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Matthew 8:18-34; Mark 4:35-5:20 Listen
Luke 9:57-62; Luke 8:19-39
In these passages, we see the following events in Jesus' ministry:
|18 Now when Jesus saw great multitudes about him, he gave commandment to depart unto the other side.
19 And a certain scribe came, and said unto him, Master, I will follow thee whithersoever thou goest.
20 And Jesus saith unto him, The foxes have holes, and the birds of the air have nests; but the Son of man hath not where to lay his head.
21 And another of his disciples said unto him, Lord, suffer me first to go and bury my father.
22 But Jesus said unto him, Follow me; and let the dead bury their dead.
|57 And it came to pass, that, as they went in the way, a certain man said unto him, Lord, I will follow thee whithersoever thou goest.
58 And Jesus said unto him, Foxes have holes, and birds of the air have nests; but the Son of man hath not where to lay his head.
59 And he said unto another, Follow me. But he said, Lord, suffer me first to go and bury my father.
60 Jesus said unto him, Let the dead bury their dead: but go thou and preach the kingdom of God.
61 And another also said, Lord, I will follow thee; but let me first go bid them farewell, which are at home at my house.
62 And Jesus said unto him, No man, having put his hand to the plough, and looking back, is fit for the kingdom of God.
This passage is among a few in the Gospels that have caused people to misunderstand some basic concepts. We're talking extreme discipleship here in this particular passage - discipleship involving physically accompanying Jesus in his earthly ministry. Let's put this passage into perspective. First of all, know this: Salvation and discipleship are not one in the same. To learn more about the difference between salvation and discipleship, click here. Discipleship should follow salvation, but they are not one in the same. Second of all: to pass on the opportunity to physically follow Jesus to the death during his earthly ministry did not mean that these people declined salvation. Jesus had already chosen his disciples for his earthly ministry. Jesus, having complete foreknowledge of events that would soon take place, discouraged these late comers from becoming his disciples at this stage of his ministry. Many over the years have misunderstood this passage to mean that one cannot serve God without forsaking family. That takes this passage out of context; that's not taught here. What is taught is that Jesus' time on earth was short; he had no home; those who follow him (literally accompany him in his journeys) at this point would be called upon to make huge personal sacrifices to follow him to his death. Here's an important concept on serving God: When God requires it, he gives you the grace to offer it.
I'm reminded of an Old Testament example to reinforce this concept. In Judges 6-7 (see notes), we find the story of Gideon - raised up by God to deliver Israel from the oppression of the Midianites. When the Midianites raise their fighting force against Israel, Gideon does likewise by raising an army of 32,000 Israeli soldiers. God wants Israel to see a miracle; a victory with an army of 32,000 will cause the Israelites to believe they did it by their own power. Gideon makes the first cut by simply offering an exemption to those soldiers who are afraid; 22,000 leave. Of the remaining 10,000 willing soldiers, Gideon gives them a test which pares the number down to 300. So, what about the 31,700 who were willing, but not chosen for this mission against the Midianites? They weren't bad people; they didn't hate God, Gideon or Israel; they just weren't right for this mission. Now...understand the call to discipleship during the earthly ministry of Jesus in light of this concept. We are not told that these people who declined this opportunity for discipleship here were bad people; they simply did not have what it takes to follow Jesus to his death. The word "fit" in Luke 9:62 comes from the Greek adjective "euthetos" meaning "well suited." Those with family obligations were not "well suited" for the mission at hand. As a matter of fact, I'm reminded of Mark 14:50, "And they all forsook him, and fled." After the garden incident, none of Jesus' disciples stood with him. If the statements of Jesus discouraging new disciples here seems overly harsh, perhaps it is because Jesus was not looking for additional to-the-death disciples.
Jesus' mother and brothers send for him (Luke 8:19-21)
Also found in Matthew 12:46-50 and Mark 3:31-35 (see notes)
The sequence of this event is a little difficult to precisely place. Luke places it in his account just prior to the storm incident (see below), but it is not tied to that incident in time frame inasmuch as Luke 8:22 begins with, "Now it came to pass on a certain day..." Based upon that phrase, Luke is not declaring any specific sequence. Nevertheless, all three synoptic accounts have been placed here and with the sequence of events in Matthew and Mark (see the notes by clicking here). Both passages take place within the same time frame, but Matthew and Mark list it as taking place at the conclusion of a challenge by the Pharisees. Both could have taken place within the space of a few hours.
|46 While he yet talked to the people, behold, his mother and his brethren stood without, desiring to speak with him.
