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Bible Commentaries

E.M. Zerr's Commentary on Selected Books of the New Testament
Matthew 8

 

 


Other Authors
Introduction

Matthew 8

"THE GOSPEL OF MATTHEW"

Chapter Eight

As Jesus' ministry in Galilee continues, Matthew describes several

miracles and related events. Coming down from the mount, Jesus cleansed

a leper (Matthew 8:1-4). Entering Capernaum, He healed a centurion's servant

(Matthew 8:5-13). Arriving at Peter's house, He healed his mother-in-law and many

demon-possessed and all who were sick (Matthew 8:14-17). Before crossing the Sea

of Galilee to escape large crowds, Jesus challenged two would-be

disciples (Matthew 8:18-22). After calming the winds and waves of a great tempest

(Matthew 8:23-27), He arrived on the other side of the sea where He healed two

demon-possessed men (Matthew 8:28-34).

POINTS TO PONDER

* The nature and purpose of the miracles performed by Jesus

* The cost of discipleship

REVIEW QUESTIONS

1) What are the main points of this chapter?

- Five miracles in the regions of Galilee and the Gergesenes - Mt

8:1-17 ,23-34

- The cost of discipleship - Matthew 8:18-22

2) List the five miracles recorded in this chapter (Matthew 8:1-17; Matthew 8:23-27,

28-34)

- Jesus cleanses a leper

- Jesus heals a centurion's servant

- Jesus heals Peter's mother-in-law (and many others)

- Jesus calms the wind and the waves

- Jesus heals two demon-possessed men

3) Before healing the centurion's servant, what impressed Jesus? (Matthew 8:10)

- The great faith of the centurion who was a Gentile

4) Before healing the servant, what did Jesus foretell? (Matthew 8:11-12)

- Gentiles would enter the kingdom, while many Israelites would not

5) In Peter's house, who did Jesus heal? What prophecy was fulfilled?

(Matthew 8:14-17)

- His mother-in-law, and all the sick that were brought to Him

- "He Himself took our infirmities And bore our sicknesses" - Isa

53:4

6) What two lessons did Jesus teach about discipleship? (Matthew 8:19-22)

- It can mean a life of poverty; it requires precedence over familial

duties

7) What can we learn about fear and faith, before Jesus calmed the sea?

(Matthew 8:25-26)

- Fear comes from having little faith

8) Who did the demons acknowledge Jesus to be as He confronted them?

(Matthew 8:29)

- The Son of God

Matthew 8:1-34

Verse1
Matthew 8:1-34

And when he was come down from the mountain, great multitudes followed him. (Matthew 8:1)

The first result of the Sermon on the Mount was to establish the popularity of Jesus on a vast scale. To be sure, it did not occur to the great multitudes that followed him that the strict principles he advocated would, in fact, be rejected by the vast majority of them who so eagerly followed.

Verse2
And behold, there came to him a leper and worshipped him, saying, Lord, if thou wilt, thou canst make me clean.

Leprosy was, and is, a dreadful disease and was considered as a type of sin under the law of Moses; not that lepers were considered sinners, but the disease itself in its destructive course through the body bore remarkable suggestions of the similar ravages of sin in the soul. Elaborate rules were set up to isolate the leper and guard against his association with the community. Leviticus 13:49 and Leviticus 14:2 ff show the dread and revulsion associated with this malady. The leper believed in Christ but appeared to be uncertain of our Lord"s willingness to heal him.

Verse3
And he stretched forth his hand, and touched him, saying, I will; be thou made clean. And straightway his leprosy was cleansed.

Touching the leper, Jesus again showed his power and authority over and beyond the law of Moses which forbade touching a leper (Leviticus 13:44-46). All who touched a leper were considered unclean themselves; and anyone, except Christ, touching a leper would have been defiled; but not only did Jesus" touch fail to defile him, it cleansed the leper! Christ often defied the "touch not" directives of the Law, as, for example, in the case of the bier of the widow"s Son (Luke 7:14). The miracles of Jesus were usually instantaneous, complete, unquestionable, and attested by countless witnesses. The "lying miracles" (2 Thessalonians 2:9) of later times are never comparable in any of these particulars to the miracles of Christ.

Verse4
And Jesus saith unto him, See thou tell no man; but go, show thyself to the priest, and offer the gift that Moses commanded, for a testimony unto them.

Mark"s account reveals that the leper disobeyed the Lord"s command not to publish the matter (Mark 1:44-45). Christ, on several occasions, made similar requests to conceal such miracles. Examples of this are: the blind men (Matthew 9:30), many who were healed (Matthew 12:16), the disciples to whom he was revealed as the Messiah (Matthew 16:20), those healed by the seaside (Mark 3:12), those who saw the healing of the deaf-mute (Mark 7:36), those witnesses of the healing of the blind man of Bethsaida (Mark 8:26), and others. It may border on speculation to inquire why our Lord thus prohibited certain ones from telling it abroad, and yet on other occasions he even encouraged it. Trench has this:

The injunction to one, that he should proclaim, to another that he should conceal, the great things which God had wrought for him, had far more probably a deeper motive, and grounded itself on the different moral conditions of the persons healed. 1]

Trench also noted a practical reason in the case at hand. For the miracle to be properly attested, it was necessary that the appropriate gifts should be offered after Moses" commandment and that the priests should certify it.

