Expository Sermon on Matthew 9 – 10
by Maylan Schurch
Bellevue Seventh-day Adventist Church 6/6/2020
©2020 by Maylan Schurch
(To watch the YouTube version of this sermon, click the following link. The sermon starts at the 58:00 mark.
Please open your Bibles to Matthew chapter 9.
Many years ago, when I was pastoring another church, I learned a very important lesson.
Back at that time, there seemed to be an unusual amount of trouble between the Israelis and the Palestinians in the news. And in one morning’s sermon—probably as an illustration about how close we were to the end of time—I mentioned the phrase “Palestinian terrorists.”
Well, I closed off the sermon, we sang the closing song, and I had closing prayer, and as usual, I walked to the rear of the sanctuary to shake hands. I was met by a young woman who fixed me with an intensely hostile gaze. She said, “Pastor, can I talk to you?”
I said, “Sure,” and led her back to my office. I had only seen this woman a couple of times, and did not know her well, so I was wondering what she had to say.
As soon as I sat down behind my desk, she let me have it with both barrels. The essence of what she said was, “Who do you think you are, talking about Palestinian terrorists? What do you know about what went on in MY country? Don’t you know that the CIA and the things they did were twice as bad as any other terrorists?”
As I sat there, humbly listening to her, I realized that, sure enough, I had not known what I was talking about. I had not lived in the same house with this woman and her family, in their country, and I did not know what they had gone through.
And I knew, sitting there listening to her, that whatever was the bottom-line truth of the matter, this woman perceived that, in her experience, the United States was not always on the side of good.
Well, of course, this was not the time to debate with her, and anyway, I had no right to debate about things I had not seen first-hand. So I just listened, and nodded, and apologized for causing her pain.
And the more she talked, and the more she realized I wasn’t going to get red in the face and pound my fist on my desk and try to refute her, the softer her tone became, and the more she admitted that there were faults on both sides, and that the Palestinians had their problems too.
But I learned my lesson that day. Don’t use words carelessly, and don’t pontificate about things you don’t know much about.
As you know, within the last week, many Americans have been gathering in awesomely huge numbers to protest the murder of George Floyd.
And those protests, of course, aren’t only about his murder, but about many, many other instances of racial injustice.
The Seventh-day Adventist church as an organization has often been cautious about getting earnestly involved in these kinds of public actions. But this time, church leaders from top to bottom are speaking out. If you’re on our church email list, you might have noticed that yesterday I sent you a powerful message from North American Division president Dan Jackson. I encourage you to read the entire message, but let me share an excerpt from the middle:
“It is time for us all to do some soul searching. If David could appeal to God to search him in order to see if there was “any wicked way in him,” it is our time to do the same. In this regard our family needs a radical change. Our church needs transformation: If change is to take place in the church then it needs to take place first in me.
“It is not OK to tolerate or propagate racial slurs, to laugh at jokes that target others because of their status, etc. Furthermore, it isn’t appropriate for us to remain silent when others suffer, are victimized and marginalized. The gospel of Jesus Christ is active. It is not passive. Martin Luther King, Jr. once said, “There comes a time when silence is betrayal. … In the end we will remember not the words of our enemies, but the silence of our friends.”
“Many have asked in recent days: “What should we do? How should we act?” Well, it is not mine — nor is it in the capacity of the church to dictate to you what you should or should not do in this time of crisis. However, our guidance should be based upon the life and teachings of Jesus. Whatever will bring dignity, and reform, and blessing to others — whatever will demonstrate true love to a broken and battered world — whatever will bring others to look to God — do these things as you are personally guided by the Holy Spirit.”
(Here’s the link to Elder Jackson’s entire message:
This morning I’d like to look through chapters 9 and 10 of Matthew. I think in the events and stories there, we will find at least four prayers you and I can pray in these troubled times. They’re not just prayers—I believe they’re action steps.
The first story, the first event in chapter 9, I covered in a recent sermon, so we won’t spend a lot of time on it, except to discover what I think is the first prayer we need to pray in these troubled times.
Matthew 9:1 – 3 [NKJV]: 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!”
It must’ve been a dramatic scene. In other gospel accounts of the story, we see this man’s friends actually breaking up roof tiles and lowering him into Jesus’ presence. So here’s this poor man, limbs perhaps twisted, certainly unable to walk, probably unable to leave his bed except to roll spasmodically off it if his caregiver needed to repace it.
The friends, of course, have brought the man to Jesus to be healed. They’ve heard that He can do miracles. But Jesus does not say, “Be of good cheer! I am about to heal you!” Instead, He says, “Be of good cheer! Your sins are forgiven!”
So we are assuming that Jesus knew that what would cheer this poor man most powerfully was knowing that he was forgiven, that he was right with God.
This was a troubling time, wasn’t it? A troubling time for the paralytic as he considered his sins, a troubling time for his friends as they hoped against hope that Jesus could work a bigger miracle than forgiveness. But it’s a troubling time, also, because of the attitude of the scribes. The verse says, “some of the scribes said within themselves, ‘This man blasphemes!’”
