Matthew Chapter 10, Part 1

Matthew 10:1 – And he called to him his twelve disciples and gave them authority over unclean spirits, to cast them out and to heal every disease and every affliction.

It seems kind of fitting that Jesus would use 12 apostles to plant the New Testament church, since he had used the 12 tribes of Israel to keep the Old Testament covenant.

The account of Jesus sending these 12 disciples forth to minister is also recorded in Mark 6 and Luke 9. 

Mark tells us that Jesus sent them out in pairs.  This gave each of them a companion to share the labor, the joy and the opposition they would soon encounter.  Besides, if they split up, the gospel message could be shared in many, many more places.  The apostles were sent into the world by Jesus, just as Jesus had been sent into the world by his Father.

The most important thing in this verse is that Jesus gave them authority over unclean spirits and sickness/disease. Jesus confirmed his teaching through the working of miracles; his disciples would do the same.

Matthew 10:2-4 – The names of the twelve apostles are these: First, Simon, who is called Peter, and Andrew his brother; James the son of Zebedee, and John his brother; Philip and Bartholomew; Thomas and Matthew the tax collector; James the son of Alphaeus, and Thaddaeus; Simon the Zealot, and Judas Iscariot, who betrayed him. 

The really great thing about this list is what is NOT on it.

  • There are not super wealthy people, who could influence others to accept the gospel just because rich people have influence. 
  • There were no naturally gifted orators who could convince people to accept the gospel just because they were persuasive arguers/speakers. 
  • There were no overly handsome or good looking people who could influence others to follow them because of their beauty. 
  • There were no super intelligent scholars, who could convince people to accept the gospel because it was the smart thing to do. 

Jesus chose plain, ordinary men of good character and honesty who would testify to the truth of the gospel that they learned from Jesus.  They would also testify of his death and resurrection.  Empowered by the Holy Spirit, they were willing to lay down their lives to bear witness to the truth.

Luke tells us that Jesus chose them early in his ministry (before the Sermon on the Mount) so that they would be witnesses to everything that he taught and everything he did from the beginning of his ministry until his resurrection from the dead.

You and I have also been called to bear witness to the truth of the gospel and to share what Jesus has done for us.  Aren’t you glad that you don’t have to be rich or famous or really well educated to understand and accept the grace of God?  I know I am! 

Matthew 10:5-6 – These twelve Jesus sent out, instructing them, “Go nowhere among the Gentiles and enter no town of the Samaritans, but go rather to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.”

Gentiles (or Greeks as they are sometimes called in the New Testament) are simply non-Jewish people.  They did not know the true God and in their ignorance they worshipped many false gods.

The Samaritans were a group of people living in the region between Jerusalem and Galilee.  They were a mixed race of people who embraced a false religion which was an amalgam of Judaism and idolatry.  They worshipped Jehovah along with other false gods.

Clearly, the disciples were not to share the Kingdom of Heaven with the Samaritans or the Gentiles.  Why not?

God has a divine order in dealing with mankind:  to the Jew first, and also to the Gentile.

The Jews were the chosen people of God.  It was through them that the Messiah had come.  It was through them that all the nations of the earth would be blessed; Jesus was a fulfillment of the covenant made long, long ago with Abraham and his descendants. So it makes sense that they should be the first to hear and see the Messiah.  They should have the first opportunity to accept the New Covenant, because they already had a relationship with God.

Secondly, the disciples were what we might call ‘green horns’.  They needed to learn how to effectively share the gospel.  The easiest way to do that was among the people who were already intimately acquainted with the promises of the old covenant.  It would take a lot more wisdom, knowledge and Holy Spirit power to share the gospel with those who knew nothing of God’s former dealings with mankind.  The disciples weren’t ready for that yet. 

Thankfully, Jesus would soon charge his apostles to spread the gospel to ‘Judea, Samaria and the uttermost parts of the world’, which eventually included you and I!

Matthew 10:7 – “And proclaim as you go, saying, ‘the kingdom of heaven is at hand.’”

The disciples were all to preach the same message – The kingdom of Heaven was arriving imminently.  In other words, they were to tell as many Jews as possible that God was ready to fulfill his promises to them!   Now, after generations of waiting, God is ready to implement the kingdom of the long awaited Messiah.  Because of that, it was time for men to repent of their sins and prepare themselves to be citizens of this new kingdom.  When the Messiah was manifested, they must be ready to believe him, accept his doctrine and submit to his authority.

There are still people today that have not heard the good news of the Kingdom of Heaven.  They need a chance to repent of their sins and become citizens of the Kingdom of God.  What are you doing to spread the word?   

Matthew 10:8 – “Heal the sick, raise the dead, cleanse lepers, cast out demons.  You received without paying; give without pay.”

The power and authority Jesus gave to the disciples was for a very specific purpose – the confirmation of the message regarding the Messiah and his kingdom.

These gifts were not to bring honor or renown to the disciples, but to demonstrate God’s love toward mankind. 

God was sending the Messiah to bless us, to rescue us from the tyranny of Satan, to save us from death, to heal our diseases and relieve us from our misery. Only God could receive the glory for the miracles that were performed, because they were done by his might and power.

So, God was the author of all these blessings.  The apostles were merely channels for transmitting the bountiful blessings of God from heaven to earth. Therefore, they had no right to be selective as to who could receive these benefits; they could not pick and choose who to minister to or charge anything in return for the miracles.

Isaiah 55:1-2 – Come, everyone who thirsts, come to the waters; and he who has no money, come, buy and eat!  Come, buy wine and milk without money and without price.  Why do you spend your money for that which is not bread, and your labor for that which does not satisfy?

Let me ask you this:  what is the purpose for all the bountiful blessings God has given you and I in our generation?   Are our spiritual gifts, material blessings and resources only to contribute to our personal happiness, or does God expect us to use them for his glory and the spread of his gospel to the lost?  Are you a channel that God can use to further his kingdom?   

Matthew 10:9-10 – “Acquire no gold or silver or copper for your belts, no bag for your journey, or two tunics or sandals or a staff, for the laborer deserves his food.”

The implication is that the disciples could take with them whatever money they had on hand, but they were not to delay their journey by attempting to provide more.  Nor were they to pack a whole bunch of baggage to take with them.  Why do you suppose Jesus gave them this command?

One reason was that extensive planning and packing would cause delays and stress.  But the main reason was probably to develop their ability to trust in God for whatever they needed.  Their focus was to be on God and the mission set before them.  God would be the one to provide food, clothing and necessities.

In my opinion, this is much harder than it sounds, especially at first.  Put yourself in their shoes.  What if you and I went on a missionary journey, trusting God to provide.  What if we wanted steak but God provided bologna?  Would we complain or be thankful?  What if we were expecting a king size pillow top memory foam bed, but we wound up with a sleeping bag on someone’s cold stone floor?  Not only did the disciples need to trust God to provide, they had to learn to accept the provisions that God miraculously provided.  

1 Timothy 6:6-8   But godliness with contentment is great gain. For we brought nothing into this world, and it is certain we can carry nothing out.  And having food and clothing let us be with these things content.

It seems to me that comfort is something our culture really values.  If God calls us to a little bit of discomfort for the sake of the gospel, can we accept that with thankfulness?  Are we content with the level of worldly goods God has given to us?  Are we good stewards of these blessings, or do we selfishly keep them all to ourselves?

Matthew 10:11-13 – “And whatever town or village you enter, find out who is worthy in it and stay there until you depart.  As you enter the house, greet it.  And if the house is worthy, let your peace come upon it, but if it is not worthy, let your peace return to you.”

While they were not to take extra money or provisions, they were to make wise choices about where to stay.  They were to seek out godly and upright men, who had a reverence and thirst for God, and who would be willing to receive and provide for two ministers of God.

Once they had found such a household, they were to stay in that place and not move again, even if a better opportunity appeared.  Their time was not to be spent in seeking better accommodations or comfort, but to preach, minister healing and deliverance, and pray.  After all, their main goal was not personal enjoyment; it was to spread the gospel.

In these verses, the word “house” refers to family.  The apostles were to show proper respect and civility to their host family, while the family would provide gracious hospitality to them. 

Matthew 10:14-15 – “And if anyone will not receive you or listen to your words, shake off the dust from your feet when you leave that house or town.  Truly, I say to you, it will be more bearable on the Day of Judgment for the land of Sodom and Gomorrah that for that town.”

If the town where they went to minister rejected the gospel, the apostles were not only to leave that town, but place a witness against it by removing the dust of that town from their feet.

The Jews believed that even the dust of the Gentile nations was impure, and was to be shaken off or removed when they went to cross the border into Israel. This was to prevent the pollution of the heathen nation from touching their holy land. 

In this instance, the implication is that those Jews who rejected the gospel message were no longer holy, but were impure and profane, on a level with heathens and idolaters. Therefore, even the dust of their town must be removed from God’s true followers.  Interestingly, some of the apostles wound up doing this very thing!  See Acts 13:51 and Acts 18:6.   

This contempt for the gospel would not go unpunished by God.  One day these unbelievers will be judged more harshly than the people of Sodom and Gomorrah, who were destroyed by fire and brimstone. 

What does this passage say to us about the profanity of the world that touches us every day?  Do we despise and reject the things of the world that pollute our holiness, or do we tolerate those things, or even enjoy them?  Are we influencing the world for Christ, or is the world influencing us to accept sin?

Matthew 10:16 – “Behold, I am sending you out as sheep in the midst of wolves, so be wise as serpents and innocent as doves.”

So, the apostles have been commissioned by Jesus to travel around, spreading the good news that the kingdom of Heaven was at hand, with miracles to confirm their doctrine.  Sounds like a good deal, doesn’t it?  Who wouldn’t be glad to be a part of that? 

Satan – that’s who!  And he is not going to stand by idly while his human slaves are rescued and set free.  He is going to use them to fight back against the kingdom of heaven.

Thus, Jesus makes it very plain to the apostles that they will face persecution, discouragement, opposition, legal action and other dangers.  The enemies of the gospel have a malicious nature, ready to devour and destroy the ministers of Christ, just as a wolf naturally wants to hunt down, kill and devour a sheep. 

