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Bible Commentaries

Arno Gaebelein's Annotated Bible

Matthew 8

 

 

Other Authors
Verses 1-34

6. The King Manifested by Signs of Divine Power.

Chapters 8-9.

CHAPTER 8

1. The Healing of the Leper. (Matthew 8:1-4.)
2. The Healing of the Centurion's Servant. (
Matthew 8:5-13.)
3. The Healing of Peter's Wife's Mother.(
Matthew 8:14-15.)
4. The Healing of All. (
Matthew 8:16-17.)
5. The Self-seeking Scribe and the Test of True Discipleship.(
Matthew 8:18-22.)
6. His Power over Nature. (
Matthew 8:23-27.)
7. His Power over the Demons. (
Matthew 8:28-34.)

With the eighth chapter we enter into a new section of the Gospel. This section extends to the end of the twelfth chapter. The King had declared the principles and rule of the kingdom, and now He comes down from the mountain followed by great multitudes. First of all He is to manifest Himself as the divine King, the Jehovah of the Old Testament Scriptures, who is truly come to His own. To them He offers and through His disciples likewise, the kingdom. But soon it becomes evident that His own receive Him not. They reject Him and recognize Him not as their King, and accuse Him, before whom the demons cried in terror, that His miracles were done by Beelzebub, the prince of demons. He then breaks off the relationship with His own, which we find at the end of the 12th chapter. These five chapters, from the eighth to the twelfth, contain therefore the full manifestation of Jehovah-Jesus among His people and the rejection of the King.

And how completely He manifested Himself as the King with divine power! Here we have a number of miracles, one following the other, as we Hope to show, put in perfect order by the One who is perfect in Knowledge, the Holy Spirit. Yet with these wonderful manifestations, the leper cleansed, the demons driven out, the blind made to see, the dead raised, the people deliberately reject Him, and fall not at His feet to worship Him. This shows the utter ruin and full character of the flesh, enmity against God. It is so still and never can be anything else. Even if now (as it is sometimes said it should be) signs and miracles would be done, the flesh would not be changed by them, but would still reject Him and turn away from the Lord. The antichrist, the false king, Satan’s masterpiece and counterfeit, will make his appearance in the closing days with all power and signs and lying wonders. He will mimic all the signs and miracles done by our Lord. The flesh will surely accept that false one with his strong delusions. But let us briefly point out the signs our Lord does in these chapters:

1. The cleansing of the leper, Matthew 8:1-4. He touches the leper.

2. The healing of the Centurion’s servant, Matthew 8:5-13. He heals by His word. Faith touches Him.

3. Peter’s wife’s mother healed of fever, Matthew 8:14-15. Healing by His touch.

4. The healing of All, Matthew 8:16-17. His presence among the suffering.

5. He rebukes the winds and the sea, Matthew 8:23; Matthew 8:27. His divine power over nature.

6. The two possessed by demons delivered, Matthew 8:28-34. Demons confess Him Son of God.

7. A man sick of palsy completely restored, Matthew 9:1-8. Full restoration of soul and body. “The lame man shall leap as an hart” (Is. 35:6).

