After delivering the magnificent Sermon on the Mount Jesus now demonstrates that His authority is not limited to His words. His mighty words will be backed up with mighty deeds. In the next two chapters, Matthew will chronicle ten specific miracles of Jesus. These signs will demonstrate His authority over every conceivable area in which He could exercise His authority: sickness, the world of nature, the world of the supernatural, and authority over life and death. The conclusion is that Jesus is Lord of all!
The Healing of the Leper (Matt. 8:1-4)
Matthew moves immediately from the Sermon and its effect to the first specific healing narrative of the Gospel. The Messiah comes down the mountain after delivering His magnificent sermon and then puts it into practice by healing the most outcast of the nation—a leper.
There is no specific setting or location for this story. Matthew does not record the sequel to the healing of the leper as does Mark (1:45) which tells about the man’s failure to keep silent about his healing and as a result Jesus was no longer able to be seen in public because of the crowds wanting to be healed.
This is the first of ten specific miracles in chapters 8-9 (a summary of earlier miracles of Jesus had been given in 4:23-25). It is no accident that His first healing miracle concerns a Jew and not a Gentile because the priority of His mission is to Israel (10:5-6; 15:24).
Matt. 8:1 And when He had come down from the mountain, large crowds followed Him.
And when He had come down from the mountain, The Sermon is now over.
large crowds followed Him. Those already referred to in 4:25. The majority followed more out of curiosity rather than belief
Matt. 8:2 And behold, a leper came and knelt before Him saying, Lord, if you wish, You are able to make me clean.
And behold, Matthew’s favorite word to tell us something important is about to happen.
a leper came No disease was more dreaded in the ancient world than leprosy. The person who contacted it was considered as good as dead. These living dead were thought to be under God’s judgment (2 Chronicles 26:20).
knelt before Him Though some translations have worship it may be too strong a term for this particular example. It was obviously an act of great respect and homage.
saying, Lord, if you wish, Note that there is no demand to be healed, only a request.
You are able to make me clean. The leper was confessing that Jesus was the Messiah but he not necessarily confessing belief in His deity. He had probably heard of or seen Jesus’ other miracles so he believed Jesus could cure his leprosy. According to 11:5 the curing of leprosy could be expected from the Messiah.
Matt. 8:3 And stretching forth His hand He touched him, saying, I am willing; be cleansed. And immediately his leprosy was cleansed.
Note on variant readings: Instead of He touched many manuscripts have Jesus touched. Codex Sinaiticus does not have immediately.
And stretching forth His hand He touched him, Though He could have cured the leper by means of His spoken word, Jesus chooses to touch him. This act violated the Mosaic law (Leviticus 5:3) about touching the unclean. However when Jesus touched him he was not unclean any more! While others would run from one of these untouchable lepers Jesus made a point to reach out His hand and touch him. Alfred Plummer comments upon why Jesus touched the leper,
Perhaps the touch was also necessary for the sake of the millions who were to read of this cleansing. No moral pollution can be so great as to make Christ shrink from contact with a sinner, who comes to Him with a desire to be freed from his plague, and with the belief that he has the power to free him (Plummer, p. 123).
saying, I am willing; be cleansed. Jesus responds by saying that He is willing.
And immediately his leprosy was cleansed. Instantaneous healing. Matthew repeats the key word make clean three times in verses 2-3.
Matt. 8:4 And Jesus said to him, See, that you do not tell anyone, but go, show yourself to the priest, and offer the gift that Moses commanded, as a testimony to them.
Note on a variant readings A couple of manuscripts read your gift.
And Jesus said to him, See, that you do not tell anyone, Jesus desires to avoid inflaming the popular but mistaken opinion that the Messiah was going to set up an immediate political Kingdom. Matthew, however, does not say the crowds witnessed the event, and he records no reaction of the crowd.
but go, show yourself to the priest, and offer the gift that Moses commanded, Obey the Mosaic Law.
as a testimony to them.
