Matthew 8:18 – Now when Jesus saw a crowd around him, he gave orders to go over to the other side.
Why would Jesus walk away from the crowd? There may have been multiple reasons:
Though Jesus was the true Son of God, he was also limited by his humanness. He could not minister 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. He had to have some time to eat and rest for the sake of his physical body.
Jesus also needed time alone to pray and seek the Father, so that he could be filled with the Spirit in order to minister to the needs of the people.
Going to the other side of the lake was one way to curb the enthusiasm of the people. You see, the crowds loved the ministry of Jesus. They loved the physical things he could provide (food, healing) and they recognized his authority. They were so enthralled, they sometimes wanted to make him king, which Jesus could not allow.
Although he is the King of Kings, the time for manifesting that authority on earth has not yet come. Jesus will one day be king over the world, but that position would come through the divine obedience and self-sacrifice of the cross, not through the fickle will of mankind.
Finally, there were opportunities on the other side of the lake to heal and share the gospel message as well. Jesus could not just stay in one place for three years.
Matthew 8:19-20 – And a scribe came up and said to him, “Teacher, I will follow you wherever you go.” And Jesus said to him, “Foxes have holes, and birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay his head.”
The request of the scribe to follow Jesus seems like a holy and righteous one. Why do you suppose Jesus did not encourage him to come?
Scholars feel that Jesus saw his request as a sudden impulse, rather than a well thought out, calculated decision. The scribe may have been carried away by the excitement of the moment, and if that was the case, he did not yet have the depth/root in Christ to continue. He would have fallen away from the faith during times of persecution or danger or hardship. To allow the scribe to go on the road with Jesus would have been tantamount to setting him up for failure.
God never sets us up to fail. He has a perfect plan for every life. The scribe needed to mature spiritually; he was not yet ready for the next level. As he matured, he would have the opportunity to reach the people of his home town with the gospel message. Perhaps that was God’s plan for his life all along!
Only God knows the future for certain. Sometimes we don’t understand why things happen the way they do, but we can be sure that God is always at work in our best interest.
Matthew 8:21-22 – Another of the disciples said to him, “Lord, let me first go and bury my father.” And Jesus said to him, “Follow me, and leave the dead to bury their own dead.”
The prior example showed a disciple (the scribe) who was attempting to rush into ministry without being called. In this case, the disciple has delayed stepping into ministry long after the call has been given.
Why has he delayed? Either his father is already dead and he wishes to remain at home to pay his last respects, or (more likely) his father is very old but still alive and the disciple wishes to remain with him until death.
As in the case of the scribe, this appears to be a righteous and noble thing to do, but Jesus steers him in a different direction. In fact, Jesus was admonishing this particular disciple to follow him immediately. Why the urgency?
Consider this: If he delayed any longer, he may have become entangled with other responsibilities or situations at home that he could never have foreseen. These added cares may have prevented him from ever stepping out into ministry. If this was his time to step out in faith, then to delay meant to risk certain failure.
Again, I want to point out that God has a perfect plan for each individual and He does not set us up to fail. He sets us up to be victorious, but we need to listen to his voice and obey what we hear.
The admonition to step into immediate service in the kingdom is followed by another strong statement; namely, to let the [spiritually] dead bury the [physically] dead. In other words, the disciple who has a call on his life needs to step out immediately and begin to labor. Those who pay no attention to spiritual things can take care of the routine duties of life.
Matthew 8:23-24 – And when he got into the boat, his disciples followed him. And behold, there arose a great storm on the sea, so that the boat was being swamped by the waves; but he was asleep.
The sea in question is the sea of Tiberias also called the Sea of Galilee. It is an inland lake at the foot of mountains. Because of its location, it is subject to sudden, strong squalls.
Jesus and his crew were going to cross the lake for the purpose of ministering to those on the other side. As they entered the boats Jesus immediately went below decks and fell asleep, due to exhaustion from ministering.
