Today’s selected reading continues in the New Testament gospel account of the life and ministry of Jesus as recorded by the apostle Matthew. More specifically, today’s passage is found in the first seventeen verses of the ninth chapter. When you come to this particular portion of Scripture you will find Jesus having just engaged Himself in the demonic realm in the region of the Gergesenes, which completely rocked and school that entire region. Having just come through a tremendous storm that came upon them while they were in the midst of the sea, and having rebuked the wind and the waves, Jesus and His disciples now made it to their destination—a destination where they would be greeted by two men possessed with devils, having come out of the tombs, and which were exceeding fierce, so that no man might pass by that way. Upon coming out of the tombs and coming unto Jesus, the men cried out unto Jesus, saying, What have we to do with thee, Jesus, thou Son of God? They then asked a second question and asked Jesus whether or not they came to torment them before the time. The apostle Matthew records how the devils that were present within the men noticed that there was a good way off from their location a herd of many swine feeding , and asked Jesus for permission to go away into the herd of swine. Without going too in depth or too in detail with this passage of Scripture, it’s worth noting that not only did the devils which were found to be present within these men recognize and understand who Jesus was—understanding and recognizing that Jesus was the Son of God—but they also asked Him if He had come to torment them before the appointed time. Pay close attention to their question, for it reveals something truly remarkable and astounding—namely, that they understood that their time was indeed limited, and that there was an appointed time for their destruction and judgment. The demons then begged Jesus to depart from the two men, and to instead enter into a herd of swine which were feeding in the distance. Pause for a moment and consider the reality of what was taking place on this particular occasion, for not only did the devils recognize Jesus, and not only did the devils ask Jesus if He had come to torment them before the appointed time, but they also asked Him for permission to go into the herd of the swine. In essence, the devils which were present within these men knew that their time within these two men had come to an end, and were now looking for a place of retreat. How absolutely interesting it is to think about and consider the fact that the devils had to ask for permission for their activity within the earth knowing that Jesus was going to cast them forth from these two men. It’s quite interesting to note that not only did these devils know and understand that their time within these men had come to an end, but they also knew and understood that there was coming a point in time when they would face eternal judgment and punishment before the living and holy God.
As I continue reading this particular passage of Scripture, I can’t help but notice that immediately after Jesus had commanded the devils to depart from these two men and enter into the herd of swine feeding in the distance, the whole city came out to meet Jesus. Upon seeing Jesus, all those who had come out to see and meet Him besought Him that He would depart out of their coasts. This has often fascinated me, for there was an incredible deliverance, and an incredible freedom that had taken place in their midst, as these two men who were possessed with devils were completely and totally set free from that which tormented, and that which oppressed and possessed them. Scripture is unclear how long these two men were subjected to the torment and oppression of these devils, but one thing is absolutely certain and clear—when Jesus arrived on the scene and in the region, the devils became exceedingly fearful and grew overwhelmingly intimidated by His presence within that region. Although there is no scriptural evidence for this, I can’t help but wonder if the great temptest that came upon the sea while Jesus and His disciples were in a ship in the midst of it was a direct attempt to subvert Jesus from making His way to the other side. Is it possible that the storm was essentially intended on buffeting Jesus and His disciples from making their way into this region, for they were incredibly fearful and intimidated by the presence of Jesus Christ within the region, and what it could mean? Is it possible that the devils which were present within this men caused the great storm and tempest to come upon the sea in order that they might either buffet Jesus and His attempt to make His way into their coasts and region, or possibly even to destroy Jesus and His disciples? The twenty-third verse of the eighth chapter reveals how Jesus and His disciples entered into a ship to pass over to an intended location, and there is not a doubt in my mind that Jesus knew the will of the Father was to journey to the other side and into the country of the Gergesenes. One thing I find to be so absolutely astonishing and breathtaking within Scripture is that Jesus didn’t simply come to heal the sick, and to cure all manners of infirmities, sickness and diseases, but He also came to exercise dominion and authority over demons and devils. When Jesus came into the earth, and before the appointed time of Him going to the cross, Jesus had a work and a mission to fulfill and accomplish, and part of that mission and work was bringing deliverance to men and women who were tormented and oppressed by devils. I have written before how there were those during that time who sought after and longed for deliverance and freedom from the oppression and tyranny of Rome, and yet many didn’t even know that there was an even greater deliverance and freedom that was being manifested among them in their midst—namely, a freedom and deliverance from that which tormented and oppressed them. What a wonderful and powerful truth it is to think and to consider that Jesus didn’t merely come to heal the sick, but He also came to bring deliverance to those who were oppressed by devils and demonic spirits which tormented and oppressed them. In other words, there was an even greater torment, there was an even greater oppression, and there was an even greater tyranny that was present in the earth during that time—one that took place in the supernatural realm, and yet manifested itself in the physical and natural realm.
