For an introduction to this series, click here.
Dec. 12, 2006
This chapter contains a number of episodes from the life of Jesus. It is possible these events all took place over the course of a week or so, or they could have taken place several months apart. When they happened is not really so important. The fact that they did happen and that they have something to teach us is the important thing.
The chapter begins with a straightforward story about a leper. He told Jesus, "Lord, if you will, you can make me clean." Jesus answered, "I will; be clean." Jesus always responded positively to someone who had faith.
The next story is one of great faith. A centurion, apparently a Gentile, although his servant may have been a Jew, came to Jesus and asked Him to heal his servant. Jesus began to go to his house when the centurion said, "Lord, I am not worthy to have you come under my roof, but only say the word, and my servant will be healed. For I too am a man under authority, with soldiers under me. And I say to one, 'Go,' and he goes, and to another 'Come' and he comes, and to my servant, 'Do this,' and he does it." (8:8-9)
This man recognized Jesus' power was not from some sort of magical ritual He did. He knew that Jesus' power came from God, who ruled over everything and was not limited by space and time. Jesus said, "With no one in Israel have I found such faith. I tell you, many will come from east and west and recline at table with Abraham, Isaac and Jacob in the kingdom of heaven, while the sons of the kingdom will be thrown into outer darkness." (8:10-12, ESV)
Jesus ministered primarily to Jews, but He was telling them not to be proud of their Jewish heritage. It takes more than being born in the right family to be a true child of God. No doubt this centurion is with the Lord Jesus in heaven right now.
In the next episode, two people come to Jesus asking to follow Him. Jesus tells them to count the cost. He told one that He did not have a place to lay His head, and another one that he should let the dead bury their dead. We do not know if they turned away or followed Him. I would hope that they did, but the fact that the text does not mention their response is not a positive sign.
Next we have the miracle of calming the storm on the Sea of Galilee. When they land on the shore, they encounter two demon-possessed men. This story is so similar to the story in Mark and Luke that they are often considered different accounts of the same event. I don't know why Matthew says there were two men and Mark and Luke only mention one. Perhaps one did most of the talking, and maybe only one asked to follow Jesus, since Matthew does not mention that part of the story. He only mentions that the people in the area made Jesus leave. Of the three writers, Matthew was presumably the only one who was there.