Meanwhile, a sudden squall kicked up and threatened to sink the ship. This combination of events provided an opportunity to test the faith of the disciples.
Matthew 8:25-26 – And they went and woke him, saying, “Save us, Lord; we are perishing.” And he said to them, “Why are you afraid, O you of little faith?” Then he rose and rebuked the winds and the sea, and there was a great calm.
How did they do in the trial? Well, Jesus isn’t exactly patting them on the back saying, ‘well done’, is he? In fact, Jesus chastises them a little, wondering at their lack of faith.
What could they have done differently? For starters, it was certainly okay for them to recognize that there was a problem. When difficulties arise, they should never be ignored. But once they first saw the problem, they should have reached down, grabbed their faith, and then prayed, believing that God was listening and watching over them.
Instead, they recognized the problem, and then kept looking at it until fear took over and faith was totally banished from their lives. Then, in desperation, they woke Jesus up to help them.
Here is a truth that you might find helpful: The more you look at your problems, the bigger they become and the smaller God and his power seems to be. However, if you train yourself to concentrate on God as soon as the problem surfaces, it will cause your faith to rise up and your problems to shrink to an appropriate size.
Isaiah 54:17 – No weapon that is fashioned against you shall succeed, and you shall refute every tongue that rises against you in judgment…
When you exercise your faith in prayer, you touch the throne of God and he comes to fight your battles for you! In this way, no weapon of the enemy can succeed against you, unless you allow it!
Mathew 8:27 – And the men marveled, saying, “What sort of man is this, that even winds and sea obey him?”
This was obviously not the first miracle the disciples had seen. We know they had witnessed Jesus healing many people. But this miracle was different. No man could ever command the elements of nature, yet Jesus had just done it! It was a demonstration of Jesus’ dominion over all of creation. This miracle created wonder, amazement and reverence for Christ. It more fully revealed the divinity of Jesus to his disciples.
Matthew 8:28 – And when he came to the other side, to the country of the Gadarenes, two demon possessed men met him, coming out of the tombs, so fierce that no one could pass that way.
After safely arriving at the other side of the lake, two demon possessed men meet Jesus and his followers. They are described as ‘coming out of the tombs’. In our day, that evokes images of zombies rising up out of the ground, but that isn’t what Matthew meant.
The New Testament Jews buried their dead in caves or man-made excavations in the sides of hills. These were located far from cities. This means that the demoniacs were taking shelter in one of these caves. Jewish law decreed that to touch a dead body made one ceremonially unclean. No Jewish person would ever have gone into a burial chamber unless it was absolutely necessary. To actually dwell in one would be a sign of insanity.
They are also described as being exceedingly fierce; they were often bound with chains and fetters which they broke off. This suggests that they were uncontrolled, had exceptional power and their thoughts and actions were evil. No wonder everyone avoided them!
Matthew 8:29 – And behold they cried out, “What have you to do with us, O Son of God? Have you come here to torment us before the time?”
The fact that these men immediately recognized Jesus as the Messiah, plus the strong fear that they displayed, are regarded as convincing evidence that they were indeed under an evil supernatural influence, as opposed to just being afflicted with some ordinary disease/illness.
The phrase ‘what have you to do with us’ should be interpreted as ‘what right, rule or authority do you claim over us’. This likely refers to the scriptures which state that at the end of the world God will judge the fallen angels (demons) and send them into everlasting torment. This is again evidence of a spiritual interaction, rather than just a physical one.
Matthew 8:30-31 – Now a herd of many pigs was feeding at some distance from them. And the demons begged him saying, “If you cast us out, send us away into the herd of pigs.”
Here we find evidence of the limited power of Satan. A whole legion of demons did not have the power or authority to stand again Jesus, indeed, they did not even try. Neither did they have the power or authority to destroy a herd of simple creatures (the swine). While Satan’s hatred is infinite, his power and authority are not!
