The Agora
Bible Commentary

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Matthew 8

Mat 8:1

Mat 8; 9: Ten great miracles; the "kingdom works", to complement the "kingdom words" of Mat 5-7.

Instances of Jesus withdrawing into a mountain, apart -- sometimes for privacy and prayer, and sometimes to instruct his followers: Mat 5:1; 8:1; 14:23; 15:29; 17:1; 24:3; 28:16; Mark 3:13; 6:46; 9:2; 13:3; Luke 6:12; 9:28; 22:39; John 6:3,15; 8:1.

LARGE CROWDS: These could prove to be a serious hindrance to his most important work of preaching.

Mat 8:2

The leper came: (1) earnestly; (2) humbly; and (3) believingly.

A MAN WITH LEPROSY: Officially such a man would be banned from the city. This was a measure of the determination he had, that he was able to penetrate to the very presence of Jesus.

LEPROSY: "Full of leprosy" (Luk 5:12). Saturated, from within, incurable.

CAME AND KNELT BEFORE HIM: The leper should not have been so close -- he should have cried "Unclean!" and dwelt alone. That he came close -- not mark of disregard, but of his confidence in Christ. Christ accepted this without embarrassment, and touched him without suffering any harm. See Lesson, Worship of Christ?

IF YOU ARE WILLING: He had more faith in Jesus' power than in his own goodness. "Looking into the eyes of Jesus, the leper found his confidence once more; he fell forward on his face, his cry of faith rang out, 'Lord, if thou wilt, thou canst make me clean.' He waited a breathless eternity. Suddenly he felt firm, gentle hands close on his scaly flesh, the first human touch he had known for years, and then he heard the voice of Jesus. The leper's 'if' had moved the Lord. His response was, 'I will.' And then with a word of authority, the evil flesh melted under his touch, the scarred and wasted body glowed with health. Would that the deeper leprosy of the soul could be so easily dismissed! But that is a slower work, a work in which Christ can only minister with the steady co-operation of the sufferer. Faith has to be joined by a dedication of the heart and the will. But the victory can be won if the desire for spiritual health is as great as was the leper's longing for physical perfection. For the Lord's 'I will' to the cry 'thou canst' has lost none of its effectiveness" (MP 108).

Mat 8:3

The man was "filled" with leprosy (Luk 5:12); Jesus was "filled" with compassion (Mar 1:41)! A High Priest touched with the feeling of our infirmities (Heb 4:15). "Jesus wept" (Joh 11:35).

JESUS REACHED OUT HIS HAND: The heart moves the hand!

AND TOUCHED THE MAN: "Whatever touches any of the flesh [of the sin offering] will become holy" (Lev 6:27). But both Elijah and Elisha contracted "defilement" by touching dead (1Ki 17:21; 2Ki 4:34). A High Priest "touched" with feelings of our infirmities (Heb 4:15). "Whatever touches any of the flesh [of the sin-offering] will become holy" (Lev 6:27).

All the occasions of Jesus touching, or being touched, in the context of healing (notice that not one of them is in John's gospel): Mat 8:3,15; 9:20,21,29; 14:36; 17:7; 20:34; Mark 1:41; 3:10; 5:27,28,30,31; 6:56; 7:33; 8:22; 10:13; Luk 5:13; 6:19; 7:14,39; 8:44-47; 18:15; 22:51.

Mat 8:4

Christ did not despise or disregard the law he came to fulfill.

DON'T TELL ANYONE: Too much publicity for his healings might hinder the more serious work of proclaiming the gospel (Mar 1:4,5). But the man disobeyed.

Silence was his settled policy for most of his ministry (Mat 9:30; 17:9; 12:16; Mar 1:34; 5:43; 7:36; 8:26; Luk 5:14), with one notable exception (Mar 5:19 -- Legion with his family). But in last days of ministry, a change of course (Mat 21:1-11; Joh 7:37; 9:3; 11:4).

SHOW YOURSELF TO THE PRIEST: Christ did not despise the Law he came to fulfill.

THE GIFT MOSES COMMANDED: Not what Rome commanded, but what Moses (ie God Himself) commanded!

AS A TESTIMONY TO THEM: That which the priests could never do, Christ did! Christ's power was greater than Moses' (Num 12:13).

Mat 8:5

CAPERNAUM: His own home (Mt 4:13), called his "own city" (Mat 9:1).

A CENTURION: This centurion: poss Cornelius? See Luk 7:4n. Every NT ref shows centurions in a good light: Luk 7:1-10; 23:47; Act 10:1,2; 22:25,26; 23:17,18; 27:43.

Mat 8:8

I DO NOT DESERVE: His self-assessment was different than that of the Jewish elders (Luk 7:4).

AV has "not worthy": "By this very statement he proved how worthy he really was!" (WGos 235). Unlike the Jews, the Gentile recognizes that "worthiness" is not the test of acceptance, but faith is! (Mat 8:10; Luk 7:9).

TO HAVE YOU COME UNDER MY ROOF: The centurion knew the Jewish prejudice and hatred Christ could arouse by entering a Gentile house (cp Act 10: 28).

