In our study of Matthew chapter eight we will see the complete authority of Jesus Christ over both the physical and the spiritual and we will see what it means for us as Christians. At the end of chapter 7, we saw that the people were amazed by the authority of Jesus and here we will see that power and authority put on display.
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When Jesus came down from the mountainside, large crowds followed him.
Although the precise location of the mountain is not given, we know that it was in the area of Galilee. After Jesus spoke of His new kingdom, the people recognized His authority because He did not have to quote some great rabbi or anyone else. Because they recognized that authority, large crowds followed Him when He came down that mountain. We remember that prior to this, Jesus had been identified as the Son of God and are reminded that His authority comes directly from the Father in heaven.
A man with leprosy came and knelt before him and said, 'Lord, if you are willing, you can make me clean.'
When Jesus came down from the mountain, He was met by this man with leprosy which described any number of skin conditions that were untreatable. In Leviticus 13, Moses gave the regulations from God concerning people with these skin diseases. Basically, they were tested by a priest and, if found to have them, they were subjected to several requirements. They were to wear torn clothes, cover the lower part of their face, warn people that they had it, and to live alone outside the camp (city). Along with the physical problems, the man would have also faced the psychological effects of being an outcast. We can only imagine the uproar around Jesus as the crowd followed and could not have been quiet about the authority that they had recognized. Hearing this, the man who was considered the lowest of the low approached Jesus. He had been beaten down through his isolation so much that he did not even know whether Jesus would be willing to help him. There are many people in our world today that have been beaten down by the religious establishment and feel rejected. Even if they have heard about Jesus and His authority, they, like the leper, do not know whether Jesus is willing to help them. Our job, as His disciples, is to tell these people the story of this leper and hopefully they will see that Jesus is willing to help everyone.
Jesus reached out his hand and touched the man. 'I am willing,' he said. 'Be clean!' Immediately he was cleansed of his leprosy.
Jesus reached out and did the unthinkable as He touched the leper. Then, He proclaimed that the man was clean and it was done. This was a demonstration of the fact that Jesus had authority over even the most incurable of diseases.
Then Jesus said to him, 'See that you don't tell anyone. But go, show yourself to the priest and offer the gift Moses commanded, as a testimony to them.'
We notice that He did not do anything that contradicted the law given to Moses and, in fact, told the man to go and follow the instructions. We also see that Jesus told the man to not tell anyone of what He had done and we might ask why. He had just been teaching about the spiritual aspects of the kingdom and was trying to get people to focus on that. The Jews were expecting a Messiah to come and do physical miracles and deliver them from the Roman rule. Even to this day, many Jewish people deny that Jesus was and is the promised Messiah because of the fact that He did not do what they had expected. Another thing that we see is the fact that the authority of Jesus was able to do what religion could not. Under the Law of Moses, the one who was being tested for leprosy was not treated but only watched and quarantined if found to have it.
When Jesus had entered Capernaum, a centurion came to him, asking for help. 'Lord,' he said, 'my servant lies at home paralyzed, suffering terribly.'
Matthew gives us the basics concerning this next miracle while Luke gives us a lot more of the details (see Luke 7:1-10). The Roman soldier that was in command of the garrison at Capernaum had sent elders from the local synagogue to Jesus. He was evidently a Jewish convert as we know that he was responsible for the construction of the synagogue in the town. The Aramaic word that is translated as servant here is "taliyy" which means a young man or boy. It is believed that this was the son of the centurion.
Jesus said to him, 'Shall I come and heal him?'
As we see in Luke 7, the elders had plead with Jesus to go with them to the centurion's house and evidently He was on the way when He was met by more messengers from the centurion. Jesus asked them if he still wanted Jesus to come and heal the boy. This may be a little confusing at first but, if we understand that a messenger was spoken to just as if he was the one sending him, it makes sense.