When you come to the ninth chapter of the New Testament gospel of Matthew, you find Jesus again entering into a ship—this time, however, He did enter into a ship to pass over and enter into the region of the Gergesenes, but to pass over from that very place. In the very first verse of the ninth chapter we find Jesus entering into a ship, and coming over into His own city where He would continue His life and ministry. In the second verse of the ninth chapter we find something that has already become quite common within the life and ministry of Jesus—namely, men and women bringing unto Jesus all those that were in desperate need of healing, freedom, deliverance, and a miracle from heaven. IN the second verse of this particular chapter we find it recorded how “they brought to Him a man sick of the palsy, lying on a bed” (Matthew 9:2). Oh, please don’t miss the tremendous significance and importance of this reality, for Scripture doesn’t reveal to us who these individuals were. Scripture provides us with no names, nor does it provide us with any clues as to who these individuals were who brought this man into the presence of Jesus in order that He might receive healing from Jesus. The only thing we know for certain is that these individuals knew of the need of this man, and decided that since he could not come to Jesus himself, they would pick up his bed and bring him to where Jesus was. Oh, consider what great compassion is demonstrated in recognizing and seeing the need of another, and being selfless enough to bring and to carry that individual into the presence of Jesus. In all reality, I can’t help but see the actions of these individuals as a wonderful and powerful ministry of intercession. Lest you think that this is somehow a stretch, I would direct your mind and your attention to what intercession truly is—the act of praying on behalf of another for the need that is in their life. Intercession more often than not is recognizing the need that is present within the life of another, and bringing that need before and into the presence of Jesus. Regardless of whether or not that individual is aware of the need within their life, or are perhaps aware of the need, and yet are unable to pray and ask for ministry to that need, those around them who are aware of the need decide to bring their name before and into the presence of Jesus Christ. The individuals whom we find in this passage of Scripture knew of the need that was present within this particular man’s life, and instead of sitting idly by and allowing this man to continue in his present condition, they decided to rise up and take action. Oh, I can’t help but wonder how many individuals actually came together on behalf of this man in order that they might take up the bed upon which he was lying and bring him into the presence of Jesus. Were the individuals who were mentioned in this passage of Scripture friends of this man, or were they mere acquaintances of the man and were aware of the need present within his life. Scripture is unclear who these individuals were who brought this man before and unto Jesus, but one thing is certain—they recognized and understood the need of this man, and wanted to make sure that he had the chance to get healed and receive a miracle in his life.
