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Bible Commentaries

L. M. Grant's Commentary on the Bible

Matthew 8

 

 

Other Authors
Verses 1-34

Now the King comes down among the people from the height from which He had given them wise instruction. For He is not only their teacher: He will experience their sorrows, and show His heart of compassion in the midst of adverse circumstances. The real condition of His people was sinful, and this was illustrated in the leper (typical of men's being sadly corrupted by sin), who is nevertheless drawn to worship Him, as a small remnant of Israel did in the beginning of the day of grace. Faith has been awakened at least in recognizing the power of the Lord Jesus to heal this dread disease that no other could heal. The man seems not so sure of the Lord's willingness to do this, but the grace of the Lord Jesus is always greater than our faith. "I will" are His words, as He in grace identifies Himself with the man by His touch, and healing is immediate. The law declared one unclean who touched a leper, but His blessed touch healed the leper.

This is not to be publicly declared, however, and the man is to show himself to the priest, offering a gift in conformity to the law's command, as a testimony to the nation. All of this seems to specially typify the work of His grace in the few in Israel as the dispensation of grace was introduced. The demonstrated fact was a clear testimony to the rest of the nation, though it was not the time for the widespread blessing of the kingdom and glory of the Messiah. Neither the leaders nor Israel generally were ready to respond to such grace.

In Capernaum, a city by the sea of Galilee, Jesus is approached by a centurion, a Gentile officer, who intercedes for his servant who was suffering badly from a case of paralysis. This strikingly illustrates the case of Gentiles in the helplessness of their sin, without hope, without God in the world. The Lord assures him that He will come and heal his servant.

However, this serves to bring out a beautiful picture of Gentile faith in the present day of grace. The centurion feels himself unworthy to even have the Lord enter his home, and asks that the Lord may only speak the word that will heal his servant. For in reality of faith he reasons that if he, being a man under authority, is able to give orders that are promptly obeyed by those under him, how much more will creation itself (being under the hand of the Lord Jesus, the Son of God) obey the words of its Creator. Sickness, though resulting from the sin that had corrupted the world, was still subject to Him. Of this the centurion had no doubt. He simply believed that Jesus is the Son of God.

At the man's words Jesus Himself marvelled, for this was greatest faith compared to Israel's dullness of discernment as to the glory of this blessed Person. But He affirms also that many would evidence such faith, coming from the east and west to sit down with Israel's fathers of faith, Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, in the kingdom of heaven. On the other hand, the children of the kingdom (in this case Israelites who considered themselves entitled to the blessings of the kingdom) would be cast into the outer darkness of eternal torment. It is to be noted that when Matthew 13:38 speaks of the children of the kingdom, they are the good seed. But in Ch.8 the mere natural children of Israel are first set aside before (in Ch.13:1) the Lord goes forth as the Sower to begin a new crop in the field (the world), not simply in Israel. This good seed therefore of the new crop is the same as those coming from the east and the west to have part in the kingdom with Israel's fathers.

The faith of the Gentile centurion is immediately rewarded by the healing of the servant a part from the Lord's immediate presence. Today also Gentiles who have not seen Him and yet have believed are the special objects of His great favour. This is an outstanding character of the church of God.

Verses 14 and 15 however are typical of the Lord's returning to the house of Israel, as He will do in a coming day. For Peter's ministry was specially to the circumcision, and the healing of his wife's mother emphasizes the blessing connected with a natural relationship (Cf. Romans 11:24). Israel has long been in a state of feverish unrest, reduced to a state unfit for service, though boasting in a law that demanded service. How simply the power of the Lord Jesus reserves this great affliction! Her debilitating fever is exchanged for the calm energy of ministering to the Lord Himself and to His own, just as Israel will be delighted to take the place of genuine service when the Messiah touches her fevered hand.

The blessing is enlarged in verses 16 and 17, with many being brought to Him to have demons cast out and sickness healed. Nothing is said of who these people were, for the purpose is to emphasize that they were blessed apart from the question of who they were: none were turned away. It is a picture of millennial blessing spreading out from Israel to all people. As verses 14 and 15 imply that the Lord Jesus is Israel's Messiah, 16 and 17 show Him as Son of Man in relationship with all mankind.

