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Bible Commentaries

Schaff's Popular Commentary on the New Testament

Matthew 8

 

 

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Verses 1-34

GENERAL CHARACTER. The magna charta of Christ’s Kingdom: the unfolding of His righteousness; the sublimest code of morals ever proclaimed on earth; the counterpart of the legislation on Mount Sinai; Christ here appears as Lawgiver and King; Moses spoke in God’s name; Christ speaks in His own.—Its position, contents, connection, as well as the whole tenor of the New Testament, show that it is the end of the law and the beginning of the gospel, the connecting link between the two: (1) a mighty call to repentance for the unconverted, showing them their infinite distance from the holiness required by the law; (2) a mirror of the divine will for believers, showing them the ideal of Christian morality; (3) an announcement of blessings (beatitudes) to all in whom the law has fulfilled its mission, to create a sense of sin and guilt, to beget humility and meekness of spirit, as well as to encourage and impel to higher attainments. It is at once a warning, a standard and a promise, but not the whole gospel. The gospel is about Christ as well as from Christ. This discourse contains little about His Person and Work; nor could it. The audience was not ready, not even the Twelve (Mark 1:16-20), facts were not accomplished, the Teacher was wise in withholding, was still in His humiliation; only when He was glorified did the full glory of the gospel appear. The improper estimate of its significance makes Christ a mere teacher of ethics, not a Saviour; makes the gospel a higher legalism, not the power of God unto salvation; exalting Christ’s earliest instruction to the Apostles at the expense of the later; uses His tender words on the Mount of Beatitudes to make us forget Calvary; puts His principles before His Person, failing to lead us to Him. But while it is not the full gospel, its tone is evangelical, and its ideal is Christian; not telling how or why we are saved, it implies throughout that God must and will help, encourages us to ask from Him (chap. Matthew 7:11). Addressed to those under the law, it is the best introduction to the gospel.

2. Leading thought and plan. The connection of thoughts, so far as Matthew indicates it, is with chap. Matthew 4:17 : ‘Repent ye, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.’ The motive to repentance was the coming of the ‘kingdom,’ about which the Jews had wrong expectations. These errors are met at the outset by a description of the character of the citizens of that kingdom, while the call to repentance is both expanded and enforced in the body of the discourse, which spiritualizes the law. The leading thoughts are respecting the true standard of righteousness, negatively, higher than the righteousness of the Scribes and Pharisees (chap. Matthew 5:20), positively, like God’s (chap. Matthew 5:48). The Golden Rule (Matthew 7:12) is not the leading thought, since the ethics of the discourse are religious; see notes.

The discourse follows the method of natural association, although in some cases the connection of thought is difficult to determine. A plan ‘is simply such an analysis as will help us to understand it as a whole.

Chap. 5. A description of the character of the citizens of the kingdom of heaven, their relation to the world (Matthew 5:3-16); the relation of Christ to the law, with HIS exposition of the law, culminating in a reference to God’s perfection (Matthew 5:17-48).

Chap. 6. Religious duties; the false and true performance of them contrasted (Matthew 6:1-18); instruction regarding dedication of the heart to God and consequent trust in Him (Matthew 6:19-34).

Chap. 7. Caution against censoriousness, prayer enjoined through promise of an answer, to which promise the Golden Rule is annexed (Matthew 7:1-12); exhortation to self-denial, warning against false teachers and false professions (Matthew 7:13-23); conclusion, two similitudes respecting obedient and disobedient hearers (Matthew 7:24-27). The impression produced on the multitude is then stated (Matthew 5:28-29).

3. RELATION OF THE DISCOURSES in Matthew and Luke (Luke 6:20-49).

Points of agreement: Both begin with beatitudes, end with the same similitudes, contain substantially the same thoughts, frequently expressed in the same language. In both Gospels an account of the healing of the centurion’s servant immediately follows.

Points of difference: Matthew gives one hundred and seven verses, Luke but thirty; Matthew seven (or nine) beatitudes, Luke four, followed by four ‘woes.’ Luke is sometimes fuller than Matthew, and the order is occasionally different. Our Lord was sitting (Matthew 6:1) when this discourse was delivered; apparently standing (Luke 6:17) during the other. This was uttered on a mountain, the other on a plain. A number of important events mentioned by Luke before the discourse are heard by Matthew after it.

