The Amazing Power of Jesus
Why Men Miss Christ
Matthew 8:16-22
         
It’s always been an amazement to me that people miss Jesus.  I called Robert Kellogg, president of the Baptist Foundation,  this week to make sure he was aware of the death of Gary Gosdin.  Bro. Gary served as business administrator at First Baptist and had some responsibilities with the Foundation and I knew Robert would want to know.
 
In the course of our conversation, Robert said he didn’t know how people without Christ faced death.  That caused me to think about something that I’ve experienced quite often.  The most lost among us, when a death occurs, will call the preacher and the church for the funeral. 
 
Why is it that people think they need a preacher at death, but never bother to think about it before death?  What causes people to think about the Lord when they’ve died, and not before? 
 
Why do people miss Jesus?  What is it that keeps people from Christ?
 
In some ways it is utterly incredible that people continually reject and refuse to acknowledge the lordship of Jesus Christ. In some ways it is beyond understanding that people would reject Jesus Christ as the Savior, the incomparable, matchless, lovely, gracious Son of God, the Savior of the world, who died for men is still despised by men today as He was when He first came.
 
And as you study the gospel of Matthew it becomes very apparent to you that the unbelief and the rejection of people flies in the face of all that Christ has done, for His credentials are obvious. The proof of His personhood as God in human flesh is beyond any contradiction. His words, His works, His death, His resurrection all of these things speak loudly, they speak clearly, they speak unmistakably of the reality that He is the Christ of God, the Savior of the world.
 
And yet, it says in John 1, "He came unto His own and His own received Him not."
 
They saw His power; they recognized His authority.  They witnessed the miracles; His love was unmistakeable.  He fed them; He healed them; He taught them; He even raised the dead before them. 
 
Everything about Him was astounding. Everything about Him was astonishing. Everything about Him was humanly unexplainable and superhuman.  And they saw it all. Is it any wonder then that in Mark 6:6 it says, "Jesus marveled at their unbelief."
 
Why? How can you be exposed to such an infinite number of convincing credentials and walk away? How can it be?
 
For some, they love sin more than they love Jesus.  And those people never get too close to Jesus.  They run the other way.
 
But then there's another category of people and they're the kind that see the attractiveness of Jesus, the charisma, the power, and they're attracted to that. They're the thrill seekers.
They want to get in on the action and so they so up and they linger and they hang around and the church has them today too. And they may claim to be born again. And they may say, "We follow Jesus," and they're attracted by the wonder of His person, but they're just as lost as the ones who turn and run from the light. And we're going to meet three of them tonight. 
 
To set the scene, let's begin at verse 16.
 
Matthew has just recorded three miracles.  IT is very possible they all occurred on the same day.  Jesus concluded the marvelous masterful Sermon on the Mount in Chapters 5 through 7. People were astounded at His authority. The very teaching itself attracted a crowd. He had already many healings.  And so by now, the crowd was massive and following him around Galilee.
 
And we pick it up the story in verse 16.
 
Now why did He heal them all? Why did He heal people at all?  We could say it was because of His compassion and we would be right. He had compassion on people. He despised disease because He knew disease was a result sin. So, no doubt, compassion was involved. 
 
But there is more than that. He healed them, I think, to give them a preview of His kingdom. You want to know what will happen when Christ sets up His eternal kingdom? There will be no more death. There will be no more sorrow. There will be no more pain. There will be no more sickness and here He comes banishing disease from Palestine, raising the dead. These are all previews of His eternal kingdom.
But there's a third reason why He healed and it is given in
 
verse 17
 
Now the Old Testament had predicted that the Messiah would come and the prophets had said many things about the Messiah and when Jesus came, He fulfilled them all. 
 
And one of the things the Messiah would do would be to deal with disease and sickness. Jesus was going to do that. And here He is giving them a taste of that.
 
