#73 – What the Gospel Teaches - A healing within a healing – Matthew 9:18-26

While he was saying these things to them, behold, a ruler came in and knelt before him, saying, "My daughter has just died, but come and lay your hand on her, and she will live." And Jesus rose and followed him, with his disciples. And behold, a woman who had suffered from a discharge of blood for twelve years came up behind him and touched the fringe of his garment, for she said to herself, "If I only touch his garment, I will be made well." Jesus turned, and seeing her he said, "Take heart, daughter; your faith has made you well." And instantly the woman was made well. And when Jesus came to the ruler's house and saw the flute players and the crowd making a commotion, he said, "Go away, for the girl is not dead but sleeping." And they laughed at him. But when the crowd had been put outside, he went in and took her by the hand, and the girl arose. And the report of this went through all that district. (Matthew 9:18-26 ESV)

There are so many facets to this narrative it is hard to handle in one post.  At the same time the resurrection of the dead girl cannot be separated from the healing of the woman who touched His garment considering the touching of the garment is a narrative within the narrative.  Let’s take the two miracles together; the resurrection miracle was precipitated by a ruler addressing Christ face to face.  The curing of the hemorrhage was precipitate by a woman secretly touching the garment of Christ.  The resurrection miracle was a miracle requested on behalf of a daughter, the hemorrhage miracle was requested by the one being healed.  These two miracles are very different in many ways, and yet they exist right here within each other, and in the divine plan of God we presume it is this way for a reason.

People’s propensity towards Pharisaic thinking was known by God.  God is immutable, and yet humanity at large, as well as on a personal level are constantly in a state of flux.  Our tendency is to swing from complete and utter immorality as an unbeliever into a gracious appreciation for Christ as a new believer, and then often we swing past gracious appreciation in order to create rules and regulations to impose upon people beyond what the bible imposes.  What does this have to do with this text?  Everything!  Had Christ performed these miracles in separate contexts one could be led to believe that it is either the faith of someone else that must heal you, or that it is the faith of yourself that brings you healing.  Had Christ performed these miracles in separate contexts someone could assert that Christ has a preference towards rulers and people who can stand face to face with Him, or on the flip side that He only regards the poor who are afraid to be seen by Him.  Throughout the scriptures we find instances like these where the Lord is working in two or more very different ways simultaneously with two different types of people.  Certainly I do not want to get all post-modern here and say there are not absolutes regarding how God acts, God forbid that I would give that idea.  However, texts like this remind us that it is He who defines those absolutes in His word, not us.  Many in the emergent movement would (though not vocally) have preferred that Christ would not have responded to the ruler’s faith but only responded to woman, this could justify their ‘social justice is everything’ mentality.  On the flip side many fundamentalists struggle with the idea of this woman being made whole coming in through the back door and then facing Jesus.  (See Luke 8:44-48 for a more in depth narrative.)  The beauty of this passage is that the one healing is encapsulated in the other making them forever inseparable even though they are very much different from each other.

Of course there are many other important truths that can be gleaned from this passage.  For instance, Christ is about bigger things than healing a hemorrhage that could obviously be lived with right?  I mean it is more important to raise the dead?  No, not at all, Jesus stops for the ‘lesser’ healing.  Personal application here is pretty obvious, just because God is about dealing with bigger things in this world than your life, does not mean He is not about dealing with your life.  Or what about the laughter of the people in the midst of the death of this girl, and their utter brazenness and lack of compassion, and yet the desperation that led the ruler to believe on Christ for the miracle.  Of course what about how foolish they must have felt when she walked in on her own funeral... alive.  There is a lot of good stuff here, but I will stop right here and move on to the next passage in the next post.

It has been difficult posting lately.  I hope to ramp it back up a bit, as I have found that writing through this gospel has been a great help to me, cannot promise to be daily though.


#72- What the Gospels Teach – New Cloth and Wine – Matthew 9:14-17

Then the disciples of John *came to Him, asking, "Why do we and the Pharisees fast, but Your disciples do not fast?" And Jesus said to them, "The attendants of the bridegroom cannot mourn as long as the bridegroom is with them, can they? But the days will come when the bridegroom is taken away from them, and then they will fast. "But no one puts a patch of unshrunk cloth on an old garment; for the patch pulls away from the garment, and a worse tear results. "Nor do people put new wine into old wineskins; otherwise the wineskins burst, and the wine pours out and the wineskins are ruined; but they put new wine into fresh wineskins, and both are preserved." (Matthew 9:14-17 NASB)

Ok, I want to tread very carefully on this passage.  Please note at the very outset that I have a lot of trouble understanding this text.  While one could argue that this entire Gospel of Matthew Series is a matter of my personal opinion (I would not agree that it is) I will confess that in this post I am stretching to make a connection and this is more of an opinion than a proclamation of an absolute.

