I’m Taylor. And I’m Tyler.
This is Scripture Central’s Come Follow Me Insights.
So for this first episode, we’re going to focus on Matthew 8, with the main focal point of this particular episode being on a series of miracles that Jesus performs.
Yeah. So the Latin word mirror means to look or to wonder at. Miracles are things that we can’t just easily explain away, but we know it happened and we know it came from somewhere real, something powerful. Matthew, like other synoptic writers, like Mark and Luke, often put materials together in their writing according to themes. Matthew is trying to, again, convince his readers and listeners to his gospel of who Jesus is. He brings a lot of miracles together in this one chapter in quick succession to make it really clear Jesus is somebody you should look to because he has the power of God on earth. So it’s a really powerful thing. If we imagine ourselves living in this Galilean society many centuries ago. If you had seen someone like Jesus, you would absolutely know this is a man from God. This is somebody from heaven who has authority to act. That was very, very powerful. Now, we have lived with these stories most of our lives. And so to see them fresh with fresh eyes through the lens of what it may have been like for Matthew and his friends to hear these stories and how amazing it would be for people to hear these stories the first time or to see them, it’d be so deeply compelling to say, I will follow Jesus because it’s clear that he is from God and he can lead me back to God.
It’s a beautiful introduction and an invitation for us to look, look again and watch very closely as we go through these miracles. Before we jump into the first miracle, we’re going to cover a handful of them here in chapter 8. I think it would be helpful for us to revisit this idea that there are two kinds of miracles. We’ve talked about this before, but in quick review, there are the physical miracles and then there are the spiritual miracles. Remember, physical miracles are usually the ones that people are most seeking. It’s the most immediate need. I’m blind, I’m deaf, I’m halt, I’m maimed, I’m leperous, my son is dead. Whatever the case may be. There’s the storm on the sea. They’re all physical needs that cause us to turn to the Lord and say, Help, I need deliverance, or I need solutions. The reality is those physical miracles don’t last forever in the physical sense. The eyes that now can see, they’ll go blind again at death. The lame legs will once again go lame at death. The storm on the sea will come back. There will be other storms on the Sea of Galilee, so on and so forth.
So these are more temporary in nature as far as mortal life is concerned. But the spiritual aspects of miracles never need to die, never need to decay or go away. So as we go through these stories today, keep in mind some of you who have had physical needs or have been praying for physical miracles, in some cases for a lifetime or for decades or for years, and maybe haven’t attained those physical miracles as you would have liked, perhaps you could put the focus on where have I seen the hand of the Lord giving me giving me spiritual miracles as I have wrestled with the desire and the feelings of needing that physical miracle. Because the God of the universe, who has all power, could have delivered all physical miracles the moment you first asked for them, but he hasn’t always done that. There’s probably a good reason for that, even though we don’t know what it is. We can speculate, we can try to come up with reasons why they are, but at the end of the day, he will always be delivering opportunities to connect us with him and give us spiritual miracles. Those can live forever.
They don’t need to die or go away at death. So as we go through these stories, keep an eye to both the physical and the spiritual.
As a reminder, miracles are a way of representing or testifying that the Kingdom of God is here. So if we think about in the final days when Jesus is on the earth and his kingdom is fully here, what will that place be like? It’ll be a place of wholeness and goodness and light and healing and the tears will be wiped away. And so when Jesus shows up here, he’s trying to give people a taste for what the Kingdom of heaven will be like in full. He doesn’t bring out the entire Kingdom of heaven all at once. He’s just giving people examples and tastes so they might know. And so the invitation for us is to say, Where in my life have I seen a taste or example of the kingdom of God in my life or the life of somebody else? Where have I seen God’s miracles heal me physically or spiritually or that of somebody else? That is simply a foretaste of what God will give us for eternity.
Let’s jump in. Chapter 8, verse 1, when he was come down from the mountain, great multitudes followed him. You notice that Chapter 8, verse 1 comes right after Chapter 7, So Matthew 5, 6, and 7 is the sermon on the Mount, and great multitudes were at that sermon. And as it says, He came down from the mountain, great multitudes followed Him. So you know what they just heard up on the mountain. And don’t you love the fact that Jesus gave this amazing sermon, teaching the doctrine of his gospel, the law of the gospel, this higher upgrade to the laws given to Moses in the Old Testament? So he’s taught them, and now he’s going to use miracles as an object lesson to show them. So they’re going to get a show and tell from Jesus. He gives them both. He doesn’t just tell them what to do. He shows them what it looks like in practice. I love that because what you’re going to find in chapter 8 is many of the people that he’s interacting with are people that would have been considered very unclean, very unfit, not ritually cleansed to be a part of normal society in Jewish first century context.
So picture the great multitudes following him, and then verse 2, 3 and 4, we already covered in a previous episode in the Gospel of Luke’s perspective. But here in just very quick review, remember, this is where the leper came and worshiped him, saying, Lord, if thou willed, thou canst make me clean. And this great multitude following him, remember, would be revolt by having a leopard among them because they would be saying, You’re unclean. You don’t belong with us. We’re good. You’re bad. Get away. Shoe, shoe is the the approach. But you’ll notice there’s no sense of rejection or fear from Jesus. He doesn’t shy away. He put forth his hand and he touched him, saying, I will be thou clean. And immediately his leprosy was cleaned. So Jesus specializes in touching that which is considered unclean by everybody else in society. I love this story because it’s one thing to read this story from the safety of the crowd, of the multitude of picturing myself being there and upset at this guy for coming in and scared when Jesus reaches forth his hand to touch this leper. That’s the safe zone. But the real place that I find great power in this miracle is not from the safety of the crowd, but on the ground in front of Jesus embodied in the leper, because this is really my story.
I’m the one who’s unclean. I’m the one who has fallen short. I’m the one who doesn’t belong in heaven or doesn’t in clean company, so to speak. I’m the one who’s coming to the Lord and who desperately needs the Savior Jesus Christ and his love and his mercy and his power and his miracles to cleanse me. I love it when the scriptures become a mirror, not a lens alone to see other people, but to see myself and say, Lord, I need thee, and to come to him worshiping, saying, If thou willed, thou canst make me clean. And all of a sudden, it goes way beyond a physical cleansing of a leper to a spiritual miracle, the miracle of forgiveness, the miracle of entering into a covenant with Christ and allowing him to heal my heart and to cleanse my soul and to purify my desires and to refine me, to make me a sharper instrument in his hands. I love when the scriptures and the Holy Ghost working together provide those spiritual miracles for me on my covenant path.
