MATTHEW 8

NOTES ON MATTHEW 8

Survey of the chapter

It is noticeable that Matthew does not relate the miracles in the same order as the other gospels do. The healing of the leper, which he tells us of first, really took place after the healing of Peter’s wife’s mother, and on another day, as a reading of Mark’s account makes clear. There must be some reason why the Spirit moved Matthew to write in this way.

Structure of chapter 8

(a) Verses 1-4 Cleansing of the leper
(b) Verses 5-13 Confidence of the centurion
(c) Verses 14-15 Curing of Peter’s wife’s mother
(d) Verses 16-17 Connection with Isaiah 53:4
(e) Verses 18-22 Commitment when following
(f) Verses 23-27 Calming of the storm
(g)  Verses 28-34  Casting out of spirits

THE WORDS OF THE BIBLE, THE CHRISTIAN SCRIPTURES, AS FOUND IN THE GOSPEL ACCORDING TO MATTHEW CHAPTER 8, VERSES 1 TO 17:

8:1 When He was come down from the mountain, great multitudes followed Him.

8:2 And, behold, there came a leper and worshipped Him, saying, Lord, if Thou wilt, Thou canst make me clean.

8:3 And Jesus put forth His hand, and touched him, saying, I will; be thou clean. And immediately his leprosy was cleansed.

8:4 And Jesus saith unto him, See thou tell no man; but go thy way, shew thyself to the priest, and offer the gift that Moses commanded, for a testimony unto them.

8:5 And when Jesus was entered into Capernaum, there came unto Him a centurion, beseeching Him,

8:6 And saying, Lord, my servant lieth at home sick of the palsy, grievously tormented.

8:7 And Jesus saith unto him, I will come and heal him.

8:8 The centurion answered and said, Lord, I am not worthy that Thou shouldest come under my roof: but speak the word only, and my servant shall be healed.

8:9 For I am a man under authority, having soldiers under me: and I say to this man, Go, and he goeth; and to another, Come, and he cometh; and to my servant, Do this, and he doeth it.

8:10 When Jesus heard it, He marvelled, and said to them that followed, Verily I say unto you, I have not found so great faith, no, not in Israel.

8:11 And I say unto you, That many shall come from the east and west, and shall sit down with Abraham, and Isaac, and Jacob, in the kingdom of heaven.

8:12 But the children of the kingdom shall be cast out into outer darkness: there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth.

8:13 And Jesus said unto the centurion, Go thy way; and as thou hast believed, so be it done unto thee. And his servant was healed in the selfsame hour.

8:14 And when Jesus was come into Peter’s house, He saw his wife’s mother laid, and sick of a fever.

8:15 And He touched her hand, and the fever left her: and she arose, and ministered unto them.

8:16 When the even was come, they brought unto Him many that were possessed with devils: and He cast out the spirits with His word, and healed all that were sick:

8:17 That it might be fulfilled which was spoken by Esaias the prophet, saying, Himself took our infirmities, and bare our sicknesses.

(a) Verses 1-4 Cleansing of the leper

8:1 When He was come down from the mountain, great multitudes followed Him.

When He was come down from the mountain- as we noted on 5:1, a mountain in Scripture is a symbol of a kingdom. Matthew is concerned to impress upon us throughout his gospel that the Lord Jesus is the King of Israel and King of kings, therefore we are not surprised to find mention of seven mountains. This one is the second, the first being the mountain to which the Devil took Him, to show Him the kingdoms of the world. He refused the offer of those kingdoms, for He awaits the time when the Father will invite Him to ask for universal dominion, Psalm 2:8. He will replace the kingdoms of men with the kingdom of heaven.

This second mountain is where He has been sitting to teach His subjects about behaviour that is appropriate for His kingdom, whether at the present time when the kingdom is not manifest, or when it is manifest.

Great multitudes followed Him- before He went up into this mountain, we read, “And there followed Him great multitudes of people”, Matthew 4:25. They were following Him because of the miracles He performed, and we read, “seeing the multitudes, He went up into a mountain”, 5:1. He will test them as to whether they seek the truth or just miracle-working. Those who took the place of disciples then listened to Him teaching. Now that He has finished, they return down the mountain still following Him. Perhaps it is that they have not realised the full implications of His words on the mountain, and need to accept that in the light of His pure doctrine they are defiled sinners, as illustrated by the leper that Matthew tells us of next. He inserts the incident here because it is appropriate to his method, whereas it took place later, as we learn from Mark and Luke.

8:2 And, behold, there came a leper and worshipped Him, saying, Lord, if Thou wilt, Thou canst make me clean.

And, behold, there came a leper and worshipped Him- leprosy was a terrible disease, and amounted to a death sentence. The king of Israel realised this, for when confronted by a messenger from the king of Syria about Naaman the leper, he exclaimed, “Am I God, to kill and to make alive, that this man doth send unto me to recover a man from his leprosy?”, 2 Kings 5:7. He knew that to recover someone from leprosy was like recovering someone from death. He also knew that only God could do this work, for man was powerless to help. Luke tells us that this man was full of leprosy, for as a doctor he would be interested in what state the disease was at. It is in an advanced stage, and the man is beyond human help, soon to die.

The leper Matthew speaks of here must have had an appreciation of this, for he worshipped the Lord. At the very least this was a recognition that He was sent of God, and at best he realised that Christ was God manifest in flesh, and therefore deserving of the worship that is more than simply respect.

Saying, Lord, if Thou wilt, Thou canst make me clean- the particular cases of healing and recovery that are told us in the gospel records all have their counterpart in the spiritual realm. The blind cannot discern the things of God. The deaf do not listen to God. The lame do not walk with God. The dumb do not praise God. And all this because man is a sinner, and it is this that is illustrated by leprosy. Leprosy was often called a plague in the Old Testament, and Solomon appealed to God that “What prayer and supplication soever be made by any man, or by all Thy people Israel, which shall know every man the plague of his own heart, and spread forth his hands toward this house, then hear Thou in heaven Thy dwelling-place, and forgive”, 1 Kings 8:38,39.
It is noticeable that when a leper was brought to the priest in Leviticus 14, it was in “the day of his cleansing”, when the priest had pronounced him clean. But the priest did not heal the leper; that was a work of God alone. This makes the cleansing of the leper by Christ all the more significant, for He was doing the work only God could do. So when the leper declared that if the Lord willed it, He could make him clean, then he was ascribing Divine powers to Him, and in line with this he called Him Lord and also worshipped Him. The will of God, the power of God, the worship of God were all involved in what the leper said.

Now when Isaiah was describing the nation of Israel in his day, he said, “Why should ye be stricken any more? ye will revolt more and more: the whole head is sick, and the whole heart faint. From the sole of the foot even unto the head there is no soundness in it; but wounds, and bruises, and putrifying sores: they have not been closed, neither bound up, neither mollified with ointment”, Isaiah 1:5,6.

We can begin to see why Matthew places the cleansing of the leper first, for it represents what the nation of Israel needed at that time, and also what it will need just before the return of Christ to reign. If they are to be fit to enter into His kingdom they must know the cleansing He can give them. God’s promise to the nation through Jeremiah the prophet was, “For thus saith the Lord, Thy bruise is incurable, and thy wound is grievous. There is none to plead thy cause, that thou mayest be bound up: thou hast no healing medicines…For I will restore health unto thee, and I will heal thee of thy wounds, saith the Lord; because they called thee an outcast, saying, This is Zion, whom no man seeketh after”, Jeremiah 30:12,13,17. So Israel has been an outcast, like the leper outside the camp, but will be healed and brought back into favour with God.

8:3 And Jesus put forth His hand, and touched him, saying, I will; be thou clean. And immediately his leprosy was cleansed.

And Jesus put forth His hand, and touched him- Isaiah declared, “Behold the Lord’s hand is not shortened, that it cannot save; neither His ear heavy, that it cannot hear: But your iniquities have separated between you and your God, and your sins have hid His face from you, that he will not hear”, Isaiah 59:1,2. So the sinful state of the nation was not due to God not being able to reach them with His arm of power in their state of need. It was because their sins had put a distance between them and God. But now there is one on earth who can bridge the gap, and who is able to righteously extend His hand, and actually reach the leper. He was able to do this because of the right attitude of the leper, as he owned his uncleanness and need. He was able to do this also because “God was in Christ, reconciling the world unto Himself”, 2 Corinthians 5:19. The death of Christ at Calvary would put the world in a state of provisional reconciliation, and enable God to maintain His righteousness, but at the same time reach out to sinners.

A leper was an “untouchable”, banished outside the city walls because of his defiling condition, condemned to place a covering on his upper lip and cry “Unclean! Unclean!”. Yet this man dares to approach Christ and not say “Unclean”, as the law required, but “Thou canst make me clean”, as he realises that Christ has come in grace. He came to one who Himself was “untouchable”, not in any defiled sense, but in that defilement could not touch Him. The power of His holiness was more than enough to counteract the man’s condition. When the woman with the issue touched Him, He said, “I perceive that virtue is gone out of Me”, Luke 8:46. So there was a two-way process. He carried the sickness for the diseased one, and to the sufferer there flowed virtue from the Holy One. Truly He is “holy, harmless, undefiled, and separate from sinners”, Hebrews 7:26.

Saying, I will; be thou clean- so the leper was right. If He willed it, He could do it, and now the truth of his statement is made clear. We should remember that leprosy was looked on as a plague, or a stroke, an intervention by God in judgement. But God sent not His Son into the world to condemn the world, and here is an illustration, for the Lord Jesus has authority to reverse the will of God that brought the leprosy to this man. The word of God condemning the man is reversed by God manifest in flesh speaking the word of cleansing, for He not only touched the untouchable, but spoke the word of healing.

And immediately his leprosy was cleansed- only on one occasion was a miracle performed in stages, (the blind man of Mark 8:22-26), but this was to illustrate the slowness of the disciples to see and understand, verses 17-21of that passage. Here, a disease that had built up and spread perhaps for years, is now removed in an instant, and the man is no longer defiled, but cleansed.

8:4 And Jesus saith unto him, See thou tell no man; but go thy way, shew thyself to the priest, and offer the gift that Moses commanded, for a testimony unto them.

