I said last week that, in chapters 8 and 9 of his gospel, Matthew tells us about the Lord’s healing ministry. And that’s true, but it’s perhaps more accurate to say that in these two chapters Matthew tells us about the Lord’s power and authority to save his people. So, in last week’s passage, the Lord demonstrated his power and authority to save his people from illness. He healed the man with leprosy. And then he healed the centurion’s servant. And then he healed Peter’s mother-in-law. He saved those people from sickness.
And in today’s passage, we see his power and authority over the wind and the waves. And in calming the storm, he saved his disciples from death by drowning. Then we see his power and authority over demons. And in casting out the demons, he saved the two demon-possessed men from evil spirits. And then, we also see his power and authority to heal and to forgive the man who was paralysed. And so, he saved that man not only from paralysis, but he also saved him from his sins.
And every time the Lord healed the sick or cast out demons, it was a sign of what he will do for all his people when he comes again in glory and with power to raise the dead and to renew our bodies and to glorify us in his presence. However, we don’t have to wait for his return before we can receive forgiveness for our sins, because we receive forgiveness the moment we put our faith in him.
So, that’s what we’re going to be thinking about this evening. But the passage begins with a brief interlude, because before we get to the calming of the storm, which demonstrates the Lord’s power and authority to save his people, Matthew tells us about these two men who claimed they wanted to follow the Lord.
According to verse 18, when the Lord saw the crowds of people around him, he decided to cross over the lake. That is, the Sea of Galilee. And presumably his disciples are about to get onboard a boat, when a teacher of the law said to the Lord Jesus that he was willing to follow the Lord wherever he goes. That sounds promising, doesn’t it? However, we should notice that he referred to the Lord Jesus not as ‘Lord’ but as ‘Teacher’. In Matthew’s gospel, the only people who ever call the Lord Jesus ‘Teacher’ are those who are not his disciples. And it suggests that this teacher of the law regarded the Lord Jesus as just another teacher.
And so, rather than sign him up, the Lord discouraged him. He said to the teacher of the law: Foxes have holes and birds have nests, but do you realise that I have no home? And presumably he means that those who follow him will also have no home. So, do you realise what you’re letting yourself in for if you follow me? The Lord is making clear to this man that there is a cost to being his disciple. And serving the Lord can be costly, can’t it? When everyone else is doing whatever they like, the Lord’s servants must submit themselves to his will.
And then someone else said to the Lord: ‘Lord, let me go and bury my father.’ Presumably, he meant: ‘I will follow you, but first let me go and bury my father.’ And the Lord replied: ‘Follow me, and let the dead bury their own dead.’ Now, the Lord’s response puzzles us, because the man’s request seems reasonable, doesn’t it? If his father has just died, why not give him time to make the funeral arrangements? Why not show him a little compassion? However, some of the commentators suggest that the man’s father has not died, but was very much still alive. It seems that the phrase ‘bury one’s father’ meant fulfil your responsibilities as a son while your father remains alive. In other words, the man was saying that he will follow the Lord, but not yet. Let me wait until my father has died. Once that happens — and it might not happen for years — but once that happens, I’ll follow you then.
And we can all do that, can’t we? We have some opportunity to serve the Lord, but we say: Not yet. Not now. Now’s a bad time. I’ll do it later. However, as one writer puts it (Nixon quoted by Morris), the Lord’s reply to the man shows that ‘The claims of the kingdom are absolute and immediate.’ We mustn’t put the Lord off, but we must respond immediately.
The teacher of the law said he would follow the Lord. And the Lord Jesus said to the second man, ‘Follow me’. Verse 23 tells us that when the Lord Jesus got into the boat, his disciples followed him. They were prepared to follow him wherever he went. But what does following the Lord Jesus lead to? Well, it can lead to great danger, can’t it? They got into that boat and set off to cross the lake. But, suddenly, without warning, a furious storm came up on the lake and the waves came up over the side of the boat. The disciples were clearly terrified. And remember: some of them were experienced fishermen. They were used to boats and the Sea of Galilee and storms. And so, if they were terrified, then presumably this was an unusually fierce storm.
And so, the cried to the Lord Jesus to save them. The Lord, who had been sleeping, woke up and rebuked them for their lack of faith. You see, if we believe that God is our heavenly Father, who cares for us, and that our times are in his hands, then there’s never any reason for us to be afraid, because nothing can happen to us apart from what he has willed for us. And having rebuked them for their lack of faith, the Lord rebuked the winds and the waves and it became completely calm.
Some of the psalms describe how God rebukes the waves. And so, here’s the Lord Jesus doing what only God can do. And so, no wonder the men in the boat were amazed and asked themselves, ‘What kind of man is this?’ Well, he’s a man, isn’t he? But that’s not all he is, because this man is also God’s Eternally Begotten Son. They were only men, but he is more than a man.
