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The great disrupter: what Jesus do we follow? A Bible Study on Matthew 8

September 23, 2020

Notes from an amazing Bible Study 

DADS Bible StudyEvery week, I have the gift of participating in a very remarkable Bible study with 25 to 30 other men, from very diverse backgrounds, through an organization called  DADS.  Currently we are constrained to meet on Zoom, but that hasn’t reduced the depth of our interaction. A few weeks ago, our study brought us to Matthew 8. Typing as quickly as possible, and without identifying names of contributors in order to honor our commitment to confidentiality, here’s a summary of what people shared. I’ve tried to note exact statements with quotation marks and italics.

Clearly, we are living in an age of deep disruption. The economic, social, and political upheaval being experienced here in Seattle, throughout our nation, and around the world are hopefully deeper and more far-reaching than anything we’ve seen before. As always, the question we are asking is what is God doing in the midst of this?

In order to answer that, we need to clarify in what God do we believe? Matt 8.27 provides a good question for us. The disciples asked, regarding Jesus, ‘What sort of man is this?’”

Here are people’s reflections: “I get that question. Who is this man? He doesn’t seem to have common sense. He seems insensitive to the acceptable way of doing things, and even to people’s financial, family, and emotional needs. We want him to be our servant, to take care of us, and to provide for our financial, emotional, physical, and spiritual needs. Yet, that doesn’t seem to be his priority.”

“I wonder, does Jesus really knows us and cares about us. In response, I wonder if the issue is not how much Jesus knows me and provides for what I want, but how much do I know Jesus and live according to his will.”

“In V 29 we see that even the demons know Jesus better than the disciples: ‘What do you have to do with us, Son of God?’”

We then looked at the text and listed ways that Jesus demonstrates his authority. Throughout chapter 8 we see ways Jesus demonstrates that he is Lord. He has authority unlike anything ever seen.

  • He commands diseases (leprosy, and the illness of Peter’s mother-in-law) to go and they go.
  • He commands storms to stop and they stop.
  • He commands the crowds to leave and they depart.
  • He commands demons to get out and they flee. “Jesus has authority over the demonic principalities and powers, systems and structures that prevail in our society and world.” “It seems to me that the US criminal justice system exercises demonic power over people.” “And yet, it was through seven years in prison that I had my own ‘great disruption’ and finally gave my life to Jesus.”

The Real Jesus is the great disrupter of the ways our societies organize position, privilege and power in order to establish new kingdom of justice and equity. Will we follow this Jesus into something better, more equitable and just? Or will we create an idol to protect our position and privilege? Or will we ask God simply to rearrange the old order to create different ways to structure power and privilege to advantage some at others’ expense?

If we are following the real Jesus, we will be engaged in redemptive disruption, and choose and follow leaders who disrupt the current ordering of power and privilege that only benefit some, so that our society is committed to the common good

We reviewed the 1st half of Mt 8 and reminded ourselves of how the chapter confronts us with a Jesus who affirms the faith of non-Jews and challenges Jewish ordering of who is to be considered an insider and who’s an outsider, who is privileged and who can be ignored, who is clean and who is unclean.

  • V1 leper—touches and heals unclean
  • V 5 centurion—affirm his faith as greater than anyone he’s seen in Israel
  • V 14 Peter’s mother in law—touch woman

Then we listed ways the 2nd half causes us to question if this is really the one we want to follow. We were struck by the truth that this Jesus doesn’t do what we want a nice God to do, provide for us and protect us. He disrupts our established order of power and privilege

  • V 20 security: no where to lay head
  • V 22 position: led dead bury dead
  • V 25 protection: “master, don’t you care that we’re perishing?” To which Jesus says, in V 26 why are you afraid about your circumstances
  • V 34 when people’s prosperity and entire way of life were threatened, they begged him to leave. “It seems to me that here we have one of the most honest statements in the Bible, v. 34 “They begged Jesus to leave their neighborhood.” “Will I come close to Jesus, or will I push him away?”

So how do we deal with principalities and powers, and with demonic social structures?

 “When Jesus healed the demoniac, he told him to go home—rather than to leave everything and come with Jesus.” “Go back to bring healing and well-being there”

 “Sometimes it’s there, in my ordinary daily interactions, that it is hardest to follow Jesus. “If I’m committed to doing what’s right, how will I have the capacity to persist in doing what’s right while people keep telling me to keep quiet, or that it’s wrong”

 “We need to remember that our weapons are the armor of God, not weapons of flesh”  “The Son of Man came to destroy the works of the devil. This is the root of the great disruption.”

 In response, one man gave an extended personal reflection: “OK then, how do I follow this Jesus as a black man in an open carry state? Loyalty is a big value to me. I’m not afraid of the police, but of white privilege. I’m afraid living in an open carry state. Twice in the past week I’ve been confronted by white men, who threatened me. One time, I pulled up at gas station first, but a white man behind me wanted me to back out and let him be there first. As a black Christian, I didn’t feel like I had any other option but to back up, and not defend myself. As a Christian, because that’s the way of Jesus. As a black man, because otherwise I could get shot or arrested.

 “When I go to protest, it’s not just for George Floyd. I’m protesting everything that ever happened to me over my lifetime, living in a white supremacy world.”

 “I’m not afraid of being killed. When I began to follow Christ, I’ve asked him to take me home for I’m tired of being here. Rather, I’m afraid because as a Christian, I live with other people who call themselves Christian but who seem to be following their white privilege rather than Jesus.  The Jesus I read about taught people to obey everything he taught.  It seems to me that white privilege Christians want Jesus to help others obey whatever will protect their white position and privilege. So I’m afraid because I fear I might react as an injured black man rather than as someone who has already died to myself as a follower of Christ. I’m afraid I will retaliate, seek revenge, and defend myself.

 “What Jesus do I follow? It seems every white supremacist claims to be a Christian. The guy in the gas station who ordered me to move, and was packing a gun, had a Christian bumper sticker on his car. To I follow and obey their Jesus, or the one I about read in the Bible?

 “I want to see them following Jesus on the streets saying that all this racist crap is wrong. I don’t see that Jesus on the streets and it bugs me. It gives me problem with my faith. I don’t see white Christians loudly disputing that—showing me on the streets the Jesus of the Bible. And so this brings me to issues of loyalty. First, I’ve sworn loyalty to Jesus. Second, he orders me to be loyal to Christians, and trying to be loyal to white supremacist Christians hurts a lot. So, it’s very hard for me to be a Christian. I feel like all I can do is say “Yes master”, close my mouth, back up my car, and shut up. Third, if I retaliate, I break my loyalty to my daughters, because I promised them that they would never get another phone call from me saying I’m in jail because I lost my temper.”

 “How do we live as black Christians in an open carry state, and continue to be of good cheer because Jesus has overcome the world?”

We concluded by affirming that Jesus said, “Follow me”—regardless of where I lead you.

 

 

One Comment
  1. Tim, your friend’s lament as a black man brings me pain each time I re-read it.

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