In the first narrative, the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus describes the principles upon which the kingdom is established:
- True righteousness before God.
- True relationships with God and man.
- True response to His word.
The narrative that follows this discourse is a description of the power upon which this kingdom is established and the way that men have access to that power.
Three Days in the Life of Christ
In John 21:25 the Apostle says that the world could not contain all of what Jesus did. This is certainly true when you examine the many books written about Jesus and His life, and related material about the Bible. (Google the name Jesus or Bible and you will get millions of results.)
Matthew's narrative in chapters 8-9 is a good example of the reasons why this is so. When comparing the different accounts of the material contained in these two chapters, we see why John wrote this.
Here is a summary of the activity of Jesus during a particular three-day stretch in chronological order:
- Sermon on the Mount
- Heals leper after finishing lesson
- Goes to Capernaum (home town)
- Heals Centurion's slave on the way
- Arrives at Peter's house, heals Peter's mother-in-law, she feeds Him
- Variety of healings o f those brought to Him there
- Orders disciples to cross over the Sea of Galilee
- Teaches would-be disciples on the cost of discipleship
- Calms the storm on the lake
- Heals demoniacs upon arriving on the other side
- Returns across the Sea of Galilee to Capernaum
- Heals paralytic brought to Him there
- Calls Matthew
- Dinner with disciples and Matthew at Matthew's
- Teaches Pharisees and John's disciples about nature of the kingdom
- Resurrects official's daughter
- Heals woman with hemorrhage
- Heals blind man
- Heals man who is dumb and demon possessed
Matthew does not arrange them in exactly this order, but organizes his material in the following way for teaching purposes: three miracles, a teaching, three miracles, another teaching, four miracles and a summary. There are ten miracles described and the teaching has a variety of subjects, but the most important theme is that of discipleship.
Matthew has described the nature of the kingdom (Sermon on the Mount), the power of the kingdom (miracles), the way into the kingdom (faith and obedience), and the call that Jesus makes to everyone to enter into the kingdom (discipleship).
So we begin in chapter 8 as Matthew describes the first group of miracles followed by a teaching.
Miracle: Leper cleansed
1When Jesus came down from the mountain, large crowds followed Him. 2And a leper came to Him and bowed down before Him, and said, "Lord, if You are willing, You can make me clean." 3Jesus stretched out His hand and touched him, saying, "I am willing; be cleansed." And immediately his leprosy was cleansed. 4And Jesus said to him, "See that you tell no one; but go, show yourself to the priest and present the offering that Moses commanded, as a testimony to them."
- Matthew 8:1-4
This man demonstrated his faith, he believed that Jesus could heal him and received instant healing. Jesus "touched" him (unclean to clean). The leper had to show the priest at the temple that he had been healed in order to confirm his cleansing so that he could once again enter the temple and resume his social life.
Miracle: Centurion's slave
5And when Jesus entered Capernaum, a centurion came to Him, imploring Him, 6and saying, "Lord, my servant is lying paralyzed at home, fearfully tormented." 7Jesus said to him, "I will come and heal him." 8But the centurion said, "Lord, I am not worthy for You to come under my roof, but just say the word, and my servant will be healed. 9For I also am a man under authority, with soldiers under me; and I say to this one, 'Go!' and he goes, and to another, 'Come!' and he comes, and to my slave, 'Do this!' and he does it." 10Now when Jesus heard this, He marveled and said to those who were following, "Truly I say to you, I have not found such great faith with anyone in Israel. 11I say to you that many will come from east and west, and recline at the table with Abraham, Isaac and Jacob in the kingdom of heaven; 12but the sons of the kingdom will be cast out into the outer darkness; in that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth." 13And Jesus said to the centurion, "Go; it shall be done for you as you have believed." And the servant was healed that very moment.
- Matthew 8:5-13
This soldier was a pious proselyte (he had built a synagogue for the people, Luke). He addressed Jesus as Lord, demonstrated his faith and was prepared to take Jesus at His word. Jesus marvels at the quality of his faith (imagine impressing Jesus!). His servant is healed by Jesus' word, not personal willingness or faith.
Miracle: Peter's mother-in-law and general healings
14When Jesus came into Peter's home, He saw his mother-in-law lying sick in bed with a fever. 15He touched her hand, and the fever left her; and she got up and waited on Him. 16When evening came, they brought to Him many who were demon-possessed; and He cast out the spirits with a word, and healed all who were ill. 17This was to fulfill what was spoken through Isaiah the prophet: "He Himself took our infirmities and carried away our diseases."
- Matthew 8:14-17
Note that Peter's mother-in-law was healed immediately and completely. Many were brought to Jesus with physical, emotional and spiritual ailments, and the Lord healed them all. Matthew shows that this miraculous healing power of Jesus was in accord with prophecy concerning the Messiah.
Teaching: Instructions to would-be disciples
18Now when Jesus saw a crowd around Him, He gave orders to depart to the other side of the sea. 19Then a scribe came and said to Him, "Teacher, I will follow You wherever You go." 20Jesus said to him, "The foxes have holes and the birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay His head."
