One of the great phrases I use from Dallas Willard is this: “There is a cost to following Jesus. There is a cost to not following Jesus.” We need to weigh both costs.
The Gospel of Matthew does this by presenting the Sermon on the Mount (where the proclamation is made) and then watching Jesus in action in Chapter 8 (where the demonstration is made). Is he worth following?
By the end of Chapter 8, we have have a lot of short stories giving us pictures of what Jesus taught in the previous 3 chapters. At the end of the chapter we have the story of Jesus freeing a demon-possessed man that everyone else had ignored (and tolerated).
Some thoughts from NT Wright on this passage:
The point of this story, then, is that the Jesus who has authority to teach people, as he was doing in the Sermon on the Mount, also has authority over disease both close at hand and at a distance; over the lives of people who want to follow him; and over the winds and waves on the lake, and over the shadowy forces of evil, however we think about them or describe them. That’s what we need to know as we ourselves sign on to follow him. He isn’t just somebody with good ideas. He isn’t just somebody who will tell us how to establish a better relationship with God. He is somebody with authority over everything that the physical world on the one hand, and the non-physical world on the other, can throw at us. This is a Jesus we can trust with every aspect of our lives.
Wright, T. (2004). Matthew for Everyone, Part 1: Chapters 1-15 (pp. 93–94). London: Society for Promoting Christian Knowledge.
Matthew is bringing us to a place where he drops this thought: “What do you think so far? Is Jesus worth following?”