Today’s (We 05/07/2017) and yesterday’s New Testament FDRs are Matthew 8:23 – 9:8 and encompass three accounts of Jesus ministry that demonstrate his authority as the Son of God and Messiah. In each the way in which his verbal and actions are received and responded to tell us much.
The forces of nature (ch 8:23 – 27)
Here in Matthew, and in the other gospels the description of this incident is pretty clear: The storm that overtakes and threatens Jesus and the disciples’ boat trip is stilled by Jesus. The action by Jesus, in front of His disciples, shows that Jesus can turn fear and anxiety away. Jesus shows He, like God, can and does control forces of nature. More than that, Jesus is prepared to challenge the disciples to assess their lack of faith, read mistrust in this circumstance.
Jesus has demonstrated that we are called to follow Him, in earlier scenes in Matthew, and here shows that life following Him can be rough. But with Jesus as Master of All, we should be emboldened to follow Him as He can look after the problems.
Demons in a foreign land (ch 8:28 – 9:1)
Arriving in this foreign place Jesus and his disciples encounter two men who live in a graveyard. But they are more than men. They are possessed by demons. Demons who recognise the Son of God and Him being out of expected time and place. The demons urge Jesus to send them into a second best place to live and while Jesus does this, He also exercises judgement on them and drowns the pigs. Now, for some local people having lost their source of income and having disturbed the town enough to bring the locals out they want nothing to do with Jesus and send Him away. From here Jesus returns to his own town.
We will come up against apparently impassable opposition and hardship. Some of it demonic and Satanic. However, Christ is in control and we must still follow Him.
Healing and forgiveness (ch 9:2 – 8)
We know faith to be an expression of dependence on our Triune God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Here too the faith of the paralytic and his bed carriers is dependence on God. The scribes suggest that Jesus is blaspheming, or doing God’s role of forgiveness. Without them ascribing to Jesus the authority and power God has given Him. So Jesus exercises His mission of saving people from sin and sends the man home healed.
Here, unlike the Gadarenes, the local people of his own town see Jesus for who he really is. A man, born of God, with God’s mission to forgive and save the people. The people who will listen. They rejoice in this revelation.
Here Jesus heals not only the physical sickness but also the spiritual sickness. Again Jesus demonstrates His God-given authority over us in His ability to forgive us and also to heal us of a much more than serious illness, by healing our spiritual illness.
The son of God and the son of Man
So how do we respond to Jesus as The Messiah?
Here, in these three passages Jesus pre-eminently exercises His authority over the natural world, over the spiritual world and over us. But not in a offhanded nor uncaring way. He saves the disciples to challenge their faith. He judges the demons and frees the possessed men, healing their spirits. He challenges the thinking of the scribes about God and heals the paralytic man. Both in spirit and in body.
Who is this man of God? The one and only Son of the Almighty, Jesus Christ.
He whom we must follow, obey and serve.
The following were used as resources for comments and analysis in the preparation of this blog: Carter, W. (2003) Textual Notes to Matthew's Gospel in The New Interpreters Study Bible, Abingdon Press, Nashville. (p 1761) Wilson, A.W. (2000) Matthews Messiah, a guide to Matthew's Gospel, National Photo Engravers, Singapore. (pp 105 - 106)