This word that is used here of worship, it comes from the word of worthy or of value. So you think in your life, what do you deem as a value or worthy? So when you worship, it means to put yourself in a state of expressing that something is worthy of time and attention or has value. So his leper recognizes that Jesus is of ultimate worth and value. Jesus is willing to take upon himself our suffering, and we will see this fulfilled during the last week of Jesus’ life, his suffering in the garden and on the cross. And I’ll read here from Isaiah 53, which Matthew will quote in a little bit, but I think it already is important to talk about. That Matthew may be compiling all these stories together in this chapter to highlight this theme from Isaiah 53 about Jesus, the suffering servant, the one who is worthy but is willing to descend below all things to gather us up that we might be uplifted. Isaiah said, Surely he hath borne our griefs and carried our sorrows, yet we did esteem him stricken, smitten of God and afflicted. But he was wounded for our transgressions.
He was bruised for our iniquities. The chastisement of our peace was upon him. And with his stripes, we are healed. We see that being expressed right here. That means whatever we have suffered, whatever soil we’ve had from the world, Jesus is willing to remove that soil from us and take it upon himself to cleanse it all. It’s so powerful. So this is one of my favorite stories in the New Testament. Is it possible to have just favorite stories? I’ll probably say this a lot during this year.
I only have 342 favorite stories in the Old Testament or New Testament, so yeah, that’s fair. So let’s compile this little list. Our first miracle was with this leper, this unclean leper. Now we go to our second miracle, which is this centurion’s servant. It’s worth noting here that the Greek word for servant could be interpreted… In fact, they even have it in the footnote here, child, servant, or son. It could be interpreted in any of those ways. And the King James translators picked the word servant, so it technically could be his son. In Luke’s account, when Luke is telling this parable or this miracle, he gives us a little bit of additional insight. This isn’t just a typical centurion in the Roman Army stationed in Capernaum. This is a guy who has been very kind to the Jewish people. In Luke 7, we learn that he’s been a benefactor, and they even say he built a synagogue for us. He’s financed the building of our place of worship. And so the Jewish people love this guy, and so the leaders of the Jews in that location have come to Jesus initially requesting this miracle in behalf of the centurion’s servant or son who is sick of the palsy, which means he’s paralyzed.
We don’t know how badly that paralysis has set in, whether it’s his legs or his whole body or what, or how it even happened. We don’t know any of that detail. We just know that they’re pleading with Jesus for a physical miracle. There’s a need. They’ve recognized the need and they recognize a source of the solution to that need. You’ll notice the leaders of the synagogue, the leaders of the Jews, they have no power to heal this centurion servant. So they come to Jesus. They’ve seen him heal other people. So it says in verse 5, if you look at Matthew’s account, it has the centurion coming to Jesus. And he’s beseeching him, saying, Lord, my servant lieth at home, sick of the palsy, grievously tormented. So Jesus says, I will. I will come and heal him. Once again, it’s following the same pattern. If you’re in the crowd and you’re watching this gentile centurion come up to Jesus and say, My servant or my son is sick of the palsy, come with me. The typical Jewish response in the first century is you don’t interact with gentiles. They’re considered ritually unclean. You don’t talk to them unless you absolutely have to, and you don’t walk with them unless you absolutely have to, and you do not go into their home.
You don’t eat with them. You don’t have them come into your home. You don’t associate with them. Isn’t that fascinating that the Abrahamic covenant given to Abraham and Sarah was that through their posterity, all nations, kindreds, tongues, and peoples of the earth would be blessed. But the way that the first century leadership of the Jewish people is interpreting their position with God and their place in the covenants with God was much more of an isolationist doctrine, much more of this ideology saying, no, we can’t interact with anybody out there or they’re going to make us dirty. What a fascinating contrast to now see Jesus showing us the way. What it means is not putting up walls between you and people, but building bridges between you and people and not trying to prevent them from getting in, but you going out and blessing them. Let your light so shine before men that they may see your good works. And Jesus is going to demonstrate that doctrine that he has taught in the Sermon on the Mount a few chapters before. Now he’s going to show them this is what it looks like. Even though the time hasn’t come, for opening up all the way the preaching of the gospel to the gentiles for these three years of his ministry.
He’s at least going to give them a down payment, so to speak, a little taste of what they have in store inside of the Kingdom of God in the future. So he says, I’ll come and heal him.
So the centurion answers and says, Lord, I am not worthy that thou shouldest come under my roof, but speak the word only, and my servant shall be healed. For I am a man under authority, having soldiers under me. And I say to this man, Go, and he goeth, and to another, Come, and he cometh. And to my servant, do this, and he doeth it. I love how Jesus responds in verse 10, He heard it, he marveled and said to them that followed, Verily or truly, I say unto you, I have not found so great faith. No, not in Israel. The point here is that the Centurion is a man who gets whatever he asks for. People do his bidding. And Jesus, we’re going to see here in a moment, is even greater than the Centurion. The idea here that Matthew trying to convey is everybody understands how authority works in the ancient world. Then Jesus appears, the wind and the waves obey him. Bodies, the healing power obeys him. Nature obeys him. And so it’s one thing to have a Roman centurion who can make things happen. Go do this, go do that. It’s another thing for the God of the universe to be standing there.
People don’t know who he is until they see the miracles and it is revealed only God could speak and he be obeyed in all things.
This is such a beautiful story on so many levels. Are you noticing how exciting it is when you dive into the scriptures and you see those multiple layers of meaning and application that we can pull. We’re just scratching the surface here. As you dig into your own scripture study, individually or with your family or with loved ones or in an in a ward setting, amazing principles can keep flowing off of this page and into your life. Let’s give you another one to consider here. If you put this in its historical context, in its setting of the time, we assume that Matthew is writing his gospel years after Jesus’ ascension into heaven. So many years later, 10, 15, 20 years later, whenever it is that Matthew is writing this, we know that there are some struggles in the early Christian congregations with some clashes, some disputations between our Jewish Christian converts and our gentile Christian converts coming into the fold and seeing things a little differently. I love the fact that Matthew, speaking largely to a Jewish audience, is sharing this story because he emphasizes something. Notice where Jesus had said, Taylor’s already read this in verse 10, I have not found so great faith, no, not in Israel.
