IV. Healings and Miracles (Matthew 8:1–9:38)
IV. Healings and Miracles (8:1–9:38)
8:1-2 Three accounts of healing appear in 8:1-17. Whether or not God heals sickness and disease today is a controversial subject. On the one side are those who say God will always heal if you have enough faith. On the other side are those who insist that God does not heal miraculously today and that healing must be left to the doctors. The Bible’s teaching is between these two extremes.
Jesus came down from the mountain, and a man with leprosy approached him, seeking healing. Matthew makes it clear that Jesus’s authority over disease is sovereignly exercised. The man acknowledged this ability to heal but did not presume upon him. He said, If you are willing (8:2). God is not your flunky. He is not required to do your bidding. He sovereignly decides what he will and won’t do.
8:3-4 To the leper, Jesus responded, I am willing; be made clean (8:3). So, can the all-powerful Son of God heal? Of course! Must he heal? No. But notice: The man had to approach Jesus and ask to be healed. If you don’t believe God can heal you, then you may never see that he will. You must be willing to go to him and say, “Lord, I know you can. Will you?” There’s nothing wrong with seeking a doctor’s help when you’re sick. The problem is in neglecting to seek God’s help and treating the doctor as if he’s a god.
8:5-7 Another healing incident follows on the heels of 8:1-4. A Roman centurion pleaded with Jesus to heal his servant who was paralyzed and suffering (8:5-6). When Jesus spoke of going to the centurion’s home to heal him (8:7), the centurion made a shocking reply.
8:8-9 This Roman officer understood how authority works. He had men under his command, and he didn’t need to be present for his soldiers to obey his orders—any more than he needed Caesar to visit him personally to tell him to jump. A subordinate only needs to know that a superior has issued an order (8:9). The centurion knew that Jesus possessed authority to heal. Therefore, he trusted that Jesus didn’t have to be physically present but only say the word for his servant to be healed (8:8).
8:10-13 Jesus marveled at the centurion’s faith. When his own disciples panicked during a storm, he rebuked them for their “little faith” (8:23-27). Yet before him stood a Gentile about whom Jesus said, I have not found anyone in Israel with so great a faith (8:10). His kingdom authority and power are available to anyone who puts their trust in him (8:11), but what made the centurion’s faith so great was his total confidence in Jesus’s word.
The sons of the kingdom (8:12) refers to regenerate Jews. Unfaithful believers will lose rewards in Jesus’s millennial kingdom rule while faithful believers will be rewarded with rich inheritance. Outer darkness and weeping and gnashing of teeth (8:12) are a picture of profound regret due to loss of rewards at the judgment seat of Christ because of their unfaithfulness. The context determines whether this phrase is referring to believers (see 25:29-30) or to unbelievers (see 13:47-50).
You don’t need to be a spiritual giant, a person of prominence, or a member of a certain class of people. You only need to know who Jesus is and the authority of his Word. Great faith comes when we truly understand the greatness of the object of our faith. The centurion had great faith, and Jesus healed his servant (8:13).
8:14-15 The third healing account concerns Peter’s mother-in-law, who was in bed with a fever (8:14). With a mere touch of Jesus’s hand, the fever left her, and she got up and began to serve him (8:15). Observe her response to God’s work in her life. When the Lord ministers to you, it should be reflected in your service to him.
8:16-17 Many more people were brought to Jesus to be healed, including those who were demon-possessed and those who were sick (8:16). According to Matthew, this fulfilled what Isaiah spoke: He himself took our weaknesses and carried our diseases (8:17; see Isa 53:4). Jesus’s healing ministry, then, validated prophecy regarding the Messiah.
Jesus’s ability to heal doesn’t guarantee all healing (that would deny the reality of death!), but it allows for the possibility of healing. Moreover, because of his death on the cross, sickness, pain, and death will be abolished forever (see Isa 53:5; Rev 21:4).
8:18-20 To be a disciple is to be a fully-devoted, verbal and visible follower of Jesus Christ. Jesus would often preach to crowds and then interact with individuals to see who was serious about discipleship. Once a scribe told him, Teacher, I will follow you wherever you go (8:19). But Jesus said the Son of Man had no place to lay his head (8:20). In other words, he asked, “Are you sure you understand what you’re getting yourself into? Will you follow me when there’s no Hilton, no Holiday Inn?” Are you committed to him, even when times are hard?