Until this was accomplished, he should hold his peace; lest, if a rumor of these things went before him, the priests at Jerusalem, out of envy, out of a desire to depreciate what the Lord had done, might deny that the man had ever been a leper, or else that he was now truly cleansed. 2]

1] Richard C. Trench, Notes on the Miracles (Westwood, New Jersey: Fleming H. Revell Company, 1953), p237.

2] Ibid., p238.

Verse5
And when he was entered into Capernaum, there came unto him a centurion, beseeching him.

This wonder is mentioned at greater length by Luke (Luke 7:1-10); and, of the so-called discrepancies, it may be said that there are none when proper allowance is made for the common practice of ascribing to one person the deeds he actually did through an agent, or the omission of details, or addition of details, by one narrator as compared with another. Such things are the only sure evidences of independent witnesses, casting no suspicion of inaccuracy, but rather corroborating and proving the validity of the account.

Here, quite early in the New Testament, we are confronted with one of those persons called a CENTURION, who appear in such a favorable light throughout the New Testament. A centurion was an officer in the Roman legions, having command of one hundred men, hence his title. Other centurions besides the honorable example before us include: (1) the one who said, "Truly, this was the Son of God" (Matthew 27:54), (2) the centurions who rescued Paul from the mob (Acts 21:32), (3) the centurion who bore Paul"s message to the chiliarch (Acts 22:25), (4) Cornelius, the first Gentile convert (Acts 10:1), (5) Julius, who courteously treated Paul and saved his life on the voyage to Rome (Acts 27:3; Acts 27:43), and (6) the centurion who brought Paul"s nephew to the chiliarch (Acts 23:17-18). Trench observed, "Probably, in the general wreck of the moral institutions of the heathen world, the Roman army was one of the few in which some of the old virtues survived." 3]

Many of the Lord"s most wonderful deeds were done in Capernaum. The miracle before us, the raising of the daughter of Jairus, ruler of the synagogue, and other outstanding demonstrations of his power and Godhead were exhibited there; and yet, in the final analysis, that city rejected him!

ENDNOTE:

3] Ibid., footnote, p241.

Verse6
And saying, Lord, my servant lieth in the house sick of the palsy, grievously tormented.

From Luke, it is plain that this officer came to Christ through the use of intermediaries who also brought testimony of the Jews in regard to the general favor in which this centurion was held by the citizens of Capernaum. This presents no difficulty, for every court of law still holds that what a man does through a duly-constituted agency, he himself actually and legally does. Thus, Christ himself was said to have made and baptized more people than John the Baptist, though he did not do so PERSONALLY! (John 4:1-2). The good character of this man is further certified by the fact that he was deeply concerned for the welfare of a slave, here called a servant.

Verse7
And he saith unto him, I will come and heal him. And the centurion answered and said, Lord, I am not worthy that thou shouldest come under my roof; but only say the word, and may servant shall be healed.

The term "servant" in this narrative actually means "bondservant," or slave. See the margin of the English Revised Version (1885). When word was relayed again to the centurion that Jesus would come and heal his servant, he took quick appraisal of the situation, and in a marvelous demonstration of true humility, confessed his own unworthiness that the Holy One should come into his house. Augustine said of the centurion that "Counting himself unworthy that Christ should enter his doors, he was counted worthy that Christ should enter into his heart." 4] The terminology of the King James Version still remains desirable in the case of "the word only," rather than "only say the word." It must be allowed that here indeed was great faith. Even today, there are those who suppose that Christ could do more on earth if he were personally present as in some millennial reign; but the centurion properly understood that the physical presence of the Lord was not necessary for the accomplishments of any of his wise designs.

ENDNOTE:

4] Sermons by Augustine, 62:1.

Verse9
For I also am a man under authority, having under myself soldiers: and I say to this one, Go, and he goeth; and to another, Come, and he cometh; and to my servant, Do this, and he doeth it.

This magnificent argument from the less to the greater is as fresh and original as it is grand. By implication, he recognized Christ as the Great Commander, the chief authority, not merely of earth but of heaven also, and having under his authority all things, even the things of the unseen creation.

Verse10
And when Jesus heard it, he marveled, and said to them that followed, Verily I say unto you, I have not found so great faith, no, not in Israel.

The centurion"s faith contrasted sharply with the lack of it in the Jewish leaders who, although they should have been the first to recognize Christ and believe on him, were nevertheless his carping critics and sworn enemies. Jesus" first comment was directed toward that shameful and tragic condition. It was, then and there, announced by Jesus that the Gentiles would be received into the kingdom of God and that many "sons of the kingdom," that is, Jews, would not enter.

Verse11
And I say unto you that many shall come from the east and the west, and shall sit down with Abraham, and Isaac, and Jacob, in the kingdom of heaven.