What I find to be so incredibly interesting about this passage is that we have been taught to believe that it is our faith that is necessary and required to bring about healing within our lives. We have been taught and have believed that faith is necessary and required within our own hearts and spirits, and to the degree and measure that we have faith, so also can and will we experience healing within our physical bodies. As I read this passage, however, I am confronted—not with the faith of this man which would bring about change and transformation within his life, but the faith which was found within the hearts and lives of those who had brought him into the presence of Jesus. In all reality, it might very well be that this man who was sick with the palsy had absolutely zero faith within his heart and spirit to make any attempt to enter into the presence of Jesus. It might very well be that this man had been so relegated to his current condition that he didn’t see any way out of that present condition. I can’t help but wonder within my heart and spirit whether or not this man had any faith within his heart and spirit to believe that Jesus was able to do within his life what He had done within the lives of so many others. As I’m sitting here right now, I can’t help but wonder if those who brought this man into the presence of Jesus had spent a considerable amount of time trying to convince and persuade this man of His need to enter into the presence of Jesus, and that if He would just enter into the presence of Jesus, He would be healed of that which plagued his physical body. Did those who finally brought this man lying upon his bed into the presence of Jesus spend a considerable amount of time pleading with, and begging this man to allow them to bring him into the presence of Jesus? I can’t help but wonder within my own heart and spirit whether or not this man might have been resistant on being brought into the presence of Jesus—perhaps even because of the tremendous amount of sin that was in his heart and life. It is possible that this man believed himself to be such a tremendous sinner that he didn’t feel he was qualified to ask Jesus for healing upon his physical body? I’m sitting here right now, and there is a part of me that can’t help but wonder if this man was resistant to being brought into the presence of Jesus because of his own view of himself. Has this man heard and had this man been taught that it was because of the sin that was found within his heart and life that he was sick with the palsy? Is it possible that this man was taught that any sickness found within the life of an individual was in direct connection to sin that was somehow present within their lives? Lest you think that this could not be the case, I would direct your attention to the ninth chapter of the New Testament gospel of John, for it is there within this particular passage of Scripture that we encounter the very disciples of Jesus asking Jesus concerning sin and its direct connection to sickness. Consider if you will the words which are found in the New Testament epistle of John beginning with the first verse:
“And as Jesus passed by, he saw a man which was blind from his birth, and his disciples asked him, saying, Master, who did sin, this man, or his parents, that he was born blind? Jesus answered, Neither hath this man sinned, nor his parents: but that the works of him that sent me, while it is day: the night cometh when no man can work. As long as I am in the world, I am the light of the world. When he had thus spoken, He spat on the ground, and made clay of the spittle, and he anointed the eyes of the blind man with the clay. And said unto him, Go, wash in the pool of Siloam, (which is by interpretation, Sent.) He went his way therefore, and washed, and came seeing” (John 9:1-7).
As you read the words which the apostle John wrote in the ninth chapter of his gospel account of the life and ministry of Jesus you will find the disciples walking with Jesus and coming upon a man who had been blind from birth. Upon seeing this man who had been born blind, and was blind from birth, the disciples asked Jesus who had sinned—the man himself, or his parents—that he could be born without the ability to see the world around him. Pause for a moment and let the weight and reality of that question sink into your hearts, your spirits and your minds right now, for it shines a considerable amount of light upon what this man in the ninth chapter of Matthew’s gospel might have wrestled and struggled with. I am absolutely and completely convinced that this man who was sick of the palsy had been taught that sickness was a direct result of sin which was present within one’s life, and that there was somehow something wrong with those who were sick. In fact, I can’t help but wonder if there weren’t countless men and women during that time who were taught this very dangerous and deceptive doctrine of sin and sickness, and that any sickness that was found present within one’s life was a direct result of sin. Is it possible that this man had heard the scribes and the Pharisees say unto him that his sickness was a direct result of sin in his life, and that he essentially got what he deserved. I can’t help but be reminded of Job’s three friends who in an attempt to somehow bring clarity on his plight and present condition declared unto him that his suffering was a direct result of sin within his life. This is actually quite interesting and astounding—particularly and especially when you consider what the Scripture speaks concerning and regarding Job. What’s more, is not only in light of what Scripture speaks and declares of Job, but also what the Lord Himself declares concerning Job. Consider if you will the words which are found in the Old Testament book of Job beginning with the first verse of the first chapter:
“There was a man in the land of Uz, whose name was Job; and that man was perfect and upright, and one that feared God, and eschewed evil. And there were born unto him seven sons and three daughters. His substance also was seven thousand sheep, and three thousand camels, and five hundred yoke of oxen, and five hundred she asses, and a very great household; so that this man was the greatest of all the men of the east. And his sons went and feasted in their houses, every one his day; and sent and called for their three sisters to eat and to drink with them. And it was so, when the days of their feasting were gone about, that Job sent and sanctified them, and rose up early in the morning, and offered burnt offerings according to the number of them all: for Job said, It may be that my sons have sinned, and cursed God in their hearts. Thus did Job continually” (Job 1:1-5).