Explanations: (a) Two reports of the same discourse; each Evangelist modifying to suit his purpose. This is the common view, involving fewest difficulties. It is then assumed, that our Lord was standing immediately before the discourse, but sat down to speak; that on the mountain there was a plain just below the summit (the fact in the traditional locality: ‘the Horns of Hattin,’ or ‘Kur’n Hattin,’ see Matthew 6:1). The chronological difficulty is not serious. Matthew mentions the sending out of the Twelve (chap. 10), not the choice, which is narrated by Mark and Luke. The latter immediately preceded the discourse (so Luke), the former took place some time after. The mention by Matthew of his own call out of its chronological position is readily accounted for (see in chap. Matthew 9:1-17).

(b) Two discourses on entirely different occasions. So Augustine and others. This is an improbable solution, not called for by the chronological difficulties. The mention of the same miracle as immediately following in both Gospels shows that the occasions, if different, were not widely separated.

(c) Different discourses, but delivered in immediate succession; the longer one on the mountain to the disciples, the other on the plain to the multitudes. So Lange. Favored by the direct address to the disciples, and the allusion to the Pharisees (Matthew 5), not found in Luke’s account; opposed however by the fact that the multitudes also heard the longer discourse (Matthew 7:28).

(d) Two summaries of our Lord’s teaching about this time, not reports of particular discourses. Such summaries would be in an appropriate place, since in both cases a general sketch of our Lord’s ministry proceeds. But both Evangelists specify the place, and even our Lord’s posture.—Accepting the differing reports of the same discourse, we should remember that the Evangelists did not compose their histories from written documents and with literal accuracy in details, but (according to Oriental fashion) from memory, which was then much better trained than now, and from living impressions of the whole Christ, strengthened and guarded by the Holy Spirit. Hence we have after all a truer, more lifelike and instructive account of our Lord’s ministry, just as pictures embodying the varied expressions of a man’s countenance are more true to the life than a photograph which can only fix the momentary image. This fact accounts both for the remarkable essential agreement and the decided individuality and difference in detail, which characterize the Gospels. The two reports of the Sermon on the Mount present in a striking manner these characteristics. The date is probably just after the feast mentioned in John 5:1, if that is to be placed during the Galilean ministry. Our Lord had certainly been preaching in Galilee for some time, and had already aroused the antagonism of the Pharisees. See chap. Matthew 12:1-15, for the events immediately preceding (comp. Mark 2:1-19; Luke 6:1-16).


Verse 1-2

Matthew 8:1. When he came down. Comp. Mark 1:40-45; Luke 5:12-15. Notwithstanding the apparently definite statement of Matthew as to time and place, the chronological order of Mark and Luke is more correct

Great multitudes, literally, ‘many crowds,’ companies from different regions.

NOTE ON LEPROSY. This is a horrible disease of the skin, prevalent in the Eastern countries, and especially among the ancient Hebrews. It probably exists in some forms still, defying cure; but must have been yet more terrific in ancient times. Various forms of the disease are mentioned in early writers, but the ‘white leprosy’ was that peculiar to the Hebrews. (See Leviticus 13) ‘When the disease is decided in its character, it is either rapidly cured, or else spreads inward. In the former case there is a violent eruption, so that the patient is white from head to foot (Leviticus 13:12; 2 Kings 5:27); in the latter case, the disease progresses slowly, and the symptoms are equally distressing and fatal, ending in consumption, dropsy, suffocation, and death.’ By the law of Moses the leper was declared unclean and excluded from intercourse with all other persons. ‘He had to wear the prescribed mourning garment (Leviticus 13:45), but was permitted to associate with other lepers. Their abodes were commonly outside the city walls (Leviticus 13:46; Numbers 5:2); but they were allowed to go about freely, provided they avoided contact with other persons; nor were they even excluded from the services of the synagogue (Lightfoot, 862). In this respect we note a great difference between the synagogue and the temple. On recovering from leprosy, several lustrations had to be performed (Leviticus 14). The main points in the prescribed rite were, to appear before the priest, and to offer a sacrifice; the latter being preceded by religious lustrations, and introduced by a symbolical ceremony, in which the two turtles or pigeons bore a striking analogy to the scape-goat and the other goat offered in sacrifice on the day of atonement. Leviticus 16’ (Lange, Matthew.) Since the disease was not contagious, although infectious and hereditary, the reason for those regulations is to be found, not in sanitary wisdom, but in the fact that such a disease represented most plainly to the eye and powerfully to the mind, the fearful defilement of sin. ‘The leper was the type of one dead in sin: the same emblems are used in his misery as those of mourning for the dead: the same means of cleansing as for uncleanness through connection with death, and which were never used except on these two occasions.’ (Alford.) See Numbers 12:12. Matthew mentions this miracle first, probably because such a miracle showed power over an extraordinary disease, showed special mercy and condescension, and betokened our Lord’s power to save from sin.