8. A woman with an issue of blood healed, Matthew 9:20-22. She touches Him.

9. The daughter of the ruler raised up, Matthew 9:23-26. Resurrection.

10. Two blind men receive their sight, Matthew 9:27-31. “He openeth the eyes of the blind” (Is. 35:5).

11. A dumb man with a demon healed, Matthew 9:32-33. “The tongue of the dumb shall sing” (Is. 35:6).

12. Preaching the Gospel of the kingdom and healing every sickness and every disease, Matthew 9:35 (Is. 61:1).

13. The man with the withered hand healed (Matthew 12:10-13).

14. One possessed by a demon, blind and dumb, restored, Matthew 12:22. His last sign of this section (Is. 35:5, 6).

In these miracles we have before us the manifestation of the King. Jehovah alone could manifest Himself thus in mercy, healing and restoring. Satan may have great power to work signs, yet never could such a manifestation come from him. “If Satan cast out Satan, he is divided against himself; how shall then his kingdom stand?” (Matthew 12:26). With these words our Lord silenced the Satanic accusations of the Pharisees. What He did, furthermore, is seen in the Old Testament in connection with the kingdom. The signs manifest the King as well as the Kingdom. In Isaiah 35:1-10 we have a description of the kingdom as the King is to set it up. He came, and that He is the King and His Kingdom at hand, is proven by Him in doing the signs enumerated in the thirty-fifth chapter of Isaiah. The King and Kingdom is rejected, the Kingdom postponed, and Israel and the nations wait with a groaning creation for the glorious fulfilment of this chapter in Isaiah. The fulfilment will come, when the King comes back to the earth, then “the ransomed of Jehovah shall return and come to Zion with songs and everlasting joy upon their heads; they shall obtain joy and gladness, and sorrow and sighing shall flee away.”

And how full is the manifestation of His divine power! Leprosy, the awful disease and defilement, altogether gone. Winds and sea calmed. Demons banished and sent to the place where they belong. Forgiveness of sins followed by the healing of the body. The blind see, the dumb speak, the dead rise! Every sickness and every disease healed. These miracles our Lord did here to show Himself as the King are certainly also typical of the spiritual cleansing, the opening of the eyes of the blind, the sinner, the speaking in praise and worship of those who never spoke to God or of God, the raising of the dead, the power and dominion of Satan broken. The application on these lines is evident. We see in them also a foreshadowing of the redemption of the body of the believer in resurrection, as well as the blessings for Israel and the nations, in the coming age. All these features, we hope to point out as we look to the different signs, separately.

Before taking up the first part of the eighth chapter we must call the attention of our readers to another fact. If one looks for these miracles in the Gospels of Mark and Luke, and traces our Lord’s movements in them, he will be astonished to find that they are put in these Gospels in an entirely different setting. We will not go into details here. In Matthew all has its peculiar arrangement, and everything is taken out of its chronological order. This is nowhere so evident, as in the section before us. The reason is obvious. The Holy Spirit has manifested in it His divine wisdom. Infidels have ever sneered (and do even more so every day) at a verbal inspiration of the Scriptures. The utterances of some well-known “evangelical” teachers, that the New Testament contains numerous discrepancies, is generally backed up by arguments about the miracles recorded in Matthew, as happening after the sermon on the mount, when in another Gospel they are given as having occurred before the discourse of our Lord. Now that which moves the infidel and the preacher tainted with higher criticism to ridicule the divinity and infallibility of the written Word, moves the believer and diligent searcher of the Scriptures to praise, for the very argument which the denier of a verbal inspiration uses to build his infidel fabric on, is to the believer the most positive evidence of the divinity of the Bible and its verbal inspiration. It is not alone so here but all through the Word. The Holy Spirit as the writer of the first Gospel has taken certain events in the life of our Lord and grouped them together in such a way that they not only show us how the King proved Himself King and how He was rejected, but to show in the grouping of these miracles the purposes of God, and bring out some very rich yet simple dispensational teachings. The Gospel of Matthew as the Jewish Gospel is the proper place for it.

We look now at the first seventeen verses of the eighth chapter. Here we have four different signs.

The first is the cleansing of the leper, followed at once by the healing of the centurion’s servant, after which our Lord enters Peter’s house, and his mother-in-law being sick, He touches her hand and the fever leaves her. The last is the healing of all. Now in these four miracles, following one the other as they do here, we have by the Holy Spirit dispensational teachings concerning the Jews and the Gentiles. The first, the cleansing of the leper, stands for Jehovah among His people Israel . The second, where He is absent, and heals not by His touch but by His Word; this represents the Gentile dispensation which is still running. After this dispensation is passed He will enter the house again, restoring His relations with Israel , and healing the sick daughter of Zion , represented by the healing touch and raising of Peter’s mother-in-law. After this is accomplished the millennial blessings come to all in the earth when the curse of sin will be removed. We look at each but briefly.

