Today’s selected reading continues in the New Testament gospel concerning the life and ministry of Jesus Christ which was written by the apostle Matthew. More specifically, today’s passage is found in the first seventeen verses of the eighth chapter. When you come to this particular portion of scripture you find the apostle Matthew transitioning from Jesus teaching atop and from the mountain to now coming down from the mountain among the people again. What I find to be so incredibly interesting and powerful is that Jesus didn’t remain on the mountain speaking unto and teaching the people who followed Him and gathered there at the mountain. Instead of remaining upon the mountain where He taught the people the core doctrines and foundational principles of the kingdom Jesus came down from the mountain in order that He might begin walking among the people of Judaea and the surrounding regions and area. You will recall that this ministry of walking among the people actually began in the fourth chapter of this very same gospel and was prefaced by the apostle Matthew quoting the words of the prophet Isaiah concerning the people who sat in darkness seeing a great light, and upon those who lived in the valley of the shadow of death and darkness a light has emerged. Jesus’ public ministry among the people began and was prefaced with the reality that He came to dwell and walk among men and women as the Light of the world. Matthew began by referring to Jesus as the fulfillment of the words which the prophet Isaiah wrote concerning a great light shining and coming upon those who sat and dwelt in darkness. What’s more, is that in the fourth chapter of the New Testament gospel of Matthew we find Jesus teaching in all their synagogues, preaching the kingdom of God, and healing all manner of sickness and infirmity. This manifestation of power created quite a stir within the surrounding regions, as the fame of Jesus spread all the way to Syria. As a direct result of the spread of His game, there were many who were brought to Him in great and desperate need, and Matthew records that He healed them all.
What I so love about the eighth chapter of the gospel of Jesus according to Matthew is how it begins with Jesus coming down from the mountain where she had just taught the core principles and foundational truths concerning the kingdom. I absolutely love how Jesus chose to come down from the mountain instead of remaining on the mountain teaching the people. I so love and appreciate the ministry of Jesus for within it was a wonderful balance of teaching and preaching, as well as actual life ministry among the people. There would be those among us who would think that ministry among the people, and ministry within the church revolves and is centered around teaching and preaching—and while it is true that teaching and preaching are in fact a necessary part of ministry, they are not the only thing that is necessary. I firmly believe that the most important element of preaching is the preaching of the cross of Jesus Christ, and how through His sacrifice we find forgiveness and remission of our sins. What I find is that there are countless ministers who feel that their only mission is to teach and to preach, and they never come down from the mountain in order that they might walk among the people. So long as men and women remain upon the mountain they are themselves removed from the various needs which are found at the base of the mountain, around the mountain, and even beyond the mountain. I am utterly and completely convinced that there is a great and tremendous need for men and women among us to begin coming down from the mountain where the people are in order that they might dwell among the people. It is only when we agree to come down from the mountain that we can truly begin to see, feel and experience the need that is before us. It is only when we come down from the mountain we are able to actually begin to walk among people where they are and as a result of walking among them, we actually become aware of the tremendous needs that are found among them within their hearts and lives. Oh how many men and women would be absolutely and completely amazed if and when they came down from the mountain and actually began walking with and walking among men and women in the place of their need.