Matthew 8:2. There came a leper. (See above.) The coming of the leper is expressly mentioned in all the accounts. Luke is indefinite as to locality (‘one of the cities’), which indicates a place less prominent in the gospel history than Capernaum.

Worshipped him. He performed an act of homage, which was not necessarily religious worship. Even such approach was forbidden in the case of a leper.

Lord. This was an expression of faith in Jesus as the Messiah, even though it might not then imply all we understand by it. The beautiful declaration: If thou wilt, thou canst make me clean, indicates strong faith in Christ’s power; His willingness to heal leprosy had not yet been manifested. One defiled by sin can now say: ‘Thou wilt, thou canst make me clean.’


Verses 1-17

ON OUR LORD’S MIRACLES. The Greek word translated miracle means literally ‘power’; the idea of wondering underlies our word miracle. A miracle is therefore some wonderful display of power; the special sense being that of a display of ‘supernatural’ power. This does not mean contra-natural, but simply the supervening of a natural law by the will of a Personal God, independent of, and superior to, nature. The operation of the human will furnishes an analogy. The existence of a Personal God includes the possibility of miracles. The analogy of the human will suggests the existence of a motive for the exercise of miraculous power, and the existence of such a motive involves the necessity of miracles. This motive is to be found in God’s purpose of revealing Himself as a Spirit superior to the world, so that lost men may be brought back to Him. The miracles of our Lord were wrought to confirm and seal His ministry as the Saviour of men; in each particular case, however, to teach a special lesson pertaining to our salvation. The great miracle is the Person of Christ, whom we know, in whom we trust, whom we love. All other recorded miracles are not only possible, but in a certain sense necessary, if that Divine Human Person existed. God may exert his miraculous power according to a higher law, so that the supernatural is, in its sphere, natural; but this law and the means used are alike unknown to us. Yet the Person of Christ, the greatest of mysteries, is the key to the moral law of the exercise of supernatural power. The alternative is now more clearly than ever, the living personal Redeemer sealing His mission by displays of miraculous power, or blank Naturalism, which, in denying Christ’s miracles, soon denies God and what of hope is left to man. As the Sermon on the Mount is a blow at Pharisaism, these chapters oppose Sadducism.

CONNECTION. The ‘solemn procession of miracles’ found in chaps. 8 and 9 confirms the ‘authority’ discovered in the Sermon on the Mount Matthew’s order is not chronological, but as usual topical. The lesson of the miracle governs its position in the narrative.

CHRONOLOGY. According to Mark and Luke the healing of Peter’s wife’s mother and of many others on the evening of the same day took place first; then after an interval the healing of the leper; while the cure of the centurion’s servant, according to the more detailed account of Luke, occurred much later. The reason for the order followed in this chapter is obvious: Matthew places in prominent position and together the two miracles performed on persons deemed unclean according to the Mosaic law.


Verse 3

Matthew 8:3. And he (the best authorities omit ‘Jesus’) stretched forth his hand and touched him. Such touch was forbidden. Despite the consequent healing, it may have been regarded by the Pharisees as rendering Jesus unclean.

I will; be thou made clean, in direct correspondence with the leper’s expression of faith.

And straightway his leprosy was cleansed. The touch of a leper defiled, carried contagion, but the touch of our Lord overcame the defilement and contagion, removing the disease. Our Lord’s act in this case, as in most of His miracles, stands in a certain outward relation to the effect produced. The obvious lesson is: Go to Christ in faith for healing from spiritual leprosy.


Verse 4

Matthew 8:4. See thou tell no man i.e., do not stop to blaze it abroad, but go thy way, go directly and show thyself to the priest. The telling was forbidden until this duty was fulfilled. It is said that the first inspection was performed by the priest of the district, then a second one after seven days, then after purification a visit was made to the temple, where it was the duty of the leper to offer the gift which Moses commanded. (See Leviticus 14:30-31.) Our Lord adds: for a testimony to them; i.e., a testimony to the people that the cleansing had taken place.—Reasons for the command to be silent: Our Lord had in view the welfare of the person healed; He did not wish to hinder the duty Moses had commanded, nor to prejudice the priests who would inspect the man; He thus sought to prevent a concourse of the people, and the enmity of the rulers. The command also implies a caution against making too much of the external miraculous acts of our Lord; a kind of materialism, no less than the denial of the possibility of such miracles.


Verses 5-13

Matthew 8:5-13. THE HEALING OF THE CENTURION’S SERVANT. Compare the fuller account in Luke 7:1-10. This miracle must not be confounded with the healing of the nobleman’s son (John 4:47-53) in the same city. The two cases have striking points of difference.

