In the previous chapter we focused on the idea of the "kingdom." We looked at the kingdom over which the King presided. This kingdom was not physical or political in nature. I said that it existed wherever the will of Jesus was being done, and wherever Jesus' will was being done the following things existed because of it:
- True happiness or blessedness
- True righteousness before God
- True relationship between God and man
- True response to His word
In the following section, Matthew returns his attention to the King Himself and describes the incredible pace and impact of the King as He carries out His ministry in establishing His kingdom.
In John 21:25 the Apostle says that the world could not contain all the books if all of what Jesus did was recorded. This is certainly true when you examine the millions of books written about Jesus and His life and written only about the small amount of material given to us about Him in the Bible. In chapters 8 and 9 of Matthew's gospel, Matthew describes three very hectic days in the life of Jesus; three days filled with travel, miracles and teachings. All of which are given as a glimpse into Jesus' spectacular ministry, as the King works at establishing His kingdom among men. Matthew does not lay out these events in chronological order, he groups them into blocks of miracles and teaching:
- Three miracles
- Three miracles
- Four miracles
- Summary teaching
This arrangement doesn't describe the flow of events as they happened each day but they are easier to remember for teaching purposes. In these two action-packed chapters, Mathew describes ten miracles and three sets of teachings by the Lord.
The teachings have a variety of topics, but the most important one is that of discipleship. Matthew has described:
- The birth of the king
- The witness of His rule from men, angels and God Himself
- The nature of His kingdom
- The way into His kingdom
Now He describes the way Jesus went about calling men into the kingdom and into the service of the kingdom.
We begin in chapter 8 as Matthew describes the first group of miracles followed by a teaching.
1. Leper cleansed
When Jesus came down from the mountain, large crowds followed Him. 2 And a leper came to Him and bowed down before Him, and said, "Lord, if You are willing, You can make me clean." 3 Jesus stretched out His hand and touched him, saying, "I am willing; be cleansed." And immediately his leprosy was cleansed. 4 And 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
The leper demonstrated his faith: He believed that Jesus could heal him and experienced instant healing as a result. Jesus "touched" him and he went from being unclean to clean. The leper had to show himself to a priest in order to confirm his cleansing. This confirmation would then permit him to re-enter the social and worship life that he had been denied because of his affliction.
2. Centurion's slave
5 And when Jesus entered Capernaum, a centurion came to Him, imploring Him, 6 and saying, "Lord, my servant is lying paralyzed at home, fearfully tormented." 7 Jesus said to him, "I will come and heal him." 8 But 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. 9 For 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." 10 Now 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. 11 I 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; 12 but the sons of the kingdom will be cast out into the outer darkness; in that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth." 13 And 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
The centurion was a pious proselyte (convert to Judaism). He addressed Jesus as Lord demonstrating his faith. He took 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.
14 When Jesus came into Peter's home, He saw his mother-in-law lying sick in bed with a fever. 15 He touched her hand, and the fever left her; and she got up and waited on Him. 16 When 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. 17 This was to fulfill what was spoken through Isaiah the prophet: "He Himself took our infirmities and carried away our diseases."
- Matthew 8:14-17
She was healed immediately and completely without discourse. Many are brought to Jesus with physical, emotional or spiritual ailments and are healed. Matthew shows that this miraculous healing power of Jesus was in accord with prophecy concerning the Messiah.
18 Now when Jesus saw a crowd around Him, He gave orders to depart to the other side of the sea. 19 Then a scribe came and said to Him, "Teacher, I will follow You wherever You go." 20 Jesus 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." 21 Another of the disciples said to Him, "Lord, permit me first to go and bury my father." 22 But Jesus said to him, "Follow Me, and allow the dead to bury their own dead."
- Matthew 8:18-22
Instruction to would-be disciples
He warns them of 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 are only pilgrims passing through.
This was especially true for a Jewish scribe whose identity was tied up with history, culture and geography. It would be hard to identify with Christ rather than a physical religion bound in history. Disciples make their home here, but they are not at home until they are with Christ.
Dead bury the dead – what does this mean? Let the spiritually dead worry about the things of the world; don't let these things hold you back from following Christ.
Matthew goes on to describe another group of miracles:
4. Calming the storm
23 When He got into the boat, His disciples followed Him. 24 And behold, there arose a great storm on the sea, so that the boat was being covered with the waves; but Jesus Himself was asleep. 25 And they came to Him and woke Him, saying, "Save us, Lord; we are perishing!" 26 He 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. 27 The 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
They appealed to Jesus to save them from the storm. They had little faith, not no faith, and weakness demonstrated in fear. Jesus' power over nature has never been duplicated by any ancient or modern faith healer. No self-proclaimed miracle worker has ever demonstrated this type of power.
5. Cast out demons
28 When 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. 29 And 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?" 30 Now there was a herd of many swine feeding at a distance from them. 31 The demons began to entreat Him, saying, "If You are going to cast us out, send us into the herd of swine." 32 And 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. 33 The herdsmen ran away, and went to the city and reported everything, including what had happened to the demoniacs. 34 And 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
These demons were dangerous and the man was possessed by many of these. The demons feared that their judgment was at hand (they knew the results but not the time). No one knows the time. If the spirits don't know, then certainly man doesn't either. Jesus casts these spirits out with simply a word. The evil spirits cause the swine to run into the lake and drown.