How are they to react to these attacks?  They are to be wise as serpents – meaning they need to act prudently, not irritating the enemy unnecessarily. On the other hand, they are to be innocent as doves – meaning that they should not be over cautious, allowing the enemy to dictate when and how they minister.  Honestly, this is still a good rule to follow today.

Matthew 10:17 – “Beware of men, for they will deliver you over to courts and flog you in their synagogues…”

Here Jesus is speaking of the future.  None of the 12 encountered these circumstances on this first missionary journey, but they all did after Jesus had been crucified and resurrected.

Flogging was the same as whipping.  Tradition says that the guilty party was laid upon the ground before the judge.  The blows were then inflicted upon his back.  The limit was 40 (Deuteronomy 25:2-3), but the judge could determine any number less than that.  It was not until after the beating that they were tied to a post.

To make the beating more severe, the Jews would attach thongs or lashes to the rod (usually 3).  That means one strike delivered 3 lashes at once.  They would then strike the person 13 times, giving 39 lashes.  The apostle Paul was beaten in this manner 5 times. 

The most grievous scourging of all was when the Romans would fasten pieces of iron or lead to the thongs.  These were capable of ripping and tearing flesh.  Keep in mind, the Romans were not limited by the Old Testament law.  They could whip someone with as many lashes as they chose.  It was the Romans who whipped Jesus before his death. Jesus did not ask his disciples to suffer in a way that he did not also experience.

Matthew 10:18 – …and you will be dragged before governors and kings for my sake, to bear witness before them and the Gentiles.”

‘Governors and kings’ refer to Gentile leaders appointed by the Romans.  These included proconsuls, porcurators and even emperors.  On the first missionary journey, the apostles were to speak only to the Jews.  Thus, we see that this too, is a future event which takes place only after the resurrection of Jesus.  By this statement, Jesus plainly shows that he intends for the Gentiles to have opportunity to enter the Kingdom of Heaven.  

The purpose of appearing in these high courts is to bear witness of the Messiah to the highest leadership in the land.  Once the Gentiles are informed of the gospel, they are responsible for this knowledge. To reject it means to reject eternal life.  

Matthew 10:19-20 – “When they deliver you over, do not be anxious how you are to speak or what you are to say, for what you are to say will be given to you in that hour.  For it is not you who speak, but the Spirit of your Father speaking through you.”

Again, it was one thing to be arrested and beaten by the Jews, because their power was limited by the Old Testament and by the Romans.  But when you are standing before the highest Roman/Gentile powers, there was no limit as to what they could do to you. 

Also, the apostles were uneducated laborers and fisherman.  How could they explain/present the gospel in terms that these Gentiles could not refute or ignore?  I can see why the apostles might be a bit anxious, can’t you?

But Jesus never wants us to operate in a spirit of fear. 

2 Timothy 1:7 – For God has not given us the spirit of fear; but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind.

Therefore, he comforts his ministers with the assurance that when these events take place, God will be with them every step of the way.  The Spirit himself will give them the words to speak; words that will cut through every argument that tries to exalt itself above the truth of the gospel. The Gentiles may be able to out-reason the apostles, but they could never out-reason the Holy Spirit!   The truth of the gospel would be made plain to them, and they would have to decide what to do with it – accept it and change their ways, or reject it and thus reject God at the same time.  

Matthew 10:21-22 – “Brother will deliver brother over to death, and the father deliver brother over to death, and the father his child, and children will rise against parents and have them put to death, and you will be hated by all for my name’s sake.  But the one who endures to the end will be saved.”

The natural bonds of family are some of the strongest bonds we know.  Most people count on family to come to the rescue during distressing times, to provide safety and comfort, and to offer assistance and guidance when needed. 

But Jesus tells us that the enemy will stop at nothing in the fight for men’s souls.  Satan will incite his wicked followers to hate even their closest family members; anyone who accepts the gospel must be stopped before they turn others from Satan to Christ.

If we examine the witness of Christians from foreign countries, particularly those involving Islam, we find clear evidence that this is happening today. 

To some degree it is true in the United States as well.  I have known some people who are estranged from their families just because they changed from another religion to Christianity. 

In the midst of all this betrayal, Jesus offers hope.  Victory is assured to the Christian.  This includes those who endure until Jesus returns as well as those who endure until their trial is concluded or their life is over.  Regardless of which circumstance applies, the Christian who endures will receive eternal life in the Kingdom of Heaven.   

Matthew 10:23 – “When they persecute you in one town, flee to the next, for truly, I say to you, you will not have gone through all the towns of Israel before the Son of Man comes.”

In some ways, this verse is easy to understand and in other ways, it is very puzzling.  Let’s begin with the easy part.

The overall sense of this verse is that the apostles should practice prudence – if their lives were in danger, they could certainly shake the dust off their feet and move on to a new city. 

What they did NOT have was permission to deny Christ. They must always be true to the Savior who, out of love, would die for them long before they were asked to give their lives for his glory.  There are still some places in the world today where Christians must choose between their faith in Christ and their life on earth.  I believe that if God calls us to make this choice, he grants us the grace to stay true to him.   

Another thing the apostles did NOT have was permission to retire.  No matter how many cities and towns they were kicked out of, they were to move onto the next one and continue to spread the gospel.  Do you plan to retire some day?  While you can certainly retire from your life’s profession, you can never retire from Christianity.  Wherever you go after retirement, be sure to look for new opportunities to spread the gospel!

Now for the difficult part of this verse:  The stipulation that the apostles would not visit all the towns of Israel “before the Son of Man comes.” 

It seems rather clear that the phrase does not refer to the first missionary journey that the apostles are about to embark on.  That mission is covered in full in verse 5-15.  The culmination of that journey was a pronouncement of final judgment on those who reject the gospel message.

It also seems rather clear that beginning in verse 16 Jesus is looking forward in time to future events/missions.  So at some future time (future to the apostles at the time of Jesus), there would be difficult persecutions; the question is what constitutes the end of these events?  What is meant by the phrase “Before the Son of Man comes?”  

Some scholars believe it refers to the judgment of Israel and the subsequent destruction of Jerusalem in AD 70.  Some believe the phrase has dual meanings and that it not only refers to the destruction of Jerusalem, but also refers to an event still further in the future – the second coming of Christ.  

Rather than spending a lot of time arguing one way or another, I think our time would best be spent concentrating on the ‘here and now’.  Let’s be about our master’s business today and let tomorrow take care of itself.  

Matthew 10:24-25 – “A disciple is not above his teacher, nor a servant above his master.  It is enough for the disciple to be like his teacher, and the servant like his master.  If they have called the master of the house Beelzebul, how much more will they malign those of his household.”

Beelzebul or Beelzebub was the name given to one of the false gods of the Philistines.  It meant ‘the god of flies’, so called because this idol was supposed to protect the Philistines from the numerous swarms of flies common in their land.  Among the Jews the name signified ‘the god of filth’ and was esteemed as the lowest and most offensive of all the idol gods.  By giving this name to Jesus, they were pouring out upon him the greatest possible abuse and contempt. 

According to this scripture, what evil men have said and done to Jesus, they will certainly not hesitate to say and do to his disciples.  This includes all manner of suffering and shame up to and including physical death.

However, in Luke 12:4 Jesus tells us not to be afraid of those who can kill the body, but after that have no more that they can do!  God has guaranteed our place in heaven; no man can change that!  

This is the end of today’s post.  Normally, I try to give you some words of encouragement, relief and strength for your daily walk in Christ.  But this week, I would like to do something a little different. 

According to OpenDoorsUSA.org, 11 Christians are killed every day for their decision to follow Christ.  Instead of focusing on ourselves this week, can we commit to pray for Christians around the world who are facing some of the same persecutions that were endured by the apostles? 

Let’s pray that God will give them an abundant provision of courage and faith as they bear witness to the gospel of Jesus.

Let’s pray that governments who are hostile to the cause of Christ will be toppled and that Christianity will be embraced in these lands.

Let’s pray that those who have been ostracized by their families will find love and support from other believers. 

Above all, let’s pray that the name of Jesus will be lifted up in all lands, so that all men have an opportunity to know him and Lord and Savior!  

Matthew, Chapter 9 Part 3

Matthew 9:27 – And as Jesus passed on from there, two blind men followed him, crying aloud, “Have mercy on us, Son of David.”

Jesus is now going from the ruler’s house to his own lodgings (Peter’s house) when two blind men begin to follow him.

Thus far, the Jews who had come to Jesus for healing acknowledged him as a man to whom God had given great power, but they stopped short of recognizing him as Messiah.  We might describe them as ‘spiritually blind’ for not recognizing their Messiah during the time of his visitation.

However, here we have two physically blind men who ‘see’ the truth.

Relentlessly and with great faith, they address Jesus as ‘Son of David’ as they follow him down the street.  This was a title which the Jews reserved exclusively for the Messiah.  There can be no mistake about what they were proclaiming to all within earshot – that Jesus was the long awaited Messiah, the King of Israel! These men may have been blind, but they had something more important – spiritual sight.

They are also very persistent, aren’t they?  When Jesus was approached by the disciples of John, or stopped by Jairus, or touched by the woman with the issue of blood, he immediately interacted with them.  But in this case, He continues to walk down the street seeming to ignore the cries of the men following him.  Yet, they do not give up or stop.

Why would he do that?  Many scholars see this as a lesson to persevere in prayer.  Later on, Jesus will tell the parable of the woman and the unjust judge.  Jesus says the point of the parable is to never give up in prayer.

Luke 18:1-2-  And he [Jesus] spoke a parable unto them to this end, that men ought always to pray, and not to faint; saying, There was in a city a judge…

I am willing to confess that sometimes I feel like giving up in prayer.  Sometimes when you feel like you have prayed and prayed but the answer has not come, you can get discouraged and there is a real temptation to give up (at least for me).

But at the same time, I can also recall several instances where the answer to my prayers only came after a prolonged period of time.  One time, in my extended family, there was a possible legal problem on the horizon but the situation could not be resolved because of some broken relationships.  The problem was complex and there was no hope of a resolution, unless God moved.  It took months, but through prayer, God brought about a successful outcome to both of those problems, one right after the other!

