I can already see that blogging through Matthew is going to be harder than blogging through the OT. There’s so much good stuff!
What kind of man is this?
One of the spookiest experiences that the apostles had as they walked with Jesus was this event in Matt. 8:23-27. Storms are common on Galilee due to the high and cool Golan Heights to the immediate east of them and the almost tropical Jezreel plain to the east. After a particularly busy day, Jesus had fallen asleep in the boat they were all taking across the lake. The wind must have been howling, because the waves were high enough to start swamping the boats — the scene had to have been chaotic and frightening. When the apostles call out to the still sleeping Jesus, He stands up and rebukes the winds and waves like a misbehaving whelp — “Peace, be still!” And suddenly the winds became a calm and the lake became like a mirror; there was no gradual wind-down, but immediate obedience. This is what caused the apostles to wonder — “What kind of man is this, that even the winds and the sea obey Him?” Good question. And it’s still a good question. He’s not a mere man at all; He’s the Son of God, our Creator.
Proving the unbelievable by showing the undeniable
Matt. 9 starts off with the interesting story of the healing of paralytic man. I say “interesting” because Jesus starts by telling him, not that his faith has healed him, but that his sins are forgiven. He does this quite deliberately. His detractors immediately accuse Jesus of blasphemy, because, of course, who can forgive sins, but God? This is precisely the conclusion that Jesus wanted them to come to, because He intended to prove the unbelievable (Who could believe that someone who looked like an ordinary man could really be God?) by showing them a sign that was undeniable. Jesus turns around and heals a man who was definitely, incurably paralyzed! Only God heals incurably paralyzed men, like only God forgives sins. Jesus was undeniably Someone more than a mere man, He was a Someone who could forgive sins!
This, in fact, was the whole point of signs and miracles. Certainly, they often demonstrated God’s kindness and mercy, but more importantly they were credentials and proof of truly being from God. Anyone can claim to be from God, but when one can produce a sign or miracle the claim is verified.
Harvest is plentiful, workers are few
On a farm at harvest time there’s usually only a limited window of time for harvest, and unless it is a really small farm, all hands are needed. Jesus’ major purpose for coming into the world was for salvation, and in Jesus’ day as in our own, the magnitude of the work, the harvest, is huge and every worker is needed — every worker. That’s what’s meant here by Jesus’ statement. Why? Many of us realize the need for the harvest — and are really glad that someone “harvested” us — but would prefer someone else doing it besides us. Evangelism is hard, people sometimes reject the message (which feels like their rejecting us), people’s lives are messy sometimes, and besides that I’m really busy. But the harvest of souls is too critical, many souls are passing unsaved into eternity everyday, all hands are needed, because the workers are few.
Shrewd and innocent
Jesus knew that sending His apostles on even the limited commission (let alone the later “Great Commission”) was going to have its challenges and dangers, and this wisdom from the Lord (Matt. 10:16) was intended to urge disciples to find the proper balance between being innocent of wrong-doing while not being a patsy. The apostle Paul provides a good example of this in his missionary work in Philippi. Though Paul and Silas had done nothing wrong they had been beaten and jailed. The next day when the Philippian officials came to the jail to release them, Paul made sure that they knew that they had done these things illegally to a Roman citizen, probably to “buy” some political protection from persecution for the infant church he was leaving behind. Innocent as doves and as shrewd as serpents. Christians today should likewise be certainly innocent in their dealings with the world, but careful and wise.
Take up your cross
Although a cross to modern folks is mostly a symbol of Christianity, in Jesus’ day a cross was only for dying on. When Jesus calls men in the first and the twenty-first century, He calls them to come die — to themselves — and live to Him. Paul put it well in Galatians 2:20, “I have been crucified with Christ; and it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself up for me.”
See you tomorrow, Lord willing.