David Guzik Commentary on the Bible
Matthew 8 - Healing, Teaching, and Miracles
A. Jesus cleanses a leper.
1. (1-2) The leper makes his request of Jesus.
When He had come down from the mountain, great multitudes followed Him. And behold, a leper came and worshiped Him, saying, "Lord, if You are willing, You can make me clean."
a. When He had come down from the mountain, great multitudes followed Him: The miracles of Jesus attracted much attention; but so did His teaching ministry. Matthew demonstrated this by his mention of the great multitudes that followed Him after coming down from the Mount of Beatitudes.
i. When we compare the events of this chapter with the record of Mark or Luke, we find different order and chronology. Carson, along with others, claims that Matthew arranged his material here according to topics and themes, not according to chronology. "Matthew does not purport to follow anything other than a topical arrangement, and most of his 'time' indicators are very loose." (Carson)
ii. We remember an important foundational verse for Matthew's Gospel: Now Jesus went about all Galilee, teaching in their synagogues, preaching the gospel of the kingdom, and healing all kinds of sickness and disease among the people (Matthew 4:23). Matthew went on to tell us about the teaching ministry of Jesus (Matthew 5-7); now he tells us more about the healing ministry of Jesus, and how His works confirmed His words.
b. Behold, a leper came and worshipped Him: In the ancient world, leprosy was a terrible, destructive disease - and still is in some parts of the world. The ancient leper had no hope of improvement, so this leper came to Jesus with a great sense of need and desperation.
i. "Leprosy might begin with the loss of all sensation in some part of the body; the nerve trunks are affected; the muscles waste away; the tendons contract until the hands are like claws. There follows ulceration of the hands and feet. Then comes the progressive loss of fingers and toes, until in the end a whole hand or a whole foot may drop off. The duration of that kind of leprosy is anything from twenty to thirty years. It is a kind of terrible progressive death in which a man dies by inches." (Barclay)
ii. According to Jewish law and customs, one had to keep 6 feet (2 meters) from a leper. If the wind was blowing toward a person from a leper, they had to keep 150 feet (45 meters) away. The only thing more defiling than contact with a leper was contact with a dead body.
iii. "In the middle ages, if a man became a leper, the priest donned his stole and took his crucifix, and brought the man into the church, and read the burial service over him. For all human purposes the man was dead." (Barclay)
iv. For all these reasons, the condition of leprosy is a model of sin and its effects. It is a contagious, debilitating disease that corrupts its victim and makes him essentially dead while alive; and it followed that almost universally, society and religious people scorned lepers. Rabbis especially despised lepers, and saw them as people under the special judgment of God, deserving no pity or mercy.
v. In Jesus' time, rabbis sometimes boasted about how badly they treated lepers. One bragged that he refused to buy even an egg on a street where he saw a leper; another boasted that he threw rocks at lepers upon seeing them.
vi. Nevertheless, the leper came to Jesus by himself and despite many discouragements.
He knew how terrible his problem was.
He knew that other people gave up on him as having a hopeless condition.
He had no one who would or could take him to Jesus.
He had no previous example of Jesus healing a leper to give him hope.
He had no promise that Jesus would heal him.
He had no invitation from Jesus or the disciples.
He must have felt ashamed and alone in the crowd.
c. A leper came and worshipped Him: Despite his desperate condition, this man not only begged Jesus - he also worshipped Him.
i. "The Greek verb is proskenein, and that word is never used of anything but worship of the gods; it always describes a man's feeling and action in presence of the divine." (Barclay)
ii. How did the leper worship Jesus?
He worshipped Jesus by coming to Him, honoring Him as the One who could meet His otherwise impossible need.
He worshipped Jesus with his posture, probably bowing or kneeling before Jesus.
He worshipped Jesus with the word "Lord," honoring Him as master and God.
He worshipped Jesus with his humility, by not demanding but leaving the request up to the will of Jesus.
He worshipped Jesus with his respect of the power of Jesus, saying that all that was necessary was the will of Jesus, and he would be healed.