This has been interpreted in several ways.
1. As a witness to the priests about Jesus faithfulness to the Law.
2. As a witness against the priests that Jesus was the Messiah.
3. Receive a testimony concerning his cleanness for them (i.e. the people).
Thus the people would certify his cure. The man was to go to the priests and make an offering not because he needed cleansing but so that he could gain entry back into society as fully clean and restored.
The special authority of Jesus, which His disciples just heard about in the Sermon on the Mount, can now be seen in His exceptional deeds. In addition, the leper is symbolic of fallen humanity. Sin leaves its victims in a miserable condition—helpless, hopeless, and in despair. Like fallen humanity, the cursed leper has no hope until he encounters the One who makes all things new.
The Healing of the Centurion’s Servant (Matt. 8:5-13)
The second specific miracle concerns a Gentile and his servant. Jesus shows that He has power to heal over a distance. He is not only Lord of the incurable disease, but distance is no problem for His healing power.
Matt. 8:5 When He had entered Capernaum, a centurion came to Him, appealing to Him
Note on variant readings: Instead of When He had entered Capernaum two manuscripts read and after these things. Two other manuscripts read and after these things He entered into Capernaum. A couple of manuscripts read Jesus instead of He.
When He had entered Capernaum This city was near the border and on a major trade route so it probably had a contingent of Roman soldiers. This is the only miracle of Matthew that Mark does not record.
a centurion came to Him, He was an officer in charge of a company of troops (originally 100 in number). He was a Gentile, either a Syrian or a Roman.
appealing to Him The need was imminent.
Matt. 8:6 and saying, Lord, my servant is lying at home paralyzed, suffering great pain.
Note on a variant reading: A few manuscripts (including Sinaiticus) do not have the word Lord.
and saying, Lord, Like the leper in verse two the address meant more than Sir but less than the divine name Yahweh.
my servant It is probably the best way to understand the Greek word as son rather than as servant or slave although the latter may not be impossible. If he was a servant and not a son, he was a servant who was very close to his master. This was not uncommon in the ancient world.
is lying at home paralyzed, suffering great pain. The nature of the illness is left vague. Although there is no reference to it being life threatening, it certainly was a desperate case.
Matt. 8:7 And He said to him, I Myself will come and heal him.
Note on a variant reading: Some manuscripts do not have the word And before He. Instead of He said many manuscripts read Jesus said. Codex Sinaiticus has the words follow Me before I Myself.
And He said to him, I Myself will come and heal him. The unusual way this sentence is formed has caused many to speculate that it should be understood as a question. Will I come and heal him? The question would express surprise that a Gentile would request a Jew to go to his home. However, this is not the case because Jesus responds immediately and positively.
Matt. 8:8 But the centurion answered and said, Lord, I am not worthy that You should come under my roof, but only speak the word, and my servant will be healed.
Note on a variant reading: A few manuscripts do not have the words my servant.
But the centurion answered and said, Lord, I am not worthy This shows a sensitivity to Jewish customs that a Jew is not to enter the house of an unclean Gentile (Acts 10:28 ff.).
that You should come under my roof, The my is emphatic in Greek.
but only speak the word, and my servant will be healed. The centurion had faith in the authority of Jesus based on his concept of authority elaborated in the following verse.
Matt. 8:9 For I myself, am also a man under authority, having soldiers under me. And I say to this one,‘Go,’ and he goes, and to another one, ’Come,’ and he comes, and to my slave, ‘Do this,’ and he does it.
Note on a variant reading: A few manuscripts (including Sinaiticus and Vaticanus) have ordering under authority.
For I myself, am also a man under authority, To be under authority mean to have been granted authority by superiors.
having soldiers under me. He is a man who is in command of others.
And I say to this one, ‘Go,’ and he goes, He in turn exercised authority over others.
and to another one, ‘Come,’ and he comes, and to my slave, ‘Do this,’ and he does it. The emphasis is on the authority the centurion held over his troops. He considered this as analogous to the authority of Jesus. As the orders of the centurion must be obeyed, whatever they may be, so it is the case with the orders of Jesus.
