We study through books of the Bible here at The Village Chapel, and we have extra copies if you didn’t bring one with you and you would like one to follow along. Can I get somebody to jump up here and grab these, maybe somebody from the back as well? Raise your hand up real high if you’d like a paper copy. You can also, of course, jump online. I believe we have a network here that you can be tied into there, if you know how to do that kind of thing, it’s up on the screen. I believe it is now anyway up on the screen.
So really glad to be studying the last half, and thanks to Pastor Matt Pierson who taught us the first half of Matthew 4 last week. He is preaching over at Belmont Church on Music Row, historic church here in town. They’ve been without a pastor; and about once a month, they’ve asked us to supply some pulpit preachers for them, and we’re so glad to be able to do that. And Matt is over there this morning, teaching on 1 Peter 2, so keep him in your prayers as well.
Where we pick up in Matthew 4, and our study, of course, as most of you know, is The King and His Kingdom. This is all about Jesus. This is the inauguration of His Kingdom come, the Kingdom of heaven, as Matthew will refer to it over and over and over again. Pretty sure Matthew was formerly called Levi, and pretty sure this is the one who is Jewish writing to a Jewish audience. He’s got a sensitivity to the use of the name or the title of God, and so he calls it kingdom of heaven. Jews would typically have that kind of sensitivity. The name is too holy to be uttered by sinners. And so he would then make that adjustment as he writes to a Jewish audience and he would say a kingdom of heaven, and they would understand exactly what He means.
After just having gone through the temptation of Christ, as we did last week, Jesus returned to Galilee, this time to the town of Capernaum. And those of us who’ve been over to Israel before, this is one of the most popular of the sites that you visit. We’ve been there five times. And every single time I’m just amazed at the ruins that are there, the synagogue that is there, the ruins of it are dated to the fourth century, but underneath is a darker black foundation that is dated to the first century. Could that be where Jesus taught? Yes, it could be. I don’t know that it is, but it could be. It’s fascinating to be a Capernaum, though, on the northwest shore of the Sea of Galilee. And we’ll read about that same town here today, as Jesus returned there and then went there rather than go to Nazareth, went up to Capernaum.
From there, we’ll read today about the first elements of His public ministry, and the first calling of disciples, and also the first responses of people to Jesus. What issues were so important that they became part of the first preachment of Jesus? What did He address from the get go? Hmm. What kinds of people did Jesus choose to call as His first disciples? And what does that tell us about him? And what does it tell us about us as well? What does it maybe imply? How did people first respond to the real Jesus of history? And we’ll get all of that today as we’re going to call our study today “Three Firsts.”
I’m reading some short stories, I’m enjoying it. I have this one little quote that I just have loved, it’s credited to Leo Tolstoy a lot:
“All great literature is one of two stories; a man goes on a journey or a stranger comes to town.”
And in the person of Jesus Christ, we have both. A man goes on a great journey from heaven to earth. All of you that were in Young Life:
♪ To show the way ♪ ♪ Your debt to pay ♪ Is that how it goes? I think that’s it. ♪ Lord, I lift your name on high ♪
Whatever that is. Yeah. So four of you, that’s good. But He went on a great journey. The Son of God condescended to become one of us. That’s a great journey. What’s the purpose of the journey? Who is this? Now He’s a stranger also that comes to town. Who is this guy? And Matthew is helping us with the answers to that question. In Jesus we find, really, those two great things.
Now today we’ll see three firsts, and they’re interesting. I don’t know how many of you remember some firsts in your life. But let me read the entire passage then I’m going to come back to that question and see if some of you have some answers for me. Verse 12 starts this way: “When Jesus heard that John had been taken into custody,” this is John the Baptist that’s being talked about here, and he was taken into custody by Herod Antipas, the son of Herod the Great, “Jesus withdrew into Galilee.” Now some people say, “Oh, was Jesus afraid? What’s going on here?” No. Jesus is actually going deeper into Galilee. And Galilee is where Herod Antipas was the ruler, he inherited a portion of Herod the Great, his father’s kingdom, and part of it was Galilee; and Perea the other part of it, south and east of the Jordan river. But Galilee is the northern third of ancient Palestine, and so this guy, Herod Antipas, is actually the king there and he’s the one that took John the Baptist into custody, he’s the one that puts John the Baptist to death.