And Jesus saith unto him, See thou tell no man- of course, later on he will be asked how it is that he can now freely mingle with the people of the city, and he will be able to tell. But there is something he must do first, and not be distracted from it by excitedly telling others what had happened to him.

But go thy way, shew thyself to the priest- notice that the Lord upholds the office of the priesthood, even though He did not approve of those who held the office. He has not come to undermine the Levitical priesthood, but to bring in a better one. The priest would have to apply his knowledge of the regulations of Leviticus 13, and judge whether the leprosy had indeed gone. The priest could only pronounce clean or unclean, he could not cleanse. So we simply read at the start of Leviticus 14, “If the plague of leprosy be healed”, with no word as to how it happened. But since the king we have quoted said, “Am I God, to kill, and to make alive?”, we know that leprosy was inflicted by God, and its virtual death sentence could only be removed by God.

And offer the gift that Moses commanded, for a testimony unto them- now it is Leviticus 14 that must be complied with, and once the man has been cleared by the priest he may bring his offerings and be reinstated into the nation. That in itself will be a testimony unto the priests, showing that God was at work amongst them, and men whom the law banished are being brought back by grace. As was said at His birth, ” and they shall call His name Emmanuel, which, being interpreted is, God with us”, Matthew 1:23. Note the Lord is confident that when the man shows himself to the priest he will be passed as clean, for He gives him the further instruction to offer a gift. If he had not been passed, he could not have offered a gift.

Special note on Leviticus 14

Leviticus 14:1 And the Lord spake unto Moses, saying- the Lord who spoke to Moses is now speaking again through His Son. There was just a glimmer of hope in the Old Testament that one day a leper might be cleansed. The only leper cleansed in the Old Testament was Naaman the Syrian, a Gentile, and he is mentioned by the Lord Jesus in His address in the synagogue of Nazareth, when He announced that He was the Messiah, Luke 4:18,27.

14:2 This shall be the law of the leper in the day of his cleansing: He shall be brought unto the priest:

This shall be the law of the leper in the day of his cleansing- so the leper was to be reinstated on fixed principles, “the law of the leper”. God blesses men now on fixed principles, as set out in the gospel. No mention is made of the way the leper has been cured, for it was only by Divine intervention that it could happen. God had announced at the beginning of the wilderness journey that he was “the Lord that healeth thee”, Exodus 15:26. They would only know God in that character, however, if they obeyed His statutes and commandments, so it was conditional. It was a remarkable thing, therefore, that Naaman the Gentile was healed, for he had no insight into obeying God’s laws. It was a matter of pure grace, and this is one reason why the Lord mentioned him in the synagogue at Nazareth. The lepers in Israel in Elisha’s day were bypassed, and a Gentile was blessed.

He shall be brought unto the priest- the priest would apply the tests set out in detail in Leviticus 13, to ensure that infection was not brought into the camp of Israel, with disastrous results.

14:3 And the priest shall go forth out of the camp; and the priest shall look, and, behold, if the plague of leprosy be healed in the leper;

And the priest shall go forth out of the camp- the man who is used to moving in the presence of God now goes outside the camp where the leper has been in his banishment. Christ came forth from God, and then went outside the city walls of Jerusalem to deal with defilement on the cross.

And the priest shall look, and, behold, if the plague of leprosy be healed in the leper- this is why the Lord sent the leper to the priest with the words, “shew thyself to the priest”. The priest will need to closely examine the man to ensure that the leprosy is really gone. The Lord had not come to undermine the law, so commands the man He has cleansed to comply with its demands.

14:4 Then shall the priest command to take for him that is to be cleansed two birds alive and clean, and cedar wood, and scarlet, and hyssop:

Then shall the priest command to take for him that is to be cleansed- the man has been outside the camp, perhaps for a long time, so things have to be provided for him at the outset. So it is “take for him”, not “let him bring” as is normal with the offerings. After he is reinstated it is said of the cleansed leper “he shall take”, verse 10. The sinner is bankrupt, so all is provided for his cleansing, but when he has been cleansed, he will wish to show his gratitude by bringing an offering.

Two birds- this is what is provided in grace for the penniless leper. The birds are not doves, but sparrows, the sociable bird, for the leper is being brought back into the social life of Israel. What God has provided in grace for sinful man is His Son, made in the likeness of sinful flesh. He came in the likeness of what in us is sinful, yet He is sinless in every way. He is exactly the one sinners need. He is able to introduce us into the society of heaven, where no evil can come.

There are two birds, because one is going to die, and the other is going to fly into the heavens, its proper sphere. Christ came from heaven to die, and, having risen, He has returned to heaven again.

Alive and clean- these are things the leper was not. His was a living death, and he had to constantly cry “Unclean!, Unclean!”. God has provided the One of whom it is said, “In Him was life”, John 1:4. He is perfectly clean, being “holy, harmless, undefiled, and separate from sinners”, Hebrews 7:26.

And cedar wood, and scarlet, and hyssop- these three items are needed to make a sprinkler, for a blood/water mixture is going to be sprinkled over the leper. This sprinkler is composed of a length of cedar wood, with a bunch of hyssop tied to it by scarlet wool. Unless these three things are present, the leper cannot be cleansed. It is said of Solomon that “he spake of trees, from the cedar tree that is in Lebanon even unto the hyssop that springeth out of the wall”, 1 Kings 4:33. So to wise Solomon the full range was the cedar of Lebanon to the shrubby hyssop that sprang out of the wall. The cedar tree is the lofty tree, the very symbol of majesty and stability. God describes Himself as “the high and Lofty One that inhabiteth eternity, whose name is holy”, Isaiah 57:15. The Lord Jesus is His equal, being in the form of God in eternity. Yet He stooped to earth, as the lowly hyssop suggests. That hyssop sprang out of the city walls of Jerusalem as He made His way, carrying a cross, to deal with the question of sins. And this is what joins together His two positions, in eternity and on a cross, just as the scarlet wool tied the hyssop to the cedar wood.
God said, “Come now, and let us reason together, saith the Lord: though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they be red like crimson, they shall be as wool”, Isaiah 1:18. A lamb is as white as snow when it has been shorn. And when the wool grows again, it is the same pure colour. So the repentant sinner knows an exchange; the red and scarlet of his sins which deserve death, (and red is the colour of death), is changed for the whiteness of the righteousness of God in Christ, as that righteousness is imputed to him.

So Christ was “as a sheep before her shearers”, Isaiah 53:7, as men tried to rob Him of His glories. Undeterred, He went on to the slaughter, and the wool became scarlet, for He added the blood of His sacrifice to His tally of glories. They thought He was “stricken of God”, Isaiah 53:4, an expression they would have used of a leper, but “He was wounded for our transgressions”.

14:5 And the priest shall command that one of the birds be killed in an earthen vessel over running water:

And the priest shall command that one of the birds be killed in an earthen vessel over running water- man is made out of clay, Genesis 2:7; Job 4:19; 33:6; 1 Corinthians 15:47,48. In amazing grace, the eternal Son of God took manhood, in order that He might die. He became, in other words, “an earthen vessel”. But a vessel is an object with a use, and He is the means whereby the cleansing of sinners might be accomplished.

Running water is literally “living water”, meaning it is not water from a stagnant, defiled pool, but water from a living stream, fresh and pure. Such is the Spirit of God, for the Spirit is the Holy Spirit, and is the living water the Lord Jesus spoke of in John 4:14 and 7:37-39, where John helpfully explains that the water was a figure for the Spirit of God.

So what happens is that the blood of the bird mingles with the water in the earthen vessel, and forms that which is to be sprinkled on the leper. In its realisation, the Spirit bears living and powerful testimony as to the work of the cross. The gospel is preached “with the Holy Ghost sent down from heaven”, 1 Peter 1:12. It is as if the Spirit, (the water), has captured the work of Christ, (the blood), and retains it for the blessing of the sinner when he believes.

14:6 As for the living bird, he shall take it, and the cedar wood, and the scarlet, and the hyssop, and shall dip them and the living bird in the blood of the bird that was killed over the running water:

As for the living bird- we are told what happens to the living bird before we learn what is done to the leper. Clearly, what this bird signifies must come before the leper is sprinkled. The two birds represent two aspects of Christ. First that He had come from heaven to die. Second, that He has risen from the dead and ascended to heaven. The two birds represent the two ideas the Lord Himself spoke of when He said, “I came forth from the Father, and am come into the world: again, I leave the world, and go to the Father”, John 16:28. He “came from God and went to God”, John 13:3. These things must happen before sinners can be cleansed.

He shall take it, and the cedar wood, and the scarlet, and the hyssop- there is established the closest possible connection between the living bird and that which shall be used to sprinkle the leper. The bird is in one hand and the sprinkler is in the other. If Christ is not risen and ascended back to the Father there is some doubt about the value of His work of sacrifice. Since He is back in heaven, His work at Calvary must have pleased the Father.

And shall dip them and the living bird in the blood of the bird that was killed over the running water- the word for dip is the equivalent to the Greek word for baptise. That Greek word is derived from the verb “bapto”, which means “to cover all over with a liquid”. When He was anticipating the cross, the Saviour said, “I have a baptism to be baptised with; and how am I straitened until it be accomplished!”, Luke 12:50. The bird flies free in the open heavens with the blood of the first bird upon it. The straitening experience of Calvary has given way to liberty in resurrection and ascension for Christ. But he ascended to heaven as the one who died on a cross on earth.

14:7 And he shall sprinkle upon him that is to be cleansed from the leprosy seven times, and shall pronounce him clean, and shall let the living bird loose into the open field.

And he shall sprinkle upon him that is to be cleansed from the leprosy seven times, and shall pronounce him clean- the Hebrew word for seven means “fullness, completeness”, and the man now has fully applied to him the value of the blood shed. Those who believe have the assurance that “the blood of Jesus Christ, His Son, cleanseth us from all sin”, 1 John 1:7. And “by one offering He hath perfected for ever them that are sanctified”, Hebrews 10:14.

And shall let the living bird loose into the open field- it seems from this that the priest held the blood-sprinkled bird in his hand as he sprinkled the leper, thus establishing a close link between the blood of sacrifice and the leper, but also between the blood of the first bird and the second bird. They speak of the same person, for “It is Christ that died, yea rather, that is risen again, who is even at the right hand of God, who also maketh intercession for us”, Romans 8:34.

