I — Read Text: Matthew 8:16-27
II — Intro/Theme: Matthew is a Gospel particularly written with the Jewish culture in mind. As such, it speaks to the primary goal of Jewish men and women, which was to attain to the Law of laws (the Shemah), first found in Deuteronomy 6:5, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your might.” For almost 1500 years, by the time Jesus arrives on the scene, the singular way to attain to the Shemah was to be as obedient as possible to the Law of God. If you were very serious about following your faith, you would hope in the long promises God made to Israel (that He would keep her forever), then you would try your best, hoping you might do well enough to finally, at the end of your life, earn God’s eternal favor—because all-the-while you were well aware of your sinfulness.
On the other hand, such as it was with folks like the Pharisees and Scribes (teachers and ministers of God’s Law), you had convinced yourself that you were already performing the Shemah because your outward obedience to God was impeccable. In this instance, you were unaware of your sinfulness and therefore didn’t know you had a massive problem that needed God’s intervention.
As we move through this teaching, we’ll consider both types of person, since each of the two types represents us today. I pray you’ll discover which type you’re more like, and that it will transform you by the renewing of your mind, as Scripture promises to do.
Our focus and theme, therefore, will be: Do we read of and hear of Jesus Christ with a mind that asks, “What kind of a man is this?” If so, what are our answers to this question? Finally, once we have answers, do we respond with obedience to Him? Or do we abuse the grace He has secured for us?
What we should find is that, if our answers as to what kind of a man Jesus is come from Scripture, our prayers to God should instantly and constantly shift to…. ….“God, please give me the faith to live in a consistent state of repentance (God’s “new obedience”), so that I may live with joy, knowing that Christ’s obedience for me is living itself out in me.”
Tom Schreiner says this: “In the..Gospels saving faith is a living faith. It is not an abstract acceptance of truths about Jesus. Hence, faith can never be separated from a new way of life—a new obedience in the lives of Jesus’ followers…Genuine belief [simply] does not exist without repentance, and indeed all repentance flows from faith…[this] relationship between faith and repentance is illustrated well in Jesus’ [constant] insistence that people turn [from being arrogant and proud] and become like children [who are always humbled at being confronted with their sinfulness].”
III — Unpacking Matthew 8:
A — What’s the Frequency, Kenneth? That is, Some Context, Please!
- We’ve selected a small, but substantial portion of Matthew 8 to focus on, but what’s going on around this story that makes it so significant?
- Healing, healing, and more healing! Just prior to the story we’re focused on today, Jesus has healed a leper, a demoniac paralytic, and His disciple, Peter’s, mother-in-law from fever.
- If this were a slower, more methodical, expositional study of the text, we would really dig down deep into the significance of the healings. But for our purposes today, while we don’t want to take away any of the significance of Christ’s power to heal us (from any infirmity), we do want to find out why it is that, in the midst of performing these miracles, Jesus takes His disciples across the Sea of Galilee, in an apparent escape from the crowds that were forming around Him (cf. Matthew 8:18).
- Seeing that He’s about to leave, a scribe comes up to Him and tells Jesus that he’ll go anywhere with Him. Jesus’ response sounds something like, “Seriously? You think you’re ready, do you?”
- Russell Moore once said something to the effect that—just about time someone in the Bible tells Jesus how awesome He is and how ready they are to follow Him….
….(usually right on the heels of some great message He’s preached), Jesus responds with something like, “Well, maybe I didn’t say it right…I’m telling you that, if you follow Me, there’s nothing for it on this side of heaven. You sure you’ve counted the cost? Your life will be required of you because of Me, in some fashion or another.”
- That’s what Jesus does with the scribe in v. 20 when he says he’ll follow Him:
“The foxes have holes, and the birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay His head.” The connotation is: To follow Me is to live like Me.
- The implication is: Don’t follow Me for the wrong reasons—thinking there’s greatness for you on this side of life. Follow Me because God is compelling your heart to follow Me, whatever the circumstances…whatever the outcome in this life. Jesus echoes this sentiment in revelation 2 & 3, with His messages to the Seven Churches, where, in each one He culminates the message with the concept of, “..he who overcomes…he who is faithful to the end..” (will inherit eternal life)
- This isn’t “works righteousness” we’re talking about here. This is being clear on why we’re motivated to follow Christ, be part of the Church, do good deeds, and diligently grow into the likeness of our Savior.
- When Jesus distances Himself from the crowds, it’s because He’s well aware that many of them are flocking to Him for the wrong reasons (particularly the novelty of the miracles He was performing), so He sets the stage with the scribe and the other disciple, to warn people to check their motives.
- So what about the other disciple who implies that he does want to follow Jesus, but first wants to go and bury his father? How does this event fit with what we’ve just said about motives? Also, doesn’t Jesus’ answer to him sound a bit harsh and lacking compassion?
- First off, this disciple had just heard what Jesus told the scribe and he understood perfectly well what He meant. There were no riches, no fame, no glory, no comfort, for those who followed Jesus (at least not in the earthly sense that we think of these things).
- This disciple needed to pad his bank account so he wouldn’t have to do without on his “journey with Jesus.”
- The point is, Jesus’ response most certainly would have been lacking compassion if only the disciple’s father had been dead; but he wasn’t. In Jewish culture, when the father dies, the sons get portions of their father’s estate, so the disciple was really saying, “I’ll be glad to follow You after my father dies (and I bury him) and I have a way to live more comfortably.”
- Jesus says, in effect, “It really doesn’t work that way around here.”
B — More to the Point: “What kind of a man is this, that even the winds and the sea obey Him?”
- What have the disciples seen up to this point in this particular narrative?
- By the time they ask the implicit question, “What kind of a man is this…?” they have seen every natural and supernatural element bow to Christ when He commands it.
- They have watched as leprosy, demon-driven paralysis, and common fever have all obeyed Jesus’ command to leave the afflicted person. Their question then, is really just a natural, final outworking of what they’ve already experienced, when they say, “even the winds and the sea obey Him.” Connotation: “Yeah, that sounds about right.”
- In other words, they see that every elemental substance in the universe obeys its Master, who is Christ, who is God; therefore, their expression is born out of a deep sense of need, to be as cooperative as things like the wind, the sea, sickness, and even demons.
- The disciples knew, as should we, that God’s most precious creation is man—for He made us in His own image. Therefore, if things not made in the image of God obey God, then surely, that which is made in the image of God must obey God.
- What kind of a man is Jesus? He is God—pure and simple. He thus commands our obedience, and not our novel concepts of following Him in order to get something earthly out of the deal….
….our rewards are in heaven, and they are eternal.
- So when we ask the question, What kind of a man is this?” when we refer to Jesus, let’s consider what it means to read God’s Word—both OT and NT—to discover afresh, every single day, just who Jesus Christ really is.
- Does He command our obedience in a heart-felt way, rather than just a mechanical way? He should, to great degrees!
- As we close, let’s look at the passage in Isaiah 53 to which Matthew 8:17 is referring when it says that Jesus “..fulfilled what was spoken through Isaiah the prophet: ‘He Himself took our infirmities and carried away our burdens.’”
- Read Isaiah 53 and comment: There is some very disturbing theology that has concluded that the suffering servant spoken of here is Isaiah, himself. Not so. Only the Christ is in view here. Why is that important in light of what we’re discussing, as well as our eternal state? Conclusion: Jesus commands our obedience for all the right reasons!