And Jesus withdrew, He went deeper into Galilee, he goes to Capernaum. “Leaving Nazareth, He came to Capernaum, which is by the sea in the region of Zebulun and Naphtali.” These are the ancient tribal apportion. These parts of the land that were given to Zebulun and Naphtali, and Galilee sits right at it. It’s a beautiful area, very rich soil. So for an agrarian economy, this would’ve drawn a lot of people. But it’s also called Galilee of the Gentiles because in 722 BBC the Assyrians come, way before the time of Jesus, and literally carry away the northern tribes of Israel, and then some of them over time move back but they have interbred with folks from different nations and people groups. And now what you have is in the north, you have Galilee of the Gentiles, it’s called by the Jews in Jerusalem and Judea. And they’re literally using that as pejorative, they’re saying they’re not full Jews up there. And so when you’re in Jerusalem where the sort of capital of the religious system is, you’re kind of looking down your nose a little bit. But that’s where Jesus goes, and that’s where Jesus would call His first disciples from.
So watch what happens here. “All of this was to fulfill,” verse 14 says. And Matthew uses the term fulfill well over a dozen times, and he is definitely intent as an author in connecting the dots between the Old Testament prophecies about Messiah and Jesus of Nazareth, this real person who lived in real space-time history in a real geographic area. And these geographic regions, all this live body detail is there so that we understand this is not just a fairy book, this is actually history that we’re reading. And it’s fulfilled history on top of that, Matthew says. And so he quotes here from Isaiah: “The land of Zebulun, the land of Naphtali, by the way of the sea, beyond the Jordan, Galilee of the Gentiles, the people who were sitting in darkness saw a great light.” And that’s what people in darkness need, is a light. “And those who were sitting in the land and shadow of death,” how oppressive it was for them at that time, “upon them a light dawned.” Hope is rising, see. “Messiah has come,” Matthew says. And it’s the fulfillment. It was planned so now he can say it was fulfilled. It wasn’t just random, it was planned. And it was planned specifically that Messiah would come to this region, this way, this time. And here is Jesus. And John the Baptist has already pointed Him out. Now Matthew is saying, “Yes and amen, it’s Him. Look, it’s all being fulfilled right in front of us.”
Verse 17: “From that time,” in other words, continuously, “Jesus began to preach and say, ‘Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.” Where have we heard that before? Yeah, it’s not too long ago. John the Baptist is the one who was saying those exact same words. Verse 2 chapter 3, John the Baptist preaches and that’s exactly what he says, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.”
“Walking by the Sea of Galilee, He saw two brothers, Simon who was called Peter and Andrew his brother.” And by the way, Andrew is always referred to as Simon’s brother. And that might have been annoying. I know some of you think… Try to put that into our own terms. Are you always somebody else’s something? Does that ever annoy you that you’re somehow or another identified as the brother of, or the daughter of, or the parents of, or whatever? I don’t know. But we are who we are in relationship, and that’s a good thing. And we need to see that as a good thing. Our emphasis in this world is all on you, me, self, but in the Bible we’re all related in some way. And this is just beautiful. I love this. This is two sets brothers he’s basically going to call as disciples. “He saw two brothers Simon who was called Peter and Andrew his brother, casting a net into the sea for they were fishermen. And He said to them, ‘Follow me and I will make you fishers of men.‘ Just two words, “Follow me.” not three words, “Go to seminary.” No, just, “Follow me.” And by the way, I’m a fan of seminaries so don’t misread that. But let’s don’t say things that aren’t there. What’s there is follow me, that’s what Jesus said. If you don’t follow Him and you go to seminary, you’re just being an educated fool. If you do follow Him, it can really dramatically change your journey through seminary, or your trip to Israel, or your life as someone who is just living here in Nashville doing whatever it is you might do. Follow Him. Yeah, that’s really a great call, isn’t it? “Follow me and I will make you fishers of men.” In other words, it’s not just following rules, it’s following that is transformative. These guys that were fishing for fish, He’s going to turn them into fishers of people. And that’s awesome. What might that mean?
