Today’s selected reading continues in the New Testament gospel account of the life and ministry of Jesus Christ as recorded by Matthew. More specifically, today’s passage is found in verses eighteen through thirty-four of the eighth chapter. When you come to this particular passage of scripture you will find something written that has become sort of a sub theme within the previous few chapters. As you begin reading this passage of scripture you will again find great multitudes of people following Jesus wherever He went. The previous portion of the eighth chapter of this New Testament gospel concluded with Jesus healing Peters mother in law as well as all those who were brought to Him in desperate need of healing. I have to admit that what I find and what I read in the opening chapters of Jesus’ life and ministry are absolutely and incredibly my wonderful on so many different levels. Immediately after we read of Jesus calling peter and his brother Andrew, and immediately after reading Jesus calling James and his brother John to follow Him, we find Jesus traveling into Galilee, and there in the region of Galilee we find Him teaching in their synagogues, preaching the gospel of the kingdom of heaven, and healing all manner of diseases and infirmities. It was this wonderful and powerful act of healing all manner of disease, sickness and infirmity that began to draw the attention of those within the region of Judaea, as well as within the region of Syria. Matthew writes and records how fame concerning Jesus began to spread throughout the region, and how there were those who were brought to Him who were plagued with all manner of sickness and illness. What’s more, is that within this passage of scripture we find it recorded that Jesus healed those with the palsy, as well as those who were lunatic. As if this weren’t enough we find it also recorded that Jesus healed and delivered all those who were tormented and oppressed by demonic and evil spirits. When Jesus began His public ministry within and upon the earth, He began it with a tremendous and mighty demonstration of power, authority and might, as He not only healed, but He also cleansed, He also restored, and He also delivered.
When the fourth chapter of the New Testament gospel of Matthew concludes, it does so with great multitudes coming unto and following Jesus. Undoubtedly there were a great many people who were drawn to what manner of man this might be, and were in awe of the tremendous display of power and authority He displayed among them within the earth. As a direct result of the fame that spread concerning Jesus, and as a direct result of either witnessing His power in the life of another, or experiencing the power of God within their own lives, men and women began to follow Jesus as He walked upon the earth. We cannot and must not miss this point, for it is this point that brings us face to face with the fact that as soon as Jesus began His earthly ministry within and upon the earth, He almost immediately sought out fellowship, companionship, friendship, as well as—it could be argued—the crowds of people. What I so love about the account of Jesus life and ministry—especially as the apostle Matthew writes and records it—is that Jesus is presented as almost immediately seeking after and seeking out relationship, fellowship and companionship. As Jesus began His life and ministry among and before the people of that day and generation, He knew that He needed to surround Himself with those who would follow Him, those who would walk with Him, those whom He could impart Himself unto and among them. I find it to be absolutely incredible that when Jesus began His public ministry within the earth, He didn’t immediately seek to do it or go it alone, but rather sought out companionship and fellowship. I am absolutely and utterly convinced that there is within this particular reality a wonderful and powerful truth that we must pay close attention to if we wish to experience growth and transformation within our lives and spiritual journeys. There are a great many men and women who when they begin their walk and journey with the Lord, think that they can somehow do it and go it alone. There are countless men and women who think and believe that they can engage themselves in this walk by themselves and have no need for others to walk with them, and others to walk alongside them. What a great and terrible tragedy it is to think that such men and women actually believe they can engage themselves in this walk and journey alone, by themselves and without the company and companionship of others.