Perhaps one of the greatest questions we must ask ourselves is whether or not we are willing to come down from our own mountain in order that we might actually walk with and walk among those before and around us. It would be altogether too easy to remain atop the mountain or on the mountain, and as a direct result of remaining on the mountain we are unable to see, experience and feel the needs of those who are all around us. If I t be so bold and brazen to emphatically declare that we have never been called to remain upon the mountain, for so long as we are on the mountain we are restricted and prevented from walking among the very people we have come to minister unto. Jesus went up on to the mountain and taught the core principles of the kingdom, and it was absolutely necessary that men and women listen to and hear the core and fundamental principles of the kingdom of heaven. It was absolutely necessary that men and women hear what the kingdom of God looks like, and what the kingdom of heaven requires and demands of them in their present generation. After all, it was both John the Baptist and Jesus the Christ who emphatically declared that the kingdom of heaven was at hand, and called men and women to repentance. It was these two men who wonderfully and powerfully called men and women to repentance in order that they might be ready and prepared for the manifestation of the kingdom of heaven within their hearts and lives. It is absolutely necessary and imperative that we recognize and understand this, for it wasn’t enough to simply declare that the kingdom of heaven was at hand and was near, and yet there remains to be seen virtually no teaching concerning that kingdom, what it looks like and what it requires of men and women. It isn’t enough to simply hear that the kingdom of heaven is at hand and know that it is near and approaching, and yet not know anything about the kingdom that is entering into and about to be manifested in our world and in our generation. Jesus didn’t come merely preaching repentance for the kingdom of heaven was at hand, but actually began teaching men and women concerning the kingdom of heaven, and what the kingdom of heaven looked like as it was manifested among them. The kingdom of heaven was in fact at hand, and the kingdom of heaven was in fact beginning to manifest among men and women during that generation, yet it wasn’t simply enough to declare the kingdom of heaven was at hand without also teaching men and women the nature and reality of this kingdom which had emerged on to the earth—seemingly without notice and warning.
What I find to be incredibly captivating about how Matthew opens up the eighth chapter is that Jesus didn’t end His teaching and immediately launch Himself into a question and answer session. Jesus didn’t finish teaching the core doctrines and principles concerning the kingdom of heaven, and then immediately transition into a place where He began asking men and women what they thought about His teaching. Jesus didn’t conclude his teaching by immediately launching into a session where those who had gathered before Him could ask Him questions concerning and regarding the kingdom of heaven. Jesus didn’t conclude His teaching and then engage Himself in an open forum where He then allowed all those who were present on that day to begin asking questions concerning the various parts of His teaching. Within His teaching Jesus spoke concerning the core realities and fundamental principles of the kingdom of heaven, which were essentially what we know as the “Beatitudes.” I can’t help but view the Beatitudes as a New Testament version of the Ten Commandments which were given unto Moses when He was atop the mountain of God in the wilderness. I can’t help but see the first twelve verses of the fifth chapter of the New Testament gospel of Matthew as the core and foundational principles of the kingdom, and what I would label as “the attitudes of the kingdom.” If the Ten Commandments were the core and foundation of the entire law which was given unto Moses in the wilderness atop the mountain of God, then I am convinced that what we know as “the Beatitudes” are the core and foundational principles of the kingdom of heaven, and what the entire kingdom and its teaching directly hinges upon. We would be incredibly wise to pay close attention to what we find in the fifth, sixth and seventh chapters of the New Testament gospel of Matthew, for within this particular passage of Scripture we find Jesus teaching concerning the kingdom of heaven, and beginning with the core attitudes and foundational principles which are at the very heart and center of the doctrine and teaching of the kingdom of heaven. What’s more, is that Jesus didn’t merely end with these attitudes of the kingdom, but actually went on to speak concerning the righteousness of the kingdom, what that righteousness looked like, and what that righteousness demanded and required of those who would seek to enter into the kingdom of heaven. Within this Sermon, Jesus set forth the righteousness which came as a direct result of the law which was given unto Moses, and directly compared and contrasted it to the righteousness which was of the kingdom of heaven—a righteousness that is intrinsically connected to the righteousness of the law, but a righteousness which is altogether and vastly different. Oh that we would recognize and understand that within the fifth, sixth and seventh chapters of the New Testament gospel of Matthew, Jesus taught concerning the kingdom of heaven, and particularly and especially what that kingdom looked like, and what that kingdom required of men.