After this has happened, the cleansed leper is expected to wish to bring sacrifices, and out of gratitude to God for his healing he does so. Should it not be the case that those who are cleansed from their sins should be grateful, and present their bodies a living sacrifice? So it is that one of the ten lepers that the Lord healed later in His ministry, as he went to the priest, saw that he was healed. (In the case of Naaman it was said that “his flesh came again like unto the flesh of a little child, and he was clean”, 2 Kings 14. He immediately returned to the man of God, and expressed his gratitude, and also asked for some earth to build an altar with, 2 Kings 5:14-17). So also the tenth leper, for he returned to give God thanks, Luke 17:15,16. Now he was a Samaritan, and Samaria was the separated kingdom of Israel in Old Testament times, so it is possible that there was retained in the memory of the Samaritans what had happened to Naaman, and the cleansed leper followed his example. He glorified God and gave Christ thanks.

(b) Verses 5-13 Confidence of the centurion

Having given to us an illustration of how the nation of Israel will be cleansed from its sin and defilement in order to enter into Messiah’s kingdom, we now learn that Gentiles also shall come into blessing at that time as well.

A comparison between the account of the healing of the centurion’s servant in Matthew and Luke, (Luke and John do not record the incident):

MATTHEW 8:5-13

8:5 And when Jesus was entered into Capernaum, there came unto Him a centurion, beseeching Him,
8:6 And saying, Lord, my servant lieth at home sick of the palsy, grievously tormented.
8:7 And Jesus saith unto him, I will come and heal him.
8:8 The centurion answered and said, Lord, I am not worthy that Thou shouldest come under my roof: but speak the word only, and my servant shall be healed.
8:9 For I am a man under authority, having soldiers under me: and I say to this man, Go, and he goeth; and to another, Come, and he cometh; and to my servant, Do this, and he doeth it.
8:10 When Jesus heard it, he marvelled, and said to them that followed, Verily I say unto you, I have not found so great faith, no, not in Israel.
8:11 And I say unto you, That many shall come from the east and west, and shall sit down with Abraham, and Isaac, and Jacob, in the kingdom of heaven.
8:12 But the children of the kingdom shall be cast out into outer darkness: there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth.
8:13 And Jesus said unto the centurion, Go thy way; and as thou hast believed, so be it done unto thee. And his servant was healed in the selfsame hour.

LUKE 7:1-10

7:1 Now when He had ended all His sayings in the audience of the people, He entered into Capernaum.
7:2 And a certain centurion’s servant, who was dear unto him, was sick, and ready to die.
7:3 And when he heard of Jesus, he sent unto Him the elders of the Jews, beseeching Him that He would come and heal his servant.
7:4 And when they came to Jesus, they besought Him instantly, saying, That he was worthy for whom He should do this:
7:5 For he loveth our nation, and he hath built us a synagogue.
7:6 Then Jesus went with them. And when he was now not far from the house, the centurion sent friends to Him, saying unto Him, Lord, trouble not Thyself: for I am not worthy that Thou shouldest enter under my roof:
7:7 Wherefore neither thought I myself worthy to come unto Thee: but say in a word, and my servant shall be healed.
7:8 For I also am a man set under authority, having under me soldiers, and I say unto one, Go, and he goeth; and to another, Come, and he cometh; and to my servant, Do this, and he doeth it.
7:9 When Jesus heard these things, He marvelled at him, and turned Him about, and said unto the people that followed Him, I say unto you, I have not found so great faith, no, not in Israel.
7:10 And they that were sent, returning to the house, found the servant whole that had been sick.

Comments on the comparison:

1. As a man under authority, he knew his place, therefore says he is not worthy to come.

2. But as a man with authority, he believes that He who is greater and more worthy than he can surely do what he does, and order things to happen.

3. As a man with authority, he can send others to speak for him, and this Matthew, (the gospel of authority), records.

4. Because he probably thinks he is not worthy because he is not a Jew, he sends Jews. But this was a mistake, because they think he is worthy, and say so.

5. They enlarge on his message in the third person, which tells us that what they added was not what he said or thought, Luke 7:4,5.

6. They return to tell the outcome.

7. He sends his friends to correct the idea that he is worthy, and to explain why he did not come himself.

8. Each of the two companies speaks for him, but the Jews exaggerate.

9. Luke’s gospel of sympathy speaks of the servant’s need first.

10. If someone sent us a message via another, when we recalled it we might well say the original person said so and so, not mentioning that it was via a third party.

11. It is interesting that Mark, who is said to write for the Romans, does not record this incident with one who is presumably a Roman soldier. This highlights the fact that Matthew includes the incident not because the centurion was a Roman, but because he was a Gentile.

12. Whilst Luke records the Lord’s remark about the centurion’s faith, only Matthew gives us the words about many coming from the east and west to sit down with Abraham, and also about the sons of the kingdom being cast out. This too fits in with Matthew’s theme, to show that Christ will welcome believing Gentiles into His kingdom, and that it is not exclusively Jewish. Those, even Jews, who are merely professed believers, will meet the same doom as all unconverted sinners, namely, eternal judgement.

8:5 And when Jesus was entered into Capernaum, there came unto Him a centurion, beseeching Him,

And when Jesus was entered into Capernaum- having made His centre at Capernaum, as Matthew has explained in 4:13-16, the Lord moved out in nine circuits, always coming back to the city. This extended to a period of nineteen months. It has now become His own country, instead of Nazareth, Luke 4:23.

There came unto Him a centurion, beseeching Him- presumably this man is a Gentile, so he is an outcast of a different sort to the leper. As a Gentile he is an alien from the commonwealth of Israel, and a stranger from the covenants of promise, Ephesians 2:12. He has no claim on Christ the Messiah of Israel. He can only trust that this Messiah will have mercy on him and his servant. Even though he is used to commanding, as he will later say, he comes beseeching, for he knows he has no rights over Christ.

As noted above, Matthew writes as if the centurion came personally, whereas Luke tells us, in effect, that he came in the person, first of all, of Jews, and then of his friends. He did not come himself because he felt he was not worthy. This does not mean that the Jews he sent, and his friends, we themselves worthy, but by sending them instead of coming himself the centurion highlighted his own unworthiness. They represented him in that unworthiness. To his dismay, the Jews he sent said he was worthy.

8:6 And saying, Lord, my servant lieth at home sick of the palsy, grievously tormented.

And saying, Lord- as a Roman soldier, he had to swear allegiance to Caesar as lord, but he now realises there is a higher authority.

My servant lieth at home sick of the palsy, grievously tormented- this is a man trained to fight, and to be hard and ruthless, but he manifests a different spirit here, as he expresses concern for his servant. The servant is clearly lying in the centurion’s house, as we deduce from verse 8, another sign of the man’s care.

8:7 And Jesus saith unto him, I will come and heal him.

And Jesus saith unto him, I will come and heal him- the centurion would have learned about this instant reaction to his request, from the Jews he had sent to ask for healing. They had not only brought the centurion’s message, but had added a word of their own, for Luke tells us, “And when they came to Jesus, they besought Him instantly, saying, That he was worthy for whom He should do this: For he loveth our nation, and he hath built us a synagogue”. They speak in the third person, because they are acting on their own initiative, and without the centurion’s permission.

The Jews thought the centurion was worthy because of the way he had helped the nation, and no doubt felt this would persuade the Lord to act. But Christ had come in grace, not law, and His favours could not be earned. The Jews are accustomed to the idea of Gentiles being blessed because of some link to their nation. They will have to learn that the Messiah intends to bless Gentiles independent of any link with Israel. The Lord knows, however, that the centurion does not think himself worthy, and so says He will come, to bring out that fact. The Gentiles will be blessed on the basis of pure grace, and not at all through merit. There is nothing about us that is not known by the Lord; he is aware even of our next move.

Notice the difference of attitude between the Lord and Peter. The latter, when asked to visit a centurion, at first refused to go, and had to have a dream to persuade him, Acts 10:9-29. There is nothing of this prejudice with Christ, even though, as He Himself said, “I am not sent but unto the lost sheep of the house of Israel”, Matthew 15:24. He was prepared to make exceptions in grace.

8:8 The centurion answered and said, Lord, I am not worthy that Thou shouldest come under my roof: but speak the word only, and my servant shall be healed.

The centurion answered and said, Lord, I am not worthy that Thou shouldest come under my roof- the Jews having returned to tell him the Lord is coming to his house, the centurion responds by sending servants with this statement. They, unlike the Jews, do not add to the message. This centurion shows commendable humility, for he has grasped some sense of the worthiness of Christ. Luke is very clear that the man does not come himself, so there is no discrepancy. Whoever wrote his gospel first, whether Matthew or Luke, is not embarrassed by this apparent difference, for both were guided by the Spirit of truth to write, John 14:26; 16:13.

But speak the word only, and my servant shall be healed- it seems as if the Jews had not only added their comment to the message about how worthy he was, but had enlarged the request, for they beseech the Lord to come, and this is not what the centurion asked. He simply requested healing from a distance, as the next verse explains. Near the beginning of His ministry the Lord had healed a nobleman’s son at Capernaum, when He Himself was at Cana, John 4:46-54. The centurion of Capernaum asks a similar blessing. But will the Lord bless a Gentile? This he believes too, hence the commendation, and the reference to many coming from the east and west to sit down in the kingdom with Abraham.

8:9 For I am a man under authority, having soldiers under me: and I say to this man, Go, and he goeth; and to another, Come, and he cometh; and to my servant, Do this, and he doeth it.

For I am a man under authority, having soldiers under me- as a man under authority he knew what it was to esteem another more worthy. As one who had soldiers under him, he knew what it was to be obeyed.

And I say to this man, Go, and he goeth; and to another, Come, and he cometh; and to my servant, Do this, and he doeth it- he believes the Lord can say to the palsy, “Go”, and it will go. And say to good health, “Come”, and it will come. But what he does not believe is that he has the right to order the Lord to do something, and He will do it. This is why he came beseeching and not commanding.

8:10 When Jesus heard it, He marvelled, and said to them that followed, Verily I say unto you, I have not found so great faith, no, not in Israel.

When Jesus heard it, He marvelled- the implications in the man’s words were very evident, and coming from a Gentile soldier, caused the Lord to marvel.