The words which we find in this particular passage of Scripture bring us face to face with how Scripture and the Holy Spirit viewed Job during his time, but yet there was still more concerning the testimony of Job which is found in both encounters between Satan and the Lord in heaven. The first is found in the first chapter of the book beginning with the sixth verse, and the second is found in the second chapter of the book beginning with the first verse. Consider if you will what is recorded concerning the interaction and encounter between Satan and God recorded in each of these two passages:
“Now there was a day when the sons of God came to present themselves before the Lord, and Satan came also among them. And the Lord said unto Satan, Whence comest thou? Then Satan answered the Lord, and said, From going to and fro in the earth, and form walking up and down in it. And the Lord said unto Satan, Hast thou considered my servant Job, that there is none like him in the earth, a perfect and an upright man, one that feareth God, and escheweth evil?” (Job 1:6-8).
“Again there was a day when the sons of God came to present themselves before the Lord, and Satan came also among them to present himself before the Lord. And the Lord said unto Satan, From whence comest thou? And Satan answered the Lord, and said, From going to and fro in the earth, and from walking up and down in it. And the Lord said unto Satan, Hast thou considered my servant Job, that there is none like him in the earth, a perfect and an upright man, one that feareth God, and escheweth evil? And still he holdeth fast his integrity, although thou movesdst me against him, to destroy him without cause” (Job 2:1-3).
When I consider the account of this man in the ninth chapter of Matthew’s gospel, I can’t help but wonder if this man feared entering into the presence of Jesus because of the sin that was present within his life. I can’t help but get the strong sense that this man was hesitant to enter into the presence of Jesus because of the sin that was present within his heart and his life. Perhaps this man was continually barraged and bombarded by those who looked down upon him—not only because of the sickness which plagued his physical body, but also because of the sin that was perceived within his life. I would dare say that even the disciples themselves were exposed to this doctrine and teaching, for it is manifested in the gospel according to John when they came upon a man who was blind from birth. It’s interesting and worth noting that in the case of the man who had been blind since birth, Jesus emphatically declared that it was neither the man himself, nor his parents who had sinned, but that the glory of God might be manifested within his life. I read the account of this man here in the ninth chapter of the gospel of Matthew, and I can’t help but see the very same principle and reality at work. Scripture records that this man was brought into the presence of Jesus by others, and that Jesus—upon seeing the faith of those who brought him unto Him—first called this man “son,” then instructed him to be of good cheer, and then declared unto him that his sins were forgiven him. Is it possible that the first and primary concern within this man’s heart and mind was not his physical condition, but rather his spiritual condition before a just and holy God? Is it possible that this man was more concerned with the sin that was present within his life than he was with the palsy that had consumed and ravaged his physical body? What I so love about this particular passage is that Jesus didn’t acknowledge this man based on his own faith, but based on the faith of of those who had brought him into His presence. Jesus saw the faith of those who had brought this man into His presence, and as a direct result of their faith, He spoke directly to the man. I can’t help but be confronted with the fact that sometimes faith is demonstrated—not in what we believe and ask for ourselves, but what we believe and ask on behalf of others. The question I can’t help but wonder if whether or not we care enough about others to bring them into the presence of Jesus. Do we care enough about others in order to bring them into the presence of Jesus? Do we care enough about others to bring them into the house of the Lord in order that they might encounter Jesus the Christ, and experience His power within their lives? This man was brought into the presence of Jesus, and yet Matthew doesn’t speak of or record this man’s faith, but the faith of those who had brought him into the presence of Jesus. The very fact that we read about the faith of those who brought this man into the presence of Jesus suggests that it is possible for there to somehow be a lack of faith within our hearts and lives, and it is the faith of those around us who love and care for us who can help us receive healing, and even forgiveness within our hearts and lives?
