As we progress in our study of Matthew, we arrive this week in chapter 8. Now we read about a series of people who respond to Jesus in different ways just after He finished His sermon and comes down from the mountain.
(If you are now joining in this study, you can read Getting to Know Jesus: Matthew 1 here.)
The past few chapters (5-7) have been comprised of Jesus’ words only. In chapter 8, we start reading a combination of Jesus’ words, others’ words and Matthew’s own narration.
Immediately descending the mountain, Jesus meets a series of people desiring to be healed.
First He heals a man with a serious skin disease, then He heals the servant of a centurion, and then He heals a sick woman (Peter’s mother-in-law). The last time we read about Jesus healing people was in chapter 4, right after his 40 days in the wilderness tempted by the devil and just before He began His sermon in chapter 5. In chapter 4, the healings were briefly mentioned, but now in chapter 8 Matthew is detailing specific instances where Jesus heals. The action is slowing down so that we are following Jesus’ life and ministry more closely.
The first healing in this chapter, in verses 2-4 portrays Jesus’ heart for people.
The man asks Jesus, “Lord, if you are willing, you can make me clean” in verse 2. The man doesn’t ask Jesus if He is able to heal. No. The man is confident that Jesus can. And humble enough to hope that Jesus will do it for him. Jesus answers him simply: “I am willing; be made clean.” I love that Jesus is willing. He really cares for people.
After He heals him, He tells the man to go “show himself to the priest and offer the gift that Moses prescribed as a testimony to them” in verse 4.
I’ve always been a little confused about this passage.
Why does Jesus say to tell them that? Why not let the man tell them it was Jesus who healed?
What’s helped me the most in deciphering this passage has been a result of my Old Testament class this past semester. It reminds me to read the entire Bible with the Old Testament in mind.
So what I’ve found is that this “gift that Moses prescribed” is actually mentioned back in Leviticus 14:1-32.
In Leviticus 14:1-32, the Lord appears to Moses while giving him all of the Levitical laws, instructing him what should be done for a person with a skin disease “on the day of his cleansing.” The priest is in charge of the proceedings of the cleansing and makes atonement before the Lord on behalf of the one who needs to be cleansed (Lev 14:31). But now that Jesus has come, He is doing both the cleansing and the atoning (by his future death and resurrection). The Law had prescribed all of these methods for cleansing a person with a skin disease requiring much time and effort. But Jesus heals him in an instant. Jesus does what the Law and mere man cannot do. And He sends the man to the priest to show the priest that there is something now greater that has power to heal.
Matthew wants us to see that Jesus has indeed come to fulfill the Law as He declared in chapter 5 and is already doing it in the way He interacts with people.
The second healing, in verse 5, comes as a result of a centurion’s bold faith. Again, this man believes that Jesus can.
I think it’s significant that Mathew includes this scene here because of the way that centurions are depicted throughout his gospel compared to the other kinds of Roman guards.
Each time a “centurion” is mentioned, he is mentioned in a favorable way: having faith in God. In chapter 27 verse 54, Matthew includes a centurion who professes, “This man really was the Son of God.” But when “soldiers” and Roman “guards” are mentioned, it is in an unfavorable way. In chapter 27 verses 27-31, Pilate’s soldiers “stripped [Jesus] and dressed Him in a scarlet robe…mocked Him…spat at Him…” Matthew also mentions soldiers in an unfavorable light in chapter 27 verse 65, as Matthew writes about a “guard of soldiers” who work for the chief priests and Pharisees.
It is evident that Matthew portrays the centurions in a positive light and the guard of soldiers in a negative light in his gospel.
Why? I’m not sure. But it’s something to take note of while we progress in this gospel.
If you keep reading the rest of the Bible, a centurion pops up in Acts chapter 10 named Cornelius. He is said to be a God-fearing man along with his whole household. Also, there is a centurion who tries to save Paul in Acts chapter 27. So apparently this is not just a Matthean perspective regarding centurions since the writer of Acts also mentions at least some centurions as being on God’s side. It’s a small detail but I think it’s pretty cool. This was my favorite part about studying this chapter realizing this connection. It’s like an underlying gold nugget of literary brilliance in the Bible. And there tons of them to find.
The third healing is a result of Jesus’ own compassion to heal when He sees a need in verse 14-15.
The first 2 healings in this chapter resulted from initiative on behalf of the person needing Jesus to heal. But this time, Jesus sees this woman lying sick in her bed and He can’t help Himself but to restore her with a healing touch. And immediately she gets up. I love Jesus’ heart to initiate even when she didn’t. He knew the need. And He acted.
By verse 16 we notice that it is evening and Jesus has been healing people for much of the latter part of the day.
As we move along in verses 18-27, Jesus and His disciples go to the other side of the lake since the crowds were starting to accumulate. They encounter a strong storm but still arrive at the other side.
But as soon as they get to the opposite side, Jesus is met with another situation.
He immediately meets 2 men possessed by demons coming out of tombs walking towards Him. They know who Jesus is. They even call Him “Son of God” in verse 29. Contrast this with the disciples’ amazement of Jesus calming the storm, saying “What kind of man is this?” in verse 27 to these demon-possessed men who immediately recognize Jesus for who He is. A nice subtlety in Matthew’s writing.