The centurion replied, 'Lord, I do not deserve to have you come under my roof. But just say the word, and my servant will be healed. For I myself am a man under authority, with soldiers under me. I tell this one, "Go," and he goes; and that one, "Come," and he comes. I say to my servant, 'Do this," and he does it.'
The message that the centurion had sent explained that he understood authority and realized it was not based on physical presence. Real authority can be delegated to others with confidence that something will be done. The passage uses the word "servant" twice but it has a different meaning in the original Aramaic. As we saw before, the first time "taliyy" is used it describes a young man or boy. The second time "servant" is used, the Aramaic word used was "abdeh" which described a bondslave. It is believed that this bondslave was a female that had been a slave working off a debt. When she was to be set free, she had chosen to marry the centurion. The Roman soldiers were not allowed to legally marry and have families while they served their traditional ten years but they were married in the sight of God. Even in this, we see that the centurion understood the difference between divine authority and the authority of men. The centurion had used words from Psalm 107:20 when he had said "just say the word". That Psalm speaks of salvation and the coming of Jesus Christ. Therefore, we know that the centurion at least knew the scriptures and was probably a convert to Judaism through his wife. At any rate, he recognized Jesus as the Messiah and knew of His authority from God the Father.
When Jesus heard this, he was amazed and said to those following him, 'Truly I tell you, I have not found anyone in Israel with such great faith. I say to you that many will come from the east and the west, and will take their places at the feast with Abraham, Isaac and Jacob in the kingdom of heaven. But the subjects of the kingdom will be thrown outside, into the darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.'
This is the first time out of the two in the Bible where we see that Jesus was amazed. Here, we see that Jesus was amazed at the faith that was demonstrated by this Gentile (or former Gentile). The centurion had never met Jesus but had only heard of His authority and believed. Jesus told those following Him that this is the type of faith that saves and that it is the same as that demonstrated by the fathers of the Jewish faith (Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob). Jesus went on to say that many Gentiles would come to this saving faith while many of the Jews would reject Him. Those that accept Him will take part in the feast (eternal life) while those that do not will face eternal judgment in Hell. This reminds us that salvation is not based on who your parents were or even if you believe that a messiah is coming. Salvation is only available through this saving faith in Jesus Christ. There are those that believe and teach others that a Jewish heritage is like a golden ticket to heaven. There is also a concerted effort to get Jews back to Israel and perceived safety without telling them that Jesus is their only hope for that safety and security for eternity. That is a lie from Satan that is spread by false prophets to deceive the Jewish people and is, in effect, a denial of the complete authority of Jesus Christ.
Then Jesus said to the centurion, 'Go! Let it be done just as you believed it would.' And his servant was healed at that moment.
We do not know whether Jesus continued and was met by the centurion or whether these words were relayed to the centurion by his messengers. In either case, Jesus saved the servant's life (Luke 7:2 tells us that his condition was life threatening) without going into the Gentile (or ex-Gentile's) house. This miracle demonstrated that Jesus had the complete authority to bring life or to impose death.
When Jesus came into Peter's house, he saw Peter's mother-in-law lying in bed with a fever. He touched her hand and the fever left her, and she got up and began to wait on him.
While they were in Capernaum, Jesus went to the home of Simon Peter and his mother-in-law was sick so Jesus healed her as well. Luke tells us that, prior to this event, they were in the synagogue where Jesus was teaching. During His teaching, a demon recognized who Jesus was and Jesus quieted the spirit and made it exit the man it possessed (see Luke 4).
When evening came, many who were demon-possessed were brought to him, and he drove out the spirits with a word and healed all the sick. This was to fulfill what was spoken through the prophet Isaiah: 'He took our infirmities and bore our diseases.'