Maybe that’s the most troubling thing of all – the jealous, flinty hearts of the religious leaders. They seem to have no pity for the poor sufferer. As they heard Jesus forgive his sins, they didn’t listen in sympathetic silence, and pray for a healing miracle. Instead, they said within themselves, “This man (talking about Jesus) blasphemes!”
How did Jesus know they were thinking this in their hearts? He could probably read their minds. Or maybe He was so good at perceiving body language and facial expressions that He could figure out exactly how they were reacting to what He’d said.
You see, Jesus was sensitive, and they weren’t. In fact, let’s develop that into Sermon Point One. What could be our first prayer for troubling times?
Pray for Jesus’ sensitivity.
You see, back in those days, people were actually prejudiced against the disabled. They assumed that chronic disability was the fault of someone who had sinned. And this prejudice was on full display even among the disciples, over in John chapter 9:
John 9:1, 2: Now as Jesus passed by, He saw a man who was blind from birth. And His disciples asked Him, saying, “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?”
This thinking is kind of weird, of course, because if the man was born blind, he couldn’t have sinned inside the womb. But you see what they believed – disability was God’s punishment for somebody’s moral fault. But Jesus told them they were wrong. Jesus was sensitive, and they were not. And here in this story, Jesus was sensitive, and the scribes were not.
So we need to pray for Jesus’ sensitivity. And what shall we do, as we pray? Well, in order to develop sensitivity, we need to really listen to people. We need to regard each person as valuable, the way Jesus did.
We need to watch people’s faces, listen to their voices. We need to pray for them even as were listening to them. We must not shy away from conversations about discrimination. Instead, we need to open our ears and open our hearts and listen and learn.
There is a second prayer I believe we need to learn to pray. Let’s just keep reading here in chapter 9. Jesus heals the paralyzed man, and continues his journey.
Matthew 9:9: 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.
Last week I preached about Zacchaeus, who wasn’t just an ordinary tax collector like Matthew, but a chief tax collector, sort of a boss over other local tax collectors. And I mentioned last week how the average Jew hated those of his or her own race who acted as tax collectors for the Romans.
Now watch what happens.
Verses 10 – 11: 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?”
Back in those days, in that culture, when you sat down and ate a meal with someone, that signaled strongly that you were on your way to becoming close friends with that person.
The average Jewish person knew this, so he carefully kept himself or herself clear of, and clean from, contact with people who seemed to be sinners.
But not Jesus. Just as Jesus invited himself to a meal with Zacchaeus, now He cheerfully sat down with Matthew and his tax collector friends.
And the Pharisees’ comment was very troubling, in Jesus’ eyes. What was so troubling about this? It was the Pharisees’ blind spot about God’s open arms. Let’s listen to Jesus’ answer to them.
Verses 11 -13: 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.”
And now, keep your place in Matthew 9 but turn briefly over to Luke 18, where Jesus sets the record straight about tax collectors whose hearts were right.
Luke 18:9 – 14: Also He spoke this parable to some who trusted in themselves that they were righteous, and despised others: “Two men went up to the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. The Pharisee stood and prayed thus with himself, ‘God, I thank You that I am not like other men—extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even as this tax collector. I fast twice a week; I give tithes of all that I possess.’ And the tax collector, standing afar off, would not so much as raise his eyes to heaven, but beat his breast, saying, ‘God, be merciful to me a sinner!’ I tell you, this man went down to his house justified rather than the other; for everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted.”
And this is why Jesus firmly believed going to lunch with tax collectors and sinners. I think Jesus would want us to pray another prayer for these troubling times. Here comes Sermon Point Two.
Pray for Jesus’ sensitivity—and pray for Jesus’ willingness to spend time with people different from you.
I was born into a an entirely Caucasian prairie town in South Dakota. Even when I went down to Lincoln, Nebraska to teach English for a few years, my classes were filled mostly with people like me, but I did get a chance to meet some people of color.
But when I went to seminary at Andrews University, that’s when I really got exposed to many different cultures. I could walk down one sidewalk on one afternoon, and hear four different languages spoken by groups of people I passed. It was a mind-changing experience to be acquainted with, and become friends with, people from all over the world.
And there were some culture clashes, of course. I remember sitting in a music and hymnology class taught by someone who firmly believed that by far, the best religious music had been composed by Johann Sebastian Bach. I remember looking at the stony faces of ministerial students from Africa as they tried to convince this teacher that the various African cultures contained meaningful worship music as well.
So while we are praying for Jesus’ willingness to spend time with people different from Him, what shall we do? Well, I would suggest that once we get back together, come to Sabbath school and sit in a Sabbath school class. Linger in the foyer after the service is over.