The more I read the opening verses of the eighth chapter of the New Testament gospel of Matthew, the more I can’ help but be absolutely gripped and captivated with and by the reality that after Jesus had finished teaching the crowds and multitudes which had gathered before and around Him, He didn’t launch Himself into a question and answer session where He would begin to answer questions concerning the kingdom of heaven. Of course, as you read the four New Testament gospels concerning the life and ministry of Jesus Christ, you will find that there were many who came unto Jesus with their questions—some genuine questions with sincerity and honesty, while there were other questions filled with legalism, filled with hypocrisy, and with every intention on testing and trapping Jesus in and with His words. ON this particular occasion, however, Jesus did not open the floor to questions concerning and regarding the kingdom of heaven, but instead came down from the mountain where the great crowds and multitudes were. As a side note: I am absolutely amazed and absolutely love that Jesus wasn’t afraid or intimidated by the crowds, nor the vast array of needs that were found present within and among the crowds. Jesus was never afraid of the countless needs that would immediately present themselves to Him as He came down from the mountain after teaching concerning the kingdom of heaven. Jesus didn’t shy away from, nor did He run away from the needs of those before and around Him. Sure it would have been very easy to conclude His teaching and immediately retreat with His disciples for some much needed rest and relaxation, or perhaps retreat to someone’s house for lunch. It would have been very easy for Jesus to ignore the needs that were before Him after having just concluded a wonderful and powerful teaching concerning the kingdom of heaven. What we find here within this passage is something that is entirely and completely different, for when Jesus came down from the mountain, He undoubtedly knew and understood that there would be needs that would immediately present themselves before and unto Him. I do not believe for one minute that Jesus finished His teaching and anticipated a sort of reprieve and respite from the needs which He faced on the other side of the mountain, or on the other side of the Sermon. It’s worth noting that this teaching concerning the kingdom of heaven was preceded by ministry with, ministry unto, and ministry in the midst of the needs which were present in the earth during that time.
The fourth chapter—although it concluded with great multitudes following Jesus—concluded with fame concerning Jesus spreading throughout the region, and causing men and women to be brought before and unto. Him with their vast array of needs, sicknesses, infirmities, diseases, and other ailments. What’s more, is that as a direct result of the fame of Jesus, we find that those who were possessed and oppressed by evil spirits and demonic forces were brought before and unto Him, and He cast out the demonic presence and evil spirits which for so long tormented and oppressed those who were abused and mistreated by the forces of darkness within their lives. Smack dab in between the ministry of the fourth chapter and the ministry in the eighth chapter is the introductory , core and foundational teaching concerning the kingdom of heaven, as Jesus taught the people concerning that which the kingdom of heaven demanded and required of them. The fourth and eighth chapters are absolutely remarkable and astonishing, for within these two chapters we find Jesus thrusting Himself into the ministry among all those people who had great needs. What I absolutely and so love about much of what we find and read in the gospels is that we don’t find a large number of men and women coming unto Jesus asking Him whether or not He is going to throw off the tyranny and oppression of Rome from Judaea and the surrounding land and region of the Jews. We don’t find and read men and women coming unto Jesus greatly vexed and tormented with and by the cruel and oppressive nature of the Roman Empire during that time, and asking Jesus to immediately cast off their dominion and control over them. We do not find men and women coming unto Jesus and asking Him to deliver them from the Roman Empire and from its oppression and mistreatment of all those underneath its great and vast shadow. What we find in the four gospels is men and women who come unto Jesus with very real, with very personal, and with very practical needs within their hearts and lives. What we find within the four gospels are men and women who come unto Jesus having great need—perhaps a need that is present within their own hearts and lives, or perhaps a need they are away of in the life of another—and asking Jesus to meet that need. The gospels are filled with example after example of men and women who came unto Jesus with great need in their lives, and seeking Jesus—this Son of David—to bring them relief and deliverance. This is how the ministry of the kingdom essentially began, for when you come to the fourth chapter of the gospel of Jesus according to Matthew, you will find Jesus engaging Himself in a wonderful and powerful ministry of healing those who were before Him during those days. Consider if you will the words which are found at the conclusion of the fourth chapter of this first New Testament gospel concerning the life and ministry of Jesus the Christ:
“Now when Jesus had heard that John was cast into prison, He departed into Galilee; and leaving Nazareth, he came and dwelt in Capernaum, which is upon the sea coast, in the borders of Zabulon and Nephtalim: that I might be fulfilled which was spoken be Esaias the prophet, saying, The land of Zabulon, and the land of NEphtalim, by the way of the sea, beyond the Jordan, Galilee of the Gentiles; the people which sat in darkness saw a great light; and to them which sat in the region and shadow of death light is sprung up. From that time Jesus began to preach, and to say, Repent: for the kingdom of heaven is at hand…And Jesus went about all Galilee, teaching in their synagogues, and preaching the gospel of the kingdom, and healing all manner of sickness and all manner of disease among the people. And His fame went throughout all Syria: and they brought unto Him all sick people that were taken with divers diseases and torments, and those which were possessed with devils, and those which were lunatick, and those that had the palsy; and he healed them. And there followed Him great multitudes of people from Galilee, and from Decapolis, and from Jerusalem, and from Judaea, and from beyond Jordan” (Matthew 4:12-16t, 23-25).