8:21-22 Another person wanted to follow Jesus but said, First let me go bury my father (8:21). That’s another way of saying he wanted to receive his inheritance before he committed himself to discipleship. Once his father died and left him sufficient funds, he’d be all in. But Jesus permitted no postponement: Follow me, and let the dead bury their own dead (8:22)—that is, let those who are spiritually dead worry about such things. Are you willing to risk discipleship even when it doesn’t fit with your economic plans?
8:23-25 Jesus used a storm to move his disciples from fear of circumstances to faith in him. While they were traveling by boat, a violent storm arose but Jesus was sleeping (8:23-24). Their circumstances looked bleak so they panicked: Lord, save us! We’re going to die! (8:25).
8:26-27 Jesus rebuked the winds and the sea to calm the storm, and he rebuked the disciples for their little faith (8:26). He wanted to expand their understanding of him and their trust in him. As a result of what he did, the disciples were amazed at Jesus’s lordship over creation (8:27), suggesting they hadn’t fully known who was in the boat with them.
The storms and trials of life are designed to give you a bigger view of God and a more precise understanding of who Jesus is. The size of your faith is ultimately tied to the size of your God.
8:28-29 Upon reaching their destination, Jesus encountered two demon-possessed men coming out of the tombs (8:28). That’s where demons operate—in the realm of death. The demons recognized Jesus as the Son of God and shouted, Have you come here to torment us before the time? (8:29). Demons, then, clearly know that a day of judgment is coming. But they refuse to live in light of it. People do that too (see Rom 1:32).
8:30-34 Acknowledging Jesus’s authority and power, the demons begged him to send them into a herd of pigs (8:31). So he sent the demons into the swine, which subsequently plunged into the sea and perished (8:32). Pigs were unclean animals, which is likely why the demons chose to be cast into them: demons produce both destruction and death in environments that are unclean. Did the Gentile herdsmen rejoice that two men had been miraculously set free of their oppression? No. Instead, they reported the news so that the whole town . . . begged Jesus to leave their region (8:33-34). Jesus was responsible for a negative impact on their livelihood. So, sadly, financial loss took priority over spiritual gain.
9:1-3 When he left the region of the Gadarenes (8:28), Jesus again crossed the Sea of Galilee and came to his own town (9:1), Capernaum (see 4:13). There some men brought to him a paralytic lying on a stretcher to be healed. When Jesus saw this, he knew the man had a spiritual need that outweighed his physical one. So he forgave his sins (9:2). That move, however, sent the scribes into an uproar. They said to themselves that Jesus was guilty of blasphemy because only God has authority to forgive sins (9:3). They were right on the authority matter. By his words, Jesus affirmed his own deity by doing what only God could do.
9:4-8 Using his divine heart-monitor, Jesus perceived the thoughts of his critics (9:4) and asked which was easier to say: Your sins are forgiven or Get up and walk (9:5). Clearly it was easier to claim to be able to forgive sins than to heal, but in order to demonstrate his authority in the spiritual realm (to forgive sins), he also demonstrated his authority in the physical realm (to heal lame legs). When Jesus told the paralytic to get up and go home, he obeyed his Creator on legs that worked (9:6-7).
The crowds were awestruck and glorified God (9:8). That’s an appropriate response. This Son of Man who has the authority to deal with the physical has the same clout to deal with the spiritual. We should be awestruck by him, too.
9:9 One day Jesus saw Matthew (also known as Levi; see Mark 2:14) sitting at the toll booth and said, Follow me. It wasn’t merely that Jesus essentially invited an I.R.S. agent to be his disciple that would soon make people upset. It was worse than that. Jewish tax collectors were considered traitors. They collected taxes from their own people on behalf of the Roman Empire. Moreover, tax collectors would stick their own surcharge onto the tax so that they could make a nice profit off of their fellow Jews. Needless to say, tax collectors were hated. But when Matthew received an invitation from this itinerant teacher and miracle worker, he followed him.
9:10 Once Matthew became a disciple, he had a party and invited his friends to meet Jesus. Now, as a tax collector, whom would Matthew have for friends? Tax collectors, of course—as well as other unsavory people. Matthew had found grace and refused to keep it to himself because he knew others needed the same thing.
9:11 When the Pharisees saw this, they were appalled. They couldn’t conceive of upstanding, religious Jews socializing and eating with tax collectors and sinners. They were resentful that Jesus would be fraternizing with the enemy. Tragically, like the Pharisees, many modern believers turn all of their focus inward to their Christian club and forget the reason Jesus came to earth: to invite new members into the family.