He worshipped Jesus with his confidence that Jesus could make him more than healthy; Jesus could make him clean.
iii. "The leper rendered to Christ divine homage; and if Jesus had been merely a good man, and nothing more, he would have refused the worship with holy indignation." (Spurgeon)
iv. "Those who call Jesus 'Lord,' and do not worship him, are more diseased than the leper was." (Spurgeon)
d. Lord, if You are willing: The leper had no doubt whatsoever about the ability of Jesus to heal. His only question was if Jesus was willing to heal.
i. He believed in the power of Jesus. When a Syrian commander named Naaman was afflicted with leprosy, he came to Jehoram, the king of Israel because he heard there was a prophet in Israel whom God used to do miraculous things. When Naaman came to Jehoram, Jehoram knew that he had no power to help him, and he said: "Am I God, to kill and make alive, that this man sends a man to heal me of his leprosy?" (2 Kings 5:7) Leprosy was so hopeless in the ancient world that healing a leper was compared to raising the dead; yet this leper knew that all Jesus needed was to be willing.
ii. Yet this leper was sure that Jesus was willing to use His power for the leper's benefit. "Men more easily believe in miraculous power than in miraculous love." (Bruce)
e. Lord, if You are willing, You can make me clean: This leper sought more than healing. He wanted cleansing; not only from the leprosy, but also from all its terrible effects on his life and his soul.
i. In addition, this is the first place in the gospel where Jesus is called Lord. This title that was particularly meaningful in light of the fact that the word Lord was used to translate the Hebrew word Yahweh, and Matthew wrote his gospel to those who would be familiar with the Jewish context of that word.
2. (3) Jesus touches the leper and he is cleansed.
Then Jesus put out His hand and touched him, saying, "I am willing; be cleansed." Immediately his leprosy was cleansed.
a. Jesus put out His hand and touched him: This was a bold and compassionate touch from Jesus. The idea is that the leper kept his distance from Jesus, but He put out His hand and touched him. It was against the ceremonial law to touch a leper, which made the touch all the more meaningful to the afflicted man. Of course, as soon as Jesus touched him, he was no longer a leper!
i. Touched him: Jesus did not have to touch the leper in order to heal him. He could have healed him with a word or even a thought. Yet He healed the leper with a touch because that is what the leper needed.
ii. Jesus often varied the manner of healing, and usually He chose a particular manner that would be meaningful to the afflicted individual.
iii. Mark 1:41 says when Jesus looked, He was moved with compassion. It had been a long time since this leper had seen a face of compassion.
b. I am willing: Jesus' assurance that I am willing simply answered the man's question, and gives us a starting point for the times we wonder if Jesus is willing to heal. We should assume Jesus is willing to heal unless He shows us differently.
i. How can we know if Jesus is willing to heal us? By assuming that He is willing, but listening to Him if He should tell us that He does not. This is how it happened with the Apostle Paul in 2 Corinthians 12:7-10; it seems that Paul assumed that Jesus would heal his thorn in the flesh until word came to him that He would not.
c. Immediately his leprosy was cleansed: The former leper's life was changed forever. He was not only healed, but as he requested he was cleansed. Jesus had recently said, ask and it will be given to you (Matthew 7:7). This was certainly true for the now cleansed former leper.
i. This is the first individual healing described by Matthew. Previously, we were told of Jesus' healing ministry in a general sense (Matthew 4:23-24), but here in a specific case.
3. (4) Jesus commands the healed man to give testimony of his healing to the priests only.
And Jesus said to him, "See that you tell no one; but go your way, show yourself to the priest, and offer the gift that Moses commanded, as a testimony to them."
a. See that you tell no one: Jesus often commanded people to be quiet about their healing or some miraculous work that He had done for them. He did this because He wanted to keep down the excitement of the crowds until the proper time for His formal revelation to Israel, which was an exact date as prophesied in Daniel 9.
i. In addition, Jesus' miracles were not primarily calculated to make Him famous or a celebrity (though they certainly did give testimony to His ministry). More so, Jesus healed to meet the needs of specific individuals and to demonstrate the evident power of the Messiah in the setting of love and care for the personal needs of humble people.
ii. Therefore, Jesus was cautious about how the multitudes saw Him and why they followed Him. "This motif of secrecyis better understood as reflecting a real danger that Jesus could achieve unwanted popularity merely as a wonder-worker, or worse still as a nationalistic liberator, and so foster a serious misunderstanding of the true nature of his mission." (France)
iii. Mark tells us that the leper did not obey Jesus and instead he went out and began to proclaim it freely (Mark 1:44-45).