Verse 17 was fulfilled in some real way at the time of His healing these crowds. On the cross He bore our sins, and He bore sin, which was the underlying cause of sickness. But at the very time that He healed, He was bearing their sicknesses, feeling their suffering as though it were His own.

The excitement occasioned by the many miracles among the people was such as to gather great crowds. But rather than being influenced by this to remain, the Lord commanded that He and His disciples would depart to the other side of Lake Galilee. A scribe, no doubt moved by the great evidence of power in the Lord Jesus, and by its wonderful outward results, promised the Lord that he would follow him wherever He went. But the Lord had not called him: this was merely natural enthusiasm. the Lord discouraged him from his proposal by telling him that though foxes and birds have a shelter they can regard as their own, yet He on earth had no such place. If one is to really follow Him, he cannot expect any fleshly comfort or advantage. The scribe was not prepared to continue in a path of true discipleship: the Lord could therefore not encourage him.

On the other hand, one of His disciples (who was responsible to follow Him) seeks to excuse himself from following Him for the time being on the ground of what he considered a natural obligation, that of burying his father. He apparently felt some obligation of caring for his father until he died, but the Lord does not allow natural relationships to take precedence over His work. "Let the dead bury their dead" implies that there are plenty of those who are yet dead in sins to take care of merely natural things. One who is alive in Christ has more important business than this.

In verses 18 to 22 we have seen the activity of the flesh, first in its self-assertive character, and secondly in its self-indulgent character. Over this the King shows His firm authority. Now in verses 23 to 27 He demonstrates His authority over the outward elements, the heaving sea, which symbolizes the surrounding world. The boat is typical of Israel tossed on the waves of Gentile turbulence. It may seem to Israel that the Lord is unaware of their plight, and we too, when tried by a world in upheaval, may feel deserted.

In weakness of faith they cry to Him, for He Was asleep. Of course with Him on board they could never sink. But in tender grace He simply calms the sea with a rebuke of absolute authority, the wind subsiding so that there was a great calm. So it will be when He speaks in power to a tumultuous, world racked by the winds of the great tribulation.

Such authority amazes His disciples, for this is more than kingly authority: it is that of the Creator Himself, God manifest in flesh. The faith of the centurion (vs.8-9) recognized this with no difficulty: why then should the disciples be amazed?

Arriving at the other side He is met by two demon-possessed men. Mark speaks only of one man, and supplies many more details. Matthew is not so interested in the details of men's condition as in the authority of the Lord over demons; though he affirms their excessive ferocity which hindered men from passing that way. If the Lord has shown His authority over the flesh in verses 18 to 22, and His authority over the world in verses 23 to 27, now He is shown to have no less authority over Satan's power.

The demons within the man acknowledge what Israel did not, that Jesus is the Son of God. They knew there is a day of judgment for them too, and feared that the Son of God would act in tormenting authority before the time. His very presence cannot but trouble them. But they were guilty of dreadfully tormenting men. They expect the Son of God to expel them from the men, but plead to be allowed to infest a herd of swine. God's angels evidently have no such inclination, but evil spirits seem anxious to possess a body in which to express their evil proclivities.

The Lord allows the request of the demons whom He dismisses from the two possessed men to enter the heard of swine, which results in the immediate death of the swine. What the demons did then we do not know. Of course, Israelites had no right to keep swine, which they were forbidden to eat (though possibly they raised them in order to sell the meat to Gentiles). The terrified swine were not in control of their senses, get this occasion also proves that evil spirits do not hold complete control of their victims, whatever may be the measure of control they exercise.

The keepers of the swine bring the report to the city, not only of the death of the swine, but of the deliverance of the men from demon power. For this the whole City seems not even to be thankful: they would rather live in constant fear of demon-possessed men than to lose their swine! Sad is the state of those who urge the gracious, faithful Lord of glory to leave their vicinity! Though mercy is not appreciated by some, this will not stop its precious exercise for the sake of others.

 


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Bibliography Information
Grant, L. M. "Commentary on Matthew 8:4". L.M. Grant's Commentary on the Bible. http://odl.studylight.org/commentaries/lmg/matthew-8.html. 1897-1910.

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