And when he had entered into Capernaum. This does not necessarily determine the time. Matthew places this miracle next to the healing of the leper, probably with the purpose of showing how our Lord healed those judged unclean by the Mosaic law.

There came unto him a centurion. A captain of one hundred soldiers, probably in the service of Herod Antipas, possibly in the regular Roman army. A heathen by birth, perhaps a proselyte of the gate. This class, however, is generally specified by some such word as ‘devout.’ The fuller account of Luke tells us that he had built a synagogue, and that he did not himself go to Jesus, but sent first ‘the elders of the Jews, and then ‘friends.’

Beseeching him, through the elders of the Jews (Luke 7:4).


Verse 6

Matthew 8:6. Lord. This word, used by the elders, probably means more than a title of respect and less than an acknowledgment of Messiahship.

My servant, lit. ‘boy,’ as in many languages. His personal house servant (‘held in honor by him,’ Luke), as distinguished from the soldiers who served under him

Lieth at home, lit. ‘has been thrown down,’ or ‘prostrated at my house.’ Exceedingly appropriate in describing the effect of the disease.

Sick of the palsy, grievously tormented. Luke says: ‘ready to die.’ Paralysis or ‘palsy’ was a common disease in those days (comp. Matthew 4:24). Alford: ‘The disease in the text may have been an attack of tetanus, which the ancient physicians included under paralysis, and which is more common in hot countries than with us. It can hardly have been apoplexy, which usually deprives of sensation.’


Verse 7

Matthew 8:7. And Jesus saith unto him, to those whom he sent (Luke 7:6): I will come and heal him. According to Luke, our Lord went, expressing in act the willingness here expressed in word, and on the way the occurrences mentioned in the next verses took place.


Verse 8

Matthew 8:8. The centurion answered, through friends (Luke 7:6).

Lord, I am not worthy, etc. This humility sprang out of his consciousness that he was a heathen, as well as his esteem of our Lord.

But only say in a word. This means one word of command, as Matthew 8:9 shows.

And my servant shall be healed. ‘Humility and faith always go hand in hand.’


Verse 9

Matthew 8:9. For I also am a man under authority. ‘Also’ as in Luke 7:8. The meaning is: I am in service, knowing how to obey and also how to command: having soldiers under myself; hence if I who am after all a subordinate can command, much more one who is ‘in authority’ over disease. The last thought is required by the commendation bestowed on his faith.

And I say, etc. I am in the habit of commanding with a word, and am obeyed. The first two commands are represented as addressed to soldiers; the last to the household servant, who works without his personal superintendence. Explicit command, implicit obedience. ‘What gives such charm to the illustration is, that the centurion ever again recurs to his poor faithful servant. Some familiar servant of the Lord Jesus, he thinks, would suffice to restore his poor slave.’ (Lange.) He may have thought of spirits doing the work of healing. The servant seems to have been his only one.


Verse 10

Matthew 8:10. He marvelled. Not to be explained away. Our Lord could marvel; a mystery of His humanity.

To them that followed. A multitude was probably near, all Jews.

With no man in Israel have I found so great faith. This is the sense of the correct reading, which however places last, for emphasis, the phrase, ‘in Israel.’ There greater faith might have been looked for, but a Gentile was the first to acknowledge Christ’s power to heal at a distance.


Verse 11

Matthew 8:11. Luke omits the further application contained in this and the following verse, recording them, however, when repeated on a different occasion (Luke 13:28-29).

That many shall come from the east and west. A prophecy that the Gentiles, even the most remote, shall enter the kingdom of heaven.

And shall sit down (i.e., ‘recline at table’) with Abraham, etc. The Jews represented the delights of the Messiah’s kingdom as a feast with the patriarchs; but the reference here is rather to intimate domestic intercourse. The patriarchs are properly mentioned, since with these the separating of the people of God began.


Verse 12

Matthew 8:12. But the sons of the kingdom. The Jews, who, by hereditary right and according to the ordinary law of gracious influences, might be expected to enter, shall be cast out, expelled from the feast or home of their patriarchal ancestors, into the outer darkness. The figure is that of darkness outside the house of feasting or the house of comfort.

There shall be the weeping and the gnashing of teeth, the sorrow and the rage consequent upon such expulsion. Also a hint at the wretchedness of a future state of punishment. The figures are fearful: black night, grief and rage.


Verse 13

Matthew 8:13. As thou hast believed, etc. The faith of the master resulted in the healing of the servant.