I can’t find this faith that this gentile centurion is expressing and displaying in all of the house of Israel. I can’t find it. As if to say Matthew saying to his Jewish Christian audience, largely, don’t become prideful. Don’t think that you’re better than those gentile Christian converts that are coming into the Church. Then he takes it one step further, verse 11, And I say unto you, that many shall come from the east and west, and shall sit down with Abraham and Isaac and Jacob in the kingdom of heaven. But the children of the kingdom shall be cast out into outer darkness. There shall be weeping and lashing of teeth. That, those two verses 11 and 12, would have been very jarring, would have been very shocking to the cultural sensitive ears of a first century Jewish audience. But Matthew is trying to teach a principle from the Lord Jesus Christ here that the gospel and this covenant promise was never intended to be exclusively for just one small group of people in the Middle East. It was intended to be given to them to then spread to the whole world, realizing that when you go into the world, you’re going to run into people who already have incredible amounts of faith in God.
They’ve already been prepared to receive the fullness of this covenant and this gospel of Jesus Christ, and we can’t assume that we’re starting from ground zero with all of them. In any faith tradition, anywhere in the world, you’re going to find people who are children of God, and he has given them a portion of his Spirit, and they’ve developed degrees of faith in God. Matthew seems to be helping his audience recognize, hey, you’re going to find goodness wherever you look for it out in the world.
Let’s use this phrase we see in scriptures, Many are called, but few are chosen. Now, we often talk about the Israelites as being the Lord’s chosen people. I’m going to be a little expansive in what we typically see in scriptures. That God has called these Israelites, they believe they’re chosen as if they’re somehow special. We could just get to sit on the throne and be fed by God’s goodness forever and never have to do anything. So when God calls us, the chosen are the ones who choose to act and serve to call others to God. So Jesus is saying, It’s not enough to be the children of Abraham. You have been called into the covenant, but you show that you’ve been chosen when you offer that to other people. And this has been a long standing challenge for those who believe that they’re chosen. I have to confess, every now and then I find myself feeling, well, I’m chosen, and I feel like that means I am deserving of something that somehow God owes me something. And instead, when I have been called and chosen, I am obligated to also call others to be chosen to invite them in.
The Kingdom of God is not meant to be an exclusive club for a special few that God only loves a small percentage of the children. He loves all of them and He invites them all in. So for all of us who have chosen to follow God and Jesus, we are invited to invite others into the wedding feast.
And isn’t it amazing that he’s given us multiple ways to do that? We can do that through our ministering efforts. We can do that through our missionary efforts, and we can do that through our temple and family history efforts. We can call people in to the fold of God on both sides of the veil, whether they’re members of the Church or not, whether they’re alive, whether they’re dead, whether they’re near, whether they’re far. It’s beautiful. In this particular miracle, it’s unique because Jesus actually heals the centurion’s servant, not by touching him, not by talking to him, not by even seeing him. Verse 13, And Jesus said unto the centurion, Go thy way, and as thou has believed, so be it done unto thee. And his servant was healed in the self same hour. It’s such a beautiful principle. This centurion told him, no, Jesus, don’t come to my house. I’m not worthy to have you in my house. Again, it’s almost as if the centurion is saying, I know your traditions as Jews, and you’re not supposed to come into a gentile’s house. I’m not going to ask you to do that. Just say the words and he’ll be healed.
And so Jesus responds. He made a request of his agency and Jesus responds.
Well, the centurion knows that when he speaks, things get done. And Jesus basically levels that up and says, Fine, I will think it or speak it, and it is done. Back to this point about building the Kingdom of God, we know that President Nelson has said, Anything that we do to invite people to make and keep covenants on either side of the veil is building the Kingdom of God. And adding to that, we also see Jesus doing any amount of good to bring more light, joy, peace, healing, happiness to the world. That is building the Kingdom of God. Jesus was building the Kingdom of God as he healed people, as he taught truth, as he sat with people at meals. So wherever you’re at in your life, you can be building the Kingdom of God every single day if you are just seeking to be a bit more like Jesus. A kind word, a kind thought, spending time with somebody who’s suffering. And yes, we want to be inviting people to be on the covenant path. But it’s okay if you don’t ask that at every single moment of everybody’s life. Even Jesus here wasn’t immediately telling the centurion, you got to be on the covenant path.
But I am confident, I think if we went back in time, we would see the centurion would be willing to more fully follow Jesus because Jesus has done something kind and good for him, building a kingdom of God.
A spiritual miracle. A changed heart.
Yeah, thank you for that connection.
Again. Now we go to verse 14, where we come into Peter’s house in Capernaum, and he saw his wife’s mother laid and sick of a fever. Peter’s mother in law isn’t doing well. So Jesus takes her by the hand, touches her hand, and the fever left her, and she arose and ministered unto them. I love that conclusion that in being healed, she didn’t waste any time in then returning some of that God given grace and reflecting it backward and ministering to people. And it would be easy to just read those two verses and say, oh, how neat. Jesus healed Peter’s mother in law. How kind, how wonderful. But if you dig down into that story and have that scripture page become a mirror, you can say, oh, wait a minute, that’s me. I’m Peter’s mother in law in a symbolic sense that I’ve received healing where Jesus touched me and took away a fever, took away an infirmity of some sort, either spiritual or physical or mental or emotional or financial or relational, whatever it may be. Now it’s not my job just to sit there and gloat in the fact that I got this miracle, but now I’ve been given strength, I’ve been given new energy.
What should I do with that? I should arise from that sick bed, whatever form it took in your life, and look for ways to now minister, to now help other people feel the touch of the Savior’s all powerful love and the hand of power through our kind acts and our ministering efforts, whatever that might look like in your world.
