We pick up our reading in the Gospel of Matthew with Jesus having completed His Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5-7). From now to His death on the cross, a throng of people will follow Jesus as He preaches and performs miracles throughout Galilee, Samaria, and Judea.
Matthew 8 – Three healing miracles are recorded in Matthew 8 that attest to Jesus’ divine power and authority over nature.
The first miracle was the healing of a leper (8:2-4) who came to Jesus expressing his faith saying, “Lord, if thou wilt, thou canst make me clean” (8:2). Down through history, leprosy has been a dreaded skin disease, one that eventually eats away at the flesh and appendages. Leprosy was an incurable disease and a leper’s life was that of an outcast. Alienated from his family and society, the leper was a miserable, hopeless soul (Isaiah 1:5-6). The leperous man, coming with faith and seeking compassion, was immediately cleansed and made whole (8:3).
The second miracle was the healing of a Roman centurion’s slave (8:5-13). A centurion was the commander of one hundred soldiers, and he was no doubt living in Capernaum as a peacekeeper of Rome. Unlike a typical, battle-hardened Roman soldier, the Centurion had become sympathetic to, if not a proselyte of, Judaism. The Jews said of him, “he loveth our nation, and he hath built us a synagogue” (Luke 7:5); thus endearing himself to the Jews of Capernaum.
While the Centurion’s position and good works were commendable, they were not the essential qualities we find concerning his character in this passage. Notice the Centurion was a man of humility. In spite of his position, he came to Jesus confessing, “I am not worthy” (8:8-9). Humility is rare in the world, especially among the rich and powerful; however, knowing his servant was dying, the Centurion humbled himself and came to Jesus.
Consider also the evidence of the Centurion’s faith that was demonstrated in his request: “Speak the word only, and my servant shall be healed” (8:8). His was a remarkable faith that Jesus commended as superior to the faith He had found among His own people (8:10b). Predicting the Gospel would be received by many Gentiles, Jesus foretold the Centurion was one of many who would become citizens of heaven (“many shall come from the east and west” – 8:11), while many Jews (“children of the kingdom”) would reject Jesus and be sentenced to “outer darkness: [where] there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth” (8:12). Confirming his faith in Jesus, the Centurion’s servant was healed (8:13).
I close with what I will describe as a First Claim Principle (8:19-22).
Two men came to Jesus and proposed to become His disciples. One man turned back when he was told a disciple must be willing to sacrifice earthly possessions and comforts (8:19-20). A second man came, desiring to be numbered among Jesus’ disciples, he proposed to wait for his father to die before following Jesus.
First Claim Principle: No man can be a disciple, a true follower of Christ, unless he is willing to sacrifice his personal ambitions and plans to follow Him (8:18-22).
Copyright 2020 – Travis D. Smith