Gospel of Matthew Chapter Eight Commentary by
Pastor Ron Beckham
I Trust In You, Lord
Verse 1: "When Jesus came down from the mountain, large crowds followed Him." There are many word pictures of Jesus in what is called the "Old Testament." A beautiful but unexpected one is in Isaiah 53:2, where it is said about the One who was to come: "He had no form or majesty that we should look at Him, and no beauty that we should desire Him." Do you ever feel ordinary? Jesus, who could have been anything He wanted, became—ordinary—like us. The crowds "followed Him" because of the Holy Spirit who filled Him. His heart, His words, what He did; was utterly filled with the Holy Spirit, and so they "followed Him." That same Holy Spirit is offered to us, if we are willing to trust in the Lord.
Verses 2-4: "And a leper came to Him and bowed down before Him, and said, 'Lord, if You are willing, You can make me clean.' 3 Jesus stretched out His hand and touched him, saying, 'I am willing; be cleansed.' And immediately his leprosy was cleansed. 4 And Jesus said to him, 'See that you tell no one; but go, show yourself to the priest and present the offering that Moses commanded, as a testimony to them.'" Jesus came to us on earth with a time table of events that would be revealed one-at-a-time by the Holy Spirit of God. Now was when a certain leper was to be restored. The earth contained many hopeless lepers, but this man was to be healed—he had faith. His statement was, "You CAN make me clean." Within the "large crowds" that followed Jesus, some had faith in the Lord, and God responds to faith. And note carefully that whatever healing, whatever blessing you may experience; it's not just about you. The "priest" who very likely had never even heard of a healed leper, now encountered one, and he had to study anew the healing ritual for a leper, in Leviticus 14:1-32. This was about the leper, but also about the priest.
Verses 5-7: "And when Jesus entered Capernaum, a centurion came to Him, imploring Him, 6 and saying, 'Lord, my servant is lying paralyzed at home, fearfully tormented.' 7 Jesus said to him, 'I will come and heal him.'" This "centurian" was a Roman officer in charge of 100-men. He, like the leper, was thought to be a lesser being by the many religious people who scorned others in their pride. God does have a special love for the "outsiders" of this world. That person you would not ordinarily speak to, God loves them, and you are to love them, too. Paralysis, like leprosy, was incurable, and the centurion could have thought about his paralyzed servant, "Oh well, I can always get another one..." but he didn't. He actually CARED, and God especially loves hearts like his.
Verses 8-10: "But the centurion said, 'Lord, I am not worthy for You to come under my roof, but just say the word, and my servant will be healed. 9 For I also am a man under authority, with soldiers under me; and I say to this one, ‘Go!’ and he goes, and to another, ‘Come!’ and he comes, and to my slave, ‘Do this!’ and he does it.' 10 Now when Jesus heard this, He marveled and said to those who were following, 'Truly I say to you, I have not found such great faith with anyone in Israel.'" Faith includes 1) a dawning understanding of who God is, 2) accepting Him just as He is, and 3) recognizing that He is in charge of—everything. In such a context, we finally see our own comparative unworthiness. Like the leper, this centurion had the faith to see who Jesus is, and sufficient trust to know that this Son of God could do—anything. The centurion had limited authority, but his experiences and his faith helped him understand that Jesus, this Jew apparently from Nazareth, is without limit in His authority over us all. He is God.
Verses 11-13: "I say to you that many will come from east and west, and recline at the table with Abraham, Isaac and Jacob in the kingdom of heaven; 12 but the sons of the kingdom will be cast out into the outer darkness; in that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.' 13 And Jesus said to the centurion, 'Go; it shall be done for you as you have believed.'And the servant was healed that very moment." Hebrews 11:1 reveals, "Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen." With faith in the Lord, you know that your every thought and prayer is heard by the Lord. Just as the centurion's faith resulted in healing for his servant, your prayers are being answered right now. And as in these verses, God is not deterred by our outward appearance. We may think we are somehow special because of our adherence to some religious or other special group, but it is God who, for all eternity, regards us as either 1) those who want the Lord and have faith in Him, or 2) those who don't want Him, as evidenced by trusting only in outward things, as in themselves. Your decision changes everything—forever.
Verses 14-15: "When Jesus came into Peter’s home, He saw his mother-in-law lying sick in bed with a fever. 15 He touched her hand, and the fever left her; and she got up and waited on Him." Peter was married and may well have had children. The same was true of others who followed the Lord. They gave up everything when He called, which is His reasonable request because we are His. Peter's family was cared for because that's what God does. Notice that as to the centurion's servant, no touching was involved, but with the leper and here with Peter's mother-in-law, there was. It should occur to us that there is no outward formula for healing. We have a need; God has the unique answer.
