Tony  Sammut
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If you remember from last week’s readings, the Sermon on the Mount finished with Matthew describing the crowds as being “amazed at Jesus’ teaching, because he taught as one who had authority, and not as their teachers of the law” (Mt. 7:28-29).  Matthew’s making a point here, and he wants us to hear it.  Jesus isn’t just another religious teacher.  He’s not just going around giving some good advice or a new take on some old traditions.  He’s not just the latest new voice to come out of Galilee.  But in fact, there seems to be something more to him – the only word for it is “authority” – that is already setting Jesus apart from the others who would claim to be in charge.    And in the next few chapters, Matthew goes on to unpack just what kind of authority it is that Jesus comes with.

Over the course of chapters 8 and 9, we can read the stories of three sets of three miracles that Jesus performs.  Who knows if they all actually happened one right after the other.  But Matthew puts them all together in his biography to make some big statements about the kind of Kingdom Jesus has come to bring into the world, and the kind of Kingly authority He has over it.  So now that Jesus has just unfolded what the new “laws” of this kingdom look like (chpts 5-7), He begins to demonstrate what it looks like to live under His Kingly rule.  And there are some incredible things in all of this that we’re not meant to miss.

It seems that in every one of these miracles, there’s a slightly different aspect of Jesus’ power and generosity being displayed.  He heals all sorts of people, for one.  Jewish people, and Gentile (non-Jewish) people.  Friends and enemies.  Rich and poor.  Young and old.  Religious and irreligious.  Insiders and outsiders.  There are none who are beyond Jesus’ willingness to offer his great power.  And the only thing that seems to bind them in common is their “faith” in him – their recognition of his authority to actually do something about their plight. And it’s not just who Jesus brings healing to, but we’re also meant to see what kind of healing Jesus is working out.  He heals sickness and disease.  He heals men overcome by demonic influence.  He forgives sin.  He even calms a storm.  Jesus doesn’t just have authority for all people, but he has authority over all things – over sickness and disease, over nature, over sin, and over demonic and spiritual powers.

So now we’re getting more of the picture. Jesus doesn’t just talk big – though the things he had to say and teach blew up (in the best sense of the word) the paradigms of his day.  And now Jesus is really showing his kingly power and authority – for all people, over all things. 

But here’s the thing – and we’re not meant to miss it.  There’s still something so different to the authority of Jesus, compared to the authorities of his day, and most of the authorities of our day as well.  Because just like his teaching turned many of the common ways of thinking and relating upside-down, so too does the kind of kingly authority Jesus demonstrated.  For most kings, their power and authority was used to build an empire for themselves.  Sure, they kept the “peace”, but it was through the threat of violent military discipline.  And they used their authority to tax and take from the common people.

Jesus’ authority however is used altogether differently.  His authority is used to heal. To forgive. To save.  To restore those who were outcast from community back into its fabric. To bring peace – inwardly and outwardly.  To make dead things live, and wrong things right.  You see, Jesus is already beginning to do what he ultimately came to do in its fullest sense – rescuing, saving, and restoring the world from the corruption of sin and evil.  Bringing an altogether new kind of life for us to see and live.  In fact, if you read closely, you can see that Matthew is already sneaking in “resurrection” language” (ex. s/he “got up” or “arose”) to several of his stories.  King Jesus is bringing a power that is unlike that of Rome, or any of the religious leaders of the day.  His power is altogether new, and it’s given to us to make us altogether new.

So, here’s the question then.  What are you going to do?

That seems to be the question that Matthew is asking his readers in the midst of all of these incredible stories.  Earlier, I mentioned that these miracles are given to us in three sets of three.  That’s important to pick up.  Because after each one of these triplets, Matthew has inserted a different kind of story (Check out 8:18-22, 9:9-13, and 9:35-38).  And each one is a story that is meant to ask the question:  What are you going to do?  Will you respond to Jesus’ authority and put your faith in him?  Will you make him the greatest authority and first priority in your own life?  Will you follow him?

And if you answer that question with a yes, Jesus also makes it clear that it won’t be easy.  Though he offers his power and generosity (and even his authority – see 10:1) to us, he makes it clear that not everyone will respond kindly to those who follow him.  In fact, there will be some that outright rebel against Jesus’ message, and will want to do harm to Jesus and his followers.  Following him will cause division within families.  It will bring persecution and even death to some.  It will bring about hatred in others toward us and toward the One we follow.

Just as Jesus received a mixed response, so will his followers.  And this is exactly where Matthew will go in the following few chapters, where he records the various kinds of ways people choose to respond to Jesus’ call: “Will you follow me?”  

Daily Readings

Day 1: Matthew 8:1-22

Day 2: Matthew 8:23-9:13

Day 3: Matthew 9:14-38

Day 4: Matthew 10:1-31

Day 5: Matthew 10:32-42

As you read through the daily readings for this week, reflect on the questions below.  All the questions could apply in one way or another to each day’s reading, and you may find that they help you see a different side of Jesus’ identity and purpose when you ask them each day...

·         In what ways do you see Jesus demonstrating his power and authority?

·         What words would you use to describe each person Jesus is using his authority for?

·         What does Jesus say about what it means to follow him?

·         Where do you most need to demonstrate his generous authority in your life?  Ask him to show you what that looks like?

·         As you consider Jesus’ call to “Follow me”, what do you find most compelling?  What holds you back?  Take a moment to listen to God, asking Him to speak into where you are at.