Matthew 8 and 9 present miracles of Jesus. Chapter 8 records Jesus healing the leper, the paralyzed son of the centurion, and Peter’s mother-in-law. Jesus also demonstrates his control of the storm on the Sea of Galilee and his authority over demons when he cast them out of two Gadarene men.
Each miracle gives visible proof that Jesus is in fact the Messiah. We can find several reasons that Jesus performed miracles, besides the obvious desire to express his love and remove suffering.
To authenticate himself, his plan, and his authority (John 2.11; 6:14; 11:47). Jesus performed miracles to authenticate his own person, ministry, and authority (John 2:11; 6:14; Acts 2:22).
Miracles then can demonstrate God and his character. This strengthens our faith in Him (Ex 4.1-5; Luke 4.25-28, 32-36; Jn 2.11; 20.31; Heb 2.2-4).
Jesus performed miracles to accomplish what the OT prophets said of him (Matthew 8:16-17 with Isaiah 53:4).
Miracles forced unbelief to show itself. The miracles frustrated the Pharisees because they could not explain them away, yet they did not want to recognize Jesus was Messiah (John 11:47-48; Acts 4:16).
Miracles also demonstrate God and his ability so that an unbeliever firm in unbelief will harden his heart against God (Ex 7.8-13). Jesus’ miracles did the same for those firm in their unbelief (Matthew 11:20-21; John 12:37).
Matthew 8:1-4 is the record of Jesus healing the man with leprosy. Jesus, in this miracle, shows that he responds to faith of one coming to him with a request, and that he has authority over untreatable diseases.
Leprosy (Hebrew צָרַעַת tsara`at, Greek, lepro~ lepros) was a skin disease of some kind. In the New Testament it is only found in the synoptic gospels. Today, true leprosy is called Hansen’s disease. It is caused by Mycobacterium leprae. Today, leprosy can be cured by a combination of antibiotics (multidrug therapy). The bacterium destroys the nerve endings in the body with the resulting damage and infections to the body. It is spread through coughing and sneezing, but is not very contagious. About 150 cases a year are diagnosed in the US.
Biblical leprosy probably included this and other skin diseases. Leprosy also affected clothing and buildings and in at least these cases was probably some kind of fungus or mold. This man (Matthew 8:2) likely had heard of Jesus’ other miracles (Matthew 4:24) and showed his faith by approaching Jesus. People were deathly afraid of lepers. Lepers were shunned and condemned to a lonely life with no hope of cure. A leper was also considered unclean by Levitical law, and so was not allowed to participate in corporate worship. Leviticus 13 gives details about the diagnosis of leprosy while chapter 14 instructs about the ritual cleansing. Leprosy is a general term for skin disease and also for some kinds of mold on clothes and buildings.
Jesus touched the leper. He was not afraid of becoming ill or of becoming ceremonially unclean. The miracle of it all was that the man was immediately healed.
Next, the man had to show himself to the priest in order to be pronounced ceremonially clean (Examples, Leviticus 13.36-39 and others.)
Leprosy to Israel was like sin. It broke the person’s fellowship with God and with the community. Only the priest could declare a person clean and so able to participate in corporate worship and fellowship with people.
Why did Jesus not want the man to tell others? We would think it would be a good witness. Jesus did not want the people to take him by force and try to make him king ahead of God’s schedule. He was not promoting a political kingdom against Rome.
The centurion and his paralyzed servant are the topic of Matthew 8:5-13. This instance teaches two principles. The first is that Jesus responds to faith. The second is that Jesus has the ability to heal at long distance, without being physically present. Here there was no chance of physical contact. Jesus did offer to go to the home, but the centurion knew that was not necessary. Just say the word, he said. Jesus did say the word, and the servant was healed on the spot without TV, Internet, radio, or cell phones.
The centurion was a Gentile and a Roman officer who commanded 70-100 men in what was called a century. He was used to authority and he recognized the issue of authority. He knew about authority. The one under authority obeyed the one possessing authority. The centurion recognized Jesus authority over illness. He seemed to recognize his authority over all creation, not just illness.
The centurion was trusting the authority of Jesus. Jesus commented about his “great faith” in verse 11. This Gentile’s faith was stronger than that of Israelis’ who were looking for the Messiah.
The paragraph about coming from the east means that many Gentiles will also participate in the coming kingdom, while many Jews, sons of the kingdom or who by relation to Abraham, ought to have received the Messiah when he demonstrated his authority, will be excluded.
Verse 13 concludes with the healing of the servant in response to the faith of the centurion.
We learn from this section
That Jesus’ authority and power can be exercised outside of the line of sight. He has authority over all creation.
We also learn that Gentiles and army officers are welcomed into God’s kingdom.
Furthermore, Jesus likes it when people believe him. He likes to respond to faith. And here he responded to the Roman army officer’s faith.
Next, Matthew 8:14-17 records that Jesus even healed Peter’s mother-in-law. After that he called demons out of people, and also healed many other people who had illnesses. This section demonstrated that Jesus has the ability to solve the common problems faced by people around him. He is truly the king.
Note that the healing of Peter’s mother-in-law was immediate.
