1 I Would Follow Him Anywhere T here are people who inspire devotion and loyalty in others. It might be completely unintentional, like when a young man is smitten by a girl and can t get her out of his mind. He remembers the sound of her voice and the smell of her perfume; he gives up most of his pay to buy her things to show his love; he longs for the next time they will be together. Others become people of influence quietly by the things they do and the way they are. George Mueller has become a role model for many in his quiet, confident, sacrificial trust in God to provide. I doubt Mother Theresa ever intended to create a following, but her lifestyle and devotion to the poor of India caught the attention and admiration of many. Soldiers who risked their own lives and carried wounded comrades long distances to safety earn a devotion that goes deep and far. Loyalty to a coach, a sergeant, a mother or father, a friend or mentor is witness to the strength of that person s character, the ability to give help when needed, and love that is proved by action. What about Jesus? How deep a devotion does He inspire in you? Matthew shows us the kind of person King Jesus is by grouping together many events across the three-plus years of His ministry into two chapters (Matthew 8-9). In three groupings of miracles (8:1-17; 8:23 9:8; 9:18-35) we see His power and authority over disease, nature, and demons things of heaven and earth. We also see His love and compassion toward those who suffer, those who are outcasts, those with authority and those with nothing. But at the end of each group of encounters, Jesus calls people to follow. Because Matthew s purpose is not just to show us how great Jesus is, but to ask us, So will you follow someone like this? Some will answer, No thank you. But some will shout, I will follow Him anywhere! What will you say? FOR DISCUSSION Tell about someone who inspired devotion and loyalty in you someone you looked up to, trusted unconditionally, wanted to be like. What is it that made you feel that way toward that person? How did it affect your relationship and the things you did? ENCOUNTER Read God s word so that He can speak to you. 1 Jesus stepped into a boat, crossed over and came to his own town. 2 Some men brought to him a paralytic, lying on a mat. When Jesus saw their faith, he said to the paralytic, "Take heart, son; your sins are forgiven." 3 At this, some of the teachers of the law said to themselves, "This fellow is blaspheming!" 4 Knowing their thoughts, Jesus said, "Why do you entertain evil thoughts in your hearts? 5 Which is easier: to say, 'Your sins are forgiven,' or to say, 'Get up and walk'? 6 But so that you may know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins..." Then he said to the paralytic, "Get up, take your mat and go home." 7 And the man got up and went home. 8 When the crowd saw this, they were filled with awe; and they praised God, who had given such authority to men.
2 9 As Jesus went on from there, he saw a man named Matthew sitting at the tax collector's booth. "Follow me," he told him, and Matthew got up and followed him. 10 While Jesus was having dinner at Matthew's house, many tax collectors and "sinners" came and ate with him and his disciples. 11 When the Pharisees saw this, they asked his disciples, "Why does your teacher eat with tax collectors and 'sinners'?" 12 On hearing this, Jesus said, "It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. 13 But go and learn what this means: 'I desire mercy, not sacrifice.' For I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners." 14 Then John's disciples came and asked him, "How is it that we and the Pharisees fast, but your disciples do not fast?" 15 Jesus answered, "How can the guests of the bridegroom mourn while he is with them? The time will come when the bridegroom will be taken from them; then they will fast. 16 "No one sews a patch of unshrunk cloth on an old garment, for the patch will pull away from the garment, making the tear worse. 17 Neither do men pour new wine into old wineskins. If they do, the skins will burst, the wine will run out and the wineskins will be ruined. No, they pour new wine into new wineskins, and both are preserved." EXAMINE what the passage says before you decide what it means. Underline what the Pharisees and Teachers of the Law said or did Circle what the disciples of John the Baptizer said or did Draw a box around what the people in general said or did Put brackets [ ] around the things Jesus said or did EXPLORE God s Word by asking questions of what you saw. The notes which follow may help you to think through these questions. 1) Scan Matthew 8-9 and make a list of all the times people were amazed, impressed, or their attention captured by Jesus. What was it about Jesus that got their attention? What did people conclude about Jesus from these encounters? 2) In your own life-experiences with Jesus, what have you learned about Him? 3) Share the story of how you came to faith in Jesus Christ. What was it about Him then that made you decide to follow His invitation to eternal life?
3 4) What does it mean to be a follower/disciple of Jesus? What are the expectations? What are the benefits? What are the costs? 5) How far would you follow Jesus? Honestly what things (or places or situations) would you find it especially hard to keep trusting and obeying Him? 6) Don t expect to have the grace until the time comes, but if Jesus led you through some of those very difficult places, what is there about Him that would help you to stay close to Him and keep on following? 7) The King also wants us to continue the process of calling others to follow along with Him (9:36-38). How are you doing with following Him in this? Are you praying? Going? Share some of those experiences. NOTES ON THE PASSAGE (Adapted from Thomas Constable, Expository Notes) 9:1-8 This incident actually occurred be- Him. The final grouping (9:18-35) ends with His com- fore the one in 8: purpose was not to give a chronological account of Jesus miracles, but to arrange samples of His miracles into three groupings to show His character and authority. Yet the main emphasis seems to be on the call to follow Jesus: in view of who He is, will you follow Him at all costs? The first grouping of miracles (8:1-17) ends with an encounter with two possible followers; but their response to Jesus call is uncertain and they may have gone away because the cost was too high. The second grouping (8:23 9:8) ends with the call of Matthew and a teaching from Jesus about the need to leave and cleave if you follow Matthew s mand to His followers to pray for (and become?) workers who will call others to follow. And so the process of discipleship will continue because of Jesus person and authority. 2 - The evidence of their faith was that they brought him to Jesus for healing. However, Jesus spoke only to the paralytic. What Jesus said implied a close connection between this man's sin and his sickness (cf. 8:17; Ps. 103:3; Isa. 33:24), and He implied that sin was the worse condition.