b. Show yourself to the priest: Jesus commanded the man to give a testimony to the priests, and what a testimony it was! The Mosaic Law prescribed specific sacrifices to be conducted upon the healing of a leper, and when the man reported it to the priests, they no doubt had to perform ceremonies that were rarely (if ever) done (Leviticus 14).
i. Going to the priest would also bring the former leper back into society. Jesus wanted the healing of the man's disease to have as much benefit as possible.
ii. "This gift was two living, clean birds, some cedar wood, with scarlet and hyssop, Leviticus 14:4, which were to be brought for his cleansing; and, when clean, two he lambs, one ewe lamb, three tenth deals of flour, and one log of oil, Leviticus 14:10; but if the person was poor, then he was to bring one lamb, one tenth deal of flour, one log of oil and two turtle doves, or young pigeons, Leviticus 14:21, 22." (Clarke)
B. Jesus heals a centurion's servant.
1. (5-6) Jesus is approached by a Roman centurion.
Now when Jesus had entered Capernaum, a centurion came to Him, pleading with Him, saying, "Lord, my servant is lying at home paralyzed, dreadfully tormented."
a. When Jesus had entered Capernaum: Matthew 4:13 tells us this is where Jesus lived; He came and dwelt in Capernaum.
b. A centurion came to Him: The centurion was obviously a Gentile, because a centurion was an officer in the Roman army. Most every Jew under Roman occupation felt a reason to hate this centurion, yet he came to a Jewish teacher for help. Significantly, he came not for a selfish reason, but on behalf of his servant.
i. Whenever the New Testament mentions a centurion (there are at least seven), it presents them as honorable, good men.
ii. This centurion had an unusual attitude towards his slave. Under Roman law a master had the right to kill his slave, and it was expected that he would do so if the slave became ill or injured to the point where he could no longer work.
c. Pleading with Him: This shows that the centurion did not make a casual request. Matthew describes him as pleading with Jesus on behalf of his servant.
i. "He seeks a cure, but does not prescribe to the Lord how or where he shall work it; in fact, he does not put his request into words, but pleads the case, and lets the sorrow speak." (Spurgeon)
2. (7-9) The centurion's understanding of Jesus' spiritual authority.
And Jesus said to him, "I will come and heal him." The centurion answered and said, "Lord, I am not worthy that You should come under my roof. But only speak a word, and my servant will be healed. For I also am a man under authority, having soldiers under me. And I say to this one, 'Go,' and he goes; and to another, 'Come,' and he comes; and to my servant, 'Do this,' and he does it."
a. I will come and heal him: Jesus did not hesitate to go to the centurion's house, and we half wish the centurion would have allowed Him. It was completely against Jewish custom for a Jew to enter a Gentiles' house; yet it was not against God's law.
i. The centurion sensed this when he said, "Lord, I am not worthy that You should come under my roof"; most Jews believed that a Gentile home was not worthy of them, and the centurion supposed that a great rabbi and teacher like Jesus would consider his home unworthy.
ii. The centurion also showed great sensitivity to Jesus, in that he wanted to spare Jesus the awkward challenge of whether or not to enter a Gentile's house - as well as the time and trouble of travel. He didn't know Jesus well enough to know that He would not feel awkward in the least; but his consideration of Jesus in this situation was impressive. In his concern for both his servant and for Jesus, this centurion was an others-centered person.
b. But only speak a word, and my servant will be healed: The centurion fully understood that Jesus' healing power was not some sort of magic trick that required the magician's presence. Instead he knew Jesus had true authority, and could command things to be done and completed outside His immediate presence.
i. The centurion showed great faith in Jesus' word. He understood that Jesus can heal with His word just as easily as with a touch.
ii. "This means that the centurion's words presuppose an understanding of the Roman military systemA footsoldier who disobeyed would not be defying a mere centurion but the emperor, Rome itself, with all its imperial majesty and might." (Carson)
c. For I also am a man under authority, having soldiers under me: The centurion also knew about the military chain of command, and how the orders of one in authority were unquestioningly obeyed. He saw that Jesus had at least that much authority.
