The decision moment with Jesus (Matthew 8:18-22)

There’s a disconnect between the way Jesus called people to discipleship and the way we do it.

Open Matthew 8:18-22.

Jesus had great sensitivity to people. Especially hurting people. But some of the language he used for gospel invitations would make you cringe.

Like, “teach people to obey my commands” (Matthew 28:19). People don’t like being commanded; they like to make their own decisions. Surely we’d be more successful if we just asked them to invite Jesus into their hearts, for a personal makeover.

There was this scribe who came up to Jesus and said, “Teacher, I’ll follow you wherever you go” (8:19). How good is that? Scribes didn’t do that. They knew the Old Testament intimately, but they often weren’t keen on Jesus. So here’s a guy making a well-informed commitment to follow Jesus, wherever it takes him. Most pastors would be over the moon to have this guy’s response.

But Jesus pushes back. Effectively, he says, “You don’t realize what you’re committing yourself to. I don’t think you’ve got what it takes. Go away and reconsider” (compare 8:20). Ouch. Not great technique?

It gets worse. Continue reading “The decision moment with Jesus (Matthew 8:18-22)”

Jesus the healer (Matthew 8:14-17)

What kind of ruler rectifies evil by curing his people?

Open Matthew 8:14-17.

We’ve seen how factions of the church respond differently to the healing stories in the Gospels, and we raised the question of whether the gospel of the kingdom can bring us together. Let’s read this through the kingdom lens: Continue reading “Jesus the healer (Matthew 8:14-17)”

Can the kingdom gospel bring us together?

A liberal, an evangelical, and a charismatic walked into a bar. Secretly, the evangelical hoped his elders didn’t see him talking to the other two. Especially in a bar. They were already locked in a debate about healing when Mary arrived. “Sorry I’m late.” Continue reading “Can the kingdom gospel bring us together?”

What does the way you read reveal about you?

Ever wondered why you see the Bible one way, and others see it a different way?

Open Matthew 8:14-17.

Are you aware of the assumptions you bring to the text when you read? In this post, we’ll ask you to consider the presuppositions you bring, and how other people may read the same text differently, approaching it with different assumptions.

Consider this example:

Matthew 8:14–17 (NIV)
14 When Jesus came into Peter’s house, he saw Peter’s mother-in-law lying in bed with a fever. 15 He touched her hand and the fever left her, and she got up and began to wait on him. 16 When evening came, many who were demon-possessed were brought to him, and he drove out the spirits with a word and healed all the sick. 17 This was to fulfill what was spoken through the prophet Isaiah: “He took up our infirmities and bore our diseases.” 

You may find it challenging to consider other perspectives, but stick with us: the benefits are improved self-awareness, and improved communication with others. Continue reading “What does the way you read reveal about you?”

Jesus’ kingdom hope (Matthew 8:10-13)

Why do the Gospels depict Jesus as the saviour for non-Jewish people?

Open Matthew 8:10-13.

Some of Jesus’ kingdom pictures sound odd to us. He spoke of people from the east and the west coming to take their places with Israel’s long-dead patriarchs (8:11). Some readers imagine they’re all dead and gone to heaven, but that doesn’t do justice the way Israel’s kingdom story worked or to the role of the patriarchs in that story. Continue reading “Jesus’ kingdom hope (Matthew 8:10-13)”

A secret Messiah? (Matthew 8:4)

How do we announce Jesus’ kingship in a world where power is always oppressive?

Open Matthew 8:4.

Matthew 8:4 (my translation)
Jesus says to him, “See you tell no one, but head off to show yourself to the priest and offer the gift that Moses commanded, as a testimony to them.”

Why was the leper to tell no one about his healing? And if he was already cleansed, why send him off to offer a sacrifice for purification? Continue reading “A secret Messiah? (Matthew 8:4)”

The leper and the king (Matthew 8:2-3)

When God gets his hands dirty.

Open Matthew 8:2-3.

A leper was unusual company for a king. The skin disease was bad enough, but a leper was a defiled person, excluded from the community. Even kings feared the disease that could drive them from their family home and from God’s house (2 Chronicles 26:19-21).

But this leper heard that Jesus announced good news for the people who’d missed out. He knew what it was to be driven out of the community, and he wanted in. He didn’t just want to be healed of his medical problem; he wanted to be purified from the defilement that excluded him from the community.

The trouble was that anything the leper touched became unclean. He was expected to tell everyone that he was a defiler, that if they touched him they would also be unclean. Continue reading “The leper and the king (Matthew 8:2-3)”

Why kneel?

Christians in evangelical traditions kneel much less than we used to. Have we lost something?

Open Matthew 8:2.

As Jesus stepped down from this inaugural address on the kingdom, an outcast with a disease that prevented him being part of the community came and knelt before Jesus with a request. Why did he kneel? Should we kneel? What does it mean? Why do we rarely kneel anymore? Continue reading “Why kneel?”

Hearing the king (Matthew 7:28-29)

What kind of authority do you find in Jesus’ teaching?

Open Matthew 7:28-29.

Matthew 7:28-29 (my translation)
28 When Jesus finished his message, the crowds were astounded at how he taught. 29 He was instructing them authoritatively, not as their scribes.

“We need to teach with authority. Be like Jesus, not like the Jewish scribes,” the preacher said. I was only a college student at the time, but it sounded good to my young ears. What could be wrong with encouraging us to follow Jesus’ example?

That preacher missed the whole point. The crowd’s reaction raised the question who Jesus thought he was. What authority did he think he had? He wasn’t exegeting Scripture as Bible scholars do. He was redefining God’s decrees: “You’ve heard it said …, but I say to you …” Jesus acted as king. He set the laws of the kingdom. That’s a whole different level of authority to any preacher or teacher. Continue reading “Hearing the king (Matthew 7:28-29)”