It would be inappropriate to take this passage in two sections as it is clear from the context that the parable concerning the unshrunk cloth and the new wineskins are meant as explanations as to why the disciples do not fast.  The text is inseparable, and to preach the parable of the wineskins and the cloth outside of the context of fasting would be dishonest.  Now in the text we find that the Pharisees fast and the disciples of John fast but the Disciples of Christ do not fast at all.  We also see with clarity that after Christ (the bridegroom) is taken away from them they will indeed fast.  Of course mourning and fasting cannot occur in the presence of the bridegroom while they are yet together because it is to be a time of joy and not of mourning.  Now Jesus gives this parable in order to explain what the results of His disciples fasting would be if indeed they fasted before His death, resurrection, and ascension.

Jesus knows full well that in the fulfillment of the Law, with the kingdom of God at hand, the ritual of fasting takes on an entirely different meaning.  The disciples will fast because of the absence of the bridegroom, they will fast as a sign of their longing for the presence of Christ.  They will fast as ones seek Christ, not out of religious obligation or to display righteousness, but out of honest longing for the Lord and His presence and out of honest gratitude for what He has done.  Now, in light of that, it would make no sense that they would fast while in His presence if the reason for their fasting was to be His absence and gratitude for what He had done.  If the ‘new’ reason for fasting is a longing for the Lord we cannot fast with the ‘new’ reason by performing the old ritual.  In other words, the legalistic once or twice a week fast of the Pharisees did not reflect  honest gratitude for what Christ has done, and pain of missing Christ.  So you have the rough unshrunk and scratchy cloth of missing Christ along with the wine of gratitude for what He has done... you cannot sew the loss of Christ to the fabric of a ritual, or fill a wineskin of obligation with the wine of Gratitude.  If you try, you will lose the wine of gratitude when the ritualistic skin cannot contain it and you will be left with nothing.  And when you sew that rough new cloth of longing for Christ to the old smooth cloth of ritual the longing for Christ will be destroyed and you will be left with damaged ritual.  The new fast has a new reason, and the old ritual cannot be made one with the new fast.

Again please understand that I took some liberty with this text, and I hope that I did not go too far in making it say something that it does not really say.  I am open to your thoughts on the passage if you have any.  Please correct me if necessary.


The Semantics of the Tulip

I have debated whether or not to write on this topic, or whether or not it was appropriate for this blog, especially as this blog has migrated more towards begin a reflection of my reading through Matthew.  Nonetheless as trivial as this deviation from Matthew may seem to some, it does seem rather important to me.  So being as this is my little public venue I suppose there is no better place to put this then here.

In recent months I have found myself aligning more and more with a Reformed understanding of the Christian faith, and have come to believe that for the most part the ‘Reformed’ position seems to be the biblical position.  I know this is a bit of an over simplification as there are many breeds of ‘reformed’ Christians, and that to simply say ‘Reformed theology is biblical’ is really not saying anything at all unless you define that theology.  Now please understand I write this in humility knowing that I am no scholar.  I will address the 5 points of Calvinism known by the acronym tulip.  Personally I do not know the entire history of these points, except that they were a rebuttal to the theology of Amininus.  Specifically the five points of contention that the Arminians had with Calvin which they presented at the Remonstrance of 1610.  Again, I am open to correction on any of this.  So in preparing this post I looked into the Canon’s of Dort and realized that there is no express ‘tulip’ anywhere in it... TULIP seems to be the summary of what the Synod of Dort came up with in rebuttal to the Remonstrance of 1610.  ANYWAY... most of us who have never done the major research on this simply know Calvinism as the acronym of TULIP and we accept it or reject it based on an oversimplified summary of the Cannons of Dort.  (Again if I am saying anything wrong, please, please, please... correct me, I really do not feel like looking like an imbecile on the web.)

