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Posted By Nan

Matthew 9:1-8
The story of the healing of the paralytic man is found in Luke and Mark as well as in Matthew. Here in Matthew, the evil thinking of the teachers of the law is emphasised along with Jesus’ response to that in healing the man. It was believed by the Jews of Jesus’ time that physical healing was only possible when the afflicted person was forgiven for all their sins. In telling the paralysed man that his sins are forgiven, Jesus was paving the way for healing. It is quite likely that if Jesus had not emphasised to the man the fact that his sins were forgiven, he may have resisted the physical healing Jesus had for him because of the belief that he could not be healed unless his sins were forgiven. So it was important that Jesus told the man he was forgiven.
This act of forgiveness however was horrifying to the teachers of the law. They believed only God could forgive sins.
So what was this mere man doing forgiving sins? To those of us who know that Jesus is God we have no trouble accepting His act. However, to those who do not believe this it does seem profane. Jesus’ response to their lack of belief was to tell the man to get up and walk. After all, he could not be healed unless his sins were forgiven. Matthew does not record the response of the teachers to this act. He does record that the crowd were in awe of what Jesus had done and praised God.
The evil of the teachers’ thinking (verse 4-5) was to deny Jesus was the Messiah, the Son of God. It is astonishing that they continued to not believe in Jesus after seeing such proof of His authority. It would be easy to criticise them but I wonder how many times God shows us wonderful proofs that we fail to notice. Today a friend posted on facebook a picture of a double rainbow she saw this morning. She saw it and praised God, as did many of those who saw the picture. How many of us though, in the busyness and distractions of our lives ,fail to see those little proofs that God shows us? Before we criticise the teachers of the law, perhaps we should examine ourselves and ensure we don’t fall for the same trap.

 
Posted By Nan

Matthew 8:28-34
This passage is about Jesus healing two demon possessed men. Mark 5:1-19 has a fuller version of this story told slightly differently. In Mark’s version there is only one man but in Matthew there are two men. They are on the other side of the lake, in a gentile area. The men are demon possessed and are dangerous. The demons immediately recognised Jesus and immediately identified Him as the Son of God. It is interesting that often demons would identify Jesus but still people did not believe He was the Son of God, the Messiah. The demons asked Jesus why He was in their land. It is possible they believed that Israel belonged to God but the gentile lands did not. They knew a day would come when they would be judged but until then they felt they had free reign. They were realising that this was not so. So they begged Jesus not to send them out of the area and asked to go into a herd of pigs. When the pigs found the demons amongst them they panicked and ran into the water and were drowned. The pig herders ran back to the town and all the people came. They were very frightened. It is possible they were frightened of the power they saw in Jesus. They may also have been afraid they would lose more livestock. For whatever reason, they asked Jesus to leave. In the version we read in Mark, the now healed man begs to come with Jesus, but Jesus tells him to go back home and tell his family and friends what happened to him. It is interesting that in the gentile areas Jesus does not stop the healed from telling others about Him, but in Israel He will not allow them to talk.
When I am looking through the Bible to write this blog, I always consider what message God has for us in the passages I read. So what message does today’s reading contain? I see the way the people of the region reacted to events as a parallel to how we react to Jesus in action in our lives. How many of us, when confronted with a mighty example of Jesus’ work, react with fear at the power of Jesus and fear at what accepting this power may cost us. After all, if we accept the evidence of Jesus working in our lives, then we have to accept the fact that our response to that power is to change what we are doing. When we are comfortable in our sinful ways can we accept the things we have to stop doing? The things we need to start doing? Changing the way we lead our lives is not easy. Such change carries a great cost. Are you prepared to pay the price of the changes you need to make in your life in order to follow Jesus more closely?

 
Posted By Nan

Matthew 8:23-27
In these verses Jesus is in a boat with the disciples on the Lake of Galilee. As is common in this area, an unexpected and severe storm sprang up and the boat was swamped by the massive waves and terrifying wind. Jesus was asleep and the terrified disciples woke Him up. That He was able to sleep through this terrible storm was remarkable enough, but what came next was even more astonishing to the disciples. Jesus ordered the storm to be calm and it was. The disciples were amazed at the way even the wind and storm obeyed Him.
This is a lovely little story, but holds little relevance for us today. We could ask why Jesus did not calm the tornado in Oklahoma City or any other of the myriad disasters that occur around the world constantly. William Barclay suggests that the message is greater than the simple calming of a storm. He is suggesting that the message is that Jesus’ presence in our lives gives us peace in the storms of life. His peace is greater than any storm. No matter what terrible disaster, crisis or sorrow that happens to us, Jesus gives us His calm in the midst of that horror.
What we lack is what the disciples lacked. Faith. Sometimes it takes all our strength to cling to Jesus our rock, to cling to the promises of the Bible that God will never allow anything to happen to us that is not for our ultimate good. That God is always with us. It is at this time I am reminded of some of the greatest verses about God’s peace and provision – Psalm 23.
“The Lord is my Shepherd [to feed, guide, and shield me], I shall not lack.
He makes me lie down in [fresh, tender] green pastures; He leads me beside the still and restful waters.
He refreshes and restores my life (my self); He leads me in the paths of righteousness [uprightness and right standing with Him—not for my earning it, but] for His name’s sake.
Yes, though I walk through the [deep, sunless] valley of the shadow of death, I will fear or dread no evil, for You are with me; Your rod [to protect] and Your staff [to guide], they comfort me.
You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies. You anoint my head with oil; my [brimming] cup runs over.
Surely or only goodness, mercy, and unfailing love shall follow me all the days of my life, and through the length of my days the house of the Lord [and His presence] shall be my dwelling place.” Amplified Bible
Note that the psalmist may be in the wonderful place of God’s peace, but he still has to walk through that dreadful, deep and sunless valley of the shadow of death. He is not describing an idyllic walk across some gentle meadow, but a walk through life in all its dangers and complexity. This is the message of these verses in Matthew 8.

