This morning I cracked the Good Book open to Matthew 8. I have been reading through Matthew on my knees, which might seem silly to some, but kneeling is a symbol of reverence and I want to remind myself to be reverent of God and the sacred Book that He entrusts us with. I don’t always read on my knees. Just Matthew. Just this time. But it’s a neat experience.
I made it through two chapters today, and was simply in awe. It seemed like everything I read pertained to God’s unwavering authority over all things.
First, we read the story of the centurion with the noteworthy faith. “Truly I say to you, I have not found such great faith with anyone in Israel,” says Christ in Matthew 8:10. And what was so remarkable about this man’s faith? It seems to me it’s because he recognizes the authoritative power of Jesus to just speak and have it accomplished. He seems to realize that Jesus’ voice is the most powerful force on earth. If I’m not mistaken (and I’m not), Christ spoke the world into existence!
Next, we see Him healing folks, beginning with Peter’s mom-in-law, who were sick and demon-possessed (vs. 14-17). Then He calms the wind and the waves, in verse 23-27, proving His authority, even over the raging waters that nearly caused an impending shipwreck.
Then, we see Him in the country of the Gadarenes, casting demons out of two men who had terrorized the town for God-only-knows-how-long. They were so violent no one could even pass by them, living in the cemetery, so no one could even visit their dead relatives. Jesus sends the whole lot of the demons right out of these two fellows and into some swine. The nearby town was so disturbed by the act that they actually asked Jesus to leave the region. I used to get really hung up on this story, wondering why in the world they wouldn’t just be extremely grateful for Him delivering the men from the slavery of demon possession, and the town from living in terror of them. I used to think maybe it was about the pigs, that the drowning of the pigs was costly and they were ticked about the monetary loss. Then one day it occurred to me that sometimes we can hate people so severely, for who they used to be, that we don’t actually want them to experience liberty. I wonder if the townspeople were like that. I hope I never am.
I also experienced some insight into this story when I was in Nepal, a country that worships a whole slew of demons and calls them “gods”. 33 million of them, if I’m not mistaken. The Hindu people are terrified of the name “Jesus”. It has become illegal for people to proclaim His might and majesty in Nepal, above their own “deities”. It is astounding to me that the name that could set people free causes terror in their hearts, but I believe it is because of His authority. We are terrified of what we can’t control… until we discover that the only safe and free place to be is resting in the competence and kindness of the Most High!
Chapter 9 picks up with a story of a paralytic. Jesus, when others expected Him to simply heal the man’s physical infirmities, says to him “Take courage, son; your sins are forgiven.” Knowing He just stirred the pot, intentionally for that matter, then heals the man, physically, but not without saying “But so that you may know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins…Get up, pick up your bed and go home.” (Matt. 9:6).
In this very short chunk of Scripture, barely over a chapter long, we see Christ having authority over sickness, demons, the sea and even over sin! We see His authority to simply speak things into existence. Oh, and I think I forgot to mention that, later on in chapter 9, He heals the lady who had been hemorrhaging for 12 years and then raises a dead girl back to life! Should I go on? I think I will stop there, but if you want to read some crazy, wild stories, read the Gospels for yourself. Jesus was outstanding!
Now, here’s where it gets personal. Later on in the day, after reading these chapters, and simply rejoicing in and resting in the savory reminder that I serve a triumphant God, I got this text from a friend, which said “If these Christians on FB don’t quit helping spread fear?!” She went on to remind me of an Old Testament story of twelve spies going into the Promised Land. Ten of them came back trembling and doubting God’s abilities. Two of them came back rejoicing because the land was just as glorious as they had heard and they knew their God was able to deliver what He had promised. Unfortunately, the ten fearful spies testimonies evoked incredible fear in the hearts of the masses, and Israel was left to wander aimlessly in the desert for another forty years because they refused to trust God. Only Joshua and Caleb (the two faith-filled spies) even made it into the Promised Land.
I know there is an incredible amount of fear spreading like gangrene across the globe right now. Fear is a terrible motivator for anything. There is a stark difference between loving our neighbors by washing our hands and coughing into our elbows vs. living in terror over what might be. I’m not saying don’t wash your hands or stay home if you’re sick, because that’s just being loving… even if corona didn’t exist. I’d like to share one of my favorite quotes, told to me by an old friend whose High School PE coach used to say often… “God has appointed each man a time to die once, and until then, I’m invincible!”
I know that many will say that I am not of the “at-risk” category and am relatively healthy, so I don’t have any room to talk. And maybe so. But I want to tell you a story. I got the flu recently. I mean, it was brutal. The Lord used it to grow me in stillness and gave me lots of joy, so it was only awful physically, but it was a rough one! My greatest concern was that a couple who go to my church and are in their 90’s would get sick. I thought for sure that if Meade and Rosemary got this flu, it would kill them. Well, Meade did get it. He was in the hospital for two days, with not only the flu but also pneumonia. And he was back home and healthy within two days. I saw him at church the following Sunday! What had taken me, a healthy 40-year old woman, two weeks to navigate, took my 92-year old friend two days, and his wife never got sick, even though she was sleeping on a cot in a hospital (because, hey, after over 70 years of marriage, that’s what you do, even if you are in your 90’s!). All that to say, when it’s our time, it’s our time. And we can trust in the sovereignty of God over all things. Church, we can trust in the sovereignty of God!
When the Black Plague hit Europe, in the 1300’s, it was the Christians who rushed in to help. Everyone else panicked and left town, but the Christians actually fled TO the cities and to the infirmed. They knew their God was able to save them, and even if He didn’t save them from the Plague, they had a much better Home to look forward to, that would be eternal bliss for them. They weren’t too attached to this world, and they knew people were dying and needed help and compassion. Right now, the world needs us to show them the Light. The world needs us to love them and to be contagious with our hope. But how is that going to happen, if we are consumed with the same fears they are?
In the immortal words of Shadrach, Meshack and Abed-nego, “If it be so, our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the furnace of blazing fire; and He will deliver us out of your hand, O king. But even if He does not, let it be known to you, O king, that we are not going to serve your gods or worship the golden image that you have set up.” (Daniel 3:17-18). Let me just remind you how that story turned out. And let me also remind you that the threat on their life was much more significant and impending than the threat of a respiratory virus. Please, Church, do not bow down to the fear. Fear is an idol. Fear is trusting in circumstance above the authority of the Most High. The world needs to see our Hope and to see that He is alive, has all authority and we trust Him. If God can save a few boys from a furnace that was heated up seven times hotter than it would take to kill a man, He is most certainly strong enough to save us. And even if He doesn’t, this planet is a dung hill compared to heaven, so what are you worried about?
P.S. I am avoiding Facebook and all other social media, at the moment. If you feel the need to comment and want me to see it before Easter, please respond on this forum, instead of FB, or just write me an email/text/whatever. Otherwise, please don’t expect a response. Love you all!