Matt. 8:10 Now when Jesus heard this, He marveled, and said to the ones following, Truly, I say to you, with no one in Israel have I found such faith.
Note on a variant reading: Many manuscripts have neither in Israel I have found such faith (see Luke 7:9) rather than with no one in Israel I have not found such faith.
Now when Jesus heard this, He marveled, Jesus is amazed at his profound faith. See also the acclaim at the Gentile woman’s faith in 15:28. The only Biblical example of Jesus marveling at someone’s faith. He marveled at the unbelief of the people (Mark 6:6).
and said to the ones following, the crowd, not just the disciples.
Truly, I say to you, with no one in Israel have I found such faith. No one is emphatic in Greek. This statement not only criticizes the slowness of the Jews to believe but also the possibility of Gentiles having genuine faith. This is the first introduction of the word faith in Matthew. This theme will be repeated often (9:2, 22, 29; 15:28; 17:20; 21:21; 23:23).
Matt. 8:11 But I say to you, that many will come from the east and from the west, and will sit down with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob in the kingdom of heaven.
But I say to you, that many will come from the east and from the west, Refers to Gentiles who are being called from the ends of the earth.
and will sit down with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob in the kingdom of heaven. Until this point the Messianic banquet had been considered just a Jewish affair.
Matt. 8:12 But the sons of the kingdom will be thrown out, into the outer darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.
Note on a variant reading: A few manuscripts (including Sinaiticus) read they will come out instead of they will be thrown out.
But the sons of the kingdom This refers to those who belong to the kingdom or the covenant. NRSV heirs and NIV subjects. The true sons of the kingdom are those who respond to the proclamation of Jesus.
will be thrown out, into the outer darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth. The others are sent to judgment. Outer darkness is contrasted to the brilliantly illuminated banquet hall. This is how Matthew describes future judgment (13:42, 50; 22:13; 24:51; 25:30).
Matt. 8:13 And Jesus said to the centurion, Go; let it be done to you as you have believed. And his servant was healed in that hour.
Note on variant readings: Many manuscripts have even before as. A few manuscripts, including Vaticanus and Sinaiticus, do not have his. Some manuscripts have from that hour. Instead of hour some manuscripts read day. A few manuscripts (including Sinaiticus) have at the end of the verse and the centurion returned to his house and in the same hour found his servant well.
And Jesus said to the centurion, Go; let it be done to you as you have believed. The servant will be healed because of the faith of the centurion.
And his servant was healed in that hour. This is Jesus healing at a distance by His mere spoken Word. Another incredible miracle showing His sovereign authority. Healing at a distance happens only to Gentiles (cf. 15:21-28).
Simon Peter’s Mother-in-Law Is Healed (Matt. 8:14-15)
The third specific healing miracle concerns another disenfranchised person—a woman. Jesus heals the mother-in-law of Simon Peter as she lay sick with a fever.
Matt. 8:14 And when Jesus came into Peter’s house, He saw his mother-in-law lying in bed with a fever.
And when Jesus came into Peter’s house, Since the extended family usually lived together that the mother of Peter’s wife would be there is not something out of the ordinary.
He saw his mother-in-law That Peter was married is also attested in 1 Corinthians 9:5.
lying in bed with a fever. In the ancient world fever was a disease rather than something accompanying other diseases. Some speculate that it was malaria.
Matt. 8:15 And He touched her hand, and the fever left her, and she rose up and began to minister to Him.
Note on variant readings: A few manuscripts read immediately before the fever. Some manuscripts have to them instead of to Him.
and the fever left her, Another on the spot healing
and she rose up and began to minister to Him. The fact that she got up immediately shows that the healing was genuine. She ministered to Him in grateful response to what He had done for her which is a fundamental aspect of discipleship. The third of the three initial healing stories represent another of the disenfranchised: a woman.
