A Moment With The Bible
This text immediately causes us to ask a number questions. (1) What is “demon possession,” and why are some demons more violent than others? (2) What do the demons mean when they ask Jesus if He has come to torment them before the time? (3) Why would the demons desire to go into the swine and why would Jesus send them knowing that it would destroy the herd? (4) Why did the whole city ask Jesus to leave?
As to the first question, demons were apparently spirit beings who had rebelled from God somewhere back in eternity. We draw this conclusion because God would have made all beings good but also with a freewill. Satan and his angels at some point chose to go their own way and establish their own kingdom with the intent to destroy all the good intentions of the Lord. These beings were also made with varying amounts of power and this power was not taken away from them just because of their rebellion. Therefore, we see them using their powers in different ways and with different amounts of strength. Demons, along with the devil’s angels (possibly two different types of spirits), were given a “time” period after which they would be cast into “tartarus” (apparently the punishment side of Hades, 2 Pet. 2:4). These demons feared that Jesus had come to torment them before their time was up. Apparently, the demons desired to go into the swine because they hated to be left without an inhabitable home (Mt. 12:43-45). Why this is and why Jesus allowed them to go into the swine, we do not know. However, if the swine herders were Jews, they would have been in violation of the Law to use unclean animals as food. Finally, it is interesting to see the city ask Jesus to leave. In every other place, the common people were glad to have Him in their midst. Possibly in this case it is because of their sinfulness. When people are unwilling to repent of their sins, it is difficult to have the “Light” expose them.
What is the lesson for us? Jesus was destroying Satan’s kingdom. Demon possession was a visual symbol of all that Satan was doing to God’s creation. Satan had started this battle and now Jesus was beginning the movement that would conquer Him and free mankind from his tyranny.
A Moment with the Bible
There would have been no place these disciples would have felt more comfortable than on the Sea of Galilee. Most of them had made their living from this sea and had spent most of their lives navigating its waters. It is therefore fascinating to picture them struggling to keep the boat afloat in this storm. It is evident that they had never before faced such a dire situation. On the other hand, it is somewhat comical to see that Jesus is fast asleep. He is not concerned. The rocking of the boat is only giving Him a better nap. Consider this, will the ship go down with the Master in it? Is it possible that the waters would engulf the Creator of the universe?
Finally, after these experienced seamen have done all they know to do, they turn to Jesus. In a panic they awaken Him pleading with Him to save them. At least they knew where to turn, but it is evident they had no idea the extent of His ability to save them. It is an amazing picture that Matthew gives us of Jesus rising and literally rebuking the wind and the sea. Do you see that word? Jesus speaks to the wind and the sea as if they are unruly children. Mark’s account tells us that He said, “Peace! Be still!” And like whimpering, scolded children, the wind immediately ceased and there was a great calm on the sea. The disciples marveled, “Who is this that even the wind and the sea obey Him?” Who else but the Creator in the flesh!
Now think of the words of Jesus, “Why are you afraid, you men of little faith?” The lesson is as powerful for today as it was then. The boat will not go down with Jesus in it. How many times in your life have you found yourself in the same panic as these men? The trials of life have tossed you until it has taken all the fight out of you and you are convinced the cause is hopeless. That is when we must remember this story. If you are serving the Lord, the boat will not go down. It cannot; not when the Master of ocean and seas is in it with you.
A Moment with the Bible
In this text Matthew gives a sample reaction to the first three miracles in the nine he will present in chapters eight and nine. Just as Jesus is about to depart to the other side of the sea, a scribe impetuously tells Jesus that he will follow Him wherever He goes. Jesus seems to understand that the man has not completely considered the cost in following Him wherever. At the moment, the popularity of Jesus was riding high, but that did not mean He was living a comfortable lifestyle. He had no place to call home, not even a place to lay his head. There is a profound lesson we Christians need to learn from this simple text. Following Jesus is not a pastime, nor does it fit well in a “country-club” atmosphere. Discipleship is challenging and constantly demands a sacrifice of self and of the comfortable lifestyle to which we are so often accustomed.
