I'll set the scene for you as I write this article, which I feel the need to add is an article that popped into my mind about an hour ago as I sit at my desk and write it out: It is Thanksgiving week, assignments have been given, there is little time to knock them out before it is time to go home for break, there is cleaning to get done in the campus house in which I live and to pack up for tomorrow's drive, and there is still more to get done before bedtime. That is where yours truly is at at the time I write this article. Nevertheless, I am more than overjoyed to write this article and my prayer is that it works to encourage you, bless you, and draw you nearer in your affections for and your joy in the Lord Jesus Christ.
The following are direct quotes, some with added commentary that came to mind as I quoted them, from my notebook that I use to journal my Bible studies. Yesterday's study was in the Gospel of Matthew, chapter 8. Here are my notes on Matthew 8 from Monday, November 19, 2018, at 6:30 am:
1. "Jesus Christ, the Son of God, displayed often in His life and ministry that He was sovereign over human lives and that it was He who could powerfully heal what so greatly ails us, bodily (in the leper in this case) and, in the cross, spiritually and religiously." (Matt. 8:3)
To clarify, when I say "religiously," I mean to say that Jesus came to atone for our sins upon the cross so that we may be purchased by Him for a new life wherein we are brought into the true, genuine Christian religion rather than man-made, works-based religion that we naturally enslave ourselves to in our unwillingness in our depravity to believe in God, taking humble refuge in Him. Christianity is a religion in a world of religions. It is just the only one that is true and the only way to genuinely get into it is by grace through faith in Jesus )Christ.
2. "The leper, as it seems to read in the text, trusted in Jesus' power and in Jesus' wisdom when he prayed for healing from his sad state. He calls Jesus 'Κύριε' or 'Lord,' which often connotes Jesus' divinity in its 120 occurrences in the New Testament, so perhaps he knew Him to be the divine Messiah-the Christ." (Matt. 8:2)
This leper who trusted in Jesus and was healed by Jesus seems to be another one of the many of New Testament characters that rightly perceived Jesus to be more than a mere man.
3. "Jesus, then and now in Heaven at the right hand of the Father, is so unlike us. Where Jews of His day likely and understandably would only begrudgingly help a Roman, their oppressor and a symbol of what they hated, Christ showed grace, kindness, and goodwill toward the centurion. He praised the faith that God had brought about in the man's heart too, proclaiming the heart of God for the nations. Not all Israel was true Israel and Jesus' life illustrated that point abundantly." (Matt. 8:10-12)
As my favorite and pastor and modern theologian John Piper said in one of his more recent sermons, "Jesus Christ is not a tribal deity. He is the creator of the universe!"
4. "Over physical pain and the emotional it causes, over the world of devils that seek to oppress and harm the saints and possess the lost, over the world and its ungodly jeering, Jesus Christ reigns in complete lordship and His Word is almighty." (Matt. 8:16)
5. "Jesus Christ doesn't respect greater love for family than for Him. The text makes that crystal clear." (Matt. 8:21-22)
Yesterday I was reflecting further on this text and posted the following to my Facebook page: "The Lord Jesus Christ has granted us not one bit of wiggle room here and this is an excellent, heavenly truth: there is no enterprise more immediately important to pursue than to be about the business of God in Gospel ministry. Not family matters, not matters of country, not matters of work, not matters of self. It indeed is essential that those who profess faith in Jesus Christ be fervent about pursuing labor in the ministry of reconciliation, which is the Gospel of Jesus Christ." This meditation and the thought I penned in my notebook were largely aided by the considerations of the theologian John Gill in his commentary over this text.
6. "An observation I have while looking over Matthew 8:28-34 is that it appears that demon possession was somewhat widespread in the world of Ancient Palestine, as the Lord Jesus Christ seemed to constantly be casting devils out of people. I don't recall occurrence of such a phenomenon being mentioned in the Old Testament, though perhaps what seems like oppression in those texts may indeed be speaking of possession. This is very intriguing." (Matt. 8:28-34)
7. "Interestingly enough, the Gospel According to Matthew is far from a heavily mythologized, largely fictional tale of some hero named Jesus of Nazareth, like something you'd see in the Iliad, say. No, in this as well as the other three Gospels, we have ancient biographies-eyewitness accounts of Jesus' life and ministry. Rather than reading a myth of some Greco-Roman demi-god (one that has no more authority over us than do stories of Romulus or Hercules), in Christ, we are reading an eyewitness account. Christ was seen by man and men saw Him to be sovereign Lord of all things." (all of Matthew 8)
Years of study in the discipline of Christian apologetics has greatly encouraged and edified my Christian faith and I give the study of apologetics a hearty commendation to all people in the church. Studying apologetics has the ability to powerfully equip the follower of Jesus to give an account for the hope and joy that they have in the Lord, as the Bible instructs us to do. A great book to read to begin engaging in the study and practice of apologetics is The Case For Christ by Lee Strobel.