?
7 Is it not to share your food with the hungry
and to provide the poor wanderer with shelter–
when you see the naked, to clothe him,
and not to turn away from your own flesh and blood?
8 Then your light will break forth like the dawn,
and your healing will quickly appear;
then your righteousness will go before you,
and the glory of the LORD will be your rear guard.
9 Then you will call, and the LORD will answer;
you will cry for help, and he will say: Here am I.” (NIV)
So first, if we want to know what “fasting” means to God, we need to stop thinking it’s just about food and drink. It’s not about what we give up temporarily. It’s about what we stop doing that’s on our agenda and about doing what God has wanted us to do all along.
Just because Jesus fasted for 40 days in the wilderness does not make fasting an obligation for Christians. Here he says – “The attendants of the bridegroom cannot mourn as long as the bridegroom is with them, can they?” Of course not. It would be bad form to mourn or fast at someone’s wedding.
A carpenter was more well-to-do than a common laborer. His lack of a home was not due to a lack of means. And as a paradox of His life – yes, at this time, He was technically a homeless man – but, He was also the King of Kings and Lord of Lords and Heir of all things. The Aussies might say, He was God on a walkabout.
Now, I’ve heard atheists on the radio say “son of man” is just a fancy way of saying “human.” But the first key to understanding what Jesus meant by “Son of Man” is to see how he used it elsewhere. Jesus refers to himself as the Son of Man 30 times in Matthew. Here are just a few of those times…
Matt 9:6 But so that you may know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins. . . .” Then he said to the paralytic, “Get up, take your mat and go home.”
Matt 12:39-40 For as Jonah was three days and three nights in the belly of a huge fish, so the Son of Man will be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth.
Matt 13:41 The Son of Man will send out his angels, and they will weed out of his kingdom everything that causes sin and all who do evil.
Matt 17:9 As they were coming down the mountain, Jesus instructed them, “Don’t tell anyone what you have seen, until the Son of Man has been raised from the dead.”
Matt 17:22-23 When they came together in Galilee, he said to them, “The Son of Man is going to be betrayed into the hands of men. They will kill him, and on the third day he will be raised to life.” And the disciples were filled with grief.
Matt 20:26-28 . . . whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first must be your slave- just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.”
So the atheist of our day has ignored the context. You can make Scripture say anything you please if you take it out of context. You can’t replace “The Son of Man” with “human” or “person” and have these passages make any kind of sense.
The second point is — what did “Son of Man” mean to His hearers? This is the clincher.
See Daniel 7:13-14
13 “In my vision at night I looked, and there before me was one like a son of man, coming with the clouds of heaven. He approached the Ancient of Days and was led into his presence. 14 He was given authority, glory and sovereign power; all peoples, nations and men of every language worshiped him. His dominion is an everlasting dominion that will not pass away, and his kingdom is one that will never be destroyed.”
Re: the man who said, “Let me first go and bury my father.”
1) His father is still living.
a. He’s coming to Jesus on his own terms.
b. He’s putting his own agenda ahead of his King’s.
c. Would he say – I’ll report for enlistment when I feel like it?
2) His father has just died
He should be in mourning and preparing his father’s body for burial, not following this new miracle-working wonder-man.
3) His father died a year ago.
He can wait to transfer the bones to an ossuary. The King of Glory is present in the flesh! His earthy father’s bones aren’t going anywhere soon. A lot of human traditions can get in the way of simply following the Savior.
But just as “Son of Man” was the key to understanding the first response. “Allow the dead…” is the key to the second.
Throughout scripture there are a series of dichotomies — pairs of words that are related opposites.
Alive and Dead is one of these pairs. (Others include wheat-tares, sheep-goats, saved-lost, blind-seeing, and many more.) Every human being is on one side of these pairs or the other. (And there is no middle ground either. Lukewarm is even worse than cold or hot!)
Matthew is writing to introduce Jesus. So the KEY to this aquatic adventure (calming the storm on the Sea of Galilee) is His mastery over the wind and waves, not the infant faith of His followers.
His act with the storm should have been no surprise to faithful followers who knew their Psalms. “What kind of a man is this, that even the winds and the sea obey Him?” The Psalms already told who He was.
Psalm 89:9 You rule over the surging sea; when its waves mount up, you still them.