The demons were easy to cast out. It says, “with a word.” He simply said something like, “get out,” and they had to obey his authority.
Then anyone else who came to him, he healed.
The quotation from Isaiah 53:4 documents what Jesus was doing. Isaiah said that Messiah would also deal with illness. He is accomplishing what Isaiah said. This does not mean that every believer will be healed of sickness when they believe in Christ. It says that this is one of the things that the Messiah will accomplish, and he did accomplish it many times in proof that he was the Messiah and that he cared for people.
Furthermore, the root of sickness, sadness, pain, and death is sin. His purpose in Isaiah was to die for sin. While on the cross he defeated the cause of sickness, sadness, pain, and death. In the resurrection believers will experience eternal life, no sickness, sadness, pain, and death (Revelation 21:4).
Matthew 8:18-22 has Jesus calling people to follow him and get on with the work. He calls more than the twelve. Before Jesus got in the boat to go across the Sea of Galilee, people came up and asked him some questions.
One pronounced that he would follow Jesus everywhere. Jesus answered that if one follows him it will be a lonely life and iterant life.
Another wanted to first bury his father. Jesus answer was to let the spiritually dead bury the physically dead. He had more important things to do. His ministry of life and his kingdom was more important than service for the dead.
Of course, most decided that he required too much to be a disciple.
Remember, Jesus’ call in these incidents is not to eternal life, but to follow him as his disciple. That is often hard. Entrance into life is by believing in him as Messiah. Discipleship requires learning Bible doctrine and the faith application of that doctrine.
Matthew 8:23-27 is the famous story about the storm on the Sea of Galilee. It teaches believers to trust Jesus even when one may think that he is not paying close attention to what is going on. Jesus is omniscient and he will never leave or forsake believers (Hebrews 13:5-6). He is the one who created the world. As creator, he also has authority over creation.
The Sea of Galilee was a fresh water sea fed by the Jordan River. It is 60 miles north of Jerusalem, and is 13 miles long and 8 miles wide. The depth varies from 80 to 160 feet below the surface. The surface is 700 feet below the Mediterranean. Cliffs are on the west and north side. On the east are the Golan heights which rise to 2700 feet. Because of the geography, cool harsh winds often stir up the warmer sea causing stormy waves.
Note that Jesus was asleep. That did not matter. He controls everything even while in his humanity he is sleeping. This storm did not surprise him. In verse 26 he says “why are you timid, you men of little faith?” What are you worried about? He was quite aware of the storm. He rebuked or censured the winds and sea. Both obeyed him by virtue of his creative power.
The disciples were amazed that winds and sea obeyed him. Why should they be amazed. Had they not just seen him over the past days healing and casting out demons? They, like us, were slow learners and slow to live by faith even though he was physically present.
We ought not be slow learners. We learn from him and about him so that we may believe him more often and in harder circumstances.
The next incident demonstrates Jesus’ authority over demons and their response to him (Matthew 8:28-34).
Gadara was the capital of the Roman province of Peraea, a region southeast of the Sea of Galilee. It had a large Gentile population.
Two men were demon possessed. A demon is a fallen angel. The Greek word is daimonizomai, which means to be possessed by a demon. It is found 13 times in Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John. The passages are Matthew 4:24; 8:16, 28, 33; 9:32; 12:22; 15:22; Mark. 1:32; 5:15f, 18; Luke. 8:36; John. 10:21.
Verse 29 is interesting. They recognize Jesus as God’s son and are aware of God’s future judgment upon them. Who are the they? The context indicates the demon possessed men are the speakers. But, it also appears that the demons were speaking through the men. Regardless, the speakers recognize
that that Jesus is the Son of God, the Messiah, and
they will be judged by God sometime in the future.
Scripture about the Son of God-Messiah: Matthew 3:17; 16:16; Luke 4:41.
Jesus had recently cast out other demons (Matthew 4:24 and Matthew 8:16).
God will judge Satan (and probably demons) after the God and Magog rebellion at the end of the millennium just before the Great White Throne judgment (Revelation 20:7-10).
The demons wanted to go into the swine, probably because they were there and they knew Jesus would not send them into other people. From this we can possibly say that demons need or want a body to indwell.
The sudden sense by the pigs that something strange had entered them scared them so much they ran off the cliff and drowned in the sea. What happened to the demons. They must have been without some kind of body to indwell. They may have been sent to hades awaiting the judgment. Matthew does not tell us.
The response by the people is most interesting. They chose the pigs over Jesus. That tells us something about what they thought was important. True materialists.
So what has Matthew done in this chapter?
He has presented credentials that Jesus is the expected Messiah.
The Messiah has authority over everyone and everything.
Leprosy—a social physical religious problem.
Space and distance.
c. There is every reason to believe in Christ and to follow him.
So what for each of us?
God in Christ is the authority over all creation.
God in Christ wants us to believe him when we pray. God honors that faith.
God knows where we are and in what circumstances we find ourselves even when we may question his attention. Faith in all circumstances pleases him.
Discipleship is not always easy or popular, but God wants believers to follow his Son regardless of the inconvenience.
Demons are real and demonism is a fact of life, but our God has total authority and power over demons.