Thursday, February 28, 2008

Matthew 8:28-34


28 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.29 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?'' 30 Now there was a herd of many swine feeding at a distance from them. 31 The demons began to entreat Him, saying, ``If You are going to cast us out, send us into the herd of swine.'' 32 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. 33 The herdsmen ran away, and went to the city and reported everything, including what had happened to the demoniacs. 34 And behold, the whole city came out to meet Jesus; and when they saw Him, they implored Him to leave their region.

Here we have the first mention of DEVILED HAM in the Bible.

Jesus entered into the country of Gadara on the East side of the Sea of Galilee. He was confronted by two men who were demonized, men with such a violent reputation that people avoided them. There are two very interesting observations here:

1. Jesus was confronted by evil and was victorious over it.

2. Even though Jesus freed the two men, He was rejected by the community and asked to leave.

Two men were freed from demonic bondage and still Jesus was rejected for what He had done. You see, not everyone is happy when others are freed, especially when this freedom begins to change those around them. I've seen this happen with alcoholics and drug addicts. When an addict gives up his drug and is freed up from the bondage, those around him become very uncomfortable.

Spiritually speaking, this happens frequently. People can watch their friends find personal freedom, but that very freedom threatens their own agendas. This is what Jesus' presence did. His security and confidence in Who He was made people uncomfortable. Therefore they persecuted Him and eventually killed Him. This is precisely what Jesus was talking about in two of the beatitudes. When you hunger and thirst for righteousness and righteousness begins to show, then you will be persecuted for it. Why? Because your new experience and example of walking in righteousness (walking with Jesus, the Righteous One) will inevitably make others feel very uncomfortable and those people will be very critical of you and what you've done.

Have you ever helped someone, only to be criticized by others for your efforts. Or even worse, have you done something good for another person and that person later turns against you for some reason. How does this ungratefulness make you feel? I've struggled with this for years. The answer to this dilemma? I am not working to please people or to win a popularity contest. I work for Jesus and only seek His approval. Just as Jesus sought to please His Father, so I am to please Him.

Jesus wants my faithfulness, not my successfulness. He wants my heart, then He will take care of what happens. You see, we work for an audience of one. His name is Jesus.

Matthew 8:18-27


18 Now when Jesus saw a crowd around Him, He gave orders to depart to the other side of the sea. 19 Then a scribe came and said to Him, ``Teacher, I will follow You wherever, You go.'' 20 Jesus said* to him, ``The foxes have holes and the birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere, to lay His head.'' 21 Another of the disciples said to Him, ``Lord, permit me first to go and bury my father.'' 22 But Jesus said* to him, ``Follow Me, and allow the dead to bury their own dead.''

23 When He got into the boat, His disciples followed Him. 24 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. 25 And they came to Him and woke Him, saying, ``Save us, Lord; we are perishing!'' 26 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. 27 The men were amazed, and said, ``What kind of a man is this, that even the winds and the sea obey Him?''

NOTE that when Jesus sees the crowd, He departs in another direction. What is it that He is thinking when He does this? It sure is different than any church growth thinking and example on the scene today.

In the presence of the Messiah real follow-through and devotion is required. 1. Scribe-wants to be a follower of Jesus, but apparently came across as if it was going to be a great ride. Well, following Jesus is a great ride, but it is filled with some discomforts and sacrifices along the way. That's Jesus' response to his excitement.

2. Another disciple-to "bury his father" meant to handle all of the affairs of the family since his father's death seems imminent. Jesus' response was that someone else can handle those things. When you're in the presence of the Messiah, total devotion is required!

Why do you think Jesus took His disciples on a boat ride? I think it was a field trip! The theme of this mini-retreat? It was devotion again, but this time it was measured by how they trusted Jesus in the midst of a crisis. And what was their response? It was to panic and see only the negative-"We are perishing!" Jesus got up, rebuked the winds and the sea became perfectly calm. What kind of response was Jesus looking for?

As then, Jesus still is inviting His followers to trust Him. Think about it! 1. Jesus took them on a boat ride. 2. It was obviously the place He wanted them all to be in. 3. Now, what's the problem?

I WONDER if their response should have been to wait on Him rather than be in a panic about it all? You see, everywhere Jesus sends you, He is right there with you. So, don't panic. He knows and is very capable of getting you through all of the tough waters you may encounter.