Well, verse 20 says, “And immediately they left their nets and followed Him.” Could they have heard Him preach before this? They might have. I don’t know. Matthew is really great at summarizing, he organizes his material. And even in this particular case, we’re going to see, like I say, three firsts. But here, he organizes it in such a way that the call is there, or the command is there, and then the promise is there. Command, “Follow me.” Promise, “I’ll make you fishers of men.” “And immediately they left their nets and followed Him. Going on from there, He saw two other brothers, James the son of Zebedee and John his brother.” Notice the information here that helps us triangulate exactly which two persons, James and John, they were the sons of Zebedee. That’s no throwaway, that’s meant to tell us which James, which John of that time because just like now there are people with the same name.
And so which one? Well, the sons of Zebedee near Capernaum. In or near Capernaum, right? And they were fishermen as well. “James the son of Zebedee, and John his brother, in the boat with Zebedee their father, mending their nets; and He called them. And then immediately they left the boat and their father, and they followed Him.”
Notice how responsive both sets of brothers are. James and John will go on to be called the Sons of Thunder. They’re sort of like sort of like the bouncers in the band of disciples. They go through Samaria and they get this rough response to Jesus there, and James and John go, “Lord, you want us to call down fire and brimstone on this town?” They’re sort of the tough guys. I suspect they had tattoos and earrings, and all that sort of thing, whatever would’ve made them tough guys back then. I’m not sure what would’ve made them tough guys. “But immediately they left the boat and their father and followed Him.” Pretty awesome. “Jesus was going about,” here’s a summary statement now, “in all Galilee, teaching in their synagogues.”
He’s been preaching and now He’s teaching in their synagogues and proclaiming the gospel of the kingdom and healing, now He’s healing, every kind… How many? Every kind of diseases and every kind of sickness among the people. Verse 24: “And the news about Him went out into all Syria,” without social media, without newspaper headlines, without any kind of broadcast media, network media, social, whatever. “The news about Him went out into all Syria,” which is Gentile territory, “and they brought to Him all who are ill, taken with various diseases and pains.” Raise your hand if you have a pain in your life. No, don’t. You don’t have to. But we all have… I mean, I’m getting older. I creek when I get out of bed in the morning. And we have said this before. Sometimes I get a sleep injury. And it’s like I get out of bed like, “Oh, where did that come from?” I must really… You know? But He’s healing all kinds of diseases and pains, He’s also freeing them from demoniacs, epileptics, paralytics, and He healed them. Notice the distinguishment between these categories. There are a lot of people that look back into the Old Testament and think, “Oh, those quaint, old, simpleminded fishermen didn’t really know the difference between a demon possessed person and somebody who actually had a physiological problem.” Yes, they did. The categories are right here. Why would they articulate the categories if they didn’t know the difference?
So Jesus, according to Matthew, who’s a record keeper and accountant, if you will, is saying, “All diseases, all pains, all demoniacs, epileptics, paralytics, and He healed them. And great multitudes followed Him from Galilee and Decapolis,” that means the 10 cities that would’ve been on the eastern side of the sea of Galilee, that would’ve been 10 cities that were Greek, Gentile again “and people from Jerusalem and Judea and from beyond the Jordan.” That is amazing. So, for a wide variety of people followed Him for a wide variety of reasons we will see as we go through Matthew’s gospel.
So, wow, there’s so much here. I want to talk about these three firsts a little bit, but I want to first just to kind of talk about how important firsts are. How many of you remember your first car? Raise your hand. First car? Remember your first car? Yeah. Here’s my first car, believe it or not. (shows picture). I’m pretty proud of this little boy. Yeah. This is a 1968 Firebird 400. All right? And this isn’t mine. I didn’t have a picture of mine that was worthy of being put up there. What?- [Kim Thomas says] Yours was white inside.Yeah, that’s right. This is not mine. Kim was actually in my Firebird 400. I’m not sure still if that might not have been what attracted her to me or not. I’m not sure. I’m not really sure. But yeah, I had a white interior there. I did not have the spoiler on the back. I had Cragar S/S mags. But this is a beautiful piece of machinery right here. And by the way, I owned it twice. Bought it once and then got a reckless driving ticket. Aw. So I lost my license. It sat on cinder block wheels for a while. Sadly I got what I deserved. It was wrong for me to do what I did. But it sat up on cinder blocks for six months, I put it on the road, then I sold it when I went to college. I went away to college. And when I came back from college, because I didn’t do very well in college, I came home and the guy had sort of been on hard luck so he sold it back to me for less than I sold it to him for. So that was really awesome. Owned that puppy twice. Wish I still had it. But that’s my first car. And you never forget that.