So, shame on me for growing weary and doubting!  We know that God always hears our prayers.  We also know that even though we don’t see anything happening, God is at work on our situation.  We know God’s timing is always perfect. 

Deep down, we know that the only clear and logical course of action is to pray, pray and pray, until we see the answer.

Hmmm…. it seems I have successfully encouraged myself to renew my resolve to pray when the answer doesn’t come immediately.  I hope this has helped you too! 

Matthew 9:28-29 – When he entered the house, the blind men came to him, and Jesus said to them, “Do you believe that I am able to do this?”  They said to him, “Yes, Lord.”  Then he touched their eyes saying, “According to your faith be it done to you.”

Eventually, Jesus comes to the house and enters it; the blind men come into the house as well.  At this point, out of the public view, Jesus begins to interact with the men.

He asks them a single question – did they believe that he could heal them?  In other words, did they believe that he wielded the power of God because he was the Son of God (as they proclaimed), not just a prophet?

Once their confession of faith has been made, Jesus touches their eyes and immediately heals them.

Let me ask you something – did you notice that throughout the entire 9th chapter of Matthew, Jesus has shown us the importance of faith again and again?  Faith was a key part of these New Testament folks receiving the miracles they were asking for.  It was faith that moved the hand of God on their behalf.

Since God has not changed (Malachi 3:6), we can safely conclude that we, too, will need faith when asking God to move on our behalf.  This fact is substantiated throughout the New Testament.  Jesus himself says this:

Matthew 17:20  – … verily I [Jesus] say unto you, If you have faith as a grain of mustard seed, you shall say unto this mountain, Remove from here to yonder place; and it shall remove; and nothing shall be impossible unto you.

What a remarkable promise from Jesus!  Since faith is so important, maybe we should pause and examine our own.  What is the state/level of your faith?  Is it a bit weaker/lower than you would like?  If so, be encouraged – there are ways to increase your faith.  One way is to meditate or dwell on the word of God:

Romans 10:17 – So then faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God.

Maybe it’s time to exercise some moderation in our activities and commitments and use some of that time to get into the word of God.  Or, perhaps while riding in your car, you could spend your time meditating on the word, instead of singing to the radio.  Another good way is to memorize a scripture.  When was the last time you did that?  As a child or teenager?

I believe there are some really good ways to increase the amount of time we are dwelling on God’s word, without making cataclysmic lifestyle changes.  What ideas do you have?

Matthew 9:30-31 – And their eyes were opened.  And Jesus sternly warned them, “See that no one knows about it.”  But they went away and spread his fame through all that district.

Jesus gave them the deepest desire of their hearts – then firmly instructed them not to tell anyone! Despite the volumes and volumes of speculation on this topic, the truth is, we don’t know the exact reason why Jesus requested their silence, but we can be sure that his reasons were good ones.  We can also be sure that obedience to God’s commands is always good for us.  Unfortunately, in this case, the men were disobedient to Jesus’ command, publishing the news far and wide.

Matthew 9:32 – As they were going away, behold, a demon-oppressed man who was mute was brought to him.

In this case, the inability to speak was not the result of some physical defect, but was a side effect of the demon possession.

We should not be surprised that the demon took this man’s ability to speak.  If he had a voice, he could pray.  He could confess his sin to God.  He could offer thanksgiving and praise.  He could testify.  He could preach the word of God.  He could encourage others.  He could speak life and hope to those around him.  It’s no wonder the demon wanted to prevent his ability to speak.

This brings up a point for our consideration:  Is it worth the devil’s time and effort to stop our mouths?  Are there enough good and righteous things coming out of us that the devil takes notice?  Or, are we giving him glory and furthering his evil purposes by the things we speak?

Entire books have been written on the subject of the tongue and its power.  You might want to study this topic in more detail.  It is very important to each one of us!

Matthew 9:33 – And when the demon had been cast out, the mute man spoke.  And the crowds marveled, saying, “Never was anything like this seen in Israel.”

On the command of Jesus, the demon must leave.  Once the demon was gone, the man could speak again.

The crowds react by commenting that nothing like this was ever seen in Israel.  If you think about it, that is a very bold statement.   God created Israel.  He brought them out of Egypt with signs and wonders.  He parted the Red Sea.  He provided water in the desert.  He gave them victory in battle, time and time again.  He caused manna to appear six days a week for 40 years.  He made the walls of Jericho fall.  He caused the sun to stand still in the sky.  The list of miraculous events goes on and on and on and on…

Based on the Israelites own testimony that nothing like the power of Jesus had ever been seen in their nation, there was only one conclusion to be drawn.  Jesus was the Messiah.

Matthew 9:34 – But the Pharisees said, “He casts out demons by the prince of demons.”

What could possibly drive the Pharisees to such blatant blasphemy?

The Pharisees had long ago abandoned the true faith.  They were no longer concerned about serving their fellow man, practicing righteousness, protecting the widows & fatherless or being champions of justice. Their only concern now was to keep the power, status and authority they had grown to love.  Their pride knew no limits. This left them only two choices:

Swallow their pride, repent/admit they were wrong, relinquish their authority, and follow Jesus just like the ‘common’ people were.

OR

Hold onto their pride/position/authority by trying to discredit this great show of divine power in the only way possible – to credit it to Satan.

Pride can cause us to do some truly evil things.  If you sense it in your life, beware, lest you end up like they did!  I can think of nothing sadder than to forfeit the eternal love of God for the trifling things of this world.

Matthew 9:35 – And Jesus went throughout all the cities and villages, teaching in their synagogues and proclaiming the gospel of the kingdom and healing every disease and every affliction.

Jesus came to reveal the kingdom of heaven to men, and to provide his blood for our salvation.  He confirmed and accredited his message with signs, wonders and miracles. 

Matthew 9:36 – When he saw the crowds, he had compassion for them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd.

Spiritually speaking, the Israelites were without true leadership.  The Pharisees had burdened them with the rites of religion, the crushing weight of tradition and their own deadly doctrines.  The result was a generation of people who were at best hopeless and neglected; at worst torn to spiritual shreds.  They wandered through life with no one to offer spiritual direction, spiritual healing, or spiritual protection.

Their plight aroused compassion within the Savior.  Clearly he desired them to have true spiritual leaders who could lead them to victory in Christ!

Matthew 9:37-38 – Then he said to his disciples, “The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few; therefore pray earnestly to the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest.”

During this time, the people had heard the gospel from both John the Baptist and now Jesus.  The Holy Spirit had quickened this word to their spiritual hearts, and they were ‘ripe’; or ready to repent and accept salvation, which was soon to come.

In this generation, God still has a vast harvest of souls to be brought into the kingdom.  We are to fervently pray that God sends more and more workers into this harvest field

Notice that Jesus directs his comments about laboring in the harvest to his disciples.  In other words, Jesus was calling them to fill in the gap left by the idle Scribes and Pharisees.  They would be true spiritual shepherds who would lead, guide, comfort and instruct the people after the death of Jesus.

In addition, each one of us should also be available to share the love of Christ with all those around us.

So, let me give you some encouragement:

We don’t have to read too much of the scripture to know that faith pleases God and moves mountains.  Therefore, we need it!  If you feel like your supply of faith is running low, there are things you can do to increase it.  You can meditate on the word.  You can listen to the testimonies of others. You can remind yourself of times that God moved on your behalf in the past.

But one of the best things you can do is to simply use the faith you have right now!  You can never ‘use up’ your faith because when you use it, it actually grows, not diminishes!  So take a step of faith this week – even a small one – and when God answers, you will have even more faith to take the next step!

Let me give you some relief and some strength:  

Have you ever experienced a time when you prayed for an answer or a change or some relief in a situation, but it seems as though God did not hear or act?  If this is you, let me offer you some relief – it’s not just you!  I believe that most of us have been in your shoes at one time or another.

During these tough times, I suggest that you change your perspective.  When we are beset by difficulties our vision tends to become very narrow.  We only see how the problem affects us, not how it might be affecting others.

God did not cause Jairus’ daughter to die, or the woman to have an issue of blood or the two men to be born blind.  However, he did allow those things and use them to display his glory.  He used a small amount of human discomfort to show the world a dazzling display of his glory.  The temporary suffering of those people caused untold numbers of people to trust in God.

If God asked you to suffer a bit so that lost souls could be forever changed by Him, would you allow it?  Would you welcome it and consider it an honor?  The next time you are in a period of suffering, widen your perspective.  Trust that God is bringing about eternal blessings to other people through you.  You will find yourself in a whole new level of intimacy with God.  Be strong and draw close to Him.  He will use your suffering for his glory, if you will allow him.

Matthew, Chapter 9, Part 2

Matthew 9:18 – While he was saying these things to them, behold, a ruler came in and knelt before him saying, “My daughter has just died, but come and lay your hand on her, and she will live.”

Matthew tells us only that this man was a ruler, but Mark and Luke give more information.  They tell us that he was a ruler or elder of the synagogue named Jairus.  His daughter was 12 years old and she was his only child.

Jairus falls at the feet of Jesus and intercedes for his daughter.  At this point, one cannot help but compare him to the Roman centurion we looked at in Matthew chapter 8.  The centurion also interceded for one he loved (his servant), but while Jairus’ faith required that Jesus come to his house and lay a hand on his girl, the faith of the centurion was willing to believe that Jesus could heal from a distance with just a word.

The good news is that Jesus does not refuse anyone who comes to him with sincere faith.  Even though the faith of the Jewish ruler was feeble compared to his ‘heathen’ counterpart, Jesus still honors his prayers and encourages him to expect a miracle.  This is a lesson to all of us.  Sometimes life seems overwhelming but don’t let your faith waiver!  Don’t let the enemy tell you that all is lost!  God still hears and answers prayer today!

Matthew 9:19 – And Jesus rose and followed him, with his disciples.

