Jesus and his disciples encountered a severe case of demon possession on the other side of the sea of Galilee. No one could walk on the path because the demons possessing these two fellows would not let them.
The demons began to negotiate with Jesus, “What have you to do with us?” They know who he is, the “Son of God.” They want to know if Jesus has “come to torment” them “before the time.” They apparently know one day the Devil and all his minions, including them, will be thrown into the lake of fire (Revelation 20:10). However, they apparently did not know there would be a gap of time between the Son of God’s inauguration of the Kingdom of Heaven on earth and the consummation of that Kingdom. They are perplexed why Jesus has arrived soo seemingly early.
Jesus’ disciples heeded his call to go with him to the other side of the sea. They went with him to a place they did not want to go, a land of gentiles. This trip required a great sacrifice of both time and energy. Still, they heeded the call and went. Yet, instead of finding reward, they encountered hardship.
A great storm arose on the water that day, filling the ship with water that threatened to capsize their ship and take their lives. They put all their hopes in this man, and now they feared their hopes would be dashed to pieces with their ship and them in it.
A potential disciple responded to Jesus’ command to go to the other side of the sea by saying, “let me first go and bury my father (Matthew 8:21).” We might find ourselves shocked at Jesus’ rebuttal, “Leave the dead to bury their own dead (Matthew 8:22).”
Scribes, in antiquity, functioned as the human copy machines of the ancient world. They copied manuscripts for distribution and posterity. By the time of Jesus, the function of the scribe had developed into a social institution. They no longer just copied manuscripts, they also lectured, taught, and consulted on aspects of Jewish law. They lived relatively comfortable lives in one of the upper echelons of Jewish society.
One of these scribes jumped at Jesus’ command to go with him to the other side of the Sea of Galilee. He said, “I will follow you wherever you go, teacher (Matthew 8:19).”
This scribe probably thought he was giving Jesus a compliment. As accomplished as this man had become, he told Jesus he was willing to lay all aside to follow him. We can only imagine his surprise, when Jesus responded not with gratitude but a hard line.
Jesus commanded them “to go over to the other side (Matthew 8:18).” This command elicited a crisis of faith for many of those who started following him. Crossing the Sea of Galilee required a multi-day trip on the sea. Whatever plans they may have made for the next few days would need to be set aside. Whatever responsibilities they had they would need to make other arrangements for. Furthermore, the territory to which they were going was primarily Gentile territory, a loose confederation of Hellenistic city-states that few Jews would travel to. Jesus’ command created a crisis of for many who gathered around him that day.
Matthew originally wrote his Gospel Account primarily for the Jews of his day (in biblical studies we call this the author’s original intended audience). He fills his account with Old Testament citations and presumes an awareness of Jewish culture that other Gospel writers need to spell out for their original audiences.
For this reason, it may seem odd that Matthew, at times, seems to anathemize his fellow Jews. One startling example occurs in Matthew 8:5-13. There Matthew records Jesus saying that a Roman Centurion’s faith surpasses the faith of anyone in Israel. Then he tells us Jesus said: “I tell you, many will come from east and west and recline at the table with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob in the kingdom of heaven, while the sons of the kingdom will be thrown into the outer darkness. In that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.”
God wrote a song which his people will sing at the consummation of the age, “Hallelujah! Salvation and glory and power belong to our God, for his judgements are true and just; for he has judged the great prostitute who corrupted the earth with her immorality, and has avenged on her the blood of his servants (Revelation 19:1-2).” (It might help to know that the great prostitute here symbolizes all that opposes God’s good and gracious reign on earth.)
We long for that day when all who hope in Christ see their hope crystalized. Are we not surrounded by death all day long? Mourning? Pain? Bitterness? Do not our own psychological and emotional well-being attest to our longing for a better world, the happy ending to which all happy-endings point? We long to say words like those that one of the characters in C.S. Lewis’s Narnia exclaims: “I have come home at last! This is my real country! I belong here. This is the land I have been looking for all my life, though I never knew it till now.”
Nazarites were supposed to be holy. Samson was not.
When Samson was a boy his mother dedicated him as a Nazarite. Nazarites were not suppose to drink or eat anything that came from the grapevine. They were not allowed to have a razor touch their head. They were not to go near the dead.
Last week we looked at how God’s justice and love exist in perfect harmony within him. We then looked at some of the examples of God’s just judgements in both the Old and New Testaments. Here we turn to the question of what gives God the right to judge.
If you want to know God as he has revealed himself to us in Scripture, you need to hold together his justice and his love. These are not two different sides of God, as if God is a split personality like Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. Nor are these two different ways that God has dealt with his people throughout history, so that in the Old Testament he was all fire and judgement but in the New he is all love.
God has always been and always will be both just and loving toward us. At best, we can say love and justice are two different aspects of the same God, but one aspect never exists apart from the other. God does not have good days and bad days like we do. He does not wake up on the wrong side of the bed some mornings. He does not get hangry.