Matthew 8:32 – and he said to them, “Go.” So they came out and went into the pigs and behold the whole herd rushed down the steep bank into the sea and drowned in the waters.
God does not perform evil at any time. Yet, God will sometimes, as in this case, permit Satan to perform the evil he desires to do. God will then use the evil actions of Satan for his own purposes. Thus, God’s authority over them is again displayed.
It was Satan who desired to destroy the property of the townspeople.
God allowed him to do so, then used the destruction of the swine as a test. God’s miraculous power to restore and heal had been clearly demonstrated. Which would the townspeople value more – the swine or the healing of the demon possessed men? Which did their hearts follow after – money or the power of God?
Sadly, they would have preferred the pigs!
Some may be tempted to complain that God allowed the townspeople to suffer loss. However, the spiritual lessons learned here have been ministering to mankind for hundreds and hundreds of years! This was a much better value to mankind than the few physical meals the pigs could have provided to the Romans of that day. Spiritual life is eternal; physical life will pass away!
Matthew 8:33 – The herdsmen fled, and going into the city they told everything, especially what had happened to the demon possessed men. And behold, all the city came out to meet Jesus, and when they saw him, they begged him to leave their region.
Curiosity about these events led the people out to see Jesus. But sadly, they did not want to be a part of the kingdom of Heaven. They could have listened to Jesus teach. They could have brought out their sick and afflicted for Jesus to heal. They could have repented, entered into the kingdom of Heaven and in turn sent out messengers of the good news/gospel message, but they did not.
What held them back? Perhaps it was the love of money and possessions. Perhaps they loved the comfort of the status quo, and did not want anything to change their routine.
But maybe it was something else. Maybe it was fear. Fear of the power and moving of God. Fear of letting go and allowing God to move in ways they had never before seen or experienced. Maybe they were afraid of the supernatural.
Do you have fear about the power of God moving on your life? Do you fear the moving of the Holy Spirit? Are you afraid to let God minister to you in a supernatural way that you have never before seen or experienced?
If this is an area where you experience trepidation, let me offer you this scripture:
Luke 11:11-13 – What father among you, if his son asks for a fish, will instead of a fish give him a serpent; or if he asks for an egg, will give him a scorpion? If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will the heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!
The working and manifestation of the Holy Spirit are a gift and a blessing to our lives. The Holy Spirit is not out to embarrass you or make fun of you. He is there to bring the transforming power of God into your life.
We know that Jesus healed people by the power of the Holy Spirit. So, consider the demoniacs. Was the Holy Spirit there to mock them or embarrass them? Of course not! Did the Holy Spirit bring the transforming power of God into their lives? Yes! Were they better off before or after their encounter with the supernatural touch of God? I think most of us would agree they were better off after the touch of the Holy Spirit.
Will you open up your heart and life to a new move of the Holy Spirit? God guarantees that it will be a good thing!
So let me offer you a dose of encouragement and relief: Maybe God is NOT calling you into a foreign mission field. Maybe he is NOT calling you to quit your job and go into full time ministry. That is okay! It doesn’t mean that you don’t have value in the kingdom of Heaven. It doesn’t mean that there is not a plan for you. It doesn’t mean that other people are better or more devout believers than you are; it just means that God has something perfect for you right where you are! God needs people to serve him in the workplace and in the community as much as on foreign soil. So don’t be upset or feel inferior if God does not call you to a public work. Minister where God has placed you!
Let me offer you some strength: Are you the person that others look to for guidance and help? Are you the one who must stay strong in the midst of crisis because your friends and family are depending on you to hold it all together? That is an enormous and important load to carry.
Thankfully, you don’t have to bear that burden with just your own strength. The working of the Holy Spirit and his supernatural move upon our lives is a gift and a blessing. Let go of your fears. Be open to a move of the Holy Spirit that you may never have experienced. He will strengthen and equip you to be victorious in life. The Holy Spirit will fill you with strength and wisdom so that you can help others!