47 Then one said unto him, Behold, thy mother and thy brethren stand without, desiring to speak with thee.
48 But he answered and said unto him that told him, Who is my mother? and who are my brethren?
49 And he stretched forth his hand toward his disciples, and said, Behold my mother and my brethren!
50 For whosoever shall do the will of my Father which is in heaven, the same is my brother, and sister, and mother.
|31 There came then his brethren and his mother, and, standing without, sent unto him, calling him.
32 And the multitude sat about him, and they said unto him, Behold, thy mother and thy brethren without seek for thee.
33 And he answered them, saying, Who is my mother, or my brethren?
34 And he looked round about on them which sat about him, and said, Behold my mother and my brethren!
35 For whosoever shall do the will of God, the same is my brother, and my sister, and mother.
|19 Then came to him his mother and his brethren, and could not come at him for the press.
20 And it was told him by certain which said, Thy mother and thy brethren stand without, desiring to see thee.
21 And he answered and said unto them, My mother and my brethren are these which hear the word of God, and do it.
When Mary and Mary's other sons, the brothers of Jesus, come to where Jesus is speaking, he uses this occasion to introduce the concept of the Body of Christ. We refer to the Body of Christ as the church, a reference to all of those who have trusted Jesus Christ as their savior by faith. Jesus makes the point here that his relatives, as God in the flesh, Savior of the world and Messiah, are not limited to those are are kin by physical ancestry, but extends to all of those who accept him by faith.
|23 And when he was entered into a ship, his disciples followed him.
24 And, behold, there arose a great tempest in the sea, insomuch that the ship was covered with the waves: but he was asleep.
25 And his disciples came to him, and awoke him, saying, Lord, save us: we perish.
26 And he saith unto them, Why are ye fearful, O ye of little faith? Then he arose, and rebuked the winds and the sea; and there was a great calm.
27 But the men marvelled, saying, What manner of man is this, that even the winds and the sea obey him!
|35 And the same day, when the even was come, he saith unto them, Let us pass over unto the other side.
36 And when they had sent away the multitude, they took him even as he was in the ship. And there were also with him other little ships.
37 And there arose a great storm of wind, and the waves beat into the ship, so that it was now full.
38 And he was in the hinder part of the ship, asleep on a pillow: and they awake him, and say unto him, Master, carest thou not that we perish?
39 And he arose, and rebuked the wind, and said unto the sea, Peace, be still. And the wind ceased, and there was a great calm.
40 And he said unto them, Why are ye so fearful? how is it that ye have no faith?
41 And they feared exceedingly, and said one to another, What manner of man is this, that even the wind and the sea obey him?
|22 Now it came to pass on a certain day, that he went into a ship with his disciples: and he said unto them, Let us go over unto the other side of the lake. And they launched forth.
23 But as they sailed he fell asleep: and there came down a storm of wind on the lake; and they were filled with water, and were in jeopardy.
24 And they came to him, and awoke him, saying, Master, master, we perish. Then he arose, and rebuked the wind and the raging of the water: and they ceased, and there was a calm.
25 And he said unto them, Where is your faith? And they being afraid wondered, saying one to another, What manner of man is this! for he commandeth even the winds and water, and they obey him.
This incident takes place on the Sea of Galilee in Northern Israel. Luke refers to it as a "lake" (Greek: limnes). This body of water is in the Jordan valley and is about 7 miles across (east to west) at it widest point. From north to south, it's about 12 miles.