So, in light of the fact that the majority of Christians (Calvinist or non-Calvinist) understanding of Calvinism is reduced to the simplified TULIP acronym I plan to share how I initially accepted Calvinism, then rejected it altogether, and have returned to accept it.  Moreover I propose to explain why semantics of the TULIP drove myself and others away.  Also, I do not propose to change these points, and fully recognize that many scholars have labored over these points many years even lifetimes and I am not a man who has earned any standing by which to say this system is all wrong.

Total Depravity
Unconditional Election
Limited Attonement
Irresistible Grace
Perseverance of the Saints
Beginning with TOTAL DEPRAVITY, I would say this is the one point of the five that I personally have never taken issue with.  Even in the Articles of Faith of the Methodist Church penned by Wesley (an inconsistent Arminian) asserts the total depravity of man in a way that even the most reformed of theologians would gladly accept.  While I have never looked at the Remonstrance of 1610, I am curious as to how they differed on this.  It is however popular today for people to ‘try to find the good in others’ and if indeed the person is unregenerate that good will never be found, and if they are regenerate the only good that will be found is the Christ Himself who dwells within them.  I like the term Entirely Fallen even though I think total depravity is an adequate expression of the same thing.  Entirely Fallen makes the logical connection to the fall and how it has completely effected us in our entirety.

UNCONDITIONAL ELECTION.  This is the second place where I began to struggle against Calvinism.  In the scriptures we find conditions upon salvation... mainly repentance and faith without which no one will be saved.  The word unconditional taken at face value seems unbiblical and provides the non-Calvinist, or even the weak Calvinist a reason to reject this point.  It would be better if ‘unconditional’ were left off of this point, or replaced with the word Sovereign.  Sovereign Election communicates the simple fact that it is entirely the working and will of God which elects a soul, but does not raise the question about conditions.  Again, there are conditions to election, conditions which the Sovereign God has determined to fulfill in us and through us, entirely of His working an power.  I know this sounds nitpicky or whatever, but when I hear unconditional my gut response is that ‘unconditional election’ negates any requirement for repentance and faith which indeed would go against scripture.  (Just a reminder that this is me explaining the difficulties I have had with Calvinism because of semantics, not because of the actual doctrines meanings.)

LIMITED ATTONEMENT.  This is the doctrine that most non-Calvinists and some 4-point Calvinists take the most exception to.  I also for a long time rejected this doctrine based on the words ‘Limited Atonement’ however today the my understanding of limited atonement brings me tremendous comfort and peace with God.  The difficulty for me was with the term ‘limited’.  How can anything having to do with Christ the infinite God be limited?  Even the atonement itself has resulted in benefit to all people regardless of whether their sins have been atoned for or not.  It is because of the atonement that the benevolence of Christians has benefitted and salted the entire earth.  In that sense there is no limits to Christ’s atonement.  I prefer the term Specific Atonement to that of limited atonement.  When I realize that God with all of time laid out before Him, and all the actions and sin that man would ever commit before His face knowing full well who His children were... that He would then look at all the sins of His children (elect) and pour His wrath out specifically for those sins on His Son... well I find great comfort knowing that my sins have specifically been atoned for... every single one.  Specific atonement in my limited opinion is a far better way of communication what the 3rd point of Calvinism is attempting to communicate.  There is a lot peace and gratitude for Christ that comes when you consider a Specific atonement... however when you consider ‘limited’ atonement it seems that you consider a ‘limited’ Christ.  Again, it is semantics, but semantics do matter as they have caused my doctrines to move all over the place over the last 8 years.

IRRESISTIBLE GRACE.  If there were any point that has made me question Calvinism it would be the point of irresistible grace.  The simple praxis of life and the evidence of every believer and non-believer alike seems to scream of resistance against grace.  The term irresistible grace seems to be a contradiction to total depravity.  Again, when you reduce the five points down to a simple acronym this type of confusion is bound to arise.  Grace is resistible in the sense that fallen man, and even the redeemed man have a propensity towards resisting grace.  The point is not that one cannot resist grace, the point is that resistance is futile.  Again, this is semantics, but I cannot be the only person who has struggled much with these things because of semantics.  In the Specific Atonement Christ indeed died for the sins of the ‘Elect’ all of the sins, so for a man who has been ‘Elect’ to die unregenerate is indeed an impossibility.  The conditions of salvation will be met by all who are elect and specifically atoned for... the conditions of faith and repentance.  Resistance of Grace must be futile, and the power of Grace must be supreme because it is only by that Grace that the specifically atoned for are saved.  I guess my proposed rewording would be Omnipotent Grace.  Again, the reason being that grace can be resisted, but grace cannot be overpowered, resistance to grace though possible and even probable is still none the less futile.