6. Paralytic cured
1 Getting into a boat, Jesus crossed over the sea and came to His own city. 2 And 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." 3 And some of the scribes said to themselves, "This fellow blasphemes." 4 And Jesus knowing their thoughts said, "Why are you thinking evil in your hearts? 5 Which is easier, to say, 'Your sins are forgiven,' or to say, 'Get up, and walk'? 6 But 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." 7 And he got up and went home. 8 But 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 grumble because they feel Jesus has no right or power to do this (only God). They accuse Him of blasphemy. Jesus demonstrates His right and power by healing the man's disease (power over one demonstrates and confirms power over the other). The people glorify God. That people give glory to God is one of the main purposes for miracles. These signs were never meant to make the miracle workers rich!
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
Note how simply he writes about his own call and response. Matthew gives his name, his former life (tax collector), his call and response. He uses the third person to tell his own story and provides no dialogue from Jesus to himself. This demonstrates his genuine humility.
Accusation of eating with sinners
10 Then 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. 11 When the Pharisees saw this, they said to His disciples, "Why is your Teacher eating with the tax collectors and sinners?" 12 But when Jesus heard this, He said, "It is not those who are healthy who need a physician, but those who are sick. 13 But 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 was that His ministry was one of comparison not ceremony. The miracles of healing and the ministry of the cross were motivated by compassion in order to glorify God in the saving of souls. Nothing glorifies God more than soul saving and service.
14 Then the disciples of John came to Him, asking, "Why do we and the Pharisees fast, but Your disciples do not fast?" 15 And 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. 16 But 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. 17 Nor 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 arise as to why John's disciples like John and the Pharisees fast, and Jesus' disciples don't. 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 conditioning by the Pharisees, and partly because their leader, John, was an ascetic (he ate honey, locusts and did not drink any wine); also John was in prison, and they prayed and fasted for his release.
Jesus responds with two examples:
1. 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, then there will be reason to fast.
2. The patch and the wineskin
As I said, the reason that the Pharisee's disciples fasted was because it was imposed on them by their rules and traditions. The reason John's disciples fasted was because of the example of John and the fact that he was imprisoned.
Jesus did not lay this condition upon His disciples. He was with them so they rejoiced in his presence—no need to fast. The passage about the patch and wineskin refer to their spiritual condition. He doesn't 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 don't 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. His reproof has nothing to do with age and everything to do with faith. Jesus is warning them that their rejection of Him would ultimately cause their own demise.
7. Official's daughter
18 While 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." 19 Jesus got up and began to follow him, and so did His disciples.
23 When Jesus came into the official's house, and saw the flute-players and the crowd in noisy disorder, 24 He said, "Leave; for the girl has not died, but is asleep." And they began laughing at Him. 25 But when the crowd had been sent out, He entered and took her by the hand, and the girl got up. 26 This news spread throughout all that land.
- Matthew 9:18-19; 23-26
The official asks Jesus to save his dying daughter. The Lord arrives after the child has died. He resurrects her from dead. This miracle prefigures His own resurrection. If He can raise her, He can also be raised.
8. Woman with hemorrhage
19 Jesus got up and began to follow him, and so did His disciples.
20 And a woman who had been suffering from a hemorrhage for twelve years, came up behind Him and touched the fringe of His cloak; 21 for she was saying to herself, "If I only touch His garment, I will get well." 22 But Jesus turning and seeing her said, "Daughter, take courage; your faith has made you well." At once the woman was made well.
- Matthew 9:19-22
The woman touches his cloak hoping to be healed. Jesus knows her purpose, presence and the power coming from Him (miracles in themselves). She confesses her need and thus her faith. She was revealed because it was necessary for her to know:
- How she was saved: Faith
- Who saved her: Jesus
- Why she was saved: Jesus' love
- Others had to know of her healing for God to be glorified and her re-entry into society.
9. Blind men
27 As Jesus went on from there, two blind men followed Him, crying out, "Have mercy on us, Son of David!" 28 When 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." 29 Then He touched their eyes, saying, "It shall be done to you according to your faith." 30 And their eyes were opened. And Jesus sternly warned them: "See that no one knows about this!" 31 But they went out and spread the news about Him throughout all that land.
- Matthew 9:27-31
They asked for help. He confirmed their faith by healing them. They spread the news against His request. He did not want to stir up the masses before His "time" because this would limit His movements and ministry.
10. Dumb and demon-possessed
32 As they were going out, a mute, demon-possessed man was brought to Him. 33 After 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." 34 But the Pharisees were saying, "He casts out the demons by the ruler of the demons."
- Matthew 9:32-24
The man is brought to Jesus for healing. The performing of miracles was not a new phenomenon among the Jews. Many prophets and servants of God had performed great miracles in the past. The crowds marveled, however, because the healing of the blind and dumb man had never been done before. The Pharisees begin to accuse Him of being of Satan. (This shows how depraved they had become.)
35 Jesus 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.
36 Seeing the people, He felt compassion for them, because they were distressed and dispirited like sheep without a shepherd. 37 Then He said to His disciples, "The harvest is plentiful, but the workers are few. 38 Therefore beseech the Lord of the harvest to send out workers into His harvest."
- Matthew 9:35-38
Jesus, Lord of harvests
Matthew summarizes Jesus' ongoing ministry as one of teaching, preaching and healing. Jesus' teaching and call to discipleship are followed by a prayer for a response and the selection of and sending out of disciples to multiply the teaching, preaching and miracles done by Jesus.
We have, through Matthew's eyes and pen, a description of the every day 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.