From the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus comes down the mountain to be surrounded by large crowds. I couldn’t help but think what a difference it is to be on the Mountain versus the Valley. Many times we want to stay on the mountain top and relish the “good times and highs.” But there is work to be done, and we must come down the mountain to the people. In chapters 8-12, there is a lot of healing ministry and tough questions to be answered by Jesus. These things cause Jesus’ popularity to skyrocket with the people. However, the more popular Jesus became, the more the religious rulers despised Him and His ministry.
In the process of doing daily ministry to whoever asked Him; Jesus also was assembling His “apostles.” We find supernatural events during the ministry of Jesus. He healed lepers, calmed seas, cast out demons, gave sight to the blind, cured a paralytic, mercy to a woman with a blood hemorrhage. The people always went away praising God for the miracles. Jesus continued His “teaching moments” which also was overwhelming. He had to answer a myriad of questions about why He didn’t do things the way the Jewish religious leaders did, with their strict moral and ethic codes. Jesus actually was questioned by John the Baptist disciples [Matthew 11:1-6] “Are you the Messiah or is there someone else? Jesus replied with Isaiah 61:1-4.
Jesus as the Son of God had power over the very creation that He spoke into existence. I note that even in the natural phenomenons, storms, waves winds etc., Jesus displays power and authority over them. The only element of creation that seemingly won’t respond to His authority is mankind. Partly because we are given free will and make our own choices, but mainly because we are fallen humanity, and have a bent towards sinning.
Two passages [Matt 7:16-21 & 12:33-37] really stuck out for me. I asked myself the question, especially in regards to John 15:2 – is the tree bad because of the bad fruit or is the fruit bad because of the bad tree. Matthew 12:33 – clears this up quickly the problem is a bad tree. What this means is the internal characteristics of the tree determine the fruit seen visible. So also this is true for us. If Christ is in our soul, the fruit will be good. We really can tell if someone is redeemed or not. By their fruits you will know them!
Recently a particular verse has made its way deep into my heart – Matthew 10:16, I send you out as sheep in the midst of wolves. This is a difficult verse because ravenous wolves kill and shred without regard to anything else. We know the bible explicitly tells us that as they persecuted Jesus that we should expect it too. But we strive to do our best NOT to suffer for Christ. Yet the test of Discipleship is the willingness to follow and experience what Jesus experienced. Paul took great joy [not happiness] in “the fellowship of His [Christ’s] suffering being conformed to His death. [Phil 3:10]
Jesus does not paint a very glamorous picture for would-be disciples. The biblical account of daily discipleship is a far cry from what is lived out in Western Christianity.
Our reading for this period ends with questions about the Sabbath observances. Obviously the religious rulers were watching Jesus’ every move, not to follow Him but to look for fault or ability to accuse Him of wrong doing. Jesus is Lord of the Sabbath; the Sabbath was made for man [and beast] not Man for the Sabbath. Too often I think “church life” can get so legalistic about what is the way to worship God, that we wind up putting so many restrictions to our worship; and wind up worshiping our system of beliefs instead of Jesus the subject/object of our worship.