Monday, January 14, 2019

Devotional: The Authority of the New King, Matthew 8:28-9:8

Outline of Matthew 8.19-9.8

Matthew closes this section with two more “proofs” of Jesus’ authority and power to bring in the new age of the promised kingdom of God. God had arrived in the flesh and was calling men and women into relationship with him.. In the encounters with the two demonized men and in the healing and the paralytic, Jesus claims authority that belongs only to God. Even the demons recognize Jesus’ authority to command them with a word and Jesus’ right to judge them at the final judgment (8:29). Jesus claims his authority to bring people into relationship with God by publicly forgiving the sins of the paralytic and then proving that he has the divine authority to remove the effects of sin by healing him. These are the kinds of things that would only happen when God’s promised kingdom had arrived. In Jesus then, and in us now as we represent Jesus (28:19), God’s kingdom and its benefits are breaking out on earth and we can be sure that they will be fully experienced at “the time” of judgment and renewal of the earth when Jesus returns.

The main point of the exorcism story in 8:28-34 is that even the demons recognize Jesus as their God and judge and must submit to his call and command. The irony in this passage is that the demons quickly and completely obey Jesus’ command but those who hear the message of what Jesus did reject him and send him away. We also see the “already-not yet” character of the kingdom in the demon’s surprise that Jesus was dealing with them before the appointed time of judgment. What Jesus was doing to purge evil here was a preview of his decisive defeat of evil at the cross and resurrection and of the final removal of it at his second coming. We also operate in this “already” stage as we wait for the “not-yet” promise. Finally, we see, by Jesus willingness to destroy a herd of pigs to save two men, that Jesus valued people over property. It is this priority that caused the people of that village to reject his message and send him away. Sadly, the unwillingness to surrender one’s stuff to Jesus still causes people to reject him today. .

The healing of the paralytic shows that Jesus has the authority and willingness to forgive sin and remove its effects. (9:1-8) Here the people who bring the paralytic to Jesus provide a sharp contrast to the villagers who sent him away. They trusted Jesus enough to bring their friend to him for healing and Jesus responded to that faith by, not just healing him, but also by meeting his greatest need by forgiving his sins. Jesus here does what only God can do when he offers atonement apart from the provisions of the Torah. If he was not God it was blasphemy. Sadly, the “scribes” do not have the perception of the demons who recognized who Jesus was. One other important point that comes out of this passage is the need to pray for spiritual and physical healing for ourselves and others. If we truly believe Jesus’ claims here, we will be willing to do the work necessary to bring ourselves and others to him. This is how God wants us to bring glory to him.

These two miracles show that Jesus; defeats and frees us from the slavery to and oppression of evil. He has the divine authority and willingness to forgive sins and heal all of sin’s effects on us. He has removed every barrier that divides us from God. He can heal the paralysis which keeps us from serving and enjoying God. Like the friends of the paralytic, let’s come to Jesus and bring our friends with us.

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