I. The cleansing of the leper. Israel represented by the leper. Jehovah-rophe (Exodus 15:1-27) among His people. Leprosy is the most loathsome disease known. There was no remedy for it in the Old Testament, nor is there a remedy for it in our times, and we may say there will never be any found. The Spirit of God has made leprosy a type of sin, and inasmuch as there is no remedy from the human side for sin, so there is none and will be none from man’s side for leprosy. Jehovah alone could heal the awful disease (Numbers 12:13; 2 Kings 5:1-15, etc.). This man meeting our Lord as He comes from the mountain was according to Luke (and he was a physician), “A man full of leprosy” (Luke 5:12). The application of leprosy as to every sinner is so well known that we pass it over. The leper here does not alone represent the sinner, but he represents Israel . Long before the Spirit of God had made known the leprous condition of the people in the following words: “The whole head is sick, and the whole heart is faint. From the sole of the foot even unto the head, there is no soundness in it; but wounds and bruises and putrifying sores. They have not been closed, neither bound up, neither mollified with ointment” (Is. 1:5, 6). This is a most perfect description of the leper with his wounds, bruises and sores as he wanders an outcast toward still greater sufferings. Here then Israel’s Messiah, Jehovah-Jesus, the same who spoke in Exodus, “I am Jehovah, thy Healer,” meets His poor, unclean people, represented by the leper. The attitude of the leper as he fell before Him, doing Him homage, should have been Israel ‘s attitude, his prayer, “Lord, if Thou wilt, Thou art able to cleanse me,” Israel ‘s prayer. Jehovah-Jesus stretches out His hand and touches him. He speaks as Jehovah in all His omnipotent power and mercy, “I will -- be cleansed.” And immediately his leprosy was cleansed. Thus Jehovah could and would cleanse Israel . He had then manifested Himself as the “Jehovah, thy Healer,” among His people. The Lord sends the cleansed leper to the priest and asks him to offer the gift which Moses ordained. This was all proper before the death and resurrection of our Lord. Some have taken this as an evidence that the law should still be kept, but they forget that by the death and resurrection of our Lord we are delivered from the law. However, the issue here is not the continuation of the Mosaic institutions. The Lord sends the cleansed leper to the priest for a different purpose. The priest was the proper person to pronounce the cleansed one clean. How then had he become clean? Had he used any remedy? No. Had he seen some celebrated physician? No. Jesus had spoken, “I will!” He, who in prophecy, in the law (Deuteronomy), in Ezekiel and Isaiah, saith again and again, “I will,” had touched him. Who was this Jesus? There could be only one answer, He is Jehovah manifested in the flesh. The priest should have broken forth in song and praise: “Blessed be the Lord, the God of Israel, because He hath visited and wrought redemption for His people!” He should have run from the sanctuary in search of Him, and having found Him adore Him as Jehovah. But the event closes abruptly. The priest alone heard the story, for the man was told not to tell it to others. The priest is silent; we hear nothing of him. He failed to recognize Jehovah in the midst of His people, and does not respond by coming forth to meet the divine King. The priest is the type of unbelieving Israel . The day, however, will come when the King will come again, and when in mercy, He will speak again to the remnant of His people, “I will.” The Sun of righteousness will rise with healing beneath His wings.

II. The Centurion’s servant healed by His Word. Grace shown to the Gentile. Not even in Israel have I found so great faith. Israel having failed to accept the King, and not recognizing Jehovah in their midst, the Gentile is introduced. Grace was to come to the Gentile. The Centurion’s servant was a paralytic -- the type of the helpless and hopeless condition of the Gentiles. The Centurion steps up with a simple, childlike faith. How different from the ritualistic priest who had no answer to Jehovah-Jesus. Jesus declared Himself willing to come and heal him. He, the One who knows the heart of man, well knew that this would bring out the faith of the Gentile. And the Centurion answered and said, “Lord, I am not fit that Thou shouldest enter under my roof: but only speak a word and my servant shall be healed.” In this simple faith there is the fullest confession that Jesus is God and able to heal by His Word, though absent from the sufferer. What a grand foreshadowing of the dispensation in which we live and of the mercy shown to the Gentiles! It is the character of the dispensation. Jesus is absent, yet in childlike faith we know Him, and by His Word He manifests His power. It is not Healing by touch, But By His Word. Upon the manifestation of “so great faith,” our Lord reveals the coming in of the Gentiles and the setting aside of Israel , “the sons of the kingdom.” “But I say unto you that many shall come from the rising and setting sun, and shall lie down at table with Abraham, Isaac and Jacob in the kingdom of the heavens; but the sons of the kingdom shall be cast out into the outer darkness: there shall be the weeping and gnashing of teeth.” There is another feature here we must not forget. In the eighteenth chapter of Genesis we read how Abraham refreshed the Lord. Here after the failure of Abraham’s seed the Gentile refreshes the heart of the Lord. What joy and comfort the blessed One had in looking upon this Gentile and “so great faith,” and then look towards the cross and beyond it; the travail of His soul must have come before Him, the blessed fruit of His death and resurrection in the coming of them afar off. And are you refreshing and comforting His heart, Him who is unseen now? And surely it is by simple faith in Himself and in His power we refresh Him.

