Wednesday, June 4, 2014

Training The Disciples

Matthew 8:18-9:1

“Now when Jesus saw great multitudes about him, he gave commandment to depart unto the other side.” (Matthew 8:18)

Jesus deliberately left the crowd behind. Taking a boat so they couldn’t follow him.  His primary purpose was to train a group of men to carry on his ministry, rather than to produce the largest following possible.  In order to accomplish that purpose, it was critical to have time away from the multitude and focus on teaching his disciples.

One of the most common mistakes people make is getting focused on the big picture and forgetting that it is composed of a bunch of little pictures.  If all the little pictures are right, the big one will also be, and the picture will look good at any distance, but if we focus solely on the big picture, a closer perspective reveals a lot of problems.

While the ultimate goal was to spread the gospel throughout the whole world. It would have to be done by reaching and training men to carry on the gospel when he was killed.  It was necessary to develop those men even if it took neglecting the multitude for a while.   Because he took the time to properly train his apostles, he had only about a hundred and twenty followers when he was killed, but within a few years they had filled the whole world.

“And a certain scribe came, and said unto him, Master, I will follow thee whithersoever thou goest.
And Jesus saith unto him, The foxes have holes, and the birds of the air have nests; but the Son of man hath not where to lay his head.
And another of his disciples said unto him, Lord, suffer me first to go and bury my father.
But Jesus said unto him, Follow me; and let the dead bury their dead.” (Matthew 8:19-22)

Two of the disciples wished to follow Jesus, and He discouraged them both.  In Luke 14:26, Jesus said, “If any man come to me, and hate not his father, and mother, and wife, and children, and brethren, and sisters, yea, and his own life also, he cannot be my disciple.”   

In order to develop qualified men to carry on the ministry it was first necessary to find men who were committed to it.  A man who was concerned about his own comfort and convenience was not committed.  Neither was a man who would delay his ministry to go settle his father’s estate.   Those who had no interest in the ministry could do the job just as well. 

They had to make a choice as to which mattered most.  As Jesus told them in Luke 9:62, “No man, having put his hand to the plow, and looking back, is fit for the kingdom of God.”  Total commitment is required to please God, whether to get saved, or to serve in ministry.  You can’t just try it to see if it works for you.

“And when he was entered into a ship, his disciples followed him.  And, behold, there arose a great tempest in the sea, insomuch that the ship was covered with the waves: but he was asleep.  And his disciples came to him, and awoke him, saying, Lord, save us: we perish.

And he saith unto them, Why are ye fearful, O ye of little faith? Then he arose, and rebuked the winds and the sea; and there was a great calm.

But the men marvelled, saying, What manner of man is this, that even the winds and the sea obey him!” (Matthew 8:23-27)

The disciples had seen Jesus exercise power over demons and disease, but they didn’t fully understand he had power over all of nature as well.  He knew what was going to happen, and went to sleep, totally unconcerned.  The disciples were experienced sailors and they panicked when they saw how bad the storm was and woke up to see if he could do anything for them. 

He said their concern was the result of a lack of faith.  He then demonstrated how safe they were by stilling the storm completely just by telling the wind to stop.  It drove the message home in a powerful way, laying a basis for their faith to stand against persecution in years to come.  Clearly he was more than just an ordinary man.
“And when he was come to the other side into the country of the Gergesenes, there met him two possessed with devils, coming out of the tombs, exceeding fierce, so that no man might pass by that way.  And, behold, they cried out, saying, What have we to do with thee, Jesus, thou Son of God? art thou come hither to torment us before the time?   And there was a good way off from them an herd of many swine feeding.  So the devils besought him, saying, If thou cast us out, suffer us to go away into the herd of swine.

And he said unto them, Go. And when they were come out, they went into the herd of swine: and, behold, the whole herd of swine ran violently down a steep place into the sea, and perished in the waters.” (Matthew 8:28-32)

Two demon possessed men met Jesus and his followers when they came ashore, and the demons knew who Jesus was.  They were sure he would not allow them to keep control of the men, and thus would lose their ability to control physical things.   They requested permission to go into a group of nearby pigs.  While pigs were limited in their physical abilities, they still had more ability to do things than disembodied demons.   Even a pigs body was better than none.

The pigs chose to commit suicide rather than live with the demons controlling their minds.  In a number of the police shooting in Albuquerque, the people seem to have been trying to kill themselves or to get the police to kill them in an effort to escape demonic control of their thoughts.

“And they that kept them fled, and went their ways into the city, and told every thing, and what was befallen to the possessed of the devils.  And, behold, the whole city came out to meet Jesus: and when they saw him, they besought him that he would depart out of their coasts.   And he entered into a ship, and passed over, and came into his own city.” (Matthew 8:33-9:1)

More concerned about the loss of their profits than about the two men, the people asked Jesus to leave and he did.  He had instructed the multitude not to waste holy things on dogs or give pearls to pigs in the Sermon on the Mount.  Now he demonstrated what he meant.  If they did not want to hear, he would not try to make them.   Later, in Matthew 10:14 he would command, “And whosoever shall not receive you, nor hear your words, when ye depart out of that house or city, shake off the dust of your feet.”    

Matthew began to follow Jesus shortly after this and his knowledge came from those who had witnessed the event, while Mark and Luke got their information by interviewing other people who knew about it but may not have seen it.  As a result, many of the details in the accounts in Mark 5 and Luke 8 differ.  That all three record the same basic details even though they are from different sources indicates the story is true.

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