Scripture reading – Matthew 8
A word of explanation is in order as our chronological reading of the Scripture brings us to Matthew 8. You will notice we are momentarily passing over Matthew 5-7, but this is only a temporary adjustment. The Synoptic Gospels (the Gospels of Matthew, Mark, and Luke) describe events in the life of Christ from comparable viewpoints; however, they are not always chronological in their order. There are some who suggest that is the case with Christ’s Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5-7).
Matthew 4 concluded with Jesus ministering “throughout “Galilee, teaching in their synagogues, and preaching the gospel of the kingdom, and healing all manner of sickness and all manner of disease among the people” (4:23). As His fame grew, Jesus was followed by “great multitudes of people from Galilee, and from Decapolis, and from Jerusalem, and from Judaea, and from beyond Jordan” (4:25). The record of the LORD’s travels paused as He “went up in to a mountain” (5:1), where He taught His disciples and the crowd that followed Him (Matthew 5-7). Coming “down from the mountain” (5:1-16), we find Jesus returning to His travels throughout Galilee (8:1).
Several healing miracles are recorded in Matthew 8, and attest to Jesus’s divine power and authority over nature.
Healing a Leper (8:1-4)
Coming down from the mount, Jesus met a leper, who came “and worshipped him, saying, Lord, if thou wilt, thou canst make me clean” (8:2). Leprosy was a dreaded, incurable skin disease of that time, and eventually ate away at the flesh and appendages of its victim. The leper in our story would have been miserable, and desperate (Isaiah 1:5-6), an outcast and alienated from family and society. He came to Jesus seeking compassion, and believing he could be healed. Jesus, reaching past social norms, touched the leper and said, “I will; be thou clean” (8:3). We read, “Immediately his leprosy was cleansed” (8:3). Jesus then commanded the man, “See thou tell no man; but go thy way, shew thyself to the priest, and offer the gift that Moses commanded, for a testimony unto them” (8:4; Leviticus 14:1-3).
Healing the Centurion’s Slave (8:5-13)
The leper having departed, Jesus came to Capernaum, and was met by a centurion (a Roman officer who commanded 100 soldiers, 8:5). Though a battle-hardened soldier, the centurion was a man who had compassion on a servant whom he described as “sick of the palsy, grievously tormented” (8:6). Once again, defying norms and the prejudice of the Jews, Jesus consented to the officer’s plea, and said, “I will come and heal him” (8:7).
With humility, “the centurion answered and said, Lord, I am not worthy that thou shouldest come under my roof: but speak the word only, and my servant shall be healed” (8:8). Humility is rare (especially among the rich and powerful), and the centurion’s faith was extraordinary (8:8b-9). The LORD was astonished at the centurion’s faith, and commended His faith as superior to any He found among Jews (8:10b).
Turning to His disciples (8:11), Jesus foretold the Gospel would be received by many Gentiles (“from the east and west”), and foretold the Centurion was one of many who would become citizens of heaven (8:11). Tragically, many of the 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). The scene with the centurion concluded with Jesus assuring him his servant was healed (8:13).
Matthew 8:14-17 chronicles miracles of healing we have considered in Mark 1:29-31 and Luke 4:38-39.
First Claim Principle (8:19-22)
With great crowds pressing, Jesus “gave commandment to depart unto the other side” (to the east shore of the Sea of Galilee, 8:18). As they boarded their boats, two men came to Jesus and proposed they would go with Jesus. One said, “Master, I will follow thee whithersoever thou goest” (8:19). He was a scribe, an expert in the Law of Moses, but when Jesus promised him a life of ministry that would be one of poverty (for “the Son of man [Jesus] hath not where to lay his head”), he turned and walked away (8:20).
A second man, apparently accompanied the first, and he answered Jesus’ invitation to follow, saying, “Lord, suffer me first to go and bury my father” (in essence saying, when his father died and he received his inheritance, he would follow Him, 8:21). Jesus refused the man, saying, “Follow me; and let the dead bury their dead” (8:22). Luke writes there was a third man who proposed to follow Jesus, but like the others, he was not ready to depart (Luke 9:61-62).
Peace in the Midst of a Storm (8:23-27)
Jesus and His disciples set sail across the Sea of Galilee, only to find themselves in the midst of a great storm, and their boats taking on water (8:24). With Jesus fast asleep, the disciples battled to save the ship until in desperation they cried, “Lord, save us: we perish” (8:25). Jesus then asked the disciples, “Why are ye fearful. O ye of little faith?” (8:26) Rising to His feet, Jesus “rebuked the winds and the sea; and there was a great calm” (8:26). Stunned by the sudden quiet, the disciples said among themselves, What manner of man is this, that even the winds and the sea obey him! (8:27).
Closing thoughts (8:28-34) – We have seen the LORD have power to heal lepers, restore a paralytic, and demonstrate authority over nature to calm a storm. Yet, He recognized the free will of men to choose to follow Him, or reject Him (8:19-22). Like many, there were three who expressed a desire to be followers of Christ, but they were unwilling to sacrifice selfish ambitions and plans (8:18-22).
Our study ends reminding us the LORD also has power and authority over demons (8:28-34). Jesus freed the souls of two wicked sinners from the devils that possessed them, and not even a herd of swine could abide the evil spirits that those men had tolerated (8:28-32). Tragically, when their neighbors heard how Jesus cast devils out of the men, they rejected Him, and “besought Him that He would “depart out of their coasts” (8:34).
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