Jesus returning now from the country of the Gerasenes after having been run out by the townsfolk. You see, from their perspective, He had ruined their economy. Thousands of pigs floating dead in the water. And maybe He had. But really, the Lord would rather save one person than preserve a prosperous economy. In 1901, Robert Murray McCheyne's preaching sparked the Welsh Revival, and bunches of people were turning to God. The revival was so real, the people so repentant, that every single tavern and pub in Wales went broke. The Lord cares more about people than profits.
Now notice the contrast: Back in verse 37, the people of the Gerasenes "asked Him to depart", but these people in verse 40 welcome Him - they'd been waiting for Him. If we were to be compared to one of these groups, I hope that we would be those that welcome Him - that we are a people who are welcoming - waiting for the Lord and waiting on the Lord.
As you read Leviticus 15, you discover that anyone having contact with this woman was made ceremonially unclean. "By the very law of her people, she was divorced from her husband, and could not live in her home; she was ostracized from all society, and must not come into contact with her old friends; she was excommunicated from the services of the synagogue, and thus shut out from the women's courts in the temple." (Morgan) She was not only suffering physically, but emotionally, mentally, and spiritually.
But she had great faith. She thought, "If only I can touch Him, I'll be healed!" And she was!
Someone once said to me that this story was why they believed in the idea of "Positive Confession" taught by people like Kenneth Hagin, Kenneth Copeland, Marylin Hickey, Benny Hinn, and others. But there is a huge difference - "Positive Confession" isn't faith in Christ, it's faith in faith. Like cultic metaphysics, it teaches that you create your own reality - good or bad - by speaking it into existence.
A friend of mine took her family to a church that preached "Positive Confession". In the parking lot, she saw a girl about 12 or 13 years old being carried into the church. She was obviously in great pain. During the service, they had a time of testimonies. This young girl stood up and explained that she suffered from a horrible muscle disease that had afflicted her legs, making her unable to walk, and putting her in constant pain. She testified that during the worship service, the Lord had completely healed her! But later during the service, as my friend took her own young daughter to the restroom, there was that same girl who had testified, lying on the restroom floor, clutching her legs and writing in pain. She was crying, "Mom, it hurts, it hurts!". And her mother was yelling at her, saying, "Well, you just need to get out there and testify again!" That is the fruit of "Positive Confession".
You cannot create your own reality, you cannot claim your healing. This woman with a hemmorhage didn't have faith in faith - she had faith in Jesus. The power wasn't in confession - the power was in Christ.
In this culture, the minute someone died, musicians were hired to play in mourning ceremonies, and professional mourners were hired to wail and lament. "Even the poorest family would hire two minstrels, two flute players, and one screamer." (Courson) Matthew 9 tells us that those who laughed were these hired players and mourners. Those who laughed at Him had no personal interest in the dead girl, they were just hired to make noise.
Oftentimes, we ourselves are ridiculed when about our Father's business. We stand and lift our hands in worship, but someone sitting snickers to their friend about how foolish we look. I go to pray for people in the hospital, and those in the hallway roll their eyes at me like I'm an idiot. They have no interest in worshipping God. They have no interest in seeing sick people made well. Just as Jesus put the scoffers out of the room, so we must put the scoffers out of our minds.
Verse 55 says that "her spirit returned." At death, our spirit departs from our body. You see, the real you is your spirit, not your body. Your body is only a tent - a temporary dwelling that's getting more old and worn out by the day.
2Cor. 5:1-2 For we know that if the earthly tent which is our house is torn down, we have a building from God, a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens. For indeed in this house we groan, longing to be clothed with our dwelling from heaven
We also discover another detail about death. After the girl had died, Jesus said she was asleep. The book of Acts says that when they were stoning Steven, "he fell asleep". When David died, the Bible says he "fell asleep, and was laid among his fathers, and underwent decay" The gospel of John makes the clearest statement when Jesus says to the disciples:
John 11:11-13 ..."Our friend Lazarus has fallen asleep; but I go, that I may awaken him out of sleep." The disciples therefore said to Him, "Lord, if he has fallen asleep, he will recover." Now Jesus had spoken of his death, but they thought that He was speaking of literal sleep.
Why does the Bible refer to believers who died as being asleep? Because when we go to sleep at night, we know that we will rise up again. When someone who is a believer in Jesus Christ dies, they will arise - waking up as if from a bad dream. Oh what a glorious day that's going to be! No wonder the apostle Paul struggled between wanting to continue in his ministry, and wanting to die and be with Jesus. He said:
Phil. 1:23 ...I am hard-pressed from both directions, having the desire to depart and be with Christ, for that is very much better...
One day, we mortals will put on the immortal. We will discard the perishable, and put on the imperishable. In that day that we fall asleep, we will get rid of these worn-out tents, and move into our glorified bodies, wich Paul said were buildings compared to our tents now!