And said to them that followed, Verily I say unto you, I have not found so great faith, no, not in Israel- when the nobleman came about his son, he insisted that the Lord should come down to heal him, John 4:46-54. He evidently did not rise to the heights of this centurion, who believed the Lord could heal without coming to his house.

The place to most expect great faith was in Israel, with its privileges and spiritual advantages, but to find it in a member of the Roman army was a marvel indeed. And this was not an isolated incident, for the man was clearly sympathetic to the religion of Israel, having built them a synagogue. The Jews saw in that a work of merit, but the centurion saw it as an expression of faith. He claimed no credit for having done it.

8:11 And I say unto you, That many shall come from the east and west, and shall sit down with Abraham, and Isaac, and Jacob, in the kingdom of heaven.

And I say unto you, That many shall come from the east and west- the Lord sees this incident as a preview of what will happen when He sets up His kingdom, for there shall be those from the Gentiles who shall be in it. It is interesting to notice that the prophet Isaiah, when he was foretelling the restoration of Israel, when it shall be said, “the glory of the Lord is risen upon thee”, that “the forces of the Gentiles shall come unto thee”, where the word “forces” is a military word, Isaiah 60:5. The coming of this Gentile army man is a foretaste of that.

And shall sit down with Abraham, and Isaac, and Jacob, in the kingdom of heaven- it is clear that believing Gentiles will not have an inferior position in the kingdom, but will sit down “at the top table”, if their faith warrants it, as this man’s evidently did, for the King is predicting where he will sit. It is fitting that this man of great faith should sit down with Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, the great men of faith of old time. They had laid hold of things not seen as yet, and believed they would happen, Hebrews 11:1,2,13, and this is what the centurion did.

8:12 But the children of the kingdom shall be cast out into outer darkness: there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth.

But the children of the kingdom shall be cast out into outer darkness- the King takes the opportunity of warning those in Israel who had not faith, let alone great faith, that despite being descended from Abraham, they would not enter the kingdom. Notice that the King speaks of the kingdom of heaven, which in this context is the manifest rule of heaven over the earth. The Lord will later explain to Pilate, the Roman governor, that His kingdom is not of this world, John 19:36. It does not owe its origin, its character, or its authority from this world. Daniel saw this kingdom symbolised as a stone cut out without hands coming from heaven, and destroying every form of Gentile rule, and filling the whole earth, Daniel 2:34,35, 44,45.

There shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth- whilst the centurion is enjoying the bliss of the kingdom, they will be in the outside place of suffering and remorse.

8:13 And Jesus said unto the centurion, Go thy way; and as thou hast believed, so be it done unto thee. And his servant was healed in the selfsame hour.

And Jesus said unto the centurion, Go thy way; and as thou hast believed, so be it done unto thee- the greatness of his faith was matched by the greatness of the benefit he received for his servant, for it is, “as…so”. Later on the Lord will say, “And all things, whatsoever ye shall ask in prayer, believing, ye shall receive”, 21:22.

And his servant was healed in the selfsame hour- as Luke records, the servants who brought the message found that the servant had been healed before they arrived back.

(c) Verses 14-15 Curing of Peter’s wife’s mother

Survey of the incident

1. Matthew does not relate the Lord’s visit to the synagogue, nor the casting out of the unclean spirit which took place there. Perhaps he is preserving the distinctiveness of the casting out of the spirits in the country of the Gergesenes at the end of the chapter.

2. He calls Peter by the name he knew him by as an apostle. Mark associates Simon with his brother, and James and John, all partners in a fishing business, Luke 5:10; Mark 1:16. Mark the servant realises the illness of Peter’s wife’s mother will impinge on their fishing. Luke, who was not an apostle, calls him by his birth name.

3. It is very probable that the Lord lodged in Peter’s house when He was in Capernaum. The healing of Peter’s wife’s mother amply repays her for ministering to His needs, and repays Peter and his wife for their hospitality. The Lord never took advantage of the kindness of others.

4. In Matthew the fever left her when He touched her hand. At this point the virtue of the King flowed into her, as with the woman with the issue of blood, Luke 8:46. In Mark, He took her by the hand and lifted her up, for her healing was to enable her to continue ministering, and this is encouragement to do so. In Luke, when He stood over her and rebuked the fever, just as a doctor would stand over a patient. But He could do what no other doctor, (even Dr. Luke), could do, and that is to show authority over the disease that had laid her low. As Son of man, all things are under His feet, and one day He will eradicate every disease. He rebukes it, for it is an alien that has invaded His realm through the first man. As the second man, He has the remedy.

5. Luke the doctor is impressed by the fact that she immediately ministered unto them, meaning the Lord and the others, (at least six) in the house. She needs no period of convalescence, even though a few minutes before she had a “great” fever, with probably a dangerously high temperature. No wonder Peter and the others had summoned His help immediately He came into the house, for the matter was urgent. In Luke they besought Him for her, because they knew they could do nothing. Matthew says nothing of this, for the King assesses the situation immediately, and acts in sovereignty, with power to deliver.

8:14 And when Jesus was come into Peter’s house, He saw his wife’s mother laid, and sick of a fever.

And when Jesus was come into Peter’s house- we notice the progression in these three miracles. The leper comes in faith from outside the city to meet the Lord in Capernaum. The centurion was outside religiously because he was Gentile, and the Lord, although willing to enter his house, does not do so. But here He enters the house as a place where His presence was welcome and He was at home. He will be welcome in the House of Israel when He comes to reign.

He saw his wife’s mother laid- we may see in this incident a preview of future things. There is no reason to believe that Peter’s wife was not a believer, especially as she would be in the forefront, with Peter’s wife, of ministering to the Lord, especially when Peter and Andrew, the two sons, were away fishing. The apostle Paul writes concerning himself and Barnabas, “Have we not power to lead about a sister, a wife, as well as the other apostles, and as the brethren of the Lord, and Cephas?” 1 Corinthians 9:5. So Peter, at the forefront of the apostolic band, and his wife, represent Christianity. But the wife’s mother would represent a former generation. As such, she may well symbolise the nation of Israel. She has been laid low by her fever, and has not been able to attend the synagogue to engage in the worship of God. She is not able to minister to man either.

And sick of a fever- God warned His people of old time that if they departed from Him, He would judge them in various ways. (Remember they were under the law, which was a conditional covenant, and blessing only came if they obeyed Him). One of the punishments was to be struck with disease, and two of those diseases specifically mentioned were fever, and an extreme burning, Deuteronomy 28:22. Bearing in mind that Peter’s mother in law had a fever, (the word means “to be on fire”, no doubt because of a high temperature), and that it was a great fever, then it could well be classed as extreme burning. This is not to say that his mother had been struck down by God, but that this had come upon her, “for the glory of God, that the Son of God might be glorified thereby”, as was the case with the sickness of Lazarus, John 11:4.

So if the leper represented the nation in its outcast state because of sin and uncleanness, but which will be brought back into favour, and the centurion represents the Gentiles who will be brought into the kingdom by faith, then Peter’s wife’s mother highlights the removal of the curse of the law, as Christ acts in grace. (Notice she is not called Peter’s mother-in-law, but Peter’s wife’s mother, with Matthew studiously avoiding the word law). And this is a foretaste of coming things. Matthew is giving us a panoramic view of the coming kingdom, and who will be in it. And just as the healed mother ministered to them all straight away, so the house of Israel will be able to minister to the King, having been delivered from that which prevented them doing so, even their disobedience.

8:15 And He touched her hand, and the fever left her: and she arose, and ministered unto them.

And He touched her hand, and the fever left her- the touch of the King is enough to heal her. He does not need to make a dramatic show, nor exert Himself. So it shall be for the nation of Israel, for Messiah shall come for their deliverance, to bring them into the good of His grace.

And she arose, and ministered unto them- the cure was instantaneous and complete. So shall it be when Christ comes for their salvation, and they will instantly minister unto Him, for we read of Israel, “men shall call you the ministers of our God”, Isaiah 61:6.

Special note.

Having given us a three-fold view of what Christ will do for both the nation of Israel and the Gentiles when He comes to reign, Matthew now pauses to summarise the King’s total control, and to show that whether it be a person afflicted by Satan, or by sickness, there is nothing too hard for the Lord. We should remember that Christ’s miracles are called “the powers of the world to come”, Hebrews 6:5, and are foretastes of what will happen when He brings in His kingdom, and disease and demon possession will flee. Matthew will then firmly attach his account to the Old Testament, and show that these miracles are the fulfilment of prophecy, and mark out the Lord Jesus as the true Messiah, and therefore King of Israel.

In the remainder of the chapter he will highlight the powerful forces that are opposed to the bringing in of that kingdom, but will also show that the Lord is more than a match for those forces.

(d) Verses 16-17 Connection with Isaiah 53:4

8:16 When the even was come, they brought unto Him many that were possessed with devils: and He cast out the spirits with His word, and healed all that were sick:

When the even was come- it is possible that the people feared to bring their sick on the sabbath day, concerned about the reaction of the Pharisees, so they waited until the first day of the week began at six o’clock in the evening. But the Lord had healed on that sabbath day, thus demonstrating a deeper appreciation of the sabbath. The command was, “Remember the sabbath day, to keep it holy”, Exodus 20:8. There was to be no work done on that day. But that was not an absolute statement, for there were things God did on the sabbath, even though originally it was His day of rest when He finished His work of creation, Genesis 2:3. But as the Lord Jesus said when challenged about healing the impotent man on the sabbath, “My Father worketh hitherto and I work”, John 5:17. And on another occasion He pointed out that even the most religious Jew would unloose his animal on the sabbath to take it to have a drink, Luke 13:15, or lift out an animal fallen into a pit, Luke 14:15. Thus He showed that the law of the sabbath did not forbid works of mercy and kindness. God shows men providential kindness every day of the week, and His Son, God manifest in flesh, did the same.

They brought unto Him many that were possessed with devils- no doubt encouraged by what He had done in the synagogue, when He cast out an unclean devil, even though Matthew does not record that incident.

