We’re working our way through the gospel of Matthew. This month, we’re focusing on chapters 8-14. We haven’t been together in 2 weeks, so I hope you’ve been reading the chapters.
Reason: It is my conviction that the average Christian is far too biblically illiterate.
We are people who have claimed that our deepest allegiance is to Jesus Christ. Yet very few us of really understand him. Or even care enough to learn about him.
Wolves in Sheep's clothing And so as a result, anyone who claims to come under the banner ‘Christian’ can come in, and if they have enough conviction in their voice, convince us that they represent the way of Christ. And simply b/c we don’t know any better, we believe them. Jesus calls them wolves in sheeps clothing.
This week, we’re taking a break from the teachings of Jesus, and switching to Jesus’s miracle-working ministry.
Where Jesus does something awesome and says “Shhh… Don’t tell anyone.”
Occurs constantly in the gospels. People never obey him.
Reason The reason that Jesus wanted to keep it a secret is this: Most of the jewish people were expecting a political revolutionary. To ultimately free them from Roman oppression. While this wasn’t true, Jesus still didn’t want Rome thinking that. B/C they would kill him. Which of course they did and he knew they would, but he didn’t want them to kill him too soon, basically.
Immediately he was cleansed of his leprosy. Then Jesus said to him, “See that you don’t tell anyone. (Matthew 8:3-4)
and their sight was restored. Jesus warned them sternly, “See that no one knows about this.” But they went out and spread the news about him all over that region. (Matthew 9:30-31)
Then he ordered his disciples not to tell anyone that he was the Messiah. (Matt 16:20)
As they were coming down the mountain, Jesus instructed them, “Don’t tell anyone what you have seen, until the Son of Man has been raised from the dead.” (Matt 17:9)
… Jesus healed many who had various diseases. He also drove out many demons, but he would not let the demons speak because they knew who he was. (Mark 1:34)
Whenever the impure spirits saw him, they fell down before him and cried out, “You are the Son of God.” But he gave them strict orders not to tell others about him. (Mark 3:11–12)
Briefly touch -- 7.
Briefly touch on 7 of Jesus’s miracles, and then talk at the end about some of the problems that these miracles caused.
This is just a brief overview of these. I’m not getting really deep into them, but I’m hoping you can catch the ‘spirit’ on his miracle working ministry.
Centurion Guard: “Lord, my servant lies at home paralyzed, suffering terribly.”
Jesus: “Shall I come and heal him?”
Centurion Guard: “Lord, I do not deserve to have you come under my roof. But just say the word, and my servant will be healed.”
Jesus : “Truly I tell you, I have not found anyone in Israel with such great faith.” I say to you that many will come from the east and the west. But they will be thrown outside, into the darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.”
“Go! Let it be done just as you believed it would.”
And the man is healed at that moment.
Jesus - Countering racism. This one is interesting because in this healing, Jesus is countering racism.
The church historically has pretty much consistently been on the wrong side of racial equality.
Only 5.5% of American churches are considered ‘multi-ethnic’. Which means that no single ethnicity makes up for 80% or more of it’s congregation members. In fact, studies will show that racial segregation is strongest - bars, prisons, and the evangelical church.
Things like sports, and business, and military are far less racially divided.
In this particular case, the assumption was that Jews were more fit to be called ‘God’s people’ than all those nasty sinners.
The gentiles, the greeks, the romans, bleh!
In this story, Jesus accepts a military leader for an opposing and oppressive wicked government.
And Jesus says that the people who assume they’re God’s people b/c of their nationality, are gonna be REAL surprised on judgement day.
83% of americans identify as Christians. If that were even HALF true, our nation would look completely different.
Jesus and his disciples are on a boat the n a furious storm comes. Jesus is sleeping, the disciples are positive they’re going to drown.
Jesus : “You of little faith, why are you so afraid?”
Then he ‘rebukes’ the wind and the waves, and it becomes completely calm.
Next, Jesus heals 2 demon possessed men. They were violent. And when they see Jesus coming they say “If you drive us out, send us into the herd of pigs.”
What’s interesting is that the people in town, when they hear about it, want to Jesus to leave. The reason most think is because of the loss of their pigs.
