Posted by: The Simple Guy | June 1, 2012

Matthew’s Conversion

We have been studying the Gospel of Matthew in church lately.  We have been in chapter 9.

For context, Matthew introduces the nation of Israel to the King of Heaven,  the Holy One of Israel.  Chapters 1-4 introduce him, and then we hear what Jesus taught in chapters 5-7.  I think that we can almost insert Matt 5-7 into most of the Gospels when they say Jesus was teaching, since there were no radio or television, cell phones, internet, or newspapers.  Jesus went about teaching the same basic message, and then added upon that here or there.  I have no concrete reason for this, just my idea.

His basic teaching was that the attitude of a kingdom citizen looked a certain way (the beattitudes).  He taught that this was different from the world, and that He had given them a mission to change the environment around them, with no turning back (salt and light).  He taught that He was the fulfillment of the law in the same way that he fulfilled the prophets.  He then gave them several “you have heard, but I say” statements in which he showed them that sin starts from within.  He then spoke of religious activity (prayer, fasting, giving) and showed that righteousness is measured by God by looking within (He who sees in secret will reward you openly).  As he brings them to the understanding that both sin and righteousness come from within, He has brought their focus back to where it should have always been.  To a people who had measured righteousness and sin by looking at the outward appearance, this is a drastic change.  They need to know how to even measure this.  He gives them some indicators.  Where is your treasure?  That is where your heart is.  You cannot serve God and money.  What are you worried about?  Your father knows what you need before you ask, seek first the Kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things will be added unto you.  What gets you worked up and caused you to step into God’s shoes as the judge?  Help your brother as one who has had a beam in your own eye, rather than acting like the judge who is over all.

This humility is the narrow gate.  Pride is the way of man, many go that way and are destroyed.

The kingdom has leaders.  How will we tell the true ones from the false ones?  You will know them by their appetites.  They will be ravenous wolves.  They cannot serve their ravenous appetite and God.  (their fruits indicate what kind of tree they are – the fruit is their evil selfish appetite – the same thing that was just addressed.)

Finally a stern warning.  Whomever hears this and listens will have a firm foundation when the storm comes (not if, WHEN).  Whomever does not listen will be destroyed.

From that point Jesus comes down from the mountain and begins to illustrate to the Jews his power to save the unworthy, rather than their worthiness to be in the kingdom.  He touches a leper and heals him.  (the lowest of the low, the most despised and repulsive – Jesus touched him).  In case we think this is a limitation (that He has to touch for His power to work), He heals the slave of a hated occupier centurion from afar.  And to add to the condemnation of those who don’t believe, He commends the faith of this heathen who believed that Jesus’ power was greater than his own.

He then heals Peter’s mother-in-law who apparently was unable to even ask, but she was healed and immediately served him.  A side note, we are healed to serve.

He then demonstrates power over every sickness and evil spirit.  He drives them away, and does not even allow the evil spirits to talk.

Then he tells the disciples to take him in a boat across the Sea of Galilee.  Across is a key word here.  Fishermen of that area did not like to get out in the middle of the Sea, they knew how quickly it could turn.  To their credit, they obeyed, but if we look at context and compare to other Gospels, it is just after Jesus told them to cast their nets on the other side of the boat, and they caught all of the fish.  Not a good time to argue, that hasn’t turned out so well.  But after obeying Him they wind up in trouble, and fear for their lives.  ” Jesus (implied we are here because you said so) don’t you care that we are about to drown?!?”

Jesus chides them for not believing, and then rebukes the storm.  At once the sea is calm and the storm is gone.  They were afraid, but now they are horrified!

When they get to the other side, Jesus immediately displays power over the legion of demons that possessed the two men, but the city people beg him to leave.  (sometimes God works, and we don’t like it – that isn’t good . . .)

So in chapter 9 they get back into the boat.  (how’s that for a brief introduction?)  🙂

I bet they didn’t remember ever getting into a boat with as much fear and respect as this time.

Mat 9:1-8 ESV
(1) And getting into a boat he crossed over and came to his own city.
(2) And behold, some people brought to him a paralytic, lying on a bed. And when Jesus saw their faith, he said to the paralytic, “Take heart, my son; your sins are forgiven.”
(3) And behold, some of the scribes said to themselves, “This man is blaspheming.”
(4) But Jesus, knowing their thoughts, said, “Why do you think evil in your hearts?
(5) For which is easier, to say, ‘Your sins are forgiven,’ or to say, ‘Rise and walk’?
(6) But that you may know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins”–he then said to the paralytic–“Rise, pick up your bed and go home.”
(7) And he rose and went home.
(8) When the crowds saw it, they were afraid, and they glorified God, who had given such authority to men.

At this point, Matthew does something very interesting.  In this story, Jesus ties the sinful state with the powerless condition we are all in.  He demonstrates His authority to dispel the sin, and His authority to empower the helpless person in the flesh.  I think this is the Gospel at work.  He demonstrates His power over the curse, and the cause of the curse.

Immediately following this story, Matthew says this:

Mat 9:9-13 ESV
(9) As Jesus passed on from there, he saw a man called Matthew sitting at the tax booth, and he said to him, “Follow me.” And he rose and followed him.
(10) And as Jesus reclined at table in the house, behold, many tax collectors and sinners came and were reclining with Jesus and his disciples.
(11) And when the Pharisees saw this, they said to his disciples, “Why does your teacher eat with tax collectors and sinners?”
(12) But when he heard it, he said, “Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick.
(13) Go and learn what this means, ‘I desire mercy, and not sacrifice.’ For I came not to call the righteous, but sinners.”

If Jesus could tell a man who was completely paralyzed to walk, and could forgive his sins, than Jesus could forgive even a tax collector.  Matthew also “walked”.

In the same way that the Pharisees said “How can he forgive sins?  Only God can do that!” said “Why is he with a tax collector?”

Jesus’ answer is amazing.  He gives them a homework assignment.  “Go and learn what this means, ‘I desire mercy, and not sacrifice.’ For I came not to call the righteous, but sinners. ”

If they had gone to the passage He pointed them to, they could have been where Matthew was:

Hos 6:1-11 ESV
(1) “Come, let us return to the LORD; for he has torn us, that he may heal us; he has struck us down, and he will bind us up.
(2) After two days he will revive us; on the third day he will raise us up, that we may live before him.
(3) Let us know; let us press on to know the LORD; his going out is sure as the dawn; he will come to us as the showers, as the spring rains that water the earth.”
(4) What shall I do with you, O Ephraim? What shall I do with you, O Judah? Your love is like a morning cloud, like the dew that goes early away.
(5) Therefore I have hewn them by the prophets; I have slain them by the words of my mouth, and my judgment goes forth as the light.
(6) For I desire steadfast love and not sacrifice, the knowledge of God rather than burnt offerings.
(7) But like Adam they transgressed the covenant; there they dealt faithlessly with me.
(8) Gilead is a city of evildoers, tracked with blood.
(9) As robbers lie in wait for a man, so the priests band together; they murder on the way to Shechem; they commit villainy.
(10) In the house of Israel I have seen a horrible thing; Ephraim’s whoredom is there; Israel is defiled.
(11) For you also, O Judah, a harvest is appointed, when I restore the fortunes of my people.

So to conclude briefly:

It would appear to me that Matthew has pointed out that sin and righteousness come from the inside out, but we are hopeless and powerless to do anything about it.  We are like the paralyzed man who could not even make his own sacrifice.  He could no more atone for his sins than he could pick up his bed and walk.  The same power to dispel his sin is the power that enabled him to walk.

Matthew believed the same power, his faith made him walk – from the inside out.

How about you?

Craig

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