Day One of Ramblings on Matthew 8-14
(I promise that Day Two will NOT be this long.)
Matthew 8 – 14 are interesting and BUSY chapters. When asked to write a devotion on these passages I considered many responses to the behaviors, wisdom, and wanderings of a few weeks of action from the life and times of my fascinating, jaw-dropping Jesus. Which therein lies the problem or the solution, I guess it all depends on how you want to look at it. “Overthink and Under-do”- a reoccurring, self-inflicting disorder that tends to roost, set up shop in my head, and consistently sabotage my intentions of greater good and productivity. When I cannot deliver on my promises, it literally turns me into the mother of all Grumpy Cats. Meow.
So, for the love and spirit of a new year’s endeavor, I have decided to take a stab at defeating this affliction that I’ve affectionally deemed, Thought Diarrhea, and use a different approach this week for the FUEL devotion writing campaign that might trick me into greater productivity and bundles of happiness. Consider yourself warned. I will simply be drafting thoughts over the next week regarding the chapters of Matthew 8 -14 that would be worthy of a daily Facebook post.
I am not a scholar, nor ever professed to be. I promise to be real and I’ll try to be interesting. I might be occasionally witty with undertones of sarcasm, but no promises. Would I love to spend several hours daily pouring over commentaries and exploring other viewpoints from most-worthy authors, 100% YES! Do I have the time, energy, or mental focus to pull that off this week or any week for that matter in the next projected 15 years of my life, 500% NO!!
Hence, proceed with viewer discretion.
While I often enjoy kind-hearted (if spirited) debates, please be advised that Senora Grumpy Cat transforms into Mrs. Malevolent Raging Lioness who hasn’t eaten in a “month of Sundays” when smart people start stupid arguments, especially when others are disrespected. Disagree with me all you want, but please don’t intimidate others into submission if you choose to sound in on what I have intentionally or unintentionally implied. Everyone deserves an opinion- a voice. I will defend it with wild abandon. Roar.
And now, without any further ado, Matthew 8:
Jesus is literally coming down from the mountain when he steps into the saga of Matthew 8.
The mountainside where he delivered the longest, most radical speech and teaching of his life. A speech that the last two verses of Chapter 7 says “astonished the crowds.” They were lit. (That means “beside themselves with amazement and wonder” for all those over 25 reading this post.) And who could blame them? They had never heard anyone speak or teach with his manner or authority. After delivering this brilliant, thought-provoking discourse he is besieged with the needs and requests of his ever-growing crowd of fans. This is the backdrop for the action of the next 34 verses of chapter 8.
Buckle up. In the first seventeen verses we find these healing ventures: 1) a leper who didn’t follow directions, 2) the paralysis of a servant for a non-Jew (a Roman centurion, no less) that rendered him nearly speechless, 3) a fever in a woman who jumped from the bed and then finished cooking dinner and tending to their needs, 4) a crowd of demon-possessed people who forced Jesus and his disciples to catch a boat to the other side of the lake in order to find some peace and quiet. And I thought I was busy.
Amid the next 5 verses is an interesting piece of dialogue that transpires. Perhaps my favorite. No one would deny it is tough to follow Jesus, but the cost sometimes is unimaginable, inconceivable, and quite frankly, a little harebrained. This crowd that had formed wanted more and more of Jesus. One of the groupies told him he would “follow him wherever he would go,” (verse 19), but Jesus saw through his zeal and delivered a mic drop response. “Foxes have holes and birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has no place to lay his head.” (verse 20) No home. No RV. No tent or park bench. Not even a stinkin’ memory foam pillow. Just a ticket to ride that consisted of hundreds of miles by foot and an occasional boat or donkey if they were lucky. All, or any aboard? (Funny, we never hear about that man again.)
If this isn’t hard enough, one of the disciples sensing the tone of Jesus then turns to him and asks that he might be excused to return and bury his father before continuing. Jesus’ response; “Follow me, and let the dead bury their own dead.” (verse 22)
Whoah, kinda harsh. “Uh Jesus, take two? Sure you don’t need a little caffeine, or how about a short nap before the next swarm of people arrive?”
Many traditions and duties were followed at this time that could have possibly waylaid this man’s service with Christ, especially when it came to burial. Jesus was most likely stressed from all the latest activity and found it as another teachable moment with an exclamation mark at the end! He let the disciples know in no uncertain terms that following him meant putting your own desires second to his. Jesus is to come first. It is an extraordinary sacrifice to show a sincere attachment to Jesus. Jesus wants followers, not part-time workers or even managers. He wants those who are spiritually alive to be instruments of the gospel preaching and reaching the people of the world. Nothing is more important, and nothing ever will be. Step up and strap on if you are serious about this Jesus thing. Son of God don’t play, especially after a day like this one.
We find at verse 23 that they are finally on the boat crossing the lake. Jesus gets to take that long-deserved nap and suddenly, the plot thickens. A “furious storm” sweeps waves over the boat, terrifying even the most seasoned fishermen among them. Jesus is snoring. Horrified, they wake Jesus hoping he will save them before they all drown. He turns to them and pans, “You of little faith, why are you so afraid?” (verse 26) He casually turns to the wind and waves, ushering them to “cut it out.” All is well. I assume this is where he resumed his nap. Disciples are picking their jaws up off the bottom of the boat and they arrive on the other side of the lake.
As if the past 27 verses aren’t packed with enough action and wonder, we round out this chapter with the last bizarre 7. Two freakishly violent demon possessed men run from a cave to “welcome” Jesus and the crew. The demons in the men beg Jesus not to torture them and instead ask, “Drive us out by sending us into those nearby grazing herd of pigs.” (verse 31) The rest is history. The poor disturbed pigs become so frightened they charge down the steep embankment and drown their sorrows and themselves in the same lake. This has been an exchange of odd proportions, but we’re not done yet. Verse 34 remarks that the townspeople were so outraged by the events and Jesus that they PLED for him to leave their region. I have experienced “hangry” before, but these people leave me scratching my head. I guess they preferred to live with the two violent demon-possessed cave dwellers and needed Jesus to get out of the way before he cursed any of their other livestock?
In conclusion, Matthew chapter 8 is remarkable and perplexing. It leaves me with more questions than answers. The certainty with how Jesus governs and the lengths he endures to seek and save the lost inspires me to keep pressing, even when it gets weird. Not everyone is going to understand. Some people will walk away from you and others will ask you to leave. I can guarantee a life of service to Christ will often be supernatural, strange, swarming, and yet, eventually sure. Following Christ is the best thing I have ever done. The uncertainty and risk pales in comparison to the joy set before us. Thank you for reading my ramblings. Tallyho!
“Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured such opposition from sinners, so that you will not grow weary and lost heart. Hebrews 12:1-3