Reading: Matthew 8-10
“Do you believe that I am able to do this?” (Matthew 9:28) Now that is the question isn't it? This question falls at the end of two chapters which really address the question of what we believe about Jesus Christ; what we believe about who He is, and what kind of authority and power He has.
Coming down from teaching the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus is greeted by a leper—a leper who believes in Jesus' power and authority over his leprosy (Matthew 8:1-4). Leprosy was a living death. But somehow, this man understood Jesus' power over it. Under the Law, a priest had no authority to cleanse a leper, he could only confirm whether or not he had leprosy. But Jesus had authority to actually cleanse leprosy at will, and this leper knew it.
Jesus cures him with a word immediately, sends him to the priests who will now offer the appropriate sacrifice, confirming the healing by declaring him clean. By doing this, the law would now testify that Jesus had authority to cleanse lepers with a word. Do you believe He is able to do this—cleanse lepers at will with a word?
Enter the Gentile centurion about whom Jesus said, “I tell you the truth, I have not found anyone in Israel with such great faith.” What did the centurion believe about Jesus? According to Matthew 8:8-9, he believed Jesus had power and authority to re-animate paralyzed servants. That not only did Jesus have authority, but that somehow he also had enough power and life available to restore the vital functions of life itself.
What made the centurion's faith great? His faith was great because of what He believed about the object of His faith. He seemed to “see” something about Who Jesus is—about Jesus' power over the very powers of life itself. What makes faith great is not found in the one who has the faith, but in seeing something about the object of His faith, Jesus; something about Christ's authority and power. Do you believe He is able to do this?
In the next scene we see Jesus going into Peter's house. This time, without being asked, He at will heals Peter's mother-in-law of a fever. Apparently he has authority to distribute his power and life to whomever He wills (see John 5:26; 17:2) Then, we have another demonstration of faith. People began bringing the demon-possessed to Jesus. Obviously those who brought the demon-possessed had caught a glimpse of what Jesus was able to do with them. (How many times have you brought demon-possessed people anywhere? I can imagine that it would involve a little bit of effort.) He drove out the spirits with a word. Do you believe He is able to do this?
A few verses later, there is a scene of irony. Lepers, Gentiles and those who have demon-possessed friends have all demonstrated faith in Christ and His power and authority, but the disciples reveal their lack of faith.
Then he got into the boat and his disciples followed him. 24Without warning, a furious storm came up on the lake, so that the waves swept over the boat. But Jesus was sleeping. 25The disciples went and woke him, saying, "Lord, save us! We're going to drown!" 26He replied, "You of little faith, why are you so afraid?" Then he got up and rebuked the winds and the waves, and it was completely calm. 27The men were amazed and asked, "What kind of man is this? Even the winds and the waves obey him!" (Matthew 8:23-27)
There was something the disciples weren't seeing. They weren't seeing what kind of man Jesus is. Their fear of drowning grew out of a lack of understanding of Who Christ is, and the fact that He has authority over death itself. You can't fall into the lake and drown without his permission. And if you do fall in and drown, He can make you alive again with a word. So, it seems Jesus needs to teach them more about this.
Where do you go for a lesson in how not to be afraid of death? Apparently Jesus thought the best place for this lesson was a cemetery. Not just any cemetery either, but one that has two demon-possessed men hanging out in it. And according to the time-line given in Mark's Gospel, it would most likely have still been in the dark of morning when they arrived. Great place for overcoming the fear of death! But there even the demons can teach us something about the power and authority of Jesus over life and death.
Some distance from them a large herd of pigs was feeding. 31The demons begged Jesus, "If you drive us out, send us into the herd of pigs." 32He said to them, "Go!" So they came out and went into the pigs, and the whole herd rushed down the steep bank into the lake and died in the water. (Matthew 8:30-32)
The demons understood Jesus authority and power over them. And, again notice the irony. The disciples are afraid of drowning in the lake. The demons, afraid of being sent away from the earth into the abyss (Luke 8:31), ask to go into the pigs. But the pigs rush into the lake and drown. Jesus is the one with authority over life and death, over who goes where and when. Do you believe He is able to do this?
The next scene is about a paralytic and his friends who apparently believe Jesus is able to re-animate his essentially lifeless body. But Jesus now begins to turn our attention to the real life-giving power that He possesses—the power to forgive sins. (Matthew 9:1-8)
This is followed by a scene (Matthew 9:9-13) in which Jesus, at will, sees a tax-collector (a sinner of sinners), and with a word changes his entire life. What word? “Follow me.” I love what it says after that: “...and Matthew got up and followed him.” That is real power and authority. Have you heard Jesus call you to follow Him? Do you believe He is able to do this?
We also see that He has authority to suspend fasting, since He is the object of the fast (Matthew 914-15); He has the power to stop dying with a mere touch (Matthew 9:20-22), and then the power to raise the dead as if it were only a nap (Matthew 9:23-25). Do you believe He is able to do this?
So when Jesus has two blind men following Him (Matthew 9:27-30), there is something they can see! Jesus asks, “Do you believe He is able to do this?” Their reply? “Yes, Lord.” They saw something we all need to see. Something the twelve in the boat needed to see. The leper, the Gentile, the demoniacs' friends, even the demons understood something about who Jesus was and His power and authority. Even those who may not have understood were not prevented from Jesus imparting life at will. Peter's mother-in-law was touched without asking, the paralytic had the forgiveness of sins thrown in as a bonus, and Matthew was minding his own business when he hears the voice of the Son of Man calling, “Follow me.” And that power was just as effective. What kind of man is this that even the wind and the waves, the fevers, the demons and even our very selves must obey His authority?
(Now if you want just one more taste of the kind of power and authority Jesus has, check out Matthew 10:28.)
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