In that hour, at once, at the moment. The same kind of faith was exercised by the Syro-Phenician woman; also a heathen (Matthew 15:21-28). The three believing centurions of the N. T: this one, the one by the cross, and Cornelius.


Verse 14

Matthew 8:14. And when Jesus was come into Peter’s house. At Capernaum (comp. Mark 1:21; Mark 1:29; Luke 4:31; Luke 4:35). Bethsaida, however, is called (John 1:45) ‘the city of Andrew and Peter.’ When or why they removed is unknown. This miracle, together with others in ‘his own city’ (chap. Matthew 9:1), occurred quite early in His ministry.

His wife’s mother. Peter was therefore married. Jerome and modem Romanist expositors infer that the wife was dead from the fact that the mother when healed ‘ministered unto them;’ but were that the case Peter must have married again (comp. 1 Corinthians 9:5). ‘Legend says that her name was Perpetua or Concordia.’

Lying, prostrate, confined to bed with fever.


Verse 15

Matthew 8:15. And he touched her hand. Our Lord could heal by a word at a distance, in the response to faith, but He generally made some outward sign of His willingness and will to cure; the sign corresponding to the cure and proving that His will healed.—The healing was instantaneous and perfect, she arose and ministered unto him (the singular is sustained by the best authorities), thus showing her perfect restoration. The faith of her family had called for the miracle, but she shows her own faith and her gratitude by ‘serving’ the Lord, and that too in the natural and womanly way of household duty.

Matthew 8:16 tells us of a general gathering of the possessed and sick in Capernaum. Mark (Mark 1:32) says, ‘All the city was gathered together at the door.’ Luke (Luke 4:41) tells how the demons recognized Him. For these numerous miracles of healing there was a sufficient motive.

Even. Either because the most convenient time, or the best time for the sick to be taken out, or it may have been the Sabbath (comp. Mark 1:21). Our Lord was ready to heal on the Sabbath, but the people may have waited until sundown, when the Jewish Sabbath ended. He healed them all, both those possessed with demons and the sick; two classes carefully distinguished from each other in the Gospels.


Verse 17

Matthew 8:17. Peculiar to Matthew, and in accordance with the purpose of his Gospel.

Isaiah the prophet. In the beautiful Messianic prediction, chap. 53. The Evangelist does not quote from the common Greek version, but makes a more exact translation, varying from the original only in the substitution of diseases for ‘sorrows,’ in the last clause. This is allowable from the parallelism of ideas common to Hebrew poetry. The prophecy refers to bearing and expiating our sins, but is here applied to the healing of bodily diseases. His healing was also a suffering with and for us. These miracles were types of His great work of bearing the sins of the world, being directed against the effects of sin; they were signs and pledges of His spiritual power. His contact with all this suffering was an important part of the work of One who for us became ‘a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief.’ Matthew’s application of the prophecy, especially at the close of such a group of miracles, is highly suggestive in regard to the vicarious work of our Lord. The work of healing is an integral part of our Lord’s redeeming work. The medical profession can find its highest incentive and truest glory in this fact.


Verse 18

Matthew 8:18. Now when Jesus saw great multitudes. Some very ancient authorities omit ‘great,’ but it is better to retain it. The ‘multitudes’ had listened to the discourse in parables (chap. 13).

He gave commandment to depart. To avoid the crowd, who may have been in an excited condition, and to find repose after a day of conflict and labor (comp, chaps, 12, 13); since this took place in the evening (Mark 4:35).

To the other side, of the lake.


Verse 18

CHRONOLOGY. Matthew inserts this group of events here; Mark and Luke at a later point. We accept the chronology of Mark, who explicitly says that Jesus crossed the sea on the evening of the day the parable of the sower was delivered. The events of this day are recorded more fully than those of any other during the ministry in Galilee. The order in Matthew is probably owing to his desire to group together important miracles. The incidents mentioned in Matthew 8:19-22, which are placed very much later by Luke (the only other Evangelist who records them), probably occurred just before our Lord crossed the lake. There is a reason why Luke should vary from the order of time, but Matthew would hardly insert them here, unless the chronological order called for it. There is, however, an appropriateness in their position so near Matthew 8:17 (see Matthew 8:20, and the opening section of chap. 9). These variations of order show the independence of the Evangelist.