Consider this for a moment:  Jesus was actually at a banquet when the disciples of John the Baptist came to ask him a question.  While he was speaking to them, Jairus came to beg for his help.  So, Jesus immediately leaves the banquet and follows him.

Read that verse again.  Did you see any mention of grumbling or complaining?  Was there any heavy sighing or rolling of the eyes?  Did Jesus ask Jairus to wait until the cake was cut and coffee was served?  Was there any mention by Jesus that his plans had been interrupted?

From God’s point of view, a cry for help is never an interruption.  What is our point of view?  When someone needs us, are we irritated because it interferes with our plans, or do we remember that we are here on earth to be salt and light in the kingdom of Heaven?

Matthew 9:20 – And behold, a woman who had suffered from a discharge of blood for twelve years came up behind him and touched the fringe of his garment,

Here is another example of faith and action rising up together to claim a miracle.

This poor woman had been ill for 12 years.  Let’s stop and consider that for a moment.  What were you doing 12 years ago?  What age were your kids?  Where were you living?  What were you doing 10 years ago?  How about 5 years ago?  Take a couple of minutes and list some of the major events that have transpired in your life in the last 12 years.  Then consider that this pitiful woman was sick that entire time!

In addition, Mark’s gospel (Mark 5:25-27) tells us that the woman had suffered greatly, going from doctor to doctor, but none of them could help.  She spent all the money she had trying to find a cure.  Despite all that, she was getting worse, not better!  On top of that, she was now impoverished.  You can picture misery and depression overwhelming her. 

But, in the midst of her despair, she heard the good news of Jesus.  I don’t know who told her, but clearly the news of Jesus brought her hope.

How about those around us?  Perhaps you can restore hope to someone who is desperate for a miracle by introducing them to Jesus.  I am sure we won’t have to look too hard to find hurting people.

So, she goes out in public and she finds Jesus, who is literally being thronged by crowds of people.

Modesty prevented her from speaking of her disease in any kind of public way; certainly it could not be discussed in front of a crowd or with a man she did not know!  Thus we see her coming up behind Jesus and probably reaching through the crowd to touch the hem/fringe of his garment.

The garment in question was possibly a prayer shawl, but more likely a traditional upper garment.  It was a single piece of cloth with a hold in the center, where you put your head.  There were four corners with a tassel attached to each corner.  The tassels themselves were made in a very precise way and had specific meanings associated with them; they were a regulation from Old Testament times (see Numbers 15:37, Deut 22:12, etc).  So, the thing this woman actually touched was one of the tassels.

Matthew 9:21 – for she said to herself, “If I only touch his garment, I will be made well.”

Some scholars are of the opinion that her faith was great because she believed Jesus to have such an overflowing fullness of healing virtue, that the very touch of his garment would cure her.  Other scholars are of the opinion that her faith was small, because although she believed in the power to heal, she shrank away from Jesus, fearful that he would reject her.

Don’t tell the scholars, but you and I know exactly how much faith she had – a measure!  She took that measure of faith, combined it with the action of coming out and touching Jesus and she received her miracle!

You see, it does not matter how much faith you started out with.  The centurion, the Jewish ruler and the woman with the issue of blood all had varying levels of faith, but Jesus responded positively to each one of them.

Think about it – he didn’t stop and pull out a special thermometer to measure their faith index.  He didn’t compare the amount of faith they brought with the miracle they needed to see if they could pay the price.  Instead, he stooped down and met each one of them at whatever level of faith they were on.  He then increased their faith by answering their prayers.

Are you ready for the best part – you also have a measure of faith!

Romans 12:3 – …God has dealt to every man the measure of faith.

That’s right – you too have what it takes to approach God in faith and receive a miracle.

Let’s consider an example.  Suppose you are applying for a job that you are well qualified for, but there are 49 other applicants for this one position.  One option is to give up and not even apply.  Another option is use your faith.

Pray about the situation.  Tell God that you are going to put your best foot forward and ask him to give you favor.  Then, take a step of faith and apply!  Go to the interview in a spirit of faith and watch what God will do!

Matthew 9:22 – Jesus turned, and seeing her said, “Take heart, daughter; your faith has made you well.”  And instantly the woman was made well.

Jesus silenced her fears, granted her request, commended her use of faith and sent her away in peace, all because of her faith.

Why do you think God preserved this woman’s testimony in the scriptures?  I believe it is an open invitation for us to approach him in faith just as she did.  I believe God still honors faith today.

If you take a minute to think about it, you will discover that faith is astonishing.  There is nothing else like it in the universe.  It is the substance of things hoped for and the evidence of things not seen.  You can never use it up; as you use it, it actually increases and multiplies.

Why not use your faith today? 

Matthew 9:23-24 – and when Jesus came to the ruler’s house and saw the flute players and the crowd making a commotion, he said, “Go away, for the girl is not dead but sleeping.”  And they laughed at him.

After healing the woman, Jesus continues until he reaches the ruler’s house.  When they arrive, they find music and a crowd making a ‘commotion’.  While it sounds weird to us, it was perfectly normal in that culture.

When someone died, their family and friends would gather at the house and loudly howl or wail to express grief. 

They would also sing the virtues of the deceased, recount their life accomplishments and speak of their beauty.  Mournful music was used as a part of the grieving process.  Other displays of grief included tearing your garments, refusing to anoint yourself, not taking a bath, and scattering ashes in the air.  For a common person, this lasted 8 days.  If you were a king or other distinguished person, it lasted an entire month.

So, there was nothing unusual happening when Jesus arrived at Jairus’ house to find flutes playing and a crowd making a commotion.

The unusual part was when Jesus declared in front of the crowd that the girl was not dead, but sleeping.

When the crowd heard that, they mocked him, because they knew for sure that girl was dead!  So what did Jesus mean when he used the term ‘sleeping’?  ‘Sleeping’ is used many times in scripture to refer to the death of our flesh [see 2 Peter 3:4, 1 Thessalonians 4:13-15, Acts 7:60, etc].

As you may recall, there was a subset of Jews called the Sadducees.  They did not believe in the resurrection.  They thought that once a person died, they ceased to exist.  It is likely that Jairus, his family and his friends were Sadducees.

When Jesus says the girl is ‘sleeping’, he is declaring that she has NOT ceased to exist.  He affirms that her body is dead but also teaches that her spirit was still alive and that she would one day be raised up again.

Matthew 9:25-26 – But when the crowd had been put outside, he went in and took her by the hand, and the girl arose.  And the report of this went through all that district.

Again, Jesus was teaching that we do not cease to exist when our body dies.  Our spirits still live while the body waits for resurrection from the dead.  Now, if Jesus was going to completely tear down and destroy the belief that life ceased to exist at death, then he needed to prove that with signs and wonders.  Otherwise, who would believe him?

The only acceptable proof in this case was for the girl to be raised to life, so that is exactly what Jesus did.  Her resurrection not only demonstrated the truth of his teaching, it proved that Jesus alone had power over death.

Consequently, the crowd at Jairus’ house became a cloud of reliable, unbiased witnesses to the power of Jesus to resurrect the dead.  Nothing like this had ever happened before, and they spread the truth of this message far and wide.

So let me give you some encouragement:  Jesus can resurrect more than just dead bodies.  He can bring marriages back to life.  He can bring newness to your finances.  He can restore what addiction has taken.  He can breathe new life into your ministry.  Anything that can die, can be brought back to life by the power of Jesus!  I encourage you to seek him today for the resurrection of what you have lost.

Let me give you some relief:  There are some people who say that they are not worthy to receive a miracle from God.  How utterly ridiculous!!  If you are a child of God then you are a co-heir with Jesus and God is ready and willing to give you all you could ask or think!  So give yourself a break. Get rid of your negative ‘unworthy’ guilt feelings and start seeing yourself as God sees you – as his beloved son or daughter that he cannot wait to bless.

Let me give you some strength:  Sometimes our situations look overwhelming.  We all reach a point where we start to despair because we know we are out of options.  I am sure the woman with the issue of blood felt that way.  I know there are times when I have been in that same place. But when you are at the end of your options, that is when God can come in and begin to move the mountains.  The scripture says:

Matthew 21:21 – Jesus answered and said unto them, Verily I say unto you, If you have faith, and doubt not, you shall not only do this which is done to the fig tree, but also if you shall say unto this mountain, Be removed, and be cast into the sea; it shall be done.

So don’t give up!  When you combine your faith with action and offer them up to God, he will move on your behalf!

Matthew, Chapter 9 – Part 1

Matthew 9:1 – And getting into the boat he crossed over and came to his own city.

At the close of chapter 8, after Jesus set the demon possessed men free, the people of the town asked him to depart from their city.  What a sad commentary!  In other towns the people flocked to see demonstrations of the power of God.  In this one, they wanted nothing to do with it.  They wanted to remain bound in their sin.  They were satisfied with the status quo.   

So Jesus departed, as requested; he crossed the lake to Capernaum where he was currently staying.

It is the same with us today.  God does not force himself into the life of anyone.  If a person wants Jesus to leave him alone, Jesus will do so.  But be assured that He desires to be a part of your life.

Revelation 3:20 – Behold, I [Jesus] stand at the door and knock.  If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and eat with him, and he with me.

Jesus is knocking on your door right now…will you open to Him or send him away?

Matthew 9:2 –And behold, some people brought to him a paralytic, lying on a bed.  And when Jesus saw their faith, he said to the paralytic, “Take heart, my son; your sins are forgiven.”

This passage seems a bit confusing, doesn’t it?  There can be no doubt that the man and his friends were looking for physical healing.  So at first glance, Jesus’ response to the paralytic seems to be something different than what the man was requesting.  But what He is really doing is using this situation as a teaching moment for mankind.

In this instance, Jesus begins the man’s healing by revealing its root cause – sin.  The sorrows and sufferings of human life are the consequence of sin.  People who don’t know God often blame him for the suffering they see in the world. But God is not the author of the terrible suffering and injustices we see in this generation. Man brought these situations on himself when he rejected God and allowed Satan to have spiritual authority over the world.

When Jesus came to earth, he came to destroy Satan’s hold on mankind by providing atonement for sin.  Because of his death and resurrection, we are reunited to God and the works of the devil, such as sickness and disease, can be destroyed.