Word of the fact that Jesus' complete authority extended even to the spirit world and demons spread through the town. The people waited until it was evening because it was the sabbath. When the sabbath had ended, the crowd of sick and demon-possessed people showed up and Jesus cured them all. Matthew reminds the Jews (and us as well) that the prophet Isaiah had told of One who would come and do this exact thing. In the events at this house, we are reminded of the dual nature of the ministry of Jesus. In the quote from Isaiah 53, we see that the Messiah would lift off the physical diseases of the people and that He would carry our affliction which was speaking of our sins. Although the word is translated, here, as diseases, it is the word "mak'ob" which speaks more of anguish (worry) and spiritual affliction. This was talking of the fact that Jesus would be separated from His Father while He was on the cross. We also see that Jesus was willing to heal all that came and that there was not a single physical problem or spirit that refused to obey Him. Isaiah's prophecy was partially fulfilled in this house (the physical) and would be completely fulfilled (the spiritual) when Jesus had done the work on the cross.
When Jesus saw the crowd around him, he gave orders to cross to the other side of the lake.
At first, this verse is a little puzzling as we see that people were still coming to have Him heal their bodies but Jesus decided to leave the town of Capernaum. Why did Jesus not stay there until there were no more people coming? For the answer, we must remember that Jesus' purpose was to bring salvation to the Jewish people and that physical healing was a tool to demonstrate His power and authority. That fact had been established by the leper, Peter's mother-in-law, and the crowds that had come the previous day. He could have stayed there, built up quite a "healing ministry", and even become famous but that was not in keeping with His purpose. Jesus, Himself, said that His purpose was to do His Father's will. As Christians, we often have the same opportunity/choice. We can continue to do good things and yet be out of God's will for our lives or we can move on to the next season in our lives/ministry. As with any choice, there are rewards and consequences. For Jesus, staying in Capernaum would have made a name for Himself and He would have gotten a good reputation. But, His purpose was to suffer humiliation and ultimate rejection for our benefit. If He had not done so, we would still be facing the penalty for our sin. Although Capernaum would be like Jesus' ministry headquarters for His time on this earth, He had to go out to be in the will of His Father. For us, in our personal ministry, we might also get a good name and reputation by doing the same thing for fifty years. At our funeral, there may be lines of grateful Christians that we have helped but who knows how many people we did not minister to because we did not move on (cross the lake). Either way, we will have our rewards in heaven but, we might miss out on a much bigger reward because we stayed where we were comfortable. God gives us the freedom to select from the categories of "good", "better", and "best" for our lives and we can do so without condemnation.
Then a teacher of the law came to him and said, 'Teacher, I will follow you wherever you go.' Jesus replied, 'Foxes have dens and birds have nests, but the Son of Man has no place to lay his head.'
In the previous studies, we have seen four cases of miracles that were performed by Jesus as a demonstration of His complete authority. We are reminded of the fact that, throughout the Bible, the number four is associated with worldly trials and testing. Here, we see the test of faith and we are introduced to it by a teacher of the law. A teacher of the law was/is a Jewish scholar that is trained in the teaching and application of the Jewish law to daily life. This religious scholar made a bold declaration about his willingness to follow Jesus. Jesus warns him and us about the worldly test which is the flesh as He used the example of a home. Unless you have ever truly been homeless and sleeping on the street, it may be hard to understand this but, mentally, knowing that you do not have a place to stay is the hardest part. The "home" in our society and, in fact, in the world as a whole is a place of safety and like an anchor for our lives. Even the animals like the fox and the birds seek this place of refuge. We may choose to go somewhere else for awhile but we usually return to our "home". We may move to another city but, when we do so, our first effort will be in finding a suitable "home". So, why did Jesus bring up a place to lay the head (home) in response to this religious scholar's declaration of loyalty? Jesus knew what was in the man's heart and He must have known that the man was willing to go but was wanting to keep his place in the world (home) as well. This is unacceptable to the Lord as we see in His letter to the Church in Laodicea (see Revelation 3). Did Jesus always sleep outside and have something against houses? No, as we have already seen, He stayed in Peter's house at Capernaum. But, to really walk in the faith and power of God, we might need to unshackle ourselves from a mortgage or the security of a home and find our refuge only in Him. After all, the things of this earth (including our homes) are only temporary.