Matthew in this verse is showing that whether it be demon-possession or disease, Christ can deal with it. He can deal with the infernal and the abnormal. Note that He casts out the spirits with His word. He is prepared to touch Peter’s wife’s mother, surrounded no doubt by her family, (showing the Lord to be very discreet), but He does not touch any demon-possessed, but simply speaks the word of command. A possible exception could be the case of the woman bowed down, who had a spirit of infirmity for eighteen years, having been bound by Satan, as the Lord distinctly says, Luke 13:11-17. But there seems to be two stages to her deliverance. She was first loosed from her infirmity, so this is the casting out of the spirit of infirmity that had bound her for so long. Only then did the Lord lay hands on her and she was immediately made straight physically.

8:17 That it might be fulfilled which was spoken by Esaias the prophet, saying, Himself took our infirmities, and bare our sicknesses.

That it might be fulfilled which was spoken by Esaias the prophet, saying- Matthew is telling us here that when the Lord Jesus healed the men and women of His day, there was a partial fulfilment of the words of Isaiah 53:4. In that passage the prophet describes the Messiah as One who “hath borne our griefs, and carried our sorrows”. Now when Peter alludes to this in 1 Peter 2:24 he quotes it as “He bare our sins”. This is the ultimate fulfilment of the words, but Matthew is concerned with their partial fulfilment, and so prefaces his reference to Isaiah 53 with the words “That it might be fulfilled”, and then quotes Isaiah with the words, “Himself took our infirmities and bare our sicknesses”.

This might seem to indicate a final fulfilment, until we remember that there are three ways in which quotations from the Old Testament are introduced by writers in the New Testament.

Where the Greek word “ina” is used, then it is “in order that it might be fulfilled”, and the prophecy has been finally fulfilled.

Where the word “tole” is found, then it is “was fulfilled”, and indicates that the event was merely a case in point, and what happened was an illustration of what was said in the prophecy, and it might be “fulfilled” in that way on another occasion.

Where the word “opus” is used, as is the case in Matthew 8:17, it is “so that it might be”, and the fulfilment is not complete, but an event which was within the scope and intention of the prophecy.

Himself took our infirmities, and bare our sicknesses- Matthew is saying that there was an event that was included in the scope of the prophecy of Isaiah, but which did not exhaust its meaning. So when the Lord Jesus healed a person, He took upon Himself, in deep sympathy, the grief and sorrow that the illness caused him, so that instead of the ill person bearing those sorrows, the Lord Jesus bore them for him. Coupled with this, virtue or power went out from Christ to heal the disease that caused the sorrow, see Luke 8:46. Remember, He is the Creator of men, and therefore is able to understand perfectly the difference between what He made man at the beginning, and what sin has made him to be now. Because he has been here in the world of suffering, and has taken those experiences to heaven, He is touched, even now, by the feeling of our infirmities.

By quoting from Isaiah 53 at this point, (even though he goes on to tell about other miracles), Matthew emphasises the fact that the previous three miracles showed the way in which the nation of Israel will be brought back to the Lord in the future. For the chapter Matthew is quoting from is the expression of the feelings of the nation in the future, when they will have returned to the Lord in repentance for what they did to their Messiah when He came to them the first time.

The Lord Jesus healed all manner of diseases, Matthew 4:23, and the power of the Lord was present to heal all who were sick, even Pharisees, Luke 5:17. The miracles that are recorded in detail are those that present to us some spiritual lesson, and illustrate some particular sinful condition of man. For instance man is blind, unable to perceive the truth of God, deaf to the voice of God, dumb in the praise of God, lame as to the ways of God, defiled as to the holiness of God, and so on. Those that are recorded in detail, however, are but a sample from the full range of disease that was dealt with by Christ. There was nothing too hard for the Lord to deal with.

Remember also the pains of Calvary, for death by crucifixion was designed to inflict the most possible pain, for the longest possible time, in the most varied ways possible. If anyone knew pain, it was our Saviour, especially since not one of His senses was dulled by sin, unlike ordinary men.

There are not only body-infirmities, however, but weakness of mind and spirit. Can He be touched by these, even though He had no weakness of mind or spirit? Indeed He can, for He has been tested in body, soul and spirit. His mental sufferings on the cross were of the extreme kind. Who else has been forsaken of His God? And He the Son of God in His bosom eternally! There could be no greater trauma than this, than to cry unto God and to receive no answer, as if He were like those who regard iniquity in their heart, Psalm 66:18. And to be separated from God, as if He were like those whose sins have hidden God’s face from them, Isaiah 59:2.

Even in His life He knew sadness because of the sin and unbelief of men; disappointment when His disciples made such slow progress in Divine things; grief as He wept over the city that would soon reject Him by hanging Him on a cross, and condemn itself, as a consequence, to be levelled to the ground.

Think of the grief of heart when His loyalty to God, His desires to be subject to Divine purpose, His confidence in Divine promises, were all called into question by the Devil in the wilderness. How true was Isaiah’s word, He is “a Man of Sorrows, and acquainted with grief”. But in all this He sinned not.

THE WORDS OF THE BIBLE, THE CHRISTIAN SCRIPTURES, AS FOUND IN THE GOSPEL ACCORDING TO MATTHEW CHAPTER 8, VERSES 18 TO 34:

8:18 Now when Jesus saw great multitudes about Him, He gave commandment to depart unto the other side.

8:19 And a certain scribe came, and said unto Him, Master, I will follow Thee whithersoever thou goest.

8:20 And Jesus saith unto him, The foxes have holes, and the birds of the air have nests; but the Son of man hath not where to lay His head.

8:21 And another of His disciples said unto Him, Lord, suffer me first to go and bury my father.

8:22 But Jesus said unto him, Follow Me; and let the dead bury their dead.

8:23 And when He was entered into a ship, His disciples followed Him.

8:24 And, behold, there arose a great tempest in the sea, insomuch that the ship was covered with the waves: but He was asleep.

8:25 And His disciples came to Him, and awoke Him, saying, Lord, save us: we perish.

8:26 And hHe saith unto them, Why are ye fearful, O ye of little faith? Then He arose, and rebuked the winds and the sea; and there was a great calm.

8:27 But the men marvelled, saying, What manner of man is this, that even the winds and the sea obey Him!

8:28 And when He was come to the other side into the country of the Gergesenes, there met Him two possessed with devils, coming out of the tombs, exceeding fierce, so that no man might pass by that way.

8:29 And, behold, they cried out, saying, What have we to do with Thee, Jesus, Thou Son of God? art Thou come hither to torment us before the time?

8:30 And there was a good way off from them an herd of many swine feeding.

8:31 So the devils besought Him, saying, If Thou cast us out, suffer us to go away into the herd of swine.

8:32 And He said unto them, Go. And when they were come out, they went into the herd of swine: and, behold, the whole herd of swine ran violently down a steep place into the sea, and perished in the waters.

8:33 And they that kept them fled, and went their ways into the city, and told every thing, and what was befallen to the possessed of the devils.

8:34 And, behold, the whole city came out to meet Jesus: and when they saw Him, they besought Him that he would depart out of their coasts.

Survey of remainder of chapter 8, and whole of chapter 9

The following section, ending at 9:38, gives us some idea of the matters to be overcome before the nation can enter into the blessedness of the Messiah’s kingdom:

8:18-22 Two wish to follow Him. To be a follower of the King demands full commitment.

8:23-27 Storm on the lake calmed. The prince of the power of the air will do his utmost to overwhelm the Lord and the nation, (represented at this point by the disciples).

8:28-34 Two demon-possessed men delivered. There must be personal deliverance from the powers of evil.

9:1-8 Sick of the palsy; the Son of Man has authority to forgive sins. The nation must know this if they are to be fit for the kingdom.

9:9 Call of Matthew. There will be the need in the future for those who will go preaching the gospel of the kingdom.

9:10-13 Eating with publicans and sinners in Matthew’s house. The hypocrisy and pride of religious Jews must be removed.

9:14-17 Explaining change from law to grace. The difference between the law-age and the grace of God in Christ must be grasped.

9:18-26 Jairus’ daughter and woman with issue of blood. The restoration of the nation will be like “life from the dead”, Romans 11:15.

9:27-31 Two blind men come into house. The blind were hated by David, but they are welcomed by David’s greater Son, even into the house.

9:32-35 Dumb and demon-possessed delivered. Having been delivered from the power of the Devil, the nation’s tongue will be loosed to sing God’s praise.

9:36-38 Harvest plenteous, labourers few. One hundred and forty four thousand evangelists will spread out through the whole world during the tribulation period.

So we may see in these incidents the way in which the Devil seeks to frustrate God’s purpose to bring in the Kingdom. They also show the remedies that need to be applied to fit the nation of Israel for that kingdom.

(e) Verses 18-22 Commitment when following

8:18 Now when Jesus saw great multitudes about Him, He gave commandment to depart unto the other side.

Now when Jesus saw great multitudes about Him, He gave commandment to depart unto the other side- the natural man would think that great multitudes is what the King needs if He is going to set up a kingdom. But the true subjects of the King are not influenced by impressive numbers. The Lord gives orders to the disciples to prepare a ship to cross to the other side of the Lake of Galilee, in order that the people may have time to reflect on the previous events, and see the significance of them. He will return to them the next day, Luke 8:40.

8:19 And a certain scribe came, and said unto Him, Master, I will follow Thee whithersoever Thou goest.

And a certain scribe came, and said unto Him- whilst the ship was being prepared, two men came to volunteer to follow the King. It might be thought that a scribe was just the person the King would like to have in His kingdom. But it is not skill in the understanding of the traditions of the Jews that qualifies. The King had much to say about the scribes and Pharisees in Matthew 23, ending with the words, “Ye serpents, ye generation of vipers, how can ye escape the damnation of hell?” verse 33. There needed to be deep-seated repentance if they were to be in the kingdom. Merely following the Lord around and watching Him perform miracles was not enough.

Master, I will follow Thee whithersoever Thou goest- the word “Master” means “Teacher”, so this scribe, himself a teacher in Israel, recognised the superiority of what the Lord taught, and this was good. But would he be prepared to leave his affluent lifestyle and endure the hardships of true discipleship? Only such show genuine faith, for the true believer rejoices in tribulations, knowing they are educational, Romans 5:3. Is the scribe, educated in the schools of the Rabbis, ready for education in the school of the King?

8:20 And Jesus saith unto him, The foxes have holes, and the birds of the air have nests; but the Son of man hath not where to lay His head.

