Welcome to Life Baptist Church. Caltech students, welcome back. It was feeling a bit empty without you the past few weeks. Not sure how you feel about starting another school year, but it is significant that you are choosing to prepare for another year of problem sets and long nights and stress by first coming to Jesus. If you are here for the first time, we are thrilled that you are considering taking this spiritual journey with us. It is our prayer that whatever stage you are in, you will find a safe place here where you can seek the Lord and grow in your love for him. We are here to serve you in any way that we can.
For the old timers, today is the fifth anniversary of LBC. So happy anniversary. We started here 5 years ago with 7 families and a handful of young adults and very few college students. That first weekend, Jackie and I came straight to service from the hospital. Our second son, Jeremiah, had Kawasaki disease, which if untreated can lead to permanent damage to the heart. But God was gracious to us–Jeremiah is a healthy soon-to-be 7 year old–and God has been gracious to this church ever since. None of us had much faith back then, and maybe we still don’t have much faith, but God has proven himself to be faithful. One of those 7 families is on the mission field and the rest of us are still here. Praise God. One by one, God is saving our children and adding to our number people from different walks of life those who are being saved.
Please turn with me to Matthew 8. We’re going to cover sections of the entire chapter, but let’s start by reading verse 27.
27 The men were amazed and asked, “What kind of man is this? Even the winds and the waves obey him!”
What kind of man is this? Phrased another way, who was this Jesus?
This gospel of Matthew along with the other 3 gospels are all about the life of Jesus. 4 books are devoted exclusively to his birth, what he taught and what he did primarily during his 3 year earthly ministry, which culminated in his death and resurrection. In fact, if you simplify it, the entire Bible is about Christ. A pointer, a foreshadowing of Christ before he walked this earth or a look back at Jesus and his victory over sin and death on the cross as we await His return.
For the first few chapters of Matthew, Jesus was kind of laying low. He was born, then we don’t read much about him until he reached the age of 30 at which time he was tempted for 40 days in preparing for the launch of his earthly ministry. He healed a few people, he gave his first sermon, the Sermon on the Mount, which we just covered. And starting from chapter 8, Jesus is no longer laying low. He is entering the phase of finding and saving the lost and making disciples.
Today, I want to talk about Jesus’ impact in history as we put that question–who was this Jesus–in its historical context for the past 2,000 years. Depending on what you make of this man Jesus, your response will be different. If you think he is a good teacher, then you might admire his teachings and you may want to bring your kids to church to receive good moral lessons. If you think he’s who he said he is, the Son of God, then your response would be very different.
I want to start by giving you a quick overview of this chapter. Here in this chapter, you see various responses to the question who was this man? You have the disciples who are already following Jesus. Some wanted to follow a good, charismatic teacher. Some wanted to overthrow Rome. They are following Jesus already for different reasons. And Jesus is gradually revealing to these disciples his true nature. Along the way, Jesus does things that no mere mortal could do. Like being in a boat during a storm and the disciples witness firsthand how even the winds and waves obey Jesus.
There are other responses to Jesus. Some are positive, some are negative and some are neutral. You have the positive responses. The chapter begins with an encounter between Jesus and a leper. A leper, someone who has been ostracized from society, someone who lives on the margins. We read this, Jesus healed lepers and we think, oh yeah, no big deal, it comes with his job description. But if we rewind 2,000 years and put ourselves in Jesus’ time, we would see how revolutionary an idea this was, to have compassion on the sick and the needy.
Then, in stark contrast, you have a Roman centurion, a person of power and influence. The opposite side of the spectrum. It doesn’t surprise us as much that Jesus paid attention to him because he’s a big shot. He’s good publicity for Jesus’ budding movement. The centurion had concern for his servant who was greatly ill and in desperation he came to Jesus. And Jesus commends this centurion for his great faith. Why? Listen to what the centurion says in v8-9.
8 The centurion replied, “Lord, I do not deserve to have you come under my roof. But just say the word, and my servant will be healed. 9 For I myself am a man under authority, with soldiers under me. I tell this one, ‘Go,’ and he goes; and that one, ‘Come,’ and he comes. I say to my servant, ‘Do this,’ and he does it.”
The centurion describes himself as a man who has authority because he was a man under authority. And he is speaking about the authority of the emperor of Rome. The authority that the centurion possesses has been delegated to him from the emperor. If one of the 100 foot soldiers under the centurion disobeyed orders, he would not be simply disobeying the centurion, he would be disobeying the emperor.
The centurion applies this understanding of the Roman military and political system to Jesus. Somehow even before meeting Jesus, the centurion had faith in Jesus that seemed to surpass even that of Jesus’ own disciples. Precisely because Jesus was under God’s authority, he was vested with divine authority so that when Jesus spoke, God spoke. To defy Jesus was to defy God. And Jesus’ word must therefore be vested with God’s authority. That’s why the centurion says in v8,
8 …“Lord, I do not deserve to have you come under my roof. But just say the word, and my servant will be healed.
Jesus was willing to go and visit the servant, but the centurion knew, just say the word and I know my servant will be healed because I believe your word has power from God. Remarkable faith.
Then, another positive response, Jesus heals Peter’s mother-in-law. Jesus loved even mother-in-laws. That might be the biggest miracle Jesus ever did. When you are married, you will understand.
Moving on, you have the negative response shown through the townspeople from the region of the Gadarenes in v34. This account is straight out of some horror movie. Jesus cast out demons from two men and the demons went into a herd of pigs and the herd went over a cliff and died. And the townspeople, instead of celebrating the miraculous deliverance of the two men, they were angered by the loss of the pigs because the pigs were their livelihood, their source of income. And they missed out on being saved because money was too precious for them and they pleaded Jesus to leave and he did.
And we have the seemingly neutral responses in v18-22.
Let’s read that together.
18 When Jesus saw the crowd around him, he gave orders to cross to the other side of the lake. 19 Then a teacher of the law came to him and said, “Teacher, I will follow you wherever you go.” 20 Jesus replied, “Foxes have holes and birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has no place to lay his head.” 21 Another disciple said to him, “Lord, first let me go and bury my father.” 22 But Jesus told him, “Follow me, and let the dead bury their own dead.”
Two would-be disciples, two people who were interested in Jesus, they must have admired Jesus, they wanted to follow, they seemed ready to follow, but they walked away.
These are various responses to Jesus. How about us? How are we responding to Jesus?