There’s a guy and his friends bring him in on the mat, and Jesus see’s his and says to him “Take heart, son; your sins are forgiven.”
The pharisees see this, and say ‘This guy is blaspheming!”
And this is really Jesus’s first interaction where the pharisees accuse him of blasphemy. This is of course closely linked with why they ended up killing him.
But he basically reads their minds and says : “Which is easier to say, “Your sins are forgiven” or “Get up and walk”?
Then he says to the paralyzed man : “Get up, take your mat and go home.” Then the man got up and went home.
“Jesus does not make a strong distinction between sin and sickness. That he forgives the paralyzed man’s sins does not imply that Jesus thinks his paralysis the result of sin or punishment for sin. Rather, Jesus simply acts as one ready to forgive sins as well as heal the body. Both sickness and sin are evils. Neither should be part of God’s good creation. Jesus has come to restore creation; healing the sick, exorcising demons, and forgiving sins are all acts of restoration." (Stanley Hauerwas)
A religious leader comes to Jesus and says “My daughter has just died. But come and put your hand on her, and she will live.”
Jesus arrives at the house, and there’s all sorts of commotion, which is not uncommon when someone dies.
Jesus says to everyone “Go away. The girl is not dead but asleep.”
After everyone leaves, Jesus takes the girl by the hand, and she gets up.
News spreads throughout region.
5000 people following Jesus.
Day turns to evening.
The disciples say “Get rid of these guys!
Jesus says “No, let’s give them some food.”
Disciples say “We only have 5 loaves of bread and two fish.” And these loaves of bread were these small little baseballs of bread.
And they bless it, break it, and everyone eats till they’re full, and there’s 12 basketfuls of leftovers.
Jesus makes his disciples get on a boat, and Jesus leaves alone to go pray. And they’re on boat, and they see a man walking on the water, they think it’s a ghost, but it’s Jesus walking to them. And when they realize it’s Jesus, Peter says ‘Lord, if it’s you, tell me to come to you on the water.”
Jesus calls him out, and Peter is doing good, but when he sees the turbulent wind and waves, he was afraid and started to sink, Jesus grabs him and says ‘You of little faith. Why did you doubt?’
When I read these miracles, it’s nothing but positive for me. I find Jesus to be quirky, and compassionate, and disruptive, but in all the best ways. But the fruit of the miracles of Jesus was not always good.
But the text shows us something surprising. That while healing people’s bodies is always an amazing thing, there were some things that Jesus encountered as a result of his miracle working ministry.
3 responses. And so I’m going to these 3 responses of Jesus’s miracle working ministry. And for us, modern day, how these all represent a challenge as well.
Weird. But people tend to reject what they don’t understand.
In the case of the religious people, they end up accusing Jesus of doing his miracles with the power of Satan.
A man who was demon-possessed and could not talk was brought to Jesus. (Matthew 9:32)
And when the demon was driven out, the man who had been mute spoke. The crowd was amazed and said, “Nothing like this has ever been seen in Israel.” (Matthew 9:33)
But the Pharisees said, “It is by the prince of demons that he drives out demons.” (Matthew 9:34)
Then they brought him a demon-possessed man who was blind and mute, and Jesus healed him, so that he could both talk and see. (Matthew 12:22)
But when the Pharisees heard this, they said, “It is only by Beelzebul, the prince of demons, that this fellow drives out demons.” (Matthew 12:24)
This was true about Jesus, and it has ALWAYS been true of true Christ followers.
In fact, Jesus warns us that the world will hate us.
The reason he gives is that we don’t belong to the world (John 15)
A Christian sees the world differently than anybody else.
For one thing, we believe in Absolute Truth. And not only that, we believe that we understand God.
Recently, political commentator Pat Buchanan, said to an auditorium of Dartmouth students, “I don’t believe any individual knows the mind of God, my friend,” and the Dartmouth students applauded.
Contradiction. Which of course is a total contradiction. If no one can know the mind of God, how would be know that it’s unknowable? It’s a stupid thing to say.
It’s like saying “There is no truth!” Ok, when then why would I believe that statement?