In addition to the interest provoked by the projected entry of the Gentiles into Christ"s kingdom, there is also the obvious intention of Jesus to declare that the patriarchs mentioned here are truly saved and that they make up a part of the great family of the redeemed. In view of the sins and shortcomings of those particular men, it seems that none in our own day should despair of winning the crown. This takes no light view of either their sins or ours, but is an overwhelming argument to the effect that "his grace is sufficient" (2 Corinthians 12:9). The fact that Luke does not record these words is no problem. All of the divine accounts are supplementary, each to the others. An example of this will be noted in detail on Matthew 27:37, which see.

Verse12
But the sons of the kingdom shall be cast forth into the outer darkness: there shall be the weeping and the gnashing of teeth.

This has the same prophetic import as Paul"s words concerning the breaking off of the natural olive branches and the grafting in of the wild olive branches (Romans 11:17-24). The "outer darkness" is a reference to hell, or the place of final disposal of the wicked. It is interesting that Christ used various expressions descriptive of the final place of destiny for the wicked, referring to "unquenchable fire" (Matthew 3:12) in one place, and to "outer darkness" in another, The sons of the kingdom mentioned are the leaders of the Jewish nation who rejected Christ.

Verse13
And Jesus said unto the centurion, Go thy way; as thou hast believed, so be it done unto thee. And the servant was healed in that hour.

Quite properly, there is no detailed account of the servant"s illness. The only diagnosis is that given by the centurion; but the fact of the cure is emphatically declared. The details, which might have been very interesting, are overshadowed by the faith of the centurion and the resultant teachings of the Lord.

Verse14
And when Jesus was come into Peter"s house, he saw his wife"s mother lying sick of a fever. And he touched her hand, and the fever left her; and she arose and ministered unto him.

Matthew"s status as an eye-witness of these wonderful deeds is unintentionally evident in his detailing of the very part of her body which the Master touched. No fabricator would have included a detail of this kind. Peter"s being a married man is proof that celibacy was not a requirement of either disciples or apostles. Peter"s mother-in-law attested the completeness of her healing by rising at once to minister to the Lord. No blessing of any kind, physical or spiritual, is intended solely for the benefit of the recipient. People are saved to save others. Those who were healed were healed to serve others!

Verse16
And when even was come, they brought unto him many possessed with demons: and he cast out the spirits with a word, and healed all that were sick.

Demon possession is a problem for some. The sophisticated mind of this scientific age, as a usual thing, simply does not believe in such things as demon possession. It seems quite obvious that Christ did. It is the view here that Christ is divine, that his judgments were altogether true and accurate, and that, whether any such things exist today or not, they certainly EXISTED THEN. The fair and ordinary interpretation of many New Testament passages on this question leaves absolutely no alternative except to believe it. It is possible that Satan may have ceased this type of activity for the specific purpose of casting doubt upon the New Testament. However, if Satan has ceased such activity, a far more plausible reason is that there is sufficient knowledge of Christ among people today to make it impossible for Satan to operate unhampered. If one may believe the testimony of returning missionaries from the darker corners of the planet, even now there is much evidence that the same phenomena still exist. Until medical knowledge is much more complete than it is at present, it is far too early to write off the plain words of the New Testament and the overwhelming traditions of the whole human race reaching back to the dawn of history. John Pitt, in a remarkably perceptive book, Faith Healing, Fact or Fiction, quotes an eminent British scholar, R. J. Campbell, as follows: "If there is one thing almost beyond question to those who know the evidence in these days, it is that demon possession is not only a fact, but a fact of our times, as well as New Testament times." 5] Pitt also said, "The evidence is thus clear; our Lord did believe in demons as causative agents in some forms of sickness; he did not believe in a devil-infested world." 6]

The verse before us inspired the following whose author is unknown:

At even, when the sun was set, The sick, O Lord, around thee lay. O, in what divers pains they met, O, in what joy they went away!

5] Ibid., p37.

6] John Pitt, Faith Healing, Fact or Fiction (Westwood, New Jersey: Fleming H. Revell Company, 1961), p38.

Verse17
That it might be fulfilled which was spoken through the prophet Isaiah, saying, Himself took our infirmities, and bare our diseases.

The passage quoted by Matthew is Isaiah 53:4. Matthew constantly appealed to the prophetic writers of the Old Testament, citing their long established and widely-known words as proof of Jesus" claim to be the Messiah.

Verse18
Now when Jesus saw great multitudes about him, he gave commandment to depart unto the other side. And there came a scribe, and said unto him, Teacher, I will follow thee whithersoever thou goest.

Christ decided to go to the other side of Lake Galilee to escape the press of the multitudes; and, at this juncture in his ministry, there presented himself this scribe, probably the very first person of any importance, socially, to offer to become a disciple of Jesus. The Lord did not rush to accept him, recognizing, no doubt, that the scribe was carried away by our Lord"s current popularity, and having utterly no understanding of the eventual sacrifices involved in becoming his disciple. The Saviour"s very next words were pointed to the fact that Christ had no substantial emoluments available, either for himself or for any of his followers.

Verse20
And Jesus saith unto him, The foxes have holes, and the birds of the heaven have nests; but the Son of man hath not where to lay his head.

This shows the poverty of Jesus, from an earthly viewpoint; and yet we through his poverty are made rich (2 Corinthians 8:9). We are not told if the scribe followed Jesus after this, or not; but the strong implication is that he did not. Perhaps, like the rich young ruler, he found the conditions too rigorous.

