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The Cost of Christianity

Updated: May 2, 2022

Matthew 8

Surely he has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows; yet we esteemed him stricken, smitten by God, and afflicted. Isaiah 53:4

Dear Christian,

We have finished our study of Jesus' Sermon on the Mount where we discovered what Matthew meant by saying that Jesus was traveling the region teaching the gospel of the kingdom. We know that we cannot be justified by good works, but that we are commanded to honor, obey, and seek God with our lives. We know that God has offered us grace for our sins and promised us a place in His kingdom if we will only repent, turn, and seek Him!

When he came down from the mountain, great crowds followed him. Matthew 8:1

Jesus' message of hope and repentance astounded the people, but He wasn't only there to preach. Remember what Matthew told us about the beginning of Christ's ministry,

And he went throughout all Galilee, teaching in their synagogues and proclaiming the gospel of the kingdom and healing every disease and every affliction among the people. Matthew 4:23

When we talk about healing in the Church today, it seems to be a sensitive subject. Some don't believe that miracles like this happen anymore, others believe that if you have enough faith then of course miracles like this still happen. Hope is a very powerful thing and giving false hope to those who long for physical healing is simply cruel. We don't want to take the incredible works of healing written about in the Bible out of context, neither do we want to forget to have compassion for those that are suffering. Jesus certainly had an immense amount of compassion for the crowds of people that flocked to Him for healing. Perhaps the first thing we should ask as we seek to understand the Biblical context of healing is, who does Jesus heal?

And behold, a leper came to him and knelt before him, saying, “Lord, if you will, you can make me clean.” And Jesus stretched out his hand and touched him, saying, “I will; be clean.” And immediately his leprosy was cleansed. And Jesus said to him, “See that you say nothing to anyone, but go, show yourself to the priest and offer the gift that Moses commanded, for a proof to them.” Matthew 8:2-4

Leprosy is a horrific disease that affects primarily a victim's skin and nerves. Symptoms include rashes, loss of sensation, and weakness in the hands and feet. In Jesus' day, this disease was a death sentence, they had no idea how to treat it and it was so contagious that those who contracted leprosy were cast out from society as if already dead.

You can just imagine the people around Jesus parting as they reacted in repulsion to the man eaten away by his disease dressed in rags as he came to kneel before the One who was truly his last hope. Kneeling before Jesus, he calls Him Lord and declared that if Jesus wills it then he will be healed; leaving Jesus plenty of room to simply say that He did not will for the man to be healed. Yet, Jesus reaches out his hand and touches the leprous man. Can we comprehend the grace that this man would have felt in that simple gesture? Who knows how long it had been since he had felt human contact! Then Jesus answered, "I will; be clean." Jesus didn't heal this man because he was deserving or because he had faith that he would be healed. Jesus didn't heal him for a price or for drawing greater attention to Himself, in fact, he sends the man away commanding him to say nothing to anyone about how he had been healed. Jesus healed the leprous man because it was His will to do so.

When he had entered Capernaum, a centurion came forward to him, appealing to him, “Lord, my servant is lying paralyzed at home, suffering terribly.” And he said to him, “I will come and heal him.” But the centurion replied, “Lord, I am not worthy to have you come under my roof, but only say the word, and my servant will be healed. For I too am a man under authority, with soldiers under me. And I say to one, ‘Go,’ and he goes, and to another, ‘Come,’ and he comes, and to my servant, ‘Do this,’ and he does it.” When Jesus heard this, he marveled and said to those who followed him, “Truly, I tell you, with no one in Israel have I found such faith. I tell you, many will come from east and west and recline at 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.” And to the centurion Jesus said, “Go; let it be done for you as you have believed.” And the servant was healed at that very moment. Matthew 8:5-13

The next person whose healing Matthew recounts for us we don't meet at all. Instead, the Centurian comes on behalf of his servant begging Jesus to heal him. Jesus is willing and tells the Centurian to lead the way. This would have been unheard of in Jewish culture, that a Roman would come to beg for healing for a servant from a Jewish teacher and that the teacher would go with him into his house willingly and be defiled under the law is nearly a miracle unto itself! Knowing all this and in a moment of great humility that we should all take note of, the Centurian tells Jesus that he is not worthy for Him to enter his house, but he knows that Jesus still has the authority to heal. Jesus, Himself, commends this man's faith to the, no doubt, mainly Jewish crowd around them reminding them all again that it is not their pedigree as descendants of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob that will grant them entrance into the kingdom of heaven, but it is faith like this Roman Centurian has shown. Still, it is not because of the worthiness of the servant or his master that Jesus heals the servant's paralysis and suffering. The servant is not healed for a price or for more attention to be drawn to Jesus' power: only the Centurian would have known why his servant had been healed when he had returned home and others would probably be skeptical of his tale. The crowd certainly wouldn't have known what became of this Roman nor is it likely that they would have sought him out to hear the end of the tale. Jesus healed the servant first because it was His authority to do so and second because of the Centurian's faith.

