"Therefore if the Son makes you free, you shall be free indeed."

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Matthew 8 -- Concluded

I'd like to wrap up Matthew 8 with this post. We've already discussed Jesus touching and healing the leper and his amazement at the Roman centurion's great faith. Instead of going in depth on each of the remaining stories, I wanted to point out several themes that took my attention. Bear with me as this might be all over the place (read disorganized!).

Contrast -- how Jesus touched the leper and Peter's mother in law and others brought to him

with

how he healed disease from afar in the case of the centurion's very sick servant.

Notice how Jesus was willing to become ceremonially unclean by touching a leper and also how he was willing to go against local tradition of "cleanliness" by visiting a Gentile household.

Notice how Jesus rewarded the faith of the leper and centurion. The first recognized Jesus' ability "Lord, if you are willing, you can make me clean," while the centurion recognized Jesus' authority -- "just say the word and my servant will be healed." Both recognized Jesus' power over sickness and disease.

Amazement -- Jesus was amazed by the non-Jewish centurion's great faith. In fact he told those following him, "I tell you the truth, I have not found anyone in Israel with such great faith." Jesus rewarded his faith and replied, "It will be done just as you believed it would."

Matthew tied all of Jesus' healing of diseases to the prophet Isaiah by quoting: "He took up our infirmities and carried our diseases." (Isa. 53:4)

Cost of following Jesus
Expect hard times. It's not always easy. (vs. 20)
You must follow God over your culture's expectations and traditions (even good ones) (vs. 21)

Contrast
The Gentile, Roman centurion's great faith

with

Jesus' disciples' little faith

The disciples were so afraid of the storm.
Jesus ordered them to the other side of the lake. (vs. 18)
Jesus slept -- He trusted God to safely deliver him to the other side
The disciples thought they were going to drown

Jesus rebuked the wind and the storm ceased

Amazed again -- "What kind of man is this? Even the winds and the waves obey him!" (vs. 27)

Last story -- Jesus freed two men from demon possession. These men were so rough that chains could not hold them and they prevented people from going past them. Also they lived among tombs. (Another occasion where Jesus went deliberately to an "unclean" place to minister to the helpless.)

The demons recognized Jesus and asked, "What do you want with us, Son of God? Have you come here to torture us before the appointed time?"

I read this and not only was struck with the obvious fact that the demons referred to Jesus as "Son of God," but what do they mean by "the appointed time"? Do they know something about their future that others didn't know? Did they know that in the future -- at "the appointed time" -- they'd have a reckoning with the "Son of God"? When I read this I immediately thought of a passage in James 2. I may go into more depth concerning this chapter later as it pertains to living faith and how works are important in proving your faith is alive. But this is the verse that came to mind when I read Matthew 8.

19You believe that there is one God. Good! Even the demons believe that—and shudder.


It's not like our believing in God is something "special." Even demons believe that. I believe they know more than we do and this is why they recognized Jesus and referred to some "appointed time" in the future.



So Jesus heals these demon-possessed men and the evil spirits are sent into a herd of pigs which run down a cliff and drown in a lake! The pig owners were stunned, shocked and ran into town to tell everyone what Jesus did! The town people come out to see for themselves and instead of being happy for the men delivered of devils who were hurting them, "they pleaded with [Jesus] to leave their region."

Apparently they were more concerned about Jesus destroying their livelihoods than changing human lives. I don't know. What do you think? Anyway I think it's a good lesson for us to not be so caught up in money and material things that we care more for the temporal than the eternal. People last for eternity. Things don't. Be joyful when Jesus changes lives and restores people.

Thoughts?



9 comments:

sanil said...

What do you think it is about the Centurion's faith that is greater than the faith of anyone from Israel? I've always sort of wondered about that, and I don't really have an answer. He's hardly the only person to approach Jesus and ask for healing...Any thoughts?

Also, I'd be really interested to see a post on James 2 and living faith. :) You have such good things to say about what it means to actually live like a Christian, and I like seeing you talk about it.

Suroor said...

I liked Sanil’s question. The first time I read the Bible this passage didn’t ‘amaze’ me but then when I was discussing it with my father it immediately occurred to both of us that since the centurion was non-Jewish his faith in one God was perhaps absent. Yet, he recognized the greatest Sign from God (in Trinitarian terms – God Himself). It is extremely interesting what the centurion says to Jesus, “For I myself am a man under authority with solders under me. I tell this one, ‘Go,’ and he goes; and that one, ‘Come,’ and he comes. I say to my servant, ‘Do this,’ and he does it.” These are similar to the words used in many religions to describe the power of God, “Be! And it is.”