This is an impressive feat for a man. But for God in the flesh...how could we expect less? This is just one miracle that separates Jesus as something more than just a Rabbi or "teacher come from God." He demonstrates power over nature itself. Mark goes into greater detail on this one than Matthew or Luke; he seems to want to impress his readers with the helplessness experienced by the disciples and their surprise that Jesus was sleeping through such a storm when they ask, "Master, carest thou not that we perish?" All three accounts point out that Jesus "rebuked the wind," but only Mark records Jesus' exact words when he says, "Peace, be still." As stated above, this is the Sea of Galilee in Northern Israel. Since they end up in the place where the demoniac of the Gadarenes is located, we conclude that Jesus and his disciples arrive on the east side of the sea.
One more point should be made here. Notice Mark 4:40, "And he said unto them, Why are ye so fearful? how is it that ye have no faith?" How does being afraid of a storm equate to "have no faith?" Let's use an Old Testament example - to Genesis 22 (see notes), the account of Abraham and Isaac. God had already told Abraham that his seed would flourish through Isaac. Therefore, when God called upon Abraham to sacrifice Isaac, Abraham's faith in God led him to follow God's instructions without fear or doubting. Why? God had already promised that Isaac (childless at that time) would be the father of Abraham's descendents through whom the promise would be fulfilled. Abraham believed that God would completely fulfill his promise, so he wasn't concerned about the details of how God would do it. Abraham just exercised his faith in God. Likewise, Jesus had already told his disciples in Mark 4:35, "Let us pass over unto the other side." The fact that they would make it to the other side had been established. So...why were the disciples afraid? Unlike Abraham, they lacked faith in the Word of God - prompting Jesus' words in Mark 4:40.
|28 And when he was come to the other side into the country of the Gergesenes, there met him two possessed with devils, coming out of the tombs, exceeding fierce, so that no man might pass by that way.
29 And, behold, they cried out, saying, What have we to do with thee, Jesus, thou Son of God? art thou come hither to torment us before the time?
30 And there was a good way off from them an herd of many swine feeding.
31 So the devils besought him, saying, If thou cast us out, suffer us to go away into the herd of swine.
32 And he said unto them, Go. And when they were come out, they went into the herd of swine: and, behold, the whole herd of swine ran violently down a steep place into the sea, and perished in the waters.
33 And they that kept them fled, and went their ways into the city, and told every thing, and what was befallen to the possessed of the devils.
34 And, behold, the whole city came out to meet Jesus: and when they saw him, they besought him that he would depart out of their coasts.
|1 And they came over unto the other side of the sea, into the country of the Gadarenes.
2 And when he was come out of the ship, immediately there met him out of the tombs a man with an unclean spirit,
3 Who had his dwelling among the tombs; and no man could bind him, no, not with chains:
4 Because that he had been often bound with fetters and chains, and the chains had been plucked asunder by him, and the fetters broken in pieces: neither could any man tame him.
5 And always, night and day, he was in the mountains, and in the tombs, crying, and cutting himself with stones.
6 But when he saw Jesus afar off, he ran and worshipped him,
7 And cried with a loud voice, and said, What have I to do with thee, Jesus, thou Son of the most high God? I adjure thee by God, that thou torment me not.
8 For he said unto him, Come out of the man, thou unclean spirit.
9 And he asked him, What is thy name? And he answered, saying, My name is Legion: for we are many.
10 And he besought him much that he would not send them away out of the country.
11 Now there was there nigh unto the mountains a great herd of swine feeding.
12 And all the devils besought him, saying, Send us into the swine, that we may enter into them.
13 And forthwith Jesus gave them leave. And the unclean spirits went out, and entered into the swine: and the herd ran violently down a steep place into the sea, (they were about two thousand;) and were choked in the sea.
14 And they that fed the swine fled, and told it in the city, and in the country. And they went out to see what it was that was done.
15 And they come to Jesus, and see him that was possessed with the devil, and had the legion, sitting, and clothed, and in his right mind: and they were afraid.
16 And they that saw it told them how it befell to him that was possessed with the devil, and also concerning the swine.
17 And they began to pray him to depart out of their coasts.
18 And when he was come into the ship, he that had been possessed with the devil prayed him that he might be with him.
19 Howbeit Jesus suffered him not, but saith unto him, Go home to thy friends, and tell them how great things the Lord hath done for thee, and hath had compassion on thee.