Mat 8:9

A MAN UNDER AUTHORITY: A man with delegated authority recognizes Christ as "sent" from God, with same delegated authority:
Emperor --> Centurion --> Soldiers.
God --> Christ --> Angels --> Diseases, etc.

Mat 8:10

ASTONISHED: Or "amazed", as in Luk 7:9. Ct Mar 6:6: sw re unbelief of Jews. The only 2 times Christ was "amazed".

NOT... IN ISRAEL: Cp Mat 8:9; Luk 7:8: the Jews could not see, in Christ, the delegated authority of God.

Mat 8:11

The picture of perfect fellowship: holy, multitudinous, diversified, familiar, unbroken.

MANY: Those who are the seed of Abraham (Mat 1:1; Gal 3:16), and those who belong to Christ (Gal 3:27-29).

Mat 8:12

SUBJECTS OF THE KINGDOM: Lit, "children of the kingdom": a Hebraism, like "sons of covenant" and "sons of world (olahm) to come".

WEEPING AND GNASHING OF TEETH: Mat 8:12; 13:42,50; 22:13; 24:51; 25:30.

Mat 8:13

Power of faith and intercession of others: Mat 8:13; 9:32; 15:28; 17:14-18; Luk 8:50; Joh 4:49; Jos 6:17; Gen 7:1; 18:32; 19:12; Act 27:24.

Mat 8:14

Peter was married (1Co 9:5).

Mat 8:15

The effect on Peter's family: "It is no light thing to take a man from his home and wife and family and livelihood to become a... preacher... This healing of Peter's mother-in-law guaranteed enthusiastic support. From this day forward, Peter need never look over his shoulder wondering how his wandering life... was regarded by the folks at home" (WGos 123).

All the occasions of Jesus touching, or being touched, in the context of healing (notice that not one of them is in John's gospel): Mat 8:3,15; 9:20,21,29; 14:36; 17:7; 20:34; Mark 1:41; 3:10; 5:27,28,30,31; 6:56; 7:33; 8:22; 10:13; Luk 5:13; 6:19; 7:14,39; 8:44-47; 18:15; 22:51.

AND BEGAN TO WAIT ON HIM: No "halfway cure". The saved shall serve!

HIM: As RSV: ie Jesus esp. (KJV has "them".)

Mat 8:16

WHEN EVENING CAME: That is, as soon as Sabbath had officially ended (cp v 38), the entire town was "synagogued" at Peter's door!

DEMON-POSSESSED: See Lesson, Demons, what are? Here is cited Isa 53:4 (Mat 8:17): "Surely he took up our infirmities and carried our sorrows." Christ's close identification with our sin-prone natures -- compared to "leprosy".

HEALED ALL THE SICK: So Capernaum became "well" physically, but not so spiritually (Mat 11:20,23,24)!

ALL: The "all" of Isa 53:6.

Mat 8:19

I WILL FOLLOW YOU WHEREVER YOU GO: A "volunteer". Did he know what he was saying?

Mat 8:20

THE SON OF MAN HAS NO PLACE TO LAY HIS HEAD: It had been true even at his birth (Luk 2:7)!

Mat 8:21

Examples of prophetic reluctance: Exo 4:10; Jer 1:6; Eze 3:14; Jon 1:3; 1Ki 19:10; Luk 5:8,10; 9:59; 18:23; Act 13:13; 18:9. Ct Isa 6:8.

LORD, FIRST LET ME GO AND BURY MY FATHER: Lamsa writes: " 'My father is an old man, over seventy years of age. I have to support him until he dies.' In the East when a man reaches this age, he is considered dead. He has finished his work and has no more interest in life. He can no longer earn and produce. He is a burden on the family. He entrusts everything to his oldest son, his first born; the son who is to continue his posterity. He has labored and toiled with the sweat of his brow, and raised his children. Now he expects them to take care of him. One often hears Easterners say: 'My father is near the grave!' 'My father is at the side of the grave.' The real meaning is, 'My father may die any day. My father is very old; I expect him to pass
away any time.' If this man's father had been dead Jesus would not have been preaching that day. Instead He would have been one of the mourners until the dead man was buried."

Or, possibly such a figure of speech could also have been used by a man whose father was not nearly that old, nor at the point of death. "First let me bury my father" might then be his idiomatic way of saying: "I cannot commit myself to such an enterprise so long as my father is alive. I must first of all honor his wishes." Thus implying: "When my father has died -- 20 or 30 years from now -- then I will be my own man, and I can follow you."

Mat 8:22

LET THE DEAD BURY THEIR OWN DEAD: Or, "Leave dead to the burier of the dead." Lamsa writes: "The Aramaic word for 'dead' is 'metta', and the word for 'town' is 'matta'... It seems more likely that the early copyists and translators confused the [two words] and what Jesus meant was, 'let the town bury the dead.' This seems more reasonable because each town buries their own dead."

Mat 8:23

Vv 23-27: Cp experiences of Jonah.

Jesus needs solitude for thought and prayer (cp Isa 50:4; Psa 119:147,148). A list of "solitude passages": Mar 1:35-37; 3:7,9,20,21; 4:35-38; 6:31; 7:17,18,24; 8:10,11,27; 9:30; 10:32; 14:32.