How many of you remember your first kiss? Anybody remember your first kiss? How many of you are still waiting for your.. No, don’t, don’t, don’t, don’t, don’t! Don’t do that now. That’s okay. If you’re still waiting, that’s fine. Stay there. This is me and Kim, and we got Chris Parker to take the photo. I don’t know if Chris is here, but he’s always been really good at taking photos and I just appreciate that about him. But yeah, you can see Kim wasn’t into it at all. I mean, you know, see. We still have those socks, honey. I think they believe me. I think they think it’s really us. Anyway. What I’m trying to say is firsts are important. Firsts are important. They set the tone, they set the trajectory.
And here we have, in the last half of Matthew, three firsts, where Jesus does that. Matthew, who’s a good record keeper, is sharp enough to pick up on it, and he makes sure that we all get to know the tone and trajectory of these three things. And that’s why firsts, I think, are really, really important. And I’m going to give you the outline in advance. Some of you might get a little… nod off here in the sun, as we’re having a beautiful sun here in our sanctuary.
- A record of the first preaching, teaching, and healings of Jesus.
- It’s a record of the first calling of disciples to Jesus.
- A record of the first responses to Jesus.
And I think all of that is really important for us.
First, a little bit of a geographical reminder. Here’s what the map looked like, okay? Right up there on the screen, you can kind of see down at the bottom, there’s a little body of water in the middle there. I think I’ve got my… I’m going to move quickly to pick up my… I didn’t bring this tool with me. I’ve got this really fascinating thing. And when they buy you one of these as a preacher, you ought to use it. You know? So I’m going to do that. Right here… I know online it’s going to be difficult for you guys to see that. But let me see if I can get… Battery’s dead. Okay. There we go. My bad. Tech crew is all… They’re good. That was my bad. You can see the body of water in the middle there, that would be what we call the Dead Sea. And as you move up to where it says Galilee, it’s kind of in brown up there, you’ll see another body of water to its right, that’s the Sea of Galilee. So Dead Sea at the bottom, Sea of Galilee at the top. Jesus, as the white line with the little arrow shows you, He traveled all the way down to the wilderness area where Jericho is when He went down to be baptized by John, and then was tempted by the devil, which we read about last week. And so then He travels back up to Nazareth. He enters Galilee region at Nazareth, but then He moves on to Capernaum, which is a little bit to the east and north, and that’s in blue, you can see that on the northwest shore of the sea of Galilee. What I have for you up on the screen as well, is that Galilee and then Perea down below, on the right there, these are the regions that Herod Antipas the son of Herod of the Great would have been in charge of. Decapolis, over to the right there, that’s the 10 cities. Kim, you’re doing great. Is it okay? She says she has a little familial tremor, and it’s creating a little bit of a…. Let me see if I have one too. Oh, I do. Look at that. This is the Tetrarchy of Philip. There are two Philips that are the sons… Both of them are sons of Herod the Great.
Herod the Great. You must understand this, don’t fall asleep. Herod the Great had 10 wives. And a bunch of the sons become the inheritors of his kingdom when he dies. He ruled from 37 BC to 4 BC. And Herod the Great is the one that tried to kill Jesus. Jesus actually was born in what we now call probably 5, 6, 7 BC, somewhere like that, because Herod the Great was still alive when Jesus was born. Because the Wise Men came and they asked about where was this king to be born, and all of that. So you have this interesting breaking up of the territories. And Archelaus will be down in this region; Herod Archelaus, another one of the sons of Herod the Great. But Herod Antipas is up in this area and rules this area. He’s the one that arrests John the Baptist. He’s the one that actually Jesus will appear before on trial as well.