As I read the New Testament gospel of Matthew I am absolutely and completely struck with and by the fact that when Jesus began to walk upon the earth in the public’s eye, He did not walk it alone. The very first thing Jesus did after emerging from the wilderness was seek out companionship, fellowship, and relationship. I believe this shows a wonderful truth and paints a powerful picture of that which Jesus the Christ truly desires. Before Jesus began to truly engage Himself in public ministry, He first began to surround Himself with those who would follow Him wherever He went, and those who would walk with Him. It would have been very easy for Jesus as the Son of God to walk the path which was before Him alone, and yet that simply isn’t the case. I can’t help but be brought face to face with the awesome and wonderful reality that if not even Jesus the Christ walked upon the earth alone and without fellowship, relationship and companionship, what makes us think that we can do it ourselves? What makes us think that we as the servants are somehow any different than the Master and that we can somehow engage ourselves in this walk and journey without and apart from fellowship, relationship and companionship? How do we even think that we can be successful in that which the Lord our God has called us to within and upon this earth if we have not also sought out relationship and fellowship. It is a terrible and tragic thing to attempt and to even seek out and pursue ministry without and absent fellowship and relationship. It is a terrible and tragic thing to think and somehow even believe that we can engage ourselves, and even be entrusted with ministry if we attempt to walk it, do it, and go it alone? When we read of the life and ministry of Jesus the Christ, we don’t find Him seeking to engage Himself in public ministry by Himself without first seeking out companionship and fellowship, and yet one of the greatest tragedies within the church and body of Jesus Christ is that we somehow think that we are capable of doing that very thing. We tend to think that we can somehow engage ourselves in all the Lord has called us to do without and apart from fellowship, relationship and companionship, as though there is somehow something special about us as individuals. Perhaps the single greatest question we must ask ourselves is what makes us think and believe that we can engage ourselves in this walk and journey without and apart from fellowship and relationship. Why on earth would we even think about and dream that we could do such a thing if not even Jesus Christ Himself did it? I can’t help but be compelled to present you once more with the words which the apostle Matthew writes and records concerning Jesus in the region of Galilee, and His choosing His first disciples to walk with Him. Consider if you will the words which the apostle Matthew wrote in this New Testament gospel in the fourth chapter beginning with the seventeenth verse:
“From that time Jesus began to preach, and to say, Repent: for the kingdom of heaven is at hand. And Jesus, walking by the Sea of Galilee, saw two brethren, Simon called Peter, and Andrew his brother, casting a net into the sea: for they were fishers. And He saith unto them, Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men. And they straightway left their nets, and followed Him. And going on from thence, He saw other two brethren, James the son of Zebedee, and John his brother, in a ship with Zebedee their father, mending their nets; and He called them. And they immediately left the ship and their father, and followed Him” (Matthew 4:17-22).
Please don’t miss the absolutely wonderful reality that surrounds Jesus’ actions in this particular chapter found within the gospel written by the apostle Matthew. What we find in this particular section of Scripture is a wonderful and powerful picture that after Jesus emerged from the wilderness after having been tempted by the devil, one of the very first actions He took was calling unto Himself two sets of brothers—those who would leave their nets, those who would leave their ships, and those who would even leave their family for the sake of Christ. One of the very first things we find Jesus doing is preaching and calling men to repent for the kingdom of heaven was at hand, but immediately after that, we find Him walking by the Sea of Galilee where He would find two specific sets of brothers whom He would call unto Himself. I am utterly and completely convinced there is something truly wonderful and spectacular about this very fact, for almost immediately after Jesus was released by the Father into public ministry among men, He sought out those who would walk with Him, and those who would walk beside Him. There is something to be said about actively seeking out those who would walk with Him, and those who would in fact help Him fulfill His purpose, His mission, and His work within the earth. If there is one thing that is absolutely imperative for us to recognize and understand, it’s that Jesus never sought to do ministry within and upon the earth alone. I will repeat that one more time with the hopes that it will resonate within your heart, your mind and your spirit: Jesus never sought to do ministry alone and without and apart from those who would walk with Him. Lest you think that I am absolutely out of my league here, and am somehow inaccurate and incorrect with what I am writing and speaking to you, I would draw your attention to words which we find only a few chapters later in the same New Testament gospel written by the apostle Matthew. At the risk of getting a little ahead of myself in the study of the New Testament gospel of Matthew, I would like to draw your attention to the tenth chapter of this gospel where we find the apostle Matthew writing concerning Jesus who by this time had already called unto Himself His twelve disciples. Pause for a moment and let that sink in if you will. Consider the fact that Jesus didn’t call unto Himself and surround Himself with one or two specific individuals, but He actually called unto Himself twelve distinct and twelve different men who would walk with and follow Him. When Jesus sought to fulfill the mission and purpose within and upon the earth, Jesus didn’t merely seek to surrounding Himself with one or two individuals, but He actually surrounded Himself with twelve different and twelve distinct individuals who would walk with, follow and accompany Him wherever He went. Consider if you will the words which are recorded in the tenth chapter of the New Testament gospel of Matthew beginning with the first verse:
“And when He had called unto Him His twelve disciples, He gave them power against unclean spirits, to cast them out, and to heal all manner of sickness and all manner of disease. Now the names of the twelve apostles are these; The first, Simon, who is called Peter, and Andrew his brother; James the son of Zebedee, and John his brother; Philip, and Bartholomew; Thomas, and Matthew the publican; James the son of Alphaeus, and Lebbaeus whose surname was Thaddaeus; Simon the Canaanite, and Judas Iscariot, who also betrayed Him. These twelve Jesus sent forth, and commanded them, saying, Go no into the way of the Gentiles, and into any city of the Samaritans enter ye not: but go rather to the lost sheep of the house of Israel. And as ye go, preach, saying, The kingdom of heaven is at hand. Heal the sick, cleanse the lepers, raise the dead, cast out devils: freely ye have received, freely give. Provide neither gold, nor silver, nor brass in your purses, nor scrip for your journey, neither two coats, neither shoes, nor yet staves: for the workman is worthy of his meat. And into whatsoever city or town ye shall enter, inquire who in it is worthy; and there abide till ye go thence. And when ye come into an house, salute it. And if the house be worthy, let your peace return to you. And whosoever shall not receive you, nor hear your words, when ye depart out of that house or city, shake off the dust of your feet. Verily I say unto you, It shall be more tolerable for the land of Sodom and Gomorrha in the day of judgment, than for that city. Behold, I send you forth as sheep in the midst of worlds: be ye therefore wise as serpents, and harmless as doves. But beware of men: for they will deliver you up to the councils, and they will scourge you in their synagogues; and the shall be brought before governors and kings for my sake, for a testimony against them and the Gentiles. But when they deliver you up, take no thought how or what ye shall speak: for it shall be given you in that same hour what ye shall speak. For it is not ye that speak, but the Spirit of your Father which speaketh in you. And the brother shall deliver up the brother to death, and the father the child: and the children shall rise up against their parents and cause them to be put to death. And ye shall be hated of all men for my name’s sake: but he that endureth to the end shall be saved” (Matthew 10:1-22).
What we find in this particular passage of Scripture is a wonderful and powerful picture—not only of the reality that Jesus didn’t choose to walk within and walk upon the earth alone, but Jesus also didn’t engage Himself in ministry alone and by Himself. Jesus never sought to do ministry alone, and recognized that He could not do everything by Himself without calling unto Himself those who would walk with Him, those who would follow Him, those who would learn from Him, and those who would be able to do as He did, and speak as He spoke. What we find in the tenth chapter of the New Testament gospel of Matthew is a wonderful and powerful picture of the reality that Jesus didn’t seek to walk this earth alone and by Himself, but rather, He sought out companionship and fellowship from those whom he would allow—according to the will of the Father—to walk with and follow Him. What’s more, is that those whom Jesus surrounded Himself with would be those who would also engage themselves in public ministry with Jesus, for there would come a point where after having walked with Jesus for a period of time, and after hearing Him speak, and after watching Him heal the sick, raise the dead, and cast out evil spirits, would do the very same thing themselves. I find it absolutely wonderful and truly remarkable that Jesus was never fearful of fellowship, nor was He ever intimidated by relationship and companionship. This is truly important for us to think about and consider, for there are men and women among us who are themselves victims of fear, and fear of relationship, fellowship and companionship. There are those among us—I would have to include myself in this statement—who are and who have been afraid of fellowship and relationship, and as a result, have kept themselves from seeking out fellowship and relationship. When Jesus emerged from the wilderness and began to walk in the purpose for which He was called and sent, one of the first things he did was seek out relationship and fellowship from those whom the Father had chosen beforehand. When Jesus began walking within and upon the earth, one of the first things He recognized and understood was that He needed to surround Himself with those who would commit themselves to the ministry, and those who would commit themselves to walking with Him. What’s more, is that Jesus called unto Himself those who would also join and partner together with Him in public ministry within and upon the earth—those who would watch what He did, and those who would eventually do what He did, and those who would speak as He spoke. Jesus recognized and understood that life was not meant to be done alone, nor was ministry to be done alone. One of the greatest tragedies that faces men and women within the church today is that they think, fell and even believe that they can somehow do ministry alone, and that they can walk this earth alone without any type of fellowship and relationship. Such a mindset is absolutely and incredibly dangerous and convoluted, and must certainly be corrected by the Spirit of the living God.