1 John 3:8 – … For this purpose the Son of God was manifested, that he might destroy the works of the devil.

Jesus used this man’s healing to reveal a spiritual principle to us:  Because sin is the root cause of all evil, our first step towards relief is to restore our relationship to God by asking Him to forgive our sins.   We must be in right relationship to God before we can seek relief from the bondages of Satan.  Once we are a child of God, we have the right to ask our Father to intervene in our lives and destroy/remove the effects of sin which include sickness and disease.  This is a lesson the world does not understand.

The paralytic and his friends demonstrate a second spiritual principle for us:  Faith and works go hand in hand.  Both are required to see a miracle.

The men had faith to believe that Jesus could heal, but faith is only part of the key to unlocking a miracle.  You also need action.

James 2:17 – So also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead.

What action did they take?  They packed up their friend, left home, and went to find Jesus.  They could have given up when the saw how big the crowd was, but they didn’t.  Instead, they took their friend to the roof and lowered him down in front of Jesus (see Mark 2:3-12 and Luke 5:18-26).  Their faith and actions worked together to ignite the miracle.

Look at other miracles from the Bible and you will clearly see this principle:

Assuming that faith was present, what action did the people take when Lazarus was raised from the dead?  They rolled the stone away from his tomb, even though logic told them his body was already rotting.

Assuming faith was present, what action did the disciples take when Jesus multiplied the loaves and fishes to feed 5K?  They organized the people to sit down in groups and they set the food before them, even though it was still just one lunch at that point.

Assuming faith was present, what actions did people take when Jesus turned the water into wine?  They had to fill the jars with water and take a cup to the master of ceremonies, even though it was still just water at that point.

Assuming faith was present, how did Naamen get healed of his leprosy?  He had to physically go and dip himself 7 times in the Jordan.

Take a moment to recall some of your own spiritual experiences.  Start with your own salvation.  Remember when you felt the powerful draw and conviction of the Holy Spirit?  Isn’t it true that you took some action to receive Jesus?  It might have been raising your hand in a church service, or standing to your feet to show your commitment, or praying with an evangelist who was giving an altar call on TV.

Whatever the situation, it was your faith mixed with action that produced the miracle of your salvation.  What other examples can you give?

Matthew 9:3 – And behold, some of the scribes said to themselves, “This man is blaspheming.”

One of the definitions of blasphemy is the application of divine attributes and prerogatives to anyone other than God.  (This was the basis for most of the charges of blasphemy that the Jews brought against Jesus).

For example, the Jews correctly believed that only God could grant people eternal life.  So in John 10:28-33, when Jesus tells the Jews that he will give his sheep eternal life, he was revealing himself as the Son of God.  Since the Jews believed he was just a man, they accused him of blasphemy.

The Jews also correctly believed that only God can forgive sins.  So in our current study, when Jesus forgave the sins of the paralytic man, he was in essence saying he was God.  Since the Jews completely rejected the idea that he was God in any way, shape or form, they once again accused him of blasphemy.

Incidentally, according to Old Testament law, the punishment for blasphemy was death (see Leviticus 24:16).  This is the law the Jews referred to when Jesus was before Pilate:

John 19:7 – The Jews answered him [Pilate], ‘We have a law, and by our law he ought to die, because he made himself the Son of God’.

Essentially, it was the charge of blasphemy that the Jews stood upon to have Jesus crucified.

Matthew 9:4 – But Jesus, knowing their thoughts, said, “Why do you think evil in your hearts?”

In order to know a man’s thoughts, you would need the ability to search his heart.  These are things that only God has the power to do.  So simply by asking this question, Jesus once again reveals to the Jewish leaders that he is indeed the Son of God.  This second revelation of his person seems to have completely gone over their heads.

The Jews had already made up their minds about who the Messiah should be and how he should act.  Since Jesus did not fit their preconceived ideas, they rejected him despite all the evidence he presented to them, which proved that he was God.

What about you and me?  Do we have preconceived ideas about how God should act or move in our midst?  If the Holy Spirit moves in a way that is new to us, will we embrace His divinity and yield to him?  Or will we be modern day Pharisees and reject him despite the evidence that He loves us and wants to do a good work in our lives?

Matthew 9:5 – “For which is easier to say, ‘Your sins are forgiven’, or to say ‘Rise and walk’”? 

Jesus’ authority in the physical realm demonstrates or bears witness to his authority in the spiritual realm.  Since he is God, it is equally simple to forgive sin and to heal.

Matthew 9:6-7 – “But that you may know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins” – he then said to the paralytic – “Rise, pick up your bed and go home.” And he rose and went home.

As we look at this encounter between Jesus, the paralytic and the religious leaders, it is easy to perceive that there is more going on than just a physical healing.

Why did Jesus heal the paralytic in this manner?  Because he wanted to do more than just heal this man’s physical ailment.  He wanted to teach us all that the greatest and most amazing miracle is the forgiveness of sins.  It trumps every other miracle.  As amazing as healing is, it only lasts until we die, but forgiveness of sin has eternal ramifications.  It’s a miracle that God has prepared for each and every one of us!

Also, keep in mind that restoration of our relationship with God is the first step in breaking all other bondages and attacks of the enemy.

Matthew 9:8 – When the crowds saw it, they were afraid, and they glorified God, who had given such authority to men.

Take another look at the miracle of your salvation.  Then take a few moments this week to give God glory for it!

Matthew 9:9 – As Jesus passed on from there, he saw a man called Matthew sitting at the tax booth, and he said to him, “Follow me.” And he rose and followed him.

I don’t know about you, but the Internal Revenue Service is not one of my favorite government branches.  However, it is possible to dislike the IRS as a nameless, faceless government entity without attacking anyone who works there on a personal level.

This was not the case back in the time of Matthew.  Back then, the Romans would levy taxes against all people, including the Jews.  But you didn’t just send them a check in the mail or give them your debit card.  There were real people who collected the taxes.

Most unfortunately, some of these people were very unscrupulous.  They would extract taxes that were over and above what was really owed, and then they would keep the extra for themselves.

So tax collectors had a reputation of being greedy cheaters.  People didn’t like them.  To make matters worse, the Romans would often employ Jews to be tax collectors.  It was bad enough paying taxes to the overlords you despised, but to have one of your fellow countrymen cheat you as well was adding insult to injury.  The Jewish tax collectors irritated the other Jews just by existing!

So here we find Matthew, the writer of this gospel, being employed as a tax collector.  Now to be fair, he may very well have been an honest one; we don’t know.  However, just by being a tax collector, he would have been despised and outcast by his fellow Jews.

The scripture says he was sitting at his tax booth.  This indicates that he was probably located on the road between Damascus and the seaport of Phoenicia.  So in addition to personal taxes, he probably collected custom taxes from imports and exports.

Now let’s take a look at the really important part of this verse.  Jesus passes by his tax booth and calls Matthew to follow after him.  So Matthew got up and went.

Did you see the important part?

Matthew did not hesitate; he simply went where he was led.  He did not ask Jesus for all the details about where they were going and what was going to happen.  He didn’t tell Jesus that he wanted to think about it first.  He did not stop and call his friends together to discuss it with them.  He didn’t worry about what others might think.  He simply got up and followed Jesus.

Sometimes when God calls us to do something, we hesitate.  We want to know how it will work, who will help and where the money will come from.  We want make long term plans and discuss them with other people.  When all the while, Jesus just wants us to step out in faith and follow where he leads.

Oftentimes when we hesitate we suddenly find hundreds of reasons why things won’t work out.  We invent many excuses for not doing what Jesus asked us to do.  Soon fear sets in.  Next, we begin to look at how unqualified we are to do the work.  At this point, we talk ourselves out of doing whatever it was.  We question whether we heard God’s voice at all! 

Know this:  Hesitation is the crack that allows Satan to come in and derail our ministry before it even starts!  Don’t give him the chance – when Jesus calls you, remember Matthew and step out immediately!

Matthew 9:10 – And as Jesus reclined at table in the house, behold, many tax collectors and sinners came and were reclining with Jesus and his disciples. 

How much time elapses between verses 10 and 11?  While the biblical account appears as though the feast was on the same day that Matthew was called, this is probably not the case.  Then (as now) it took a lot of time and preparation to organize a large successful feast.  It may have been as long as 2-3 months between Matthew’s call and his banquet in honor of Jesus. 

If you have ever planned a wedding reception or a big graduation party, you can understand what was involved.

One possible (likely) scenario is that after Matthew’s conversion, he handed his business off to others.  It may have been the occasion of his ‘retirement’ which prompted this feast.  The party afforded him an opportunity to honor his new master Jesus, while at the same time introducing many other tax collectors and sinners to the savior.  Thus we see a desire to highly esteem Jesus and bring salvation to his friends.

Interestingly, the word ‘sinners’ is a generic term used to describe people of ill repute or low moral character; it probably included heathens/Gentiles as well as Jews.  To invite Jewish sinners to this feast was shocking enough for the Pharisees, but to have Gentiles present as well – it was unimaginable!

Matthew 9:11 – And when the Pharisees saw this, they said to his disciples, “Why does your teacher eat with tax collectors and sinners?”

To eat and drink with someone implies intimacy with them.  The Pharisees are accusing Jesus of seeking out the company of the wicked.  The inference is that since Jesus is a companion or friend of the wicked, he too was a wicked man and therefore not who he claimed to be.  They believed that Jesus should separate himself from the wicked, not have fellowship with them.

Their accusations were also a sneak attack on the new disciples.  By questioning the motives and actions of their master, the Pharisees were attempting to plant seeds of doubt in the mind of the disciples.  Since the Pharisees could not contradict or defeat Jesus, they may have been seeking to destroy his ministry by turning his disciples against him.

Matthew 9:12 – But when he heard it, he said, “Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick.

Jesus firmly and immediately put a stop to the Pharisees attempt to discredit him and drive a wedge between him and his disciples.

In the physical realm, a doctor is among sick people not because he himself is sick, but because he is ministering to the sick.  In the spiritual realm, Jesus is among the spiritually sick not because he himself is spiritually sick, but because he is ministering to the spiritually sick.

