Wednesday, May 5, 2010


Matthew 8-10

In chapter eight, Jesus came down from the mountainside with large crowds around him. He healed a man with leprosy, and the servant of a Centurion in Capernaum, without even entering the house, because the Centurion had "such great faith." In Peter's house, he healed Peter's mother-in-law of a fever, and then they brought him many who were demon-possessed and "he drove out the spirits with a word and healed all the sick." Crossing the sea in a storm, he awoke and calmed the storm, while rebuking his disciples for their lack of faith, and then, "in the region of the Gadarenes," he drove demons out of two men and into a herd of pigs, which rushed down into the lack and died. "Then the whole town went out to meet Jesus. And when they saw him, they pleaded with him to leave their region."

In chapter nine, Jesus crossed the sea again "to his own town" and told a paralytic that his sins were forgiven. This enraged the "teachers of the law" who said that he was blaspheming, but Jesus rebuked them and told the man to "get up, take your mat and go home," which he did. Later, he called Matthew from the tax collector's booth, and he followed him. When people complained, that night, that he was eating with sinners, he said that he had "not come to call the righteous, but sinners." He compared his disciples to "guests of the bridegroom" when asked why they didn't fast, and later healed a sick woman and raised a dead girl, before healing two blind men and a mute. He "went through all the towns and villages, teaching in their synagogues, preaching the good news of the kingdom and healing every disease and sickness" and told his disciples that "the harvest is plentiful but the workers are few."

In chapter ten, therefore, he called his twelve disciples, giving them "authority to drive out evil spirits and to heal every disease and sickness," and sent them out to "the lost sheep of Israel" to preach that "the kingdom of heaven is near." If any town or home into which they went was to prove undeserving, they were to "shake the dust off your feet when you leave that home or town" and it would "be more bearable for Sodom and Gomorrah on the day of judgment than for that town." He told them that "the Spirit of your Father" would speak through them if they were brought before "governors or kings." He tells them that there will be conflicts, and that "all men will hate you because of me" because he "did not come to bring peace, but a sword." ""He who receives you receives me, and he who receives me receives the one who sent me."

Thoughts, questions, issues

  • In chapter eight, Jesus drove the demons out of two possessed men, and the result was that the townspeople "pleaded with him to leave their region." But why? Do they not realize what he did? Is the pressure of being in his presence too much for them to bear? Do they fear that his presence creates a "war zone?" I don't know. I think it likely that they were more frightened by a man that could drive out spirits, cause the pigs to stampede into the lake, than they were grateful to have their neighbors cleansed.
  • That ("they pleaded with him to leave") is the kind of detail that reeks of historicity. There's no obvious reason for someone to invent and insert it later.
  • By the way, who are the "Gadarenes?" They can't be Israelites, or they wouldn't have a herd of pigs, right? Is there a Jew/Gentile issue here?
  • Is this Matthew the author/compiler of the Gospel? Tradition has associated this book with that disciple, though we can't know for sure.

Psalms 51

This is one of the few psalms which we can tie to a specific event. Specifically, this represents David's repentance, upon being challenged by the prophey Nathan, of his sin in committing adultery with Bathsheba and having her husband, Uriah the Hittite, killed. It is a cry of remorse and repentance, acknowledging the depth of his depravity and unworthiness of God's mercy. For those of us who have trouble with the description of David as "a man after God's own heart" in light of this story, this psalm represents the longing of a penitent spirit.

This is a psalm which I pray regularly, as our monthly communion at Park Street is preceded by a recitation.

Psalm 51
For the director of music. A psalm of David. When the prophet Nathan came to him after David had committed adultery with Bathsheba.
1 Have mercy on me, O God,
according to your unfailing love;
according to your great compassion
blot out my transgressions.

2 Wash away all my iniquity
and cleanse me from my sin.

3 For I know my transgressions,
and my sin is always before me.

4 Against you, you only, have I sinned
and done what is evil in your sight,
so that you are proved right when you speak
and justified when you judge.

5 Surely I was sinful at birth,
sinful from the time my mother conceived me.

6 Surely you desire truth in the inner parts;
you teach me wisdom in the inmost place.

7 Cleanse me with hyssop, and I will be clean;
wash me, and I will be whiter than snow.

8 Let me hear joy and gladness;
let the bones you have crushed rejoice.

9 Hide your face from my sins
and blot out all my iniquity.

10 Create in me a pure heart, O God,
and renew a steadfast spirit within me.

11 Do not cast me from your presence
or take your Holy Spirit from me.

12 Restore to me the joy of your salvation
and grant me a willing spirit, to sustain me.

13 Then I will teach transgressors your ways,
and sinners will turn back to you.

14 Save me from bloodguilt, O God,
the God who saves me,
and my tongue will sing of your righteousness.

15 O Lord, open my lips,
and my mouth will declare your praise.

16 You do not delight in sacrifice, or I would bring it;
you do not take pleasure in burnt offerings.

17 The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit;
a broken and contrite heart,
O God, you will not despise.

18 In your good pleasure make Zion prosper;
build up the walls of Jerusalem.

19 Then there will be righteous sacrifices,
whole burnt offerings to delight you;
then bulls will be offered on your altar.

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