Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Miracles That Don't Fit a Mold - Matthew 9:18-31

Double Duty

18 While Jesus was saying these things to them, a synagogue official came and bowed down before Him, and said, "My daughter has just died; but come and lay Your hand on her, and she will live."

19 Jesus got upand began to follow him, and so did His disciples.

20 And a woman who had been suffering a hemorrhage for twelve years, came up behind Him and touched the fringe of His cloak;

21 for she was saying to herself, "If I only touch His garment, I will get well."

22 But Jesus turning and seeing her said, "Daughter, take courage; your faith has made you well." At once the woman was made well.

23 When Jesus came into the official's house, and saw the flute-players and the crowd in noisy disorder,

24 He said, "Leave; for the girl has not died, but is asleep." And they began laughing at Him.

25 But when the crowd had been sent out, He entered and took her hand, and the girl got up.

26 This news spread throughout all the land.

The synagogue offical mentioned in this passage is a beautiful example that not all of the Jewish officals hated Jesus. Some, like this man, saw God working and were willing to follow Him even if that meant going against their culture and being ostracized by their peers - perhaps even losing their jobs. Are we willing to do the same? 

He is also an exampe of astounding faith! Jesus had healed many people by this point, but by going off of the Gospel of Luke (the chronological Gospel), we only know of one other person whom Jesus raised from the dead before this incedent (see Luke 7:11-15). Furthermore, it wasn't even a common miracle performed by prophets - there are only three accounts of this happening in the Old Testament (1 Kings 17:17-22, 2 Kings 4:32-35, and 2 Kings 13:20-21). In this, the offical had so much faith that he didn't hesitate to ask Jesus to perform the impossible - something only known of in legend. Again, I ask: Do we have the same faith in God?

Let's look at the woman next. Under the Mosaic Law, she was not allowed to be out among the people because of her bleeding, and she was "unclean" - completely ostracized by the community. In a way, she had to break the Law to come to Jesus. I think this is wonderful picture of the purpose of the Law - to demonstrate to us conclusively that we can't do it on our own, and need God's help. This woman also shows us the only way we can to come to Jesus: *unclean* and humble - and when we do this, He will not avoid our gaze, but turn to us, smile at us, speak to us, and hold out His hand to us. 

Now, here's also a warning: throughout history, some have completely twisted this story to come up with the idea that Jesus's clothes and other objects He touched somehow have magical powers. That is an anti-Biblical idea, borders on the occultic, and has led to people making idols out of "sacred" objects. The woman was healed not because his garment had magical healing powers, but because of her faith - she touched the garment only because she knew she was not worthy to speak to Him (just as none of us are worthy).

We've already seen that Jesus responded to her with amazing love, but here's more: By putting off the synangogue official for a moment to help this woman, He put off the esteemed, powerful local celebrity to help a social outcast. Wow, huh? Let's also be sure not to play favorites with regards to who we minister to! We've studied this topic before when going over James 2:1-13. Also notice that Jesus had His eyes open - He didn't get so focused on one task that the Father had given Him that He ignored other opportunities to minister to others. Let us follow His example and always keep our eyes open for work God has for us, even while working for Him!

Moving on, what's with the flute-players and crowd mentioned in verse 23? They were mourners. I find it very interesting that those who doubted His power were ushered from the room, but He invited those of faith to watch the miracle first-hand (see Luke 8:51). They believed before they saw the miracle. In John 20:29, after "Doubting" Thomas has seen proof that the risen Christ is not just a ghost, Jesus tells him, "Because you have seen Me, have you believed? Blessed are they who did not see, and yet beleived." Let us follow this example, too.

We've talked a lot so far about following thes people's example of faith...but how does one go about it? Two ways: We need to both pray for more faith, and act in faith in the situations God's given us so far to build our faith muscles.

Prophecy Scholars You Don't Expect

27 As Jesus went on from there, two blind men followed Him, crying out, "Have mercy on us, Son of David!"

28 When He entered the house, the blind men came up to Him, and Jesus said to them, "Do you believe that I am able to do this? They said to Him, "Yes, Lord."

29 Then He touched their eyes, saying, "It shall be done to you according to your faith."

30 And their eyes were opened. And Jesus sternly warned them: "See that no one knows about this!"

31 But they went out and spread the news about Him throughout all that land.

32 As they were going out, a mute, demon-possessed man was brought to Him.

33 After the demon was cast out, the mute man spoke; and the crowds were amazed, and were saying, "Nothing like this has ever been seen in Israel."

34 But the Pharisees were saying, "He casts out demons by the ruler of the demons."

35 Jesus was going through all the cities and villages, teaching in their synagogues and proclaiming the gospel of the kingdom, and healing every kind of disease and every kind of sickness.

Jesus just performed two interwoven miracles, and as soon as He's done there, two more men cry out to Him. Serving God is a full-time job - it's not just Sundays, not just certain designated times, not just if you're employed in the ministry. We are all called to be open to whatever God wants us to do, every hour of every day, in every place.

Now, there's something really interesting about the blind men calling Jesus the "Son of David" - that was a name for the Messiah! It's pulled from 2 Samuel 7:14-16. Jesus actually discusses this with the Pharisees in Matthew 22:41-45, which shows it was in somewhat common usage - so the blind men knew what they were doing when the called Him that! Consider what Jesus asks His disciples when they're lacking faith in Mark 8:18a: "HAVING [physical] EYES, DO YOU NOT SEE [the spiritual truth]...?" The blind men saw the truth, but the Pharisees (the ones who had more opportunity to study the Scriptures than anyone else, and were therefore far more accquainted with Messainic prophecy) were the ones who were truly blind.

As for verses 30-31, let's just do a quick review. Why did Jesus tell them to not tell people what had happened to them? Because it was not yet His time to die, and them telling people would create danger. We see a similar thing in Acts 16:6, where God tells Paul and other apostles to hold off spreading the Gospel in a certian region for a while. We should never use danger as an excuse not to witness, because indeed, God calls some of us to even die for Him, but it still remains that in a few rare cases, God wants His people to avoid a certain dangerous situation. Now, I imagine these blind men were just so thrilled that they couldn't contain their excitement, but we should be careful to never think we know better than God! If something seems more "Christian," but God says not to do it, don't!

Questions for You

Have you ever had a time when it seemed like God's tasks for you came back to back? Have you ever wanted to do something for God, but He said to hold off on it? Anything else you'd like to ask or comment on?

Giving Credit Where It's Due

Picture Number One: Christ Healing a Bleeding Woman from Roman Catacombs. Wikimedia Commons. {{PD-1923}} Public Domain in the United States. {{PD-old-70}} Public Domain in the European Union.

Picture Number Two: Christ Healing the Blind Man by Eustache Le Sueur. Wikimedia Commons. {{PD-old-100}} Public Domain in the United States and European Union.


Brandi Boddie said...

Being married to a chaplain's assistant in the Army, I've had to serve dual roles as a writer and as my husband's "co-minister". I know that I am using my stories to glorify God, but in my day to day life, I have to make sacrifices for our country's freedom and also to reach out to other women in the military. In this way, God is teaching me multiple ways of serving Him

Sapphire said...

Great example of serving God right where you are, Brandi! Thanks for sharing.