Hello everybody, and welcome in to episode 106 of the Bible 2021 podcast. We are reading Matthew 8 today and our focus is on what faith looks like, and what the absence of faith looks like. We are a daily 10 minute podcast, where we will dig in to the truth of the Word of God by reading one Bible chapter a day and discussing it. Welcome to new listeners in Dubai, UAE, Lagos, Nigeria, Harare, Zimbabwe, Parts unknown, Norway, Nova Scotia, Canada, Maharashtra, India, Monterey, California, St. Louis, Missouri and Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. Thanks for listening!  Our goal is to encourage DAILY Bible reading, so you can jump in at any time and join with us. We want to invite as many people as possible to join us in daily Bible reading, so help spread the word and share the podcast Don’t forget about our web-page, Bible2021.com – contact page, show notes, transcript and more– Click here for our Bible 2021 reading plan\

Let’s start out with a bit of a mystery. In our chapter today, Jesus encounters a pair of demon possessed men, at least one of whom was possessed by multiple demons. These demons engage Jesus, and ask Him a very compelling question:

29 Suddenly they shouted, “What do you have to do with us, Son of God? Have you come here to torment us before the time?” Matthew 8:29

A similar incident happens in Mark 1:23-24, “23 Just then a man with an unclean spirit was in their synagogue. He cried out, 24 “What do you have to do with us, Jesus of Nazareth? Have you come to destroy us? I know who you are—the Holy One of God!”

Several things to notice here. First, the demons know who Jesus is – they realize that He is the Lord and Messiah -the Son of God who has the authority to utterly destroy them. A bit more mysterious is the question the demons ask in today’s chapter: “Have you come to torment us before the time?” The obvious question is: WHAT TIME?! To my knowledge, the Bible never answers this exact question, but a pretty good possibility is that the demons know that a time is coming in future history when they will be tormented and destroyed, as inferred in the book of Revelation:

When the thousand years are completed, Satan will be released from his prison and will go out to deceive the nations at the four corners of the earth, Gog and Magog, to gather them for battle. Their number is like the sand of the sea. They came up across the breadth of the earth and surrounded the encampment of the saints, the beloved city. Then fire came down from heaven and consumed them. 10 The devil who deceived them was thrown into the lake of fire and sulfur where the beast and the false prophet are, and they will be tormented day and night forever and ever. Revelation 20:7-10

I note here that this passage does not explicitly mention demons among those tossed in the lake of fire, but considering the devil’s angels/demons were cast down from Heaven with him in Revelation 12, it would seem to follow that there is a good chance the demons will suffer the same fate as the devil, beast and false prophet. It is possibly, but only an educated guess, that this is what the demon in this chapter is asking Jesus about.

Of more importance, at least spiritually, is faith. What does it look like? Matthew 8 is a chapter very much focused on faith. Matthew gives us two great pictures of faith in this chapter, and one picture of the absence of faith. Let’s read, and keep our eyes peeled for the appearance of faith.

Interestingly, it is a gentile and a random leper that show us what faith should like like. First the leper approaches Jesus with a statement of basic and obvious faith, “Lord, if you are willing, you can make me clean.” Even to modern medicine, leprosy is a challenge, and it certainly isn’t cured instantly, but this leper knew who Jesus was, and knew that He had the power and authority to heal Him. He also was NOT presumptuous, knowing he had no claim or right to the grace of healing – so his statement demonstrates to us both great faith and great humility. He trusted in Jesus to do the right thing – not demanding – and He trusted that Jesus had all power and authority to cleanse and heal.

Our second example demonstrates faith so well that even Jesus seems to marvel. A Roman centurion – leader of roughly 100 men – comes to Jesus on behalf of his servant. This in and of itself shows great character – that a man of authority would seek out somebody such as Jesus on behalf of his servant, whom the centurion notes is “in agony.” Jesus asks the centurion a pointed question, “Am I to come and heal him?” And the answer is astonishing, “I am not worthy to have you come under my roof. But just say the word, and my servant will be healed. For I too am a man under authority, having soldiers under my command. I say to this one, ‘Go,’ and he goes; and to another, ‘Come,’ and he comes; and to my servant, ‘Do this!’ and he does it.” (Mark 8:8-9)

Again, we see great humility on the part of the person demonstrating great faith. This tells me that there is a deep connection between faith and humility. Pride believes that we ourselves are the source of our solution – we can do it, we can make it better. Faith is more humble, recognizing our own lack of power and our need for God. Even this centurion, a man of great authority, knew his place in comparison to the Son of God. But, he wasn’t just humble: he was firmly convinced of the power of Jesus – power that could stretch across long distances to do miracles. Jesus marvels at this amazing faith, and the centurion’s servant is healed.

Our final picture is of a lack of faith. Jesus’ disciples have seen His miracles, and have spent time with their teacher – they know He is more than merely a man. Out in the boat one day, with Jesus peacefully sleeping away, they encounter a deadly storm. That storm rages, but Jesus is silent, asleep. The disciples come and shake Him awake, saying, “Lord, save us  we’re going to die!” Jesus, of course, calms this storm, but asks them a devastating question:

26 He said to them, “Why are you afraid, you of little faith?” Matthew 8:26 

The obvious answer is that there was plenty of reason to be afraid for a rational person. These disciples lived next to the sea and were experienced sailors and fishermen. That they were afraid does not mean they were cowards, it means that the storm was just as the Bible describes it: violent. Dangerous. Capable of killing them. Their fears weren’t irrational, and yet they were slightly rebuked by Jesus for their lack of faith. Why? Because Jesus knew AND BELIEVED Psalm 121:

He will not allow your foot to slip;
your Protector will not slumber.
Indeed, the Protector of Israel
does not slumber or sleep. Psalms 121:3-4

The disciples no doubt knew this passage also, but they did not believe it. Faith looks like believing utterly in God and His goodness and not trusting yourself to save you. Faith isn’t independent – it is fully dependent on God. Faith isn’t presumptuous either – it trusts in God’s plan and timing. Do you sometimes doubt God’s watchcare and His timing? Me too! I’ve found the best thing to feed my faith and starve my doubts is a steady diet of God’s Word and fasting from over-thinking and over-worrying. As Jesus told us just a few days ago in Matthew 6:

31 So don’t worry, saying, ‘What will we eat?’ or ‘What will we drink?’ or ‘What will we wear?’ 32 For the Gentiles eagerly seek all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. 33 But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be provided for you. 34 Therefore don’t worry about tomorrow, because tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own. Matthew 6:31-34 

Be encouraged in your faith, brothers and sisters!

End of the Show: Bible memory verse for April  James 4:6 “But he gives greater grace. Therefore he says: God resists the proud but gives grace to the humble.”

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