The title "Son of man," as applied by Jesus to himself, is one of deep interest. It was his favorite designation of himself, and he used it no less than forty times; but only once (in Acts 7:56) is it ever found on anyone"s lips except his own. Some believe our Lord took this title from Psalm 8:4, "What is man, that thou art mindful of him; And the son of man, that thou visitest him?" In the New Testament, Christ is called:

The Son of David .......................... Matthew 1:1

The Son of Abraham ........................ Matthew 1:1

The Son of God ............................ Matthew 16:16

The Son of Adam ........................... Luke 3:38

The Son of Joseph ......................... Luke 3:23

The Son of Mary ........................... Matthew 13:55

The Son of Man ............................ Matthew 8:20

Each one of these seven designations is true and proper in its own frame of reference. Why, then, did Jesus lean so heavily upon "Son of man" as a title for himself? First, it served to conceal his true identity during the period when he did not want it generally known that he was the Messiah, for there is every indication that the title was not recognized as a proper name for the Messiah until much later. Also, there is a universality in the title that does not pertain to any of the others. Thus, "the Son of David" indicated a legal relationship; "the Son of Abraham" had a racial limitation; "the Son of Joseph" and "the Son of Mary" stressed a family relationship; the Son of Adam identified him with the one who had brought ruin upon mankind; the Son of God during the early part of his ministry was premature. The choice of Son of man as his title removed all the limitations implicit in other titles and identified Jesus Christ, not as belonging to any race, family, nation, or kingdom exclusively, but to all the human race.

Verse21
And another of the disciples said unto him, Lord, suffer me first to go and bury my father. But Jesus saith unto him, Follow me; and leave the dead to bury their own dead.

The proposition set forth by the disciple mentioned here was not that his father was dead and that he desired to be excused to hold the funeral. Far from it. He was one of the group known as "wait a little" Pharisees who always proposed something else to do first. He meant that he was not free to be a disciple until after the death of his father but that he would be glad to follow Jesus after his father died.

In a rejoinder which seems harsh if not understood in its true meaning, Jesus allowed no delay, encouraged no procrastination, and commanded that those spiritually dead should be left to bury their own dead. Furthermore, even if Christ had demanded that the disciple miss the funeral of his own father, such an urgency is fully in accord with the utmost importance of immediate, final, irrevocable and constant adherence to Christ as one"s Lord and Master, regardless of cost or inconvenience. After all, in Sir Walter Scott"s stirring from "Lady of the Lake," Roderick summoned his warriors to a far less noble rendezvous: "Leave the bride at the altar, the corpse uninterred!"

Well did Jesus know that if this disciple returned home to the old ways, the old viewpoint, and the old habits, he would never more wish to follow his Lord. The admonition of Jesus, seen in this light, is therefore full of the utmost love and consideration for that unknown disciple"s eternal welfare. Dr. Lotus Delta Coffman, president of the University of Minnesota until1938 , wrote many years ago in a syndicated column, "These words of Jesus, far from being unkind, were prompted by unbounded love and grounded in his infinite knowledge of what is best for man."

Verse23
And when he was entered into a boat, his disciples followed him.

Why did not Matthew write merely that "they boarded a ship"? The significance is that the apostles observed the same protocol which from the most ancient times, and until this day, is observed by every ship on earth, especially the naval ships of all nations - those of highest rank enter and leave FIRST. Thus, the disciples already recognized Christ as Lord.

Verse24
And behold, there arose a great tempest in the sea, insomuch that the boat was covered with the waves: but he was asleep.

Many travelers to Palestine have commented on the violent storms which so often lash the Sea of Galilee, their intensity augmented by the steep mountain gorges that rim its shores, and by the greater density of the atmosphere so far below sea-level. Such storms are common, still; but that this was no ordinary storm is evident from the terror it struck into the hearts of these bold men who were so familiar with the usual character and intensity of such disturbances.

Verse25
And they came to him, and awoke him, saying, Save, Lord; we perish.

The contrast between Jesus asleep in this storm and Jonah asleep in another is notable. Jonah"s conscience was dead through sin and rebellion; Jesus" conscience was calm through innocence. Jonah was the source of danger on his vessel; Christ was the source of safety on his. The apostles" turning to Christ in this extremity is exactly what they should have done; but the lack of faith that prompted it is deplorable and was rebuked by the Master.

Verse26
And he saith unto them, Why are ye fearful, O ye of little faith? Then he arose, and rebuked the winds and the sea; and there was a great calm.

It is important to note the significance of the word "rebuked." Trench discussed this as follows:

To regard this as mere oratorical personification would be absurd; rather there is here, a distinct tracing up of all the discords and disharmonies in the outward world to their source in a person, a referring them back to him, as to their ultimate ground; even as this person can be no other than Satan, the author of all disorders alike in the natural and in the physical world. 7]

The great calm was matched only by the marvelous rest and confidence that came into the hearts of the disciples. Like the instantaneous miracles of healing, this wonder exhibits immediacy and completeness. The winds did not merely falter and die down; they ceased!

ENDNOTE:

7] Richard C. Trench, op. cit., p156.

