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Thursday, December 10, 2009

Fakes Need Not Apply

Matthew Chapter 8 opens with a guy with leperosy asking Jesus to heal him. He shows his faith by telling Jesus that he knows Jesus can heal him if he chooses. Jesus does just by touching him. Just like I mentioned yesterday, Jesus tells the man not to tell anyone but to go and show the priest and make his offering. I wonder why Jesus said not to tell anyone? I've heard some commentary about it, but nothing solid I can recall right now.

Another guy I mentioned the other day is the soldier who came to Jesus and asked Him to heal his servant. What really strikes me is that Jesus says, "I will go and heal him." But the soldier stops Jesus by saying that he too is a man under authority, so he knows that whatever Jesus says will be done. He is saying that it's not necessary for Jesus to go, but that all He has to do is say a word and his servant will be healed. Then, verse 10 says ,"When Jesus heard this he was astonished and said to those following Him, 'I tell you the truth, I have not found anyone in Israel with such great faith." I think it's cool that Jesus was "astonished." Can't He read minds and thoughts, intentions and motives? Yet He was astonished. He was surprised. Was thet the 'man' part of Him that was caught off guard? Makes me wonder...

Verses 18-22 may seem odd at first, but with some help from some commentary and looking closer at the context, it makes sense. First, a "teacher of the law" came to Him and said that he would follow Jesus wherever He went. Jesus told the man that Jesus was a nomad...He had no roots as far as a home. He traveled and slept wherever He landed each night. The next man-a disciple, it says- asked to bury his father first and then he would travel with Jesus. At first blush it may seem harsh what Jesus says, "Follow me, and let the dead bury their own dead." Wow. It seems so cold, but with commentaries I've read, Jesus was being given excuses by people who said, "I would follow you, but..."So Jesus was letting them know that thier excuses were not valid. He was pointing out that they were just that...excuses.

The next section "Jesus calms the storm" brings me to a song by...none other than Casting Crowns! This song is probably one of the most profound songs I have ever heard. It's called "Praise You In This Storm" and I love it!

Jesus and His disciples get on a boat and while Jesus is sleeping, a huge storm comes up and starts violently rocking the boat. If you have ever seen 'The Perfect Storm" I imagine it was something like that, but probably not quite that dramatic. I can totally understand why they were most likely scared half to death.

But Jesus says, "You of little faith, why are you so afraid?" I hear it something like this: "Okay, Nancy. Go put on your skirt and steer the boat." At first, I kind of want to laugh at the disciples because they were so afraid even though Jesus was right there with them. Didn't they get it? But then I have to swallow a whole lot of crow and realize that I do that every second of my life! I fear when He tells me He is there. Maybe it's a tad different because I can't physically see Him, but I know He's there and has the whole world in His hands...so why do I worry?? The same reason the disciples did...because we are human.

Jesus got up (and if He was anything like I am when I get woke up for something ridiculous, He was probably in a foul mood! I mean, the poor Guy was traveling nonstop and exhausted) and He rebuked the wind and the waves. I imagine the wind and the waves were like, "Oops. Sorry Lord! Didn't see You there..." as they tip-toed backward away from the boat. The disciples were amazed. They said, "What kind of man is this? Even the winds and the waves obey Him?" Again...didn't they get it??? Guess not...

The last section of Matthew chapter 8 is about when Jesus heals a demon-possessed man. There is a cross-reference to Mark 5:1-18 for this story. A demon-possessed man comes to Jesus. This guy has been out of his mind. He's got super-human strength and no one can subdue him. They try chaining him abut he keeps breaking out. When Jesus tells the evil spirit to come out of the man, the demon speaks and tells Jesus their name is "Legion' which means "many." They beg Jesus not to torture them before the "appointed time" but to instead send them into a herd of pigs. So, Jesus does as they asked and the pigs run off a cliff and kill themselves. The book of Mark says that there were about 2000 pigs. Imagine THAT was quite a sight!

think it's unusual that Jesus did as they asked. He could have banished them in another dimension or just completely obliterated them, but he didn't...He sent them where they asked to go. I think He does that with all of us. Even though they knew who Jesus is-the Son of the Most High (which is what they called Him when He approached them)-they still chose to be apart from Him. They knew there is an "appointed time" when Jesus will be allowed to "torture" them and they STILL chose to be apart from Him. I've heard it said before that God is a gentleman and will not force Himself on anyone. He waits for an invitation. If He is not wanted, He will not hang around. It's our choice if we are separated from Him for forever. It's our choice if we are not in Heaven with Him. I have heard so many use the argument that surely God is not he God of love Christians claim He is because how could a God of love send people to hell to be tortured for all eternity? Simple. He doesn't. People choose to be apart from Him. There is only one other option if we don't choose Heaven. That's one meaning I get from when Christ said "If you are not with Me, you are against Me" (Matthew 12:30).

Something kind of odd about this whole scene is when the town people come to see the once demon-possessed man. They see that he is normal again and they get scared. They beg Jesus to leave their region. Hello??? What is there to be scared of? I don't get it? The man that everyone couldn't stand-they feared (the demon-possessed man who was super strong and couldn't be subdued), the man who used to spend his hours cutting himself, was not healed! ...And they were scared of...Jesus? Doesn't make sense to me, but maybe I am missing something...

Naturally, I have to close with a song by my fave band. I won't even insult you by putting their name. You know who they are! It's called "Set Me Free" and was written about this demon-possessed man. I didn't know that when I first heard it. I actually related it to how I feel a lot when the burden of the world gets me down. When my responsibilities are smothering me and when I just want to feel free. Love it! Play it loud if you can!!
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