So the King is on the scene, He is compassionate toward their diseases and heals them, just as was prophesied, and they have the opportunity to witness it up close and personal.  So how did people respond? 
 
Many turned and walked away.  They refused to accept Jesus as Messiah and they missed it. 
 
But there were some others who got close and still missed it.  Something kept them from genuine conversion. 
 
verse 18
 
They were on the western shore of the Sea of Galilee. The crowd was becoming so massive; the Lord was weary in His physical body. He needed time for prayer and refreshment, so He said, "I think we'd better leave, and He commanded them to depart to the other side."
Now when He did that it immediately pressed the issue of commitment with certain people because by then He had a lot of people following Him. In fact, Mark tells us that when He went on His little boat a bunch of other little boats went behind Him like a little flotilla following along.
 
So some people were brought to the point of commitment.  “Do I get in the boat or do I stay? What do I do?”
 
In this follow-up to the first three miracles, there are three classic examples of why people miss Jesus.  And those are the people we meet in the next verses. 
 
The first man was so interesting, but he never came to true salvation because he wanted
 
1. Personal Comfort
 
Verse 19
 
That sounds good, doesn’t it?   He could sing that song: “Follow, follow.  I will follow Jesus.  Anywhere, everywhere, I will follow Him!”
 
And I’ll bet Peter was saying, “Hey we've got a live one, Lord, and guess what, he is a scribe!”
 
The scribes were the authorities in the law. They had the official sanction of the Pharisees. They were qualified by Jewish authority to teach. Highly educated men who were loyal to the system.
 
And generally speaking, they were hostile to Christ.
So this is quite an accomplishment for Jesus!  What a great report at the pastor’s conference on Monday morning!  We had a scribe come last night!
 
And notice how he greets Jesus:  “Teacher”.
 
What an affirmation. I will unconditionally continuously follow you wherever you go. You got me for good. What a tremendous statement of dedication, permanent commitment. I'm sure the scribe thought Jesus was the greatest teacher he'd ever heard. They all marveled at that. I'm sure that when he saw these miracles he said, "This is of God. This is something else. This is unbelievable. This is attractive. I want to get close to this guy. Man wherever this guy is going I want to go. He's irresistible."
 
Now if this guy showed up today we'd say, hey, great, we’re glad you’re here!  We're anxious to get you involved.  If we ever have Deuteronomy as our January Bible study , you can teach it!
 
But Jesus wasn't so eager. Listen to what He said to him.
 
Verse 20
 
What!  Where did that come from?  Foxes, how did they get into this? And birds?  What do they have to do with this guy commitment to the Lord?
 
That little saying was just a little proverbial phrase.  It was Jesus’ way of saying.  Do you really understand what you’re saying?  You’re talking about following me and I don’t even have a home to go to. 
 
John 7 reminds us that when everyone else went to their house, Jesus went to the Mount of Olives."
He didn't have a house and He spent the night lying on the ground in prayer with the Father. I
 
He didn't have any personal comforts. He didn't have any worldly possessions. He didn't have anything to offer this guy.
 
So why did He bring that up to this guy who’s shown an interest in following Him?  Because He could read his mind and He knew what the guy's hang up was. The guy was saying, "Man, my life is full and rich and I got all I want and my lifestyle satisfies me and I just want to add you to my lifestyle. I don’t want to mix anything, but I also don’t want to give anything up. 
 
And Jesus refuses to cash in on a moment's popularity.
 
This scribe saw Jesus and he was magnetized. But Jesus knew human nature. He knew it was fickle. He knew it was instable. He knew it was self-centered. He knew that human nature hungered for sensations. It was just a flash in the pan kind of emotional response. 
 
And I find it interesting that the next verse says nothing about this man.  You know why?  Because he’s not around! 
 
You know what the next verse says? It doesn't say anything about him. You know why? He isn't around. He left in the white space between verses 20 and 21.
 