Verse27
And the men marveled, saying, What manner of man is this, that even the winds and the sea obey him?

It was then plain that every area of existence was totally under our Lord"s authority. The spiritual world, the physical world, time, life, and death were, and are, utterly subject to his will. The force of this incident is multiplied when it is recalled that the rugged Galilean fishermen were perfectly capable of handling any ordinary turbulence with skill and efficiency.

Verse28
And when he was come to the other side into the country of the Gadarenes, there met him two possessed with demons, coming forth out of the tombs, exceeding fierce, so that no man could pass by that way.

Gadara was one of the ten cities of Decapolis ("ten-cities"), all but one of which were east of the Jordan river. The ensuing wonder about to be performed upon the city"s most notorious derelict was well calculated to provide a sensational witness of Christ"s glory throughout the entire section. Mark and Luke mention only one of these persons, the principal one. Note that neither Mark nor Luke states that there was "only one" of these men. The fact of demon possession is plain here. These were possessed not merely with one, but with many, demons. The conversation the demons carried on with Christ, their entry into the swine, and many other factors make it impossible to reconcile this situation with one in which the victim was merely "sick." Given writes thus:

When the Lord Jesus Christ had taken to himself a true body and a reasonable soul, when the word was made flesh and dwelt among men, Satan, by himself or by his servants, took possession of the bodies of men, cruelly torturing their flesh and agonizing their spirits. Nor are we prepared to say that demoniac possession has altogether ceased. We have seen men so act and heard men so speak and have been informed of such fiendish atrocity on their part, that we could account for their violent and outrageous conduct, or for their mischievous and diabolical acts, or for their horrid and blasphemous expressions, in no other way than that some demon, or the devil himself, had been permitted to take temporary possession of them.Mark 1:1-45, p234."> 8]

ENDNOTE:

Mark 1:1-45, p234."> 8] J. J. Given in the Pulpit Commentary (Grand Rapids, Michigan: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1962), Vol16 , Mark 1:1-45, p234.

Verse29
And, behold, they cried out, saying, What have we to do with thee, thou Son of God? art thou come hither to torment us before the time?

The kingdom of evil, at this point, was fully aware of WHO Christ was (and is). If Satan had any doubt prior to this, Christ"s rebuke of the winds and the sea removed it. These demons freely admitted and, in a sense, confessed Jesus as the Son of God, admitting that he had the power to torment them "before the time." This shows that the time of ultimate judgment and punishment of the condemned is set for future fulfillment and that the whole demonic world is fully aware of it.

Verse30
Now there was far off from them a herd of swine feeding.

The unbelieving world, in a vain effort to fault the Son of God, has shown the desperate nature of its case by seizing on this incident as grounds for reproach of the Saviour. Will Durant

wondered what the English wool-growers would have done to Jesus if he had sent a flock of their sheep to death as he had done with the Gadarene swine; they "would have made him swing for it," for English law made such an action a capital crime. 9]

Over against English law, of the period mentioned by Durant, was the prior law of God which forbade swine to the Jews; and the implication is overwhelming that these swine were owned by Jews contrary to God"s law; however, this cannot be proved. The true justification of Christ"s actions here turns upon other principles. He did not destroy the swine; THE DEMONS DID! The argument that he permitted it may be applied with equal force to every disaster, physical or otherwise, that ever happened on earth. See more under Matthew 8:32. Note that Mark places the number of these animals at "about two thousand" (Mark 5:13).

ENDNOTE:

9] Will and Ariel Durant, The Age of Voltaire (New York: Simon and Schuster, 1965), p120.

Verse31
And the demons besought him, saying, If thou cast us out, send us away into the herd of swine.

This shows that the emissaries of Satan are restricted and may not enter even a herd of swine without the Lord"s permission. Other restrictions of Satan are given in 1 Corinthians 10:13 and Matthew 13:25. This request of the demons is a prayer of sorts and indicates that God may indeed answer any prayer that is in harmony with His will, regardless of the wickedness of the petitioner. Thus, he permitted Satan to "sift" Peter. Also, Satan"s request with reference to Job was also granted. This is a warning that it is surely a mistake to make the answer to someone"s prayer "prima facie" evidence of pardon or forgiveness of sins. How unhappy must be the state of demons which cannot rest except when engaged in tormenting or destroying other beings in God"s creation; and, even then, there is no suggestion that they are in any true sense actually happy, except in a relative or accommodative sense.

Verse32
And he said unto them, Go. And they came out, and went into the swine: and behold, the whole herd rushed down the steep into the sea, and perished in the waters.

