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Foundations For Our Future #170 - #179

Foundations for Our Future (170) 

by: The Rev. Dr. Jon Shuler

A Family Affair         

Today we see a very intimate picture of an event in the life of Peter the Apostle, and we learn that he was a married man. Our Lord has come home to Capernaum, the town in which he himself lived, and he has entered the home of Peter in the same place. Whether he came because Peter’s mother-in-law was ill, or only learned of it when he arrived, Jesus went to her side and touched her hand. (Matthew 8:14-15) His touch was enough, and she was made well. The fever that had afflicted her was gone.

Repeatedly in my life, I have cried out for the help of the Lord to heal. I have prayed for many others, and for my loved ones especially. It is not hard for me to imagine this scene in Peter’s house. What is surprising is we are not told of Peter’s wife. We know he had one, both from this story told by Luke, and also because of a casual reference of Paul the Apostle. (I Corinthians 9:5) Nevertheless, we see the grace of God being extended inside the family unit of one of his servants. But it will not stay hidden. That very evening people brought their loved ones to Jesus to find healing and wholeness. So too must we.



Foundations for Our Future (171) 

by: The Rev. Dr. Jon Shuler

They Brought To Him Many

The news of the healing of Peter’s mother-in-law must have spread quickly in Capernaum, because by that night many brought their sick and suffering to Jesus. (Matthew 8:16) The numbers who were healed in our Lord’s ministry are astonishing, but so too are the range of illnesses. In our daily text we see a recurring fact, not only were sick people healed, but those who were suffering from the oppression of demons were also set free.

Today, many would suggest that much of what is called in the scriptures “demon possession” is actually mental illness. Perhaps this is so, but in any event those who were suffering were released from their pain. I prefer to take my stand on the words of Luke, who was a physician, and acknowledge that Jesus “cast out spirits with a word.”

In our modern era, when unbelievers in God are inclined to assume that everything has a natural, physical and material cause, the idea that there are spiritual forces that are real seems strange to many. In the face of that unbelief I must say that over and over I have seen evidence that they are real. I have seen a spirit of fear sweep the world during covid, I have seen a spirit of pride bring down great men, I have see a spirit of darkness take hold of people through the internet, I have seen a spirit of evil take the lives of innocent children.

The Lord Jesus Christ came to set free all captives. He can and will set free all who come to him in faith, no matter the affliction.



Foundations for Our Future (172) 

by: The Rev. Dr. Jon Shuler

Fulfilled Scripture    

Matthew will repeatedly point out to his readers that the Lord Jesus came to fulfill what had been previously prophesied and promised. With the faithful church throughout the ages, he saw over and over that what had been revealed to Israel was being made real in the life and ministry of the One who was the true Messiah. Today he points out what may be the most important example of all. As the great prophet Isaiah had foretold, there would be a Suffering Servant who would take upon himself the sins of the people of God. He would take up the consequences of all our sins. He would die that we might live. He would be broken so that we would be healed. (Matthew 8:17 - referencing Isaiah 53)

Sunday by Sunday the church affirms the connection between the ministry and mission of Jesus and the Scriptures given to Israel. Our Lord himself told his disciples many times that what was written about him must be fulfilled. (see for example Luke 24:44) It is because of the teaching of Christ Jesus that Christians revere and read the Old Testament. It is, and will always remain, the Word of God.

The key to understanding all that is written in the Scriptures of Israel, what we call the Old Testament, is to be found only in Jesus. When the Holy Spirit of Jesus becomes one with our spirit, “the veil is removed.” (II Corinthians 3:16)



Foundations For Our Future #173

It has been an intense season of ministry for Jesus, and the crowds are following him wherever he goes. (Matthew 8:18) Today we see this happen again, and our Lord's response is to escape from them, or so I believe. What the word of God tells us is that "he gave orders to go over to the other side." This means to the other side of the Sea of Galilee, which was some miles away. He will go by sea, and presumably that will give him some respite. He was so tired that he was sound asleep in the boat, as we will see later in the chapter. (Matthew 8:24) Here, as we have noticed before, we see the full humanity of Jesus. He was fully a man, and he experienced all the challenges of human existence. He was hungry, he was sorrowful, he was thirsty, he was tired.

But Jesus was also the Master teacher, or Rabbi, to those who were following him as disciples. He was in charge of their common life. And here we see him giving them orders. Surely it will have meant that they began to make preparations for the journey. We may presume, as well, that while he was still there he ministered to those who crowed about him, and tomorrow we will see one of those moments.

What shall we take today from this verse? At least two things. Jesus understands all that we face as human beings, he knows our weakness. (Hebrews 5:2) Also we need to note, that when he commands, his disciples obey.



Foundations for Our Future (174) 

by: The Rev. Dr. Jon Shuler

I Will Follow

A scribe was, in our Lord’s day, a man dedicated to the Word of God. He was a guardian of what had been written down under the guidance of the Holy Spirit, and what we would call the oLd Testament, the sacred Scriptures of Israel. He knew that what Jesus was saying and doing revealed a very special anointing from the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. We can only assume that the scribe who comes to Jesus today has heard our Lord and witnessed his healing compassion. (Matthew 8:19) He has been moved our Lord, emotionally. “I will follow you wherever you go,” he says.

This statement is the first step of a new disciple. ‘I will follow you as my teacher, my discipler.’ It is never a statement that means, ‘I will add you to the list of influences in my life,’ or ‘I will check in with you one day a week,’ or ‘I will study what you have written.’ It meant in Jesus’ day that a man would devote himself to learning everything that his Rabbi (which means teacher) could teach him, with the goal of living that teaching, and passing it on to others.

We who have been called to follow Jesus must understand this truth. We are meant to learn to walk faithfully in all the the Lord taught. It is to be our daily bread.