23 Others went out on the sea in ships; they were merchants on the mighty waters. 24 They saw the works of the LORD, his wonderful deeds in the deep. 25 For he spoke and stirred up a tempest that lifted high the waves. 26 They mounted up to the heavens and went down to the depths; in their peril their courage melted away. 27 They reeled and staggered like drunken men; they were at their wits’ end. 28 Then they cried out to the LORD in their trouble, and he brought them out of their distress. 29 He stilled the storm to a whisper; the waves of the sea were hushed. 30 They were glad when it grew calm, and he guided them to their desired haven.
Jesus is just being Himself. Immanuel, “God with Us.”
What’s interesting in Matthew is that the demoniacs do nearly all the talking. And earlier in Matthew, only one other person had used the term “Son of God” for Jesus. And who was it that said repeatedly, “If you are the Son of God…”? [Satan]
Satan and his demons are in a position to know the Majesty to whom they are speaking. But their testimony is not the kind Jesus is seeking.
There’s a lot here but one little word is all Jesus needs to change demon possessed men into disciples. “Go!”
But the “Thomas” in me says, “How do we know these men were really possessed by demons and not just psychotic?” According to the World Health Organization over a third of the people in most countries report problems at some time in their lives which meet criteria for diagnosis of one or more of the common types of mental disorder.
What in this account lets us spot these invisible demons? The pigs! Pigs are not Lemmings.
The residents of the small coastal town couldn’t see past their financial loss to the Heaven-sent Treasure in their midst. I love super hero movies. But when Good meets Evil, there’s inevitably collateral damage.
If I can use an analogy from Hollywood . . .
This might all be just so much hocus pocus, so much myth and science fiction, until Clark Kent takes off his glasses and actually flies!
But this isn’t Hollywood, this is 1st century Galilee and the disciples were eye witnesses to the fact that one day a young Jewish carpenter from Nazareth, put down his saw, and put down his hammer, and stepped out of the front door of his father’s carpentry shop ― and started healing the sick, giving sight to the blind, casting out demons, raising the dead, and proclaiming the good news of the Kingdom of God. His deeds were His résumé in action.
Your power has no limits! We delight that You go with us through the storms of life. Remind us to seek Your help and guidance when we are first in need – and not as our last resort. Teach us to follow You on Your terms – not our own. And as we often pray as You taught us – deliver us from the Evil one and his kind. We fear not at all when You are our Champion.
Bring us back eager to hear Your Voice, spoken by Your Spirit, regarding Your Son Jesus – in whose name we pray.
Whatever theologians say are the central themes of Matthew, there’s one overarching theme that I see. The Book of Matthew is a letter of introduction. Beginning with a birth announcement, it introduces Jesus of Nazareth, the Messiah of Israel, the God who paints Himself into human history in fulfillment of many long-standing promises.
Jesus’ healing ministry is complimentary to his preaching and teaching. People want the “magic pill” not “exercise and lay off the junk food.” It’s the same today, isn’t it?
We want “signs and wonders” but not “obedience and faithfulness.”
► Jesus’ healing is not to attract hearers.
► It’s not his loss leader – it’s not the gimmick to get the people into the pews.
► It’s what He does in fulfillment of prophesy – it’s part of who He is. It’s His calling card. His miraculous deeds were His letter of introduction. They spoke for Him. If He heals like the Messiah and speaks like the Messiah, could it be? Is it He? Indeed!
Ah ha! Jesus sent the leper to the priests in Jerusalem, in accordance with the Law (Leviticus 13-14). How many lepers do you think were sent to the priests in all? Quite a few! Jesus was knocking repeatedly on the Temple door in Jerusalem
– one healed leper at a time.
Jesus was not just God’s man in Galilee, a mighty miracle-working Prophet. He was man’s God in Galilee. Making this clear was central to his ministry in words and deeds.
The healing of Peter’s wife’s mother was not a “throw away” healing – in Israel in the 1st century, leprosy may have been a “living death,” but fever was often a sudden death.
These three healing accounts have many important things in common. But most striking, Matthew, the gospel writer to the Jews, chose three outsiders as his first three examples of Christ’s power.
• The untouchable leper.
• The Gentile Roman occupier’s servant
• And a woman
Praise to You Lord, the Almighty, the King of creation!
O our souls, praise You, for You are our health and salvation!
Help us Gentile “outsiders” to cherish our life in Christ. Help us remain humble in our infirmities, bringing our cares to you, delighted in the assurance that pain is temporary, but joy is eternal.
We pray this in the name of Jesus, the Great Physician of both our bodies and our souls.