Note the quick and destructive results which followed the entry of the demons into the swine. Perhaps it was precisely for the purpose of showing what always follows when Satan has control that Jesus permitted this incident to happen. Satan entered the heart of Judas; and one has merely to turn a few pages to read the total destruction of Judas, physically and spiritually. Satan"s character as the destroyer is revealed by the action here; and, in view of the overriding importance of this knowledge to all mankind, the loss of the herd of swine was a trifling incidental. As soon as the demons had their way, the swine perished. This is always the case when Satan has his way. Judas permitted Satan in his heart (Luke 22:3), and very soon afterwards, he went out and hanged himself (Matthew 27:5). If God is to be charged with all that is permitted, He would then be guilty in the case of floods, earthquakes, wars, pestilence, and indeed for all the unfortunate and destructive things that ever happened on earth. There is another weighty consideration, namely, the relative value of the two whose lives were saved by Jesus as a result of casting out the demons and permitting them to enter the swine. We do not know if this was the only way in which Jesus could have saved those lives, but we may surely believe that it was the best way. Would Mr. Durant, and other atheists, have preferred that two human sufferers should have been left in their awful state rather than permit the loss of an illegal herd of hogs? Our society today does not flinch at any cost, however great, if a life can be saved. When a child contracts poliomyelitis, a $25 ,00000 iron lung is made available at once if needed. Who would spare the cost? Let infidels champion the economic interests of swineherds if they will, Jesus gave the verdict in favor of human life!

Verse33
And they that fed them fled, and went away into the city, and told everything, and what was befallen to them that were possessed with demons.

From the other synoptics, it is learned that the demoniacs were clothed, in their right minds, and sitting at the feet of the Master. How strange it is that such a scene did not endear the people to Jesus. Surely, for such a wonderful recovery, the city fathers of Gadara should have been happy to make up the loss to the owners of the swine, if, indeed, they were legally held. But no, there had been a property loss, and every human value was lost in that consideration. For men of a materialistic and secular nature, a question of property overrides all others. There was the business of those2 ,000 missing swine!

Verse34
And behold, all the city came out to meet Jesus: and when they saw him, they besought him that he would depart from their borders.

What about all the sick, infirmed, diseased, bedridden sufferers of Gadara? What about all the other demon-possessed in that city? Was no thought whatever given to the advantage that had come to the miserable sufferers of Gadara in the sudden appearance before their gates of the Great Physician? All, no! They judged themselves by their reaction to this marvelous opportunity. It was punishment enough for that wicked and unfortunate city that Jesus honored their request. All of their their blind, deaf, mute, palsied, and lepers were disinherited forever by the rash request that the Light of all nations should depart from their borders, and this says nothing of those immeasurably greater benefits of the gift of eternal life which were all renounced by this tragic rejection of the Son of God. There is no record that Jesus ever went near the place again, which shows how far-reaching are the consequences flowing out of one wrong decision.


Verse 1

The multitudes evidently were the ones Jesus left behind in chapter5:1 when he went up into the mount. Their interest did not seem to be strong enough to take them up the place where they would have to climb. Nov that he is again on the lower level they are ready to go along after him. Followed him refers to their bodily movement in walking with him and not to any particular attitude of mind toward his teaching.


Verse 2

The leper worshiped Jesus which would mean only that he assumed a position of respect. See the long definition of the word at chapter2:2. The law of Moses required a leper to maintain a safe distance from others (Leviticus 13:45-46), hence the conduct of this man could be only one of courtesy. Leprosy was incurable except by miraculous power, and Jesus had previously proved his ability to cure bodily ailments by his miraculous power (Matthew 4:23-24).


Verse 3

Jesus was willing to heal the leper and did so both by physical contact and word of mouth. The healing was immediate and not like the pretended working of miracles today where the patient is exhorted to "hold out with faith and finally be cured."


Verse 4

There was no medical cure for leprosy known to the ancients but sometimes a leper was cured miraculously. And after the physical cure had been accomplished, a ceremonial cleansing was required under the law .which included certain sacrifices. (See Leviticus 14) The Mosaic law was in force in the time of Christ, hence he commanded this man to comply with that ordinance pertaining to leprosy. For a testimony unto them. When the former leper presented himself before the priest to perform this service, it was proof that a miraculous cure had been done and hence another bit of evidence would be furnished of the power of Jesus.


Verse 5

The Funk and Wagnalls New Standard Bible Dictionary defines a centurion as follows: "The commander of a "century," i. e., a hundred men, the sixtieth part of a legion, in the Roman army." This man was a Gentile, being an official in the Roman military forces. But the fame of Jesus had reached the ears of all classes, and they believed that the benefit of his mercy was to be enjoyed by any who were afflicted.


Verse 6

The word Lord in the original has several shades of meaning, one of which is "sovereign, prince, chief." This centurion had not become a disciple of Jesus and hence he did not address him as Lord from that standpoint. But he had learned enough about his great work to believe him to be be a superior person in wisdom and power. He therefore appealed to him on behalf of his servant who was sick of the palsy which was a form of paralysis that retained a considerable amount of feeling in the parts.


Verse 7

Jesus was able to give "absent treatment" as effectively as otherwise. However, the proposal to come to the home of the centurion drew from him an expression of complete faith. He had not even requested that Jesus come, but only appealed to him in the attitude of a simple trust in his power and willingness to do something for him.


Verse 8

This verse gives us one reason why the centurion had not askel Jesus to come to his home; he did not feel worthy of such a guest. He therefore was to be satisfied with the favor to his servant though absent, and expressed his belief thus.