PERSERVERANCE OF THE SAINTS.  There are definitely some difficult passages that at face value speak against the perseverance of the saints, the classic passages being in Hebrews 6:4-6 and Hebrews 10:26.  At the same time we find other passages that seem to speak to the fact that those given to Christ will never fall away, or will indeed be preserved.  The difference is in practice and reality.  Those who have made a strong profession of faith, who seemed to follow hard after Jesus, but never truly believed will be case hardened against the Gospel after they formally reject the Gospel they merely thought they believed.  Those who have come to true repentance and faith will indeed persevere.  Of the 5 points I think this is the one that I would not think to suggest a different name for.  It seems to communicate it just fine.  However, because I renamed the others I will do so here for the sake of consistency and say the Continuance of Salvation.  This communicates that a believer will not only be preserved but the fruit of salvation will also continue because of their regenerated nature.  It changes from Once Saved Always Saved, to Once Saved Continually Saved.

So Jay’s points of Calvinism (which I think say the same thing as the actual cannons that the TULIP is a simplification of) would be ESSOC, well that isn’t too memorable.
Entirely Fallen
Sovereign Election
Specific Atonement
Omnipotent Grace
Continuance of Salvation

#71 – What the Gospels Teach – Not the Righteous but Sinners – Matthew 9:9-13

As Jesus went on from there, He saw a man called Matthew, sitting in the tax collector's booth; and He *said to him, "Follow Me!" And he got up and followed Him. Then it happened that as Jesus was reclining at the table in the house, behold, many tax collectors and sinners came and were dining with Jesus and His disciples. When the Pharisees saw this, they said to His disciples, "Why is your Teacher eating with the tax collectors and sinners?" But when Jesus heard this, He said, "It is not those who are healthy who need a physician, but those who are sick. "But go and learn what this means: 'I DESIRE COMPASSION, AND NOT SACRIFICE,' for I did not come to call the righteous, but sinners." (Matthew 9:9-13 NASB)

This is a passage that has been abused so often by the Church as a means to justify licentiousness and folly.  How often do we hear some evangelical say ‘where would Jesus hang out, and with who’ and everyone chimes in ‘He would be in the bars, and with prostitutes, and at the night clubs.’  Of course they will site this passage and others that on the surface seem to support their proposition, and in some sense I agree entirely with what they are saying.  Jesus indeed would have hung out in the night clubs... with harlots and drunks.  Now the next logical step is always to say that we need to be like Christ... to walk as He walked, and to do the things that he has done.  Therefore logically we too must go to the night clubs, visit the drunks and prostitutes and so on.  Again, I would agree with this as well... but it is not the complete story.

What was Christ’s purpose of reclining with ‘sinners’?  To call sinners... to call them to what?  Well what is Christ’s consistent call throughout the Gospel narrative?  Repentance and faith!  Jesus reclines with sinners, not as if He is one of them, He does not lower Himself by any means or become a sinner, but He enters the situation as a physician not as a sick man.  He enters with the intent of healing to call sinners to repentance.  His intent is to call those who are in sin to follow Him.  Now are we to go to these places as Christ has gone?  Of course... but only if we go with the purpose He went with.  Our problem is that we will use this passage and others to justify worldliness as opposed to reading this passage and being empowered as missionaries to these environments.  You see, if you are in this environment participating in sin you miss the point.  Who wants a physician who is always sick?  And if I am always sick do you really want to see my doctor?  Of course not, yet if we drink down sin like water our message of a savior that leads us out of sin becomes invalid.  We are called to be in the world, are not called to be like the world and there is all the difference in the world.

Now one of the other problems with the interpretation of this verse is that whenever a believer is rebuked for participating in ungodliness the will accuse the one rebuking of being like the Pharisees who questioned what Christ was doing.  However, the accusation against the one rebuking is entirely out of bounds unless the Christian is in the environment of sinfulness as an intentional missionary bringing the healing message of the Gospel.