And so when we come to chapter 4, knowing those different regions and reading that Jesus withdrew into Galilee, He’s not running away from Herod Antipas, he’s in Galilee still; and if he anything, He’s pressing deeper into Galilee. The center for Herod Antipas in Galilee either already has become or will become Tiberius, this city that we’ve actually visited and still exists today, it’s actually the only full blown city on the shores of the Sea of Galilee. So the fact that it’s called Tiberius after the Roman emperor is a play on the part of Herod Antipas to sort of snuggle up with the emperor. Let me name this town after you, you know? And what’s fascinating is that these ancient towns that we see and read about really place our Bible, like I say, in space-time history; it’s really important that we see all of that.
Well, my first point, the record of the first preaching, teaching and healings of Jesus. It’s an eyewitness account, summary description right here as you look at Matthew 4, especially at verse 17 which says, “From that time, Jesus began to preach and to say, ‘Repent for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.” What’s the difference between preaching and teaching? One is a proclamation, one is a declaration. So if preaching is proclamation, what is teaching then? It’s explanation. Okay? So you have proclamation: “These things are true,” these bold, huge statements. “The kingdom of heaven is at hand!” And the preaching is, “Repent!” That’s a summons, that’s a command, right? And then there’s teaching that he references a little bit later here, which is He’s explaining some of this, unfolding it a little bit more. And I love this about Jesus, because we’re also told He moves to healing here.
So we have preaching, teaching, healing. We have Jesus who claimed to be the way, the truth and the life. And how that corresponds for me in my understanding of preaching, teaching and healings is this: He’s the way, He explains the way; but then He’s the truth, and so He gets further into describing why it’s true, and teaching it, He unfolds it a little bit more; and He is also the life. When we are looking for some kind of healing; whether that’s spiritual, emotional or physical healing; we turn to Him and in Him we find life. And I love that about Jesus, that we find all three of those things, Him doing all of that here right at the beginning.
What is repentance? It’s Jesus calling us to stop, consider. We talked about this a few weeks ago. If you’re going this way, you have a change of mind that turns into a change of direction; that’s what repentance means; a change of mind and heart, it’s a twofold turn. Turn away from that direction and turn toward faith and Christ. Repent for the kingdom of heaven is at hand, which is really beautiful. As I say, Matthew talks about the kingdom of heaven 32 times in his gospel; only uses kingdom of God, I think it’s four times in his gospel. So these are the terms that are included in Jesus’ preaching. His summons, His command, His first call right out the door is: this is the beginning of your Christian way, it begins with repentance, and then you move into this life in the kingdom of heaven.
I like the way Eugene Peterson put it:
“Repentance, the first word in Christian immigration, sets us on the way to traveling in the light. It is a rejection that is also an acceptance, a leaving that develops into an arriving, a no to the world that is a yes to God.”– Eugene Peterson, A Long Obedience in the Same Direction
Isn’t that rich? That really spells it out for us, doesn’t it? Let’s ponder that a little bit. Have you repented like that before? It’s an important question for us to ask ourselves. I encourage you by saying the Christian way, the Christian life, is a life of repentance. It’s not one and done on our side of it, it’s one and done for what Jesus has done. That’s true. But for me, it’s every single day, multiple times a day, turning away from something and turning toward Jesus in faith and believing. And I love the way Peterson has put it there.
This passage is also a record of the first calling of disciples. And Matthew shows us what kind of people Jesus chose to be His closest disciples and confidants, what Jesus called them to do, and how that calling changes them forever. So if Jesus could have chosen anybody, which He could have, if He could have chosen anybody, what does it tell us when he goes to the north, to Galilee of the Gentiles, the other side of the tracks for Jews, for the Jewish religious system? He went there to choose some uneducated losers, the poor, the marginalized, the looked down upon. And I don’t know about you but that gives me just a little bit of hope. And it also reminds me that it’s not about the ones he chooses, it’s about the chooser himself; because He has a right to choose anybody He wants to, and what He does is He chooses the least of these so that all of us would know that He might. If we hear Him calling us, it’s actually possible that He is calling us. So if you hear Him calling you today, I don’t know what you’re hearing but here’s what I would say: If you think He’s calling you, the big question that comes now is, how will you respond? These guys, we’re told how they respond. Immediately. Why wait? Who wouldn’t want what Jesus is putting on offer? He’s the king that we’ve always wanted, and He is the king that we need.
