Learning from Matthew 8-12
8:1-22 - In verses 1-17, we read of three people who received the Lord’s blessing - the leper was cleansed (1-4), the centurion's servant was healed (5-13), Peter's mother-in-law was healed (14-17). Reading verses 18-22 together with Luke 9:57-62, we learn of three people who did not receive the Lord's blessing (Matthew mentions two, while Luke adds a third). Christ calls us to decision. Some say ‘Yes’ to Him and they are blessed. Some say ‘No’, and they miss out on the blessing. Christ touches our lives, and we are made clean (3; 1 John 1.7) - ‘The vilest offender who truly believes, that moment from Jesus a pardon receives’ (13; Church Hymnary, 374). Through the entrance of His Word, we receive a new Spirit (16; Ezekiel 36:25-27). Cleansed and healed, we are to live as Christ’s disciples. There is to be no half-heartedness: ‘I will follow you, Lord, but...’ (Luke 9:61). Yes, Lord!
8:23-9:17 - In 8:23-9:8, we read of three great miracles, in which Christ demonstrates His power over nature (23), demons (28-34) and sickness (1-8). Following such mighty works of power, the next verse seems so ordinary - Jesus said, ‘Follow me’. Matthew ‘rose and followed Him’ (9). Matthew’s conversion may seem so unspectacular, but it is no less a mighty work of God than the great miracles which preceded it. Where does the desire to follow Christ come from? Does it come from our own sinful hearts? No! It comes from the Word of Christ, spoken in power and love - ‘He drew me and I followed on, charmed to confess the Voice Divine’ (Mission Praise, 499). In the human heart there is resistance - we say, ‘I am “righteous”. “I have no need” of a Saviour’ (12-13). This resistance is broken down by Christ when ‘new wine is put into fresh wineskins’ (17).
9:18-38 - In Jesus’ miracles, we see Him triumph over sin, death and hell. As well as healing, there is forgiveness (9:5-6), the raising of the dead (18,24-25) and the casting out of demons (33). The Pharisees (Jewish religious leaders) did not like what was happening, and they came up with their own explanation - ‘He casts out demons by the prince of demons’ (34). Jesus gives us another, better, explanation: ‘The Spirit of the Lord is upon me...’ (Luke 4:18-19). Jesus was sent to preach the Gospel. We are to bring the Gospel to other people. Jesus was 'teaching... preaching... and healing' (35). What opportunities there are to bring the healing power of Christ into many hearts and homes! These opportunities will be missed if ‘the labourers’ remain ‘few’ (37). Many are ‘harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd’ (v.36). We must not fail them!
10:1-20 - Jesus gave authority to His disciples (1). He gives authority to us. It is the authority of the Word and the Spirit - ‘you will be given what to say’ by ‘the Spirit of your Father speaking through you’ (20). Christ’s disciples were being trained for a great work to be done in the Name and the Power of the Lord (28:18-20). If we are to communicate the Word in the power of the Spirit, we need to see our life as life in the Spirit and life under the Word. Scripture calls us to ‘be filled with the Spirit’ (Ephesians 5:18) and to ‘let the Word of Christ dwell in us richly’ (Colossians 3:16). To be filled with the Spirit is to let the Word of Christ dwell in us richly. To let the Word of Christ dwell in us richly is to be filled with the Spirit. We are to live in the power of the Spirit. We are to live in accordance with the Scriptures.
10:21-42 - Jesus tells us that ‘a student is not above his teacher nor a servant above his master’ (24). Our Teacher is the Lord Jesus Christ. He is our Master. Jesus emphasizes that ‘it is enough for the student to be like his teacher and the servant like his master’ (25). This is the goal of the Christian life - we are to be like Jesus. This will not be an easy life. There will be persecution (22; 2 Timothy 3:12). In this situation - going the way of the Cross with Jesus (38) - we need to hear and heed the Word of the Lord: Do not fear man. Fear God (28). The fear of men is to be avoided. The fear of God is to be treasured greatly. There will be conflict with those who do not honour God (34-37). We must remember: pleasing God is more important than pleasing people. Our prayer is that our hearers will receive Christ as well as ourselves (40).