On that grand and glorious day when we can have potlucks again, always come to potluck. Bring a vegetarian dish from your own culture. What an absolute joy it is for a South Dakota farm boy to find his tastebuds tantalized by foods he never thought he could like!
So pray for Jesus’ willingness to hobnob with a wide spectrum of people, and take advantage of this whenever you can.
Now back to Matthew 9 again as we continue looking for another prayer Jesus might want us to pray.
Verses 35 – 36: Then Jesus went about all the cities and villages, teaching in their synagogues, preaching the gospel of the kingdom, and healing every sickness and every disease among the people. But when He saw the multitudes, He was moved with compassion for them, because they were weary and scattered, like sheep having no shepherd.
Here comes Sermon Point Three. What’s another prayer we need to pray in these troubled times?
Pray for Jesus’ sensitivity, and pray for Jesus’ willingness to spend time with people different from you. And pray for Jesus’ “multitude compassion.”
Let me be perfectly frank with you. I’m sort of an introvert. I don’t need to be the life of the party, and I don’t even have this desperate need to go to parties.
And back in the days when I could do this, I would once in a while go over to Crossroads Mall. Sometimes I would arrive there around lunchtime, and there would be maybe 100, maybe more, people sitting at those tables eating.
And as I looked at those people who I didn’t know, it was almost frightening. I’m not scared of them, of course, but I am just so in awe of all those individual lives, those individual personalities, those individual opinions. It’s overwhelming—just as it’s overwhelming to drive by giant apartment complexes and think of all the lives inside those rooms.
But I need to pray for Jesus’ “multitude compassion.” I know that if Jesus were standing on the outskirts of one of these awesomely huge protest demonstrations we’re having now, He would have compassion on the multitudes. I need to pray for that same compassion. I also need to pray for the energy that it takes to feel that compassion. Because on my own, I feel so helpless.
So what shall I do while I’m praying this? I need to go to where these large groups are. I need to pray as I stroll through Crossroads Mall, or drive past those apartment complexes, or see the people waiting at the crosswalks. I do that whenever I think of it. And I need to ask the Lord to lead me to someone who needs me, each day.
For the last prayer, let’s go to the next chapter, Matthew 10.
This is that amazing chapter where Jesus sends His disciples out to not only teach but to do miracles.
Matthew 10:1: And when He had called His twelve disciples to Him, He gave them power over unclean spirits, to cast them out, and to heal all kinds of sickness and all kinds of disease.
Now, how many egos do you know who could handle all that power? Notice how Jesus builds in some “ego protection” in the midst of all this giddy excitement:
Verses 5 – 10: These twelve Jesus sent out and commanded them, saying: “Do not go into the way of the Gentiles, and do not enter a city of the Samaritans. But go rather to the lost sheep of the house of Israel. And as you go, preach, saying, ‘The kingdom of heaven is at hand.’ Heal the sick, cleanse the lepers, raise the dead, cast out demons. Freely you have received, freely give. Provide neither gold nor silver nor copper in your money belts, nor bag for your journey, nor two tunics, nor sandals, nor staffs; for a worker is worthy of his food.
And notice Jesus’ very interesting command in verse 16:
Verse 16: “Behold, I send you out as sheep in the midst of wolves. Therefore be wise as serpents and harmless as doves.
Other translations say, “Wise as serpents and innocent as doves.” The NIV puts a little spin on things and says, “Be as shrewd as snakes and as innocent as doves.”
Here comes the final sermon point, Sermon Point Four. What’s one more prayer for troubled times:
Pray for Jesus’ sensitivity. Pray for Jesus’ willingness to spend time with people different from you. Pray for Jesus’ “multitude compassion.” And pray for Jesus’ gentle wisdom.
Today’s news is filled with people struggling for power, people using power incorrectly and insensitively and corruptly and non-gently, people angry because they feel powerless.
The disciples knew that they had been given amazing superpowers—the bestkind of superpowers, ones that restored rather than destroyed. But Jesus said, “Stay humble, stay innocent—but stay smart. Be wise.”
So, what should we do while we pray for Jesus’ gentle wisdom? We need to remember that, as Proverbs 9:10 says, “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom.” In other words, a deep respect for, and knowledge of, God is where wisdom starts. Because when we see God for who He really is, we’ll remember that He is the Creator, and the Sustainer, and the Savior. And with that as our basic knowledge, we need not be swayed or tempted or scared by anything or anyone else.
You get to know someone by walking with them. Enoch got to know God by walking with Him. Jesus went about Palestine urging those He knew were ready to “Come, follow Me.”
How do you walk with God? Well, if you’re walking with someone, you’re going in the same direction as that person. You’re making progress. You’re heading to the same destination. You’re seeing new sights together. And you’re talking together, listening to each other’s joys, and sorrows, and dreams, or puzzles and perplexities.
Are you listening to God through His Word? Jesus reminded us that we don’t live by bread only, but by every word which comes out of God’s mouth.
Would you like to walk with God in a closer way? If that’s your desire, just raise your hand right now.