Foundations for Our Future (175) 

by: The Rev. Dr. Jon Shuler

A Warning

Most of us are familiar with elaborate and extended explanations that are put before us constantly, to protect the company or service provider from litigation. I have never known a person who has read all the details carefully, before going ahead. If you are like me you regularly check off the box, and hope that you will never have to remember it again. Today Jesus gives the scribe who has professed a desire to follow a warning. If you come with me you may have nowhere to call home. (Matthew 8:20)

How are we to understand this? It seems to me that at the actual time our Lord first spoke these words it may really have been a literal truth. Jesus was about to go on a ministry trip and he did not know where they would stay. It might be that they would sleep under the stars that night, or for several weeks.

A deeper truth, however, is that Jesus was giving this man a clear indication that following him would not be easy. The cost of being a disciple of Jesus requires the surrendering of our own prerogatives and wishes. It involves the yielding of our hearts to him. We are to become devoted to him, above all else. Would the scribe follow through with that devotion?

Simply saying we will follow, and actually following, are two different things.



Foundations for Our Future (176) 

by: The Rev. Dr. Jon Shuler

I’ll Get To It

Years ago a wonderful visiting preacher, at the church I was serving as a young Curate, handed out little round wooden “coins” on which was embossed “Round Tuit.” He then said to us all: “If you have been waiting to commit your life to the Lord Jesus until you get around to it, you now have one.” It was a cute gimmick, and I have never forgotten it. Today we see a man who wants to follow Jesus when he gets around to it. (Matthew 8:21)

Note well that this man is described by Matthew as a “disciple.” He is not an observer, he has signed on, as we say today, and yet he is putting something else in the way of following Jesus. What stings for the reader is he wants to bury his own father, and the Lord tells him “no,” not if you want to follow me. Doesn’t that make you stop in your tracks?

Here today we see the truth we can miss for years as casual disciples. Jesus is asking for all we are to be engaged with him, as our absolute first priority. He is to come before everything else. For anyone to let this happen means a kind of dying. A willingness for that to happen can only come by the grace of God.



Foundations for Our Future (177) 

by: The Rev. Dr. Jon Shuler

They Followed Him 

The section we are coming to is usually titled “Jesus Calms A Storm,” and he most certainly does. But let us continue to go very slowly through Matthew’s gospel, and try to learn from every word. Today we will focus on these words: “his disciples followed him.” (Matthew 8:23)

Sometime ago we noted that when Jesus gave orders his disciples obeyed (Matthew 8:18), and now we come to the trip they organized. It was a sea voyage, dependent on the wind, and Matthew tells us that those who were his disciples - of course - “followed him.” If we have been learning anything from the Gospel of Matthew, it is this. A disciple follows his master. Christ’s life and teaching are the template for his life.

But is that true of us today?

Here we again confront the central challenge facing the church in our time. Do we follow Jesus, or do we follow our own devisings? Do we obey what he taught or do we replace that with the traditions gradually developed by the church? Later in this gospel we will hear our Lord, echoing the prophet Isaiah, severely criticizing those who say they honor God but who actually teach what has been devised by men. (Matthew 15:8,9)

To follow Jesus is to learn to obey Jesus’ teaching. Nothing comes before him.



Foundations for Our Future (178) 

by: The Rev. Dr. Jon Shuler

Asleep in the Storm

This past weekend a severe thunderstorm knocked out my internet service. The next four days were not easy, as I discovered all the ways my daily life has become dependent on the nearly invisible service that WiFi has brought to us. It was a relatively small inconvenience, from a pretty good size storm. Matthew tells us to day that a “great storm” broke upon them as they crossed the Sea of Galilee. (Matthew 8:24)

Many of the Lord’s first disciples were fishermen, and they were aware of the power of storms that could arise on that sea. Anyone who has visited the Holy Land knows that such storms are still a reality, and they can form and break out quickly in some seasons. This storm was so violent that the boat was being swamped, and even seasoned fishermen were afraid. But Jesus was asleep in the boat. 

Matthew is telling us exactly what happened, but the insight that forms in our minds should be about the storms that sweep over our lives, and cause us to fear. We need to realize that they are not a problem for our Lord. He is as peaceful in the storm as he is at any other time. He is not troubled or worried. He is in control, and we need not fear. God the Father Almighty has given him “all authority in heaven and earth,” as the disciples are about to discover. Christ Jesus is with us, even in our storms.



Foundations for Our Future (179) 

by: The Rev. Dr. Jon Shuler

Save Us Lord

The fear of death is part of the curse of the Fall. God made man and woman for eternity, but the rebellion of our hearts, apart from God’s promises, makes us doubt that fact. The enemy of our souls has convinced many that mankind can ignore God and take charge of its own destiny. This works reasonably well until death knocks at the door. Then men are generally terrified. Covid 19 has proved that fact before our eyes in this past year. The fear of death has swept the world. Why?

The answer, that is at the heart of the truth of Scripture, is this: we are made for eternity, and we have a deep awareness that death is somehow wrong. It is rooted in our deepest selves, as a sign that we bear the imprint of the “image of God.” Even the avowed atheist fears death, in spite of his naturalistic presupposition that he is an accident of evolutionary forces. When death draws near, fear knocks at the door. And it came to the disciples in the midst of the storm. (Matthew 8:25) “Lord we are perishing.”

Those of us who know the rest of the story recognize that the disciples in the boat share much with us. They have begun to follow Jesus, sufficiently to call him “Lord,” but they do not yet have the faith to trust him in the storm. Still. they cry out to him to please “save us.” In that particular moment Jesus will save them to live another day, and he will also show all who ever call on him that he alone can save.