Friday, January 11, 2019

Devotional: The Cost of Following Jesus, Matthew 8:18-24

Outline of Matthew 8.18-27

Matthew continues to show his readers that Jesus’ teaching is reliable as the foundation for building one’s life by recounting several miracles. These miracles show Jesus’ identity as God and the one who fulfills all the promises to the nation of a powerful deliverer from spiritual and physical oppression, sin,  sickness,  and even death. Jesus, though possessing all the power and authority of God, chooses to endure all the consequences of the chaos that humans (and the rebellious supernatural powers in the spiritual realm) caused and must endure in this age. Jesus will not only deliver us from all of it in the age to come, but he lives with us now to endure it with us and empower us to get through it to the other side. All that he requires is that we trust him completely and imitate his lifestyle of commitment to God and self-sacrifice for others. If Jesus is who his miracles suggest that he is, then we owe him the highest allegiance and must make following him the highest priority in our lives.

In the midst of six miracle stories in 8:1-9:8, Matthew inserts Jesus’ teaching about the level of commitment and sacrifice required to be his disciple (8:18-22). The position of this section highlights its prime importance to the point Matthew is making. Jesus requires nothing less than full commitment to his agenda and a willingness to sacrifice everything else that we have to him. No other obligation can be allowed to interfere with with the ones he places on our lives. First, Jesus calls us to be willing to give up even the basic needs of life. By the way, these are the very things he promises that God will supply in abundance in chapter 5. Jesus shows us the way by being willing to give up the security of food and shelter (“nowhere to lay his head”) when God’s mission required it. Second, Jesus requires us to submit all social obligations to our prime obligation to follow and serve him. When he told the prospective disciple to  “let the dead bury their own dead,” he was subjugating the most important social obligation in Jewish culture to his calling. This means that, for us, family, work, personal, or any other obligation must take a back seat as Jesus demands to be the solo driver in our lives.

This is a huge commitment and Matthew wants to make sure that we know that Jesus has the power and authority to make that commitment pay off for us. To do this he recounts one of Jesus’ most spectacular miracles – the calming of the storm. (8:24-27) There were stories in the ancient world of gods doing this kind of miracle but Matthew records this as an eye witness who was sitting in the boat when it happened. Can an exhausted Jesus, who doesn’t even have a house to sleep in, protect those who follow him from the chaos, darkness and the supernatural forces that threaten them? The answer is a resounding yes! Matthew succinctly understates the drama and impact of this incident to highlight the ease by which Jesus deals with the situation. The worst that the powers of darkness can dish out is stopped by a casual word from Jesus. Jesus then wonders why they were afraid. They had seen what he could do. There was no reason for fear. Matthew had already answered the disciples question, “what sort of man is this.” (8:27). This is Jesus, “God With Us,” who goes with us through the chaos of life and delivers us from and through whatever this chaotic world can throw at us.

This is why it makes sense to give up all to follow Jesus. We can still trust the Jesus who sits at the right hand of the Father to do miracles in our lives today. He is all-powerful and loves us beyond what we can understand. We love him back by trusting him for everything we need and for safety as we navigate through the chaos. There is no need to fear. Trust Jesus’ word and he will calm your agitated heart just as he calmed the stormy waters and bring you to the other side.

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