Also, one think you may consider, the Pharisees approached the disciples and asked why Jesus was in eating with the sinners, do you notice that the disciples were not in eating with them?  Did you notice that it was Christ in there calling them out to follow Him, yet the disciples were on the outside being approached by the Pharisees?  Now do not take this too far either.  As believers we are not called to stand on the outside and wait for Christ to go in.  We have been given the Holy Spirit and may indeed be called to go in and proclaim the salvation Christ offers if that is the Spirit’s direction.  At the same time the Spirit never impels us to sin so that grace may abound.

Ok I suppose I have beat that into the ground enough.


Giving vs. Generosity

I came across this article at Dan Dick’s United Methodeviations blog and it got me thinking.  I confess I did not read much of the post, but what I read was eye opening and got me going a little bit, and I would like to comment a bit on it.

So here goes a quick break from the gospel series.  Giving is an action born out of obligation, just like every other act of the law.  The law is only fulfilled when the fulfillment of the law, or righteousness becomes the desire of the person, not the duty of the person.  Of course the only way to shed the duty of the law and have it replaced with a desire for the fulfillment of the law is by regeneration.  Regeneration is the gracious work of Christ that converts our hearts from feeling the obligation to work, to the desire to work out of gratitude for what He has done.  In other words, the righteous actions that were once laborious become our joy, and the sin which we once enjoyed has become a thorn.

What does this have to do with giving?  Most churches spend so much time on convincing unconverted church members to fight against their unregenerate nature in order to fund and continue doing the various ministries of the church.  Campaigns are set up to make people feel good about doing what they really do not want to do, and getting them excited to participate and commit to something they lack desire to participate in.  The problem is not that people are stingy the problem is that they are unconverted.  One of the marks of true belief is a generous spirit that feels a healthy indebtedness to Christ who has given all.  Generosity is the natural outflow of the converted man.  The generous man has no problem giving from his abundance and it takes little convincing to get him to participate in something when he is sure it is the Lord’s will.  However for the unregenerate you must dangle some carrot of ‘what you get in return’ in order to get them to give.  Whether it is a new building, the promise of great new ministries that they could us, a bigger and better staff, or something as simple as being able to run the AC in the summer, and clear the snow of the lot in the winter.  The point is that the unregenerate must know what they are getting in return because they are giving out of obligation, their desire is not to give, but they may indeed give if they realize that their giving ultimately has personal benefit to them.  It is the difference between someone who eats broccoli because they know they should, and someone who eats it because they love it.  The regenerate man gives because it is in his nature, and is his desire to do so, the unregenerate gives because they believe somehow it is good for them.

So how does a church become financially healthy?  Faithful proclamation of the Gospel... period!  Regenerated people will be generous and support the Godly mission and vision of a church.  If the members of your church never step up... maybe it is because they have yet to truly believe unto salvation.  Now a word of caution, if your church is in the middle of all sorts of projects that may not be of the Lord, do not expect the people of the Lord to give generously to that which is not His will.  If God indeed gives a real vision, He will also supply the means for that vision through His people... not by begging campaigning and coercing, but by bold proclamation of the vision and biblical support for the vision.

Ok that is enough of a rant for now.  Back to the gospel series tomorrow.

#70 – What the Gospels Teach – The Miracle of Faith – Matthew 9:1-7

Getting into a boat, Jesus crossed over the sea and came to His own city. And they brought to Him a paralytic lying on a bed. Seeing their faith, Jesus said to the paralytic, "Take courage, son; your sins are forgiven." And some of the scribes said to themselves, "This fellow blasphemes." And Jesus knowing their thoughts said, "Why are you thinking evil in your hearts? "Which is easier, to say, 'Your sins are forgiven,' or to say, 'Get up, and walk'? "But so that you may know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins"--then He *said to the paralytic, "Get up, pick up your bed and go home." And he got up and went home. (Matthew 9:1-7 NASB)

In this passage we find three miracles, two which are obvious and one which is implicit.  The first miracle which is implicit is the faith of the paralytic and those who brought him to Christ.  Recall that faith is a miracle and a gift from God.  That miraculous faith, given by the Father, then afforded Christ the opportunity to pronounce the second miracle “your sins are forgiven.”  You must recognize the miraculous nature of the forgiveness of sin.  If the forgiveness of sin seems natural to you, and not a supernatural happening it would do you well to spend much time studying the attributes of God.  Now in some sense we must sympathize with the scribes here, as they have just seen a man pronounce forgiveness over someone, something we too would shudder at.  What they had not realized and come to believe was who that Man was, the Son of God Himself.  The third miracle was an act of compassion for both the paralytic and the scribe, ‘get up and walk’.  It was an act of compassion for the paralytic obviously, but it was for the scribes as well to provide them with the knowledge ‘that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins.”