He's gone. Isn't Jesus unlike us? We sugar coat the message.
We want to make it so everybody can get in as easy as possible. After all, it’s all about growing the church and getting new members.  But Jesus makes it so hard to keep them out, unless they have a genuine commitment.
 
There's a price to pay to be a Christian. This guy wasn't willing to pay the price. He just wanted to add excitement to his life. So, Jesus drove him away.
 
You see people who want personal comfort, they want to do their thing, they want to have their cake and eat it too, they just want to add Jesus to their already established life pattern, He refuses them.
 
There's a second person in this chapter. The first one didn't get entrance into the kingdom because he wanted personal comfort. The second one wanted
 
2. Personal Riches
 
verse 21
 
Now the word disciple is not an official word with a capital D. It simply means learner, follower, and at this particular point He's got a lot of people following Him of all different levels. And another one of these followers said to Him, "Lord, permit me to go first and bury my father."
 
Now at first glance, that sounds like a reasonable request, doesn’t it?  After all, you can’t just leave the old guy just lying around dead.  Got to get him in the ground.  It’s the proper thing to do.  And by the way, the Jews didn't embalm so when somebody died you really had to get him in there fast.
There’s another angle on that.  The  Jews used to teach you needed to mourn for your father and mother thirty days when they died.  So maybe he's talking about how he needs a month to get his act together.  After all, Genesis tells us that the last responsibility of a son in his final act of devotion to his parents was to make sure that he cared for their burial.
 
It sounds like a very reasonable request. He knows the Lord is getting in a boat and about to leave and he says, "I just can't come, but I'll try to catch you later after I bury my father."
 
But there's a lot more here than meets the eye, because the phrase “I must first go and bury my father” is a colloquial phrase that appears in the Middle East even in contemporary times.
 
Not too long ago, a missionary in the Middle East told about a conversation with a young Turkish man. He was going a trip and asked this young convert to accompany him thinking it would be a good opportunity to disciple him. 
 
The young man responded by saying, "I must first of all bury my Father." And the missionary said, "Oh, I’m sorry.  I had no idea he'd died. I hope I wasn't insensitive." He said, "Oh no, he isn't dead. He's not dead. That's just a phrase we use. My father is very much alive. I just have to stick around and fulfill my responsibility till he passes on. And then, I will receive my inheritance."
 
And that is exactly what we have here in Matthew 8. 
 
I’m just waiting for my inheritance.  After all, daddy’s not all that well, and if I can be entitled to the whole inheritance, then just thinkabout how helpful I can be to you!
 
And notice how Jesus responds.
 
Verse 22
 
Now again, from our vantage point, that is either an insensitive statement or a foolish statement?  After all, who would be so callous as to not let a son be at his daddy’s funeral?  And how in the world can the dead bury the dead anyway?
 
So in the first sense, the old boy wasn’t dead!  Probably not even sick, if the true were known.  So Jesus is not insensitive.   
 
And in the second, obviously dead people can't bury dead people unless the first kind of dead are spiritually dead. And that's exactly what he's saying.
 
Let the spiritually dead bury their physical dead and if you look at Luke’s version, he adds, "You go and preach the kingdom of God."
 
And what Jesus is saying is, “The real issues of following me are not found in burying dead people.  I’m not about death; I’m about life. Let the secular world deal with death issues and we’ll deal with life.
You have been called to the kingdom of God.”
 
He's not saying Christians are forbidden to go to funerals. He's not saying if you're a Christian you're not supposed to make sure your father or mother get buried.
What He is saying is, If you are going to follow me, then the affairs of the world are not your primary responsibility.  You are called to a living kingdom.  Just make sure your priorities are right.”
 
So how did this man respond?  He’s not there either.  He left somewhere between verse 22 and 23.
 
Why? Personal possessions were the big thing to him. He had waited a long time for his piece of the action. He wasn't bailing out now.
 
It might be attractive to follow along and watch Jesus at work, but not to the point of sacrificing his personal riches. 
 