The Healing of Many People (Matt. 8:16-17)
Jesus continues His healing mission by curing many people with various illnesses.
Matt. 8:16 And when it became evening, they brought to Him many who were demon-possessed; and He drove out all the spirits with a word, and healed all the ones who were sick.
And when it became evening, They were possibly waiting for the end of the Sabbath.
they brought to Him many who were demon-possessed; No mention is made of other sicknesses but they are referred to in the statement following. It was not easy to draw the line between demon possession and other illnesses. Matthew records five specific cases of exorcism (8:28-34; 9:32-34; 12:22; 15:22-28; and 17:18).
and He drove out all the spirits with a word, The mere spoken word of Jesus was sufficient to exorcise the demons.
and healed all the ones who were sick. There was no illness that Jesus could not heal.
Matt. 8:17 So that it might be fulfilled that which was spoken through Isaiah the prophet, saying, He Himself took our infirmities and bore our diseases.
So that it might be fulfilled that which was spoken through Isaiah the prophet, Another fulfillment saying of Matthew.
saying, He Himself took our infirmities and bore our diseases. No important distinction should be made between infirmities and diseases. Does this mean physical healing is included in Christ’s atonement for us? Should we expect not only forgiveness of our sins but also physical wellness when we trust Christ?
The Cost of Discipleship (Matt. 8:18-22)
As Jesus is about to go to the other side of the Sea of Galilee, two would-be disciples come to Him and offer themselves as followers. Jesus reveals the true meaning of discipleship to these individuals.
Matt. 8:18 Now when Jesus saw a crowd around Him, He commanded to go over to the other side.
Note on a variant reading: Many manuscripts have some word modifying crowd such as large or great.
Now when Jesus saw a crowd around Him, This is a transitional verse. Jesus is apparently beleaguered by the crowd.
He commanded to go over to the other side. Jesus decides to escape the deserted area by the sea.
Matt. 8:19 Then a scribe came to Him and said, Teacher, I will follow You wherever You go.
Then a scribe came to Him and said, The scribe was a professional scholar in the Law. He was not a disciple but wished to become one.
Teacher The address ‘Teacher’ is not necessarily to be taken negatively compared with the leper and centurion who addressed him as Lord. When used by the Pharisees it refers to a deficient understanding of the character of Jesus (9:11; 12:38; 22:16, 24, 36).
I will follow after You wherever You go. Follow after in the sense of a disciple. Follow and go are key words in the vocabulary of a disciple. Discipleship is more than just the willingness to accompany someone or to listen and learn from them. It is to live the same lifestyle. This scribe represented the normal Jewish practice of choosing his teacher while in the gospels it is Jesus who consistently chooses His own disciples.
Matt. 8:20 And Jesus said to him, The foxes have holes, and the birds of air have nests, but the Son of Man has no place to lay His head.
And Jesus said to him, The foxes have holes, and the birds of air have nests, but the Son of Man has no place to lay His head. As He was accustomed, Jesus uses the ordinary things of nature to make His point. To be a disciple of Jesus means an urgent, wandering, and homeless ministry. The homelessness of the apostles is stressed later (1 Corinthians 4:11). Though Jesus used Capernaum as His headquarters His life was anything but settled.
Matt. 8:21 But another one of [His] disciples said to Him, Lord, permit me first to go and bury my father.
Note on a variant reading: Many manuscripts do not have His before disciples.
But another one of [His] disciples said to Him, Lord, permit me first to go and bury my father. This question comes from a sincere disciple who was not one of the twelve but was in a larger circle of sincere disciples. His request seems to be reasonable. The Law requires to honor ones father and mother. In later Jewish tradition the burial of the dead superseded any religious duty. Some attempt to find the phrase meaning Let me look after him until he dies meaning, I’ll follow you eventually.
Matt. 8:22 Jesus said to him, You follow Me, and allow the dead to bury their own dead.
Note on a variant reading: Some manuscripts read He said instead of Jesus said.