20 And he departed, and began to publish in Decapolis how great things Jesus had done for him: and all men did marvel.
|26 And they arrived at the country of the Gadarenes, which is over against Galilee.
27 And when he went forth to land, there met him out of the city a certain man, which had devils long time, and ware no clothes, neither abode in any house, but in the tombs.
28 When he saw Jesus, he cried out, and fell down before him, and with a loud voice said, What have I to do with thee, Jesus, thou Son of God most high? I beseech thee, torment me not.
29 (For he had commanded the unclean spirit to come out of the man. For oftentimes it had caught him: and he was kept bound with chains and in fetters; and he brake the bands, and was driven of the devil into the wilderness.)
30 And Jesus asked him, saying, What is thy name? And he said, Legion: because many devils were entered into him.
31 And they besought him that he would not command them to go out into the deep.
32 And there was there an herd of many swine feeding on the mountain: and they besought him that he would suffer them to enter into them. And he suffered them.
33 Then went the devils out of the man, and entered into the swine: and the herd ran violently down a steep place into the lake, and were choked.
34 When they that fed them saw what was done, they fled, and went and told it in the city and in the country.
35 Then they went out to see what was done; and came to Jesus, and found the man, out of whom the devils were departed, sitting at the feet of Jesus, clothed, and in his right mind: and they were afraid.
36 They also which saw it told them by what means he that was possessed of the devils was healed.
37 Then the whole multitude of the country of the Gadarenes round about besought him to depart from them; for they were taken with great fear: and he went up into the ship, and returned back again.
38 Now the man out of whom the devils were departed besought him that he might be with him: but Jesus sent him away, saying,
39 Return to thine own house, and shew how great things God hath done unto thee. And he went his way, and published throughout the whole city how great things Jesus had done unto him.
After arriving on the east side of the Sea of Galilee to a Greek-dominated region around Gadara, Jesus and his disciples come upon a man who is demon possessed. Matthew, who was probably the only one of the three writers who actually witnessed the incident first hand, points out that there were actually two men who were demon possessed. Mark and Luke just report the details of what happened to one of the two men based upon the eyewitness accounts of those disciples they later interviewed. So, while both men were demon possessed, Mark and Luke only follow up on one of the two demon-possessed men. Actually, to say that this man was demon possessed is an understatement; he is possessed by a legion of demons, a word indicating the presence of thousands of demons in this man. They had turned him into a wild man. Notice that these demons had no difficulty recognizing who Jesus was in Mark 5:7. Realizing that their time was short, these demons begin negotiations with Jesus, "How about, rather than send us out with no place to live, let us go live in those pigs over there?" You must appreciate the humor of this story. That just goes to show you how filthy demons really are! There were about 2,000 head of swine. Jesus consents and sends them into the swine. Too bad, though, that the demons didn't think their request through very carefully. The swine just can't take it; they run down into the water and commit hogocide (or perhaps sueycide). That's killing two birds with one stone - the disposal of unclean spirits with unclean animals...and all in a day's work. Incidentally, that term "hogocide" was coined by the late Dr. John R. Rice, founder of the Sword of the Lord.
Mark and Luke, probably having heard this account from several of those present that day, go into some detail regarding the aftermath of this incident. Who were these pig farmers anyway...and to whom were they selling their unclean animals? Actually, the region where this incident took place was a predominantly Gentile area known as Decapolis. These people had no problem with the pig trade. They turn out to see the man (Jesus) who performed such a miracle, but then ask him to leave. Why? Mark and Luke report that the people were afraid. Someone there had just lost 2,000 head of swine. Miracle or not, Jesus was bad for business.
Notice the careful words chosen by the writers to describe the manner in which Jesus was asked to leave:
There's no question in their minds that Jesus is bad for the hog business, but they treat him with the utmost of respect after learning what he had done to 2,000 hogs. Incidentally, the previously-possessed man wants to follow Jesus as a disciple as well, but Jesus sends him back home to testify of what happened to him. As I said earlier, Jesus is not looking for more disciples to accompany him at this point. Subsequently, Mark tells us the man "began to publish in Decapolis how great things Jesus had done for him." Decapolis, as was mentioned earlier, was a predominantly Greek area east of the Jordan River in Northern Israel.