I had a Bible study on Friday that changed my life.
I don’t know, I use that phrase a lot, but to me, even a small change, if it changes my understanding fundamentally, warrants it. Anyway, it changed my life.
So we were studying the first part of Matthew 8, which comes after the Beatitudes. (Did I spell that right?) Anyway, I don’t know what it was, we were just talking, but for some reason thinking about things made me adjust the way I view Matthew. I’m being overdramatic. But, I don’t know, just the whole way I approach Matthew changed.
I’ve known for a while I think that Matthew was written to the Jews, or was at least meant to show the Jews that Jesus was the Messiah who was prophesized. But, I guess I never really examined the text in great detail with this mindset. Anyway, just by looking at the chapter, I think I realized (I might still be wrong about this) that Matthew has two main messages. 1) Jesus is in fact the Messiah who was prophesized. In that sense, he was what the Jews were expecting. 2) Jesus’ mission, what he was all about, was nothing like what the Jews were expecting.
I don’t know, just these two points seemed, when I thought about it and in the course of the study, to permeate the passage. Matthew 8 starts with him doing various healings – the man with leprosy, and the centurion’s servant. He heals people throughout the book, a lot. And the reason why he does this Matthew explains in 8:17 – “This was to fulfill what was spoken through the prophet Isaiah: “He took up our infirmities and carried our diseases.'” These actions fulfilled prophecy about the Messiah.
SN. Adrian said something at Bible study a few weeks back that also changed my life. We were talking about whether things pointed to as prophecy in the Old Testament really were meant to be prophecy. Adrian said something really interesting. He said, your whole perspective changes if you believe that God is the author of the Bible. It totally changes how you look at things.
In particular, with Old Testament prophecies of Jesus. The author might not have meant for it to be a prophecy. But God did. And so it is, regardless of the human author’s intent. Stuff like the virgin birth. If you don’t believe God’s the author of the Bible, you can say a lot of stuff about it, why it isn’t a prophecy of Jesus. But if God is the author of the Bible, then it is. I’m not really explaining everything and skipping a lot, but that’s the gist, and I don’t know, it really impacted me. It changed my life.
Anyway, yeah, that’s why Jesus heals. It fulfills prophecy, and that’s one of the points of Matthew. But it’s strange how oftentimes he tells the people he heals not to tell anyone about it. Anyway, I was thinking about it, and I really think (and I’ve heard this before, I realize) that the reason he does this is so people don’t get the wrong idea about him. He heals and does all that, but that’s not the primary purpose for him coming – that’s not what he’s all about. If people only heard of him as a physical healer, they might get the wrong idea of Jesus’ mission. So that’s why he tells the people he heals not to tell others. So it goes along with Jesus’ mission not being what the Jews expected.
Anyway, that passage where people say, “I wanna follow you” and then Jesus says weird stuff like, he has no place to lay his head, and let the dead bury their own dead comes here also. And, to me, now, it makes sense. It comes in the middle of his healings. People know this and want to follow him. And what he’s saying is that, my mission, what I’m about, and what it takes to follow me, is nothing like you’re expecting. It’s hard, and it takes immediate commitment. It’s not going to be political or worldly glory, or easy. It’s going to be hard.
So again, it’s the second message of Matthew – Jesus isn’t what the Jews were expecting, nor is following him. So, the reason I was blown away is because it made Matthew to me a consistent whole instead of just a series of stories. It all comes together, and for some reason, when I realized that and read through the chapter, it blew me away. Maybe I’m just lame.
Anyway, his response to the centurion’s faith also makes sense to me now. “When Jesus heard this, he was astonished and said to those following him, ‘I tell you the truth, I have not found anyone in Israel with such great faith. I say to you that many will come from the east and the west, and will take their places at the feast with Abraham, Isaac and Jacob in the kingdom of heaven. But the subjects of the kingdom will be thrown outside, into the darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.'”
What he’s saying is that Gentiles are gonna be a part of the kingdom. And that a lot of Jews won’t. And my claim is, the reason for this is because Jesus isn’t what they expected. I don’t know if that makes sense to you, but it makes sense to me.
So, maybe I’m not making sense, but it was like, in the middle of Bible study I felt like I had a revelation that made the entire book of Matthew make sense as a whole, and for some strange reason it blew me away.
Another bold claim. I think when he raises the girl from the dead, Jesus is indicating that there’s a resurrection, another thing some Jews didn’t expect. He says, the girl’s not dead, but asleep, and then raises her. Later in the New Testament, the authors often refer to the dead as being asleep. So my claim is that what Jesus is showing here is that there is a resurrection of the dead.
OK, so here’s another thing I was thinking about during study, again something that Adrian prompted. He was saying how, he feels like the way we interpret the passage about if we had faith we could move mountains is sort of misplaced. We place the emphasis on believing in impossible things, whereas God never tells us to do stuff like this in the Bible. I don’t think I’m doing his point justice, so, sorry, but it’s like that. His argument was that more emphasis should be placed on the heart.
So, my instinct was to totally disagree. Because, the whole point of Experiencing God, well at least one point, was that God does things that are impossible for man, to show that it’s He alone that’s doing it. And, this is an example that happens over and over in the Bible.
But I thought about it more and more, and I don’t know, I think he’s right. The interesting thing about Matthew 7-9 is that it makes it seem like having faith or following Jesus is really really hard. The whole, if you want to follow me, know the son of man has no place to lay his head, don’t wait to bury your father, that type of deal. And how hard faith is. But then, the weird thing is that when he tells people to follow him, they immediately do it. That’s just a strange dichotomy.
Anyway, what I realized is that sometimes God will call us to do “impossible” things, but the thing is, when He calls us, it doesn’t matter that it seems impossible, we just do it. Does that make sense? Like following Jesus is really hard. But, if he calls us, it doesn’t really matter that it’s hard – we just do it.
The big thing to me though is that the process isn’t that we pray for impossible things and then if we have faith God will do it. The process is, if we have faith, God will call us to do impossible things. Does that make sense? It’s not us that decides what impossible things to do. It’s God that calls us to impossible things. I don’t know, to me that’s a huge revelation.
So like, the point of the faith to move mountains thing is that if we had faith, we could move a mountain. Not that we would or should. Just that we could. So like, the emphasis should be on having faith. We do that, and then God will call us to impossible things. Maybe it might be moving a mountain. But it won’t be necessarily. So the emphasis shouldn’t be on moving a mountain, or believing we can move a mountain. It’s should be on having faith. That’s all we should do, not ask for all these impossible things. Just have faith, and then God will call us to impossible things. But it’s His call, not ours.
I don’t know if you buy that, but it’s something I’ve thought a lot about since Friday. And, in my view, I think you can back it up Biblically. Anyway, it’s totally changed my thinking in a lot of ways. It’s changed my life. Like, I’m more than ever against random people attempting crazy things and then expecting God to come aboard. (And then getting frustrated when things don’t happen.) It’s just the reverse of the way it should be. God will call us to impossible crazy things, if we have faith, and then we do it. That’s the way it was with Noah, Joseph, Moses, a lot of the judges, the disciples, Paul, just all these people in the Bible. God called them to impossible things, they didn’t come up with it themselves. I think that’s the way it is. Our job is to have faith, and follow His call. That’s it.
Anyway, I often get blown away by small things that people say to me, it just makes me think like crazy, and Adrian has done that a couple times now, just totally changed my thinking. Maybe I should ask him to disciple me, huh John?
Uh, sorry for the random boring entry. But yeah, Bible study was good.