As you read the New Testament gospel of Matthew, one of the first things you will notice is that Jesus immediately sought out relationship and fellowship with two sets of brothers who would walk with and follow Him. Immediately after you read of Jesus calling unto Himself these two sets of brothers, you will find Jesus inserting Himself into and among the crowds of people within the land of Judaea and the surrounding region. What you find and what you read in the fourth chapter of the New Testament gospel of Matthew is that Jesus didn’t shy away from, nor was He intimidated by the great crowds of people. If there is one thing we can learn from the life and ministry of Jesus, it’s that He was never fearful, nor was He ever intimidated or afraid of the crowds of people which gathered before Him. In fact, I would dare say that Jesus embraced, and perhaps even welcome and invited the crowds of people to come unto Himself, for He knew that this was part of the reason for which He had been sent to the earth. Ultimately, Jesus was called to offer His life upon the cross as a sacrifice for sins, in order that redemption and forgiveness of sins might be made manifest in the earth, but there was also an element of manifesting and establishing the kingdom of heaven within and upon the earth. Can I be bold and brazen right now and emphatically declare unto you who are reading this writing that the kingdom of heaven cannot and will not be manifested absent of people, absent of crowds, absent of people. It was true that Jesus came to the earth preaching and teaching concerning the gospel of the kingdom fo heaven, yet the establishing of that kingdom would and could not come absent, without and apart from being among and being around people. Oh, consider if you will the words which are found recorded in the fourth chapter of the New Testament gospel of Matthew beginning with the twenty-third verse of the chapter:
“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 4:23-25).
When the fourth chapter of the New Testament gospel of Matthew draws to a close, we find great multitudes of people following Jesus—men and women from Galilee, from Decapolis, from Jerusalem, from Judaea, and from beyond Jordan. What’s more, is that when you come to the fifth chapter of the New Testament gospel of Matthew, you again find it mentioned concerning the multitudes which followed Jesus the Christ, for in the first verse of the fifth chapter we find the following words: “And seeing the multitudes, He went up into a mountain: and when He was set, His disciples came unto Him” (Matthew 5:1). Thus far within two verses, which are literally found in two chapters, and even one right after the other, we find Jesus surrounded and followed by great multitudes. I am absolutely and completely convinced that there is something truly wonderful and remarkable to consider when you think about Jesus being followed and surrounded by such great multitudes of people, for with great multitudes of people would undoubtedly come great needs, and with great multitudes of people would come great personalities. What I so absolutely love about what is found and recorded in these two verses is that not only was Jesus intimidated by the great multitudes and great crowds of people, but neither was Jesus intimidated and fearful of the tremendous needs which were present within and among those crowds. There is not a doubt in my mind that with great multitudes of people come great needs, as countless men and women came unto Jesus—each with their own individual and personal needs. Pause for a moment and consider the reality that having great multitudes of people following you, and having great multitudes of people coming unto you, there would most certainly and there would undoubtedly be a tremendous amount of needs that would accompany those people. We dare not, we cannot, we must not forget this reality, for within this reality is something that we tend to forget—namely, that with the presence of a multitude of people there is a multitude of needs. Whenever you think about, and whenever you talk about a great number of men and women—particularly and especially in one place, you will undoubtedly and most certainly find a great number of needs that are present among those men. What’s more, is that each and every individual who is present within and among the crowds of people feel their need is of the utmost importance, and will seek to receive healing and deliverance from the Lord Jesus Christ. With great crowds of people will most certainly come men and women who will not only want their voices heard, but they will also want their need(s) to be met. Make no mistake about it, for when you are talking about crowds of people and great multitudes of people, you are not only talking about men and women who might have a singular need within their lives, but they might even have multiple needs within their hearts and lives. There is not a doubt in my mind that when we come to this passage of Scripture, and again find Jesus surrounded by a great multitude of people, those men and women, and those who gathered themselves together unto Him each had their own unique and personal needs—needs which up until that they perhaps didn’t share with anyone, or perhaps very few people even knew were pressing and present within their lives.