i. "As the authority of the Caesars flowed through his own yielded life, so the authority of God over diseases, demons, and all else would flow through Christ's." (Meyer)
3. (10-13) Jesus praises the centurion's faith and heals his servant
When Jesus heard it, He marveled, and said to those who followed, "Assuredly, I say to you, I have not found such great faith, not even in Israel! And I say to you that many will come from east and west, and sit down with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob in the kingdom of heaven. But the sons of the kingdom will be cast out into outer darkness. There will be weeping and gnashing of teeth." Then Jesus said to the centurion, "Go your way; and as you have believed, so let it be done for you." And his servant was healed that same hour.
a. When Jesus heard it, He marveled: The man's understanding of Jesus' spiritual authority made Jesus marvel. His simple confidence in the ability of Jesus' mere word to heal showed a faith that was free of any superstitious reliance on merely external things. This was truly great faith, worthy of praise.
b. Assuredly, I say to you, I have not found such great faith, not even in Israel: Jesus considered the faith of this Gentile centurion - a living symbol of Jewish oppression - and thought it greater than any faith He had seen among the people of Israel.
i. As a political entity, there was no Israel; there was only a covenant people descended from Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. Yet Jesus still called them Israel.
c. Many will come from east and west, and sit down with Abraham: The fact that such faith was present in a Gentile caused Jesus to announce that there would be Gentiles in the kingdom of heaven. They will even sit down to dinner with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob!
i. This was a radical idea to many of the Jewish people in Jesus' day; they assumed that this great Messianic Banquet would have no Gentiles, and that all Jews would be there. Jesus corrected both mistaken ideas.
ii. These few words of Jesus tell us a little something of what heaven is like.
It is a place of rest; we sit down in heaven.
It is a place of good company to sit with; we enjoy the friendship of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob in heaven.
It is a place with many people; Jesus said that many will come into heaven.
It is a place with people from all over the earth; from east and west they will come to heaven.
It is a certain place; Jesus said many will come, and when Jesus says it will happen, it will happen.
iii. "But ye shall hear those loved voices again; ye shall hear those sweet voices once more, ye shall yet know that those whom ye loved have been loved by God. Would not that be a dreary heaven for us to inhabit, where we should be alike unknowing and unknown? I would not care to go to such a heaven as that. I believe that heaven is a fellowship of the saints, and that we shall know one another there." (Spurgeon)
d. But the sons of the kingdom will be cast out into outer darkness: As well, Jesus reminded his Jewish listeners that just as the Gentile's racial identity was no automatic barrier to the kingdom, their racial identity was no guarantee of the kingdom. Though Jews were sons of the kingdom, they might end up in hell.
i. "There could hardly be a more radical statement of the change in God's plan of salvation inaugurated by the mission of Jesus." (France)
ii. Trapp on outer darkness: "Into a darkness beyond a darkness; into a dungeon beyond and beneath the prison."
iii. "The definite articles with 'weeping' and 'gnashing' (cf. Greek) emphasize the horror of the scene: the weeping and the gnashingWeeping suggests suffering and gnashing of teeth despair." (Carson)
iv. "What is it that the lost are doing? They are 'weeping and gnashing their teeth.' Do you gnash your teeth now? You would not do it except you were in pain and agony. Well, in hell there is always gnashing of teeth." (Spurgeon)
v. We see that Jesus was unafraid to speak of hell, and in fact did so more than any other in the Bible. "There are some ministers who never mention anything about hell. I heard of a minister who once said to his congregation - 'If you do not love the Lord Jesus Christ you will be sent to that place which it is not polite to mention.' He ought not to have been allowed to preach again, I am sure, if he could not use plain words." (Spurgeon)
C. More suffering people are healed.
1. (14-15) Jesus heals Peter's mother-in-law.
Now when Jesus had come into Peter's house, He saw his wife's mother lying sick with a fever. So He touched her hand, and the fever left her. And she arose and served them.
a. He saw his wife's mother lying sick: This clearly establishes the fact that Peter was married. The Roman Catholic Church teaches that all priests must be celibate and unmarried, but the man they would call the first and greatest Pope was certainly married.
i. "St. Ambrose saith that all the apostles were married men, save John and Paul. And those pope-holy hypocrites that will not hear of priests' marriage, but hold it far better for them to have and keep at home many harlots than one wife." (Trapp)
ii. "Learn hence, says Theophylact, that marriage is no hinderance to virtue, since the chief of the apostles had his wife. Marriage is one of the first of Divine institutions, and is a positive command of God." (Clarke)
iii. "This mother-in-law was a specially good woman, for she was allowed to live with her son-in-law, and he was anxious to have her restored to health." (Spurgeon)
b. He touched her hand, and the fever left her: Jesus healed this woman with a gentle touch of His hand. Her sickness was much less severe than the leper, yet Jesus still cared for her. Jesus cares for smaller problems also.
