(Read Time: 20min)
Jesus was very clear, taking up your cross and following Him was never said to be easy nor comfortable, however truly following after Him will always be best and rewarding on all fronts of life.
18 And when Jesus saw great multitudes about Him, He gave a command to depart to the other side. 19 Then a certain scribe came and said to Him, "Teacher, I will follow You wherever You go." 20 And Jesus said to him, "Foxes have holes and birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay His head." 21 Then another of His disciples said to Him, "Lord, let me first go and bury my father." 22 But Jesus said to him, "Follow Me, and let the dead bury their own dead." 23 Now when He got into a boat, His disciples followed Him. 24 And suddenly a great tempest arose on the sea, so that the boat was covered with the waves. But He was asleep. 25 Then His disciples came to Him and awoke Him, saying, "Lord, save us! We are perishing!" 26 But He said to them, "Why are you fearful, O you of little faith?" Then He arose and rebuked the winds and the sea, and there was a great calm. 27 So the men marveled, saying, "Who can this be, that even the winds and the sea obey Him?" 28 When He had come to the other side, to the country of the Gergesenes, there met Him two demon-possessed men, coming out of the tombs, exceedingly fierce, so that no one could pass that way. 29 And suddenly they cried out, saying, "What have we to do with You, Jesus, You Son of God? Have You come here to torment us before the time?" 30 Now a good way off from them there was a herd of many swine feeding. 31 So the demons begged Him, saying, "If You cast us out, permit us to go away into the herd of swine." 32 And He said to them, "Go." So when they had come out, they went into the herd of swine. And suddenly the whole herd of swine ran violently down the steep place into the sea, and perished in the water. 33 Then those who kept them fled; and they went away into the city and told everything, including what had happened to the demon-possessed men. 34 And behold, the whole city came out to meet Jesus. And when they saw Him, they begged Him to depart from their region.
Jesus was not your normal religious guy
As you read through the beginning of the book of Matthew you soon come to the realization that the religious leaders were not the best of characters and examples. They should have been, knowing the Scriptures even more than others, but they were more filled with selfishness than selflessness. Jesus even used their lives as example of how not to worship God. Can you imagine the scowls and hateful words Jesus got from this group of leaders, and it just confirmed more what he said to the crowds.
Jesus’ teaching was seemingly controversial as he continued. Sitting on a mountainside (in Matthew 5-7) Jesus began to dissect that true meaning of God’s law and teach about a heart change more than a garment change when you came before the God of Creation in worship. It was astonishing to the crowd as he spoke with authority. This way of worshipping Yahweh was not normal, nor was it even taught by the most righteous of religious leaders. Who is this guy? Those that desired to know, would soon realize in those few years who Jesus really is, the Son of Yahweh.
Now we come to chapter eight where Jesus shows the cost of following Him. In verses 1-4 Jesus is greeted by a leper who wants Jesus to heal him and He does. Then Jesus instructs the leper not to publicize the miracle but to go and do as the law requires when you need to be cleansed. Jesus confirmed his position in Matthew 5:17 of how he was not destroying the law and prophets, but fulfilling them. He was never against them in any way.
Then in Matthew 8:5-17 Jesus is found talking to a Gentile official who needed healing for his servant. Jesus is amazed by this man’s faith as compared to the multitudes of Jews around the city who claim to be God’s people because of Abraham, and there is not even faith like this among them! Jesus then says that God is not interested in just one group of people, but all people around the globe. The bloodline of Abraham was not physical but spiritual. This Gentile official found the spiritual faith needed to enter in to the flock. And Jesus continues to heal others around the area, confirming the unusualness of who has was; He was no normal religious guy.
Matthew 8:18 - Narrow is the path and uncrowded
Jesus was being pushed on all sides and was feeling the pressure of the crowd, he knew it was time to split. If there was going to be any strength for later, then he know he and his disciples needed to get away for awhile for some recharging. But could this passage be interpreted in a different light as it relates the the following passages? Is it possible that Jesus had in mind a visual of what it was truly like following Jesus? He commanded to depart to the other side.
Ministry can be exciting and crowded. But is that where most discipleship is found? That excitement should not be dismissed nor ignored, it happens and God can and will use it for His glory. But if following Christ was only found in the crowd, followers would never grow nor worship in true faith. Jesus commanded to get out of the crowd and personally choose to follow him, to make the crossing. It’s not a crossing that everyone decides to choose, and they lose out on the heart change that Jesus does for a believer. Instead many just want the external blessings of healing and feeling without the cost of truly following Christ.
In the following four passages we will see some repercussions of truly following Christ to the other side of discipleship. They aren’t easy to swallow, but they are realities made known to us if we decide to choose crossing with Him.