See, when you know you’re a sinner, when you understand that you want grace, you long for grace, not for religious rules to follow, not for religious practices that somehow or another balance out the moral, no, that’s not going to happen. I need grace, undeserved kindness of God, because I’m a sinner and I’m guilty; and that’s what He’s put on offer to each and every one of us, and that’s why it’s so beautiful.
This is the calling of the first disciples. Peter would later walk on water with Jesus but he would also get rebuked by Jesus as if Peter were Satan himself. “Get thee behind me, Satan,” Jesus would say to Peter. Peter’s the one who was brash enough to chop off somebody’s ear as he tried to defend Christ in the Garden of Gethsemane, but then Peter became so afraid just hours later that he denied Christ three times; and so his spiritual life looks like this. How does yours look like? Mine looks a lot like that. And yet Jesus calls people like that too, doesn’t He?
Andrew, I love him, almost always referred to, like I say, as Peter’s brother. Now that had to be annoying, but maybe you can relate to Andrew in some way. He always had a servant heart and he is always bringing people to Jesus, which is great. I love that about Andrew.
James and John, the tough guys like I said. And He called them too, so where were you on that continuum? I don’t know. You may not be able to see yourself there. But hold on, we’re only in chapter 4, Jesus will be calling a whole lot more people to follow Him, and I’m really excited about that.
What does follow me mean? It means believe in me, it means trust me, it means come with me, it means count the cost of leaving some things behind: your boat, your father even in your boat in their particular case. Follow me, set everything else aside. The priority is Jesus and following Him, and that certainly at least symbolizes something for our prioritizing Christ in our own lives.
N. T. Wright says,
“It is not the case that God simply accepts us as we are. He invites us as we are; but responding to the invitation always involves the complete transformation which is acted out in repentance, forgiveness, baptism, and receiving the spirit.”–N. T. Wright
I wish I could have been there the day that Jesus baptized these four guys. One of my friends used to tell the story and retell it, and add a little bit to it, that they got into a little mud fight in the water and they were laughing and having a blast together, and Jesus too was doing that. I thought that was just awesome. But to have been a fly on the wall, to have understood or to have heard Jesus say some of the things that He said would’ve been delightful.
Later in Matthew 16 he’ll say,
“If anyone wishes to come after Me” If you decide you would like to follow Him, they “must deny himself, take up his cross and follow me”. So this is what it looks like. “For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it; but whoever loses his life for My sake will find it.”Matthew 16:24-25
These are some of the paradoxes of the Christian gospel. If you don’t like paradox, you probably won’t like the Christian faith; it’s rich in paradox. But I think the world and reality, as I know it, is also rich in paradox. He calls us not to obsess with the self, not to focus on yourself, not to make sure you put you first, not to look to yourself for salvation.
What does He call you to do with yourself? Deny yourself. None of us really have any problem putting ourselves first. Even those of us that struggle with self image and things like that, a lot of times will still, even if it’s passively, will still put ourselves ahead of others; it comes natural to sinners to do that. So Christ calls us to deny ourselves, take up our cross. That sounds like a death, and that’s because it is.
And follow Me means go where Jesus goes, see what Jesus sees, see things the way Jesus sees things. We choose to follow Christ, we embrace a new king, a new kingdom, a new calling; we desire to live out hallowed be the name, which we pray all the time, we actually want to live that out. Thy kingdom come. Thy name be hallowed. And thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven, including on earth in my life.
Thirdly, it’s a record of the first responses to Jesus. We see the that in the last couple of verses. Look at, with me if you will, verse 23: “He was going about in Galilee, teaching in their synagogues, proclaiming the gospel of the kingdom, healing every kind of disease, every kind of sickness among the people. News about Him went out into all Syria and they brought to Him all who were ill, taken with various diseases and pains, demoniacs, epileptics, paralytics, and He healed them. And great multitudes,” not just multitudes but great multitudes, okay, “great multitudes followed Him from Galilee and Decapolis, Jerusalem, Judea and from beyond the Jordan.”
People were coming from everywhere. And Matthew is basically saying this thing took off like a rocket ship, because the word of good news moves quick, or it used to at least. Why are we so silent? Words of good news ought to move really quickly.
And I love these first responses. We see the first responses with Peter and Andrew, James and John, immediately they followed Him. Obedience, urgency, it’s all there. Let’s go. You know?