- Matthew 8:18-20
Jesus is trying to describe the "other worldly" experience of the kingdom. Those in the kingdom are in the world but have difficulty being a part of it. They never really feel at home. They truly are only pilgrims passing though.
For a Jewish scribe whose religion was so tied up with history, culture and geography, it would be hard to identify with Christ rather than a physical religion based in history. Jesus' disciples make their home here, but they are not at home until they are with Christ.
Teaching: Dead will bury the dead
21Another of the disciples said to Him, "Lord, permit me first to go and bury my father." 22But Jesus said to him, "Follow Me, and allow the dead to bury their own dead."
- Matthew 8:21-22
Jesus tells His would-be followers to leave to the spiritually dead the worry about the things of this world, do not let these things hold you back from following Christ.
Now Matthew goes on to describe another group of miracles.
Miracle: Calming the storm
23When He got into the boat, His disciples followed Him. 24And behold, there arose a great storm on the sea, so that the boat was being covered with the waves; but Jesus Himself was asleep. 25And they came to Him and woke Him, saying, "Save us, Lord; we are perishing!" 26He said to them, "Why are you afraid, you men of little faith?" Then He got up and rebuked the winds and the sea, and it became perfectly calm. 27The men were amazed, and said, "What kind of a man is this, that even the winds and the sea obey Him?"
- Matthew 8:23-27
The Apostles appealed to Jesus in fear to save them from the storm. They had "little" faith, not an absence of faith. Their weakness in faith was demonstrated in fear. Jesus demonstrated His power over nature. No modern faith healer ever demonstrated this.
Miracle: Cast out demons
28When He came to the other side into the country of the Gadarenes, two men who were demon-possessed met Him as they were coming out of the tombs. They were so extremely violent that no one could pass by that way. 29And they cried out, saying, "What business do we have with each other, Son of God? Have You come here to torment us before the time?" 30Now there was a herd of many swine feeding at a distance from them. 31The demons began to entreat Him, saying, "If You are going to cast us out, send us into the herd of swine." 32And He said to them, "Go!" And they came out and went into the swine, and the whole herd rushed down the steep bank into the sea and perished in the waters. 33The herdsmen ran away, and went to the city and reported everything, including what had happened to the demoniacs. 34And behold, the whole city came out to meet Jesus; and when they saw Him, they implored Him to leave their region.
- Matthew 8:28-34
The demoniac in this scene was very dangerous and possessed by many demons. The demons feared that their judgment was at hand (they know the results of their judgment but not the time. No one knows the time, and if the spirits don't know then certainly humans do not know). Note that Jesus casts them out with a simple word, no drama.
Miracle: Paralytic cured
1Getting into a boat, Jesus crossed over the sea and came to His own city. 2And they brought to Him a paralytic lying on a bed. Seeing their faith, Jesus said to the paralytic, "Take courage, son; your sins are forgiven." 3And some of the scribes said to themselves, "This fellow blasphemes." 4And Jesus knowing their thoughts said, "Why are you thinking evil in your hearts? 5Which is easier, to say, 'Your sins are forgiven,' or to say, 'Get up, and walk'? 6But so that you may know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins"—then He said to the paralytic, "Get up, pick up your bed and go home." 7And he got up and went home. 8But when the crowds saw this, they were awestruck, and glorified God, who had given such authority to men.
- Matthew 9:1-8
First, Jesus forgives his sins. The scribes grumbled because they felt that Jesus had no right or power to do this, only God forgives sin. They accused Him of blasphemy. Jesus demonstrates His right and power by healing the man's disease (power over one demonstrates power over the other). The people who witness this glorify God (one of the purposes for miracles).
Teaching: Matthew is called
As Jesus went on from there, He saw a man called Matthew, sitting in the tax collector's booth; and He said to him, "Follow Me!" And he got up and followed Him.
- Matthew 9:9
Notice how simply Matthew writes about his own call and response. He gives his name, his former life (tax collector), his call and response. He uses the third person to refer to himself and records no dialogue from Jesus to himself. This shows his great humility.
Teaching: Accusation of eating with sinners
10Then it happened that as Jesus was reclining at the table in the house, behold, many tax collectors and sinners came and were dining with Jesus and His disciples. 11When the Pharisees saw this, they said to His disciples, "Why is your Teacher eating with the tax collectors and sinners?" 12But when Jesus heard this, He said, "It is not those who are healthy who need a physician, but those who are sick. 13But go and learn what this means: 'I desire compassion, and not sacrifice,' for I did not come to call the righteous, but sinners."
- Matthew 9:10-13
Jesus' response to this attack was that His ministry was one of compassion not ceremony. Miracles of healing and the ministry of the cross were motivated by compassion. Nothing glorifies God more than soul saving and service born out of love for others.
Teaching: John's disciples
14Then the disciples of John came to Him, asking, "Why do we and the Pharisees fast, but Your disciples do not fast?" 15And Jesus said to them, "The attendants of the bridegroom cannot mourn as long as the bridegroom is with them, can they? But the days will come when the bridegroom is taken away from them, and then they will fast. 16But no one puts a patch of unshrunk cloth on an old garment; for the patch pulls away from the garment, and a worse tear results.
