Summary: Jesus ministry demonstrated the authority of God. Not everyone applauded. The authority of God in us brings great blessing and responsibility. Do we take seriously the authority God has given us? Jesus did.
Imagine having a photo album of the events in Jesus’ life. That describes well what God has given us in the first gospel. Between five major spoken messages of Jesus in Matthew, we find narrative pictures of Jesus’ in action. Last week we looked at chapter 8 and today Matthew 9 gives us seven more snapshots of Jesus in his ministry. The theme of this chapter is still about his authority, but at this point Jesus begins to face resistance to his authority particularly from the scribes and Pharisees.
In the first little episode in verses 1-8, Jesus demonstrates his authority to both forgive sin and heal a paralyzed man. Here the scribes accuse Jesus of blaspheming. In the second episode, 9-13, after he calls Matthew, the tax collector, to become a disciple, it appears that Matthew hosts a dinner and invites all his friends to come meet Jesus. It just happens that all of Matthew’s friends at this point in his life are also all tax collectors and sinners. The Pharisees see Jesus having dinner with them and complain about the kind of company Jesus keeps. In the next episode in verses 14-17 even John the Baptist’s disciples wonder about Jesus. They ask, “Why don’t you fast like the Pharisees and us?” Jesus explains that now is not the time. But the time will come soon enough. Later in verses 32-34 Jesus shows his authority to cast out demons and the Pharisees make a wild accusation. They say Jesus is using the power of the ruler of demons to cast out demons. Trouble is brewing. Jesus is becoming a controversial person.
What’s happening? Jesus begins to do things that are not acceptable to the Jewish leaders:
He claims to forgive sins, 1-8. He goes to dinner with tax collectors and sinners, 9-13. He doesn’t fast like everyone else, 14-17. At the same time Jesus is clearly powerful, influential and becoming popular through his ministry. Everywhere he goes people seek him out for his healing powers and his power to cast out demons.
Someone has said that the people that do the least usually receive the least criticism. Those who do the most generally receive the most criticism. Jesus was extremely active in his work of ministry. He didn’t just open an office and hang out a shingle with “walk ins welcome!” on it. Jesus got out there and sought opportunities to serve and teach. Verses 35-38 reveal Jesus as a traveling minister. He went about all the cities and villages teaching in their synagogues and preaching the gospel of the kingdom. And Jesus didn’t just teach and preach he healed the sick and cast out demons. Jesus saw the multitudes! He was aware of people and their condition and their needs. He got out and purposely traveled about among places where people were. And he didn’t just look around as he went, but he also spoke and acted with the authority and power of God. Jesus was a “go getter” in the best sense of the words.
His heart was also moved to compassion by what he witnessed. Listen to verses 35-38.
Let me read his words again here. Jesus said, “The harvest is truly plentiful, but the laborers are few. Pray that the Lord of harvest will send forth laborers into His harvest!”
What do you think about those words? What do you think about Jesus going from place to place doing this ministry? What do you think about the opposition he faced?
As I read about Jesus here, several things impress me… and trouble me. Jesus’ life is a model for you and me. We are not supposed to just read these things about Jesus and go, “Wow! That’s neat!” And go back to living the way we want. These are stories that are calling us to imitation. Does God want you to be like Jesus? Isn’t that what the word “Christian” means? Christ-like? Is Jesus giving us an example here so that we can follow in his steps? I believe so. Now what is impressive is that Jesus simply did what he could at the time he was supposed to do it. He took what God the Father had given to him and he used it by reaching out to others when and where God wanted him to. This makes me think. I don’t have authority to raise the dead, cast out demons, heal sick, or forgive sins, but what if I did? What if you did? What would you do with that authority? When would you do it?
Here’s an unmistakable point in Matthew: Jesus not only has authority (and ability) to do incredible things, he put that authority to work for the glory of God. Jesus got busy and did what he could do!