Matthew 8:1-27 – In the sermon on the mount the King was bringing the New Law of the New Kingdom. No longer would Israel be under a Law which was meant to guard and guide the flesh but now would be filled and led by the Spirit with the law placed on the heart. These events that follow are given to Israel to certify the authority that Jesus had to speak these words.
Matthew began his testimony that Jesus was the promised Messiah by listing his genealogy which proved he came from the right family, The fulfillment of His prophesied birth, The voice of God at His Baptism, His victory over the temptations of the devil, and the wisdom and authority of his words on the Sermon on the mount. Now these healing miracles would further establish his credentials. There are greater signs yet to come.
Leprosy was the most feared disease; even today it can be kept in check though not completely healed. This is the reason God gave Israel strict laws concerning this disease. These regulations are outlined in Leviticus 13. The Torah required that they be avoided and forbidden to live with the rest of the Israeli community (Numbers 5:2).
The Talmud interpreted this to mean that a Jewish person was forbidden from being no closer than 6 feet, unless the wind was blowing when the distance was to be 150 feet. Jesus however allowed this leper to come to Him. Concerning the Leper we can see that he believed Jesus would not spurn or run from him. The word “knelt” is the word that is most often used in the Greek to describe worship. Most scholars believe that this indicates that the Leper believed that Jesus was worthy of worship. He was humble saying “If you are willing” which suggests a willingness to accept the Lord’s will.
And the leper demonstrated faith when he declared “You can make me clean”. Consider 2 Kings 5:1-19. Jesus makes the unclean clean and therefore did not defy the law when he touched the leper. Both His word and touch were able to heal. The first requirement of faith is obedience, and as soon as he was healed he was told to go show himself to the priest, and present the offering required. The result was that the cured leper became an occasion for the law to confirm that Jesus could heal what the Rabbi’s and priests recognized that only God could cure, a testimony to all Israel.
The Centurion was not only not Jewish but part of the despised occupiers of the nation. But he was viewed by the Jewish community with love and respect (Luke 7:2-5). The Greek word translated “servant”, literally meant “young child”. This servant was probably born in the centurion’s household and was highly regarded by him. This is most unusual for Roman military leaders who tended to be promoted based on their cruelty. The words of the centurion demonstrate his understanding of the Roman military system.
All authority belonged to the Emperor and was delegated. When the centurion spoke it was with the authority of the Emperor. Disobedience to the centurion was disobedience to the Emperor and punished accordingly. It is this understanding that gave the centurion an understanding of the authority of Jesus as God’s representative.
Because of the traditions the Jewish people had lost comprehension of God’s prophets and the authority that they carried. Matthew 21:33-38. Jesus marveled at the faith of this Gentile in His authority. He then comments that the Gentiles who traditionally were thought to be excluded from heaven would indeed rightly be sitting at the heavenly table with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. They demonstrated that they had the real faith of Abraham where genuine sonship is demonstrated.
They too would join others who think they will be in heaven in gehenna. “As you have believed” was not here given as a universal requirement for healing (2 Corinthians 12:7-9). The healing of Peter’s mother-in-law is still another example of the authority to heal. Jewish law again forbade touching anyone who was with fever lest they become defiled. Once again the touch did not defile Jesus because she was instantly healed.
Matthew 8:16-17 “When evening had come – This is likely an allusion to the concern that most had about disobeying the Sabbath. The previous healings were done on the Sabbath. The religious leaders forbade such activities on the Sabbath and so for fear of being censured or ostracized the multitude waited until the Sabbath was over at sundown.
“He took up our infirmities and carried our diseases.” – This is the first mention of the most significant O.T. prophecies concerning the motif of Messiah ben Joseph.
There were two perspectives of Messiah according to the Oral and later Talmudic tradition. Messiah ben Joseph and Messiah ben David. The reference of Isaiah 53 is clearly a reference to the Messiah ben Joseph. Matthew wanted his readers to understand that Jesus in his first coming was as a Lamb not as a Lion.
Jesus became intimately aware of the sufferings of mankind. He saw the pain and the agony and the emotional trauma that sickness brought by experiencing it among his friends and kinsmen. This was most important for His being a High Priest that could understand our sorrows. Hebrews 4:15
But not only did he have compassion, he understood the root cause of our infirmities and diseases, sin. But more than understanding, he took them away. Not simply by healing which was effective until we died. He made it possible for men to live forever. He gave to us a foretaste of what heaven promises, a healthy, abundant, eternal life. Revelation 22:1-3
However the effects of his healing ministry were temporary. Lazarus died again, Why? Because until sin is permanently removed death will still occur on earth. Those who suggest that we should all experience healing who trust in the work of Christ based on Matthew 8:17, should also believe that we never die. When Jesus died and rose again he also conquered death. He was made sin, not disease, He died for our sin not our sicknesses. 1 Peter 2:24.