And Jesus saith unto him, The foxes have holes, and the birds of the air have nests- the foxes go to their dens when the sun rises, and the birds go to their roosting-places when the sun sets. So the whole range of time, day and night, is in view here. The foxes go to rest after their night-activity, and the birds roost after their day-activity. The true follower must accept that genuine allegiance to Christ is a full-time occupation, and not a casual thing; it is also wearying activity.

But the Son of man hath not where to lay His head- the fox has a resting-place of his own; the bird likewise, but the Son of man, the one destined to have the uttermost parts of the earth for His possession, was without a home of His own, and was grateful for the kind hospitality of believers like Peter and his wife, and Mary, Martha and Lazarus. To be a scribe in Israel was to have a prominent role in the nation, and it had its rewards in terms of salary and lifestyle. Even after a day’s toil to the point of exhaustion, the king was not normally rewarded with a bed for the night. Is this scribe compared to go this far in devotion to the King? We do not know whether he was or not.

Tragically, the world did give the Lord a place to lay His head at the last, for He bowed His head on the cross and gave up His spirit, John 19:30. This goes to show that the faithful subjects of the King must be patient, for the time of His manifestation is not yet, and it is through much tribulation that they must enter the kingdom, Acts 14:22.

8:21 And another of His disciples said unto Him, Lord, suffer me first to go and bury my father.

And another of His disciples said unto Him- so the scribe must have been a disciple, if this man is another. Whether he was a genuine believer, and only a learner, we do not know.

Lord, suffer me first to go and bury my father- if the scribe was required to forego natural comforts for the sake of the King, this man is required to forego natural relationships. He is to put love to the King before love to his father. After all, his father was dead, so could not appreciate his attentions.

8:22 But Jesus said unto him, Follow Me; and let the dead bury their dead.

But Jesus said unto him, Follow Me- note the order here, for “Follow Me” comes before “Let the dead…” The King is so glorious and worthy of our allegiance, that everything else and everyone else must take second place in our order of priorities.

And let the dead bury their dead- the King must have known the circumstances of this man, that his relatives were not believers, for He calls them “the dead”. They were dead in trespasses and sins. They were quite capable of giving the father a suitable burial, to allow this disciple to follow a better course. And if he is willing to do so he will show what the Lord means to him.

This does not contradict the requirement of the law that a man should honour his father and mother, for there had been ample opportunity for this man to do this while his father was alive. To not honour him when he was alive, and then honour him when he was dead, would be hypocrisy, and contrary to the spirit of the law.

In his account of these incidents, Luke writes of a third man, who wished to follow the Lord, but said, “but let me first go and bid them farewell, which are at home at my house”, Luke 9:61. The Lord’s reply was, “No man, having put his hand to the plough, and looking back, is fit for the kingdom of God”, verse 62. To delay serving the King just for the sake of saying goodbye to those at home, shows a lack of commitment similar to a man ploughing but taking his eye off the task in hand. Lot’s wife was guilty of the same fault, Genesis 19:26. Scripture says she “looked back from behind him”, so she was already lagging behind Lot as they escaped from Sodom, and she then confirmed where her affections lay by looking back. Matthew omits this man, but Luke includes him, perhaps because he is about to record the sending forth of the seventy evangelists in chapter 10. They are setting their hands to the plough to work in evangelism, and the task is so urgent that there is no room for a lack of concentration on the goal. Matthew’s account of these men is in a different place, and in connection with following, not working, so he omits the third man.

(f) Verses 23-27 Calming of the storm

8:23 And when He was entered into a ship, His disciples followed Him.

And when He was entered into a ship- this is the sequel to verse 18, where the Lord commanded that they pass over to the other side of the sea. He was confident they would arrive safely, despite knowing that a storm would arise.

His disciples followed him- even if they had been preparing the ship and had not heard the two men speak with the Lord, they were committed followers. Their confidence in Him is going to be tested to the extreme, however, for they are going to be in danger of drowning, yet He said, “pass over to the other side”.

8:24 And, behold, there arose a great tempest in the sea, insomuch that the ship was covered with the waves: but He was asleep.

And, behold, there arose a great tempest in the sea- when He was describing the Great Tribulation, the Lord said, “And there shall be signs in the sun, and in the moon, and in the stars; and upon the earth distress of nations, with perplexity; the sea and the waves roaring. Men’s hearts failing them for fear, and for looking after those things that are coming on the earth: for the powers of heaven shall be shaken”, Luke 21:25,26. So what the disciples are experiencing is what the nation of Israel will experience during the “time of Jacob’s trouble”, as God calls the Great Tribulation. But just as He went on to say, “but he shall be saved out of it”, Jeremiah 30:7, so the disciples will be saved from perishing.

Insomuch that the ship was covered with the waves- this is the extent of the danger they are in. This is clearly an attempt by “the prince of the power of the air” to destroy the King. He failed all the way down the Old Testament era to destroy the seed royal, and at last Christ was born. Satan then sought to destroy Him, so that He did not die by crucifixion as the psalmist had indicated He would, Psalm 22:16. There was Herod’s attempt to slay Him just after His birth, but then he would not die with pierced hands and feet. Then the men of Nazareth tried to throw Him over a hill. The Jews took up stones to stone Him on more than one occasion. But these attacks would have broken His bones, and the Scripture says, “A bone of Him shall not be broken”, John 19:36; Exodus 12:46. Here the attempt is to drown Him, so He would have no marked grave to emerge from in resurrection. It was vitally important for Christ to be put in a secure and known grave.

But He was asleep- the Enemy was active, the disciples were terrified, but He was sleeping peacefully. He was fully aware of the counsels of God, and knew that He was foreordained as the redeeming Lamb before the foundation of the world, 1 Peter 1:19,20. He would say later that “it cannot be that a prophet perish out of Jerusalem”, Luke 13:33. Also, He knew His hour had not yet come, and He could rest in His Father’s care, for He had said of Him, “I will be to Him a Father, and He shall be to Me a Son”, Hebrews 1:5; 2 Samuel 7:14.

Special note

This situation highlights the truth made known by the apostle John when he wrote, “And the Word was made flesh”, John 1:14. Note the “and”, which links back to verses 1-3; “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God”. John tells us that the same Word, who was God, was made flesh.

Several things are involved in the Word becoming flesh:

First, He gained the attributes of man without losing the attributes of God. He who is in the form of God took upon Him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men, Philippians 2:6,7. It is in John’s Gospel, (the one that especially emphasises the Deity of Christ), that He describes Himself as “a man that hath told you the truth”, John 8:40. His manhood is real, for He was born of Mary, but His manhood is ideal, for He was not begotten of Joseph.

Second, He united manhood and Godhood for ever in His person. John insists in his epistle that one way of discerning an anti-christ is by asking whether he believes Jesus Christ is come in the flesh, 1 John 4:2. 3. The sense of the participle he uses for “come” is, “having come in the flesh and continuing to be in the flesh”. The precision of the Greek language expresses the truth that the manhood Christ has taken, He will never discard. The Jesus of Nazareth who was here, is the Jesus of Nazareth who spoke to Saul of Tarsus from heaven, Acts 22:8; and the same Jesus that will come again to earth, Acts 1:11.

Third, He did not merely come in man’s guise, as angels have done when visiting men, but became flesh. Not flesh in contrast to spirit, (as if He became a body, or clothed Himself with one), but flesh consisting of spirit and soul and body, the constituent parts of man, 1 Thessalonians 5:23. When Isaiah spoke of all flesh seeing the salvation of God, he meant all mankind. So Christ became flesh by taking the nature that man has. Adam was a real man before he sinned, so a sinful nature is not an integral part of man. Christ can be, and is, real man, without having a sinful nature.

Fourth, He now possesses two natures, yet remains one Person. He never spoke of Himself as “Us”, as the Godhead does at times, Genesis 1:26; 3:22; 11:7. Who can begin to understand the great mystery of godliness, that “God was manifest in flesh”? 1 Timothy 3:16. We dare not pry or probe, for to “lift the lid of the Ark” is to invite Divine judgement, 1 Samuel 6:19. If the god Dagon “fell on his face to the earth before the ark of the Lord”, 1 Samuel 5:3, how much more should we, before Him of whom the ark speaks.

Fifth, the attributes of both natures, His Godhood and His manhood, are properly ascribed to the one Person. This means, for example, that the one who stilled the storm was a man, even though to still storms is Divine work, Psalm 107:23-30, and the one who slept in the boat was God, even though the God that keepeth Israel shall neither slumber nor sleep, Psalm 121:4. We ought not to say that He slept as a man and stilled the storm as God. He both slept, and stilled the storm, as one blessed, undivided Person.

8:25 And His disciples came to Him, and awoke Him, saying, Lord, save us: we perish.

And His disciples came to Him, and awoke Him- several of these disciples were fishermen, and plied their trade on these very waters. They knew what it was to ride out the storm, but this is beyond anything they had known before, and they are fearful. They turn to the only person able to help in this situation. They find, as the psalmist did, that “God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble. Therefore will not we fear, though the earth be removed, and though the mountains be carried into the midst of the sea; though the waves thereof roar and are troubled, though the mountains shake with the swelling thereof. Selah.” Psalm 46:1-3. Sadly the disciples did not seem to share the psalmist’s ability to not fear. But we have to ask ourselves whether we would have been any different.

Returning to verse 24, the words of Isaiah are, “Awake, awake, put on strength O arm of the Lord; awake as in ancient days, in the generations of old. Art Thou not it that hath cut Rahab, and wounded the dragon? Art Thou not it which hath dries the sea, the waters of the great deep, that hath made the depths of the sea a way for the ransomed to pass over?” And the Lord answers, “But I am the Lord thy God, that divided the sea, whose waves roared. The Lord of Hosts is His name”, Isaiah 51:9,10,15. So the prophet appeals to God to awake. He appeals to the one who overthrew the powers of evil in Egypt, and who dried up the Red Sea so that the people could go through on dry land, even though the waves roared. The disciples fully believed that God had done these things for their ancestors, and now they have opportunity to show the same faith. The powers of evil are on the attack, the storm is raging, but God is still the same.

Saying, Lord, save us: we perish- as experienced sailors they know the seriousness of the situation. But they fail to take account of the fact that before they set sail, the Lord had commanded them to depart “unto the other side”, so their safe arrival was included in the command, and was dependant on His command, verse 18.

