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Matthew 8

February 20th, 2011 by Vic

February 20, 2011

Matthew 8

“ Miracles (part 1)”

Matthew collected and wrote some teachings of Jesus in chapters 5-7.  In chapters 8-9 he writes about 10 miracles.  Some have tried to find a connection with the 10 plagues in Egypt.  Matthew did not try to make that connection.

When the scribes taught or wrote they were always quoting the church fathers, other rabbis, tradition, or their laws.  They always pointed to an authority outside of themselves.  Jesus taught differently.  In 9:3 the scribes begin openly debating Jesus’ authority.  Matthew seems to assume that chapter 8 will answer that question of Jesus’ authority for us.  Who is this Jesus?

Matthew records Jesus’ miracles as evidence to honest hearts that Jesus is the Son of God and has the authority to speak as He has spoken.  The miracles were not dramatic events to entertain the crowds.  They were not the result of a magical formula.  They were sign posts intended to point us to God.

Matthew 8:1-4  (Jesus touched the untouchable)

Leprosy in the NT probably referred to all contagious skin diseases.  There is some debate whether Hansen’s disease existed at that time.  According to the Law of Moses any skin disease would require the person to separate themselves from all human contact.  Whatever the person touched was considered unclean.  Every building he entered was considered unclean.  If a leper walked down a street, the rabbis refused to buy at any of the shops that were on the street.  So how would the shopkeepers treat the lepers?  It was illegal for lepers to even enter a walled city.  They were not to get any closer than 10 feet to any person if the wind was blowing toward him.  If he was upwind, he could not be closer than 50 feet.

This leper had no trouble coming to Jesus.  As he shouted ‘unclean’, the crowd would open up for him, but he took the risk of being stoned.  Everyone avoided him for fear of contagion.

Look at his question.  He has faith in the power of Jesus, but not in His willingness.  The leper felt totally unworthy.  He never expected a miracle.  He had a low self-image; he could not look in Jesus’ eyes.  He knelt in a position of worship.  He demonstrated humility and reverence.

Now think about it.  Have you ever felt like a leper?  An outcast.  A hopeless wreck.  Abandoned by family and friends.  Can you feel the ache and emptiness that is in the leper’s heart as he kneels in the dust and says, “Lord I know you can heal me, but would you want to heal someone like me?”  Can you imagine the tears on his face?  Can you imagine the reckless courage it took to come this close to an important person?  Can you feel the people starting to pick up stones to chase you off?  Do you feel the anger in everyone’s eyes?  With your head bowed and your eyes closed what does it feel like when Jesus touches you?  This is the first human touch you have felt for years.  You feel a spontaneous expression of love.  Jesus has touched you.  You were expecting the rocks and now you receive a loving touch.  He could have just said the words, but He touched you.

Joy floods through you.  Somebody cares.  Jesus loves me.  He is touching me.  He broke the law to touch me.

Then Jesus says, “I want you to be clean.”  And you feel the healing changes in your body.  You open your eyes, lift up your face to Jesus and through tears you see Him.  He spoke and you are clean.  His desire has made you clean.  When I touch dirt I get dirty.  When Jesus touches dirt, He makes the dirt clean.

Was it worth your time coming to Jesus?  Did you get Him dirty with your sin?  Was He shocked by your awful condition?  Aren’t you glad Matthew told us about this miracle.  Jesus cares even when we come sinful, illegally, abruptly, and uninvited.  He cares and invites us to come to Him.

When He instructs the leper not to tell anyone except the priests Jesus does not want to inflame any messianic expectations.  He wants to fulfill the law not the common man’s mistaken expectations.  He wanted the priests to certify the cure.  He did not want public popularity.

8:5-13 (Jesus heals without a touch)

Now picture yourself as a centurion.  You are in charge of 100 soldiers.  According to Luke’s statement, you have built a new synagogue for the Jews.  You are impressed in the one God kind of religion, but like the leper you are an outcast from Israel.  You can’t do enough good works to be accepted by the Jewish people you serve.

Now you have a problem.  You have a servant that is very sick.  You have a reverence for all of life and you treat your slaves as people and not cattle.  When other commanders get a sick slave they just take him to market and sell him, but you do not believe that any man should be treated with disrespect.  You hire some doctors to treat him, but he gets no better.

You have been hearing about Jesus who stays in Capernaum at Peter’s house near the synagogue.  You have heard reports about His teachings and miracles, so you take a few soldiers and go to find Jesus.  If it was just for you, you would not go.  But you would do anything to help this servant.  He was like a son to you.

You go to Capernaum.  You find Jesus.  You state the facts.  And Jesus says, “Sure, let’s go right now.”  Your mind starts spinning.  Jesus is a Jew.  If He comes to your house he will be identified as ceremonially unclean.

Now look at verse 9.  The Centurion identifies himself with Jesus.  He is saying, “As I have authority in the visible world, You have authority in the invisible world.”  The Centurion believed that Jesus’ words had authority in the unseen world.  Somehow Jesus was under God’s authority and when He spoke, God spoke.

8:10  Jesus says, “I’ve been looking for faith in people.  God has taken care of the Jews for centuries, but they still do not have as much faith as you are demonstrating.”  The Gentile’s faith puts Israel to shame.  Jesus is looking for faith in us too.  He does not want just our words of faith.  He is not looking for correct doctrine.  He is not looking for success.  Jesus is looking for faith in His children.  It is the key to the kingdom.

