Matthew 8:18-34; 9:18-38
Luke 8:22-56; 9:57-62
Today’s readings are all about faith. Whether it’s the faith to leave all that’s familiar to follow Him, or the faith to humble yourself and ask for His help, all the stories today are about faith – or the lack of faith.
A story is told about a woman who once told the great D.L. Moody, “I have found a wonderful promise!” and quoted Psalm 56:3, “What time I am afraid, I will trust in thee.” Mr. Moody replied, “Let me give you a better one – Isaiah 12:2: ‘Behold God is my salvation; I will trust and not be afraid’”. Our characters today fall into those two camps, and of course there’s always the onlookers who for one reason or another chose to disbelieve or to plot against Jesus.
But before we begin with the faithful, we see a quick story about the cost of following Jesus.
Now when Jesus saw a crowd around him, he gave orders to go over to the other side. 19 And a scribe came up and said to him, “Teacher, I will follow you wherever you go.” 20 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.” 21 Another of the disciples said to him, “Lord, let me first go and bury my father.” 22 And Jesus said to him, “Follow me, and leave the dead to bury their own dead.” Matt 8:18-22 (ESV)
Two men wanted to follow Jesus. He seems to give odd responses to each! The first wants to follow wherever Jesus goes… and Jesus reminds the man that life will be tough with nowhere to lay their heads. He tells the man that discipleship comes with a great cost. We don’t see the man following (was he possibly a rocky soil kinda guy?)
The second man told Jesus he would come after he buried his father. Jesus’ reply seems very harsh unless you know that that phrase was a figure of speech which meant “let me wait for my inheritance”. The man wanted to follow after he received something to make the journey easier. “Let the dead bury their dead”, in that context, becomes a reminder that he should allow those who are spiritually dead worry about the mundane things like creature comforts. This guy seems like he might have been sown in the thorns!
Jesus takes off in a boat with His disciples, those of the good soil. Because of the geography of the Sea of Galilee, sudden squalls frequently occur. Apparently this was a monster storm, because even the fishermen were frightened. Why did they lose their faith? They had Jesus’ promise of arrival (Mark 4:35) – but He never guaranteed them an easy trip (sounds like a parallel to our Christian walk and eventual hone in heaven). Jesus was there, right beside them, and asleep.
In peace I will both lie down and sleep; for you alone, O Lord, make me dwell in safety. Psalms 4:8 (ESV)
If it wasn’t something He could handle, He would have not been peaceful. Jesus knew that they were all protected by His Father! When they woke him up, frightened, He spoke to the sea and all was once again calm.
O Lord God of hosts, who is mighty as you are, O Lord, with your faithfulness all around you? 9 You rule the raging of the sea; when its waves rise, you still them. Psalms 89:8-9 (ESV)
We see an interesting story, told with three different perspectives, of the healing of the demon possessed men. We know that they were oppressed by demons that called themselves “Legion”. There were so many that they begged Jesus to allow them to go into 2,000 pigs. We can surmise that these men, and this city, was Gentile because pigs were unclean to Jews. Jesus’ casting the demons into the pigs, who jumped into the lake, was a prefigurement of God casting Satan and his demons into the lake of fire (Revelation 20:10). It was also a graphic demonstration to everyone of the enormity of the healing! This must have been a terrible blow to the commerce of the city, and the people asked Jesus to leave. Was it just the loss of income that frightened the people, or were they fearful of Jesus’ spiritual power? The men were renewed, restored, and new creatures (2 Corinthians 5:17), and Jesus told them to go back to the Decapolis (the 10-city region) and testify. Isn’t it interesting that Jesus allowed Gentiles to testify, but Jews were told to remain silent?
And then to the twin stories of Jairus the wealthy Jewish man and the anonymous woman.
Jairus – 12 years of happiness with his daughter; wealthy; breaking with his fellow leaders to plead for his daughter’s life. Took great humility to come to Jesus and beg for her life. Two people were legally required to be a witness to any event, but for the raising of the daughter, Jesus had five (the parents, plus Peter, James and John). Jesus told Jairus to tell no one. I wonder how hard it was for the family to follow that command – and whether Jairus’ service at the synagogue changed in any way as a result of the miracle he witnessed!
Woman – 12 years of misery; ostracized because she was ceremonially unclean; spent all her money trying to get well; anemic; barely able to go on; crawling to Jesus as her last resort. Jesus required her to make a public confession for her own sake: it proved to the crowd that she was healed through her faith in Jesus.
The blind men and the demon-oppressed mute: Jesus heals them all, telling the blind men to say nothing. Of course they can’t keep it to themselves and Jesus’ fame spreads. The Pharisees accuse Jesus of casting out demons by Satan! (We’ll see what Jesus has to say about this on October 12).
Jesus had compassion on everyone – Jew, Gentile, rich, poor, lame, blind, mute, demon-possessed. He met each one at their point of need provided they met him with any type of faith. He has compassion for you today, and although your answer may not be as dramatic as these stories; in fact, you may be like Paul, who hears a clear no to his plea for healing. No matter the answer, rest in the assurance that Jesus knows what you are going through, and He promises to stand by you as you go through your storms. All you need to do (once you’ve accepted the free gift of salvation) is to trust that His promises are true!
See you soon as we read more exciting passages detailing Jesus’ life. As always, I would love to hear from you!