Reason world LOVE's idea… But the reason that the world loves the idea of ‘no one being capable of understanding God’. - Is that it pushes this idea of there being no such thing as truth. Which means no one can come and judge my experience. Well, the Christian pushes back on that, and says ‘We reject your experience, and cling to the Absolute Truth of Jesus.’ And the world hates that.
People rejected Jesus b/c his truth was different than their experience, and the same will be true of you.
Then some of the Pharisees and teachers of the law said to him, “Teacher, we want to see a sign from you.” (Matthew 12:38)
He answered, “A wicked and adulterous generation asks for a sign! But none will be given it except the sign of the prophet Jonah. (Matthew 12:39)
Jonah -- 3 days belly fish. He goes on to explain what he meant by that. Just like Jonah was in the belly of the fish, so he will be buried for 3 days and be resurrected.
Jesus’s wilderness temptation. We talked about this a little bit with Jesus’s wilderness temptation. But the idea is that if you become dependent on God needing to ‘perform’ for you, you miss his heart. Christianity is more like a marriage and less like a concert.
If the only sign you get is the sign of Jonah, would that be enough for you?
Here’s the danger I think for a lot of ministries. When they start adopting this ‘Show us a sign Jesus’ mentality, they come in so ready for something spooky to happen, and it opens the door WIDE for pretending.
The solution is clear. You let God define the relationship.
You let him do something big and amazing when he wants to, and you let him be still, calm, and quiet when he wants to.
The world’s not big on prayer, and devotion, and reading. But as a true follower of Christ, we’re in this thing for the long haul. And we don’t need God to perform to make us happy.
“A wicked and adulterous generation asks for a sign!"
Then Jesus began to denounce the towns in which most of his miracles had been performed, because they did not repent. (Matthew 11:20)
“Woe to you, Chorazin! Woe to you, Bethsaida! For if the miracles that were performed in you had been performed in Tyre and Sidon, they would have repented long ago in sackcloth and ashes. (Matthew 11:21)
But I tell you, it will be more bearable for Tyre and Sidon on the day of judgment than for you. (Matthew 11:22)
And you, Capernaum, will you be lifted to the heavens? No, you will go down to Hades. For if the miracles that were performed in you had been performed in Sodom, it would have remained to this day. (Matthew 11:23)
But I tell you that it will be more bearable for Sodom on the day of judgment than for you.” (Matthew 11:24)
One thing that I think is really amazing here is that he’s not talking to people, he’s talking to whole communities! That it’s going to be better for sodom than for you. Which is a strange thing to say, because sodom and the people in it were burned to the ground.
I feel like what that means to me is that people, like us Americans, have been blessed in profound ways. And with that blessing comes responsibility. And I’m not making some political statement here, I’m talking about your responsibility to not become the people that are so comfortable that we forget God. And we forget that he’s called us to live a certain way.
It’s so easy to get comfortable. And just start living a regular American life. That really doesn’t have much to do with God.
This is of course at the heart of Jesus’s warning to rich people. It’s easy to just be rich and comfortable.
This is one of the reasons that Christianity thrives in poverty stricken nations but struggles in the limelight. It’s hard b/c we don’t feel like there’s any need.
“Give us this day, our daily bread.” Doesn’t mean a lot when you have thousands of dollars in the bank.
That is, unless you continually turn your heart back to God, and say, ‘God, all this is great, but I’d leave it in a heartbeat if you needed me too.’
I say it all the time, but life tastes sweeter when you remember that you didn’t earn it.
The Miracles of Jesus
“Both sickness and sin are evils. Neither should be part of God’s good creation. Jesus has come to restore creation; healing the sick, exorcising demons, and forgiving sins are all acts of restoration." (Stanley Hauerwas)
This idea of restoration is not something that just happens one time, and then we just think “Whew! Glad that’s over!” No, we constantly live in this place where God is restoring us, and healing us.
In a very real way, I believe that God’s presence is the air we breath. And we don’t just breath once, no we’re always breathing.
And so we come to the Lord’s table, to meet again with Jesus, and we find again this sense of being ok, and being held by him, and cared for by him.
And so this is what these moments are here for.
If you want him, he’s here to meet with you.