 
Posted By Nan

Matthew 8:18-22
These verses have long confused me because I always wondered what Jesus meant when He made the comments to the two men. After reading several Bible translations and studied a number of commentaries and asking the Holy Spirit for understanding this is what I have concluded.
These verses are placed in a chapter that is about the miracles of Jesus, an outward demonstration of the life of a disciple. At first this section seems to be about Jesus seeing the need to get away from the crowds and then speaking stern words to two followers. But there is more to this section than that.
If you look closely at what the teacher of the law said (19) you will notice that he acknowledges Jesus’ greatness. He called Him “teacher” which is the highest praise a learned Jewish man could call another man. This man, whose very adherence to the law put him at odds with Jesus, was recognising Jesus as a great teacher. The fact that his entire life’s meaning was buried in his role as a teacher of the law and this man threatened his validity makes it even more amazing that he was able to acknowledge Jesus as teacher. Jesus’ personality was so great, He was able to overcome all the man’s objections to being changed by Him. In the same way, as disciples of Jesus, our role is to confront people with Jesus, and allow the Holy Spirit, expressing Jesus’ personality to do the rest. How do we confront people with Jesus? Fill your life with Jesus, live life as a disciple of Jesus and be open in expressing your commitment to Jesus. This does not mean you confront everyone with Jesus, but when a person asks you a question or makes a statement about Jesus (especially a negative one) it is your role to respond by expressing your faith in Jesus. Always helpful in those circumstances to send an arrow prayer asking for the words to say. Then you know the person is being confronted by Jesus!
Jesus’ response to this man is not what you might expect. He doesn’t joyously welcome the man. Instead, He warns him of the personal cost of following Jesus and asking him is he is willing to pay that price. He was after all an important man in the Jewish life. In the same way, Jesus wants us to be realistic about our decision to follow Him. It is easy when swept up by emotions to follow Him, but sooner or later reality returnsand we are left dealing with all the difficulties of being a disciple. Jesus wants us to choose to follow Him, to choose to pay the price. If we don’t choose, when the emotions wear off we are likely to fall away from Him. Make your decision to be a disciple a choice, not an emotion.
One of the worst things we as disciples of Jesus can do, is to tell people seeking Jesus that they will have an easy life. Jesus wants us to be honest about the cost of following Him. (John 16:33)
The second incident involves a man who asks Jesus if he first can bury his father (21). Jesus response (22) saying “let the dead bury their own dead” at first glance seems harsh. But how can dead people do anything? Is Jesus in fact referring to those who are dying because they do not follow Him? Is the young man’s father actually dead, or is he referring to the obligation he feels to not choose to follow Jesus until his father is dead? Many of the commentaries I read considered this to be the true meaning behind the verse and I agree with them. What is seen here is a young man who is moved by Jesus and wants to follow Him but does not want to upset his family by following this new way. His way around that is to wait until his father is dead. Jesus’s response is to tell this young man he needs to make the decision now, not in many years time. There is also a recognition of the fact that if the man’s faith is so weak that he hesitates to make that decision now, he will never make it. Jesus calls him and us to decide now, this day, for the opportunity to follow Him exists only for this moment and will soon be gone.

 
Posted By Nan

Matthew 8:14-17
In these verses there is the healing of Peter’s mother in law in private (14-15) and the healing of the many both ill and demon possessed who came to Jesus in public to be healed (16-17).
It is interesting to note that Peter’s mother in law was healed of her illness and instead of celebrating or running to all her friends and telling them what happened, focused her attention on Jesus and serving Him. Oscar Wilde wrote a piece that was quoted by W. B. Yeats in his autobiography. In the story Jesus sees a drunk man on a window sill and asks him why he wastes his soul on drunkenness. The man’s response is that Jesus healed him of leprosy and he did not know what else to do. Jesus then sees a man enjoying himself with prostitutes and asks him why he was doing that. The man’s response is that Jesus healed him of his blindness and he did not know what else to do. Finally Jesus sees a man crying. When Jesus asks him why he answers that he had died and Jesus had brought him back to life. Yeats saw this as a terrible parable of how people misuse the gifts of Jesus and the mercy of God. Not one of these people sought God to find out what they could do now they were healed. Peter’s mother in law however had thoughts only of how she could serve Jesus. Of course, the Bible records many responses of people to gifts of healing that showed people were changed by Jesus healing. But was everyone, and in today’s world are we changed by the miracles Jesus performs in our lives? Are we changed by answered prayer? Or do we act according to Oscar Wilde’s observation, as though such gifts are there to be squandered?
I wonder how many of the people who came to Jesus for healing that evening changed their lives as a result of their encounter with Jesus? Note that Matthew refers to Isaiah 53:4 where Isaiah wrote that “He took up our infirmities and carried our diseases”. Jesus selflessly gave and continues to give. Are we like Peter’s mother in law? Do we use His miracles and answered prayer to serve Jesus, or are we like the people in Oscar Wilde’s story who take what Jesus did for granted and do nothing to change or serve Him?

 


 
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Nan
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