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Sunday, August 26, 2018

[Matt's Messages] "Follow Me"

“Follow Me”
Following Jesus - The Gospel of Matthew
August 26, 2018 :: Matthew 8:18-34 

Our sermon series on the Gospel of Matthew is called “Following Jesus,” because that’s what Matthew wants us to do.

Matthew wrote his gospel as a theological biography of the Lord Jesus Christ–the most compelling person that ever lived and ever will live. Matthew set out to introduce us to Jesus and to hear Jesus’ call to discipleship.

And that’s what we’re going to hear again today. In verse 22, Jesus says, “Follow me.” And that’s what I want to make the title of today’s message.

“Follow Me.”

It’s not the first time that He’s said it in the Gospel of Matthew.

Back in January, we memorized Matthew 4:19. Remember that?

“‘Come follow me,’ Jesus said, ‘and I will make you fishers of men.’”

He calls us to follow Him and to persuade others to follow Him, too.

Today, I have only one point to make. Just one.

I’ll say a bunch of other things, but I’ve only got one central thing to get across. Just one slide up there. And here it is:

FOLLOW JESUS BECAUSE THERE IS NOTHING AND NO-ONE MORE IMPORTANT.

Jesus calls us to follow Him first and foremost because there is nothing more important and there is no-one more important in all the world.

So those are the stakes this morning.

There is nothing more important than following Jesus.

Let’s see how this plays out in Matthew chapter 8.

Two weeks ago, we jumped to the end of Matthew chapter 9, the end of this bigger section of Matthew, and there, when Jesus saw the crowds He felt compassion on them. 

But here, in chapter 8 verse 18, when Jesus sees the crowd that day, He decides to get away. V.18

“When Jesus saw the crowd around him, he gave orders to cross to the other side of the lake.”

He is not running away, but He is getting away. He’s taking a kind of retreat.

When we left off last week, Jesus was giving them all a foretaste of the kingdom at Peter’s house in Capernaum. He was casting out evil spirits, healing all the sick including Peter’s mother-in-law. He was exercising great power and authority.

But Jesus didn’t want them to get addicted to His miracles, and He needed a little time away. So He told his disciples to get a boat together and set off across the Sea of Galilee.

But before they can go, Jesus interacts with two potential new followers. V.19

“Then a teacher of the law came to him and said, ‘Teacher, I will follow you wherever you go.’”

I don’t know about you, but that sounds really good to me.

That sounds like something we ought to be saying to Jesus.

It sounds like something we might sing on a Sunday morning in a hymn or a worship song.

“Teacher, I will follow you wherever you go.”

But Jesus doesn’t seem that impressed.

It may be because he’s a teacher of the law, a scribe.

And we know from the Sermon on the Mount, what Jesus thought about the scribes in general.

And it might have been because this guy had his focus on what he was going to do for Jesus not how worthy Jesus was.

I will follow you wherever you go. Yes, I will.

In fact, he might have been saying, “Jesus, this is your lucky day. I am going to follow you wherever you go! I see that you have all of these fishermen and other “lower-class” folks. But now you have me. A teacher of the Law. What are going to do today, Jesus? I hear we’re going for a sail across the lake.”

Listen to Jesus. V.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.’”

What do you hear there?

I hear Him saying, “Are you really going to follow me? That’s good, because there is nothing more important than following me. But it’s not going to be easy. It’s not going to be cushy and soft and comfortable.”

This is serious stuff.

Jesus is not discouraging the man from following Him.

He’s disabusing him of his mistaken notions of what it will be like.

Following Jesus is more important than our comfort.

Now, Jesus Himself is comforting. He promises us rest. “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.”

But at the same time it’s a hard road to walk.

Following Jesus is a hard road to walk. A narrow road, He called it.

What are you willing to give up to follow Jesus?

Ask yourself that question.

What are you willing to give up to follow Jesus?

Have you ever thought about how we who are Christians follow a homeless man?

My Savior was a homeless man.

And He has not promised me an earthly home.

He often provides them. But that’s not the promise.

The promise is an eternal home.

And between now and then there will be trouble.

“II have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.”

In other words, we should follow Jesus, but it’s going to be hard. And yet it is absolutely worth it. ...

We don’t know if this guy kept on following Jesus or not.

We do know that Jesus is looking for real followers.

Not just the ones who say they are going to follow Him and then bail when the going gets tough.

What are you willing to give up to follow Jesus?

I hope the answer is everything. Because He’s worth it.

But so often we hold onto thing. We hold onto our comfort. We hold onto our money. We hold onto our family.

That was the problem of the next guy. V.21

“Another disciple said to him, ‘Lord, first let me go and bury my father.’”