Ironically, Jesus has already said what kind of man He is in verse 20.
When Jesus calls Himself something in Matthew’s gospel, it’s almost always “Son of Man.”
Jesus calls Himself “Son of Man” in Matthew 8:20, 9:6, 10:23, 11:19, 12:8, 12:32, 12:40, 13:37, 13:41, 16:13, 16:27, 16:28, 17:9, 17:12, 17:22, 19:28, 20:18, 20:28, 24:27, 24:30, 24:37, 24:39, 24:44, 25:31, 26:2, 26:24 (2x), 26:45, 26:64. 29x total. That’s a lot of times!
It seems that this “Son of Man” epithet would have connected with a Jewish audience.
Being familiar with Old Testament scriptures, David uses this phraseology a few times in the psalms. They might have also been reminded of Ezekiel who was called upon by the Lord as “Son of man” continually throughout the whole book of Ezekiel –almost 90 times. Daniel also talks about his vision from the Lord seeing one like a “son of man coming with the clouds of heaven” in Daniel 7:13.
So Jesus calling Himself the “Son of Man” in this gospel seems intentional, at least by Matthew, who writes this way to connect Jesus to the Old Testament, which pointed towards the coming of the Messiah. Jesus is the son of man that is not only a prophet (like Ezekiel) or the promised king (like David) but He is the Son of Man that was promised in Genesis 3:15 to arrive and fix the problem of sin and death in the world. Matthew wants the reader to notice this. He takes advantage of this “Son of Man” rhetoric to both connect with 1st century Jews who would read this gospel and let us know that Jesus is indeed the one we’ve been waiting for.
The last time we saw Jesus identified as the “Son of God” it was by the devil in chapter 4.
Matthew is so clever to include these subtle details. So we can notice how Jesus is recognized as the “Son of God” by the supernatural: evil. But humans take a while to recognize who Jesus fully is, as we read in verse 27 through the disciples’ bewilderment. God has concealed who Jesus is to humans for a reason: ultimately, Jesus must be rejected by men so that He can be sentenced to death and then raised to life. We will get to this is chapters 27-28. But we will continue to see this tension play out throughout Matthew: noticing how demons recognize Jesus for His true identity while simultaneously noticing the progression of certain people starting to recognize who Jesus is slowly.
One thing that fascinates me about the disciples is why they did not ask Jesus about the “Son of God” reference.
After hearing the demon-possessed men call Jesus that, wouldn’t they have been curious if Jesus really is the Son of God? Wouldn’t they have been confused at how those demon-possessed men could possibly know Jesus as such? They hadn’t known Jesus very long. We know that He is the Son of God but they didn’t yet. Who knows…maybe they did ask Jesus about it and Matthew just doesn’t include that dialogue in his gospel. But it still makes me wonder. It would have been such a crazy experience to follow Jesus like this before having full revelation of His identity. Yet the disciples still followed Him even though they had not been revealed everything about Him or what would happen as a result of their obedience. They didn’t know a lot. But they followed anyway. I find that encouraging.
All we know is that Jesus’ identity seems to be still concealed to them right now in chapter 8. As we read along, some will start to recognize Jesus for who He is and by the end of the gospel there will be those who are certain that He is indeed the Son of God, the Messiah.
As we read this gospel, which Matthew has written with a Jewish audience in mind, he is wanting them to understand that Jesus is powerful. That He is recognized by demons, or supernatural beings. That He is the Son of God. That He can heal. That He is the One that the Old Testament has been pointing towards this whole time. Jesus is it! Matthew wants his readers to understand this. This was aimed towards a very specific audience and it is now a gift to us that we can learn from and appreciate as a piece in the grander story of the Bible, revealing the awaited messiah that Israel had been anticipating.
So far we see two responses from people: those who are drawn to Jesus and those who are repelled by Him. Those who follow Jesus. And those who don’t. Those who believe Jesus can heal. And those who ask Him to leave.
Again, we see the 2 opposing forces play out in the way people respond. Those coming to God through Jesus and those turning away from God as they reject Jesus. Good and evil. Those on God’s side and those not on God’s side.
Next week as we continue in Matthew’s gospel, we will get to know the author, Matthew, a little more as he mentions his own encounter with Jesus in chapter 9. Until then, I pray our hearts would be open and receptive to His Word, learning more about our Jesus through the eyes of Matthew and getting excited about the story of the Bible.
Summary of Matthew 8
As Jesus finishes His sermon at the end of chapter 7, He now comes down from the mountain He was preaching on; large crowds follow Him; Jesus heals a man with leprosy; Jesus heals the servant of a centurion; Jesus heals the mother-in-law of Peter (one of his several disciples at this point); as Jesus observes the large crowds He decides to cross the sea by boat and His disciples go with Him; Jesus and the disciples encounter a storm on the sea and Jesus calms the storm as the disciples are afraid; they arrive at the other side of the sea; Jesus casts out demons from 2 men into a herd of pigs, which end up drowning in the sea after running off of a bank; the people in the town nearby hear of this and ask Jesus to leave.