We probably should briefly talk about contextually, anciently, people not have access to good medical care. It just medical knowledge was very limited and from our perspective, very archaic and probably very troublesome. So you have these good people living their lives, getting sick, like all of us do from time to time. And it would have been this deeply meaningful thing to have somebody who truly could provide healing. I think about my own life. I’ve recently, my wife had a health situation, and she’s been deeply benefited by incredible medical care. Very kind nurses, very kind doctors. We have a medical system that has the resources to help people in their need. I think go back 200 years or 2,000 years, those things didn’t exist. And so sometimes if you got sick, that was it. You couldn’t participate in society or in your family. We have to imagine for these people, sure, it’s a miracle, but they had nothing, nothing like the healing power we see today in our medical world. And Jesus, who is the great healer, gave people this view of all that is possible while also providing for them a future, a hope that their immediate lives could be better.
And so I read these stories in the context of all that we have in terms of pharmacies and pharmaceuticals and good medications, great doctors. I feel grateful that we see God’s hand in our lives through these great miracles today of great medical services. And Jesus represented that anciently.
So now we go to verse 16, When the evening was come, they brought unto him many that were possessed with devils. And he cast out the spirits with his word, and healed all that were sick. So you notice that he’s casting out devils unclean. There’s nothing more unclean than a devil and a spirit of the devil inside of a person. That person is now unclean. So once again, Jesus is interacting with that which is unclean and leaving those people whole, cleaned, purified in that moment. This is our story. To one degree or another, we are embodied symbolically in all of these stories and we desperately need the Lord to be the one to clean us, to cleanse us, to heal us. Verse 17 is that verse where Matthew makes the connection that it might be fulfilled, which was spoken by Isaiah, the Prophet, that’s Isaiah, saying, himself took our infirmities and bear our sicknesses that Taylor read earlier. Isaiah 53 verse 4. He’s making that connection, saying, see, Jesus is really a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief. He has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows. He knows what you’re going through. In fact, he’s the only one who perfectly knows exactly what you are going through because he’s experienced it for himself all alone through his infinite atonement.
A few weeks ago, we read about the story with Jesus in the synagogue at Nazareth, where he had grown up. He read from Isaiah and proclaimed his public ministry and listened to the things that Jesus claims for himself about what he will be doing, and then look at how this ties into these stories of Capernavon elsewhere. So Isaiah 61 verses 1 to 2, The Spirit of the Lord God is upon me because the Lord has anointed me to preach good tidings unto the meek. He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison to them that are bound, to proclaim the acceptable year of the Lord and the day of vengeance of our God, to comfort all that mourn. So if you look at these stories, do they fit the mission that he has? And the answer is, absolutely. So Jesus is very clear about who he is and and why he’s here. And these stories demonstrate that all of us are a leper or a centurion. We’re Peter’s mother in law. We have time, we’ve been conflicted with malities in some way. These stories are supposed to be examples of taste, what we all can experience if we choose, like the centurion and these others did, to believe in Jesus, to believe him and to believe in him.
So in verse 18 through 22, we get this little interlude between various miracles being listed out by Matthew. This is very interesting. Now, when Jesus saw great multitudes about him, he gave commandment to depart unto the other side. And a certain scribe came and said unto him, Master, I will follow thee whithersoever thou goest. And Jesus says unto him, The foxes have holes, and the birds of the air have nests. But the son of man hath not where to lay his head. And another of his disciples said unto him, Lord, suffer me first to go and bury my father. Now, most of us in our culture would say, Wow, at that point, Jesus should be kind and compassion and say, Oh, I’m so sorry. Your father just passed away. Absolutely. Go and bury your father. Jesus’ response might strike you as odd. He says, Follow me and let the dead bury their dead.
So is Jesus telling people to not care about the dead?
No. So there’s a practice in the first century, a burial practice. If you’re rich enough to have a tomb for your family, what you would do is you would prepare the body of a loved one who had passed away. You would put it in the tomb with the ointments and spices and wrapped up in its burial cloth on a shelf inside of your family tomb. Then you close the tomb up, you seal it up with the outer door, and then you paint that stone covering the opening to the tomb. You would paint it white. That’s why a whited sepulcher is such an amazing symbol because it sure looks clean from the outside, but inside there’s a body that is now decaying, it’s rotting, and you give that body a year to decay, and then you unseal the tomb, and now you go and finalize the burial of the dead. You take the bones and you put them in an ossuary and the skull on top, you close off the ossuary and you can put it in a niche or a carved lochula inside of the tomb, and now the stone table is ready for the next family member who would pass away to begin that process as well.
So it’s more likely that this man’s father didn’t just pass away, but we’re coming into the year mark where he’s saying, Yeah, I want to come and be your disciple, but first I need to go and finalize the burial of my father. I need to take his bones, put him in the ossuary, and then I’ll come and follow you. And Jesus is saying, No, let the dead, let the spiritually dead, basically bury their dead. You come and follow me.
This is actually a big deal. In the ancient world for the Jews, a son was supposed to be completely loyal to the father, and a son was supposed to take care of the father and had duties as a son when the father died to take care of the father’s body and his bones. This whole story here, in fact, there’s two of them right back to back, is about the cost of discipleship. So I’m not sure Jesus really meant he’d never pay attention to anybody who’s suffering, who has died, and just leave them be. I think he’s just trying to help you understand that to truly follow him, there is a cost involved and there is sacrifice. So there are beautiful stories here about how people are being healed, and yet there is something Jesus asks in return. This request sometimes is a price beyond what some people feel like they are willing to pay. And Jesus is essentially saying, what matters more, the traditions of men, the traditions of people are following me even at the cost of friendship and family.
So Matthew 8 finishes with two miracles. When he gets into the boat and crosses over to the other side and we get the calming of the sea and then the casting out of the legion of the devils. And we are going to save those two miracles for Mark because Mark gives you a little more detail than Matthew does. So in this part two episode for this week, we’re going to begin with the story of Jesus crossing over the Sea of Galilee and calming the storm. And it’s one that this is one of those miracles that you can’t miss in your study of the New Testament because, well, it’s your story and it’s my story. So in closing for this episode, just know that our God is a God of miracles. I love what President Russell M. Nelson has said in counseling us to seek and expect miracles in your life. God has not ceased to do miracles. It’s our job to have more faith in him and to seek them. Perhaps some of them that we receive aren’t always going to be of the physical nature, but they can all lead to spiritual miracles, connecting us more powerfully and more fully with the God who gave us life.
