MATTHEW 8: WHO IN THE WORLD IS THIS?
PREPARING TO READ MATTHEW 8
After Jesus preaches, he heals. Matthew points out that after Jesus preached, people were amazed. They hadn't seen the half of it!
We love and support a medical mission in Honduras called Predisan. Dr. Amanda Madrid and other founders made up a Spanish word to describe what they do: Predisan means "to preach and to heal." In one word they are also describing the work of Jesus, who they are imitating.
When you read Matthew 8, watch not only for what Jesus does but for how people respond and what Matthew says about these actions of Jesus and the people's responses. Don't miss responses in unlikely places. Two examples: the response of a Roman soldier to Jesus and the response of demon-possessed men. Both recognize the authority of Jesus. We should not miss the deeper level of what these healings point to: Jesus has authority to heal. He has power over sickness, power over the elements of nature (as witnessed in calming the storm), and power over the spiritual forces (as witnessed in casting out demons). Finally, watch for how Jesus responds to the faith of a man whose servant is very sick.
When he entered Capernaum, a centurion came to him, appealing to him 6 and saying, “Lord, my servant is lying at home paralyzed, in terrible distress.” 7 And he said to him, “I will come and cure him.” 8 The centurion answered, “Lord, I am not worthy to have you come under my roof; but only speak 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 one, ‘Go,’ and he goes, and to another, ‘Come,’ and he comes, and to my slave, ‘Do this,’ and the slave does it.” 10 When Jesus heard him, he was amazed and said to those who followed him, “Truly I tell you, in no one[d] in Israel have I found such faith. 11 I tell you, many will come from east and west and will eat with Abraham and Isaac and Jacob in the kingdom of heaven, 12 while the heirs of the kingdom will be thrown into the outer darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.” 13 And to the centurion Jesus said, “Go; let it be done for you according to your faith.” And the servant was healed in that hour.
The first person Jesus heals is a leper and a member of Jesus' own Jewish nation. We know this because Jesus tells the man to show himself to the priest and make a freewill offering after his leprosy was healed. This act would restore the community that being a leper had severed. He wouldn't be allowed in the temple or near people who were not lepers. Jesus is restoring the man according to Jewish law and according to a compassionate command to be restored to the man's people.
The second person Jesus heals is the servant of a Roman soldier. The thing I notice most in this story is not the healing as much as Jesus' response to this non-Jew's faith. Jesus says he's never seen such faith in Israel as the faith of this Roman officer. This is not just a superlative but one that cuts at the heart of Israelites, who thought they were the only faithful and a Roman surely couldn't have the kind of faith God smiled on. Jesus is showing that faith can and does reside in the nations and that's the direction this new kingdom is moving.
Who are the third and fourth people Jesus heals? Jesus heals a friend's mother-in-law (this is how we know the Apostle Peter was married!) and heals two demon-possessed men who lived in a graveyard.
Over and over Jesus does surprising things. The man who said "I will follow you!" didn't expect Jesus to basically say, "OK, I'm homeless. Can you handle not having a place to lay your head like me?" When crossing the lake with his disciples, a storm came up. They were afraid because the boat was about to get swamped. And Jesus was sleeping. When they woke Jesus up and cried, "Save us!" Jesus doesn't panic but asks a question. "Hey faithless people, why are you so afraid?" Jesus "rebuked" the storm and it immediately died down.
The disciples with Jesus couldn't believe what they'd just experienced, and they asked, "Who in the world is this and who does this? Even the winds and the waves obey him."
Jesus, show us you have all authority over the nature, sickness, the law, and evil spirits! You show faith comes from strange new places where we might not expect it. Show us faith in people we may never expect to express it, and help us to response with healing love like Jesus did to the Roman soldier whose servant was healed. Heal us however you choose. We are afflicted with so many wounds of heart and soul and body. Heal us Father through the power of the Holy Spirit and through our faith like the man no one expected to display great faith.
The point of this chapter is summarized well by N.T. Wright in his book, Matthew for Everyone, page 93:
"The point of this story (Matthew 8), then, is that the Jesus who has authority to teach people, as he was doing in the Sermon on the Mount, also has authority over diseases both close at hand and at a distance; over the lives of people who want to follow him, and over the winds and waves on the lake, and over the shadowy forces of evil, however we think about them or describe them. That's what we need to know as we ourselves sign on to follow him. He isn't just somebody with good ideas. He isn't just somebody who will tell us how to establish a better relationship with God. He is somebody with authority over everything that the physical world on the one hand, and the non-physical world on the other, can throw at us. This is a Jesus we can trust with every aspect of our lives."
Look for faith in places you would not expect today. Pray for healing of people who have faith and for those who do not, so that they might see the power of God in their lives.
Greg Taylor preaches for The Journey. Greg's wife, Jill, teaches math at Broken Arrow High School and Tulsa Community College. Greg and Jill have three adult children, Ashley, Anna, and Jacob. Greg is the author of many books, including his latest co-authored with Randy Harris, Daring Faith: Meeting Jesus in the Book of John.