Are you like the Centurion or the servant?  Is someone praying for you?  Or do you have faith to believe God can heal someone else through your petition?  Jesus knows your heart.  He sees your need and cares.  Jesus loves you.

The first miracle was unexpected.  The leper said, “If you are willing, but I’m really not worth it.”

The second miracle was unimportant.  It was just a servant that was sick, but somebody loved him.

8:14-17  (Jesus heals at home)

The third miracle was just family.  Peter did not want to ask Jesus for a miracle.  It was just a family member.  The fever would probably pass in a few days.  It is not necessary to bother Jesus.

Without being asked, Jesus walked to the bed, touched her hand and walked on.  He knew her heart.  Maybe she was feeling guilty because she was not being a proper hostess.  He knew the love that prevented the family from imposing on His goodness.  Jesus just walked by and touched her.  His touch did not make Him sick, but His touch healed the sick.

Do you bother Jesus with the little things in your life?  The compassion and authority of Jesus is apparent.

When you ask “who, what, where, why, when and how” regarding miracles, you don’t find a formula.

One reason for miracles is stated in 8:17.  This was to fulfill the Word of God that had been spoken by the prophets.  Isaiah 53:4-6 tells us it cost Jesus something to heal and forgive.

Surely our grief and sickness He Himself bore.  He was wounded by our transgressions, He was bruised for our iniquities; the possibility for our well-being is in Him.  By His stripes we are healed.  All we like sheep have gone astray.  We have turned everyone to his own way, but God has laid on Jesus the suffering for us all. (Isaiah 53:5-6)  The enemy that Jesus came to overcome is not disease, but sin.  He has authority to forgive sin.

He feels the burden before He rolls it away.  He feels the pain before the pain is gone.  He feels the sorrow before the tears are gone.

The miracles can teach us a lot about Jesus.

You may be able to see yourself in some of these people who were healed.  You can be in your little bedroom world and hoping that Jesus would come by.  You may be too sick to seek Him or too timid to ask, but Jesus knows and cares.  You may be concerned for someone else and Jesus is your last hope.  You seek Him out and He does not disappoint you.  You may be a leper.  You have been told so many times that you are nothing that you believe it yourself.  But even if He does not decide to heal you, you are determined to find Him and worship Him.

The last 2 miracles in this chapter show us that Jesus has power over nature and demons.  But before the storm we hear about 2 men who want to follow Jesus.  They illustrate the paradox of considering the cost vs. making a decision now.

8:18-20

Jesus had just spent the evening healing everybody.  This scribe makes a swift commitment.  He felt good about being with Jesus and when Jesus started to leave, he expressed his desire to stay with Jesus.  The excitement of a long day had produced an emotional decision.

Jesus dumps cold water on his enthusiasm.  He wants him to count the cost.  Not everyday will be like today.  Think about what you are saying.  Even foxes have holes they can see, run to, and rest securely in.  As a disciple you will live by faith in the unseen.  You will not have the security of a hole in the ground.  You will be continually growing and expanding in your freedom.  You will not find contentment in earthly holes, but in spiritual truth.

Jesus saw this scribe as a seed sown on shallow soil.  The scribe had made an impulsive commitment.  To the person who tends to be impulsive, Jesus understands and says stop and think.

The second man was just the opposite.  The first was too quick to make a decision and the second is too slow.  8:21-22

This man is one of the people who always identifies something else to be done before making a decision.  I met some of those in real estate.  They always needed a few more facts before they could make an offer.  These people want one more feasibility study, demographic study, committee meeting, or something. They wanted a new home, but did not want to leave the old home yet.  These people are very sincere and really believe that they will do what they say they will do, but Jesus knew if this man did not make a decision now, he never would.

His request was very reasonable.  It was a cultural duty.  But Jesus says, let the spiritually dead bury the physically dead.  Don’t use this as an excuse.  It could be 10 years before your father dies.  You will always find something else turning up that is just as important as your family duties.

Life is full of decisions.  Jesus says, “Follow ME right now!”  Seek first the kingdom of God.

To the over-eager Jesus says, think then decide.  To the indecisive He says, decide then think.

8:23-27  He does not chide the disciples for disturbing His sleep, but for allowing fear to disturb their faith.  Faith chases out fear and fear chases out faith.  They had faith that Jesus could save them, but their fear was making their faith shaky.  They had to learn that in His presence there is peace, whatever storms may blow.

Jesus could sleep, not because of exhaustion, but from His trust in the Father.  It is an interesting paradox that Jesus as Son of Man could sleep and also as Son of God He could muzzle nature.

8:28-34  While the men in the boat were wondering what manner of man this is, the demons come to tell them.  They knew who Jesus was and yet remained demons.  To know who Jesus is and still hate Him is demonic in nature.

The demons knew that a time was coming when they would lose their power and be tortured.  They knew that time was future.  They knew they were granted some freedom to trouble men until the appointed time.  The kingdom of God has come, but not in the full and final sense.

Not even the unclean swine were prepared to contain the demons and the demons end up destroying the swine.  But Jesus has authority over unclean spiritual powers.

The owners came to Jesus and asked him to leave.  They did not know who he was and probably assumed He was a magician.  Here is human selfishness at its worst.  “I don’t care what happens to anyone else, but don’t mess with my rights and entitlements.”  They preferred pigs to people, swine to a Savior.  Matthew is pointing out that opposition to Jesus came from Gentiles too.

Is your ship in a storm?  Is your heart in turmoil?  Do you want peace?  Then choose to trust in God.  Rest in the arms of Jesus.

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