11:1-19 - Much is said about John the Baptist here, yet the whole purpose is to draw attention to Jesus the Saviour. Jesus is superior to John. He is the One to whom John pointed. There are two responses to Jesus. We can take offence at Him: ‘Blessed is he who takes no offence at Me’ (6). We can hear what He says, receiving Him with faith: ‘He who has ears to hear, let him hear’ (15). In His time, Jesus asked the question, ‘To whom shall I compare this generation?’, giving the answer, ‘We played the flute for you, and you did not dance; we sang a dirge, and you did not mourn’ (16-17). The promise of the Gospel is preached, yet many will not rejoice. The warning of the Gospel is preached, yet many will not repent. This is the story of our generation. May God help us to lead people of this generation to Christ, the ‘Friend of sinners’ (19).
11:20-30 - In John 16:8-11, Jesus speaks of the work of the Holy Spirit, convicting the world of sin, righteousness and judgment. Before there can be conversion, there needs to be conviction of sin. None of us can come to the Saviour of sinners without first seeing ourselves as sinners who need the Saviour. God uses the warning of judgment to send us to the Saviour - there ‘will be...judgment’, so make sure that you ‘come’ to Christ for salvation (24,28; Luke 3:7-8; Hebrews 2:3; 3:7-15). Before there can be growth in grace, there needs to be conversion. Before we can live a righteous life, learning from Christ (29; 1 Peter 1:15-16), we must come to Christ for rest, being declared righteous by Him (28; Romans 4:5-8). In Christ, we have salvation, set free from judgment - ‘no condemnation’ - and set free for righteousness - ‘living according to the Spirit’ (Romans 8:1).
12:1-21 - Much of Jesus’ ministry was carried out under the watchful eye of the Pharisees. The controversy with the Pharisees was intensifying (2, 14). The Pharisees were out to get Jesus. For all their religion, they had no time for Jesus. Still, there are the critics, those who try to undermine our faith in Christ, those who attempt to draw us away from serving Christ. We must remain resolute in our faith, believing what God says concerning His Son: ‘Here is my Servant whom I have chosen, the One I love, in whom I delight’ (18; 3:17; 17:5). As we read of Jesus, the chosen Servant of God, loved by the Father and bringing delight to the Father's heart, we should give thanks for all that God has done for us in Christ (Ephesians 1: 4-6), and we should commit ourselves afresh to the service of Christ (1 Corinthians 15:58).
12:22-37 - Opposition from the Pharisees was growing all the time (24). Jesus had to rebuke them in very strong words (30, 32,34,36-37). This was not exactly a ‘How to win friends and influence people’ approach! Nevertheless, this was a time for strong words. Jesus’ ministry illustrates the principle: ‘a time to tear down and a time to build’ (Ecclesiastes 3:3). There was a time for ‘whoever is not against us is for us’ (Mark 9:40). This was the time for ‘he who is not with me is against me’ (30). There was a time for speaking of the Spirit as ‘the Comforter’ (John 14:16,26). This was the time for the warning about the ‘blasphemy against the Spirit’ (31). The opposition was severe, but Jesus was victorious - He ‘drove out demons by the Spirit of God’, in Him ‘the Kingdom of God had come’ (28). In Him, we are victorious (Romans 8:37; Revelation 12:11).
12:38-50 - Jesus did not ‘mince His words’ with the Pharisees. He described them as ‘a wicked and adulterous generation’ (39,45). They were men who, by their stubborn refusal to listen to Jesus, had placed themselves under the judgment of God. The Pharisees may have had no time for Jesus, but there were those who were eager to learn from Him. Out of ‘the crowd’ (46), Jesus was calling to Himself those who were learning what it really means to be related to Him (50). Jesus directed attention away from His human connections to His divine authority. Sometimes, people make too much of the wrong things - ‘Blessed is the womb that bore you...’ (Luke 11:27). They need to be reminded of the things that really matter: ‘Blessed rather are those who hear the Word of God and keep it’ (Luke 11:28). As God’s children we are to do His will (50; John 14:21).