What is the application?  First, the greatest miracle in this passage is faith of the paralytic and his friends.  Without the initial miraculous faith the second and third miracles do not occur.  At the same time the greatest miracle is also the least visible, and the least sublime.  When reading the passage we certainly get excited concerning the forgiveness of sin, and then when the physical realm is altered and a paralytic walks we become very much enamored with the work of Christ.  However we miss the point, because as believers if indeed we are believers, the greatest miracle of this passage is one that we share with this paralytic and that is the miracle of having a heart set against God being removed and replaced with a heart that desires God, ultimately leading to the forgiveness of sin.  The greatest miracle is the one all believers share and that is the miracle of faith.  Realize that doctors have duplicated that miracle of getting a paralytic to walk, moreover we have even gone so far as forgiving those who have sinned against us, but no one has ever been able to speak the right words do the right things and act the right way to give someone faith.  It is always the result of the miraculous.  So what is the point?  The point is to put it in perspective, too often in charismatic circles there seems to be this need for the paranormal to validate the presence of the Spirit.  Yet, in many non or even anti-charismatic circles faith and forgiveness are relegated to a mere mental ascension or ability to wrap one’s mind around the gospel.  The truth is that faith is supernatural, and the primary miracle of the Christian life, which results in the miracle of the forgiveness of sin.  Realize the ‘sign’ of the healing of the paralytic was not for the believer, or even the paralytic himself, it was for the unbelieving scribe.

Christ made it clear that He had done enough by forgiving the paralytic, but performed the miracle to reveal His own glory.  Oh, we could go on and on here.  Do you realize that the paralytic was the beneficiary of Jesus getting glory for Himself?  Do you realize that the atonement offered at the cross was to glorify the Godhead, and we are beneficiaries of God getting glory for Himself?  Any miracle performed in a manner that is not primarily and obviously to the glory of God is either false, or worse, actually being carried out by the forces of darkness.  I will stop here, I have probably already run further than this text allows.


#69 – What the Gospels Teach – The Preference of People – Matthew 8:28-34

When He came to the other side into the country of the Gadarenes, two men who were demon-possessed met Him as they were coming out of the tombs. They were so extremely violent that no one could pass by that way. And they cried out, saying, "What business do we have with each other, Son of God? Have You come here to torment us before the time?" Now there was a herd of many swine feeding at a distance from them. The demons began to entreat Him, saying, "If You are going to cast us out, send us into the herd of swine." And He said to them, "Go!" And they came out and went into the swine, and the whole herd rushed down the steep bank into the sea and perished in the waters. The herdsmen ran away, and went to the city and reported everything, including what had happened to the demoniacs. And behold, the whole city came out to meet Jesus; and when they saw Him, they implored Him to leave their region. (Matthew 8:28-34 NASB)

Obviously there is a lot to cover in this passage and there are countless applications and implications that will not be addressed here, however one observation about this passage is absolutely startling and has received little attention, at least in my experience.  If you read the last sentence in this passage you will find the words “And behold, the whole city came out to meet Jesus; and when they saw Him, they implored Him to leave their region.”  This idea that the people came out of the city to convince Christ to leave their region shows that He had done something which they felt threatened by, or uncomfortable with, at the very least what He had done had troubled them deeply. Why?

Jesus shows up and a couple demon possessed guys who were incredibly violent come out of the tombs, the demons fear the Lord, the Lord casts them into a heard of swine (unclean animals) the swine kill themselves.  The demon possessed men are healed, the swine are dead, and the people have had enough and implored Christ to leave.  There is a major contrast here, first why are the people mad?  The herdsman kept a flock of swine, and the swine got killed.  Needless to say this had to have been pretty rough on the herdsman, Christ allowed their heard to be destroyed, which indeed would destroy the livelihood of those herdsmen.  The people of the city received the news about Christ from the herdsman who had already lost their heard and were obviously distraught and disturbed, and most certainly biased against Jesus when they reported to the city.  At the same time they also reported what happened to the demoniacs, the very men who were so possessed that nobody could even pass them without being injured.  In one sense, this event was tragic, as the livelihoods of those herdsmen were destroyed, yet in another sense this was miraculous as these two violent demoniacs were restored.

