Yesterday we looked at the background to today’s passage from Matthew 9. We saw how the people of God had been waiting expectantly for 700 years for Isaiah’s prophecy to be fulfilled:Isa 35:3-6a Strengthen the feeble hands, steady the knees that give way; say to those with fearful hearts, “Be strong, do not fear; your God will come, he will come with vengeance; with divine retribution he will come to save you.” Then will the eyes of the blind be opened and the ears of the deaf unstopped. Then will the lame leap like a deer, and the mute tongue shout for joy. Isa 26:1,19 In that day this song will be sung in the land of Judah… But your dead will live, LORD; their bodies will rise — let those who dwell in the dust wake up and shout for joy — your dew is like the dew of the morning; you will make it fall on the spirits of the dead.
What happened to the series in Matthew 8 & 9 we’ve been doing? We only got half-way through chapter 9? It’s OK, you didn’t miss anything. Today we’re taking a quick detour in Isaiah, to give us some background before we hit the final stretch of our series.
On Monday we began a quest to work out what Jesus meant when he said “they don’t put new wine in old wineskins” (Matt 9:17). If you’re joining us now, you’d be advised to read that one first. In fact, since last week we’re on a quest to find the big picture Matthew is stitching together for us in chapters 8 & 9.
Yesterday, we saw Jesus shock people by claiming to forgive sins, bypassing the Temple establishment and sacrificial system. The second story is just as shocking. This time, it’s not because of what Jesus does. It’s just because of who he hangs out with.
Yesterday we began a quest to work out what Jesus meant when he said “they don’t put new wine in old wineskins” (Matt 9:17). If you’re joining us now, you’d be advised to read that one first. In fact, since last week we’re on a quest to find the big picture Matthew is stitching together for us in chapters 8 & 9.
Today’s story is about a healing miracle. There are plenty of those stories in the gospels. But in this one, we see there’s much more going on than just a healing. It starts off like any other miracle story. A person comes to Jesus who needs to be healed. They show faith – that is, they trust that Jesus is able to help them. And Jesus responds. Yet in this story, Jesus’ response is a little jarring.
(Continuing our series in Matthew chapters 8 & 9, and looking for the big picture Matthew’s trying to get across.)
Sometimes, my grandmother would speak a different language. Not a foreign language. It was still English. I understood the words – they just made no sense.
For example, a favourite saying of hers was: “I’m not as green as I’m cabbage-looking.” Right. Never thought you looked like a cabbage. More, say, cauliflower, if I had to make a vegetable comparison. What on earth are you saying?
Or if you were looking for something, and asked her where it was, she’d say: “up in Annie’s room, hanging on a tack.” Theirs was a single-story house, but I was for many years suspicious of a hidden attic containing a family secret.
She’d sometimes say we had “eyes like two burnt holes in a blanket”. I wouldn’t know. I don’t smoke in bed.
And my favourite, if my shirt wasn’t tucked in properly: “Giddy giddy gout, your shirt’s hanging out. Six miles in and seven miles out.” I used to point out that that meant there was only a net of one mile hanging out, which, proportionally, wasn’t so bad.
Before we get to Matthew 9 next week, there’s one story we skipped over in chapter 8. As we’ve seen Jesus healing lepers, responding to the faith of outsiders, calming actual storms, and driving out demons – we’ve been asking how should we respond? That’s what today’s brief story is all about, nestled in amongst all these stories of Jesus doing miraculous things.8:18-22 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 dens and birds 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.”
The next story in our look at Matthew chapter 8 looks like it’s unrelated to yesterday’s. But it’s basically the same story as the calming of the storm. In your Bibles it might be titled “the healing of two demon-possessed men”. Or in mine, “Jesus makes devilled ham.”* (I’m into boutique translations.) Either way, let’s read it now:8:28-34 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. 29 “What do you want with us, Son of God?” they shouted. “Have you come here to torture us before the appointed time?” 30 Some distance from them a large herd of pigs was feeding. 31 The demons begged Jesus, “If you drive us out, send us into the herd of pigs.” 32 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. 33 Those tending the pigs ran off, went into the town and reported all this, including what had happened to the demon-possessed men. 34 Then the whole town went out to meet Jesus. And when they saw him, they pleaded with him to leave their region.
(Continuing our series in Matthew chapter 8.)8:23 Then he got into the boat and his disciples followed him. Suddenly 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!”
The power of nature is fearsome, unstoppable, and unforgiving. Even in this day and age with centuries of engineering and technological know-how, all we can do is observe it, make attempts at predicting it, and increase our odds of surviving it just a little.