And when Jesus entered Peter's house, he saw his mother-in-law lying sick with a fever. He touched her hand, and the fever left her, and she rose and began to serve him. That evening they brought to him many who were oppressed by demons, and he cast out the spirits with a word and healed all who were sick. This was to fulfill what was spoken by the prophet Isaiah: “He took our illnesses and bore our diseases.” Matthew 8:14-17

Peter's mother-in-law nor anyone of her relations or acquaintances is recorded as having asked Jesus to heal her. Jesus simply saw her and did so. Matthew reminds the Jewish audience he was writing this account to once more that all this was happening to fulfill what had been written about the Messiah long ago.

Surely he has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows; yet we esteemed him stricken, smitten by God, and afflicted. Isaiah 53:4

Between Jesus' message and His incredible works of power and compassion among these crowds of people, many were being inspired to follow Him. One man, a scribe, comes to Jesus and declares that he will follow Him wherever He goes. What may surprise us is that Jesus doesn't immediately rejoice over this religious leader's declaration and welcome him to the inner circle, instead Jesus tells him that the cost of following Him means wandering about without a place to call his own, with no place to rest or call home.

And a scribe came up and said to him, “Teacher, I will follow you wherever you go.” And Jesus said to him, “Foxes have holes, and birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay his head.” Matthew 8:19-20

Another man, one of His disciples, comes to Jesus in the context of following Him but asks if he can first go and bury his father. Jesus commands him instead to follow immediately and to, "leave the dead to bury their own dead." The cost of following Jesus is leaving absolutely everything else behind without hesitation to seek Him and His kingdom!

Another of the disciples said to him, “Lord, let me first go and bury my father.” And Jesus said to him, “Follow me, and leave the dead to bury their own dead.” Matthew 8:21-22

Meanwhile, Jesus is making preparations to leave the crowds who have heard His message behind and make His way to a new region on the other side of the Sea of Galilee.

Now when Jesus saw a crowd around him, he gave orders to go over to the other side. Matthew 8:18

The disciples who are willing to leave everything behind in that moment to follow Jesus get in the boat with Him and set out across the Sea.

And when he got into the boat, his disciples followed him. And behold, there arose a great storm on the sea, so that the boat was being swamped by the waves; but he was asleep. And they went and woke him, saying, “Save us, Lord; we are perishing.” And he said to them, “Why are you afraid, O you of little faith?” Then he rose and rebuked the winds and the sea, and there was a great calm. And the men marveled, saying, “What sort of man is this, that even winds and sea obey him?” Matthew 8:23-27

They've heard His message, they've seen Him heal, and they've left everything to follow Him, yet in the middle of the storm, they're terrified that all is lost and are surprised when Jesus saves them. It's easy to look at their response in judgment and confusion wondering how men who had witnessed Jesus' power to cast out demons and to heal would think it shocking that weather would obey Him. However, how many times have we in the midst of struggle forgotten all that Jesus has done for us? How many times have we forgotten that if He will, He will rescue us? How many times have we forgotten that He has the authority as God to lift us out of whatever circumstances we find ourselves in? How many times have we forgotten that out of compassion and love for us He went as far as death on a cross? That's all before we've forgotten the many times in our lives, He has intervened to rescue and bless us in the past.

What we really see in this chapter are the three responses that humans can have to the revelation of the power and authority of Christ as Lord. The first response is faith and humility, the second is doubt, and the third we're about to see in the ending of the chapter.

And when he came to the other side, to the country of the Gadarenes, two demon-possessed men met him, coming out of the tombs, so fierce that no one could pass that way. And behold, they cried out, “What have you to do with us, O Son of God? Have you come here to torment us before the time?” Now a herd of many pigs was feeding at some distance from them. And the demons begged him, saying, “If you cast us out, send us away into the herd of pigs.” And he said to them, “Go.” So they came out and went into the pigs, and behold, the whole herd rushed down the steep bank into the sea and drowned in the waters. The herdsmen fled, and going into the city they told everything, especially what had happened to the demon-possessed men. And behold, all the city came out to meet Jesus, and when they saw him, they begged him to leave their region. Matthew 8:28-34

This third response is rejection. What I find interesting about Matthew's account of these two men who were freed from demonic possession is that we don't get their response to Jesus' healing. Instead, we see the demons' own acknowledgment of Jesus' authority and the response of the city to the tale of the herdsmen who by this account emphasized what had happened to the demon-possessed men and not the loss of their herd of pigs. Meaning that the city heard of Jesus' power to set free those enslaved in spiritual darkness and begged Him to leave.

What is your response to Jesus? Are you like the leper and the Centurian coming in faith and humility? Are you like the disciples struggling with doubts and uncertainty? If you're not a Christian, you are still living as the people of the Gadarenes with the offer of salvation extended to you. Will you reject Him as these people did?

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