As we study the best life ever lived, we find ourselves in Matthew chapters 9 and 10. A series of miracles are recorded in these chapters and Jesus seems to be warning of difficulties to come. Are the two connected? Yes they are! This message is all about Jesus, the great dividing line. Which side of the line you stand on makes all the difference.
Have you ever come up to a fork in the road and you weren’t sure you knew which way was the right way? If you have, you know a special form of panic.
Back when I worked for a national tree care company I was given the opportunity to take a big bucket truck with another guy and go help clean up after Hurricane Gloria crossed Long Island and made a big tree mess. We headed out, worked for a week down there and then headed home.
Neither one of us was completely confident of the way home over Long Island expressways, but we were following a car going back to Rochester, it was my friend’s wife, and we felt pretty confident that she knew where she was going. Here we were, driving the expressways, in an oversized truck, with a trailer on it. It was fine until we came to a decision point; turn this way or turn that way. Sadly, we had lost sight of the car we were following. We took the left fork of the highway and then we saw my friend’s wife’s car turning off on the right fork. We panicked. So what did I do? There was a big, wide, grassy median between the two forks and I just went for it. We left the wrong road and headed across the open field. Bumping, praying we wouldn’t find mud or a deep rut or police. Picture how the folks driving the expressway saw this scene. Thankfully we made it, joined up with the right fork and tried to look invisible.
In life, Jesus is the great divide, the great fork in the road. We see this over and over again in Matthew chapters 9 and 10.
There are six stories of lives changed by a miracle in chapter 9.
A Paralytic Man Walks and is forgiven
“So He got into a boat, crossed over, and came to His own city. Then behold, they brought to Him a paralytic lying on a bed. When Jesus saw their faith, He said to the paralytic, “Son, be of good cheer; your sins are forgiven you.” And at once some of the scribes said within themselves, “This Man blasphemes!” But Jesus, knowing their thoughts, said, “Why do you think evil in your hearts? For which is easier, to say, ‘Your sins are forgiven you,’ or to say, ‘Arise and walk’? But that you may know that the Son of Man has power on earth to forgive sins”—then He said to the paralytic, “Arise, take up your bed, and go to your house.” And he arose and departed to his house. Now when the multitudes saw it, they marveled and glorified God, who had given such power to men.”
A Tax Collector is called
“As Jesus passed on from there, He saw a man named Matthew sitting at the tax office. And He said to him, “Follow Me.” So he arose and followed Him. Now it happened, as Jesus sat at the table in the house that behold, many tax collectors and sinners came and sat down with Him and His disciples. And when the Pharisees saw it, they said to His disciples, “Why does your Teacher eat with tax collectors and sinners?” When Jesus heard that, He said to them, “Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. But go and learn what this means: ‘I desire mercy and not sacrifice.’ For I did not come to call the righteous, but sinners, to repentance.””
A Woman with an issue of blood is healed
“While He spoke these things to them, behold, a ruler came and worshiped Him, saying, “My daughter has just died, but come and lay Your hand on her and she will live.” So Jesus arose and followed him, and so did His disciples. And suddenly, a woman who had a flow of blood for twelve years came from behind and touched the hem of His garment. For she said to herself, “If only I may touch His garment, I shall be made well.” But Jesus turned around, and when He saw her He said, “Be of good cheer, daughter; your faith has made you well.” And the woman was made well from that hour.”
A Ruler’s Daughter brought back from the dead
“When Jesus came into the ruler’s house, and saw the flute players and the noisy crowd wailing, He said to them, “Make room, for the girl is not dead, but sleeping.” And they ridiculed Him. But when the crowd was put outside, He went in and took her by the hand, and the girl arose. And the report of this went out into all that land.”
Blind Men See
“When Jesus departed from there, two blind men followed Him, crying out and saying, “Son of David, have mercy on us!” And when He had come into the house, the blind men came to Him. And Jesus said to them, “Do you believe that I am able to do this?”They said to Him, “Yes, Lord.” Then He touched their eyes, saying, “According to your faith let it be to you.” And their eyes were opened. And Jesus sternly warned them, saying, “See that no one knows it.” But when they had departed, they spread the news about Him in all that country.”
Man Delivered from the hold of demons
“As they went out, behold, they brought to Him a man, mute and demon-possessed. And when the demon was cast out, the mute spoke. And the multitudes marveled, saying, “It was never seen like this in Israel!” But the Pharisees said, “He casts out demons by the ruler of the demons.””
I’d like to think that whenever God moves and does something obvious to us that we would love it. But the truth of the matter is that whenever He does something that’s obvious to everyone, a great divide opens up. You have to stand on one side of that divide or the other. One side is yes, I believe that God is not only real but that I’m changed because of it. The other is no, I’m closing my eyes and not believing God is real and moving, so I’m going to attack what I’ve just seen or ignore it and go my way.
What happened in each of these miraculous interventions of God? Some people were changed for the better and glorified God with what little or much they knew of Him.
Verse 8 “Now when the multitudes saw it, they marveled and glorified God, who had given such power to men.”
As you read the other instances you see that there were those who responded similarly after seeing what God had done.
But here, in this chapter, there’s an emphasis on the other reaction.
After the paralytic was healed: verse 3 “And at once some of the scribes said within themselves, “This Man blasphemes!””
At Matthew’s celebration dinner: verse 11 “And when the Pharisees saw it, they said to His disciples, “Why does your Teacher eat with tax collectors and sinners?””
When the girl was raised from the dead: verse 24 “He said to them, “Make room, for the girl is not dead, but sleeping.” And they ridiculed Him.”
When the blind men were healed: verse 30b-31 “Jesus sternly warned them, saying, “See that no one knows it.” But when they had departed, they spread the news about Him in all that country.”
When the man was delivered from demonic bondage: verse 34 “But the Pharisees said, “He casts out demons by the ruler of the demons.””
It was implied that there was a similar reaction to the woman with the issue of blood. She had just made every person she touched on the way to Jesus, including Jesus Himself, ceremonially unclean and unable to participate in any temple worship until they were cleansed. She certainly ruffled some feathers that day.
So what can we gain from this? Simply put, as much as you may think you can go back to your ordinary life and way of living after experiencing God and His Presence; you cannot. Every time God speaks to you, acts for you or someone near you, a chasm opens up, the highway splits and you’ll land on one side of the great divide or the other. To ignore the choice is to not choose God.
Oh, I’m going to choose the Lord’s side of the expressway! That’ll be the easy way, the way strewn with flowers and with the sun shining.
If you choose to stand on God’s side when He moves, will it be smooth and rosy?
That’s what chapter 10 is all about. It starts out with Jesus sending out the 12 disciples to do what He did in villages and towns where He would be coming. In other words, He was preparing them for a life that would see God move.
When they returned, He had a talk with them. Yes, they were thrilled with what had happened. Healings, deliverance, response to the message preached. So here, in part, is what He said to them.
“Do not think that I came to bring peace on earth. I did not come to bring peace but a sword. For I have come to ‘set a man against his father, a daughter against her mother, and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law’; and ‘a man’s enemies will be those of his own household.’ He who loves father or mother more than Me is not worthy of Me. And he who loves son or daughter more than Me is not worthy of Me. And he who does not take his cross and follow after Me is not worthy of Me. He who finds his life will lose it, and he who loses his life for My sake will find it.”
If you think that standing with God is a smooth rosy road, I’m sorry it isn’t that way all the time. But is it worth it? Absolutely. The reason there’s flack? Because those who choose the other side of the line can’t bear your choice and the Lord behind it.
Jesus is the Great Divide.