Healing by words is a greater miracle than healing by touch. A non-Jewish man thus had greater faith in the power of Jesus. If you compare it with post-Islamic world, Muslims believe that Jesus had the miracle or the power to heal but sadly no one tries to read just how powerful he was because they are taught that Bible is corrupted. Thus our knowledge of Jesus is based on sketchy and often odd descriptions of Jesus (like “his face was red as if he had just come out of the bathroom”!). Jesus had expected Jews, people who knew him, to believe in him but a non-Jewish man believed in him and hence Jesus says, “I have not found anyone in Israel with such great faith." Just like that Muslims, who are taught to believe in Jesus, should know him better but they don’t. Very interesting!

BTW, I have something for you, Susanne:

The Face of Religion
Now I am called the shepherd of the desert
Now a Christian monk,
Now a Zoroastrian.
The Beloved is Three, yet One:
Just as the three are in reality one.
Ibn El-Arabi)

Enjoy!

Thank you for a great post.

Suroor said...

But pigs were not Jewish livelihood. I think they were too afraid of Jesus''power and didn't like it.

Amber said...

I'd always thought that the Centurion's faith was great because he wasn't a Jew. He didn't have the background and history to understand who Christ was - all he knew was what he had heard. (I'm assuming that he had not witnessed Christ's miracles personally). I tie it back to the 'blessed are those who have not seen and believe'. The Centurion had heard of Christ and what He was doing, and believed from that that He had to power to heal without even having to see his servant.

Susanne said...

Sanil, my study Bible suggests it was two-fold amazement

1. That this Gentile understood spiritual authority. (Remember how the soldier used the example of his authority over his troops?)

and

2. Jesus was amazed that the "chosen people" whom God had revealed so much were often disbelieving.

But I don't know for sure!

Good question!

Oh, I did a post about a *bit* of James 2 before I even read your comment here in full. If it's not thorough enough, please ask me questions and maybe we can "flesh it out" a bit. It's funny because I actually mentioned you by name in my post and I had not even read that you encouraged me here to do a post on it. Cool! :) I'd love your feedback. You often have great insights that make me think and consider other viewpoints.


ALL of you do! :)

Susanne said...

Suroor, I loved your comment! Yes, it's sad to me that Muslims don't get to know Jesus because they fear the corrupted Injil. What amuses me is that they search the same "corrupted" Bible for predictions of Muhammed, but when it comes to Jesus' teachings, they are all suspect. *ahem!* As if CHRISTIANS would have made it so hard -- loving your enemies hasn't been greatly practiced in the "Christians world." Exactly why I try to often separate "Christian" from those who follow Christ. Often there is a difference!

S used to tell me that loving your enemies wasn't practical or realistic -- like it was impossible so that's why Muslims believed it to not truly be Jesus' teaching. I suppose Jesus to them would have been more practical than idealistic.

It's a shame what they are being kept from learning. Even if you believe the Gospel is corrupted, there is a LOT of good teachings in it. You really can find little - if any - fault in following Jesus' teachings. Of course I'm a bit biased . . . :)

Thanks for that lovely quote at the end. Thought-provoking!

Oh, and I should have had you write this post - or at least provide the commentary. I LOVE what you shared! Thanks much!

Susanne said...

Suroor, on your second comment...true. Maybe this would have been good on my recent "I wonder" post. I wonder why those people begged Jesus to leave their region.


Amber, thanks! Loved your referencing this: "'blessed are those who have not seen and believe'." And the centurion was blessed indeed! Great thought!



Thank you all for your wonderful comments!

Suroor said...

"Even if you believe the Gospel is corrupted, there is a LOT of good teachings in it."

You hit the nail on its head. Do you remember I said something like that to you once about the Quran? Even if you don't believe in the Quran as a divine book, there is still good stuff in it that can be used to inspire.

I plan to do posts on good stuff from different religious texts. I think it would be great to learn from different sources and I love to learn from Jesus who like you point out often taught from experience.

Susanne said...

Suroor, I'd like to read a post from you on that topic! Yes, I do recall you telling me that about reading the Quran. :)