III. Coming to the house. The suffering woman healed of fever, raised up and serving Him. Typical of Israel ‘s healing and raising up. In the healing of Peter’s mother-in-law, we see a type of what will take place after the fullness of the Gentiles has come in. The sick woman is typical of Israel . In some of the Prophets we have the comparison of Israel to a woman, a widow, one forsaken, but the promises speak of her healing and that she is to become the minister of the Lord as Peter’s mother-in-law served the Lord. We also see that He heals her by touch. So will He come again in relationship with His people and heal them.

IV. The demons cast out. All healed who were sick. The fulfilment of Isaiah 53:4, Millennial blessings. “And when the evening was come, they brought to Him many possessed by demons, and He cast out the spirits with a word and healed all that were ill; so that that should be fulfilled which was spoken through Esaias the prophet, saying, Himself took our infirmities and bore our diseases.” Later the demons cried out, saying, What have we to do with Thee, Son of God? Hast Thou come here before the time to torment us?” (Matthew 8:29.) The day is coming, the set time, when Satan will be cast out and bound. This will be in connection with our Lord’s return and Israel ‘s restoration. Then all demons will be cast out. Now not all are healed, but then the sad results of sin will be removed. “And the inhabitant shall not say, I am sick” (Is. 33:24).

We come now to the second half of the chapter. It will not be necessary to call again attention to the arrangement of the incidents recorded, differing from the Gospel of Luke, where the scene is laid after the transfiguration. We have learned before that the Holy Spirit does not report these events chronologically, but puts all together in His own perfect, divine way. First, we meet with a scribe who desires to follow Jesus, and then a disciple is seen, who wishes to go first to bury his father before following Him. After this He and the disciples are on the stormy sea and He rebukes the winds and the sea. On the other side the two possessed of demons are delivered. We can touch upon but a little of the manifold application which can be made of these events.

“And a scribe came up and said to Him, Teacher, I will follow thee whithersoever thou mayest go.” And Jesus says to him, “The foxes have holes, and the birds of the heavens roosting places, but the Son of Man has not where to lay His head” (Matthew 8:19-20).

This man was a self-seeking scribe, one whose mind was filled with idle dreams of a Kingdom to be established and, having seen the manifestation of the divine power, he desires selfishly to follow Jesus. No doubt his expectations were earthly gain, riches and glory. In this respect he may well be taken as a type of the nation itself. The Lord then gives the answer, which showed the scribe how perfectly He understood his heart and read his thoughts. Nothing is heard of the scribe afterward. It was sufficient to discourage him completely. The Messiah had nothing to offer him, and if he would follow Him, it meant that which the flesh can never do. But all brings out the fact of the coming rejection of the King. None of the multitude come to fall down before Jesus and worship Him as Jehovah, only this man comes. Our Lord was on His way to the other side, when the scribe approaches Him with his carnal request. The answer which Jesus gives is also significant. It is the first indication coming from His own lips of His rejection, and for the first time in this Gospel He speaks of Himself as “Son of Man.” This title belongs to Him both in His rejection and in His exaltation. Of course, here it refers to His rejection. The words, “The foxes have holes and the birds of the heaven roosting places, but the Son of Man has not where He may lay His head,” are generally taken to refer to His extreme earthly poverty. This is certainly correct. He who was rich became poor, that we might by His poverty become rich. He who is the creator of all things came into the earth and made a little lower than the angels, which He had created, took the place of dependence in lowliness. The Book of Psalms, which so fully reveals Him, the Son of Man, in His rejection as well as in His glory, records His voice as He would speak and as He did speak in the earth. There we read that He says: I am weak, I am weary from groaning, I am poor and needy, I am a worm and no man, I am poured out like water, I am poor and sorrowful, I am like a pelican of the wilderness, I am a sparrow alone, etc. But this word of our Lord speaks also of His death, though it is in the 16th chapter, after Peter’s confession, He reveals to His disciples fully the fact of His rejection, suffering, death, resurrection and coming again as Son of Man. The foxes have places where they find shelter when the hunters seek their lives, so have the birds roosting places where they are safe, but for the Son of Man there was to be no refuge; He came to die the death on the cross.