HIS DISCIPLES FOLLOWED HIM: Were they reluctant to follow him, seeing the signs of impending storm?

Mat 8:24

A FURIOUS STORM: The sea of Galilee is very susceptible to sudden storms. "The wicked as a troubled sea" (Isa 57:20). "The wind strove upon the great sea" (Dan 7:2,3). But God rules, even over the storms at sea: Psa 107:28-30; 89:9: 65:7; 93:3,4; Isa 57:20; Dan 7:2,3; Rev 15:2.

BUT JESUS WAS SLEEPING: The only sleep of Jesus mentioned in the gospels.

Mat 8:25

Christ will not be raised by the "storm", but only by the power of prayer. "To be tossed by the waves is no proof of desertion, or even of danger" (Burgon, WGos 280).

Mat 8:26

REBUKED THE WINDS: As a father addressing children! Cp Rev 15:2: the Lamb and the sea of glass.

A seagoing captain commanded a passenger ship that was sailing from Liverpool, England, to New York. His family was on board with him. One night when everyone was asleep, a squall unexpectedly swept over the waters and tossed the ship violently, awakening the passengers. They were all terribly afraid because of the storm. The captain's little 8-year-old girl was also awakened. "What's the matter?" cried the frightened child. Her mother told her that a sudden storm had struck the ship. "Is Father on deck?" she asked. "Yes, Father's on deck," came the encouraging answer. Hearing this, the little girl snuggled back into her bed and in a few moments was sound asleep. The winds still blew and the waves still rolled, but her fears were calmed because her father was at the helm.

Mat 8:27

THE MEN: Including, perhaps, those who were in other ships.

AMAZED: And "afraid". A growing fear of Jesus, traceable in Mar 4:41; 6:50; 9:6,32; 10:32; 16:8. One fear (v 38) is removed, but is replaced by another, greater fear!

WHAT KIND OF MAN IS THIS?: Their proper estimation of Jesus still needed scaling upward (WGos 281).

Mat 8:28

"Demoniacs" suffered from: blindness, dumbness (Mat 12:22; Luk 11:14), insanity, schizophrenia (Mar 3:21; 5:1-5; Joh 10:20), epilepsy (Mar 9:17-27), and arthritis (Luk 13:11-17).

TWO DEMON-POSSESSED MEN: The other accounts concentrate on one of these men -- Legion ( Mar 5:1-16; Luk 8:26-36).

GADARENES... GERGESENES... GERASENES: Gadara, in Decapolis, near sea of Galilee (LB 375). Gergesa, a city on east shore of lake, a suburb of Gadara, one of the "ten cities" of Decapolis (v 20), inhabited by many Gentiles. Distinguishing characteristics: ruins, cliff, lake, old tombs.

FROM THE TOMBS: The region and shadow of death: Isa 9:1,2; Isa 65:2-4.

THEY WERE SO VIOLENT...: Insane men are known sometimes to have superhuman strength. In the East, they inhabit cemeteries.

Mat 8:29

Even the "demons" believe and tremble: Jam 2:19.

THE APPOINTED TIME: That is, of judgment.

Mat 8:30

A LARGE HERD OF PIGS: "Humans become infected when they ingest the cysts of the tape worm in the flesh of the pig... Unfortunately humans can also ingest the eggs from their own or another's infection, and they then develop a much more serious form of the disease, with cyst formation throughout the body. These cysts can infect the brain, and it is poss that Legion was suffering from this disease. A link between his condition and the herd of swine seems very likely, and not just in his mind" (SP, Tes 71:205).

Mat 8:32

// Exodus: Legion, like Israel of old, naked, miserable, in tombs (pyramids), now sees the bodies of its enemies, perished in the (Red) sea.

Christ's two destructive miracles: (1) 2,000 unclean swine (unclean Gentile nations) destroyed, but one man (a Gentile) is saved. (2) The fig tree (Israel) cursed, but one man (Christ, a Jew) is saved.

The demoniac had mistaken Jesus' command "Go!" for a rebuke against him: ie "Get out of here!" Jesus speaks to the demon, but he also has just spoken to the wind and sea (Mar 4:39).

The madness of the man was transferred to the swine, but this does not prove the existence of lit demons, any more than the fact that the leprosy of Naaman cleaved to Gehazi implies that leprosy is caused by demons (2Ki 5:27) ("Devil", by PW 69). The unchosen uncleanness of the madman evoked mercy from Jesus, but the willful uncleanness of the swinekeeper called forth wrath.

AND WENT INTO THE PIGS: Poss, "the unclean spirits attacked the swine". Perhaps the man himself rushed into the herd, stampeding them over the cliff, while at that very moment being healed himself of his illness. This seems to be the most natural explanation of the event.

AND DIED IN THE WATER: Cp the great choking mass of pigs with the press of the crowd in v 30.

Mat 8:34

"Pigs" meant more to them than salvation! They could see only what they might lose (the pigs), not what they might gain (healing, salvation). Jesus does not argue. He simply leaves.

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