i. "The miracle here was not in the cure of an incurable disease, but in the way of the cure, by a touch of his hand." (Poole)
c. And she arose and served them: Peter's mother-in-law showed a fitting response for those who have been touched by Jesus' power - she immediately began to serve. Serving Jesus is a wonderful evidence of being restored to spiritual health.
i. "With gratitude beaming from her face, she placed each dish upon the table, and brought forth water with which her guests might wash their feet. The moment the Lord Jesus Christ saves a soul he gives that soul strength for its appointed service." (Spurgeon)
2. (16-17) Jesus, in fulfillment of prophecy, delivers many from sickness and demonic possession.
When evening had come, they brought to Him many who were demon-possessed. And He cast out the spirits with a word, and healed all who were sick, that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by Isaiah the prophet, saying: "He Himself took our infirmities and bore our sicknesses."
a. They brought to Him many: Jesus' care for the individual is shown by the implication that Jesus dealt with each person individually, not in some cold, "assembly line" procedure.
i. Many who were demon possessed: "Dr. Lightfoot gives two sound reasons why Judea, in our Lord's time, abounded with demoniacs. First, because they were then advanced to the very height of impiety. See what Josephus, their own historian, says of them: There was not (said he) a nation under heaven more wicked than they were. Secondly, because they were then strongly addicted to magic, and so, as it were, invited evil spirits to be familiar with them." (Clarke)
b. That it might be fulfilled which was spoken by Isaiah: Matthew rightly understood this as a partial fulfillment of Isaiah's prophecy in Isaiah 53, which primarily refers to spiritual healing, but also definitely includes physical healing. In this, Matthew showed Jesus as the true Messiah in delivering people from the bondage of sin and the effects of a fallen world.
c. He Himself took our infirmities and bore our sicknesses: The provision for our healing (both physically and spiritually) was made by the sufferings (the stripes) of Jesus. The physical dimension of our healing is partially realized now, but finally only in resurrection.
i. This healing work of our Savior cost Jesus something; it wasn't as if He had a magic bag of healing power that He drew from and cast about to the needy. It came at the cost of His own agony. "If His word and touch brought instant deliverance to men, it was because in a great mystery of grace He suffered in order to save." (Morgan)
ii. "The prophet speaketh of spiritual infirmities, the evangelist applieth it to corporal. And not unfitly; for these are the proper effects of those." (Trapp)
d. He Himself took our infirmities and bore our sicknesses: This section of Matthew's Gospel shows four different people being healed, each one different from the other.
i. Different people were healed.
A Jew with no social or religious privileges.
A Gentile officer of the army occupying and oppressing Israel.
A woman related to one of Jesus' devoted followers.
ii. Their requests were made in different ways.
A direct request from the sufferer, made in his own faith.
A request from one man for another, made in faith on behalf of a suffering man.
No request was made because Jesus came to the sufferer, so there was no evidence of faith from the healed.
Sufferers that were brought to Jesus, with different kinds of faith.
iii. Jesus used different methods to heal.
Jesus used a touch that was forbidden.
Jesus used a word spoken from afar.
Jesus used a tender touch.
Jesus used a variety of unnamed methods.
iv. From all this, we understand that physical healing is an area where God especially shows His sovereignty, and He does things as He pleases, not necessarily as men might expect.
E. Jesus teaches on discipleship.
1. (18-20) Jesus speaks to an over-enthusiastic follower about the need to appreciate the cost in following Jesus.