Many there are still who speak of “following Jesus.” What has not the flesh attempted in this direction! Some went into poverty to be as poor as He was and others tried to follow Him in His life and walk as Jesus of Nazareth, ever speaking of His earthly life as an example and of “character building” (a phrase so prominent in modern preaching), as if the flesh could ever be anything but flesh. The true “follow me” and the connection of him who has believed with the Lord in death and resurrection, is but little known and understood.

Then comes one who is a disciple. In Luke we read that the Lord spoke to him first. He called him as His disciple. Here we read, “But another of His disciples said to Him, Lord, suffer me first to go away and bury my father. But Jesus said to him, Follow me, and leave the dead to bury their own dead.” The Lord who calls asks absolute obedience. He is the first and all earthly connections are to cease. How reluctant to follow the call; how often the disciple, the believer, who is the Lord’s when there is the call to service from the Lord, says, “Suffer me first.” Some earthly thing, a certain occupation, an earthly relationship intrudes itself between the calling Lord and His disciple. Oh, for more and greater devotedness to Him, whose we are and who is our Saviour and Lord. May we be loosed from all earthly bondage and “let the dead bury their dead.”

“And He went on board ship and His disciples followed Him; and behold, the water became very agitated on the sea, so that the ship was covered by the waves; but He slept. And the disciples came and awoke Him, saying, Lord, save: we perish. And He says to them, Why are ye fearful, O ye of little faith? Then having arisen, He rebuked the winds and the sea, and there was a great calm. But the men were astonished saying, What sort of man is this, that even the winds and the sea obey Him” (Matthew 8:23-28).

“He maketh the storm a calm, so that the waves thereof are still” (Psalms 107:28). The “He,” who created the sea was in that ship upon the stormy sea and rose in His power and rebuked (what a word!) the winds and the sea. How suggestive it all is. He had asked devotedness and obedience of His disciples and now He shows them that He is with them and in the midst of storm and waves they are secure and are kept and saved by His power. He slept. What calm and rest was His in the midst of the turbulent element when the disciples were threatened with disaster and death. And such rest is the rest of faith. How slow we are to learn it, the simple lesson “Be anxious for nothing.” It is impossible for the flesh. Though the Lord may have sent deliverance a thousand times, whenever a new trial of faith comes, whenever a new storm arises and tribulation is before us, the flesh will always fear and tremble in unbelief. But how blessed the assurance that in the midst of all the waves and roaring, in all the attacks of Satan and the world, in all trials and adversities, we are secure, eternally secure. We can never perish. “All things work together for good to those who love God, who are called according to purpose;” and therefore “we glory in tribulations.” And the disciples with their unbelieving appeals and cries, how often we have been like them! Instead of looking to Him, who is Lord and our Lord, we looked to circumstances and cried for help where faith should have looked in rest and silence to Him, who doeth all things well. But where could we stop with the lessons and different applications of this scene! The world and the age, this present evil age, is represented by the sea and His own are upon it, so fearful and of little faith. As He arose then, so will He rise again and will rebuke in His majesty as Son of Man the winds and the sea. We speak not only of the blessed fact that in our own lives and experiences He does now often rebuke the winds and the sea, but of His coming again. Then and only then will be “a great calm.”

