Tuesday, January 03, 2017

Fresh Studies in Matthew - Matthew 8:23-33.


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,[c] 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[d] 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.

There appears to be a discrepancy here, one of these reasons people do not take the Bible literally.  There is one demoniac in Luke and two here. Maybe these are two different instances, but the chronology doesn’t seem so.  Maybe we explicate too closely; maybe not enough.  This must have been a bizarre scene, the demons yelling out to Jesus.  Prior to that we have the straightforward story of Jesus calming the storm, which has led to many songs and sermons.  There have been fewer songs about the demoniac.  The outcome of this scene from a horror movie:  the people were mad, according to Luke, and perhaps fearful here; either way they wanted Jesus gone rather than welcoming someone who could exorcise demons.  Jesus destroyed their pigs, which Jews weren’t allowed to have or even touch.  The men’s lives were more important than the nasty pigs.  (And pigs are nasty, as are most animals. I don’t doubt my dog would eat a dead person if hungry and left to be feral, and pet owners don’t like to think about that.) 
I am typing this up on New Year’s Eve of 2016, it is 7:10.  I went to visit a friend today who has advanced liver disease, and I talked on the phone with my husband’s cousin who has had a long bout with breast cancer and is tired from five or more years of chemo and other treatment. Both mentioned that no one comes to visit them.  I heard this from an elderly friend yesterday in an email.  I don’t think most of us in the modern church are any better than these people mad at Jesus for the destruction of their pigs (which brings up an ethical question, see below).  We put our “supposed busy-ness” above the simple act of visiting the sick, invalids, and elderly.  Apparently pastors aren’t taught to do that in seminary any more; it seems they are taught to be CEOs or celebrity preachers.  I don’t think we are nearly as busy as we think we are.  We binge-watch and amuse ourselves plenty.  I think I might start being a curmudgeon and calling people when they complain about how busy they are. 
As to Jesus destroying the pigs.  I don’t read of any compensation for them.  9:1 simply says, “he got in the boat.”  They didn’t want him around, so he obliged them.  There is a tinge of dark humor here.  Was he liable for damages?  Well, like his confrontation with the Pharisees over healing on the Sabbath, he is Lord of creation as he is Lord of the Sabbath.  If he is God, they were his in the first place.  Make no mistake: Jesus claims nothing less than deity as well as Messiahship.
Now, it seems that I have skipped the “winds and waves” part, but as I mentioned, this gets plenty of sermons and songs (often about Peter and fear and sinking, etc.).  Suffice it to say that I don’t think Matthew put it here for preachers to wax eloquent about the sea of Galilee’s tempestuousness and how God brings us through the storms.  Matthew, remember, was on the boat.  He is “we,” here, although I think him too humble to even use “we.”  They marvel that Jesus had Lordship over the sea and weather, and that is the point, another sign of his power and another validation of his Messiahship.  That Jesus is asleep is one of those facts that I don’t think we are supposed to make much of, other than he was tired.  It had been a very rough day, and the next day wouldn’t be any easier. 

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