Please don’t miss the tremendous significance and importance of this reality, for Jesus was never intimidated, nor was He ever overwhelmed with and by the needs of those who were before Him within the earth. Immediately after calling Peter and. Andrew, as well as James and John, we find Jesus Himself journeying with His disciples within the land of Galilee, and within that region He began teaching in their synagogues, preaching the gospel concerning the kingdom of heaven, and healing all manner of disease, sickness and infirmity. Jesus never backed down, nor did Jesus ever shy away from the very real needs which were present before and all around Him during that day, but essentially welcomed and embraced those needs. It is worth our recognizing and understanding this very important and powerful truth, for it can and will help shape and guide our understanding of what we find and read in the New Testament gospel of Matthew concerning the life and ministry of Jesus Christ. Having just concluded His teaching concerning the kingdom of heaven from the mountain, Jesus came down from the mountain where the people were. I absolutely love this, and find it to be absolutely wonderful, for it reveals something truly wonderful concerning Jesus Christ—namely, that not only was He not intimidated or fearful of the needs of those which were before and around Him, but Jesus actually threw Himself into and embraced the needs of those which were before and around Him. I absolutely love that Jesus didn’t engage Himself in a question and answer session after finishing and concluding the teaching concerning the kingdom of heaven. I love how Jesus didn’t remain on the mountain and begin asking men and women what they thought of His teaching, or even whether or not they agreed with His teaching. In fact, matthew records how it came to pass, when Jesus had ended the sayings of the kingdom, the people were astonished at His doctrine, for Jesus taught them as one having authority, and not as the scribes and Pharisees did. This is an absolutely critical and crucial statement, for it reveals the general consensus and mindset of many—if not all—of those who were gathered there at the mountain to hear and listen to Jesus teach and speak unto them. All those which were present at the mountain marveled and were astonished at His doctrine, for His doctrine and His teaching was not as that of the scribes, for He taught as one having authority, This is truly astounding and remarkable, for within this particular section of Scripture, we do not find Matthew writing how Jesus concluded His teaching and opened it up for questions which the people might have. We don’t find Jesus likening those who heard His words and doing them to a wise man who built his house upon the rock, and then transitioning to asking the people what they thought about what we know as the Beatitudes. We don’t find Jesus opening the floor to those before Him and asking them whether or not they agreed with the teaching concerning adultery being committed within the heart, or murder also beginning with the heart as a direct of hatred, anger and malice. We don’t find Jesus speaking unto those who were before Him and asking them whether or not they agreed with His words concerning loving their enemies, praying for those who despitefully use them, and blessing those who cursed them. What we find in this portion of Scripture is Jesus concluding His teaching, coming down from the mountain, and immediately encountering need.
