In the next of the series of miracles performed by Jesus as recorded in Matthew 9:18-38, Jesus goes ‘one better’ than before…not only healing a blind man, delivering a demon possessed man, healing a woman suffering from a long term illness and raising a dead girl. However, the point of all these events is not for the sake of information but that we too might believe in Him. These verses also remind us why we should put faith in Him. It is because of the depth of His compassion for people – something that led Him all the way to the cross.
The text of Matthew 9:9-17 related a number of important events, beginning with the call that came from Jesus to Matthew (the writer of the gospel) to follow Him. This tax collector had no hesitation in leaving his old life behind to follow Jesus, and one of the immediate consequences of his decision to do that was seen in the meal hosted in his home at which many other ‘tax collectors and sinners’ were present. This prompted questions from the Pharisees and even from John’s disciples which Jesus was able to answer and put his grace and his coming into perspective.
Matthew 9:1-8 tells the story of the healing and the forgiveness that came to the paralyzed man. The fact that Jesus forgave the man (his first words to him were ‘Your sins are forgiven’) shows that this miracle was more than just another healing. Jesus saw that the man’s spiritual condition was more serious than his outward condition. And so to prove that Jesus was able to forgive the man’s sins (something invisible), He also brought healing to the man’s body (something that all could see) and so prove that He, as the Son of Man, could do both!
*The audio is not quite right for the first 20 secs or so, but be patient…it all comes good!
After recording some examples of the healing ministry of Jesus, in Matthew 8:28-34, Matthew tells of an encounter between Jesus and two demon-possessed men. Matthew had already told his readers of how Jesus had control over demons in both chapters 4 and 8, but this is the first real example of His power at work. And while the demons quickly recognised who Jesus was and what their ultimate destiny would be, Jesus kept his contact with them to a minimum. Matthew tells us that he just spoke one word to them and that was enough!
After Jesus began his public ministry with three miraculous healings, Matthew 8:18-27 records how would-be followers came to Him seeking to join His disciples. He responded to these requests by pointing out the cost of such commitment, demanding total allegiance to Him over everything and everyone. Then, taking while His disciples across the Sea of Galilee (to meet the demon possessed men of Matthew 9), in the boat which was about to sink, He pointed out to His disciples that to trust Him continually is vital.
After Jesus spoke the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5-7), Matthew’s Gospel then proceeds to display the things Jesus did (Matthew 8-10) interspersed with commands from Jesus to follow Him. Matthew 8:1-17 tells of three separate incidents in which the power of Jesus to heal was on show. What do we learn from these healings? And, what is Matthew telling us about Jesus?
The story of Abraham does not end with his death. The New Testament has much to say about his life and faith – especially in Hebrews 11:8-19. There, we find Abraham and Sarah’s names among the roll call of the faithful and we see the elements of what it means to live a life of faith and persevere to the end and prove to be faithful.
The record of Sarah’s death and, then eventually, Abraham’s death, is found in Genesis 23:1-20 and Genesis 25:1-11. The Bible gives great honour to Sarah, recording her age at death and the details concerning her burial. The same honour is given to Abraham, who the grand age of 175 was ‘gathered to his people’. However, the death of Abraham is not the end of the story. His greatest Son, Jesus, whose story ends with an empty grave, brings God’s people a real and living hope.
The account of Abraham’s attempted sacrifice of Isaac in Genesis 22:1-19 is surely the climactic point in the development of the faith of Abraham. After all that he had been through in relation to the promises of God that he would have a son, it must have been heart breaking for him to have to do what the Lord entreated him and offer Isaac as a burnt sacrifice. What would he do? Obey God and so prove the genuineness of his faith.
The account of Genesis 21:22-34 records the development of an unusual working relationship between Abraham and King Abimelech of Gerar. After Abraham’s last encounter with Abimelech in Genesis 20 which didn’t go so well, this time, their interaction – particularly from Abraham’s point of view – went so much better! The section of text is interesting on another level too, in that it provides us with an understanding of covenants in Old Testament times, leading us to remember the God who makes covenants with His people.