Matthew 8: Setting Things Right (4)
Pray Psalm 31.1-5.
In You, O LORD, I put my trust;
Let me never be ashamed;
Deliver me in Your righteousness.
Bow down Your ear to me,
Deliver me speedily;
Be my rock of refuge,
A fortress of defense to save me.
For You are my rock and my fortress;
Therefore, for Your name’s sake,
Lead me and guide me.
Pull me out of the net which they have secretly laid for me,
For You are my strength.
Into Your hand I commit my spirit;
You have redeemed me, O LORD God of truth.
Sing Psalm 31.1-5.
(Brother James’ Air: The Lord’s My Shepherd, I’ll not Want)
In You, O Lord, I refuge take; let me not come to shame!
In righteousness deliver me, according to Your Name.
Incline Your ear, my prayer to hear, my Fortress strong to save!
For You my Rock and Fortress are; in Your Name lead and guide.
You rescue me from ev’ry net which wicked men might hide.
My Refuge strong, my spirit long in Your hand shall abide.
Read Matthew 8.1-22; meditate on verses 18-22.
1. Jesus gave a caveat and a command about following Him. Explain each.
2. Jesus saw a great crowd around Him, so He left. Why do you think He did that?
Popularity and numbers aren’t all they’re cut out to be. Perhaps most pastors today, when they see lots of people flocking to their preaching, will try to figure out how to attract more.
Jesus never showed an interest in big numbers. He knows what’s in every person. And He seemed to understand that those crowds, flocking to Him in ever-increasing numbers, weren’t exactly on the same page with His project. John tells us that Jesus perceived they wanted to make Him a king, not according to His criteria, but theirs (Jn. 6.15). Jesus had not come to earth to make people feel good or scratch their innumerable spiritual and material itches. He had come to bring the Kingdom, and, as He explained, life in the Kingdom is the pursuit of righteousness, even at the expense of self-denial.
Sensing they were about to lose a great opportunity to be in the Jesus band, two men approached Him, asking permission to follow along. The first, a scribe, had what was probably a comfy job working for the Jewish religious establishment. He may have been thinking that Jesus had a better and more popular gig than the local rabbi and his synagogue. More people, more comforts. Jesus sniffed out his real motivations and shot them out of the sky. Following Jesus means no entanglements with worldly comforts. None. If you’re not ready for that, you’ll never keep up with Him.
The second man seemed to be wanting to reserve a space in the Jesus band for some future possibility, after his father had died. Perhaps he was thinking he might wait until he could inherit enough to be able to fund himself comfortably among this motley troop. But he wanted to get on list now, before Jesus crossed over to the other side. Jesus made the immediate demand of not waiting for anything when one is called to the Kingdom and glory of God. This young man’s priorities weren’t Jesus’ priorities, and he needed to know that.
What about us? Are we following Jesus, like the growing multitude, because He does something to make us feel good? Are we following Him because, well, He’s just the best option currently available? Are we following Him but clinging to worldly things, hoping to enjoy the best of Him and them at the same time? Or are we following Him because He alone has the words of eternal life (Jn. 6.68)?
Jesus will say to us that we’d better count the true cost of following Him: No other ultimate attachments, no delay, no terms but His.
1. Of course we have material needs and daily responsibilities, and these do not mean we can’t be followers of Jesus. But how does following Jesus teach us to think about such everyday matters?
2. Jesus indicated that there is a cost to following Him. What is that cost?
3. Why was Jesus not concerned about large numbers of people following Him?
Only the disciples had left behind all present goods and followed him through love of learning. He commands them to cross over from temporary things to eternal things, from the earthly to the heavenly, from the carnal to the spiritual. Cyril of Alexandria (375-444), Fragment 97
I want to follow You today, Lord Jesus, so help me to…
Pray Psalm 31.19-24.
Thank the Lord for the goodness He has laid up for you today as you follow Him into your Personal Mission Field. Seek His courage and strength to follow Him today.
Sing Psalm 31.19-24.
Psalm 31.19-24 (Brother James’ Air: The Lord’s My Shepherd, I’ll not Want)
How great the goodness You reserve for those who fear You, Lord,
Who rest in You and boldly stand before men in Your Word.
You cover them from plots of men; You shelter them, O Lord!
Blessed be the Lord, for He has shown His steadfast love to me!
In my alarm I cried to Him; He heard my fervent plea!
In fear and dread with You I pled; You heard and rescued me!
O love the Lord, all you, His saints! He keeps us faithfully.
But all who act in sinful pride His wrath shall surely see.
Be strong and let your heart not fret; wait on Him constantly!
T. M. Moore
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Except as indicated, Scripture taken from the New King James Version. © Copyright 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved. All psalms for singing adapted from The Ailbe Psalter. All quotations from Church Fathers from Ancient Christian Commentary Series, General Editor Thomas C. Oden (Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press, 2006). All psalms for singing are from The Ailbe Psalter (available by clicking here).