So in our first episode, we covered Matthew 8 for this week, and in this episode, we’re going to skip Mark chapter 2 and three because most of those stories have either been included in a previous episode or will come up in a subsequent episode. And we’re just going to pick up a little story here at the end of Mark 4 of the calming of the sea, and then we’re going to spend the rest of the time in Luke 7. So let’s dive in to Mark 4 verse 35 when it says, And the same day when the evening was come, he sayeth unto them, when the evening was come, he sayeth unto them, when the evening s unto them, let us pass over unto the other side. So let’s draw an overhead view of the Sea of Galilee. So here’s the Jordan River that exits from the south, and here’s Capernaum up in the north. And you have, from about here down to about here, you have Jewish villages. Over on this side and you have Tiberias here. Over on this side, this is part of the Decapolis. So that means 10 cities, and they’re Greco Roman cities.
So this is where gentiles live. It’s the other side of the Sea of Galilee. And if you’re a good, kosher practicing Jew in the first century, you should not go out of your way to go to gentile lands and to be in a place where you’re going to be forced to interact with gentiles. When it ends, verse 35, by saying, Let us pass over unto the other side, it’s this invitation to the disciples to come with him to say, We’re going to go to the other side. What they don’t know is that Jesus is going over to perform a miracle and to plant a seed among those gentiles over into capitals on the other side, the Eastern side of the Sea of Galilee.
So the Sea of Galilee is about 650 feet below sea level. It’s fresh water and it’s surrounded by these high mountains. We talked at an earlier episode, Jesus said, A city set on a hill cannot be hid. So if you go to the Galilee today, and if you are anywhere in the Galilee at any point in the night time, you can see all these cities ringing the hill, all these villages and towns. But the wind would pick up and come down and you wouldn’t know where it’s coming from. The boats are quite small. Ones that we’ve actually found in the mud in the Sea of Galilee, measured by 27 feet long, seven and a half feet wide and about 4.3 feet deep, not super large. If you take a typical American pickup truck, maybe 50 % bigger than that. But imagine being out there and these winds pick up and I don’t know, it of us is people swimmers?
It’s a good question. Keep in mind, Peter, James, John and Andrew were professional fishermen. This is their home turf, so to speak. It’s not turf, it’s water. And they spent their life on that water. And with those nets, they would have spent a lot of time swimming. They’re not foreigners to storms on this sea, and they’re not foreigners to being able to survive in the water. But they’re going to be tested on this night. And isn’t it fascinating that the testing comes because we’re headed in a new direction. We’re taking the gospel somewhere where it’s never been before. We’re doing something that hasn’t been done before. I wonder if that’s applicable to your life. Whenever you endeavor to go and engage in something new, whether it’s go on a mission, go to college, get married, have a child, go into a new career, you cross over to that other side, and as you go, opposition often mounds up to sort you and to make you give up and to not move forward. I love the fact that you’re going to watch how Jesus responds to this opposition as opposed to how his disciples respond to this opposition.
Verse 36 says, And when they had sent away the multitude, they took him even as he was in the ship, and they were also with him, and there were also with him other little ships. So it’s not just one. There’s a little fleet of little ships. And as Taylor mentioned sizes, we can see as this picture shows of one boat that they found that dates back to the first century. You can picture this is not a mighty sailing vessel. You would feel very vulnerable in a major, violent storm down in the Sea of Galilee if you were inside of one of these boats. And it says there arose a great storm of wind, and the waves beat into the ship so that it was now full. So it’s not just a little afternoon windstorm. This is in the middle of the night and the wind is so violent that the boat is now full with water. The waves have come in and you can picture this thing just limping along. So let’s stop and think about this for a minute. What is physically happening? It’s dark. I might be disoriented. I don’t even know which direction to try to paddle.
I’m probably not worrying about paddling. I’m probably worrying about bailing at this point, and it’s not doing any good. Because the more I bail, the winds and the waves keep replacing the water inside the boat, and I’m feeling completely overwhelmed, disoriented, scared to death. I don’t know if I’m going to survive this night, and so you can see that the storm from the Sea of Galilee has now become a storm inside of me as one of the disciples on that ship. I’m scared. So what is Jesus’ response in all of this? Look at verse 38, And he was in the hinder part of the ship, asleep on a pillow. So the Apostles or the disciples are experiencing two storms that night, the external storm of winds and waves on the Sea of Galilee in the darkness, as well as the storms of anxiety and fear and trempling inside of their soul. And Jesus is only very minorly experiencing the effects of the physical storm. He’s asleep in the inner part of the ship on a pillow. He’s not stormy inside. He’s only experiencing very, very minorly the effects of the physical storm. And they wake him up and it says, They say unto him, Master, carest thou not that we perish?
So in our modern language of English today, we might translate that to say, Jesus, do you not even care that we’re all going to drown tonight? You’re sleeping. You’re going to sleep through our death, basically is what they’re asking him. I love the fact that Jesus, when he rises up, it says, verse 39, And he arose, and he rebuked the wind, and he said unto the sea, Peace, be still. And the wind ceased, and there was a great calm. Those are some of my favorite words in all of the Gospels. And there was a great calm that comes after the creator of heavens and Earth stretches out his hand and says, Peace, be still. Brothers and sisters, I proposed to you that Jesus perform two miracles that night, one of them physical and one of them spiritual. He didn’t just calm the wind and the waves on the Sea of Galilee. He also calmed the storm and the winds and the waves inside of the souls of those disciples to the point where their faith could increase and they could look at him with new eyes. They could see something that they hadn’t seen before.
Look what verse 41 says, they feared exceedingly and said one to another, what manner of man is this that even the wind and the sea obey him? Their trust in him is going to increase because they’ve experienced him not just calming the physical storm and saving them from imminent death, but also calming the storm within them as they go places they’ve never gone before, doing things they don’t feel comfortable doing, and he helps them weather that storm rather than turning back. Oh, and can I just mention that if you’re in a covenant relationship with Christ, a nice symbol for that would be this idea that President M. Russell Ballard has shared of being in the good ship Zion. I’d propose to you that one of the ways that could be applied is to enter into the relationship with Christ, the covenant relationship with Christ. Get on the boat, the good ship Zion, with Christ. And as long as you stay in the boat with him, that boat will not sink. But that doesn’t mean that because you’re in a covenant relationship with Christ, just because he’s in the boat with you doesn’t mean that there won’t be times in your life when it gets really dark, when it gets really disorienting, when you’re really confused, when you’re really scared, when you feel like you’re going to die in one form or another.