After a day of conflict and toil, our Lord seeks repose in the evening on the lake (Matthew 8:18); He is detained by doubting disciples (Matthew 8:19-22); sleeps calmly during the storm (Matthew 8:23-24), but is awakened by fearful disciples (Matthew 8:25); He calms the elements (Matthew 8:26), and ‘little faith’ changes to great wonder (Matthew 8:27). Reaching the other side, His conflict with sin and Satan is renewed; the fiercest demoniacs, possessed with the most numerous company of demons, meet Him (Matthew 8:28-29); permitted to enter a herd of swine, the demons destroy these (Matthew 8:30-32), which occasions a concourse from the city to ask Him to leave them (Matthew 8:33-34); He departs (chap. Matthew 9:1 probably never to return. The whole section is a vivid sketch of the various forms of weakness and opposition our Lord always encounters. The central event (the stilling of the tempest) is the most significant one.


Verse 19

Matthew 8:19. And one who was a scribe. ‘One’ is emphatic; either one disciple (Matthew 8:21) who was a scribe, or ‘one scribe,’ suggesting that it was are for one of that class to be among his followers. It is an ingenious hypothesis of Lange, that these persons all became Apostles, being specially called at this time. But it is probable that the Twelve had been chosen before this occurrence. He thinks Judas and Thomas are the persons here spoken of, while the third (mentioned by Luke only) is Matthew.

Master, i.e., teacher, an important confession on the part of a scribe.

I will follow thee, etc. Probably suggested by the fact that our Lord was about to ‘depart.’ But the proposal is to follow Jesus as a teacher and to faithfully adhere to Him.


Verse 20

Matthew 8:20. And Jesus saith unto him. The answer alone reveals an improper motive in the proposal.

Foxes have holes, etc., caves, dens.

Birds of the heaven have nests, more literally, ‘lodging places.’ The two represent the lower order of animals.

The Son of Man. A term applied to no one else, and often applied by our Lord to himself; used in Daniel 7:13, in reference to the Messiah seen in a vision. The prominent idea is that of the second Adam, but it also implies that Jesus was the Messiah. The thought here is of His real humanity, His capability of suffering and privation, in opposition to the carnal expectation of the Jews, shared no doubt by this scribe. The prophecy of Isaiah (Matthew 8:17) seems to have led Matthew to introduce this similar thought in the midst of a series of miracles.

Hath not where to lay his head. He did not own a dwelling, as even the foxes and birds do; but we have no reason to believe that He ever suffered from want of a lodging. Immediately after we are told how He slept in the cabinless boat on the lake. Overdrawn portrayals of our Lord’s poverty are always out of place, yet He who as ‘Son of man’ was ‘the crown of creation,’ did not possess what the humbler animals claim, a home.

Matthew 8:21. And another of the disciples. Certainly one who had already attended our Lord’s teachings. The conversation, according to Luke (Luke 9:59), began with the formal request of our Lord: ‘Follow me.’ This verse sounds like a response to such a command. Tradition says it was Philip; but our Lord had said, ‘Follow me’ to him first of all Apostles (John 1:43). As wavering is implied, it may have been Thomas (Lange).

Suffer me first to go away and bury my father. The father was already dead, and the disciple wanted to go home and attend to all the funeral ceremonies, intending to return and follow Christ.


Verse 22

Matthew 8:22. Leave the dead to bury their own dead. ‘This is a hard saying, and who can bear it’ The common interpretation is: Let the (spiritually) dead attend to burying the (naturally) dead. Such a double meaning is common in brief-pointed remarks. ‘The goal and end of those who are spiritually dead—their last and highest aim here is to bury one another.’—If ‘dead’ be taken literally in both cases we have the meaning: Let the dead bury themselves, i.e.., better let them be unburied than that Christ’s disciples be drawn away from their obedience. Chrysostom says: ‘Jesus forbade him to go, in order to show that nothing, not even the most important work of natural duty and affection, is so momentous, as care for the kingdom of heaven; and that nothing, however urgent, should cause us to be guilty of a moment’s delay in providing first for that.’


Verse 23

Matthew 8:23. A boat. The best authorities omit the definite article. It was, however, the boat from which he had been teaching (Mark 4:36).

His disciples, probably the Twelve, though others followed in other boats (Mark 4:36).


Verse 24

Matthew 8:24. A great tempest in the sea. The ‘storm of wind’ is mentioned by Mark and Luke. The word ‘tempest’ properly refers to the effect of the wind, being used also of an earthquake. This lake, like most inland seas, is subject to sudden and violent storms.

So that the boat was covered, lit, ‘was becoming covered’ with the waves. ‘Shipping seas’ in a boat without a deck would result, as Mark narrates, in the boat’s becoming full, and of course in the ‘jeopardy,’ of which Luke (Luke 8:23) speaks.

But he was asleep or ‘sleeping,’ lying on the boat cushion in the stem (Mark). He who had not where to lay His head, could still sleep in the storm. Needing sleep, He slept; the result was a more striking exhibition of His power. (On the events of that busy day, see Mark 4:35.)


