New Testament in 6 months – day 6

6 Apr

Matthew 8:18-9:17
When Jesus saw the crowd around him, he gave orders to cross to the other side of the lake. Then a teacher of the law came to him and said, “Teacher, I will follow you wherever you go.” Jesus replied, “Foxes have holes and birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has no place to lay his head.” Another disciple said to him, “Lord, first let me go and bury my father.” But Jesus told him, “Follow me, and let the dead bury their own dead.” Then he got into the boat and his disciples followed him. Without warning, a furious storm came up on the lake, so that the waves swept over the boat. But Jesus was sleeping. The disciples went and woke him, saying, “Lord, save us! We’re going to drown!” He replied, “You of little faith, why are you so afraid?” Then he got up and rebuked the winds and the waves, and it was completely calm. The men were amazed and asked, “What kind of man is this? Even the winds and the waves obey him!” When he arrived at the other side in the region of the Gadarenes, two demon-possessed men coming from the tombs met him. They were so violent that no one could pass that way. “What do you want with us, Son of God?” they shouted. “Have you come here to torture us before the appointed time?” Some distance from them a large herd of pigs was feeding. The demons begged Jesus, “If you drive us out, send us into the herd of pigs.” He said to them, “Go!” So they came out and went into the pigs, and the whole herd rushed down the steep bank into the lake and died in the water. Those tending the pigs ran off, went into the town and reported all this, including what had happened to the demon-possessed men. Then the whole town went out to meet Jesus. And when they saw him, they pleaded with him to leave their region.
Jesus stepped into a boat, crossed over and came to his own town. Some men brought to him a paralytic, lying on a mat. When Jesus saw their faith, he said to the paralytic, “Take heart, son; your sins are forgiven.” At this, some of the teachers of the law said to themselves, “This fellow is blaspheming!” Knowing their thoughts, Jesus said, “Why do you entertain evil thoughts in your hearts? Which is easier: to say, ‘Your sins are forgiven, ’ or to say, ‘Get up and walk’? But so that you may know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins . . . .” Then he said to the paralytic, “Get up, take your mat and go home.” And the man got up and went home. When the crowd saw this, they were filled with awe; and they praised God, who had given such authority to men. As Jesus went on from there, he saw a man named Matthew sitting at the tax collector’s booth. “Follow me, ” he told him, and Matthew got up and followed him. While Jesus was having dinner at Matthew’s house, many tax collectors and “sinners” came and ate with him and his disciples. When the Pharisees saw this, they asked his disciples, “Why does your teacher eat with tax collectors and ‘sinners’?” On hearing this, Jesus said, “It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. But go and learn what this means: ‘I desire mercy, not sacrifice.’ For I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners.” Then John’s disciples came and asked him, “How is it that we and the Pharisees fast, but your disciples do not fast?” Jesus answered, “How can the guests of the bridegroom mourn while he is with them? The time will come when the bridegroom will be taken from them; then they will fast. “No one sews a patch of unshrunk cloth on an old garment, for the patch will pull away from the garment, making the tear worse. Neither do men pour new wine into old wineskins. If they do, the skins will burst, the wine will run out and the wineskins will be ruined. No, they pour new wine into new wineskins, and both are preserved.”

Today’s passage shows Jesus being rejected 3 times and the declaring His purpose.

The first rejection is a rejection by “swamping”, by which I mean that the crowd was so large and demanding that Jesus was clearly unable to perform His ministry there. His ministry is rejected by the self-obsession of the crowd who want Jesus for their own needs. So He chooses to go across the water. As He gets ready to do this, Jesus appears to also be rejected by 2 individuals. Both request that they be allowed to join Jesus’ companions but we do not read that they do, so I assume that they chose not to after the response that Jesus gave them. The first gets told that there will be no rest for anyone who goes with Him, the other is told to leave the burying of his father to others. But the inference by the lack of any mention of the, choosing to follow suggests they both decide that they can’t cope with the life on offer and so reject it.
The second rejection is a response to seeing the power of Jesus in His commanding the demons into the herd of pigs. After being unable to go to the tombs, which would have caused problems with burying anyone who died and also for those who might want to tend the tombs, they suddenly find that someone has come along and fixed the problem and they are so grateful that they ask Him to leave. It’s possible that they are influenced by the pig herders, who have lost their livelihood from their pigs drowning, who would probably not have been best pleased with Jesus’ actions. But it also strikes me that they were probably quite scared by this strange who has turned up and commanded demons out of the scary men. And they don’t know how to deal with Him being there, so they beg Jesus to leave.
The third rejection is a rejection of who Jesus is by the Pharisees and teachers of the law. First they reject Jesus for forgiving the paralysed man’s sins and then they reject Him for who He spends His time with. And it is from this rejection that we find out what Jesus is on earth for.
He declares “It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick” and then reminded them what Hosea said.

For me, this all shows that we must remember that when accept Jesus we are accepting everything about Him. We are accepting the life that following Him brings. We are accepting His power over all things. And we are accepting who He calls us to reach out to in His name. Because, as Jesus alludes to, the Church is not on earth for Christians, those who already believe. No, the Church is on earth to reach out to those who do not believe, to bring God’s love into their lives and offer them the same chance that we have taken, of a relationship with Christ as their saviour.


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Archbishop Cranmer

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