In fact, this was the supreme reason Jesus came to earth!  He came to rescue us from hell.  He came to take slaves and make them sons and daughters of the kingdom.  He came to take our scarlet sins and make them white as snow.  He came to give us beauty for ashes and the garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness.  He came to bear our shame and reproach, clothing us in his righteousness.  He came to transform us into a new creation; old things having passed away and all things have become new!

Yes, the publicans and sinners at that party were spiritually disgusting, but no more so than you and I and the Pharisees!  All have sinned and come short of the glory of God; thanks be to God that Jesus came to die for the sins of us all!  Unfortunately, the Pharisees were so consumed by pride and hypocrisy they did not recognize that they themselves were also sick!

Matthew 9:13 – Go and learn what this means, ‘I desire mercy, and not sacrifice.’  For I came not to call the righteous, but sinners.

Jesus quotes Hosea 6:6, a scripture the religious leaders should have been very familiar with.  In this passage God reminds his people that he is more pleased with acts of kindness and benevolence than he is with the outward compliance of religious duty.   Throughout scripture we see that God is always more interested in what is in your heart (including your motivations), than your actions.

True, the Pharisees were outwardly holy/compliant.  They tithed and they fasted and they never missed a religious sacrifice or feast.  But for all that, they were still far from the kingdom of heaven because their hearts were not right before God.  They were full of hypocrisy and pride.  This was evident in their actions; they had no interest in helping other sinners become more righteous, in fact they did all they could to condemn those who were already lost. 

Sadly, by thinking themselves already righteous, they did not recognize that they too were in need of Jesus.  So while the sinners they scorned received eternal life, they lost it!  How do we react to the lost?  Do we have compassion for those who need the savior or do we distance ourselves from those who are spiritually sick because we don’t want to be associated with them?

Matthew 9:14 – Then the disciples of John came to him saying, “Why do we and the Pharisees fast but your disciples do not fast?”

At this time, John the Baptist was in prison.  That left his disciples in a state of transition.  Would John be released from prison or should they follow Jesus, whom John himself named as the Messiah?  It is most likely that at this vulnerable time the Pharisees approached the disciples of John in an effort to turn them against Jesus.  They are probably the ones who first approached John’s disciples asking why Jesus and his followers did not fast. 

Again, they were up to their old tricks – trying to sow seeds of doubt about Jesus into the hearts and minds of those who were truly seeking God.  They were probably attempting to have the disciples of John join their ‘side’ in their conflict with Jesus.

Thank goodness the disciples of John did not just accept the allegations of the Pharisees without an investigation.  Thank goodness they had the guts to approach Jesus and ask him this question to his face!

You know, there are no questions too hard to bring to God. If someone tells you that God is unjust or cruel for some reason, or you think he failed you for some reason, why not ask him about it?  If we approach him humbly and respectfully, earnestly seeking the truth, God will answer us just as Jesus took the time to answer John’s disciples.

Matthew 9:15 – And Jesus said to them, “Can the wedding guests mourn as long as the bridegroom is with them?  The days will come when the bridegroom is taken away from them, and then they will fast.”

Jesus gave an answer that was tailored specifically to John’s followers.  It builds on John’s words in chapter 3 verse 29:

John 3:28-29 – You yourselves bear me witness, that I [John] said, ‘I am not the Christ, but I have been sent before him.’  The one who has the bride is the bridegroom.  The friend of the bridegroom, who stands and hears him, rejoices greatly at the bridegroom’s voice.  Therefore this joy of mine is now complete.

Jesus is the bridegroom, while the church is his bride.  Since weddings are seasons of rejoicing, those who are with the bridegroom do not fast or mourn; that would be totally inappropriate actions for a wedding.  However, when the bridegroom is absent, then the wedding guests will mourn.

So, since Jesus was with his disciples, it was a period of rejoicing not mourning.  Once Jesus returned to heaven, there would be plenty of occasions for fasting.  Stated another way, the disciples of Jesus were not yet under a dispensation that called for fasting.  

Matthew 9:16 – “No one puts a piece of unshrunk cloth on an old garment, for the patch tears away from the garment and a worse tear is made.”

This illustration demonstrates the difference between the Old covenant (the old garment) and the New covenant (the unshrunk cloth).  The Jews were happy with the old garment/covenant because it was familiar and comfortable. In fact, it was all they had known since their nation was formed.  Also, the Jews as a whole were under the false impression that religious life should always manifest itself in precisely the same way in every generation.  As a result, they were reluctant (to say the least) to accept the new and amazing blessings God had in store for them. 

But Jesus makes it plain that the two covenants could not be successfully combined.  Therefore, Jews and Gentiles alike needed to accept the new covenant and embrace the new move of God in their generation.

Matthew 9:17 – “Neither is new wine put into old wineskins.  If it is, the skins burst and the wine is spilled and the skins are destroyed.  But new wine is put into fresh wineskins, and so both are preserved.”

Back in the day, wine containers were made of sheep or goat skins.  When new, they could stretch and expand with the fermentation process of the new wine.  But over time, they would lose this flexibility and become stiffened with age.  If you tried to contain new wine with old wineskins, the disaster would be total – the skins would burst and the wine would be lost.  

In the same way, the old wineskin of Judaism had become hardened and inflexible over time.  It was made even more narrow and stiff by the efforts of the Pharisees and rabbis.  There is no way that Judaism could contain or hold the fresh power of Christianity.  It was not pliable enough to hold unlimited quantities of grace and forgiveness.  It was not flexible enough to contain the power of the Holy Spirit being poured out into every man and woman who wanted it.  Total access to the presence of God by sinful man was enough to shatter it.  Only a new wineskin could hold all that God is doing in the church age!

So let me offer you a little encouragement:  God never contradicts his word. That is a fact.  However, that does not mean that he can never move or manifest himself in a new way.  The religious leaders back in Jesus day often missed the move of God because it was not the same as it had been in the past.  Like the healing of the paralytic, they rejected it because it was not what they expected.

Isaiah 43:19 – Behold, I [God] will do a new thing; now it shall spring forth; shall you not know it?

What about us?  Can we allow the Holy Spirit to move in a new way in our lives and church services?  I encourage you to yield to the move of the Spirit, even if it is new to you.  Release yourself to Him and experience the new things he desires to do for you and through you!

Let me offer you a little relief:  God has not changed; He is still in the miracle business.  The healing of the paralytic did not drain all his power!  Take a moment right now and remember the miracle of your salvation.  Then consider this:  If God was willing to give up his only Son for you, why would he withhold any other good thing from you?  If he has already given you his best and most precious thing, why would he refuse you something of less value?

Romans 8:32 – He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things?

Psalms 84:11 – For the Lord God is a sun and shield; the Lord bestows favor and honor.  No good thing does he withhold from those who walk uprightly.

That thought should really strengthen your faith!  Now take that faith and add some action to it.  Expect God to move in your situation in miraculous ways!

Let me offer you some strength:  Jesus is our bridegroom and he has promised to return to earth and take us to himself.  Sometimes, in the course of life’s difficulties and disappointments, we forget this promise.  Sometimes we grow weary in the battle, but right now take a few minutes and strengthen yourself through praise and worship.  You are on the winning side!  One day, God will fulfill all the promises he made; one day he will take us to be with him where there is no more sin, struggle, pain or tears!  Hallelujah!

Matthew, Chapter 8 – Part 2

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!

Matthew, Chapter 8 – Part 1

Matthew 8:1-2 – When he came down from the mountain, great crowds followed him.  And behold, a leper came to him and knelt before him, saying, “Lord, if you will, you can make me clean.”

In the New Testament scriptures, leprosy is a somewhat generic term that can refer to any skin disease. However, in the Old Testament, it meant something more specific.

In ancient times, leprosy was a deadly, incurable skin disease which was characterized by smooth, shining, depressed white patches of skin.  The hair within the skin also turned white.  The disease causes the flesh to be anesthetized to pain, and thus a person could injure themselves severely and not even notice it.  The disease also caused wasting of muscle tissue, loss of hair and destruction of the bones and joints especially of the hands and feet.

Because leprosy was incurable and highly contagious, the Jews of old were instructed to take precautions anytime a person came down with the disease.  The precautions consisted of three parts: 

  • The person had to move out of the camp.  This meant they were separated from their fellow man. 
  • The person was considered unclean and was no longer allowed in the temple area.  This meant the person was cut off from God. 
  • The person had to call out “unclean, unclean” anytime they were walking around and approached another person.  Since there is no cure, the leper was essentially dead while he still lived, and the crying out was a kind of mourning.
  • [You can read the specifics of leprosy in Leviticus 13].

Of all the miracles that Jesus performed on earth, why do you suppose Matthew recorded this one?  Is it beneficial for us today?  Don’t we have modern medicine to cure leprosy now?

It is easy to see why Matthew included this miracle when we consider that leprosy is symbolic of sin.

Sin is an incurable disease that we cannot heal.  It anesthetizes our conscience and deforms our lives.  It shuts us out of fellowship with our fellow man and it cuts us off from the presence of God.  When we are under the curse of sin, we are dead even while we live!

The leper in this narrative acknowledges that Jesus has the power to heal him, if he will.  What is Jesus response?

Matthew 8:3 – And Jesus stretched out his hand and touched him, saying, “I will; be clean.”  And immediately his leprosy was cleansed.

When you read the New Testament you can’t help but notice that Jesus heals in many different ways.  Sometimes he spits and makes mud, sometimes he touches or speaks or has you stretch out your hand.

If I were going to heal this leper, I would probably have yelled “be healed” from about 100 yards away!  But Jesus doesn’t do that, does he?  He chooses to do something very interesting – he touches the man with the incurable, contagious disease. 

It is very likely that this was the first human touch the leper had felt in a long time.  Imagine what comfort it must have brought him!

If we carefully read the request of the leper, we can see that he believes Jesus has the power to heal him, what he doubts is whether or not Jesus will do so.  By asking this request, the leper is risking rejection by God.  But we see that without hesitation, Jesus declares his love and concern for this individual by not only saying ‘I will’, but also by touching him.