Let’s move on to the next section. When they arrived on the other side, two demon-possessed men came from the tombs and met him. Mark and Luke also record this story, but they only refer to one demon-possessed man. We don’t know why they refer to one and Matthew refers to two. Presumably there were two, but Mark and Luke decided for their own reasons to concentrate on only one of them. Mark and Luke also tell the story with more details, but Matthew simply tells us that the demons were so violent that no-one could pass by. However, when they saw the Lord Jesus, they immediately recognised him as the Son of God and they were terrified of him. They said: ‘Have you come here to torture us before the appointed time?’ The fact that they mentioned an appointed time tells us that they know that there is a day coming when the Lord will come with power to destroy them. They know that day is coming, but has the Lord come early to torture them? And in their fear and submission, they begged the Lord Jesus, if he is going to drive them out of the men, to send them into a nearby herd of pigs. And the Lord only had to say one word; and the demons did what he commanded. And the pigs rushed down the hillside and into the water where they drowned.
When the townspeople found out what had happened, they pleaded with the Lord to leave that region. Isn’t that strange? Instead of welcoming him, and believing in him, they wanted nothing to do with him. But then, it’s not so surprising, is it? In every generation, when people hear about the Lord Jesus, some will submit to him as King and believe in him for forgiveness. But many others, if not most, want nothing to do with him. They will not bow down to him. They will not believe in him. They, in a sense, send him away.
Let’s move on to the final section. The Lord once again crossed over the lake and came to his own town. That is, he came to Capernaum. Matthew tells us very simply that some men brought him a paralytic, lying on a mat. Mark and Luke record the same story, but they give us more details about how the house was full and the friends had to make a hole in the roof to lower the paralysed man down. Matthew mentions none of that. He just wants to get to the main point. And so, he tells us that the Lord saw their faith and he told the man that his sins are forgiven. The teachers of the law, who were there, accused him of blaspheming. Mark and Luke explain that they accused him of blaspheming, because he was claiming to do something which only God can do. Only God can forgive sins. So, who does Jesus think he is?
Which is easier to say? Is is easier to say that you can forgive sins? Or is it easier to say that you can heal someone of his paralysis? Which is easier to say? Well, it’s easier to say that you can forgive sins, because there’s no way of knowing whether the person’s sins are forgiven. But saying that you can heal someone is harder, because everyone can see immediately whether you were speaking the truth or talking nonsense.
Well, it soon becomes clear that the Lord is not talking nonsense, because all he had to do was say the word and the man was healed. He was able to get up, take his mat, and go home. So, the Lord was not making idle claims. He wasn’t talking nonsense. He wasn’t lying. And if he wasn’t lying about healing the man, then he wasn’t lying about forgiving the man.
And when the crowd saw how he healed the man, they were filled with awe. And they praised God who had given such authority to men.
And so, the Lord calmed the storm. Then he cast out the demons. And then he healed and forgave the paralytic. By calming the storm, he demonstrated his power and authority over nature. By casting out the demons, he demonstrated his power and authority over evil spirits. And by healing and forgiving the paralytic, he demonstrated his power and authority over sickness and sin.
But most of all he demonstrated his power and authority to save. He saved his disciples from death by drowning. And he saved those two men from demon-possession and from all the misery the demons caused them. And he saved that paralysed man not only from his paralysis, but from his sins.
And each of these stories signifies what the Lord Jesus will do for all his people when he comes again in glory and with power. So, when he comes again, he will save his people from death, because he will raise us from the grave and will give us everlasting life in his everlasting kingdom. And when he comes again, he will save his people from Satan, because Satan and all who side with him will be cast into the lake of burning sulphur where they will be tortured day and night for ever. And when he comes again, he will glorify our bodies in his presence, where our youth will be renewed like the eagle and where there will be no more disease or death or sorrow or sadness, because the former things — the sorrows of this fallen world — will have passed away.
When the Lord demonstrated his power and authority, he was giving us a hint of what he will do for all his people when he comes again. And so, this is something for us to look forward to. And whenever we suffer in this world, we must remember and believe that the Lord has better things in store for us in the new and better world to come. And so, we need to keep trusting in him and we need to endure all things patiently, while we wait for Christ to come again.
But as I said at the beginning, we don’t have to wait for forgiveness, because the moment we believe, we are pardoned and accepted by God so that there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ. And every time we sin after that, we know that we can go to God with confidence and ask him to pardon us for the sake of Christ who died for us. We can go to him with confidence, because we know that we have been reconciled to God through faith in Christ; and he’s no longer the judge who is going to condemn us, but he’s our heavenly Father who loves us.