Verse 9

This verse indicates that the good things the centurion said in the preceding verse did not come out of a desire to use empty flattery, because he gave a logical reason for his statement. Under authority . . . under me is a very significant line of argument. The centurion had the power to give commands to servants who were under him, even though he was himself under another. Jesus, on the other hand, was under no one (as the centurion thought) and hence should be able to exercise unrestricted authority. This was in line with one definition for Lord which is: "One who has control of a person, the master."


Verse 10

A meaning of marvel Is "to admire." Jesus could not be surprised or impressed as if by some unexpected occurrence for his wisdom was divine. Therefore we are to understand this to mean he was filled with admiration for this unusual exhibition of faith. So great faith, no, not in Israel. The centurion was not a member of the nation of Israel but belonged to the idolatrous Gentiles. Yet he showed more faith than the people who were supposed to possess great confidence in the seed of Abraham.


Verse 11

East and west is used figuratively to mean the earth or world in general, not merely the land of the Jews that was virtually restricted to the land of Palestine. Kingdom of heaven means the "everlasting kingdom" that is promised in 2 Peter 1:11 to the faithful. To sit down means to become a guest and admitted to the hospitality of a home. It is used in this place to refer to the favors that will be given to the faithful in the Eternal Home after this life on earth is over.


Verse 12

Children is from Hums and Thayer"s definition at this place is, "those for whom a thing is destined." It does not necessarily mean those who had actually become members of the kingdom, but those who would logically have been expected to be foremost in entering it as were the Jews. The fathers of that nation, Abraham and Isaac and Jacob, had lived faithfully under the system that was in force over them (the Patriarchal Dispensation), but their descendants of the later centuries in the time of Christ rejected the teaching of their great seed and will be rejected in the day of judgment. Paul set forth this same thought in his speech at Antioch (Acts 13:46).


Verse 13

Having concluded his speech to the hardened Jews, Jesus gave his final attention to the centurion by promising him the favor he requested. As thou host believed means that the centurion would receive the favor he believed he would, namely, the healing of his servant at once by the simple word of Christ. -Hence the statement that the servant was healed in the selfsame hour is given in direct connection.


Verse 14

One-observation we should make here is that Peter had a wife, contrary to the dogma of the church of Rome. Laid means she was prostrated with the fever as if thrown down by the force of the disease.


Verse 15

In this case Jesus saw fit to make bodily contact. We are not told here whether• he said anything, but in Luke 4:39 it says he "rebuked the fever." This healing also was immediate and complete for the woman was able to perform the work of administering to them.


Verse 16

Thayer defines even in this passage to mean, "from our three to six o"clock P. M." That accounts for the many things that seem to have been done yet on that same day. Possessed with devils will be explained at verse28 , but it should be noted here that healing the sick was distinguished from casting out devils. It is also stated that Jesus did both with his word.


Verse 17

That it might be fulfilled does not always mean that a certain thing was done just so a particular prophecy might be fulfilled, although it will sometimes mean that. Whichever the case may be, it will be well to consider it in the light of saying, "and in so doing the prophecy was fulfilled which," etc. The prophecy cited here is in Isaiah 53:4.


Verse 18

Sometimes the multitudes were so great that it interfered with the work of Jesus (Mark 2:4; Mark 3:9; Luke 8:19). That was the case here and hence Jesus gave orders for them to depart unto the other side (of the Sea of Galilee).


Verse 19

A full description of the work and character of the scribes will be given at chapter13:52 , but I will state now that they were a very important group of men among the Jews. They made great pretentions of learning and wished to be recognized as an indispensable class. This scribe came to Jesus with an air of one who was deeply concerned in the work of the new teacher who was gaining so much fame among the people. But Jesus knew his heart as he always did all other men, and knew that he had mixed motives in his apparent devotional attitude.


Verse 20

To follow Jesus at that time meant to go bodily over the country with him and with no certain arrangement for personal comfort. The foxes and birds had fixed places of abode and always knew where they would lodge. However, we should not take the saying of Jesus to mean that he would be like a friendless wayfarer with no chance of accommodations at night. We are sure that he had friends (such as the family of Lazarus) who gladly opened their homes for him. But he did not hold possession of any such a place so that he could provide the comforts of temporal life for his followers, hence there was no object in following him with such luxuries in view. There is no ground for saying this verse is a statement to show how "poor" Jesus became as a popular notion claims for it.


Verse 21

It is unreasonable to suppose that this man"s father was actually dead at this time, for had that been the case he would not have been away from home. The necessary conclusion is, then, that the father was aged and likely to pass away almost any time, and the son presented this family duty as an excuse for not going abroad over the country with Jesus.


Verse 22

As the father was not yet dead, and this man professed to be a disciple of Jesus and hence alive spiritually, he should leave the temporal work of a burial to those who were dead spiritually. The general lesson in the case is that even as important a circumstance as a funeral should not be allowed to interfere with the spiritual services we owe to Christ.


Verse 23

The disciples were that part of the crowd that professed to be the followers of Jesus in belief as well as wanting to go along with him in the traveling. We would naturally conclude that the multitude could not enter the ship.


Verse 24

In the Scriptures as in any other literature, we should deal with figurative language according to reason. We know that had the ship been literally covered with the water•, the disciples would have already perished and would not have been able to speak. The meaning of the passage is, therefore, that the ship was filling and that unless it was stopped they would perish.