Jesus gave the twelve disciples power. "Power" in the Greek is "dunamis" - it means dynamic power, strength. It's where we get our word for "dynamite". They were given dynamic power over demons and diseases. The odd thing is, that the power didn't have to do with their faith - remember, Judas was one of the 12. Faithless and conniving, even HE was given this dynamic power. That should cause us to re-think everything that we think we know about the power of God.
The kingdom was Jesus' primary preaching. Proclaiming that there is a kingdom where God wants men to live.
Col. 1:13 ...He delivered us from the domain of darkness, and transferred us to the kingdom of His beloved Son...
The kingdom of God comes to us when we submit ourselves to God, allowing the Lord to be the King of our lives.
The disciples were instructed to do as they had seen Jesus do. Their main mission was to preach and proclaim the kingdom, but while you're preaching the kingdom, you're going to encounter people with needs. They're going to need prayer, they're going to need healing, they're going to need deliverance. This is the mission of the church still today - concentrate on preaching the kingdom, and when you encounter needs, take care of them. We must never get that backwards.
His instructions were, "don't take provisions". He was putting them in a place where they had no choice but to learn to trust God. Often, we're put in the same place: I lose my job,with no hope of finding another. A family member gets terribly sick, and the doctor's don't know what's going on. The bills are due, and I have no way to pay them. What He's doing is sending me out with no bread, no money, no extra clothes - and I have to learn to walk by faith. Why is it so important that we learn this lesson? Because:
Hebr. 11:6 ...Without faith it is impossible to please Him...
This is not the Herod that wanted to kill the baby Jesus. That was Herod the Great, the king of Judea, Galilee, Iturea, and Traconitis. This is one of his sons, Herod Antipas - the Tetrarch of Galilee and Perea. He will get his wish - he'll get to meet Jesus in chapter 23.
When Jesus said, "You give them something to eat", was He being facetious, knowing that they had nothing? No. He would provide, but it was up to them to distribute. Our ministry in life is the same. If we try to supply, to meet people's needs - we can't do it. We don't have enough time, money, energy, or emotion to even make a dent. But if we're faithful to offer the little that we do have, Jesus multiplies it. He knows we've only got enough for one - but He expects us to give it away. As we begin to use that little amount, suddenly we see it multiplied miraculously into plentiful provision.
The word "satisfied" in verse 17 is "glutted, stuffed" They were all 'Thanksgiving' full. When God provides, He supplies even more than we need.
What was Jesus' response to Peter when he said , "You are the Chirst - the Son of the Living God!" Matthew 16 tells us that Jesus said, "Yes Peter! And...
Matt. 16:18 "...upon this rock I will build My church..."
Today we see many churches that want to be built not on this statment, but on the Spirit - the oohs and aahs of spiritual things. But Jesus said He would build His church on Peter's proclamation. Beware of a church that is being built on the signs, wonders, and gifts of the Spirit. The church absolutely must be built on Jesus Christ, the Son of the Living God. If it's being built on any other foundation, it's not Jesus' church.
Take up your cross. To us today, the cross is the symbol of the resurrection of Christ. We display it on shirts, necklaces, and jewelry. But keep in mind that as Jesus speaks these words, He had not yet gone to the cross. At this time in history, the cross had no such great symbolism. To these guys living in the Roman Empire, it symbolized horrible degradation, a long and suffering death, a torturous public execution.
Now to try and translate this to our day, we might say that Jesus said, "If you want to follow me, then walk down Death Row and strap yourself into the electric chair every morning."
When you had taken up your cross, you knew that you would die that day. Now, as we go through this brief description, I don't want you to picture Jesus. I want you to picture yourself carrying this cross. You would be publicly humiliated and spit upon - because crucifixion was reserved for the lowest of criminals. Dragging yourself through the streets, then outside their city, you would be led to a place next to a frequently traveled road where many people coming and going could see. You would be laid down on their back, nailed to the wood through your wrists and feet, raised up, and dropped down into a hole several feet deep. Then, in total pain and agony, you would die of suffocation over a period of hours.
This is the Christianity that Christ has called us to. This is not a feel-good gospel, this is a total self-sacrifice of my wants, my desires, my will, my pride, my self-respect, and my self-esteem.
Read verses 23-26 over and over again. Make it your goal this week to memorize them. This is what it is to follow Christ - anything less is a watered-down, Americanized version of Christianity that is no Christianity at all. We close this morning with the words of Paul in Galatians 2:20...
Gal. 2:20 "I am crucified with Christ; nevertheless I live, yet not I, but Christ liveth in me; and the life that I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me, and gave Himself for me.
Do we really understand what that means? Jesus gave His life for us. Now it's our turn to give our lives to Him.