David Guzik Commentary on the Bible
Matthew 8:1-34 - HEALING, TEACHING AND MIRACLES
A. Jesus cleanses a leper.
1. (Matthew 8:1-2) 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. Behold, a leper came and worshipped Him: The condition of leprosy is a model of sin and its effects. It is a contagious, debilitating disease that corrupts a man and makes him essentially dead while alive.
i. Lepers were universally scorned by society and religion. They were especially despised by the Rabbis, who saw their state as the particular judgment of God.
ii. In Jesus’ time rabbis spoke about how badly they would treat lepers. One boasted that he refused to buy even an egg on a street where he saw a leper, another bragged that he threw rocks at lepers when he saw them.
b. Lord, if You are willing: The leper has no doubt whatsoever about the ability of Jesus to heal. His only question is if Jesus is willing to heal.
c. Lord, if You are willing, You can make me clean: This leper wants more than healing. He wants cleansing, not only from the leprosy, but from all its debilitating effects on his life and soul.
i. In addition, this is the first place in the gospel where Jesus is called Lord; a term that was particularly meaningful in light of the fact that the word Lord was used to translate the Hebrew word Yahweh.
3. (Matthew 8:3) 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. He put out His hand and touched him: This is a bold and compassionate touch from Jesus. 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. Jesus often varied the manner of healing, and usually He chose a particular manner that would be meaningful to the afflicted individual.
b. I am willing: Jesus’ assurance that I am willing simply answers 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, and by listening to His if He would want to tell us differently. This is how it happened with the Apostle Paul in 2 Corinthians 12:7-10.
4. (Matthew 8:4) 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: Why did Jesus often command people to be somewhat secretive about their healing? His desire was to keep down the crowds until the proper time for His formal revelation to Israel, which was an exact date as prophesied in Daniel 9:1-27.
i. In addition, Jesus’ miracles (though they did give testimony to His ministry) were not primarily calculated to make Him famous or a celebrity. Jesus healed to meet the needs of specific individuals.
b. Show yourself to the priest: Jesus does command the man to give a testimony to the priests, and what a testimony this was! The Mosaic Law prescribed specific sacrifices to be conducted upon the healing of a leper, and the priests had to “blow the dust” off that portion of their law (Leviticus 14:1-57).
B. Jesus heals a centurion’s servant.
1. (Matthew 8:5-6) 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. A centurion came to Him: The centurion is 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 comes to a Jewish teacher, and not for a selfish reason, but on behalf of his servant.
i. The 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 not work.
b. 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.
2. (Matthew 8:7-9) 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. Would Jesus have entered a Gentile’s house? It was completely against Jewish custom, but not against God’s law.
b. But only speak a word, and my servant will be healed: The centurion fully understands 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 can command things to be done and completed outside His immediate presence.
i. The centurion shows great faith in Jesus’ word. He understands that Jesus can heal with His word just as easily as with a touch.
ii. 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 sees that Jesus has at least that much authority.
c. The centurion also shows great sensitivity to Jesus, in that he wants 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.
i. He didn’t know Jesus well enough to know that He would feel awkward in the least; but his consideration of Jesus in this situation is impressive.
3. (Matthew 8:10-13) 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 shows a faith that is free of any superstitious reliance on merely external things. This was truly great faith, worthy of praise.
b. Many will come from east and west, and sit down with Abraham: The fact that such faith is present in a Gentile causes Jesus to announce that there will be Gentiles in the kingdom of heaven. They will even sit down to dinner with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob! This was an earth-shattering idea to many of the Jewish people of Jesus’ day.
c. But the sons of the kingdom will be cast out into outer darkness: As well, Jesus reminds his Jewish listeners that just as the Gentile’s racial identity is no automatic bar to the kingdom, their racial identity is no guarantee of the kingdom.
C. Two more suffering people are healed.
1. (Matthew 8:14-15) 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 one they would call the first and greatest pope was certainly married.
b. And she arose and served them: Peter’s mother-in-law shows a fitting response of those who have been touched by Jesus’ power - she immediately begins to serve.
2. (Matthew 8:16-17) 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.
b. That it might be fulfilled which was spoken by Isaiah: Matthew rightly sees this as a partial fulfillment of Isaiah’s prophecy in Isaiah 53:1-12, which primarily refers to spiritual healing, but also definitely includes physical healing. In this, Matthew shows 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) is made by the sufferings (stripes) of Jesus; the physical dimension of our healing is partially realized now, but finally only in resurrection.
3. This section of Matthew shows four different people being healed, each one different from the other.
a. Different people were healed:
o A Jew with no social or religious privileges.
o A Gentile member of the army occupying and oppressing Israel.
o A woman, related to one of Jesus’ devoted followers.
o Unnamed multitudes.
b. Their requests were made in different ways:
o A direct request from the sufferer, made in his own faith.
o A request from one man for another, made in faith on behalf of a suffering man.
o No request made because Jesus came to the sufferer, so there was no evidence of faith from the healed.
o Sufferers that were brought to Jesus, with different kinds of faith.
c. Jesus used different methods to heal:
o Jesus used a touch that was forbidden.
o Jesus used a word spoken from afar.
o Jesus used a tender touch.
o Jesus used a variety of unnamed methods.
d. 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. (Matthew 8:18-20) 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. 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 may have received many spontaneous offers like this.
b. 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 like to follow Him. This is exactly the opposite of the technique used by many evangelists today, but Jesus wanted the man to know what it would really be like.
2. (Matthew 8:21-22) Jesus speaks to a hesitant follower about the surpassing importance of following Jesus.
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.
b. Follow Me, and let the dead bury their own dead: Jesus clearly states the principle that family obligations - or any other obligation - must not be put ahead of following Jesus.
3. Why did Jesus discourage these potential disciples?
a. Unlike most 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.” (Bishop Ryle)
b. In addition, Jesus was merely being honest. This is what it meant to follow Him, and He wanted people to know it at the outset.
F. Jesus shows His power over the wind and the waves.
1. (Matthew 8:23-25) 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. 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 is evident in the fact that the disciples (many of which were experienced fishermen on this very sea) were terrified.
b. But He was asleep: Jesus’ true humanity is shown by His sleep on the boat. He became weary, and would sometimes need to catch sleep wherever He could.
2. (Matthew 8:26-27) 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 “cranky” from being awakened. Their problem was fear, and fear and unbelief go together. When we trust God as we should, there is little room for fear.
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 disciple’s great fear and what Jesus will encounter at His destination has led some to believe that there is some type of spiritual attack in the storm.
c. So the men marveled: The disciples are amazed. Such a powerful display over creation leads them to ask, Who can this be? It can 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. (Psalms 89:8-9)
G. Jesus’ power over demonic spirits.
1. (Matthew 8:28-29) 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. The demons knew who Jesus was (Jesus, You Son of God), even if the disciples didn’t (Who can this be? in Matthew 8:27).
c. 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).
2. (Matthew 8:30-32) 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: The region of Galilee was populated by both Jews and Gentiles, 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 they were owned by a Gentile man.
b. When they had come out, they went into the herd of swine: There is nothing really comparable to this in the Bible, the casting of a demon from a human to an animal. So why did Jesus do 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 man 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 man, but their intention was just the same: to completely destroy him.
ii. “Jesus allowed the demons to enter the swine to indicate beyond question that their real purpose was the total destruction of their host.” (Lane, in his commentary on Mark)
iii. Wasn’t this 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)
3. (Matthew 8:33-34) 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. 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.
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