17Nor do people put new wine into old wineskins; otherwise the wineskins burst, and the wine pours out and the wineskins are ruined; but they put new wine into fresh wineskins, and both are preserved."
- Matthew 9:14-17
Questions arose why John's disciples and those of the Pharisees fast and Jesus's disciples did not. The Pharisees fasted on a regular basis as part of their religious practice (much of which was hypocritical). John and his disciples fasted partly because of their Jewish conditioning by the Pharisees, and partly because their leader, John, was an ascetic (no wine, ate only honey & locusts). Also, while John was in prison they prayed and fasted for his release.
Jesus responds with three examples:
Jesus' appearance is one of joy, the king of the kingdom has come and like the appearance of the bridegroom at a wedding, it is a time for feasting, not fasting. When He is killed (prophecy of His cross) then there will be reason to fast.
The patch and the wineskin. As I said, the reason the Pharisee's disciples fasted was because it was imposed on them by their leaders and by tradition. The reason John's disciples fasted was because of the example of John and the fact that he was by this time imprisoned. Jesus did not lay this condition upon his disciples, and since He was with them they rejoiced in His presence and had no need to fast.
The verses about the patch and wineskin refer to their spiritual condition. He does not reveal to them (like He did for His disciples who were the new garment, new wineskin) the details of His death and resurrection because they did not believe. He was the new patch and they, in their disbelief, were the old cloth. He was the new wine and they, in their disbelief, were the old wineskins. Their disbelief would destroy them.
Miracle: Official's daughter
18While He was saying these things to them, a synagogue official came and bowed down before Him, and said, "My daughter has just died; but come and lay Your hand on her, and she will live." 19Jesus got up and began to follow him, and so did His disciples...
...23When Jesus came into the official's house, and saw the flute-players and the crowd in noisy disorder, 24He said, "Leave; for the girl has not died, but is asleep." And they began laughing at Him. 25But when the crowd had been sent out, He entered and took her by the hand, and the girl got up. 26This news spread throughout all that land.
- Matthew 9:18-19;23-26
A synagogue elder asks Jesus to save his dying daughter. Jesus arrives after the child has died. He then resurrects her from the dead. This miracle prefigures His own resurrection.
Miracle: Woman with hemorrhage
20And a woman who had been suffering from a hemorrhage for twelve years, came up behind Him and touched the fringe of His cloak; 21for she was saying to herself, "If I only touch His garment, I will get well." 22But Jesus turning and seeing her said, "Daughter, take courage; your faith has made you well." At once the woman was made well.
- Matthew 9:20-22
This miracle is performed in between the official's request and Jesus' arrival at the man's house to raise his daughter. This event is described in greater detail in Mark 5:21-34 and Luke 8:43-48. Matthew presents the account in its order with the request from the synagogue official before and after.
It is interesting to note that Jesus healed the woman based on her faith, and raised the dead child as a response to her father's faith. This encourages us to not only pray for ourselves but pray for others as well, because God answers all prayers offered in faith.
Miracle: Dumb and demon possessed man healed
27As Jesus went on from there, two blind men followed Him, crying out, "Have mercy on us, Son of David!" 28When He entered the house, the blind men came up to Him, and Jesus said to them, "Do you believe that I am able to do this?" They said to Him, "Yes, Lord." 29Then He touched their eyes, saying, "It shall be done to you according to your faith." 30And their eyes were opened. And Jesus sternly warned them: "See that no one knows about this!" 31But they went out and spread the news about Him throughout all that land.
32As they were going out, a mute, demon-possessed man was brought to Him. 33After the demon was cast out, the mute man spoke; and the crowds were amazed, and were saying, "Nothing like this has ever been seen in Israel." 34But the Pharisees were saying, "He casts out the demons by the ruler of the demons."
- Matthew 9:27-34
The significance of this miracle when seen alongside of the other miracles performed (raising the dead, calming the sea, etc.) was that no one else in their history of prophets and miracle workers had singularly demonstrated power over the creation, the spirit world, diseases, and death as Jesus had. This kind of power could only be exercised by God!
Summary: Jesus, Lord of harvests
35Jesus was going through all the cities and villages, teaching in their synagogues and proclaiming the gospel of the kingdom, and healing every kind of disease and every kind of sickness.
36Seeing the people, He felt compassion for them, because they were distressed and dispirited like sheep without a shepherd. 37Then He said to His disciples, "The harvest is plentiful, but the workers are few. 38Therefore beseech the Lord of the harvest to send out workers into His harvest."
- Matthew 9:35-38
Matthew summarizes the nature of Jesus' ongoing ministry: teaching, preaching and healing.
Jesus' teaching and call to discipleship are followed by a prayer asking for a response. In the next section we will see the selection and sending out of disciples to multiply the teaching, preaching and miracles done by the Lord.
So we have, through Matthew's eyes and pen, a description of the everyday life of the King as He goes about establishing His kingdom in the hearts of men and women through His miraculous power and His inspired teaching.