Verse 25-26

The disciples had been with Jesus and had seen his power over great obstacles. They should have had such confidence in him that as long as he was with them no harm could come. Their failure to take that view of it was the reason for charging them with "little faith." Jesus then did what they should have confidently expected him to do; he stilled the tempest.


Verse 27

Each new miracle seemed to fill the disciples with astonishment. The distinguishing feature of this event would lie in the fact that it was inanimate things that Jesus controlled. That is indicated by their word obey, which ordinarily would require intelligent response which the storm could not do.


Verse 28

Gergesenes (also called Gadarenes) was situated near the eastern shore of the Sea of Galilee. The tombs were caves in the rocks that were used for the burial of the dead. They were generally open so that persons could enter and leave them as occasion suggested. It was in this kind of a place that the Lord met the two afflicted men. Possessed with devils all comes from the Greek word DAIMONIZOMAI. Another Greek word that is always (with one exception) rendered by "devil in the Authorized Version is DAIMONION. These two Greek words are so frequently related that I shall consider them both in the comments at this verse. I shall quote from both Thayer and Robinson as they discuss the words in their lexicons. Because of the important history that they give in connection with their specific definitions, I think it will be well to give the reader the benefit of this authentic information. It will be so necessary in various places in our study of the New Testament, that I urge the reader to make it convenient to consult it carefully any time it is referred to. First will be Thayer on DAIMONIZOMAI:

"In the N. T. DAIMONIZOMENOI are persons afflicted with especially severe diseases, either bodily or mental (such as paralysis, blindness, deafness, loss of speech, epilepsy, melancholy, etc.), whose bodies in the opinion of the Jews (see DAIMONION) demons had entered, and so held possession of them as not only to afflict them with ills, but also to dethrone the reason and take its place themselves; accordingly the possessed were wont to express the mind and consciousness of the demons dwelling in them; and their cure was thought to require the expulsion of the demon." Next is Thayer on DAIMONION "1. the divine Power, deity, divinity . . . 2. a spirit, a being inferior to God, superior to men . . . evil spirits or the messengers and ministers of the devil . . . to have a demon, be possessed by a demon, is said of those who either suffer from some ex ceptionally severe disease, Luke 4:33; Luke 8:27; or act and speak as though they were mad, Matthew 11:18; Luke 7:33; John 7:20; John 8:48. . . . According to a Jewish opinion which passed over to Christians, the demons are the gods of the Gentiles and the authors of idolatry. . . . The apostle Paul, though teaching that the gods of the Gentiles are a fiction (1 Corinthians 8:4; 1 Corinthians 10:19), thinks that the conception of them has been put into the minds of men by demons, who appropriate to their own use and honor the sacrifices offered to idols." Next will be Robinson on DAIMONIZOMAI: "In New Testament, to have a demon or devil, to be a demoniac, to be possessed, afflicted, with an evil spirit; found only in the Gospels." Next is Robinson on the Greek word dai-monion: "1. generally a deity, a god, spoken of heathen gods, Acts 17:18.

2. specifically a demon. In the New Testament, a demon, devil, an evil spirit, an unclean spirit. These spirits are represented as fallen angels, 2 Peter 2:4; Jude 1:6; and are now subject to Satan as their prince, Matthew 9:34; Matthew 25:41; 2 Corinthians 12:7; Revelation 12:9. They were held to have the power of working miracles, but not for good, Revelation 16:14; to be hostile to mankind, John 8:44; to utter the heathen responses and oracles, Acts 16:17; and to lurk in the idols of the heathen, which are hence called daimonia, devils, 1 Corinthians 10:20. . . . They are likewise represented as the authors of evil to mankind, both moral and physical."


Verse 29

These devils were fallen angels (see note on preceding verse), and had been in the place of torment in Hades (2 Peter 2:4; Jude 1:6) where they "would have remained until the time of judgment for which they were being reserved. They had been enjoying a short relief from that torment by being in these human creatures. They knew they would be doomed eternally at the last judgment, but if they could remain on earth until that day they would escape that much torment. But now if Jesus sends them back to their place in Hades, they will again be tormented before the time of the great judgment day that is awaiting all intelligent beings.


Verse 30-31

Rather than go back to their previous place in Hades, these devils preferred to inhabit the swine because then (as they thought) they would get to remain on the earth until the judgment of the last day.


Verse 32

Their request was granted but it did not benefit them very long. The possession of devils sometimes caused great physical derangement in men, and here it produced a madness in the swine that caused them to plunge into the water and perish.


Verse 33

Such an event was so unusual that the keepers fled into the city and reported the whole thing to the people.


Verse 34

The people came out to where Jesus was and requested him to leave the community. That could not have been on account of the one afflicted with the devils for in Mark"s account (Mark 5:19-20) he was benefited and became a preacher of Jesus. The only conclusion possible is they feared others might lose some of their stock.

 


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Bibliography Information
Zerr, E.M. "Commentary on Matthew 8:4". E.M. Zerr's Commentary on Selected Books of the New Testament. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/znt/matthew-8.html. 1952.

Lectionary Calendar
Thursday, October 22nd, 2020
the Week of Proper 24 / Ordinary 29
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