And when Jesus saw great multitudes about Him, He gave a command to depart to the other side. Then a certain scribe came and said to Him, "Teacher, I will follow You wherever You go." And Jesus said to him, "Foxes have holes and birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay His head."
a. When Jesus saw great multitudes about Him, He gave a command to depart to the other side: Jesus increased in popularity, yet He did not follow the crowds or even seek to make them bigger. In some ways he seemed to avoid the great multitudes about Him.
b. Teacher, I will follow You wherever You go: With the miracles associated with the ministry of Jesus, following Him might have seemed more glamorous than it really was. Jesus perhaps received many spontaneous offers like this.
i. "I wonder if this man thought, 'Well, now, I am a scribe. If I join that company, I shall be a leader. I perceive that they are only fishermen, the bulk of them; and if I come in amongst them, I shall be a great acquisition to that little band. I shall no doubt be the secretary.' Perhaps he may have thought that there was something to be made out of such a position; there was one who thought so." (Spurgeon)
c. Foxes have holes and birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay His head: Jesus didn't tell the man "No, you can't follow Me." But He told him the truth, without painting a glamorized version of what it was like to follow Him. This is the opposite of techniques used by many evangelists today, but Jesus wanted the man to know what it would really be like.
i. "In the immediate context of Jesus' ministry, the saying does not mean that Jesus was penniless but homeless; the nature of his mission kept him on the move and would keep his followers on the move." (Carson)
ii. "Many homes, like Peter's, were open to him, but he had none of his own." (France)
iii. The reason this man turned away from Jesus was because Jesus lived a very simple life by faith, trusting His Father for every need and without reserves of material resources. This is just the kind of thing that would make Jesus more attractive to a truly spiritual man. "Here is a man who lives completely by faith and is satisfied with few material things; I should follow Him and learn from Him."
d. The Son of Man: The phrase "Son of Man" is used 81 times in the gospels; every time it is either something Jesus said of Himself, or the words of someone quoting Jesus. It is an important phrase He used to describe Himself. He used it as a title that reflected both the glory (Daniel 7:13-14) and the humility (Psalm 8:4) of the Messiah.
i. Especially, its connection to the Daniel passage means that it was an image of power and glory, yet without the unwanted associations of other titles. By using it often, Jesus told His listeners: "I'm the Messiah of power and glory, but not the one you were expecting."
2. (21-22) Jesus speaks to a hesitant follower about the surpassing importance of following Him.
Then another of His disciples said to Him, "Lord, let me first go and bury my father." But Jesus said to him, "Follow Me, and let the dead bury their own dead."
a. Lord, let me first go and bury my father: Actually, this man did not ask for permission to dig a grave for his deceased father. He wanted to remain in his father's house and care for him until the father died. This was obviously an indefinite period, which could drag on and on.
i. This man was another of His disciples; yet he did not follow Jesus as he should have, nor as the 12 disciples did. This shows us that the term disciples has a somewhat broad meaning in the Gospel of Matthew, and must be understood in its context.
ii. The man wanted to follow Jesus, but not just yet. He knew it was good and that he should do it, but he felt there was a good reason why he could not do it now. "If the scribe was too quick in promising, this 'disciple' was too slow in performing." (Carson)
b. Follow Me, and let the dead bury their own dead: Jesus pressed the man to follow Him now, and clearly stated the principle that family obligations - or any other obligation - must not be put ahead of following Jesus. Jesus must come first.
i. Jesus was not afraid to discourage potential disciples. Unlike many modern evangelists, He was interested more in quality than in quantity. "Nothing has done more harm to Christianity than the practice of filling the ranks of Christ's army with every volunteer who is willing to make a little profession, and to talk fluently of experience." (Ryle, cited in Carson)
ii. In addition, Jesus was merely being honest. This is what it meant to follow Him, and He wanted people to know it at the beginning.
iii. "Much of the concerns of politics, party tactics, committee meetings, social reforms, innocent amusements, and so forth, may be very fitly described as burying the dead. Much of this is very needful, proper, and commendable work; but still only such a form of business as unregenerate men can do as well as disciples of Jesus. Let them do it; but if we are called to preach the Gospel, let us give ourselves wholly to our sacred calling." (Spurgeon)
F. Jesus shows His power over the wind and the waves.
1. (23-25) A storm arises on the Sea of Galilee.