That was never promised that you’d be saved from those kinds of things. But if you stick with him, if you stay with him, him, especially when it’s the hardest, he will find ways to appropriately calm those storms in your life when the purposes have been fulfilled and end up delivering you and taking you places you never thought possible as long as you stay with him.
I imagine the Jewish listeners to this story, when this chapter ends with this question, what manner of man is this that even the wind and the sea obey him? That really challenges people to think the only man that could do this is a man from heaven, a man from God. There’s also a possible connection to the story of Jona, who also is out on a ship and in a storm tossed sea. And there’s an interesting comparison and contrast that Jonah was also asleep, but he’s the cause of the storm and he has to get thrown overboard for the wind and the sea to be calm. Whereas Jesus stays with the ship, he was asleep first, stays with the ship and he calms because he is not the cause of the storm and the storm doesn’t need him to sacrifice himself to stop things. Just an interesting comparison contrast between these two stories of two prophetic figures found on storm tosses.
So in a future episode, we will share the story of when Jesus arrives in Decapolis and is going to have an interaction and an experience with a man who’s possessed with a legion of devils. And that is a very significant miracle that will be covered in a future episode. There was also covered at the very end of chapter 8 in Matthew, but we didn’t include it in the first episode. We’ll cover it when we get to Matthew… Sorry, into Mark chapter 5. For the rest of today, let’s go to Luke Chapter 7.
We will spend some time now talking about the story of the widow of Nain having her son raised from the dead. A really significant story. But interestingly, how many places in the New Testament Gospels does this story show up? Because typically, synoptics often will repeat stories. What do we see about.
This one? In this one, you’re only going to find it in Luke Chapter 7. He’s the only one. Luke the Physician, he has this way of telling you stories that are easy to overlook from other people’s perspectives. And in this case, it’s a widow in Nain who has now lost her last and only remaining son. It would be so easy to let her just fade into the margins of society and forget about her. And yet Luke tells us her story. So we pick this up starting in chapter 7, verse 11, And it came to pass that the day after. So this is the day after he had healed the centurion’s servant or son in Capernaum. So the day after, he went into a city called Nain, and many of his disciples went with him and much people. Now, when he came nigh to the gate of the city, behold, there was a dead man carried out, the only son of his mother, and she was a widow, and much people of the city was with her.
So why do those details matter? Luke really, he says, Only son, she’s a widow. And we might think, Okay, that’s interesting. But in their world, why did that matter?
In their world, she’s lost her husband, and now she’s lost her only son. And her husband’s possessions, everything that that family would own would have passed to the son. And now when he passes, it doesn’t go to his mother. It would go to the nearest kinsman and not to her. And in some cases, those near kinsmen might take really good care of their aunt, or their grandma, or whoever it may be that is the nearest kinsman. But in other cases, they would grind upon the faces of the poor. And the widows and the fatherless, so to speak, to use the phrase from the Old Testament. And so we don’t know her exact situation here other than Jesus takes time to raise this son from the dead, implication being she was not going to be well taken care of.
Verse 13, And when the Lord saw her, he had compassion on her. And he said unto her, Weep not. Now, if you’re this widow woman, let’s suppose she’s never even met Jesus, some strange man shows up and tells you, yeah, don’t be concerned. You’ve now lost your source of not only economic security, but your last family member who will be there for you in your life. And this woman is going to be completely bereft of relationships. And Jesus shows up and says, Weep not. So I pause there for a moment, I say, Does Jesus ever say things to me that in the context, I’m like, That doesn’t make any sense at all. Are you unaware of what I’m dealing with? And you’re telling me to be of good cheer. And yet we know how the story ends in this story. So when I read the story, I think, okay, in my own life, am I choosing to trust that when God tells him to be of good cheer, we’ve not, that he has a larger plan and he sees how things will end and that it will be a joyful end.
So in 14, he came and he touched the buyer, and they that bear him stood still. And he said, Young man, I say unto thee, arise. I think Jesus says the same thing to all of us. That’s his invitation to all of us. If you can, once again, not just see this story from one perspective. Don’t just put yourself in the place of one of those disciples following Jesus into name and being an innocent bystander, watching this miracle take place. Insert yourself symbolically into the story. For some of you, you’re going to find it very easy to insert yourself into the place of the widow, feeling like things are happening out of your control and you don’t know what you’re going to do moving forward. For others of you, you’re going to find yourself being able to symbolically be represented by those who are carrying the guy. For others, you’re the man who’s laying there feeling dead. You’ve lost something. It’s gone. And it’s only one person who can fix that. It’s only one. And he comes and he touches the buyer, stops it, and then tells the man, Arise, just like he tells you and me, arise.
So the symbolic buyer here could represent lots of different things for different people in different settings today. Parts of our life that may be have died, and we need the Savior to come and help those things come back to life. It’s beautiful as he sits up. Can you imagine the look on his mother’s face and the feeling in her heart and the people all around. He that was dead sat up and began to speak, and he delivered him to his mother. You’ll notice Jesus doesn’t waste any time to connect that important relationship that Taylor was talking about. He restores relationships. Now, some of you have loved ones who maybe have left their faith and are maybe struggling in various ways in this life. I think that this widow woman, if she were standing here today, I think she would be able to speak with authenticity and saying, hold on to hope, hold on to faith. The Savior is able to do things nobody else can do. When he chooses to do that, that’s up to him. How he chooses to do that, that’s up to him. But the good shepherd will find ways to reach out to your loved ones who in some respects might be experiencing a death of sorts and to be able to invite them to arise and then to be able to restore those relationships.
This is such a beautiful story of redemption. I love looking at it, not just from the physical healing, but from all of those spiritual aspects of this miracle that can play out in our lives today.
I also like to imagine that Luke, who’s a physician who’s dedicated his life to the healing arts of uplifting and raising people from whatever circumstance they’re in, that it would have been such a joy and delight for Luke to be able to include this story. It just gets me excited more about I want to be like Luke, looking for the stories that uplift and show that Jesus lifts all of us.