Jesus in Matthew 8
Jesus comes down from the mountain he was speaking on (v. 1)
Jesus is followed by large crowds (v. 1)
Jesus attracts people (v. 1)
Jesus is met by a man with a serious skin disease (v. 2)
Jesus is asked to heal (v. 2)
Jesus is willing to heal (v. 3)
Jesus speaks purification over his disease (v. 3)
Jesus heals (v. 3)
Jesus tells the man not to tell anyone that He healed him (v. 4)
Jesus sends the man to the priest to show that He has been healed according to Moses’ prescription (in Lev. 14:1-32) (v. 4)
Jesus travels to Capernaum (v. 5)
Jesus is approached by a pleading centurion (v. 5)
Jesus is wanted by the centurion to come and heal his servant (v. 6)
Jesus tells the centurion He will come and heal his servant (v. 7)
Jesus responds to the centurion’s request (v. 7)
Jesus cares (v. 7)
Jesus is willing (v. 7)
Jesus prioritizes healing this man over whatever else he could have been doing at the moment (v. 7)
Jesus always makes time for people (v. 7)
Jesus witnesses this centurion’s bold faith as he talks to Jesus (v. 8-9)
Jesus listens (v. 8-9)
Jesus is amazed at the centurion’s faith (v. 10)
Jesus now addresses all of the people around him (v. 10)
Jesus takes time to teach others something as a result of what they just heard (v. 10)
Jesus declares He has not seen such faith of anyone in all of Israel (v. 10)
Jesus prophecies that many will come and recline at the table in the kingdom of heaven (v. 11)
Jesus prophecies that the sons will be thrown out into the darkness where there is weeping and gnashing of teeth (v. 12)
Jesus now addresses the centurion (v. 13)
Jesus tells the centurion to go home, as the man will be healed because of his great faith (v. 13)
Jesus acts according to one’s faith (v. 13)
Jesus goes to Peter’s house (v. 14)
Jesus sees Peter’s mother in-law lying in bed sick (v. 14)
Jesus heals her with a touch (v. 15)
Jesus is served by the woman He just healed (v. 15)
Jesus is brought many who are possessed by demons (v. 16)
Jesus drives out the demons with a word (v. 16)
Jesus heals all of the sick people (v. 16)
Jesus is recorded as fulfilling the words of the prophet Isaiah in Isaiah 53:4 (v. 17)
Jesus sees large crowds surrounding him (v. 18)
Jesus says to go to the other side of the sea (v. 18)
Jesus is approached by a scribe saying he will follow Him (v. 19)
Jesus reminds him that He has no place to lay His head (v. 20)
Jesus calls Himself the “Son of Man” (v. 20)
Jesus is approached by one of His disciples asking to bury his father first (v. 21)
Jesus tells him to follow him and let the dead bury their own dead (v. 22)
Jesus informs them of the cost of following him (v. 19-22)
Jesus gets into a boat (v. 23)
Jesus’ disciples follow Him (v. 23)
Jesus and His disciples encounter a storm on the sea (v. 24)
Jesus is sleeping during this storm (v. 24)
Jesus isn’t terrified of creation; He created it (v. 24)
Jesus is woken up by His disciples (v. 25)
Jesus’ disciples ask Jesus to save them as they are terrified (v. 25)
Jesus asks them why they are fearful (v. 26)
Jesus isn’t worried over what His disciples are worried over (v. 26)
Jesus points out their small faith (v. 26)
Jesus gets up (v. 26)
Jesus takes action (v. 26)
Jesus rebukes the winds (v. 26)
Jesus rebukes the sea (v. 26)
Jesus possesses power over creation (v. 26)
Jesus creates a calm (v. 26)
Jesus amazes His disciples (v. 27)
Jesus’ power over creation is acknowledged by the disciples (v. 27)
Jesus and His disciples arrive at the other side of the sea (v. 28)
Jesus and His disciples are not destroyed by the storm (v. 28)
Jesus is met by 2 demon-possessed men coming out of tombs (v. 28)
Jesus is recognized by the demon-possessed men (v. 29)
Jesus is identified as the “Son of God” by the demon-possessed men (v. 29)
Jesus sends the demons into the pigs, just as the demon-possessed men asked him to (v. 30-32)
Jesus is more powerful than the demons (v. 32)
Jesus, sending the demons into the pigs, causes the pigs to jump off the bank into the sea, all dying (v. 32)
Jesus is met by the whole town once they hear of what happened (v. 33-34)
Jesus is asked to leave the region (v. 34)
Jesus is not wanted (v. 34)
Jesus’ power is not appreciated (v. 34)
“But He said to them, ‘Why are you fearful, you of little faith?’ Then He got up and rebuked the winds and the sea. And there was a great calm.” –Matthew 8:26 –
Questions for Today:
- What does Jesus call Himself in Matthew’s gospel and why is this significant?
- How does Matthew connect with a Jewish audience in the way that He writes?
- Who do the disciples think Jesus is at this point?
- How do we see people responding to Jesus so far?
- How am I learning more about Jesus in Matthew chapter 8?
“Your Promises” by Elevation Worship