Now when He got into a boat, His disciples followed Him. And suddenly a great tempest arose on the sea, so that the boat was covered with the waves. But He was asleep. Then His disciples came to Him and awoke Him, saying, "Lord, save us! We are perishing!"
a. Now when He got into a boat: The village of Capernaum was right on the shore of the Sea of Galilee. Jesus, like many Galileans, was familiar with boats and life near this fairly large lake.
b. Suddenly a great tempest arose on the sea: The Sea of Galilee is well known for its sudden, violent storms. The severity of this storm was evident in the fact that the disciples (many of who were experienced fishermen on this lake) were terrified, crying out "Lord, save us! We are perishing!"
i. Bruce on the board was covered with waves: "Was covered, hidden, the waves rising high above the boat, breaking on it, and gradually filling with water."
c. But He was asleep: Though the disciples were desperate, Jesus was asleep. It must have seemed strange to them that He could sleep in the midst of such a great tempest.
i. Bruce says that the grammar of the phrase "But He was asleep" conveys a "dramatic contrast"; the storm raged, the disciples panicked, but He was asleep.
ii. We are impressed by the fact that He needed to sleep, showing His true humanity. He became tired and would sometimes need to catch sleep wherever He was able to, even in unlikely places. "It was the sleep of one worn by an intense life, involving constant strain on body and mind." (Bruce)
iii. We are impressed by the fact that He could sleep. His mind and heart were peaceful enough, trusting in the love and care of His Father in heaven, that He could sleep in the storm.
2. (26-27) Jesus displays authority over the creation.
But He said to them, "Why are you fearful, O you of little faith?" Then He arose and rebuked the winds and the sea, and there was a great calm. So the men marveled, saying, "Who can this be, that even the winds and the sea obey Him?"
a. Why are you fearful, O you of little faith? Jesus rebuked their fear and unbelief, not their request or waking Him. We shouldn't think that Jesus was in a bad mood from being awakened. He was upset at their fear, because fear and unbelief go together. When we trust God as we should trust Him, there is little room left for fear.
i. "He spoke to the men first, for they were the most difficult to deal with: wind and sea could be rebuked afterwards." (Spurgeon)
ii. "He does not chide them for disturbing him with their prayers, but for disturbing themselves with their fears." (Henry, cited in Carson)
iii. They actually had many reasons to have faith, even great faith.
They had just seen Jesus do significant miracles, showing great power and authority.
They had seen an example of great faith with the centurion who trusted Jesus to heal his servant.
They had Jesus with them in the boat. And, they saw Jesus sleep; His peace should have given them peace.
b. Then He arose and rebuked the winds and the sea: Jesus didn't merely quiet the wind and the sea; He rebuked the winds and the sea. This, together with the disciples' great fear and what Jesus would encounter at His destination, leads some to believe that there was some type of spiritual attack in the storm.
i. Adam Clarke supposed that the storm was "Probably excited by Satan, the prince of the power of the air, who, having got the author and all the preachers of the Gospel together in a small vessel, thought by drowning it, to defeat the purposes of God, and thus to prevent the salvation of a ruined world. What a noble opportunity must this have appeared to the enemy of the human race!"
c. So the men marveled: The disciples were amazed. Such a powerful display over creation led them to ask, "Who can this be?" It could only be the Lord, Jehovah, who only has this power and authority: O Lord God of hosts, who is mighty like You, O Lord? Your faithfulness surrounds You. You rule the raging of the sea; when waves rise, You still them. (Psalm 89:8-9)
i. In the span of a few moments, the disciples saw both the complete humanity of Jesus (in His tired sleep) and the fullness of His deity. They saw Jesus for who He is: truly man and truly God.
G. Jesus' power over demonic spirits.
1. (28-29) Jesus meets two demon-possessed men.
When He had come to the other side, to the country of the Gergesenes, there met Him two demon-possessed men, coming out of the tombs, exceedingly fierce, so that no one could pass that way. And suddenly they cried out, saying, "What have we to do with You, Jesus, You Son of God? Have You come here to torment us before the time?"
a. There met Him two demon-possessed men: The other gospel accounts mention only one of these men. This must be because there was one that was far more severe in his state of demonic possession, having many demons.
b. Coming out of the tombs, exceedingly fierce: These two unfortunates were unclean because of their contact with the dead, and they displayed fierce, uncontrollable behavior. The demons drove these men to live among the tombs.
Because graveyards and the dead were terribly unclean and offensive to the Jewish people.
Because demons love death.
Because it was no proper place for men to live.
Because it made the men more frightening to others.