The same is true for us.  We know that Jesus died and rose again; he is certainly capable of forgiving our sins.  Yet many people doubt that Jesus will forgive them.  If that is you, pay special attention to this passage of scripture.  There is no sin too horrible or black or disgusting for Jesus.  He wants to stretch out his hand of love and forgive you right now!  Just take a lesson from the leper – approach him humbly and simply ask.  He will not turn you away!

Matthew 8:4 – And Jesus said to him, “See that you say nothing to anyone, but go, show yourself to the priest and offer the gift that Moses commanded, for a proof to them.”  

Jesus came not to overturn the law, but to fulfill it.  Thus, it was proper that the leper should go to the priest to be declared clean, according to the law.  This set in motion a couple of different things.

First, it gave the former leper a chance to witness about the healing he had received.  His testimony was confirmed by an impartial third party – the priest- therefore it was a fact that could not be disputed by those who tried to discredit Jesus.  It also afforded the cleansed man an opportunity to bring an offering of thanksgiving to God.

Second, it allowed the former leper to legally return to his people and the temple.  No longer was he cut off from God and man.  No longer was he dead while still living.

Third, it provided an opportunity for the cleansed leper to be obedient to the commands of Jesus.  God places a high value on obedience; he considers it much more valuable than sacrifice.

The spiritual implications for us are obvious.  When Jesus forgives our sin, we should be willing to bear witness to that fact.  We should be forever singing his praise and worshipping him for what he has done.  Because our sin has been forgiven by the blood of Christ, we are no longer cut off from man or God.  In fact, we can enter into God’s throne room any time we wish!  No longer are we dead in our trespasses and sin.  Even though we have trials and tribulations in this life, we are safe in the hands of Jesus.

Matthew 8:5-7 – When he had entered Capernaum, a centurion came forward to him, appealing to him, “Lord, my servant is lying paralyzed at home, suffering terribly.” And he said to him, “I will come and heal him.”

Matthew immediately records another healing by Jesus, though this one is far different from the leper.  In this instance, the request is being made by a centurion, a military man with authority over 100 soldiers.  This man was a Gentile, stationed in Capernum for the express purpose of keeping the Jews in line with Roman policy.

Given this, we might have expected him to ignore the plight of his servant altogether, to seek help from ordinary physicians or even turn to witchcraft.  Instead, we are surprised to learn that he seeks relief from the true God of Israel.  He may not have fully understood that Jesus was the incarnate Son of God, but he did understand and believe that the power of God flowed through Jesus.

His belief prompts him to seek Jesus for the healing of his servant, who is suffering badly.  Even the heathen come to Jesus to unburden their souls!  And as in the case of the leper, Jesus has compassion on the sinner and readily agrees to come and touch him.

Matthew 8:8-9 – But the centurion replied, “Lord, I am not worthy to have you come under my roof, but only say the word, and my servant will be healed.  For I too am a man under authority, with soldiers under me.  And I say to one, ‘Go’ and he goes, and to another, ‘Come’ and he comes, and to my servant, ‘Do this’ and he does it.

Not only did the centurion believe that the power of God flowed through Jesus, he understood that authority in the spiritual realm is parallel to authority in the natural realm.  In the Roman army, the centurion had men over him in authority.  At the same time, we know he had 100 men under his authority.  Likewise, Jesus was submitting to his Father’s authority while sickness, disease and every other form of evil had no choice but to submit to the Son of God.

Matthew 8:10 – When Jesus heard this, he marveled and said to those who followed him, “Truly, I tell you, with no one in Israel have I found such faith.

What is the definition of faith?  Faith is belief in the truth of what is declared by another resting solely and implicitly on his authority and veracity.  It is confidence or trust in a person (or thing) resting solely on that person’s authority, rather than proof.

In other words, it means believing what Jesus said simply because he was the one who said it!

The Jews, however, were not inclined to simply trust in Jesus as the Son of God.  They had access to the Old Testament scriptures that spoke of Messiah, and they saw miracle after miracle performed by Jesus, yet they would not simply take him at his word.

Instead, they were constantly asking Jesus for a sign to verify or prove that he was the Son of God.

What a contrast from the centurion!  Here was a Gentile who believed and acknowledged Jesus’ power and authority so completely, that he didn’t see a need for Jesus to come to his house to heal his servant.  His faith believed that a single command from Jesus would solve the problem!

What about you?  Is your faith more like the Pharisees or the centurion?  Do you believe the promises you find in the Bible and live your life accordingly?  If not, why?

Matthew 8:11-12 – I tell you, many will come from east and west and recline at table with Abraham, Isaac and Jacob in the kingdom of heaven, while the sons of the kingdom will be thrown into the outer darkness.  In that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.

Here Jesus represents salvation/entrance to the kingdom of Heaven as a feast or banquet.  The ‘sons’ are the Jewish people, who felt that their status as descendants of Abraham was enough to get them into the kingdom.  Those who come from the ‘east and west’ are clearly Gentiles.

Jesus reveals two important truths here:

One, entrance to the kingdom of Heaven is not based on physical family lineage.  Contrary to popular belief, Jews were not guaranteed entrance to heaven just because they were descendants of Abraham; something else would be required.

Two, Jesus begins to reveal that God’s ultimate plan is to include the Gentiles in the plan of salvation.  Those who were not physical descendants of Abraham could still be admitted into the kingdom of heaven.

To us, this seems normal.  We grew up with the understanding that God accepts anyone into his kingdom as long as they turn to the blood of Jesus for forgiveness of sin.  But this was a radical concept for the Jews back in the days of Jesus.  The separation between the Jews and Gentiles was so great, only the Spirit of God was wise enough and strong enough to unite the two groups together into a single church/body of Christ.

Matthew 8:13 – And to the centurion Jesus said, “Go; let it be done for you as you have believed.”  And the servant was healed at that very moment.

The servant received his healing; the centurion received an answer to his prayer and a confirmation of his faith.

Matthew 8:14-15 – And when Jesus entered Peter’s house, he saw his mother-in-law lying sick with a fever.  He touched her hand, and the fever left her, and she rose and began to serve him.

Peter invited Jesus to his house.  Jesus willingly came.  When Jesus entered this situation, the first thing he did was to bring peace and healing to all that were in the house.  Peter’s mother-in-law was immediately healed of her fever.  She responded to that healing by ministering to Jesus and his disciples.

Do you have situations in your life that need the touch of Jesus?  Why not invite him in right now?  He will bring peace and healing when he comes.  You can then glorify his name through praise and worship.  You can also testify to his goodness by assisting others who may be enduring the same fiery trial.

Psalm 46:1 – God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble.

Sickness and difficulties can happen to anyone, even to people of faith who are diligently serving God.  We can’t stop the trials from coming, but we can always turn to Jesus in our times of need.  He is a very present help in the time of trouble.

Matthew 8:16-17 – That evening they brought to him many who were oppressed by demons, and he cast out the spirits with a word and healed all who were sick.  This was to fulfill what was spoken by the prophet Isaiah: “He took our illnesses and bore our diseases.”

Why do you suppose they waited until evening to seek out Jesus?  The answer lies in the way the Jews counted their days.  We hold that a day begins and ends at midnight.  For the Jews, the day begins and ends at sunset.  Since no work could be performed on the Sabbath day, the Jews waited until sunset or the end of the Sabbath, to bring the sick to Jesus.

Those who took the time to come to him were not disappointed.  He healed every sick person who came. Now is a good time to mention that these healings were not limited to just physical ailments.  Jesus also healed (and continues to heal) emotional scars as well as mental ailments including, but not limited to: fear, anxiety and depression. All of our healing, as well as the forgiveness of our sin, was foretold in Isaiah 53.

We should note that Jesus most often combined teaching with ministry (healing).  People were more than willing to listen to the teaching, knowing they would also have their physical needs met.  In this way, Jesus ministered to them both spiritually and physically.

This is a good model for us as well.  If we want to share the gospel with people in our community, we should look at combining that message with hot meals, clothes, groceries or after school programs.  When we meet a person’s physical needs, they are more receptive to the gospel message.

SO LET ME OFFER YOU SOME ENCOURAGEMENT:  When Peter invited Jesus to his house, it was not for the purpose of healing his mother-in-law.  Her sickness was not life threatening.  In fact, we might say it was just a normal part of life.

But as soon as Jesus was given access to the household, he brought peace and healing to all that it contained, even this woman’s minor ailment.  You may have some things in your life that you don’t feel are worthy to trouble Jesus about, but remember – he is interested in everything that has to do with you.  He can and will bring peace and healing to even your littlest troubles.  I encourage you to invite him to abide with you and see what happens!

LET ME OFFER YOU SOME RELIEF:   You may have some ugly ‘leprous’ things in your life and you may feel that you need to clean some of those things up before seeking Jesus.  But let me offer you some relief – Jesus is willing to accept you right now, leprous spots and all.  There are some things that you will never be able to heal in your life.  You need Jesus to do that, so call upon him today, just as you are.  He is waiting for you to call upon him, and he is not afraid to touch lepers!

LET ME OFFER YOU SOME STRENGTH:  Who did Jesus heal?  All who came to him, of course!  You may be timid about coming to Jesus for forgiveness and healing.  You may be afraid that he will reject you.  You may be uncertain if he will hear and answer you.  You may be concerned about his ability to do the impossible, but let me give you the strength and confidence you need to move ahead – Jesus healed ALL who came to him.  He did not turn anyone away!  And his power never decreases.  He is the same yesterday, today and forever, so be strong in the Lord.  Let your faith grow and expand.  Show him that you believe by asking him for what you want and praising him for what he has done!

Matthew, Chapter 7, Part 2

Matthew 7:15-16–Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing but inwardly are ravenous wolves.  You will recognize them by their fruits.  Are grapes gathered from thorn bushes, or figs from thistles?

Sometimes we assume the word ‘prophet’ to mean a person who foretells future events, but that is not the only definition.  People who were accepted as public religious instructors were also considered prophets. 