Another disciple said to him, 'Lord, first let me go and bury my father.' But Jesus told him, 'Follow me, and let the dead bury their own dead.'
At first glance, Jesus' answer to this man's request may seem harsh and might even be seen as to advocate the breaking of a commandment (honor your mother and father). The reality is quite different from that perception but, in order to understand it, we must understand the Jewish burial practices of that day. According to tradition, the family was to bury (put in an accessible tomb) the body of their dead as soon as possible (usually within twenty four hours of physical death). The family would withdraw from public life for a period of seven days for mourning which is called shiv'ah. During this period of time, the mourning would take precedence over the religious obligations of a man so that he would not have to go to the temple and offer sacrifices, etc. At the end of those seven days, a new period of mourning would continue for the family for thirty days and this was called shloshim. During this time, the family would go back to work and resume their normal religious obligations but they would usually avoid social gatherings. At the end of shloshim, the family would go back their normal routine but they would still "remember the dead in their prayers". The body would stay in the tomb decomposing for a period of one year and, if anyone else from the family died, they would be added to the tomb along with those in the ossuaries and those that were waiting to be placed in the bone boxes. After this period of mourning (eleven months after shloshim), the family would go back to the tomb and gather the bones to put them in a box (ossuary). This act of gathering the bones was known as the second burial. This period of decomposition became associated with the penalty for sin and gave rise to the concept of purgatory. The flesh was thought to be corrupt and so, when the flesh had decomposed, the belief was that the deceased was ready to enter their final rest with God. The man in this passage was not asking to go and perform the duties of shiv'ah or shloshim but was wanting to go to the second burial of his father. With these facts in mind, we can see that Jesus was not being harsh but was telling the man (and us as well) that He is the only way to enter final rest (heaven) with the Father. His complete authority extends to the fact that He is the ONLY way to salvation. This was also continuing the transition of His ministry from teaching about the physical to the spiritual matters.
Then he got into the boat and his disciples followed him. Suddenly a furious storm came up on the lake, so that the waves swept over the boat. But Jesus was sleeping.
The lake that is mentioned here is the Sea of Galilee (Lake Kineret) and to understand this passage we need to know a little more about the lake and its surrounding area. The lake itself is rather small and shallow (its deepest part is about 200 feet) even though it is Israel's largest body of fresh water. It is like a bowl as there are mountains around it and the surface of the lake is about 680 feet below sea level elevation. This type of geography is ripe for producing sudden severe storms due to the cool mountain air flowing down to meet the warm, moist air from the lake. This physical setting is a perfect location for teaching about the battle between the flesh and the spirit. We remember that, prior to this trip across the lake, Jesus had went up on a mountain to teach about the kingdom of God. Now, they are in the process of crossing the lake and heading over to a Gentile area. So, what does all of this have to do with being a follower (disciple) of Jesus Christ and a member of the kingdom of heaven? As we saw, mountains were considered places of learning (especially the teaching of the patriarchs) and the mountains to the east of the lake are really tall at about 2000 feet. The wind (teaching) that flowed from that mountain produced the storm that the people in the boat were now facing. This storm is a picture of the battle between the flesh and the spirit or religion (Law) and grace. Just prior to getting in the boat, Jesus had urged a teacher of the law and even one of His own disciples to abandon their false religion in order to follow Him. We see that Jesus was sleeping in the boat and that is a picture of confident peace which is through Him alone. Religion (from the mountain of the patriarchs) teaches that man must work to achieve the security that allows us to sleep in peace while Jesus taught that faith (trust) in Him produces peace in us. Much like the warm and cold airstreams above the lake, they cannot remain in the same place without a storm (battle) taking place.