"Enter by the narrow gate; for wide is the gate and broad is the way that leads to destruction, and there are many who go in by it. Because narrow is the gate and difficult is the way which leads to life, and there are few who find it." Mat 7:13-14
Matthew 8:19-22 - Idols of the heart cannot be present
“Teacher, I will follow You wherever You go.” came the statement from the excited religious leader who was wrapped up in the hype of the day of excitement. Jesus must have known this man’s true character behind the emotions, because Jesus told him and the crowd, “There is no comfort nor earthly happiness found in following me, I myself don’t even have the comfort of having an earthly home.” I wonder if this scribe too went away sad like the rich young ruler in Matthew 19? This answer couldn’t have excited the scribe, in fact it probably stopped him in his tracks. Many come to Jesus for the excitement, but when times get uncomfortable they are no where to be found.
Just as Jesus was finishing up with that scribe, one of his disciples tells Jesus that he needs to do his duties to his family as his father had just passed. Jesus then sounding very inconsiderate, says, “Follow me, and let the dead bury their own dead.” Ouch. Jesus, don’t you have any heart or love. Actually, in this same line of thought of discipleship, Jesus was being very loving and considerate to his disciple because there is much more to life than giving glory to family. If we give glory to God than we’ve found what is good. So in telling the truth, Jesus was being very considerate and loving to His disciple even though it might have been hard to hear.
So, for this passage we see that if we want to cross with Jesus in discipleship than we need to know that there is no earthly comfort that is promised and there is no respecting family duties over the duties of Christ. If a disciple is caught following after Jesus for these other ideas than he is not worshipping God he is whore-shipping his idol instead.
"Son of man, these men have set up their idols in their hearts, and put before them that which causes them to stumble into iniquity. Should I let Myself be inquired of at all by them?" Eze 14:3
Matthew 8:23-27 - The waves will overtake you, but Christ...
Now after that amazing introduction to what disciples have to leave behind, namely going with the crowd and the loss of the idol of selfishness, Jesus then steps into the boat to cross to the other side. Only his disciples follow. Can you imagine what others were thinking? “Bunch of crazies!” Or, “I could never follow that dude, life is better with my religious leader and his laws...” At this point the verses from Ecclesiastes 7:1-5 scream out:
“A good name is better than precious ointment, And the day of death than the day of one's birth. 2 Better to go to the house of mourning Than to go to the house of feasting, For that is the end of all men; And the living will take it to heart. 3 Sorrow is better than laughter, For by a sad countenance the heart is made better. 4 The heart of the wise is in the house of mourning, But the heart of fools is in the house of mirth. 5 It is better to hear the rebuke of the wise Than for a man to hear the song of fools.”
Why does this passage come to mind? Because if a disciple is following Jesus into the boat, he has experienced a funeral in his heart, one of deep mourning. He has now placed himself in harms way in the public’s eye and also lost some well loved idols in his life. In this mourning of the heart that the disciple is experiencing he finds a better life, a life where death to self is better. He was rebuked by the Master Teacher and accepted the crossing to the other side of discipleship.
There is not much time in between verses 23 and 24, it is almost like they step into the boat and it is taken into the sea by the storm. Those that probably mocked the disciples probably said, “See, even God thinks that their zeal is misguided since He brought that storm along, they are probably dead now!” This was a popular thought of the day as it is of today. If you are doing good you get good, and if bad then bad. It’s a principle that holds true, but not to it’s fullest extent always. Even Job had to grapple with this theory that bad things happen to good people because we live in a sinful world and a creation that is yearning for the perfection of God’s life-giving breath.
So the waves came. The Scriptures are clear, “...the boat was covered with the waves.” How frightening and worrying! They just decided to follow Christ and die to self but this is more death than what they expected! “Jesus, wake up, and grab our hands, we are drowning!” The words here of “...save us” and “...we are perishing!” portray a picture of a shipwreck, this isn’t even a worried crew, this is a crew that is overboard and screaming to the sleeping guy that is their only last hope of survival.
Then he wakes and peeks over the railing sleepily at them in the waves and says, “why are you so fearful and lack faith?” He then stands up and stretches and tells the storm to calm down. The disciples then marvel as they steady themselves on the wreckage, soaked in salty water mixed with tears their jaws drop as they stare at their Savior. Who is this again?
This is one of those times that kind of flys in the face of the theory that “God never gives you more than you can handle.” I think the disciples would have laughed at us if we told them that statement, because it is a straight faced lie. It is in these times that we are burdened beyond our abilities God steps in with His strength and tells us, “have more faith in me child. Don’t be focused on the storm as much as you are focused on me.”
Discipleship will never be easy, Jesus always lets the disciple know that following Him will bring persecution and storms. Don’t be deceived, you will be tried by fire. It is in times as these that faith is grown and Christ is made to be your Awe. The crossing of discipleship is treacherous!
Matthew 8:28-32 - Expect hard cases, He will calm them too
Finally, the crossing over to the other side is finished. The disciples were still wringing out their clothes as the boat hit the land. It is a momentary breath of relief, because out of nowhere the screams and demonic voices met the unwanted group of Christ followers. Actually, it was Jesus who the insane men were protesting about.