COMING DOWN FROM THE MOUNTAIN TO ENCOUNTER NEED! COMING DOWN FROM THE MOUNTAIN TO FACE THE NEEDS! COMING DOWN FROM THE MOUNTAIN TO FACE REALITY! If you ask me, I would dare say that the true reality was not there on the mountain where Jesus was, as He sat and taught them concerning the kingdom of heaven. Please note and please understand that I am not making light of, nor am I an any diminishing the teaching of Jesus. I can’t imagine what it would have been like to sit there with the very embodiment of the glory and presence of God before you teaching concerning the kingdom of heaven—teaching concerning a kingdom which up until that time had not been heard about, much less actually talked about. I am not in any way declaring that this teaching, or any teaching concerning the kingdom of heaven is not important or relevant among men and women. What I am speaking about within this writing is that it was true that Jesus sat on the mountain and taught the crowds and multitudes that followed Him concerning the kingdom of heaven, but that was not the true reality. The kingdom of heaven did not come in word alone, but came in the wonderful and powerful demonstration of the power of the Spirit of the living God as was manifested and flowed through the person of Jesus who was and is the Christ. I can’t help but be reminded of the words which the apostle Paul wrote in the first epistle which was written unto the Corinthian saints concerning His preaching the gospel of the kingdom of heaven and concerning Jesus Christ. Beginning with the first verse of the second chapter we find the following words which were written by the apostle Paul unto these Corinthian saints: “And I, brethren, when I came to you, came not with excellency of speech or of wisdom, declaring unto you the testimony of God. For I determined not to know any thing among you, save Jesus Christ, and Him crucified. And I was with you in weakness, and in fear, and in much trembling. And my speech and my preaching was not with enticing words of man’s wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power: that your faith should not stand in the wisdom of men, but in the power of God” (1 Corinthians 2:1-5). In the seventh chapter of the New Testament gospel we find those who sat and listened to the teaching of Jesus astonished at His teaching and doctrine, for He taught as one having authority. When you come to the fourth chapter of the New Testament gospel of Luke—after reading concerning Jesus teaching in the synagogue in His hometown of Nazareth—we find the following words: “And they were astonished at His doctrine: for His word was with power” (Luke 4:32). Did you catch that? The word and ministry of Jesus was with power, and was with authority, and was with dominion, and completely unlike the teaching of the scribes and Pharisees during that day. When Jesus came to establish and set up the kingdom of heaven within the earth, he didn’t come merely teaching concerning and speaking about the kingdom of heaven, but He actually came to demonstrate the kingdom fo heaven in power and in authority.
When I read the words which the apostle matthew wrote in the eighth chapter of the New Testament gospel which He wrote concerning the life and ministry of Jesus the Christ, I can’t help but find Jesus transitioning from mere teaching concerning the kingdom of heaven, to actually demonstrating the reality and manifestation of the kingdom. It was one thing to teach concerning the kingdom of heaven from the mountain before all the multitudes who gathered to listen to and hear Him speak, but it was something else altogether for Jesus to actually demonstrate the power, the authority and the dominion of the kingdom of heaven. The apostle Matthew records how when Jesus came down from the mountain, great multitudes followed Him. Suddenly—whether from within the multitudes and crowds, or having burst through the crowds—there came a leper who worshipped Him, saying, Lord, if thou wilt, thou canst make me clean. Immediately after Jesus had finished teaching concerning the kingdom of heaven, the crowds which had sat and listened to Him teach—perhaps even new faces and new people who were added to that number—began following Jesus wherever He went. All of a sudden there came forth a leper from among the crowd who worshipped Jesus and declared unto Jesus that if He was willing, He could make Him clean. Oh, how absolutely remarkable and wonderful this is, for this leper didn’t come into the presence of Jesus and immediately ask Jesus to heal Him of His leprosy, but actually entered into His presence and declared unto Jesus what He was able to do and accomplish within His life. DECLARING UNTO JESUS WHAT HE’S ABLE TO DO! Pause for a moment and consider that reality—the reality of declaring unto Jesus what we know He’s able and capable of doing—for this not only happens once within this passage, but twice. Within the first four verses of the chapter we find a leper coming into the presence of Jesus and worshipping Him, and from that place of worship declaring unto Jesus what He knew He was able to do. This leper entered into the presence of Jesus, and declared unto Jesus that if He was willing, He was able to make Him clean. Note that this man knew what Jesus was capable of doing, but engaged himself in making a statement to Jesus concerning His willingness to do what he knew He was able to do. “Jesus, I know you are able to make me clean, but are you willing to do it? Jesus, I know you are able to heal me and make me clean, but are you actually willing to do it? Are you actually willing to make me clean?” Please don’t miss what is happening here, for this man isn’t asking Jesus to heal and make him clean, but instead declared unto Jesus how he knew He was able to make Him clean. It was from that place of trust, it was from that place of confidence, it was from that place of faith this man declared unto Jesus that He was able to make Him clean. The question was never whether Jesus was able to make Him clean, but only whether or not Jesus was willing to make Him clean. Oh there are many among us who know what Jesus is capable of doing, yet are we actively declaring unto Jesus in faith and confidence what He is able to do, and seeing if He is willing to do it within our lives.