Then there was a third guy who came that day.  Matthew doesn't tell us about him but Luke does.
 
We find him in Luke 9:61-62
 
Now here we find one who couldn’t commit because of
 
3. Personal Relationships
 
Now with this one, Jesus answers with a proverb that dates back to 800 B.C. History attributes it to a man Hessed. It was a very common proverb in the day and its basic meaning was “it's very difficult to plow a straight furrow when you're looking backwards.”
 
 I would guess that's fairly true, wouldn't you? I've done a little bit of plowing in my time, both with a hand plow in the garden and a two-bottom behind the tractor. 
 
And I can tell you I had a hard enough time plowing a straight line looking at where I was going, much less looking behind me!
 
He says, “I need to go say my goodbyes to those at the house”.  Who is at the house?  Probably not a wife and kids, but a mom and dad.
 
What we have here are the proverbial apron strings. 
He was under the pressure, power, influence, domination of his parents and Jesus knew that if he went back there he would never come back.
 
There are a lot of people like that. They'd come to Christ but they're afraid of what their family might say, what their family might do, what their father might say. They're afraid to be alienated and so they stay in a false religious system, or they keep back from Christ out of fear. Maybe they just show up now and then at church, just kind of peek in and they're trying to plow a furrow looking backwards.
 
But there comes a time when you have to decide for yourself whether following Jesus is worth it or not. 
 
That’s what Jesus was talking about in Matthew 10:34-37
 
If you’ve got something that holds you back from full commitment to Christ, whatever it is, including family, you are not fit to enter the kingdom of God.
 
And because this man could not commit all, Jesus offered him nothing. 
 
Personal relationships, personal riches, personal comfort, all stand in the way of making a commitment to Christ. 
 
There was an old master back in the days of slavery who one day came to one of his slaves and said, "You have a joy and a happiness that I wish I had." He said, "What is it?" He said, "It's Jesus Christ." He said, "I want the Christ that you have." The slave said, "Then go put your white suit on and come down and work in the mud and you'll meet Him." He said, "I wouldn't do that. It's beneath my dignity." A year later he came back to the slave and he was in deeper problems and he said, "I want what you have." He said, "What I have is Jesus Christ." He said, "Well how can I know Christ like you do?" He said, "You put your white suit on, you come down and work with us in the mud and you'll meet Him." He said, "I won't do that."
 
In desperation some time later he came back a third time and he said, "I have to have what you have." And he said, "Well you know how, you get your white suit on and you come down and you work with us in the mud and you'll meet Him." And the master said, "I'll do it." The slave said, "You don't have to." "What do you mean you don't have to?" "You just have to be willing, that's all."
 
You see the Lord may not want to take away your personal comforts. He may not want to take away your personal possessions. He may not want to take away your personal relationships, but you have to be willing to let him if He wanted to. That's the affirmation of His Lordship in your life.
 
If you come saying, "I'll come but I'm hanging on to this, I'm hanging on to this, I'm hanging on to this and you give Him half a heart you get nothing. If you offer Him everything He may allow you to keep the portion. He may give you more than you have. It's the willingness that is the issue.
 
These three walked away and as William MacDonald said, “they left Christ to make a comfortable place for themselves in the world and to spend their rest of their lives hugging the subordinate."
 
What a statement. Are you a true disciple? Have you looked at the evidence? People through the centuries have marveled at Jesus' authority, His words, His works, His wisdom, His purity, His truthfulness, His power, His provision, His healing, His love, His dominance, His judgment, His composure, His teaching, His independence, His condescension. They've marveled, they've been overwhelmed, they've been astounded, but they've walked away lost because they never came on His terms.
 
Listen to this statement:  "The saddest road to hell is the one that runs under the pulpit, past the Bible, and through the middle of warnings, and invitations."
 
I hope you hear what the Spirit of God is saying.
 
Let’s pray.
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