The reaction of the people shows just how far from righteousness, and how hardened they really were.  First of all, why were the people herding swine in the first place?  Second, why would the people not rejoice at the restoration of fellow man?  The people had become so callous that they preferred the preservation of evil demons, and unclean beasts, over the restoration of fellow man and the end of their violent possession.  The people preferred violence and uncleanness over righteousness and restoration so “the implored Him to leave their region.”  These people had drifted so far from the righteousness of God that they preferred the preservation of evil, and were very much against the casting out of it.  When Christ came and healed these men and put an end to an unclean practice of herding swine the people preferred the demons over the Christ, and people do the very same thing today.

When a person is converted, genuinely, and they begin to reject the practices of the world, the television, the magazines, the novels, the smut, even the gluttony, immodesty, and other vices of the sinful world they are not viewed at all as recipients of a miracle even though that is exactly what they are.  Instead the world, and often the Church alienates and isolates the truly zealous convert who is altogether reformed into something far more pleasant, kind, generous, and caring.  Why?  Well for one thing much of the world makes its living off of vice, and the convert no longer contributes to their occupational well being.  Just like the herdsmen did not profit from the demons being cast out of the violent men.  The second and maybe the primary reason is that the tangible ‘cleanliness’ or righteousness of the believer is evidence that there is an actual attainable superior morality to that of their own.  Of course that superior life is available through Jesus Christ and living into that grace filled life threatens those who are content to live with unrighteousness.  This reminds us of the rest of the city who came out to tell Him to leave, not because He had done anything wrong, but because His righteousness and ability to destroy evil threatened them.

The bottom line is that when Christ acts in righteousness the non elect will implore Him to leave, while the elect will be converted and choose to follow Him.  (I do not mean to open a can of worms about election, free will, etc..., maybe some other time.)


#68 - What the Gospels Teach - A faithless plea - Matthew 8:23-27

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 covered with the waves; but Jesus Himself was asleep. And they came to  Him and woke Him, saying, "Save us, Lord; we are perishing!" He *said to them, "Why are you afraid, you men of little faith?" Then He got up and rebuked the winds and the sea, and it became perfectly calm. The men were amazed, and said, "What kind of a man is this, that even the winds and the sea obey Him?" (Matthew 8:23-27 NASB)

This passage is difficult for me to comment on, because on the surface it appears to fly right in the face of much of what we have been taught about Christ. Notice the words of the disciples, “Save us, Lord; we are perishing!”  What greater affirmation of truth and of faith is there than that?  Is that not the very beginning of faith in Christ?  Is it not the acknowledgement that we alone are insufficient, perishing, lo even condemned that begins the humble and joyful walk with the Lord?  “Save us, Lord; we are perishing!” ought to be the unbelievers cry when their eyes have opened to their own moral bankruptcy.  Now I realize the context is that of a storm, but suffer me to go on a minute or two longer.  Notice the response of Jesus, “Why are you afraid, you men of little faith?”  The response is one of rebuke, or at the very least a stern question.  The disciples went to Christ with knowledge that only He could save, and rightly so, but they are met with a response that was harsh.  Why?  Should they not have been rewarded instead of chastised?

First, these disciples have already dropped everything to follow Him, they are (with the exception of Judas) genuine believers in Christ.  They have experienced the perfect love of Christ which casts out all fear.  Now, genuine believers still fear, especially in the middle of a stormy sea, but believers are not perishing.  The disciples made a very wrong statement when they said ‘Lord we are perishing’.  Moreover, they were with the Christ who could not die until His time was accomplished, how could they be in danger if He was in the boat?  There fear in this case was evidence that they had not yet realized who Christ was.  While the multitudes would come to Christ realizing He had authority to heal and cast out demons, His very disciples lacked the faith to believe a storm was not going to kill Him.  Now I hate to speculate, and I do not know if the original Greek communicates this better or not, but when they address Jesus and say ‘we are perishing’ does that ‘we’ include Jesus or not.  Do they have concern for Christ and the future of His mission, or just trying to save their own skin?

Of course we know that Jesus rebukes the winds and the sea showing His authority over all things and amazing the disciples and ultimately granting them more faith.  Moreover the Lord uses these men to turn the world upsidedown, our lack of faith in difficult situations certainly does not negate our ultimate calling, but does expose our weakness in the faith.