Verses 16-17: "When evening came, they brought to Him many who were demon-possessed; and He cast out the spirits with a word, and healed all who were ill. 17 This was to fulfill what was spoken through Isaiah the prophet: 'He Himself took our infirmities and carried away our diseases.'" Note that the Scriptures here are the Word of the Lord, and according to these verses, there is such a thing as demon-possession. It is seen that, just as the Lord can and does heal physical diseases, He will "cast out" these malevolent creatures. As God promised here and in Isaiah 53:4, we have healing in and from our Lord, which take different forms according to our unique situation.
Verses 18-20: "Now when Jesus saw a crowd around Him, He gave orders to depart to the other side of the sea. 19 Then a scribe came and said to Him, 'Teacher, I will follow You wherever You go.' 20 Jesus said to him, 'The foxes have holes and the birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay His head.'" The response of Jesus here was a surprise to this Jewish "scribe," just as it is surprising for us. He did not say, "Follow Me," as He said to others in places like Matthew 4:19. He simply pointed out that to choose Jesus, the "narrow gate," is to place Him first—before even our personal need for physical comfort! the scribe's prestige, power and pride in himself would be lessened. As it was for him, it is for us: Go ahead, consider the cost, and then follow the Lord.
Verses 21-22: "Another of the disciples said to Him, “Lord, permit me first to go and bury my father.' 22 But Jesus said to him, 'Follow Me, and allow the dead to bury their own dead.'" This verse speaks of a Jewish cultural tradition—the surviving eldest son was responsible for the eventual burial of his father. The "father" in this verse was likely still alive. Jesus gave the command, "Follow Me, and let dead customs die." When we hear the Lord's call, it's time to follow Him. He will provide for you and yours.
Verses 23-27: "When He got into the boat, His disciples followed Him. 24 And behold, there arose a great storm on the sea, so that the boat was being covered with the waves; but Jesus Himself was asleep. 25 And they came to Him and woke Him, saying, 'Save us, Lord; we are perishing!' 26 He said to them, 'Why are you afraid, you men of little faith?'Then He got up and rebuked the winds and the sea, and it became perfectly calm. 27 The men were amazed, and said, 'What kind of a man is this, that even the winds and the sea obey Him?'" Events that might be called "Great Storms" will come into our lives and we think we are perishing. At such times, we might conclude that "God is sleeping" or have other similar concerns. Actually, He is in the "boat" of life with us. We are not alone. And He is the One who will rebuke "the winds and the sea," bringing us through. Have you noticed that, following some disaster, your faith has strangely increased? He uses difficulties to increase our "little faith" and become strong in us. And note that the disciples still regarded Him as a "man," which He was, but we are to recognize that He is also God.
Verses 28-32: "When He came to the other side into the country of the Gadarenes, two men who were demon-possessed met Him as they were coming out of the tombs. They were so extremely violent that no one could pass by that way. 29 And they cried out, saying, 'What business do we have with each other, Son of God? Have You come here to torment us before the time?' 30 Now there was a herd of many swine feeding at a distance from them. 31 The demons began to entreat Him, saying, 'If You are going to cast us out, send us into the herd of swine.' 32 And He said to them, 'Go!' And they came out and went into the swine, and the whole herd rushed down the steep bank into the sea and perished in the waters." This incident, or one like it, is also seen in places like Mark 5:1. In that place, ONE demon-possessed Gadarene was described, but here we have two. Mark was the young man who later followed Paul and Barnabas, and heard about these things, whereas Matthew was closer to these events. Also, there may well have been more than one event because, as you may have noticed, the Lord tends to allow certain things over-and-over in our lives, until we finally understand. I was teaching a Bible study some years ago, and said something that troubled a young man in attendance. He covered his ears and shouted almost exactly the words of Verse 29: "Have you come to torment us before the time?" Not much has changed in 2000 years.
Verses 33-34: "The herdsmen ran away, and went to the city and reported everything, including what had happened to the demoniacs. 34 And behold, the whole city came out to meet Jesus; and when they saw Him, they implored Him to leave their region." They were concerned about economic loss from the destruction of pigs. Similar events occurred in Mark 5, ending with the decision of the populace that Jesus should go away, except that Jesus told the formerly demon-possessed man (who wanted to go with Him), to stay where he was and tell people what happened. That's what witnessing is all about, by the way: It's not so much that we share complex theological arguments with others, though God sometimes will lead us to do that—it's actually very important to share what God has done for us. The man did stay, as seen in Mark 5:20, "and began to proclaim... how much Jesus had done for him, and everyone marveled." Are you willing to share what Jesus has done for you?
Father, I see Your hand in my life, and I am willing to trust in You, more than my circumstances, my livelihood, and my reputation. I trust in You, Lord. Where You lead me, I will follow. In Jesus Name. Amen.