Friday

Now when Jesus saw great crowds around him, he gave orders to go over to the other side. (v.18)

Matthew 8:18-22 Friday 4 March 2022

Psalm 92

Background

Clearly he has authority; he gives orders to go over the lake. Jesus has established himself through the Sermon on the Mount and the miracles that follow it as one who teaches with authority, but this is the first time that he is addressed as ‘teacher’ in the Gospel, and by a scribe, one who already has some expertise in the Law. Clearly Matthew sees Jesus as a teacher who opens up the things of God but not one who seems to fit any preconceived ideas or categories.

In today's passage there are two people who wish to become (or in the second case already is) a disciple. Jesus’ answer to both might seem harsh but we note that the context of each is Jesus’ decision to cross the lake and to embark on an itinerant ministry. Matthew implies that this is the beginning of a new phase of Jesus’ work. Having told us (as we saw on Monday) that Jesus was settled in Capernaum, he now records Jesus describing himself as homeless. So the first would-be disciple is a scribe who believes that he should follow wherever Jesus is going to learn from him, but Jesus seems to want to dissuade him and implies that the peripatetic life is not for him. The second man is described as a disciple and he wishes to bury his father. Assuming that his father had recently died, this would have meant a delay of no more than a day, but again Jesus is dismissive. His words might seem harsh to someone who would have been grieving and there are different views of what they mean. The key point seems to be being part of Jesus’ work demands sacrifice, even from expected familial duties.

Interestingly, we are not told how either of these people responded to Jesus’ offputting words. Perhaps that is because Matthew’s focus is not on the disciples but on Jesus and his uncompromising demands. There is now an urgency: Jesus decides to cross the lake because of the size of the crowd around him, which suggests that he did not want to be detained by one community but to preach in as large an area as he could.

 

To Ponder:

  • This is the point where Jesus and his disciples move away from Capernaum. Have you been asked to move away from what is familiar to be with someone? How easy was that decision? 
  • If you were one of those two people who came to Jesus wanting to follow him, how would you have responded to his answer?
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