Verse 25

Matthew 8:25. Save, we perish, or, ‘are perishing.’ Disconnected language of anxiety or terror, as in the parallels (Mark 4:33; Luke 8:24).


Verse 26

Matthew 8:26. Why are ye fearful. ‘Afraid’ would be too weak, and ‘cowardly’ too strong.

Of little faith. Fear while the Saviour was with them, evidence of ‘little faith;’ the cry to Him evidence they were not faithless. He rewards the faith they had, but rebukes them, because of their ‘little faith.’

He rebuked the winds and the sea, saying, ‘Peace, be still’ (Mark 4:39).

Matthew places the rebuke of the disciples first; Mark and Luke that of the elements.

A great calm, a perfect stillness.


Verse 27

Matthew 8:27. The men marvelled. Probably all who were in the boat. The parallel passages oblige us to include the disciples as well as the boat’s crew. The former (‘of little faith’) also wondered.

What manner of man is this. An expression of astonishment. It neither means, What country does he come from; nor, Is he more than man? The latter idea is suggested to those now reading the passage.

Even the wind and the sea, or, ‘the winds and the sea too.’ The latter sense suggests that His power over other things had been witnessed; the former intimates that this was the highest display of power. Such a miracle, wrought before those to whom the terrors of the lake were the highest natural danger, was best adapted to convince them of His power to save the soul. By it He also taught a lesson of faith and warned against unbelief, as well as attested to the mere lookers-on His Divine power. All His miracles are displays not only of power, but of love to lost men. Alford: ‘The symbolic application of this occurrence is too striking to have escaped general notice. The Saviour, with the company of His disciples in the ship tossed on the waves, seemed a typical reproduction of the Ark bearing mankind on the flood, and a foreshadowing of the Church tossed by the tempests of this world, but having Him with her always. And the personal application is one of comfort and strengthening of faith in danger and doubt.’


Verse 28

Matthew 8:28. Into the country of the Gadarenes. Our version has: ‘Gergesenes;’ in Mark and Luke: ‘Gadarenes.’ The best established reading in Matthew: ‘Gadarenes;’ Mark: ‘Gerasenes;’ Luke: ‘Gergesenes;’ though there are variations in all three. We know who changed the word ‘Gadarenes’ into ‘Gergesenes’ in this Gospel (Origen), his reasons for doing it, and hence have a more correct copy of the verse than was current in the middle of the third century.

The variety in names has occasioned much discussion as to the exact locality. The common view is that the city referred to in Matthew 8:33-34, was Gadara, the capital of Perea, situated southeast of the southern end of the lake. It was about seven miles from Tiberias, on a mountain near the river Hieromax; was probably inhabited by Gentiles, and is now called Omkeis. This place was not too far away to be ‘the city’ referred to, since the events occurred before ‘the city’ was reached. The name ‘Gergesenes’ is then to be regarded as derived from the old ‘Girgashites,’ who lived there before the conquest of the Israelites. (Josephus says the name survived.) ‘Gerasenes’ was probably a corruption, or derived from the city Gerasa, which was situated in the same district, though at a great distance. Another theory, now coming into favor, is, that a place, called Gerasa or Gergesa, existed near the lake shore. (See Thomson, The Land and the Book, ii. pp. 34-37.) The wood-cut represents the locality according to this view.

Two possessed with demons. Mark and Luke speak of but one, although the former gives the most detailed account. They probably mention the principal one, but do definitely affirm that there was but one. Matthew is always more particular as to numbers, as Mark is regarding looks and gestures. Lange: ‘Two demoniacs would not have associated unless one had been dependent on the other.’—All three Evangelists agree, that the meeting occurred just after landing, although the form of expressing that fact varies.

Coming from out of the tombs. According to the other accounts, their abode, chosen ‘from a morbid craving for the terrible.’ One of the early fathers speaks of such caves near Gadara, and modem travellers confirm the statement. They were hewn out of the chalky rock, and afforded shelter. The ‘possessed’ probably came some distance toward the lake snore to meet Jesus. The whole narrative indicates a premonition of this coming of the Lord.

Exceeding fierce (comp. Mark 5:3-5). Mark tells of the unsuccessful efforts made to subdue them; Matthew, that unsubdued they were the terror of the country.


Verse 29

Matthew 8:29. And behold, they cried out. They strangely enough (‘behold’) did not assail; even their hostile words confessed the superiority of Jesus.

What have we to do with thee, lit ‘What (is) to us and thee,’ what have we in common? The language of the demons, who recognized Him as the son of God.—‘Jesus’ is omitted according to the best authorities.