The disciples went and woke him, saying, 'Lord, save us! We're going to drown!' He replied, 'You of little faith, why are you so afraid?' Then he got up and rebuked the winds and the waves, and it was completely calm. The men were amazed and asked, 'What kind of man is this? Even the winds and waves obey him!'
The disciples (mostly Jews at this time) would have been raised hearing about the great flood of Noah's day and the fact that it was a judgment of God upon the earth. This physical storm is a picture of the spiritual storm that would have been happening inside of them. Due to their religious training, they were always expecting judgment for their sins and this is what produced the fear in them. Jesus describes them as having a lot of fear and a "little faith". As we see, this little bit of faith was enough to get them to go and wake Jesus up to save them. This is a reminder to us that it only takes a very small portion of faith to call upon the Lord. We see that this little faith was enough for Jesus to act on their behalf and to calm the physical storm. This further demonstrated the fact that Jesus had complete authority including the authority over the weather. This storm shows us the biblical pattern for salvation as the wind from the mountain (religious laws) produced a healthy fear of judgment. This Godly fear drove them to the only One that could help them. We see that Jesus is the answer to our sins and He has the ability to stop the fear and condemnation. All that we have to do is to believe that He is who He says He is and that Has the authority to do what we ask. Once we ask Him to save us, He will act and the fear should go away never to return. The sad fact of the matter is that we often allow "religion" to creep back into our understanding of our salvation. When this happens, we are driven away from the peace of Christ and back into fear which, as we have seen, is the opposite of faith.
When he arrived at the other side in the region of the Gadarenes,
Jesus and His disciples crossed the Sea of Galilee (Kinneret) and probably landed at the city of Hippos which was in the area and was located on the shore of the lake. This city was one of the ten that together with Gedara and Gerasa were a part of the Decapolis. This land was still in Israel as it would have been the land given to the tribe of Manasseh but there were mostly Gentiles living there. We know this because of the fact that the people living there raised pigs which were unclean and most Jews would not live near them. The area was culturally more Greek than it was Hebrew and we are reminded that the Greeks were known for philosophy and knowledge. The city, itself, was built on a flat-topped hill about 1100 feet above the lake. So, why did Jesus cross the lake and what does it mean to us and our Christian walk? We remember that, during His sermon from the mountain outside Capernaum, one of the things that Jesus said was that "A town built on a hill cannot be hidden." The town and hill that Jesus was referring to was probably Hippos. The Greek word "hippos" means horse and we are reminded that, throughout the Bible, horses are a picture of war as they were used in battle and not for everyday or pleasure riding as they are today. While they were on the lake, we saw the battle between the religious law and the grace of God. Now, as they leave the lake the battle continues but it is now between philosophy and grace. The Greeks were known for being inclusive to the point of having idols to every god imaginable (see Acts 17:16) and not making a choice. The battle expands to include all religions and the fact that they are all in opposition to the grace of God through His Son who is Jesus Christ. Philosophy is used by the devil to attempt to hide the simplicity of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. In Jesus' trip to Hippos, He was demonstrating that He is the ONLY WAY and that His complete authority is above all of the philosophies and doctrines of man.
two demon possessed men coming from the tombs met him. They were so violent that no one could pass that way. 'What do you want with us, Son of God?' they shouted. 'Have you come here to torture us before the appointed time?'