The eighth chapter of the New Testament gospel of Matthew opens up with Matthew describing how Jesus came down from the mountain, and having come down from the mountains, great multitudes of people followed Him. From within those multitudes came one who worshipped Jesus, and in and from that place of worship not only declared that Jesus could make Him clean, but also asked Jesus if He was willing to be clean. I have to admit that I am absolutely astonished and amazed at the courage of this particular individual, for Matthew describes how this particular man had leprosy, which in all reality made him unclean. Can you imagine what it was like for this man to have leprosy, to be unclean, and to have to cry out unclean wherever he went, as he pressed through the crowd in order that he might enter into the place of worship in hopes that his leprosy might be healed, cleansed and restored. There is not a doubt in my mind that when this man was coming unto and making his way to Jesus, he certainly wasn’t crying out “unclean” as he passed through and among the crowds of people. I do not believe for one moment that this man was crying out concerning his condition within and among the crowds, and perhaps didn’t even make any mention of it until He was actually in the presence of Jesus. Consider what great courage it took for this man who perhaps spent most of his life, or at least a considerable portion of His life being shunned and being ostracized by those around him because he had a condition that marked him as unclean. Consider the fact that it was possible that there was one who was unclean who was either present among the great multitudes which followed Jesus, or made his way through the crowds in order that He might be cleansed and restored. What we learn from that which is found and that which was written in the New Testament gospel of Matthew is that Jesus was never intimidated by crowds of people, nor was He ever intimidated by the needs that would manifest themselves within and in the midst of the crowds. Matthew writes and speaks of Jesus healing the diseases and infirmities of many, but there are also times when Matthew writes about the personal needs which specific individuals had during Jesus’ day. More often than not we don’t know the names of those who came unto Jesus with their need—only the need those individuals had, and their willingness to come unto and make their way to Jesus in hopes that He might have compassion on them and heal their diseases, restore their physical bodies, cure illnesses, and even deliver them from that which tormented and oppressed them. What I am so absolutely captivated by is that Jesus was never intimidated, nor was Jesus every afraid or fearful of great multitudes of people who walked with and followed Him. Jesus never turned away any one who came unto Him, and I never read anywhere in Scripture about Jesus turning the crowds away from Him. I find absolutely no instance and occurrence within Scripture concerning Jesus turning anyone away, nor turning the crowds away—not when they had physical needs that touched and impacted their physical bodies, nor even when they had a very real need such as hunger. In fact, there were two instances when instead of sending the crowds away to fend for themselves and get food for themselves, Jesus instead chose to feed them from and with what was already present among them.
As I continue reading the eighth chapter of the New Testament gospel of Matthew, I am not only struck by the fact that Jesus wasn’t intimidated of and intimidated by the crowds of people, but neither was Jesus intimidated and fearful of storms which came upon the sea, nor even demonic and evil spirits. If you read the remaining portion of the eighth chapter of the New Testament gospel of Matthew, you will not only find Jesus encountering a storm while He and His disciples were on the sea, but you will also find Jesus encountering two men possessed with devils coming out from the tombs. Within the second half of the eighth chapter of the New Testament gospel of Matthew you will find Jesus in a ship upon the sea with His disciples, and a great temptest arose upon the sea, so much so that the ship was covered with the waves. What I so love about this passage, is that despite the fact that there was a great tempest upon the sea, and despite the fact that the waves were covering the ship, Jesus was asleep within the boat. The disciples were awake in the ship and in the midst of the storm, and yet Jesus was sleeping in the midst of the boat while the storm raged all around them, and while the waves came upon and covered the ship. It wasn’t until the disciples came to Jesus and woke Him up in complete fear because of the storm that He actually woke from His sleep, stood up in the midst of the storm, and rebuked the winds and the sea. Imagine what this was like for the disciples, as Jesus was asleep in the midst of the sea, awoke to the fear of His disciples, and the tempest upon the sea, and how He simply stood up in the midst of the storm and rebuked the wind and the waves, and they obeyed. Consider also, how immediately after coming through this storm, Jesus and His disciples came into the country of the Gergesenes, and how there met him two possessed with devils, coming out from the tombs, exceeding fierce, so that no man might pass by that way. Pause and consider how not only was Jesus unafraid and not intimidated by the storm which rose upon the sea, but also how Jesus wasn’t intimidated of fearful of these two men who were possessed with devils who came out from the midst of the tombs, and who were exceeding fierce. Previously no man was able to pass by that way, until Jesus entered into the region with His disciples, and confronted the demons which possessed these two men. Within the gospels—not only do we find Jesus not intimidated and unafraid of the crowds and multitudes, but we also find Jesus unafraid and unintimidated by storms upon the sea, and men possessed with devils who previously prevented others from passing by that way. Please don’t miss or lose sight of this incredible and awesome reality, for it brings us face to face with a truly wonderful and remarkable truth concerning Jesus—namely, that He thrust Himself right into situations and circumstances that others were afraid of, and even which others were afraid in the midst of. There is a great deal we can learn within the gospel written by the apostle Matthew concerning our being unimpacted, unintimidated, and our being unafraid of storms which rage all around us, our being unafraid of crowds and groups of people, and even our being unafraid of the forces of darkness which are present before and all around us.