I absolutely love that the very first need Jesus addressed within this man’s life was not the palsy which had plagued and consumed his physical body, but rather the sin(s) that was present within his life. Scripture is unclear whether or not those who brought this man into the presence of Jesus brought him into His presence simply because of his need for physical healing, or because of his view of sin and its possible direct connection to the sickness which was in his life. One thing is absolutely certain and absolutely clear when we read this passage, and that is that Matthew first mentions this man based on his physical need, and yet when he finds himself in the presence of Jesus, the first need Jesus addresses is the sins which were present within his life. There is a part of me that can’t help but wonder if those who brought this man into the presence of Jesus did so expecting Jesus to heal him of the palsy, and didn’t expect Jesus to speak about or acknowledge the sin(s) that were present within this man’s life. There is within this passage of Scripture a powerful distinction between physical need and spiritual need, and that more often than not we tend to get the two skewed and mixed up. There are times when we perceive within ourselves that the greatest need within our hearts and lives is our physical need, while completely missing the point and reality that the spiritual need that is present within us is of much more importance and value to the living God. Oh, is it possible that those who brought this man into the presence of Jesus did so fully expecting and anticipating a physical healing for and in this man’s life, and yet that which this man desired more, and that which was of more importance to this man was the condition of his heart, and his standing before a just and holy God? Is it possible that this man really and ultimately wanted to know that he was loved, that he was accepted, and that he was forgiven in the sight of God? This man was brought into the presence of Jesus for physical healing, and yet upon seeing the faith of those who brought him into His presence, the first thing Jesus says unto this man is “son.” Oh, imagine what it must have been like for this man to hear that single word in reference to himself, and what that must have meant to and for him. Imagine most likely living under a constant shadow of guilt, shame and condemnation, and on top of that, being sick of the palsy. Imagine knowing you have a physical condition that is plaguing your physical body, and yet on top of that, you spend your days—perhaps even your nights—dealing with guilt, shame, condemnation and judgment because of sin within your life? There is not a doubt in my mind that almost as much as this man desired to be healed physically, he also desired to be healed spiritually, and to know that he was forgiven of his sins and accepted by the living God. There is not a doubt in my mind that this man might very well have accepted spending the rest of his life dealing with being sick of the palsy if he knew that he had been forgiven of his sins. This actually brings me to the place where I am wondering if there aren’t men and women among us in the earth today who accept whatever sickness, whatever suffering they might be experiencing and enduring because they know that they have been forgiven of their sins, and that they are clean and pure before a just and holy God. For some people, the physical need that is present within their body, and even the momentary suffering they experience here in the earth is nothing compared to being forgiven, being justified, being free, and being clean in the sight of and before a holy and righteous God who sits upon the throne in heaven.
