September 12, 2013

Scripture and Commentary, Friday after Fifteenth Sunday after Trinity

Morning – Psalm 85, 1 Kings 3:4-15, 2 Cor. 12:14
Evening – Psalm 89:1-19, Matthew 8:28-9:9

Commentary, Matthew 8:28-9:8

Here is one of the saddest stories in Scripture.  A man lived among the graves in such torment he often caused serious harm to himself.  He was so wild with torment, even chains and shackles could not hold him.  Jesus knew the source of his torment, demonic oppression.  He was so controlled by the demons his condition is called demonic possession.  How sad his life was.  How much he missed of the normal joys of life.  How he must have agonized in the night, consumed in an inner anguish we cannot even imagine and he could neither understand nor assuage.  We can picture him crying out in the night, gashing himself, yet nothing could relieve his pain, until Jesus came.  Jesus knew the problem, and had the power to make the man whole.  Jesus could drive the demons out, and restore the man to mental, physical, and spiritual health, and He did.

Now the story changes.  The man is whole.  He is clean right down to his soul.  We would say he is saved.  The agony, the fear, the uncontrollable horror is gone forever.  But the people in the village are unhappy.  Perhaps it was their hogs that drowned in the sea.  Whatever the reason, they did not bow to Christ and worship Him as they ought to have done.  Instead, they asked, demanded, that He leave their land.  They could have had the same peace and wholeness the demoniac had.  Instead they chose to remain in sin.

I think we can easily apply this to modern people.  The Church may be appallingly ignorant of the Bible, but the story of Jesus dying for our sins is almost universally known in the world.  Yet the vast majority of people ignore it.  Bibles abound, but lay unread, even in Christian homes.  Even the heavens and all creation bear witness to the presence and grace of God.  Yet people ignore it, and it becomes just another part of the world’s background noise.  The word has gone out.  Jesus stands before us all, as surely as if He stood before us in the flesh, but people implore Him to leave.  And He does.

In 9:1-8, Jesus has returned to Capernaum and found a paralysed man, which, in the Bible is called “palsy.”  Jesus immediately healed the man, but instead of saying, “arise and walk,” He said, “thy sins be forgiven thee.”  It is important to know the healings Jesus did were not just physical, they healed the soul as well as the flesh.  So the palsied man was no longer paralysed in his flesh or in his soul.  He was forgiven of sins and restored to God.

Some of the scribes in Capernaum responded in a way that was similar to that of the people of the Gergesene village.  They scoffed at Him, called Him a blasphemer because only God can forgive sin.  Of course it is true that only God can forgive sin.  Therefore, if Jesus can forgive sin (and that He can forgive sin is shown by a mighty sign in the physical healing of the man) then… Jesus is God.  But the people of Capernaum marveled and glorified God.  It is true that they did not understand much about Jesus at this point in the Gospel.  They probably thought He was nothing more than a great prophet.  But they knew God was with Him in some way that was different from all other men.  And they rejoiced that He had come among them.