Then this little segment that comes next is about John the Baptist. You have some disciples who have come from John to Jesus, and their question for him is, Art thou he that should come, or look we for another? Are you the Messiah, or should we keep looking? And the way Jesus responds is beautiful. He doesn’t just give them a literal, direct, simple answer. He tells them, verse 22, Go your way and tell John what things you have seen and heard, how that the blind see, the lame walk, the lepers are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised. To the poor, the gospel is preached. That’s that’s the way he’s answering the question is, By their fruits, ye shall know them. And now he’s translating that into, By my fruits, ye shall know me. So, brothers and sisters, perhaps the invitation for me and for you today would be to look for the fruits of the Savior’s love, his mercy, his power, his grace, his perfect knowledge in your own life. Is there going to be a lot of messy, muddy parts? Absolutely. Are there going to be a lot of storms on a sea of discipleship?
Guaranteed. But are you going to be able to find all of these amazing points where heaven has touched your life? If you look for the fingerprints of God in your past and you seek them and ask God to help you see them, you will find them in abundance. In fact, I’m going to go as far as to say that a high percentage, this is just my opinion, that a high percentage of the blessings and the tender mercies of the Lord that are given to us go completely unnoticed, unrecognized, unacknowledged, and unthanked by us. We just go through life thinking we’re experiencing all of these coincidences, and many of them we don’t even know. Protection, and blessings, and opportunities that we don’t even recognize. But God’s goodness is everywhere. In my opinion, we are saturated with God’s tender mercies, even though we only notice a small handful of the big ones.
So if you think about verse 22 and you apply it to the Gospel of Luke or the other Gospels or any other prophetic writer, they’re doing this very thing. Verse 22, it says, Go, proclaim what you have seen and heard. So there’s the words and deeds of Jesus. The Gospels primarily are a collection of the words and deeds of Jesus. And that is supposed to reveal to us who he is. As Tyler is saying, it’s full of grace and graciousness, God’s mercy. We should tie this into the Book of Mormon for just a moment or two. If you look at 1 Nephi chapter 1, verse 20, Nephi begins his record with this very powerful, what I think is a great thesis statement. He says, Behold, the tender mercies of the Lord are over all those whom he has chosen because of their faith to make them mighty, even under the power of deliverance. So Nephi is setting forth that his intention to write is to proclaim the words and deeds of God to show his tender mercies to people. And if you fast forward to the end of the Book of Mormon, Moroni chapter 10, what does Moroni challenge us to do?
He exhorts us. Exortation is interesting. It’s the strongest persuasion you can use without manipulating or forcing somebody to do what you want. And he says, I invite you that you receive these things, this document, this book full of God’s gracious words and deeds that you reflect on all of God’s tender mercies from the time of Adam to the time that you receive all these other declarations. And then ask, are these things true? Is the Book of Mormon true? And is all of God’s tender mercy, his chesed, the Hebrew word for loving kindness, is it true? And the fact is, it rings with truth. The Bible and the Book of Mormon and other records.
Preserved so that we know of God’s tender mercies. And so the invitation for all of us, as Tyler was talking about, is we should also be on the lookout for where God’s words and deeds heal us. And we should, where appropriate, document and share with others. Just like people did anciently, imagine that none of the disciples on either continent ever took the time to look for, recognize, document, or share God’s words and his deeds of tender mercy and loving kindness. What would we have? But now we have this powerful foundation. We’re asked, the whole point of the Come Follow Me curriculum is to show us examples of how people have found and preserved God’s words and deeds so that we can look to him and experience it. And it is everywhere. So if you take the time, even this week, to just on a daily basis jot down one way that you’ve seen God’s hand in your life, you’ll be so amazed at how much God has been with you. And your record will be a blessing to future generations, just like these records are now blessing us, many generations after they’ve been recorded.
Very helpful. Now, let’s finish with one more story. In Luke chapter 7, starting in verse 36, this is a beautiful example of Jesus, once again, interacting with somebody who their society that time has completely rejected, is a complete outcast. So Luke tells us her story. In verse 36, it says, And one of the Pharaohes desired him that he would eat with him. And he went into the Pharaoh’s house and sat down to meet. Keep in mind, they eat not the way we do with utensils, with your own plate. Often they would eat in communal dishes. Table fellowship in the first century is a big deal.
And you’re sitting about this close to one another while you’re eating. Now, in Western society, that is really invading somebody’s personal space.
So the fact that this pharisee has now invited Jesus into his home, to his table, to share a meal with him, this is beautiful. He’s he’s opened up. He’s let Jesus in. And behold, a woman, we don’t know her name, we don’t know anything about where she came from or where she’s going to go after this. It says, A woman in the city which was a sinner. The only qualifier for this woman is that she’s a sinner. Now, once again, be careful that we don’t instantly read this story from arm’s length and now put ourselves somewhere else at the table and say, I want to get as far away from this woman as possible because at the end of the day, if we’re really honest with each other, this is our story. I’m that woman symbolically. You’re that woman. So she’s a sinner. And when she knew that Jesus sat at meet in the pharisee’s house, she brought an alabaster box of ointment. And she stood at his feet behind him weeping and began to wash his feet with tears and did wipe them with the hairs of her head and kissed his feet and anointed them with the ointment.
Now in John’s gospel, you get Mary anointing Jesus shortly before the week of the atoning sacrifice. Here in Luke’s gospel, this seems to be happening much earlier with this woman who is a sinner.
Unnamed. Unnamed. Now, put yourself in the position of the pharisee and some of you are wondering, Wait, it’s in the pharisee’s house. Why did this woman come in? Keep in mind, there’s a lot more open door policy in the first century. It, there’s a lot less privacy, so to speak. People can come in to the house and verse 39 says, Now when the pharisee which had bidden him saw it, he spake within himself. So he’s just thinking to himself. And you can picture the look on his face when he thinks these words. This man, if he were a prophet, would have known who and what manner of woman this is that toucheth him, for she is a sinner.