When they arrived at Hippos, they were met by two demon possessed men who were coming from the area of the tombs. At this time, people were placed inside of caves in a hill after they died and this is the place where these men stayed. So what does it mean to be "demon possessed"? That means that an impure spirit is inside of these men for the purpose of torturing them and destroying them because they were created in God's image. The demons would operate by causing mental problems, violence, diseases of the body, and revolt against the ways of God. Here, we see that these demons demonstrated their presence through violence as they kept people from getting near the area. We also see that they immediately recognized Jesus for who he is as they addressed Him as the Son of God. This reminds us that even Satan and his followers know who Jesus is and they know of His authority. In our world today, there are many "religious people" that deny the fact that Jesus is the Son of God. How can this be when even demons accept that fact? The simple fact of the matter is that they have been blinded by a philosophy and believe the lies of Satan and his demons. You see, the demons know who He is but do not want men to see Him for who He is and the power that He has been given by God. Once people recognize Jesus for who He is, what he has done, and accept Him as their Lord, then, they have the same power and authority that was given to their Master. The third thing that we see is the fact that the demons knew that He had authority over all things and that there is a time coming where they will be sent to their torture in hell. Even though they recognized Jesus' authority, they wanted men to be blinded to that authority and to accept the lie that all "religions/philosophies" have equal merit. This was the way of the Greeks and it was a characteristic of that area during Jesus' time on earth but has spread to most of the world today.
Some distance from them a large herd of pigs was feeding. The demons begged Jesus, 'If you drive us out, send us into the herd of pigs.'
This herd of pigs is a big indication that this was a Gentile area of Israel as pigs were considered to be the most unclean of animals for the Jews. In the request by the demons, we see two important things about the complete authority of Jesus Christ. The first thing that we see is the fact that the authority of Jesus is recognizable by all, even by the lowest of demons. The word "if" is not questioning the presence of Jesus' authority but whether it is His will (desire). So, what was Jesus' desire in His ministry on the earth? We see the answer in John 4:34 where He explains to the disciples that His food (sustenance) is to do the will of the Father in heaven. Since Jesus' desire was to do what the Father in heaven wanted, it all came down to God's will for this man. So what is God's will (desire) for men in general? His will is for all men to accept the grace that was given through His Son and to receive eternal life. We are reminded by the location, Hippos, that this involves rejecting the philosophies of men. We notice that the demons requested to be sent into the pigs as they knew that they were not going to be set free to roam around. This reminds us that they must be allowed to have a place to reside. So, that brings to mind the question of "What gives demons the right/ability to dwell in a man?" The short answer is sin which, in real estate terms, puts the body of the man "on the market". Since we all sin, does that mean that all men are candidates to have demons dwell in them? The answer is found in Matthew 12 and we will go into more detail there but the short answer is no. A Spirit filled believer is not "on the market" as they are already occupied by the Holy Spirit that dwells within them. This shows us the second thing about Jesus' complete authority which is the fact that it is transferable. He has given to the believer the authority that was given to Him by the Father. The Holy Spirit is the mark (proof) of that transfer and its presence is recognizable by all.
He said to them, 'Go!' So they came out and went into the pigs, and the whole herd rushed down the steep bank into the lake and died in the water.
Jesus gave the demons permission to leave the two men and to go into the pigs. Immediately the pigs ran into the lake and drowned. We notice that all that Jesus had to say is one word and they obeyed. That is another demonstration of His authority in that He did not have to say "in the name of Jesus" or anything else. That same power is in us as Christians through the dwelling of the Holy Spirit so, just like Jesus did, all we have to do is to give the command. All of creation can see the dwelling of the Spirit within us and, because of that fact, we can confidently proclaim what the Spirit guides us to do. The pigs ran down and drowned so that brings up the question of: What happened to the demons? We cannot say for sure but they would have had to go into another animal or man because they could not die like the pigs. Why did Jesus not bind them and put them in a holding cell or send them to hell? We do not know for sure but, in Revelation 20, we see the opening of the Abyss and so we must assume that it is not open yet.
Those tending the pigs ran off, went into the town and reported all of this, including what had happened to the demon-possessed men. Then the whole town went out to meet Jesus. And when they saw him, they pleaded with him to leave their region.
When the townspeople heard what had happened, they asked Jesus to leave. In this we see that, religion (philosophy) and grace cannot coexist in people. These people were happy with the way things were and were probably afraid of losing their way of life. We see that the presence of Jesus requires people to make a choice and He gives us the freedom to make up our own minds.