Coming to the other side He is met in the country of the Gergesenes by two possessed by demons, coming out of the tombs, the place of death, exceedingly dangerous, so that no one was able to pass by that way. They could not be bound, not even with chains and they cut themselves with stones (Mark 5:1-7). Not one demon, but many demons had entered into them; their name in one of them was Legion (Luke 8:30). What awful witnesses, these naked, bleeding, raving and tearing demoniacs were of the body and soul destroying power of the enemy. When our Lord appeared in the land the evil one had by the demons taken possession of large numbers of people and was driving them on to perdition. It will even be worse before His return. Satan and his angels will be cast out into the earth and his angels with him. This will be during the great tribulation. And even now those possessed by demons are continually increasing. The ever changing, as well as new forms, of insanity, many of them at least, if not all, must be connected with the influence of these evil spirits. The so-called “mediums” of Spiritism and adepts in occult “sciences” are undoubtedly demon-possessed. Surely our days, the days long ago predicted, are the latter times in which some apostatize from the faith, giving their mind (it is the mind where these evil workings begin) to deceiving spirits and teachings of demons (1 Timothy 4:1). And opening the soul to the deceiving spirits and teachings of demons means their dreadful entering in and taking full possession. We cannot follow here this dark theme, much as it is needed in our days. And, He, the Son of God has come to destroy the works of the Devil, and through death annul him, who has the might of death, that is, the Devil. And here the demons confess Him, that He is Son of God. “And behold they cried out, saying, What have we to do with thee, Son of God? Hast thou come here before the time to torment us?” It is the first confession of Him as Son of God we have in the Gospel. They give Him His right title. The demons believe and tremble (James 2:19). They see and know Him as their future Judge, but they argue that the right moment for the punishment is not yet. The knowledge of the demons according to this is threefold: They know Him as Son of God, as their Judge and that the judgment will take place at a certain time. But Satan with his lies drives his countless victims on in unbelief to deny every one of these facts that Christ is Son of God and the Judge, and the most striking thing is that the father of lies succeeds to put himself down as a myth.

He shows Himself next as the one who has power over these demons and that they may well fear Him. They cried out and then asked, “If thou cast us out send us away into the herd of swine.” He said: “Go!” What power over these legions is His! Can they ever touch Him or harm Him? No, never! And Son of God, declared by resurrection from the dead as all power in heaven and in earth and the day will be when all things shall be subjected under His feet. Then “at the name of Jesus every knee will bow, of heavenly and earthly and infernal beings.” And we are linked with Him, His victory is ours, we too can triumph over these evil beings. Thanks be to God who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ. “For the rest brethren, be strong in the Lord, in the might of His strength. Put on the panoply of God, that ye may be able to stand against the artifices of the Devil; because our struggle is not against blood and flesh, but against principalities, against authorities, against the universal lords of this darkness, against spiritual power of wickedness in the heavenlies” (Ephesians 6:10-13).

“And they, going out, departed into the herd of swine; and lo, the whole herd of swine rushed down the steep slope into the sea, and died in the waters.” This has puzzled not a few readers of the Word. We may explain it from the dispensational side. The deliverance of the two possessed typifies the deliverance of the Jewish remnant, the apostate part of the Jewish nations is foreshadowed in the swine and they will rush on into the waters, representing judgment.

The account in Mark and Luke goes into details, showing each one of the delivered victims in their right mind. In the end of the chapter we hear that the whole city went out to meet Jesus, and when they met Him, they begged Him to go away out of their coasts. They feared perhaps the loss of other possessions, and rather have the earthly things and the swine, than the Lord. What Satanic blindness! He, the evil one, is seen here in the manifestation of His power in another form. Strange that they should be afraid of Him who is the deliverer! But Satan had completely blinded them. And as we look back over what we were, we can praise our God for such deliverance from such an enemy, for we were dead in offences and sins in which we once walked according to the age of this world, according to the ruler of the authority of the air, the spirit who works now in the sons of obedience (Ephesians 2:1-22).

 


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Bibliography Information
Gaebelein, Arno Clemens. "Commentary on Matthew 8:4". "Gaebelein's Annotated Bible". http://odl.studylight.org/commentaries/gab/matthew-8.html. 1913-1922.

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