Dost thou come hither before the time to torment us? ‘Before the time,’ i.e., too soon, to be joined with ‘come;’ peculiar to this Gospel. It does not necessarily refer to some definite time of judgment or torment, when they would be forced to submit. The language is that of opposition, blended with consciousness of weakness. It is demoniacal to defy and oppose, even when conscious that it is useless! According to Luke, our Lord had already begun to exercise His power, and they knew they must obey.


Verse 30

Matthew 8:30. A good way off. Mark says: ‘Nigh unto the mountains’; Luke: there—on the mountain.’ The miracle probably took place on the plain.

A herd of many swine, according to Mark, ‘two thousand.’

Feeding, under the care of herdsmen (Matthew 8:33). They were the property either of Gentiles or of Jews, engaged in a traffic, which was unclean, according to the Mosaic law.


Verse 31

Matthew 8:31. So the demons besought him. Mark and Luke insert here a question and answer respecting the name of the demons, which brings their number into view. The former speaks of their begging not to be sent ‘out of the country,’ the latter, ‘into the deep.’ The latter phrase suggests that ‘before the time’ (Matthew 8:29), refers to a time of banishment from earth ‘to their own place.’

If thou cast us out. They recognized His power, yet clung to the present habitation.

Send us away. This is the correct reading, agreeing with the words used by Mark. The request was malicious; that they might remain on earth, and continue their work of opposition.


Verse 32

Matthew 8:32. Go. Their request was fulfilled, and they went away into the swine. The fact of the possession of the swine is stated. It is not more improbable than that the human body could be under demoniacal control. The animal soul has desires and appetites which could be influenced by the demons.

Behold. An evidence of the reality of the possession.

The whole herd, etc. The simultaneous rush of the whole herd was not a natural movement, but due to the possessed, since few gregarious animals are so marked by individual stubbornness as swine. The distance to the precipice on the lake shore may have been considerable. Man having a rational spirit as well as an animal soul, can be possessed by demons for a long time without physical death resulting, but the same destructive influence quickly kills a lower animal. Mere sensuous life and demoniacal influence stand in some relation; hence this is a warning against sensualism. The permission given by our Lord to enter the herd of swine can be readily justified. It suggests the above warning, it helped to rid the men of the demons; there may have been other reasons growing out of the Mosaic law, which make the loss of property a just punishment; and after all it was but a permission. Criticism of the conduct of Jesus on this occasion only proves His immaculateness.


Verse 33

Matthew 8:33. And they that fed them (herdsmen) fled, in fright and astonishment. The miracle probably took place at some distance from the city.

And what was befallen the possessed with demons. The destruction of the swine was their personal concern; the other stands in a subordinate place.


Verse 34

Matthew 8:34. The whole city, the great mass of the inhabitants from city and country, as it appears from the other accounts.

They besought him that he would depart from their borders. The people were heathen, and as such were more affected by the loss of property and the fear of further damage than by the blessing wrought on the possessed man. Our Lord never came back—but the healed men remained. The one spoken of by Mark and Luke wished to follow Jesus, but was bidden to publish the story of his cure among his friends. With what result we do not know, but doubtless he thus prepared the way for the gospel, which was afterwards preached everywhere. The possessed received Him more readily than the Gadarenes. Christ healed madmen where calculating selfishness drove Him away.

This miracle alone tells of a transfer of demoniacal possession and of its effect upon other creatures than man.

Remarks. (1.) This occurrence shows that demoniacal possession was not identical with any bodily disease. (2.) It also opposes the view that while the influence was indeed demoniacal, bodily possession was merely a popular notion; the persons possessed identify mg themselves in their own minds with the demons. The plain language of the narrative is against such a theory, which moreover explains nothing. The main trouble is the admission, not of bodily possession, but of spiritual influence of any kind. (3.) The most natural and tenable position is: that in the time of Christ persons were, actually and bodily, possessed by personal evil spirits. The New Testament accounts show, even by their grammatical peculiarities, the existence of a ‘double will and double consciousness’ (Alford) in the demoniac. Sometimes the spirit speaks, sometimes the poor demoniac himself. That sensual sin prepared the way for possession has often been supposed, and is not improbable. Such things may occur again, but ‘discerning of the spirits ‘was a special gift in the early church, which will doubtless return should occasion require.

 


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Bibliography Information
Schaff, Philip. "Commentary on Matthew 8:4". "Schaff's Popular Commentary on the New Testament". http://odl.studylight.org/commentaries/scn/matthew-8.html. 1879-90.

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