Jesus said to him, You follow Me, and allow the dead to bury their own dead.
Jesus did not allow for any delay in following Him.
That business can take care of itself.
The call to discipleship with Jesus was immediate.
This account is about disciples and discipleship, it is an all or nothing matter.
At the time of Jesus, it would have been be considered dishonoring to follow Jesus rather than burying one’s father.
The Apocryphal book of Tobit reads:
Then he called his son Tobias, and when he came to him he said, My son, when I die, give me a proper burial. Honor your mother and do not abandon her all the days of her life. Do whatever pleases her, and do not grieve her in anything. Remember her, my son, because she faced many dangers for you while you were in her womb. And when she dies, bury her beside me in the same grave (Tobit 4:3-4).
There is also the possibility the man was just asking for more time. Burial customs in the first century may have involved the bones being reburied a year after the initial burial. The flesh would have rotted away at that point. The son would then place the bones of his father in a special box to be set into the wall of the tomb. If this is the case, Jesus could well be rebuking the man for wanting to wait around for as much as a year before making a commitment to follow him.
The Calming of the Storm at Sea (Matt. 8:23-27)
The fourth specific miracle recorded by Matthew concerns the calming of the storm on the Sea of Galilee. By this, Jesus demonstrates that He is Lord over nature.
Matt. 8:23 And when He got into the boat, His disciples followed after Him.
Note on a variant reading: Some manuscripts do not have the before boat.
Matt. 8:24 And behold, a great storm arose in the sea, so that the boat was covered by the waves, but He Himself was sleeping.
And behold, Attention!
so that the boat was covered by the waves, Clearly a life-threatening situation.
but He Himself was sleeping. The One who has no place to lay His head is at home everywhere apparently untroubled by normal anxieties.
Matt. 8:25 And they came and woke Him, saying, Lord, save us! We are perishing!
Note on variant readings: Some manuscripts read the disciples before came. Other manuscripts have His disciples. Some manuscripts do not have us.
And they came and woke Him, saying, Lord, save us! We are perishing! Jesus needed to be awakened from His sleep. Immediate help is needed. It is difficult to know whether the Greek word here should be translated as men or people (in a generic sense) here. At issue is whether (1) only the Twelve were with Jesus in the boat, as opposed to other disciples (cf. v. 23), and (2) whether any of those other disciples would have been women. The issue is complicated further by the parallel in Mark (4:35-41), where we are told (4:36) that other boats accompanied them on this journey.
Matt. 8:26 And He said to them, Why are you afraid, ones of little faith? Then He got up and rebuked the winds and the sea, and it became completely calm.
And He said to them, Why are you afraid, ones of little faith? Why aren’t they trusting in their Lord?
Then He got up and rebuked the winds and the sea, and it became completely calm. Same language as used in exorcisms. Jesus rebukes their unbelief. Jesus is master over the world of nature.
Matt. 8:27 And the men marveled, saying, What sort of man is this, that even the winds and the sea obeys Him?
And the men marveled, saying, What sort of man is this, that even the winds and the sea obeys Him? They had never seen anything like this before. Matthew stresses again that Jesus is no ordinary person. The story has great symbolism for believers. It is about the miraculous quieting of the sea by Jesus in which the disciples learn about His power and the meaning of discipleship.
The boat is symbolic of the church and the storms the evil that threatens it (cf. 16:18). The call to discipleship involves risks but we know that the Master is always there to protect us. Whatever storms may be encountered the sovereign Lord who has called them to discipleship will look after His own and be with them until the end of the age (18:20; 28:20).
The Driving Out of the Demons (Matt. 8:28-34)
The fifth specific miracle in chapter eight concerns the exorcism of demons from the two demon-possessed men in Gadera. Jesus demonstrates His authority over the supernatural realm by this miracle.
Matt. 8:28 And when He came to the other side, into the country of the Gadarenes, two demon-possessed men met Him as they were coming out of the tombs; they were exceedingly violent, so that no one was able to pass that way.