Which sounds totally reasonable to you and me. Right?

Let me do this funeral thing first and then I’ll be right there, Jesus. V.22

“But Jesus told him, ‘Follow me, and let the dead bury their own dead.’”

Whoa. Those are strong words!

Why did Jesus get so salty with him?

There are two possibilities. One is that the man is asking for basically a year off of discipleship so that he can follow all of the traditions of caring for your deceased parents. That included the funeral and then actually digging up the bones many months later and putting them in an ossuary. And settling the estate. Gotta make sure the money is all there and in the right place. And, then I’m all yours, Jesus.

The other possibility that I think is even more likely. The man’s father isn’t dead yet. And maybe he isn’t even sick!

This guy is asking for a indefinite deferment of his discipleship.

He’s putting it off.

He’s putting Jesus off.

In either of those scenarios, it’s Dad first and Jesus second. Right? V.21 again.

“Lord, FIRST, let me go and bury my father.”

You are important, sure. But this is my Dad!

Have you ever said something like that to Jesus?

I know I have.

You are important, sure. But this is my Sleep!
You are important, sure. But this is my last one (my last dollar, my bite, my last year, my last chance).
Jesus, sure you are important. But first let me...

That’s why Jesus is so up in his face.

“But Jesus told him, ‘Follow me, and let the dead bury their own dead.’”

He’s not saying that we should dishonor our father and mother. Jesus is big on honoring them.

But that is not more important than following Him!

That’s the priority of the spiritually dead. Let them put second things first.

We need to put first things first. And Jesus is our first thing.

Follow Jesus FIRST AND FOREMOST because there is nothing and no-one more important.

I think it’s interesting that the very next thing they do is follow Him. V.23

“Then he got into the boat and his disciples followed him. [Of course, they didn’t know what they were in for.] Without warning, a furious storm came up on the lake, so that the waves swept over the boat. But Jesus was sleeping.”

Now we know why He needed to get away. He was TIRED.

There is a furious storm. The Greek word is the one for earthquake. There was an earthquake of a storm attacking their boat, and Jesus is asleep.

I love how that shows Jesus’ humanity. He was tired. He needed sleep. He was so tired that he could sleep through a violent storm with the waves coming in over the sides of the boat! V.25

“The disciples went and woke him, saying, ‘Lord, save us! We're going to drown!’ He replied, ‘You of little faith, why are you so afraid?’ Then he got up and rebuked the winds and the waves, and it was completely calm.”

Can you imagine?

How about the rebuke from Jesus?

“You of little faith, why are you so afraid?”

In the Greek the phrase is “oligopistoi.” “You of little faith.” Jesus used it already in the Sermon on the Mount when He was talking about worry.

Oligopistoi? Why are you so afraid?

The answer is because we know about the storms! We can feel the wind and the waves.

Now, they were right to turn to Jesus. So they had a little faith and it was directed toward the right person.

But Jesus thinks that they should have known by now that they wouldn’t drown in any boat that He is in.

That’s not how He’s going to die!

“Don’t you know who is in your boat?”

I don’t think they did.

When the wind and the waves quieted down, they just stood there gaping at Jesus. V.27

“The men were amazed and asked, ‘What kind of man is this? Even the winds and the waves obey him!’”

Don’t miss that.

And don’t make it all mythical.

This is not about the “storms in your life.”

Jesus can calm the storms in your life.

That’s true. And I guess it’s even an application of this story.

But this story is history.

Jesus actually talked to the storm, and it had to obey Him!

Who does that?

Only God.

Only the Creator does that.

Listen to Psalm 89:8-9, “O LORD God Almighty, who is like you? You are mighty, O LORD, and your faithfulness surrounds you. You rule over the surging sea; when its waves mount up, you still them.”

Who did that? Who alone is like that? Only God.

Follow Jesus because there is no-one more important.

Following Jesus means putting your faith and trust in Him.

It’s believing that Jesus is God incarnate, God-in-the-flesh.

Believing that the wind and waves obey Him.

Jesus is not just a great teacher.

He is a great teacher. On Back-2-School Sunday, we can safely say that there was never and will never be a greater teacher than the Lord Jesus Christ.

And we just studied one of His greatest teachings, the Sermon on the Mount.

But He is not just a great teacher.

He taught with a greater authority than anyone ever before Him.

And His authority is not just over words and concepts and ideas and truth.

It’s over matter and energy!

It’s over creation itself.

And that should cause us to worship Him in reverence and awe.

That’s why we are here today. Because we worship Jesus.

He is worthy of our worship.

There is no one more important.

One more story. And this is a weird one.