8:26 And He saith unto them, Why are ye fearful, O ye of little faith? Then He arose, and rebuked the winds and the sea; and there was a great calm.

And He saith unto them, Why are ye fearful, O ye of little faith? They might have expected Him to comfort them in their distress, but He rebukes them for being distressed! They believed their God had made a path through the sea in former times, so, if necessary, He, in the person of His Son, could do the same now. They had showed some faith in that they had gone to Him for help, but their faith would have been greater if they had believed that His presence in the ship meant it could not sink.

Then He arose, and rebuked the winds and the sea- note that He is so confident of control in the situation, that He speaks with the disciples before He calms the storm. The fact that He rebuked the winds and the sea shows that they were brought by hostile forces that need to be resisted. He would hardly have rebuked the winds if they had come directly from His Father, although of course all is under God’s control in general terms. The fact that there were winds in the plural would show that the attack on their safety was an extensive one. The winds were coming from several directions at once, making the situation very complex. Satan sees in this journey over the lake an opportunity to destroy Christ before He gets to the cross, where He will not only lay down His life of Himself, (thus showing He is not under obligation to the Devil in the matter), but will also defeat him as the one that had the power of death, Hebrews 2:14. He rebuked the sea as well, for it was under the influence of the wind, and was overwhelming the boat, threatening to drown the disciples, and He was ever concerned for their safety. He would ensure that they reached the other side safely.

And there was a great calm- so after the great tempest came a great calm, as the winds cease and the water becomes still. No doubt there was a great calm in the hearts of the disciples too, but it is a pity that in between the great tempest and the great calm there was their little faith. How blessed they were that “the great God and our Saviour Jesus Christ”, was with them, Titus 2:13. When there is a storm at sea, the waters take many hours, if not days, to become calm again. Here, they are calm immediately. The psalmist glorified God in His ability to still the waves of the sea. He wrote of God:

“Which stilleth the noise of the seas, the noise of their waves, and the tumult of the people”, Psalm 65:7.

“Thou rulest the raging of the sea: when the waves thereof arise, Thou stillest them”, Psalm 89:9.

“They that go down to the sea in ships, that do business in great waters; These see the works of the Lord, and His wonders in the deep. For He commandeth, and raiseth the stormy wind, which lifteth up the waves thereof. They mount up to the heaven, they go down again to the depths: their soul is melted because of trouble. They reel to and fro, and stagger like a drunken man, and are at their wit’s end. Then they cry unto the Lord in their trouble, and He bringeth them out of their distresses. He maketh the storm a calm, so that the waves thereof are still. Then are they glad because they be quiet; so He bringeth them unto their desired haven”, Psalm 107:23-30.

8:27 But the men marvelled, saying, What manner of man is this, that even the winds and the sea obey Him!

But the men marvelled, saying, What manner of man is this, that even the winds and the sea obey Him! These disciples would be very familiar with the words of the psalmist quoted above, and know well that stilling storms is God’s work. They express amazement that that power is now vested in the man who is with them in their boat. They are being led on to the point where they say with Thomas, “My Lord and My God”, John 20:28. They have come to recognise that disease and evil spirits obey Him, but to control the elements is a step further in their eyes. Yet, it was God Himself who asked the question, “Is anything too hard for the Lord?” Genesis 18:14.

Survey of the next section

Having shown Christ’s control over the wind and the waves, which were moved, no doubt, by the prince of the power of the air, Satan himself, Matthew now records His power over individuals possessed by the forces of evil. This is altogether more personal, yet Christ shows His ability here too. In a day to come, during the Tribulation, many in Israel will be under attack by the same forces of evil, and Christ will deliver them from sharing the same fate as the Evil One himself. If the King is to set up His kingdom, the prince of this world, who currently is in control of the men of the world, will need to be dealt with. We read in Revelation 20:1-3,10 how this will be done. He will be cast into the bottomless pit.

(g) Verses 28-34 Casting out of spirits

Survey of the incident

1. Matthew speaks of “the country of the Gergesenes”, possibly because this is said to be the name of one of the ten tax districts of the Decapolis, (the region so-called because there were ten major cities in those parts on the eastern side of the Sea of Galilee. Deca means ten, polis means city). Matthew, as a former tax-gatherer for the Romans, would be familiar with trade that came through Capernaum after having crossed the Sea of Galilee from the Decapolis districts. He had probably often collected the taxes on goods that had come from “the country of the Gergesenes”.

Mark and Luke, however, speak of “the country of the Gadarenes”, for Gadara was an important garrison city, one of the finest in the Decapolis, and home to the famous Roman Tenth Legion. It was the capital of the Decapolis as a whole, so we can understand Mark and Luke referring to the land the Lord and His disciples came to as the country of the Gadarenes, for the cities of the Decapolis were given jurisdiction over an extensive area of countryside around them. Gadara should not to be confused with Gerasa, another important Gentile city in the region. We may fully trust the accuracy of the gospel accounts, especially since they have been subjected to nearly two thousand years of scrutiny.

2. Luke describes the country of the Gadarenes as being “over against” Galilee, by which he means on the opposite side of the Sea of Galilee to the province of Galilee. Matthew says they travelled by boat “to the other side”, and Mark says “over unto the other side of the sea”.

3. None of the three writers tells us the name of the city from which the man came out in Luke’s account. It has been assumed it was Gadara, because of the word Gadarenes, (hence “the Gadarene swine”), but it might just as well have been Gergesa, (another city in the region), because of the word Gergesenes.

4. Matthew and Mark say the man met the Lord “coming out of the tombs”, and “out of the tombs”. Luke says he was “coming out of the city”. Luke also says that when he succeeded in breaking his chains, he was driven by the devil into the wilderness.

5. Mark alternates between “unclean spirit” and “devils”, showing they are terms for the same being. So when the man says “torment me not” he is speaking for the unclean spirit. And it is this unclean spirit that the Lord commands to come out first. But when He asks the man his name, he says it is Legion, “for we are many”, and Luke tells us why, “Because many devils were entered into him”. Then the man seems to regain some control, (the unclean spirit having been cast out), for “he” besought the Lord that He would not send “them” away out of the country. Then it is “all the devils that besought Him”, for they have lost control of the man’s mind, and have to speak for themselves. We then learn that all the devils in him were unclean spirits.

6. Matthew tells us the two men were “possessed by devils”, which literally means “to be like a demon”. It is as if they had taken over the man to such an extent that he spoke for them. After he had been delivered, he was “in his right mind”, showing the devils had taken over and distorted his mind to some extent.

6. Matthew tells us there were two men, whereas Mark and Luke say there was one. Clearly, if there were two there was one. Mark and Luke tell us much more about the subsequent activity of this man, so their interest is in him becoming a servant of the Lord, (Mark), and an evangelist to the Gentiles, (Luke). Matthew tells us they met the Lord coming out of the tombs, and no other reference is made to the men. Matthew concentrates on the displays of power over the forces of evil. His is the gospel of Divine authority. Even when the men of the city come out to see what was going on, Matthew does not mention the men who had been delivered.

7. Just because there were two thousand swine, we need not assume there were that many spirits cast out. Mary Magdalene had seven spirits, but that seems exceptional. Just a few pigs suddenly acting as if crazy would very well cause the whole herd to stampede in panic. Animals do strange things when it is windy, how much more when an evil spirit inhabits them!

8. Some have quibbled over the swine-keepers’ loss of their herd. But God says, “For every beast of the forest is Mine, and the cattle upon a thousand hills, I know all the fowls of the mountains, and the wild beasts of the field are Mine”, Psalm 50:10,11. So man has the animals on loan, and their Divine Owner can claim them back again and use them for His own ends if He pleases. Others are concerned over the cruelty they see in the poor creatures drowning. Pigs can swim, but as they do so they cut their own throats with their hooves. How is this different to these animals having their throats cut so they can be sold as meat?

8:28 And when He was come to the other side into the country of the Gergesenes, there met Him two possessed with devils, coming out of the tombs, exceeding fierce, so that no man might pass by that way.

And when He was come to the other side into the country of the Gergesenes- so they did “go over unto the other side”, as He had commanded, and in the process they learnt that He had everything under control. Looking at these incidents as indicators of the obstacles which need to be overcome before the kingdom is brought in on the earth, we can see in the disciples in the boat a picture of the nation of Israel, undergoing the trauma of the Great Tribulation in the future. Yet the promise of God to them is “When thou passest through the waters, I will be with thee”, Isaiah 43:2.

There met Him two possessed with devils- Mark and Luke only mention one man, who was perhaps the more afflicted of the two. Matthew seems to deal with pairs, as in the case of the blind men, 9:27. Does he have in mind the two houses of Israel, Judah and Ephraim?

Coming out of the tombs- apparently the mountains and cliffs of this part of the country have many caves that were used, not only as dwellings, but also as tombs. Matthew and Mark say he was coming out of the tombs, whereas Luke say he came out of the city but lived in the tombs. Mark says “always, night and day, he was in the mountains, and in the tombs”, so it seems he was in the mountains at night, and in the tombs, (perhaps hiding), by day. Evil spirits seem to have an affinity with graves and places for the dead. Luke says he “came out of the city”, but then makes clear that he did not live in the city for he “neither abode in any house, but in the tombs”. Perhaps he scavenged for food in the streets of the city at night.

Exceeding fierce, so that no man might pass by that way- this is in great contrast to the end of the account, for we find the man calmly sitting at the feet of Jesus, and in his right mind. His own personal tempest had ceased its raging.

We learn the following things about the demon-possessed men, that they:

1. Were fierce, and a danger to others.

2. Could not be restrained, even with chains.

3. Were tremendously strong, and able to snap chains and fetters.

4. Could not be tamed, for they were like wild animals.

5. Roamed in the mountains, and frequented the tombs.

6. Cried out. This can mean to scream, but the translators of the Authorised Version were much too learned to render the word wrongly.

7. Cut themselves with stones to self-harm, so probably suicidal.

8. Were possibly prevented by the devils from actually committing suicide, lest they lose the man’s body as their “house”.