9:12-13 It is not those who are well who need a doctor, but those who are sick (9:12). Jesus observed the obvious: True doctors go where sick people are. Jesus was on a rescue mission. He didn’t come to save the secure, but the perishing. He didn’t come to call the righteous, but sinners. So, he essentially told the Pharisees to go back and study their Bibles by quoting Hosea 6:6: I desire mercy and not sacrifice (9:13). The Pharisees offered plenty of religious sacrifices, but their hearts weren’t merciful. Similarly, if your praise and worship isn’t making you more compassionate toward the lost, you’ve missed the point of church.
Many Christians get too comfortable in their holy huddles and forget that Jesus Christ invites all believers to be a part of his mission to rescue people from eternal disaster. We need to be like flowing water, not a stagnant pool. To avoid a stagnant spiritual experience, we need our faith to flow toward others. So ask yourself, Have I become too comfortable hanging out with saints? When was the last time I connected a sinner with my Savior?
9:14-17 The disciples of John the Baptist were concerned by what they saw. They wanted to know why Jesus’s disciples didn’t fast like they did (9:14). Jesus’s simple answer was, “Because it’s a party.” The kingdom of God had come near because the King of the kingdom—the Messiah—had arrived. A time for fasting would come later when the groom (King Jesus) was taken from them. As sure as you don’t grieve at a wedding feast (9:15), you don’t fast at a celebration. Moreover, as a new patch is incompatible with old clothes, new wine is incompatible with old wineskins (9:16-17). The newness of the King and his kingdom was incompatible with their religious practices.
9:18-21 A leader whose daughter had just died knelt before Jesus and begged him for her life (9:18). On the way, a woman who had suffered from bleeding for twelve years approached Jesus, believing if she could only touch his clothes she’d be made well (9:20-21). Her illness made her ceremonially unclean (see Lev 15:25-27), socially unacceptable, and an outcast as she lived with ongoing physical pain.
She touched one or more of the four ritual tassels that hung from each of the four corners of a rabbi’s garment (see Num 15:37-41). They were designed to remind God’s people to be faithful to him and seek him for divine intervention. Thus she was making a spiritual commitment (see Zech 8:22-23). Notice that even as Jesus was on his way to help someone else, he wasn’t too busy to help this poor woman who came to him in faith. He has enough power to go around.
9:22 Your faith has saved you. The woman’s flow of blood would’ve made her and anything she touched ceremonially unclean. But instead of uncleanness flowing to Jesus through her touch, healing flowed to her.
9:23-26 When Jesus finally arrived at the leader’s house, the funeral music had begun (9:23). The girl was dead, but death is no match for the Lord of life (9:24). He took her by the hand, and the girl got up (9:25). Thus, the news of Jesus’s power and authority spread like wildfire (9:26).
9:27 Two blind men started tailing Jesus, shouting, Have mercy on us, Son of David! The prophet Isaiah had much to say about the Messiah, God’s Servant, the King who was to come. He would be a descendant of David (“stump of Jesse,” Isa 11:1), and he would bring healing (“open blind eyes,” Isa 42:7). These men, recognizing Jesus as the Messiah, knew what Jesus could do.
9:28-31 Before he healed them, Jesus asked the men if they believed he could do it (9:28). It’s not enough to have faith: that faith must be declared publicly. When they confessed their faith in his power, he healed them and warned them not to tell anyone (9:29-30). Nevertheless, they spread the news (9:31).
9:32-34 A demon-possessed man who was unable to speak was brought to Jesus (9:32). When the Lord drove out the demon, the man who had been mute could speak (9:33). This tells us that in the realm of God’s kingdom, Satan’s power is restrained; thus, you want to be living under God’s kingdom rule. The Pharisees, though, claimed Jesus was operating under Satan’s authority (9:34). This wasn’t the last time they would make this accusation. The next time, Jesus would respond (see 12:22-32).
9:35-37 As he did earlier (4:23), Matthew emphasizes Jesus’s ministry of teaching . . . preaching . . . healing throughout the towns (9:35). Jesus had deep sympathy for the spiritual condition of the people. They had no spiritual guidance. They were sheep without a shepherd (9:36). There was a need for spiritual workers. While the harvest of souls was abundant, few workers were available to do anything about it. Therefore, he called his disciples—including us—to pray for the recruitment of kingdom-minded workers (9:37).