And then these crowds, which we’ll read later on along the way, they’ll have kind of different mixed motivations as they… Some will be following because they’re curious. Some will follow because they want to catch Him in some kind of a lie or a trap in some way to discredit Him. Others will follow Him because they’re so desperate for physical healing or a friend of theirs is, and they will literally drag their friends before Jesus and say, “Please help,” and it’s just a physical healing, they’re only thinking about that.
Others, we will see Jesus minister to some of these people and He’ll do more than mend their bodies, He will tend to their souls as a gentle shepherd, as a great physician, as only Jesus can, and he will say, “Your sins are forgiven.”
And then He heals many. His miracles are amazing. They’re not just a sideshow, they actually affirm His identity. If He’s the Son of God like He claimed to be, you would think He could do some these things. They affirm His identity, they also reveal His compassion and they display His power. His miracles are amazing. And I love studying His miracles. The kids are studying the miracles of Jesus, or they just went through that theme. But I love the miracles of Jesus for that. But He didn’t just come to put on a sideshow. He actually wants us to know that He’s compassionate, that He’s tender, that He is the Son of God, that He’s powerful; that if you believe in Him, you will find your life in Him, it’s really beautiful.
Why do you follow if you follow? It’s a good question for us to ask ourselves. Why is it that we responded to Jesus at some point? And studying these first responses is helpful.
Richard Bauckham is a brilliant New Testament scholar, he has a book called “Jesus and the Eyewitnesses,” which I highly recommend. If you like kind of chasing around the veracity of the New Testament, it’s a really great book. This one’s called “Losing and Finding Self,” and he says,
“Finding our true selves in Christ, we identify with Him who loved us, follow His way of self-giving for God and for others, and thus continually find ourselves afresh in Him. The Christian self both gives and finds itself in the love of Jesus Christ.”– Richard Bauckham, Losing and Finding Self
You see how if you think you’re having some struggles figuring out who you are, why you’re here, what’s the purpose and meaning of your life, you don’t turn to yourself the Bible says, you turn to Jesus, you turn to the source of life itself, and in Him you find the life you have always wanted and hoped for. You don’t find yourself by looking at yourself. See, we’re finite creatures, and God has designed us, the scriptures teach us, with eternity in our hearts; that means nothing finite in this world can ever satisfy our deepest longings, including finding myself. I’m going to be disappointed or frustrated; or if I listen to the different voices around me that are trying to influence me to be like they want me to be for their agenda, if I listen to all of that, I’ll be confused about myself. Instead Jesus says, “Follow me. Find your life in me.”
I’ll close with this quote by Os Guinness:
“Do you want to know a truth that in the momentous challenges of our modern world will be at once a quest to inspire you, an anchor to hold you fast, a rich fare to nourish you, and a relationship you will prize above all others? Listen to Jesus of Nazareth; answer His call.”– Os Guinness, The Call
Is He calling you today? If he is, I hope you’ll consider, pause for just a moment, and prayerfully consider how you might want to respond to Him. Following Him is the greatest quest you could ever embark upon in life. Realizing that you belong to Him is the safest, most significant place you could ever put yourself. Don’t try to hold onto yourself. Give yourself back to the one who gave it to you in the first place. He’s the one you belong to, not yourself, not the culture, not the flow of culture. You belong to Him, and I encourage you to do that.
Lord, thank you for this passage, these three firsts. Thank you, you came preaching, teaching and healing, that your words explained your deeds, that your deeds illustrated your words. And I pray for all of us who believe and hope in Jesus, that our words and our works, our words and our deeds would also align in such a way to bring glory to our beautiful savior, to our king. I pray that that would be the case of this church, and the case for each individual in this church, and for all the folks who may be watching or listening online as well; Lord, that we might recognize you as king and that we might live in your kingdom even beginning now, and as you continue to unfold your kingdom until that great day when it comes in its fullness, when you complete it, Lord, which we look forward to. No more disease, no more dying, no more death, no more pain, evil, suffering, war, none of that, when our great king comes to set all things right, and we look forward to that with great joy and great delight. Until then live through your people, we pray. And may our words and deeds align with your words and deeds as well. We pray all this in the name of Jesus. Amen and amen.
(Edited for Reading)