If the disciples believed that following Jesus would bring them to the tables of nobility and great men they were sorely mistaken. Because the only people that seemed to be around Jesus were the sick, poor, and unwanted, and these guys were unwanted. I’m sure some of the disciples thought that the storm out on the sea was easier than being around these two crazy Gentiles. They weren’t just crazy, but they were filled with darkness and evil. The discipleship sign-up list just got pocketed, “Did you guys read the fine print?” Peter might have asked the others.
Jesus confronted the evil spirits that reigned inside and they obeyed Him. I bet the same question was on the disciple’s lips, “Who can this be, that even the spiritual realm obeys Him?” They would continue to follow him and find out that Jesus was everything they needed for life. In fact, life was found in Him, and without him there was not anything (John 1).
True discipleship in Christ finds us at the doorsteps of people that are not publicly accepted, this can be a bit of a challenge for some. However those that have it all together and are living the high and partying life often aren’t ready for what Jesus has to tell them, they have their own saviors, but those will always lead to Hell. But for those who are at the end of their ropes and are in need will usually have open ears to hear a message of hope. Maybe they will accept, or maybe not, but they are there looking for a savior. And why not the Savior?
Jesus not only rescues them from the depths of hell on earth but restores life to these Gentile men who were far from normal. Normalcy was not their savior though, it was the hope and faith placed in Jesus that created a new heart. For we see in Mark that the city gained a missionary because of this interaction.
Discipleship in Christ will cross you to the other side of the sea and throw you at the doors of people that are desperately needing a Savior. These cases are not dealt with by some fireside story, but by prayer and reliance on the only Savior, Jesus Christ Himself. When He is brought in to diagnose the problem it will always be the same, sin nature is the problem and it needs to be thrown where it deserves, in a bunch of dirty, unclean animals and thrown to its death in the bottom of the sea suffocating all its life.
“And when Jesus came to the place, He looked up and saw him, and said to him, "Zacchaeus, make haste and come down, for today I must stay at your house." 6 So he made haste and came down, and received Him joyfully. 7 But when they saw it, they all complained, saying, "He has gone to be a guest with a man who is a sinner.”[...] 9 And Jesus said to him, "Today salvation has come to this house, because he also is a son of Abraham; 10 for the Son of Man has come to seek and to save that which was lost." Luke 19:5-9
Matthew 8:33-34 - Your story of hope won’t excite everyone
You would think that the story of the city’s crazy men would have excited the townsfolk. It did way more than excite them, it frightened them. They were shouting the same words that the evil spirits were shouting when the group landed on the shore, “Jesus, what have we to do with You? Why have you come here to torment us?” They begged Him to leave their region.
It is sad too that they were not happy about their fellow countrymen regaining sanity, all these men were only interested in was fact the Jesus just destroyed a good income for one of the farmers because of the pigs going crazy and they didn’t want to lose more. They had no clue what they were losing when they asked Jesus to leave though. Most sinners wouldn’t know, unless they are told. If the rich man could only send Lazarus back to his family, he thought, but if God’s message and prophets wouldn’t sway them what would? They need a consistent message bearer, someone who has seen repentance and accepted the hope in Jesus through faith. [Enter stage right] the wild man turned sane.
But let’s turn back to the disciples at this point. They watched this whole event take place and I’m sure they are baffled by the city’s people requesting Jesus to leave. When following Jesus, there will be rejection by good and bad people. It will baffle and boggle the mind as to why they think they know better. But sometimes the ground of their hearts are not ready. The rejection is because of Jesus and not you personally. People are afraid of what they have to come to terms with if Jesus is truly who He says He is. It’s not always an exciting thing to meet Jesus and recognize who He truly is. Disciples need to know that rejection is inevitable on earth.
We are but one step from entering the boat to cross to the other side. Being true disciples will never be found in the excitement of the crowd, it is always found in the boat with Jesus crossing to the other side.
If we are to be disciples of Jesus we must accept these principles: 1. It’s a long and narrow path, uncrowded, on your way to being a disciple. 2. Pack no idols for the trip, because if you do you will be quite sad on the day you say to God, “Lord, Lord, did I not...?” And God hands you over to the tormenter. 3. Your trip will be too hard, but your guide packed a baby carrier if need be. Not only that, He controls everything anyway. 4. You will meet with those who are impossible, but those are God’s specialty. And 5. Rejection should be expected, because many will not accept the truth of Jesus.
Be ready for the crossing. Matthew 8:18 says, “And when Jesus saw great multitudes about Him, He gave a command to depart to the other side.” Discipleship takes a crossing. Most specifically, a CROSSing.
“Then Jesus said to His disciples, "If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me. 25 For whoever desires to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake will find it. 26 For what profit is it to a man if he gains the whole world, and loses his own soul? Or what will a man give in exchange for his soul?” Matthew 16:24-26
“I have been crucified with Christ; it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me.” Galatians 2:20
“...and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age." Amen.” Matthew 28:20b