So there’s a couple of things going on here. You got to think in the ancient world, people did not have the nice shoes that many people have access today. Most of us don’t usually walk around in dirt and in filth. And in the ancient world, that was your daily experience as you’re walking out on the open roads. So it was quite common for somebody to wash your feet when you came into their house. That was a sign of deep hospitality. Now, consider what this woman is doing. The feet is like the grimey part of the body. It’s the lowest part. It’s closest to the ground. It’s the most humble part of the body. And this woman is in this most humble position. And not only is she washing the feet, she’s anointing and then kissing. This is a sign of extreme humility, of extreme petition that she recognizes she has a deep need. When I look at her story, I say, how much am I willing to show Jesus of my desire, how hungry I am for his healing forgiveness that I would put myself in the most humble circumstances possible.
So to finish off this story, the ending is amazing because Jesus and answering said unto Simon the Pharaoh, I have somewhat to say unto thee. And he says, Master, say on. So Jesus has read his thoughts and now he shares this idea of if a certain creditor has two debtors, one owed 500 pence and the other owes 50 pence, and when they had nothing to pay, he frankly forgave them both, tell me, therefore, which of them will love him most? Simon says, Well, I suppose that he to whom he forgave most. And he said unto him, Thou hast rightly judged. Now, can you picture this tender moment? The woman’s hearing all of this. And now Jesus turns to the woman in verse 44 and said unto Simon, so he’s now looking at the woman speaking to Simon, Seest thou this woman? Basically, Simon, look at her. So he’s talking to Simon, but he’s not looking at Simon. He’s looking at the woman. And whenever a person does that in a conversation with you, it almost forces you to look where they’re looking. It’s as if Jesus is saying, Simon, you have just looked on her with disdain.
You’ve looked down at her. You’ve been judgmental. I want you to look again. I want you to see her the way I’m looking at her, the way I see her.
You just said look again, and the word respect literally means to look again. To respect somebody is to look at them again. You might happen to see them once, but then you keep moving on. But to look again and consider them and to take the time to recognize who they are, that’s what Jesus does for all of us. He asked that of all of us, can we respect one another, that we look again to people and see them as real people who all need Jesus, just like we.
Do. is n’t this fascinating as he now coaches Simon the Pharaoh on how to look again, how to respect her as a daughter of God? He says, Seeest thou this woman? I entered into thine house, thou gavest me no water for my feet. But she hath washed my feet with tears and wiped them with the hairs of her head. Thou gavest me no kiss. But this woman, since the time I came in, hath not ceased to kiss my feet. My head with oil, thou didst not anoint, but this woman hath anointed my feet with ointment. Wherefore, I say unto thee, her sins, which are many. Do you notice he’s not discounting the fact that she’s a sinner? She has many sins and he’s acknowledging that. I get it, he’s saying to Simon. However, he says, her sins, which are many, are forgiven. For she loved much, but to whom little is forgiven, the same loveth little. And he sayeth unto her,thy sins are forgiven. So now he’s told Simon her sins are forgiven, but now he tells her, thy sins are forgiven. Brothers and sisters, this is in my scriptures. I love marking them and I have different marking techniques.
I take a dark green for my attributes of God, color, and if I put a stripe right down the middle of a set of verses, that signals to me on my scripture page that that’s a miracle. It’s a manifestation of God’s attributes, his characteristics, his perfections. I’ve marked this as a miracle, and some of you might be thinking, where’s the miracle? Way more powerful than combing a sea. Way more powerful than even raising the dead is for God, the only only one who has the right, the power and the authority to do so when he says, I forgive you. I’m going to let your past go and not hold your present and your future accountable for what you’ve done in the past. That is the most amazing miracle that I think we can see on the scripture page for us as mortals. Here’s this woman being told,thy sins are forgiven. Do you see the Godly power here? Only a God has the ability to go into the past and somehow make right what I have made wrong so that I don’t have to be forever fettered by what I did in moments of weakness or moments of temptation or moments of foolishness or downright wickedness at times.
I love this little parable that he uses about the debtors, one with 50, another with 500. The footnote you see is that it represents a denarii, and one denarii is about a day’s wage. So the one who has 50 denarii of debt is basically two months in debt, and the other one is possibly two plus years in debt. That’s really considerable. He’s trying to make the point that anybody who’s in debt wants relief. But for those who have more of it, it’s far more crushing. The invitation for us today is, where are there people in my realm of influence that are crushed by some form of debt, whether it’s real or physical or spiritual, that I can help them experience some form relief through God or other resources that God has made available. Ultimately, we all have debt, whether it’s 50 or 500 or 5,000. Nobody can get into God’s kingdom having debt. God needs to wipe it all out. This story teaches us that no matter where we’re at, Jesus ultimately forgives if we are humble and are willing to ask for forgiveness and change. So I look at Simon the Pharaoh and I say to myself, am I happy to receive forgiveness for myself, but unwilling to allow other people the same?
Am I in my life saying, well, I’ve arrived at a place of stability, but I am not going to share my time, talent, or resources to help anybody else be uplifted. There’s a lot of lessons here, but fundamentally it’s if we individually have experienced our debt being wiped out, our spiritual debt being wiped out by Jesus, we should move forth the laity to invite others to also experience the same and never feel the need to judge others that perhaps their debt was greater than ours. All of it needs to be wiped out.
So as we come to the close of this story, the question that I think is important, one of the many questions, rather, that I think is important for us to ask of this particular experience would be, which character do I want to be symbolically in this story, Simon the Pharisee, one of the other people sitting in that table fellowship with him and with Jesus, or the woman? You’ll notice there’s one person who walks away from this story having been forgiven. And it’s the one person who acknowledged her sin and who came to Jesus and did everything that she could to serve him and to thank him for his goodness. And look how it ends, verse 49, They that sat at meet with him began to say within themselves, Who is this that forgiveness sins also? And then he said to the woman,thy faith hath saved thee. Go in peace. Perhaps one of the miracles you and I could pray for more often and with more faith is the miracle of God God’s mercy and his forgiveness for us so that we, too, can hear him saying to us, thy sins are forgiven thee. And then hear those three glorious words, go in peace, which to me is an invitation to go and bring everybody else into the peace that we have found.
Oh, how he loves you. Oh, how he wants to heal us, how he wants to bless us. Let us increase our faith in him and come unto him and do everything we can to lay our entire life at his feet, as this woman showed us. And we leave that with you in the name of Jesus Christ, Amen. Know that you’re loved.
And spread light and goodness. you.
Come, Follow Me Insights
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John Hilton III
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