Matthew 8:18-24 The first person to come to Jesus here is a Scribe. The Scribes were the descendents of those spoken of in the book of Nehemiah 8. Their origins go back to the days of Samuel 1 Samuel 10. By the time of Jesus they were authorities in Jewish law and closely associated with the Pharisees. They were teachers, so for the Scribe to acknowledge Jesus as a teacher was a stunning confession to those listening in on this conversation.
Jesus did not follow any set school of teaching. Rather than teach in a Talmudic way He spoke on His own authority. When the scribe said he wanted to be a disciple Jesus began to explain to him the cost of being a disciple of His. “The foxes have holes…” Jesus was a homeless teacher. Following Jesus meant self-denial, sacrifice, and in all likelihood, suffering. Matthew 10:16,21-22,24-25,Hebrews 11:35-38.
Son of Man – This first is mentioned in the context of the Messiah in Daniel 7:13-14. Which is a reference to One who was given authority, glory, dominion. The sages of Israel understood that this was a reference to the Messiah. Further it is a reference to his humanity. Jesus used in the context of His suffering and sacrificial death. Mark 8:31,9:31,10:33, etc.
“Permit me to bury my father” – This was an expression related to assuming his tribal & familial responsibilities. Leaving could jeopardize his rights of inheritance. While it is true that Jewish law requires immediate burial and a seven day period of mourning, there is no indication that this man’s father had died or was even near death. When Jesus said let the dead bury the dead it was an expression that referred to the world taking care of the things of the world.
He is referred to as a disciple (Greek – Mathetes). However the word simply means a follower and has no spiritual connotation. There are at least four different kinds of disciples described in Scripture. The curious, like these two described here. The intellectually convinced, like Nicodemus. The Secret believer, like Joseph of Aramethea, and the fully committed. God calls us to full commitment, Matthew 16:24.
Matthew 8:23-27 – Jesus is the second Adam. When God created Adam he was given dominion of the created world. However when he disobeyed the Lord with Eve his wife, Dominion was lost and handed over to the god of this world, Satan. John 12:31,14:30,2 Corinthians 4:4. Jesus was prophesied to come twice, once to make provision for the redemption of man, and the second time to redeem the earth. When Jesus calms the sea of Galilee He is demonstrating His power over the world He created, and will soon redeem.
The word ‘storm’ in the Greek is “Seismos”, which means shaking. It is where we get seismograph from. The storm was of the fierceness of an earthquake. And in the midst of this Jesus slept. Why, because he was truly man, and a moment later He demonstrated that He was truly God. Some of the disciples were fishermen, and they probably did everything humanly possible to cope with the storm. But sometimes God wants us at the end of our resources, before He will deliver us. God can calm any storm in our life. Too often we forget that.
The response was amazement and Mark says they were terrified, Matthew 4:41. This has been the reaction of God’s people when they have come to grips with the power of God. Moses at the Burning Bush, Isaiah when he saw a vision of the Lord, the disciples on the Mount of Transfiguration, Paul when he encountered the risen Lord.
In establishing his authority as King of Israel as well as King of kings, Jesus demonstrated His authority. In Matthew 8-9 we see Jesus establishing His credentials as the promised Messiah of Israel. First we see his power over the body in healing the leper, then calming the overpowering storm on the Galilee, now we will see him demonstrate His authority over demons.
When Jesus dealt with demonic activity it was unlike anyone who dealt in this realm, before Him or since Him. The disciples tried to cast out demons but they learned that it was quite difficult Matthew 17:16,19. In the wilderness Jesus resisted the devil now he demonstrates His supreme power over them. In fact one of the main reasons Jesus came was to destroy the works of the devil. 1 John 3:8.
Let’s take a moment to consider Satan and demons. The name Satan is from the Hebrew and it means “adversary”. His origins are chronicled in Isaiah 14,Ezekiel 28. The demons are angels who rebelled against God with him. 1 Timothy 4:1,2 Peter 2:4,Jude 1:6.
The expression “demon possessed” is from the Greek word that means demonized. This could include possession, oppression, or obsession. There is no distinctive given us in Scripture. Demons can attack men spiritually, physically, or mentally. In some cases there are people who are institutionalized who are actually demonized. It is important to note that nowhere does Jesus blame anyone for being sick, diseased or demon possessed. He recognized that they were victims of powers beyond their control. He saw that they needed deliverance, not condemnation.
When they asked “What have we to do with you?” These demons recognized Jesus as the Son of God. In fact they knew more about him than even his disciples. Their question wondering if they were going to be tormented before the time, was an allusion to their ultimate judgment. They knew that they were going to be cast out they were looking for another place to dwell.
In Luke 8:35 we see that one of the men here was clothed and in his right mind when the herdsmen and the city came out to see Him. Rather than rejoice they greeted him with indifference and sought Him to leave their territory. In Mark 5:18 one of the men delivered begged that he might go with Jesus. But God had other work for him.