At the time of Jesus, the word basically meant all religious leaders (especially teachers), and that is the sense it is used in this passage.

What made a person a false prophet?   A prophet/teacher was considered false for any one of these reasons:

  • Assuming the role of religious leader/teacher without a call from God
  • Putting forward his/her own thoughts and ideas as being from God
  • Teaching any false doctrine

What effect did false prophets/teachers have on the church?  Through false teaching, Christians were fooled into turning aside from the true faith and believing something false.  These false doctrines caused believers to become spiritually confused or bound by lies, and consequently rendered them ineffective in the Kingdom of God.  Worse yet, some of these doctrines could cause Christians to fall away from their faith in Christ.

Second, the teachings and leadership of the false prophets often brought them undue honor and prestige. They acted like they were the only ones who could hear from God and know what to do.  At best, they were limiting the true relationship between the believer and God.  At worst, they were a wedge that cut believers off from God and caused them to lose their faith.

Let’s look at an example.  In the old covenant, all men who were part of God’s chosen people had to be circumcised.  However, when Jesus came to fulfill the law, he declared that circumcision was no longer something to be done in the flesh.  Instead, circumcision was a spiritual act; all the people in His kingdom would be circumcised in their hearts by cutting sin out of their lives.

Romans 2:28-29 – For no one is a Jew who is merely one outwardly, nor is circumcision outward and physical.  But a Jew is one inwardly, and circumcision is a matter of the heart, by the Spirit, not by the letter.

But we find that many false prophets and false teachers were still insisting that any man who became a Christian had to be circumcised in the flesh.

This false doctrine caused a rift between the Jews and the Gentiles, which threatened to split the church in half.  It created an atmosphere of distrust among the believers. It was a rejection of the new covenant that Jesus paid for with his blood. 

If Satan could coax Christians into holding onto physical circumcision, he had a substantial chance of sinking the whole church before it was fully established!  This is only a glimpse of the destruction that false teaching can set in motion.

False teachers were also big into self denial and mortification of the flesh.  They tended to be very rule oriented; they felt that every single law must be stringently observed through their own willpower. How tiresome!  Have you ever determined not to do something “ever again” only to find yourself doing it a day later?  That’s what happens when you try to rule your flesh by willpower alone.

Sadly, they missed the blessing that Jesus gave us through the new covenant – the indwelling of the Holy Spirit, who changes our hearts.  Once our hearts and minds have been renewed, our outward actions naturally change too.  We don’t have to focus all of our energy on obeying every law through sheer willpower because our new nature will prompt us to do the right thing on its own.

Jesus says that false teachers are like wolves disguised as sheep.  That is, they appear to be innocent, helpful, loving and knowledgeable about spiritual things, but in reality, they are full of deadly evil.  They are hypocrites who mislead and destroy sincere believers.

So, how can a Christian keep from being fooled by these false prophets and teachers?

Matthew 7:17-18 – So, every healthy tree bears good fruit, but the diseased tree bears bad fruit.  A healthy tree cannot bear bad fruit, nor can a diseased tree bear good fruit.

Comparing spiritual leaders/teachers to fruit trees may seem a bit strange, but it makes more sense if you have some background information:  In scripture and in Jewish phraseology, fruits are symbolic of works.  Jesus is telling us that the way to determine which teachers are false and which are true is by examining their fruits, or works.

So if a person comes along claiming to have spiritual authority, take a look at their life.  Do they have joy, peace, holiness, patience, gentleness and love for mankind?  Do they give God the glory for what they are accomplishing? Do they care for the poor and the lost?  

If so, they are a healthy tree which is bringing forth good fruit.  They can be trusted to lead you in the right paths.

However, if you look at the person’s life and find anger, pride, envy, slander, greed, unforgiveness, bitterness or other evils you can safely conclude they are a bad/diseased tree.  Therefore, both the teacher and the teaching should be rejected as false.  Have no part with them!

Matthew 7:19-20 – Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire.  Thus you will recognize them by their fruits.

Hmmm… some of these words seem familiar…where did we heard them before?  That’s right – they were already spoken to the Pharisees and other religious leaders by John the Baptist:

Matthew 3:10 – And now also the ax is laid unto the root of the trees: therefore every tree which brings not forth good fruit is hewn down, and cast into the fire.

People who bring forth diseased fruit (anger, envy, pride, etc) will someday be cast into the fires of hell, because they are not true children of God.  That is why John the Baptist warned the Scribes and Pharisees to repent and seek the kingdom of Heaven.

Matthew 7:21-23 – Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven.  On that day many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name?  And then will I declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness.’

You see, it is not enough to just claim God as your father or Jesus as your savior.  It is not enough to just have knowledge of God in your head.  You could study the scriptures for years on end (like the Pharisees did), but if it is just a series of facts floating around in your brain, it is of no value.  [Even Satan acknowledged that Jesus was the Son of God, but he is still going to be cast into the fires of hell].  Why?  Because it takes more than just factual knowledge to save your soul.

True knowledge of God must be like a seed planted in your heart by the Holy Spirit.  It must germinate and take root. 

As the Holy Spirit waters it, it will grow and transform your life.  It will change both your thoughts and your actions.  It will result in good works such as joy, peace, forgiveness and love, which are good fruits.  Your life will conform to God’s will.  These are the marks of true children of God who will be welcomed into heaven.

In the same way, anyone who has the ability to speak can verbally profess Jesus as Lord, and even teach (prophesy) his word, but that does not mean they are true children of God.  The true child of God doesn’t just teach or profess his name, they sincerely strive to do the will of God.  True Christians have actions that align with their words.

At the end of time, Jesus will assume his rightful role as judge of mankind.  At that time, there will be people who will claim to be servants of Christ because they taught his word (prophesying), cast out demons and performed miracles.  However, Jesus will refute their claims, saying that these people were never his true children.  Jesus then reinforces his point by giving the parable of the wise and foolish builders (see below).

Jesus has given the analogy of the tree and fruit to identify false teachers and show what their judgment will be.  He now gives us the parable of the wise and foolish builders to show that the ‘doers’ of the word are different from just ‘hearers’ of the word, and all of us will be held accountable for our own spiritual condition.

Matthew 7:24-25 –Everyone then who hears these words of mine and does them will be like a wise man who built his house on the rock.  And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house, but it did not fall, because it had been founded on the rock.

Matthew 7:26-27 – And everyone who hears these words of mine and does not do them will be like a foolish man who built his house on the sand.  And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell, and great was the fall of it.

Jesus has packed a lot of teaching into this short parable.  Here are some lessons we can take away from his teaching:

Each one of us is responsible for building our own house.  We cannot rely on others to do it for us.  You cannot rely on the faith and salvation of your parents, grandparents or anyone else.  You must be a disciple of Christ yourself.

Jesus is the rock.  He is the only one who can pardon sin through his shed blood and thus he is the only true foundation that you can build your spiritual house upon.

1 Corinthians 3:11 – For no one can lay a foundation other than that which is laid, which is Jesus Christ.

Hearing the word is NOT building upon it.  Building is acting in faith based upon the words you heard.

When you hear that Jesus forgives sin, you must act in faith to receive that forgiveness for yourself.  Subsequent to your salvation, the Holy Spirit will enlighten you to the way God wants you to live.  He will then assist you as you bring your mind, will, emotions and actions into conformity with God’s principles for your life.  This is how you build upon the foundation of Christ.  Building a house in the natural world does not happen overnight, especially if there is only a single builder.  So it is with your spiritual house – you build it day by day; it is established slowly over time as you constantly work at it.

The storms of life will eventually come to all men regardless of which foundation they build upon.  Those who build on the foundation of Christ will stand.  They will be victorious through disease, political instability, financial ruin, persecution, etc.  They are even victorious in death, knowing that to be absent from the body is to be present with Christ.

However, those who did not build upon Jesus will have no hope in the storms of life.  They will have no comfort, no peace, no joy and no satisfaction when trouble comes.  They have no eternal assurance to lean upon when death comes to claim them.

As you consider these teachings of Jesus, examine yourself and make sure that you are indeed building by faith upon that sure foundation!

Matthew 7:28-29 – And when Jesus finished these sayings, the crowds were astonished at his teaching, for he was teaching them as one who had authority, and not as their scribes.

The Scribes and Pharisees were the teachers of the Jewish nation.  However, they spent their time teaching mostly the traditions of their forefathers, not the word of God.  They also allowed useless and trivial disputes to occupy much of their time and attention.  As such, they were of little use to the spiritual growth of their fellow Jews.

Jesus, however, came speaking the true words of God.  He came in authority, confirming his doctrine with miracles.  Jesus showed that he had the authority to explain, enforce and change the ceremonial laws of the Jews.  He cut right through the foolishness of the Pharisees, revealing the truth like a breath of fresh air.  This authority was astounding to the Jews.

So let me offer you some encouragement:

It is true that there are many false teachers in the world, but you don’t have to be fooled by them!  Jesus has given you the tools to pick out the bad ‘apples’.

First, take a look at their fruits.  If they are good, that is a positive sign.  Next, listen to what they are teaching.  Does it line up with the rest of scripture?  That is another good indicator.  Finally, remember that Jesus says his sheep know his voice and they will not listen to the voice of another (see John 10).  So pray about it and ask the Holy Spirit to speak to you about a particular teacher.  If God approves him, that is the best recommendation of all!

Let me offer you some relief: 

Even a very fruitful grape vine will produce some sour grapes once in a while.  In the same way, you and I are not perfect.  Once in a while we are going to ‘blow it’, or act according to our flesh instead of our spirit.  When that happens, ask God to forgive you and move on.  Don’t let Satan stop you in your tracks because you made a mistake.  If your life is showing a definite progression towards fruitfulness and good works, you are on the right track.

Let me offer you some strength: 

We are going to experience storms in this life.  They come in many different forms, including sickness, tough financial breaks, relationship problems, and many other things.  When those storms come, the person who has built their life on the solid rock of Christ Jesus WILL prevail!  We will go through those trials comforted, supported and protected by our Heavenly Father.  Hallelujah – His strength is made perfect in our weakness!