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Sunday, December 14, 2014

TOMS: Matthew 9

For an introduction to this series, click here.

Dec. 13, 2006

The story of the man lowered through the roof to be healed by Jesus is one of my favorites in the Bible. Although actually, now that I read it, Matthew does not mention the fact that the man was lowered through the roof. Very interesting. 

Of all the statements of Jesus that we have recorded in the Scriptures, this story has one of my favorites: 
"Why do you think evil in your hearts? For which is easier, to say, 'Your sins are forgiven,' or to say, 'Rise and walk'? But that you may know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins...Rise, pick up your bed and go home." (9:4-6)

Jesus silenced the scribes who were accusing Jesus of blasphemy. You can spout religious platitudes all day long, but only a person with a special power from God can cause a lame man to walk. If you've never heard "What will it take to keep you from Jesus?" by Michael Card, you need to hear it. He sings about the rich young ruler and about this crippled man. It's got a weird 80s beat to it, but it has a very powerful message. The point of the song is that the rich young ruler had a perfect path to Jesus, but he refused to do what Jesus required. The lame man refused to take no for an answer, even when all common sense said he couldn't get to Jesus that day.

Next we have the call of Matthew. Matthew was a despised tax collector. These were people who sold their own people out and were cooperating with the Romans. We don't know whether they had any contact before or not. I assume they did, but we are not told. Jesus just comes up to him and says, "Follow me," and that's exactly what Matthew did. Matthew later invited his publican friends to eat with Jesus. The Pharisees criticized him for eating with sinners, but Jesus replied that He came to help those who knew they had a problem, not to those who didn't think they needed any help.

Wow there's a lot here. The disciples of John the Baptist ask Jesus about fasting, and Jesus says they don't need to fast while they are with the bridegroom, and then gives the illustration of putting new wine into old wineskins. Hopefully I'll be able to cover this in Mark.

Next we have the story of the resurrected girl and the lady with the issue of blood. This is a very familiar story, and Matthew doesn't mention a lot of details, such as Jairus' name and the fact that the servant came out to tell Jairus that his daughter was dead. Mark and Luke provide a lot more detail, so we will discuss those when we get there.

Following that we have a story found only in Matthew. Two blind men followed Jesus into a house, and asked Jesus to heal them. Jesus asked them a question: "Do you believe that I am able to do this?" They answered, "Yes, Lord." Jesus touched their eyes and said, "According to your faith be it unto you," and they were healed. Jesus then commanded them not to tell anyone about it. I have often wondered about this. Certainly Jesus did not want to become a traveling circus, attracting people only interested in seeing miracles. That is why He preached some of the hard sermons He preached to discourage people who didn't truly believe from following Him. But I sometimes wonder if Jesus wasn't practicing reverse psychology, and that He wanted them to tell. In every case when Jesus told someone not to tell, they went out and told everyone they could. I don't know, just a passing thought.

Jesus also heals a mute man and He gives His famous statement, "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." (9:37-38, ESV) In the next chapter, Jesus calls and sends out the disciples. We must always remember that it is God who gives the increase, as Paul says in I Corinthians. Too many people and churches think it is our job as Christians to fast-talk people into becoming Christians, and that is not the way we are to do it. Our job is to go out and find the harvest; Jesus said it is out there waiting to be harvested. Shame on us if we don't do our part to harvest it, but going to the opposite extreme and using aggressive sales techniques to rack up conversions is just as wrong. Any time we try to serve God in our own strength, we will end up doing more harm than good.

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