Matthew

Matthew 8: Discovering His Authority

For the text of Matthew 8, click here. The very first thing Jesus does when He comes down from the mount on which He gave the sermon is heal a leper and demand he keep quiet about it. Despite that He had clearly done miracles that caught a lot of attention before, Jesus wanted this kept secret. There isn’t an explanation of why but there are few thoughts rolling through my head about it. First, Jesus had just stood up there and talked about doing righteousness in secret for rewards in Heaven. He could easily have just been living into what He had just preached. Second, He had just touched a leper and there were normally all kinds of rituals and cleanliness things for Him to have to do if anyone knew about it. Third, this leper called Him “Lord” and it may have been a little soon for everyone to know all that. Then again, that could just have Following that, a centurion asks Jesus for His help with a servant. This interaction and it’s inclusion in this account is interesting. Matthew has been spending a lot of time justifying who Jesus is in the prophecies and everything in the first few chapters and now there is an account where someone who is not even an Israelite or Jew refers to the apparent authority that Jesus carries with Him. The centurion would have had authority over hundreds of troops and understood that one doesn’t have to be in the room for orders to be carried out. At the same time, this doesn’t seem like a sentiment that the people of Israel or Judah were familiar with when it came to their healers. It was certainly something that some of the further back prophets were capable of in older stories, but there had been no prophets for hundreds of years. This wasn’t something in the living memory of Judah. The centurion understood the authority Jesus had over everything much better than the people around him. This prompts Jesus to say:
 “Truly, I tell you, with no one in Israeld have I found such faith. 11I tell you, many will come from east and west and recline at table with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob in the kingdom of heaven, 12while the sons of the kingdom will be thrown into the outer darkness. In that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.”
I feel like this is Jesus opening up God’s covenant with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, to people outside of Israel. It’s also indicative of the idea that faith in Jesus is what will get you there and not acts or righteousness. Of course, this doesn’t discredit everything else that Jesus just got done saying in His sermon, either. If you have faith, you would know that your treatment from God will be reciprocated from your treatment of your neighbor. Jesus goes on to Peter’s house and heals his mother-in-law. I didn’t know he was married. I had to do some digging around for that one. I found quite a few sites that include that this is the same Peter that is an apostle but they had differing things to say about what that means for believers, followers, Catholics, Protestants, priests and so on. Because of the conflict, I’m not going to link any as I don’t subscribe to any specific idea I found. If he was married, good for him. If he was a widower and that’s why his mother-in-law was mentioned and not his wife, than that’s unfortunate. If he was married and stayed married throughout the time he followed Jesus, became the “rock” the church was founded on, and then martyred, that sounds like it was pretty rough on both of them. I did find myself wondering why I didn’t know he was married and what other little details I’ll find about the other apostles. I had always assumed they were all young and unattached and I see how misguided that was. Aside from that, the story of his mother-in-law is rather non-descript. She’s sick and then she’s healed and starts serving him. Nothing special, unfortunately. This same section includes that a lot of other people were brought to Jesus to have demons cast out or to be healed and He did so. It says that He was fulfilling yet another Isaiah prophecy with it:
 “He took our illnesses and bore our diseases.”
This is part of Isaiah 53, which pretty much foreshadows the rest of Jesus’s story. Jesus’s words in the next section about the dead burying their dead has always confused me. I get the sentiment that following Him is more important, but aren’t there concerns and laws about dead bodies laying about? Or is He talking about the people who are there with the father are dead anyway and they should do it because this person who wants to follow Jesus will live beyond this life and they’ll be in that outer darkness from the centurion conversation? The story about calming the storm while they were in the boat has always been a favorite. I think most people like it because we want God to take care of our problems just that way. I know it’s not right, but it’s the kind of thing I’d love to just be possible. It reminds me a lot of that image of a mom standing around a whole bunch of kids crying about something while she’s trying to take a nap or read or something and she just yells “enough!” and they all stop and go away. I mean, I get that the point is something about that Jesus can control the weather and the sea and it starts to lay into the ridiculous amount of authority He has over everything, but I also love that He’s annoyed. The last story is a crazy one with demons and pigs and the demons get cast out into the pigs who all run into the water and drown themselves. I was marveling at how the people would see this amazing feat over these demons and then want Jesus to leave. He just saved them all from the demons, why wouldn’t they be more grateful? And my husband, who is amazing and who really helps me with the big picture sometimes, just asks what I thought the likelihood was that those pigs had been a pretty big source of food in the area that was gone now. I guess I’d start wondering what we were going to have left to eat if this person hung around “saving” people and killing all the livestock. It seems like a pretty crazy image, a whole herd of pigs running into the water and drowning themselves.
For downloadable study guides, click here. Chapter links go to the ESV translations at Biblehub.com but I’m reading from the ESV Global Study Bible, which is available for free on the Kindle Reading App.
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