Because it encouraged superstition in others, fearing that the men were actually possessed with the spirits of the dead in the graveyard.
c. What have we to do with You: The demons tormenting these poor men wanted to be left alone. They didn't want Jesus to interfere with their horrible work.
i. "This is the old cry, 'Mind your own business! Do not interfere with our trade! Let us alone, and go elsewhere!' Devils never like to be interfered with. But if the devils have nothing to do with Jesus, he has something to do with them." (Spurgeon)
d. What have we to do with You, Jesus, You Son of God? The demons knew who Jesus was even if the disciples didn't. We can contrast the two statements:
Who can this be? (Matthew 8:27)
Jesus, You Son of God (Matthew 8:29)
e. Have You come here to torment us before the time: These demons also knew of both their immediate destiny (to be cast out) and their ultimate destiny (to suffer everlasting torment). They wanted the freedom to do as much damage as they could before the time, their destiny of torment.
i. They also understood that they had limited time, and therefore worked as hard as they could up until they could not work anymore. This is one of the few admirable things we can say about Satan and his demons.
2. (30-32) Jesus casts the demons into a herd of swine.
Now a good way off from them there was a herd of many swine feeding. So the demons begged Him, saying, "If You cast us out, permit us to go away into the herd of swine." And He said to them, "Go." So when they had come out, they went into the herd of swine. And suddenly the whole herd of swine ran violently down the steep place into the sea, and perished in the water.
a. There was a herd of many swine: Both Jews and Gentiles populated the region of Galilee, so this may have been a herd of pigs owned by Gentiles. But most commentators believe that since the pigs were unclean for Jews, they should not have been there, even if a Gentile man owned them.
b. If You cast us out, permit us to go away into the herd of swine: The demons wanted to enter the swine because these evil spirits are bent on destruction and hate to be idle. "The devil is so fond of doing mischief, that he will rather play at a small game than stand out." (Poole)
i. Yet we also notice that the demons can't even afflict pigs without the permission of God. "And if a legion of devils had not power over a herd of hogs, much less have they over Christ's flock of sheep, saith Tertullian." (Trapp)
c. When they had come out, they went into the herd of swinethe whole herd of swine ran violentlyand perished in the water: There is nothing really comparable to this in the Bible, the casting of demons from a human into animals. Yet Jesus had a good reason to allow this.
i. The fact that the demons immediately drove the swine to destruction helps explain why Jesus allowed the demons to enter the pigs - because He wanted everyone to know what the real intention of these demons was. They wanted to destroy the men just as they destroyed the pigs. Because men are made in the image of God, they could not have their way as easily with the men, but their intention was just the same - to kill and destroy.
ii. Another reason why the devils were sent into the pigs was to conclusively show that they had been indeed cast out of the men.
iii. Some protest that this was unfair to the owner of the pigs. "'But the owners of the swine lost their property.' Yes, and learn from this how small value temporal riches are in the estimation of God. He suffers them to be lost, sometimes to disengage us from them through mercy; sometimes out of justice, to punish us for having acquired or preserved them either by covetousness or injustice." (Clarke)
iv. Spurgeon had several wise comments on the way the demons affected the swine:
"Swine prefer death to devilry; and if men were not worse than swine, they would be of the same opinion."
"They run hard whom the devil drives."
"The devil drives his hogs to a bad market."
3. (33-34) The people ask Jesus to leave the region.
Then those who kept them fled; and they went away into the city and told everything, including what had happened to the demon-possessed men. And behold, the whole city came out to meet Jesus. And when they saw Him, they begged Him to depart from their region.
a. Told everythingthe whole city came out to meet Jesus: Since Jesus knew human nature, He knew what to expect from this crowd coming from the city. Yet His disciples probably thought that these people would be pleased that Jesus had delivered these formerly demon-possessed men.
i. The work of Jesus had unified the whole city, and they had all come out to meet with and to talk to Jesus; but it was not in a good way. "Here was a whole city at a prayer meeting, praying against their own blessingHorrible was their prayer; but it was heard, and Jesus departed out of their coasts." (Spurgeon)
b. They begged Him to depart from their region: We would think that the people of the region would be happy that these two demon-possessed men had been delivered. Perhaps they were more interested in their pigs than in people. Certainly, the delivering power of Jesus did not make all men feel comfortable.
i. This may explain another reason why the demons wanted to enter the swine. The idea is that the demons wanted to stir up hatred and rejection of Jesus, so they drove the swine to destruction hoping it would be blamed on Jesus, and He would then be unwelcome there.
Thursday, August 25th, 2016
the Week of Proper 16 / Ordinary 21
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