Note on a variant reading: There are three main spellings of this place in the manuscripts. Gerasa, Gadara, Gergesa.
And when He came to the other side, into the country of the Gadarenes, There is a question as to the exact location as to where this occurred.
two demon-possessed men met Him Mark only mentions one demon-possessed man.
they were exceedingly violent, so that no one was able to pass that way The violent nature of these men is stressed. Another seemingly impossible case as far as the world was concerned.
Matt. 8:29 And behold, they shouted out, saying, What have we to do with You, Son of God? Are You come here to torment us before the time?
Note on a variant reading: Many manuscripts read Jesus before Son. Instead of torment some manuscripts have destroy.
And behold, Matthew calls attention to another exceptional thing that will occur.
they shouted out, saying, What have we to do with You, What do we have in common? or What do you want from us?
Are You come here to torment us before the time? The demons recognized that there was going to be a final judgment. The time had not yet come for their torment.
Matt. 8:30 Now there was some distance from them a large herd of pigs grazing.
Note on variant readings: One Latin manuscript has not before some distance. A few manuscripts do not have the word large.
Now there was some distance from them a large herd of pigs grazing. The fact that there was swine being herded shows the population was non-Jewish.
Matt. 8:31 The demons were begging Him, saying, If You drive us out, send us into the herd of pigs.
Note on a variant reading: Instead of send us some manuscripts read permit us to go away.
The demons were begging Him, saying, The demons have a request of Jesus. It is interesting that we see the demons begging Jesus to grant this request.
If You drive us out, They assume that He is going to drive them out of the men.
send us into the herd of pigs. Several questions occur in this episode for which there is no answer: First, why do the demons make such a request? The Scripture gives no answer.
Matt. 8:32 And He said to them, Go. And after they came out, they went into the pigs; and behold, all the herd rushed down the cliff into the sea and died in the water.
Note on a variant reading: After herd many manuscripts read of pigs.
And He said to them, Go. Jesus commands the demons to leave with one word
And after they came out, they went into the pigs; There was an immediate response to the word of Jesus.
and behold, Matthew wants our attention.
all the herd rushed down the cliff into the sea Jesus is also the Lord of the supernatural realm. Not even the pigs were prepared to contain the demons.
and died in the water. More unanswered questions: Why does Jesus heed their request? What was the fate of the demons when the swine died?
Matt. 8:33 But the ones tending them ran away, and went away into the city and reported all things that happened, including what had happened to the demon-possessed men.
But the ones tending them ran away, Obviously afraid of what they had just witnessed.
and went away into the city and reported all things that happened, including what had happened to the demon-possessed men. This would have been several miles from the sea.
Matt. 8:34 And behold, the whole city came out to meet Jesus; and when they saw Him, they begged Him to depart from their region.
Note on a variant reading: One Syriac manuscript does not have their region.
And behold, the whole city came out to meet Jesus; and when they saw Him, they begged Him to depart from their region. This miracle brought out the multitudes. To these non-Jewish people Jesus must have looked strange and dangerous. Instead of the multitudes following Jesus, here they tell Him to depart.
Summary to Chapter 8
Chapter eight marks a transition from the Sermon on the Mount. It is devoted to a series of five specific miracles performed by Jesus where He shows His credentials. Matthew will record five other specific miracles of Jesus in chapter 9 to show that Jesus has authority in every conceivable area. By the simple touch of His hand (8:3, 15) Jesus heals complex diseases immediately. On another occasion, His touch is not even needed where He heals the centurions servant at a distance (8:8, 13). Though not asking for healing, Simon Peter’s mother-in-law is cured of her fever. His power is not limited to healing. He is also the Lord over the natural realm as He stills the storm on the Sea of Galilee. In addition, He is the Lord of the supernatural realm where He drives the demons out of the Gadarene demoniacs (8:16, 28ff.).
The conclusion is that Jesus is Lord of all!