4 3 - He was claiming to forgive sins, but God alone can forgive sins since it is He whom people sin against (Ps. 51:4; Isa. 43:25; 44:22). They called Jesus' words blasphemy because they viewed them as a slanderous affront to God Jesus' question in verse 5 was rhetorical. His critics believed it was easier to say, "Get up and walk," because only God can forgive sins. Jesus had claimed to do the more difficult thing from their viewpoint, namely, to forgive sins. Jesus responded ironically in verse 6. He would do the easier thing. From the scribes' perspective since Jesus had blasphemed God He could not heal the paralytic since God does not respond to sinners (John 9:31). By healing the paralytic Jesus showed that He had not blasphemed God. He could indeed forgive sins. 8 - Here was a manifestation of God before them. They glorified God because they saw a man exercising divine authority. Unfortunately they failed to perceive that Jesus was the divine Messiah. This miracle proves that Jesus could forgive sins and so produce the conditions prophesied in Isaiah 33:24; 40:1-2; 44:21-22; and 60: The three miracles in this section (8:23 9:8) show that Jesus could establish the kingdom because He had the authority to do so. He demonstrated authority over nature, the angelic world, and sin. 9:9-13 This incident probably took place in or near Capernaum. The tax collector's booth (NIV) would have been a room close to the border between the territories of Philip and Herod Antipas. There Matthew sat to collect customs and excise taxes. Capernaum stood on the caravan route between Egypt and the East. Matthew thus occupied a lucrative post. The Jews despised tax collectors because they were notoriously corrupt, and they worked for the occupying Romans extracting money from their own countrymen (cf. 5:46). Jesus proceeded to do the unthinkable. He called a social pariah to become one of His disciples. Matthew was a sinner and an associate of sinners in the eyes of the Jews. Jews frequently had two names, and Matthew's other name was Levi (Mark 2:14; Luke 5:27) Matthew had friends who were also tax collectors (cf.5:46). "Sinners" is a term the Pharisees used to describe people who broke their severe rules of conduct (Pharisaic Halakoth). Eating with these people put Jesus and His disciples in danger of ceremonial defilement, but the spiritual need of these people was more important to Jesus than ritual cleanliness. The Pharisees' question, addressed to Jesus' disciples, was really an ironic accusation against Him (v. 11). A teacher would normally keep all the religious traditions as well as the Mosaic Law to provide the best example for his disciples. The Pharisees despised Jesus for the company He kept, which implied that He had a lax view of the Law He went to the tax collectors and sinners because they were sinners. They had a spiritual illness and needed spiritual healing. Note that Jesus did not go to these people because they received Him warmly but because they needed Him greatly. In the Old Testament, God taught His people that He was their Physician who could heal their diseases (e.g., Exod. 15:26; Deut.
5 32:39; 2 Kings 20:5; Ps. 103:3). The prophets also predicted that Messiah would bring healing to the nation (Isa. 19:22; 30:26; Jer. 30:17). God had revealed through Hosea (6:6) that the apostates of his day had lost the heart of temple worship even though they continued to practice its rituals. Jesus implied that the Pharisees had done the same thing. They were preserving the external practices of worship carefully, but they had failed to maintain its essential heart. Their attitude toward the tax collectors and sinners showed this. God, on the other hand, cares more for the spiritual wholeness of people than He does about flawless worship. He came to "call" (Gr. kalesai) or "invite" people to repentance and salvation. If someone does not see himself or herself as a sinner, that person will have no part in the kingdom. 9:14-17 Mosaic Law did not require. The people who questioned Jesus here were disciples of John the Baptist who had not left John to follow Jesus. They, as well as the Pharisees, observed the regular fasts that the 15 - John the Baptist had described himself as the "best man" and Jesus as the "bridegroom" (John 3:29). Jesus extended John's figure and described His disciples as the friends of the groom. They were so joyful that they could not fast because they were with Him. The Old Testament used the groom figure to describe God (Ps. 45; Isa. 54:5-6; 62:4-5; Hos. 2:16-20). The Jews also used it of Messiah's coming and the messianic banquet (22:2; 25:1; 2 Cor. 11:2; Eph. 5:23-32; Rev. 19:7, 9; 21:2). When Jesus applied this figure to Himself, He was claiming to be the Messiah, and He was claiming that the kingdom banquet was imminent Old wine containers made out of animal skins eventually became hard and brittle. New wine that continued to expand as it fermented would burst the inflexible old wineskins. New wineskins were still elastic enough to stretch with the expanding new wine. The point of these two illustrations was that Jesus could not patch or pour His new ministry into old Judaism. Jesus was going to bring in a kingdom that did not fit the preconceptions of most of His contemporaries. Neos means recent in time, and kainos means a new kind. The messianic kingdom would be new both in time and in kind. John the Baptist belonged to the old order. His disciples, therefore, should have left him and joined the Groom. Unless they did they would not participate in the kingdom (cf. Acts 19:1-7). GOING FURTHER One thing we can do to train ourselves to remember, is to memorize a part of what our Father has said to us. The Holy Spirit can use this to change our thinking so that our heads are more like Jesus. This week, memorize Matthew 9:37-38.