There is within this particular passage of Scripture two specific declarations of trust, of faith, and of confidence, for in the case of the leper, we find him declaring unto Jesus that He could make him clean. In the case of the leper we find him coming unto Jesus worshipping Him, and then saying unto Jesus, Lord, if thou wilt, thou canst make me clean. This man was not doubting within his heart by any means, nor was this man asking Jesus whether or not He was able to make him clean, and heal him of his leprosy. That which this man was doing was entering into the presence of Jesus and declaring unto Jesus what he believed He was capable of doing on his behalf, and then seeing if Jesus was willing. Oh, please don’t miss the importance of this incredible reality, for I am convinced that the church of the living God needs more men and women like this in this generation—men and women who know what the Lord is able and capable of doing, and men and women who will enter into His presence seeing if He is willing to do what He said He would, and what He’s capable of doing. It’s worth noting that a similar reality was found in the case of the Centurion, for the centurion came unto Jesus on behalf of his servant who lied home sick of the palsy. There is no record of this centurion asking Jesus to come and heal his servant, although it is implied that this centurion came unto Jesus in and with the hopes that He would heal his servant. It’s interesting to note that Jesus declared unto this centurion that He would come and heal him. Pause for a moment and stop right there, for consider what it would be like to hear those words. Consider what it would be like to hear the words “I will come and heal him.” Consider it in the context of your life—“I will come and heal him,” “I will come and heal her,” “I will come and heal you.” Jesus declared unto this centurion that he would come with him and heal his servant, and yet the centurion responded from a place of authority. In fact, this servant not only responded from a place of authority, but also from a place of humility, as he declared unto Jesus that he was not worthy that Jesus should come underneath his roof. The centurion then began speaking concerning the power and authority of word and command, and how he himself gave word and commanded others, and they obeyed. What’s more, is that this man also recognized that he himself was under authority, and that there were those who gave him orders, and gave him words and commands, and he was to obey those commands. Instead of having Jesus come into his house, this man declared that all Jesus needed to do was speak the word, and his servant would be healed. In the case of the leper, he believed and declared that if Jesus was willing, He would make him clean. In the case of the centurion, he believed and declared that all Jesus needed to do was speak the word [He sent His word and healed their diseases], and his servant would be healed. Oh, please don’t miss this, and pay close attention to this, for it brings us face to face with the awesome and wonderful reality concerning declaring unto Jesus what He is able to do, and then watching Him do it. Within this passage we find men who declared in faith, declared in trust, and declared in confidence what Jesus was able to do, and then watched as Jesus did exactly what they knew and believed He was able and capable of doing. Are we a people who enter into the presence of Jesus full of faith, full of trust, full of confidence, and declaring unto Jesus that He is capable of doing what he said He would do, and then standing and sitting back as He actually does it. Oh that we would this day find our trust, and find our confidence, and that we would enter into the presence of Jesus not only declaring and believing what He is able and capable of doing, but also watching as He actually does what we believe He is able to do.