Matt. 8:18-34 – No Where to Lay His Head
As the crowds continue to gather Jesus decides to step into a boat and move to the other side of the Sea of Galilee. Upon departure a would-be follower promises to go with him anywhere, to which Jesus replies that whereas the creatures of the earth have their places, he doesn’t even have a place to lay his head or call his own. One might assume that this was said to counter the impression that Jesus was going to be a source of great power and wealth and that his followers would become benefit, get on the ground floor as it were (to use a current turn of phrase). Jesus, however, offers none of that (though he does make certain promises to his disciples, but it’s not based on wealth or earthly power).
Responsibility to ones family was central to the culture of Jesus’ time. It makes his comment, “Let the dead bury their own dead,” all the more shocking. I have been coming through a revelation regarding the importance of community and the balance of ones call with the larger needs of the group. I have seen over the last months how my walk all those years ago was hobbled and cut-short because I played the part of the rogue and spent most of my time in ministry outside the guidance and protection of a group of believers. I can see how my earlier self would have looked at verses such as 8:22 and feel okay that I seem to “manage” my walk by staying outside the care of an elder, pastor, or anyone else. I was following Jesus, by his word and that was it. The literal import of verse 22 to the contrary, I still feel that I was greatly in error in my approach. The point of verse 22 is not to call us all to cut all ties to family and community and “go it alone.” It is not use the excuse of our family and community commitments as an excuse for not following Jesus. The stumbling block is not our relationship to others, but our use of these relationships as excuses for living a life less than what He has called us to.
And so the Son of Man sets out across the lake with no place to call his own. Mid-voyage the sea rises up and frightens his followers. It must have been an exceptional storm to frighten these seasoned fishermen. When they wake the master he’s amazed at their little faith and rebuked the wind, ending the storm. These men who have already seen so much run headlong into their fears when faced by this very real storm. The picture I have in mind is that here Jesus is trying to rest (albeit, in the middle of the lake in the middle of a storm) and even here the Son of Man cannot find any rest… all because of the fears and lack of faith from those who should have known better.
Matthew has demonstrated the Master’s power over illness. With this miracle, he shows his power over the elements. When they make landfall on the other side, Jesus is confronted by another power, the two demoniacs. These two were so bad that they prevented anyone from travel where ever they happened to be. They are clearly anxious about what Jesus intends to do to them, confronting him in fear (and acknowledging that he is the Son of God). They know that they are helpless to resist him and that he’s most likely going to drive them out of the two men they’ve possess, so they plead to be sent to the herd of pigs (a curse animal, by Mosaic Law). Jesus agrees and herd drowns itself in the lake (choosing death instead of serving these two demons?). Most amazing to me is that as a result of this miracle the whole town comes out and begs Jesus to leave their shores. Instead of recognizing his tremendous power, they are afraid of what other mischief he will do, and so again the Son of Man is sent away with no where to rest his head. JBB 4/18/04