Another disciple is also eager to follow Jesus, but he asks if Jesus would first allow him to go and bury his father. Jesus’ reply is shocking: “Follow Me, and let the dead bury their own dead.” It is possible that this man’s father was not yet dead and that this was the Jewish way of saying, “I will follow you once my father is dead.” If this is the case, this man is clearly procrastinating. It could be years before his father was dead. But even if his father was now dead, there was nothing further he could do for him and his request to do something first before following Jesus was unacceptable.
Again, every Christian must take these words to heart. Serving Christ cannot be done when life is convenient. It is not only a matter of priorities, it is a matter of urgency. The fact that Jesus bids him to let the spiritually dead bury the physically dead indicates that there is a pressing need to spread the gospel since others are still alive that may soon be dead. We need to learn to serve Christ with this same urgency. There are lost souls all around us who have no promise of tomorrow. An eternity without the Lord is awaiting them. If we do not do share the gospel with them, who will?
A Moment with the Bible
The healing of Peter’s mother-in-law is the third miracle in this beginning group of miracles. It was first a leper, then a Gentile, and now a woman. Jesus has begun His ministry among those who are ordinary. That is comforting, isn’t it? How often we stand back and watch as the talented, the beautiful, and the rich seem to have it all. As we scan the magazine covers in grocery store aisles we realize that millions live out their fantasies and dreams through the lives of the famous. But those dreams are empty and the fantasies a waste of time. How wonderful to know that the ordinary person is sought out by Jesus. One day we will not be ordinary. One day we will sit on the throne with the King of kings and the Lord of lords, the Creator of the universe.
When evening came, the multitudes brought both the demon possessed and those who were ill and Jesus healed them all. Matthew takes this occasion to quote from Isaiah 53, the great chapter on the Messiah as the suffering servant. In the context of Isaiah, it is evident that physical healing is not exactly what the prophet had in mind. In fact, Peter quotes from this same text and makes it clear that the healing is spiritual; a healing that takes away our sins (1 Pet. 2:24). Certainly Jesus did not die on a cross to heal us of physical infirmities. Indeed, if that is so, He was a failure, for our illnesses remain.
Instead, we learn from this text the method of Jesus and the purpose of His ministry and His church. His miracles in the physical realm were given to teach us eternal truths. Healing physical infirmities proved His ability to heal the greater spiritual infirmities. This ought to also redirect the mission the Lord left for His church. God did not give us the local church to care for the physical needs of the world. Again, if that is so, it is a failure. No, our mission is the spiritual needs of the world and when a church forgets this, they have missed their whole reason for existing.
A Moment with the Bible
As we read about this centurion, keep in mind that Matthew’s gospel is specifically written to the Jews. In spite of this, Matthew persists in bringing up the Gentiles. There were at least four references to Gentiles in the first four chapters, and now, immediately following the Sermon on the Mount, Matthew again presents a Gentile worshiper. We are reminded of Paul’s statement in Romans 11:13-14, “For I speak to you Gentiles…if by any means I may provoke to jealousy those who are my flesh and save some of them.” It seems that Matthew is also provoking his own people with the faith of the Gentiles.
This is one of the few occasions when Jesus marveled. But what about the centurion was so amazing? Notice in the text that Jesus was willing to come to the man’s house and heal his servant. However, the centurion would not allow him saying he understood Jesus’ authority. With the authority of Jesus, the distance between Him and the home of the centurion was insignificant. The centurion believed Jesus could say the word and his servant would be healed. This is an excellent lesson on the meaning of authority. Jesus later says, “All authority is given to Me in heaven and on earth” (Mt. 28:18). What then does it mean to be under His authority? To use the centurion’s words, when Jesus says, “Do this,” we must do it or else we are rebelling against His authority.
Jesus immediately uses the faith of the centurion to foretell the disbelief and eventual judgment of the Jewish nation. The Gentiles, who will come from “east and west,” will sit down in the kingdom with the fathers of the Jewish nation. But the Jews, who longed for such a position, would be cast out into outer darkness. The “weeping and gnashing of teeth” is significant here. This agony is not a result of some kind of pain inflicted in hell, but of the knowledge of what was lost. There will be more than the Jews who will feel this agony. How sad for a person to get to the day of judgment and agonize over the knowledge of what was lost because of putting this world before service to the Lord.