9. Had been possessed for a long time. Luke tells us regarding the unclean spirit that Christ cast out first, “For oftentimes it had caught him: and he was kept bound with chains and in fetters; and he brake the bands, and was driven of the devil into the wilderness”. It seems that this particular unclean spirit seized hold of the man frequently, and when it did so the men of the city tried to restrain him. Later the Lord will say, “When the unclean spirit is gone out of a man, he walketh through dry places, seeking rest, and finding none. Then he saith, I will return into my house from whence I came out; and when he is come, he findeth it empty, swept, and garnished. Then goeth he, and taketh with himself seven other spirits more wicked than himself, and they enter in and dwell there: and the last state of that man is worse than the first”, Matthew 12:43-45. It is very possible that this is what has happened to these two men, with the initial unclean spirit being followed by others.

10. Wore no clothes.

Luke tells us further things about their condition:

5:4 Because that he had been often bound with fetters and chains, and the chains had been plucked asunder by him, and the fetters broken in pieces: neither could any man tame him.

Because that he had been often bound with fetters and chains, and the chains had been plucked asunder by him, and the fetters broken in pieces- he had superhuman strength because of the devils who possessed him. Only the Son of God can deal with this situation.

Neither could any man tame him- not only was he physically strong, but none could persuade him to be minded to act differently. The spirits were controlling his mind.

5:5 And always, night and day, he was in the mountains, and in the tombs, crying, and cutting himself with stones.

And always, night and day, he was in the mountains, and in the tombs- the Lord described disembodied spirits as walking through dry places, seeking rest, and finding none, Matthew 12::43. Are evil spirits afraid of water? Does it remind them of the abyss, their home?

Crying, and cutting himself with stones- the man has a sense of despair, crying out, but all the men of the city could do was try to chain him up. It seems he was suicidal, but perhaps the evil spirits controlled him so that he could not actually commit suicide, for then they would lose a body to inhabit.

Returning to Matthew’s account.

8:29 And, behold, they cried out, saying, What have we to do with Thee, Jesus, Thou Son of God? art Thou come hither to torment us before the time?

And, behold, they cried out, saying- the “behold” reminds us Matthew was probably present, so has not made a mistake in telling us of two men. They were so controlled by evil spirits that they could not cry for mercy, so their only hope is for Christ to take the initiative.

What have we to do with Thee- the idea is, “What have we in common?” Whereas the Pharisees later on will accuse the Lord of acting by the power of Beelzebub, Satan himself, these know that there is nothing of Satan about Christ. As the apostle Paul wrote, “What concord hath Christ with Belial?” 2 Corinthians 6:15. Believers should never be tempted to dabble in the occult in any shape or form, whether seriously or as a game.

Jesus, Thou Son of God? In Mark we are told one of the men at least worshipped Him, and in Luke that he fell down before the Lord. Whether this was intelligent worship, recognising His Deity, or just respect for Him as a prominent man, we are not told. The Lord did not rebuke him for worshipping Him. On the other hand, He did not acknowledge the worship, so it might have been a ploy by the evil spirits.

The man, and the demons that possessed him, knew that Jesus of Nazareth was the Son of God. James tells us that “the devils also believe, and tremble”, James 2:19. They shudder as they think of the consequences of the fact that there is a God, for this means that for them there is certain judgement in prospect.

Art Thou come hither to torment us before the time? It is the spirits that are speaking using the man, as we can see from Luke’s account, where the words “I beseech Thee, torment me not”, are explained by him with the words, “For He had commanded the unclean spirit to come out of the man”. The torment the spirits fear is that of everlasting fire, otherwise known as the Lake of Fire, or Gehenna, which is “prepared for the Devil and his angels”, Matthew 25:41. We read, “And the devil that deceived them was cast into the lake of fire and brimstone…and shall be tormented day and night for ever and ever”, Revelation 20:10. It seems from these two scriptures that it is correct to call evil spirits the Devil’s angels.

8:30 And there was a good way off from them an herd of many swine feeding.

And there was a good way off from them an herd of many swine feeding- because the Tenth Legion of the Roman army was stationed in the region, there were many who were engaged in supplying them with the provisions they needed. No doubt these swine were for that purpose. Pork was part of the diet of the soldiers. In addition, they had as part of their emblem a boar’s head, for that animal was noted for its strength, speed, and viciousness, features of the Roman soldier. Furthermore, the pagan priests who accompanied the Roman army on its campaigns would sacrifice pigs to encourage the gods to give them success in their battles. We could see in the destruction of these swine a comment by the Lord on the nature of the Roman army. And also a foretaste of His complete destruction of evil forces, whether human or devilish, in a day to come.

8:31 So the devils besought Him, saying, If Thou cast us out, suffer us to go away into the herd of swine.

So the devils besought Him, saying, If Thou cast us out, suffer us to go away into the herd of swine- previous to them saying this, Luke tells us “And they besought Him that He would not command them to go out into the deep”. This is a reference to the Abyss, otherwise known as Tartarus, the prison-house of some of the evil angels that are in everlasting chains, Jude 6; 2 Peter 1:4; Revelation 9:1-3. They knew that if they were sent to the abyss, or bottomless pit, they would be in chains, and unable to live in a body, which they long to do. They are possibly fallen angels that rebelled with Lucifer, but did not have the opportunity for some reason to co-habit with the daughters of men, either before the flood or after it, Genesis 6:4. Perhaps they feel they have missed out, so seek to inhabit the bodies of men now, seeing that they are free to roam. Their restlessness is reflected in the restlessness of the two men in this incident. They are variously on the mountains, in the tombs, in the city, and driven into the wilderness.

Because of this desire for a body, if they are to be cast out of the man, (for the casting out of the unclean spirit that has been the prime possessor of this man, is the sign that the rest of those that inhabit him are about to be cast out too), they prefer to be in the swine rather than in the abyss.

Notice that they are aware that the Lord has complete control of both their ultimate destiny and their interim one, and also that He, as the Son of God, is the one who shall consign them to the place of torment.

8:32 And He said unto them, Go. And when they were come out, they went into the herd of swine: and, behold, the whole herd of swine ran violently down a steep place into the sea, and perished in the waters.

And He said unto them, Go- Mark tells us that the Lord had addressed the unclean spirit with the words, “Come out of the man, thou unclean spirit”. This is the translation of eight Greek words, which are literally rendered, “Come forth, the spirit the unclean, out of the man”. So the unclean spirit is directly addressed, telling us that the Lord is able to identify and single out one of the spirits, and command him to come out of the man. He is clearly in control of the powers of evil.

In contrast to the eight words to the unclean spirit, singling him out, there is but one word for the others. The word is the same as was used to the Devil in the temptation in the wilderness, translated there “Get hence”, Matthew 4:10.

In Mark and Luke it is “then He suffered them”, and “He gave them leave”, emphasising His total control over these many spirits. But in Matthew, the gospel of the King’s authority, it is the brief and decisive command, “Go”.

Note again that there is no touching of the possessed man, for the Lord is not taking the possession onto Himself, as He took the burden of men’s sicknesses and diseases.

And when they were come out, they went into the herd of swine- they are not free to go where they please, but only where the Lord determines. Just because they requested to go into the swine does not mean they would have done so if merely dismissed from the man. They are forced to own their Creator and their Judge. He will determine their destination at that point, and their destination in eternity. It is fitting that they should enter into unclean beasts, used to wallowing in the mire, 2 Peter 2:22, for they are unclean spirits.

And, behold, the whole herd of swine ran violently down a steep place into the sea, and perished in the waters- as noted already, it is not necessary to think that there were two thousand spirits just because there were two thousand swine. Although the man did say “we are many”, Mark 5:9. Just a few evil spirits entering into an animal would make it frantic, and the whole herd would stampede. Pigs can swim, but cut their own throats as they do so.

8:33 And they that kept them fled, and went their ways into the city, and told every thing, and what was befallen to the possessed of the devils.

And they that kept them fled- the sight, (and sound) of two thousand pigs suddenly and without warning rushing down the slope into the sea and drowning in the blood-stained waters, is enough to make anyone to be terrified, especially those of a superstitious frame of mind.

And went their ways into the city, and told every thing- they must have been near enough to realise what was happening. Perhaps they had come closer in case these travellers needed help when accosted by the two men they knew were violent. Matthew says they “went their ways”. Does this mean some had come nearer, whilst others had stayed with the swine, and now some of those nearer had gone straight into the city, whilst others of them went to their companions on the hillside, told them what had happened, and they in turn went into the city from the hills?

And what was befallen to the possessed of the devils- some of them must have stopped long enough to see that he who previously had been uncontrollable, and whose mind was controlled by spirits, and who wore no clothes, is “sitting, and clothed, and in his right mind”, as Mark tells us.

8:34 And, behold, the whole city came out to meet Jesus: and when they saw Him, they besought Him that He would depart out of their coasts.

And, behold, the whole city came out to meet Jesus- we might think this was a hopeful sign of interest and the desire to enquire further. Sadly, it was not. The spirits had besought the Lord to not banish them “out of the country”, so it seems they looked on those parts as their territory, and the superstitious people of the region feared them, especially as they saw what they could do to the two men in the story.

And when they saw Him, they besought Him that He would depart out of their coasts- they do not react to the delivered man, but only to Christ. The fact that He was a Jew, (known by the hem of His garment), and had power over spirits, caused them to fear with superstitious fear. What would happen when the Romans realised some of their food supplies had perished in the waters? How would that affect their ability to sell them supplies. Would the Romans withdraw the contract?

There is a sequel to this account, which Matthew does not record. He is concerned to show the power of Christ over the powers of evil, and that none of those forces can prevent Him setting up His kingdom at last. Mark, on the other hand, in his gospel of service, and Luke in his gospel for the Gentiles, are interested in the way the man was sent back into the city, to be an outpost of the Kingdom of God in the midst of Satanic influences. We read in Mark, “And when He was come into the ship, he that had been possessed with the devil prayed Him that he might be with Him. Howbeit Jesus suffered him not, but saith unto him, Go home to thy friends, and tell them how great things the Lord hath done for thee, and hath had compassion on thee. And he departed, and began to publish in Decapolis how great things Jesus had done for him: and all men did marvel, Mark 5:18-20. He was to go and tell, which word means “to announce in detail”. In Luke the word is “shew”, which means “to relate fully”. So he was to recount in detail and in its entirety what the Lord had done for him.

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