They get to the other side of the lake, and they meet up with two demon-possessed men. V.28

“When he arrived at the other side in the region of the Gadarenes, two demon-possessed men coming from the tombs met him. They were so violent that no one could pass that way.”

Matthew is the only gospel writer that tells us there were two of them. Probably one was the more violent and scary and so he got all of the attention from Mark and Luke. But Matthew tells us that there two. And nobody could pass that way because these two guys were possessed by evil spirits.

Unclean spirits and living among the dead in the tombs. Very very unclean! Very very powerful.

But not too powerful for Jesus. V.29. The demons speak.

“‘What do you want with us, Son of God?’ they shouted. ‘Have you come here to torture us before the appointed time?’”

Notice the answer to the question of verse 27.

The demons know.

The men asked, “What kind of man is this?”

And the demons say, “This is the Son of God.”

And they have a question for Jesus. Are you here to torture us before judgment day?

One of the commentators I read this week said, yes, that’s why He’s there. To give them a little taste of their own medicine and to give them a little taste of the judgment to come. That’s His prerogative. V.30

“Some distance from them a large herd of pigs was feeding [even more unclean!]. The demons begged Jesus, ‘If you drive us out, send us into the herd of pigs.’ [I don’t know why. But it’s okay with Jesus. V.32] He said to them, ‘Go!’ So they came out and went into the pigs, and the whole herd rushed down the steep bank into the lake and died in the water.”

Yes, the same lake that the disciples just thought they were going to drown in.

It’s now full of deviled ham.

[Sorry, not sorry.]

This is a strange story.

It teaches us that people are more important than animals.

It teaches us that there is an appointed time for demons to be punished.

It teaches us that demons know that Jesus is the Son of God.

All important items.

But I think, most importantly, it teaches us that Jesus IS the Son of God.

That He has authority and power not just over the wind and the waves but over the unseen spirits that inhabit the heavenly realms.

Even the unclean impure evil demonic spirits are subject to Jesus.

What does Jesus say in this story?

What speech does Jesus make?

He just says one word, right?

“Go.”

It’s just like in verse 26. He just stands up and rebukes the storm and it goes, “Sorry.”

And gets all quiet.

He just says to these demons (the other gospels tell us that there are a legion of demons and 2000 pigs). He just says one word. And it’s all over.

There is no one more powerful than Jesus.

There is no one more important in the whole world than Jesus.

And He says, “Follow me.”

Here’s the scary thing though. Not everybody does. Look at verse 33.

“Those tending the pigs ran off, went into the town and reported all this, including what had happened to the demon-possessed men. Then the whole town went out to meet Jesus. And when they saw him, they pleaded with him to leave their region.”

Will you please go away?

That’s what they said to Jesus.

It doesn’t say why.

Perhaps they were scared of Him.

You should be.

They were scared of the demon-possessed guys. And this guy says one word and all pig hell breaks loose.

Imagine the squealing violent scary sight that was when those pigs went and drowned themselves!

But I doubt they asked Him to leave because they were scared.

I think they were mad.

I think they had just lost what was most important to them.

Their pigs.

Their money.

That was their bank account. Jesus just sent all of their bank accounts to the bottom of the sea.

He just tossed all of their wallets into the lake.

He just hit delete on all of their accounts.

“Will you please just go away?”

I think their story is in here as a cautionary tale for you and me.

Because they encountered Jesus and decided NOT to follow Him.

There song was, “We have decided to NOT follow Jesus. Please turn back, Jesus. Please turn back.”

They had decided that there was something more important than Jesus.

Today, Jesus is inviting us to follow Him.

But to do that we have to count the cost.

We have to ask ourselves what we are willing to give up.

You see salvation is absolutely free. But it is not easy.

Salvation is by grace through faith and not by our good works.

But Jesus saves us to do good works.

And He calls us to follow Him no matter the cost.

He is more important than our comfort, than our family, than our money.

There is nothing earth and no-one in the universe more important than Jesus.

And we have Him, then we have everything.


***

Previous Messages in This Series:
01. The Genealogy of Jesus
02. The Birth of Jesus Christ
03. The Search for Jesus Christ
04. The Baptism of Jesus
05. The Temptation of Jesus
06. Following Jesus
07. Jesus' Sermon on the Mount
08. The Good Life (Part One)
09. The Good Life (Part Two)
10. You Are The...
11. Jesus and the First 2/3 of the Bible
12. But I Tell You
13. But I Tell You (2)
14. But I Tell You (3)
15. In Secret
16. Choose Wisely
17. Seek First His Kingdom
18. Generous
19. These Words of Mine
20. When He Saw the Crowds
21. When He Came Down from the Mountainside

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