Today’s reading comes from Matthew Chapter 10 through Chapter 16.
Chapter 10 begins with Jesus sending out his 12 disciples to spread this message. “The Kingdom of Heaven is near.” He gives them very detailed instructions about what to do. They are to heal the sick, raise the dead, and cast out demons. They are to take nothing with them and seek out hospitable people to stay with. They are to leave a town that does not accept their message and move on to the next. Essentially, Jesus sent his followers out to do what he has been doing. The first missionaries were sent. And this is the very same purpose that Jesus has for his present day disciples. That we will spread his message and care for those in need, heal the sick, and cast out evil.
This is probably something I should have already known, but I learned this just today. The plot to kill Jesus begins in Chapter 12 of Matthew. I always thought that the Pharisees plotted to kill Jesus only because of his claim to be God. But the plot began with a much lesser offense. Jesus healed a man on the Sabbath. Jesus said to the Pharisees “If you had a sheep that fell into a well on the Sabbath, wouldn’t you work to pull it out? Of course you would. And how much more valuable is a person than a sheep! Yes, the law permits a person to do good on the Sabbath.” Right after this the Pharisees began to plot how they could kill Jesus. Why? Were they really troubled by Jesus doing good deeds on the Sabbath? I don’t think that was their issue. They were concerned that Jesus was turning all of the things they had been teaching people upside down. He was taking away their authority and power. This is why they began their plot.
In Chapter 13 Jesus teaches a number of Parables. I have always been intrigued by the way that Jesus taught people. He shared deep truths through stories. Stories that can only be understood in their deepest sense by those who follow Him. And this is not a guess. Jesus tells us in [youversion]Matthew 13:12-13[/youversion] these words:
“To those who listen to my teaching, more understanding will be given, and they will have an abundance of knowledge. But for those who are not listening, even what little understanding they have will be taken away from them. That is why I use these parables, For they look, but they don’t really see. They hear, but they don’t really listen or understand.” — [youversion]Matthew 13:12-13[/youversion]
The parables are to hide truth from those don’t believe and to reveal truth to those who do believe. It is a truly unique marriage between faith and understanding. This method also causes us to think more deeply about the idea being presented so that we can unwrap it and understand it. In some sense by thinking about these parables we make the idea our own by thinking deeply and unwrapping the mystery of Jesus words. And the things we know best are the things we learn through effort.
In Chapter 14 a great feat of faith happens. Jesus comes walking on the water to the boat where his disciples were staying. There was also a storm at this time tossing the boat about. At first the disciples were afraid but when they realized it was Jesus, Peter made a bold move. He asked if he could walk out on the water with Jesus. Jesus asked him to come and Peter pulled himself over to boat and into the water during the storm. And he walked on water with Jesus. Now, as the waves tossed around him his faith wavered and he began to sink and Jesus grabbed him. Would you step out of a boat during a storm and truly believe that you could walk on water? This is what Faith is all about, and when we have Faith in Jesus we need to be able to step out and follow Jesus even if that following seems impossible. If you can’t step out, do you really have faith?
In Chapter 15 there is another great story about a gentile woman who is persistent in her faith.
Then Jesus left Galilee and went north to the region of Tyre and Sidon. A Gentile woman who lived there came to him, pleading, “Have mercy on me, O Lord, Son of David! For my daughter is possessed by a demon that torments her severely.” But Jesus gave her no reply, not even a word. Then his disciples urged him to send her away. “Tell her to go away,” they said. “She is bothering us with all her begging.” Then Jesus said to the woman, “I was sent only to help God’s lost sheepâ€”the people of Israel.” But she came and worshiped him, pleading again, “Lord, help me!” Jesus responded, “It isn’t right to take food from the children and throw it to the dogs.” She replied, “That’s true, Lord, but even dogs are allowed to eat the scraps that fall beneath their masters’ table.” “Dear woman,” Jesus said to her, “your faith is great. Your request is granted.” And her daughter was instantly healed. — [youversion]Matthew 15:21-28[/youversion]
At first reading Jesus may seem like he is being unkind to this woman. He first ignored her, then he told her that he was sent for the people of Israel, and she is a gentile woman. But she continues and literally pleads for the scraps of his blessings that would be worthy of only a dog. This persistence is the reason that Jesus says her faith is great. Have you ever prayed for something and thought that God was ignoring you? We know He is not ignoring us, but He could be testing our faith. Do we really believe that He can do it? Do we really believe that He will do it? Many of Jesus miracles are done out of a response of someones faith, not simply their request. If we believe Jesus can do amazing things, then He will. If we only give lip service to it, then I doubt we will truly see the amazing things Jesus can do in our lives or the lives of others around us.
Who is Jesus?
In Chapter 16 Jesus identity is revealed to his disciples. But as Jesus loves to do, he has his disciples figure it out rather than outright telling them. Jesus asks his disciples a question. “Who do people say that the Son of Man is?”
The disciples tell him that some say he is Elijah, some John the Baptist while others say Jeremiah. All prophets. But then Jesus asks the personal question. “Who do you say I am?”
This is when Peter responds. “You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God.”
How amazing it must have been to be sitting there and then realize that you are sitting with the Messiah. That you are not sitting with a prophet or simply a wise man or a good teacher. But that you are sitting with the literal Son of God. That you are following him and doing His work. It must have been truly amazing. I would love to place myself in one of the disciples shoes during that night to experience that.
But what is even more amazing is that we, as believers today, are able to learn from the Messiah, the Son of God in an even deeper way than the disciples could when Jesus walked the earth. The truly astounding thing is that Jesus now dwells in us. So, we don’t need to sit at his feet to hear his lessons. Our Faith connects us with Jesus in ways that we may never fully comprehend.
Seeing the power of Faith in today’s reading reveals to me how often my faith and other believers faith is so weak. How can we strengthen our faith? How can we be the people that step out of the boat during a storm and believe the impossible?