What marks this particular passage of Scripture is that Jesus saw the faith of those who brought this man into his presence, and He knew the thoughts of the scribes which were present on this occasion. Jesus saw the faith of those who had brought this man into His presence, and as a result of the faith which He saw in them, He declared unto this man that his sins were forgiven. Pause for a moment and consider what might have happened if this was how the encounter with Jesus ended. Consider how Jesus would have been perceived if He had simply allowed this man to leave His presence knowing that his sins were forgiven, and yet continued to spend his life being sick with the palsy. How much would such a moment within the life of Jesus have completely wrecked and wreaked havoc upon our theology and our doctrine knowing that Jesus could have sent this man out of His presence knowing he had been forgiven of his sins, and yet his physical condition still remains. Oh, there is not a doubt in my mind mind that there are men and women among us right now who might not receive the physical healing they perhaps longed for at one point, or perhaps which others want for them, and yet they are completely and utterly content with it because they know that they are justified, they know they are forgiven, they know they are righteous, they know they are clean and holy in the sight of the living God. Oh how much we have elevated and exalted physical healing over spiritual transformation, spiritual renewal and spiritual healing within our hearts and lives. Think of how many men and women flock to any great meeting, or any great “revival,” or any great “awakening” with their physical needs, and yet they are completely and utterly oblivious to the spiritual need which far outweighs their physical need. There is not a doubt in my mind that this man’s spiritual need was much greater to this man, and of much more importance to Jesus the Christ than was his physical healing. Before even speaking to and addressing this man’s physical condition, Jesus first addressed his spiritual condition, and even that based not on his own faith, but based on the faith of those who had brought him into His presence. It wasn’t until Jesus perceived the thoughts within the hearts of the scribes that Jesus would proceed to heal this man of the palsy which had consumed his body. Consider how great and how wonderful it is that Jesus first addressed the spiritual need of this man—that need which undoubtedly was of greater importance to Jesus and this man—based on the faith of those who had brought him into his presence, and only in response to the thoughts of the scribes did Jesus also proceed to heal this man.
Is it possible that Jesus could have allowed this man to leave his presence forgiven of his sins, and yet not healed within his body? Is it possible that men and women can leave the house of the Lord, can leave these “awakenings,” can leave these conferences, can leave these “revivals” forgiven of their sins, and yet having no healing within their physical bodies? Is it possible that Jesus could allow men and women to leave such meetings and conferences forgiven of sins and knowing they are justified and righteous before Him, and yet still dealing with and battling their sickness and infirmity? What would it do to your theology to think about and consider the fact that Jesus could have allowed this man to leave forgiven of his sins, and yet still having to spend his days dealing with being sick of the palsy? It’s almost a bonus for this man to not only leave the presence of Jesus knowing his sins had been forgiven by the Lord, but also having received physical healing too. What I so love about this passage of Scripture is that within the same passage where we find this man being brought into the presence of Jesus and hearing that his sins were forgiven him, we also find Jesus—after calling Matthew from the receipt of custom to follow Him—sitting down at meat within Matthew’s house. It would be during this time within Matthew’s house that many publicans and sinners would come and sit down and eat with Jesus. WHEN SINNERS COME TO DINNER! WHEN SINNERS SIT DOWN AT THE TABLE! In the same passage where we find Jesus offering forgiveness of sins to a man who undoubtedly wrestled with sickness in response to sin, as well as perhaps guilt, shame and condemnation, we find Jesus sitting down with sinners and publicans. Perhaps the single greatest question I can’t help but ask when reading this passage is whether or not there is any room at our tables for sinners? When the Pharisees saw that Jesus sat down to meat with publican and sinners, they asked why Jesus would sit down to meat with and entertain such individuals. Please don’t miss this, for there was absolutely no room in the theology or doctrine of the Pharisees for sinners and publicans to be entertained—much less be entertained by Jesus. Oh, I can’t help but ask the question of what we will do if Jesus wants to dine and sup with us, and yet His presence there brings about the emergence of sinners and publicans. What will we do if Jesus wants to have fellowship with us, and His presence begins to attract sinners? What do we do if Jesus enters into the house where we worship, and yet His presence begins to attract sinners from all over into our midst? Is there room in the house for sinners? Is our religion of so little value, and so shallow that it has absolutely no room for sinners to sit down at the table and encounter Jesus? Has our religion reached the place where it no longer offers and allows any room at the table for sinners? Oh that we would read this particular passage of Scripture and not only be confronted with physical need versus spiritual need, but also with a Jesus who is willing to forgive our sins and sitting down at the table with sinners. FORGIVING SINS AND SITTING DOWN WITH SINNERS!