Sermon on Matthew 8
Have you ever met someone who simply changed your life? Maybe it was your spouse, or a friend, or a boss. It could be anybody, for me the person I met who changed my life was Jesus Christ. Because when I met him he changed almost everything about me, he did however let me keep my quirky personality. During our time today we are going to take a trip through Matthew 8 (the entire chapter), and see some of lives touched by Jesus, and determine who he is. The question I want you to keep thinking about throughout this sermon is who do you say Jesus is?
This book was recorded by one of the original disciples whom once was a tax collector. Matthew was also known as Levi seeing that both names are interchangeable Semitic names, like that of Simon/ Cephas or Peter as we know him. Now that we have an understanding of who wrote this material, we need to understand a little bit more about the letter, like where it was written and who it was written to. It has been said that it has a Palestinian origin, more specifically it was written in Syria, and it was written before the fall of the temple in AD 70, but not long before. According to Carson and Moo, “Because Matthew devotes so much space to OT quotations, some have suggested that he wrote his gospel to teach Christians how to read their Bibles—What we refer to as the OT.” (Carson, 157) The one question that comes out of this entire gospel and we are going to be considering today is who do we say Christ is? As C. S. Lewis has said “He was either a liar, a lunatic, or he was who he said he was.” So let’s take a closer look at our text.
Make sure that you bear with me because we are going to cover a lot of ground in short period of time. First thing we notice in our text is that as Jesus came down from the mountain a great crowd was following him, and from that crowd came a leper, which would have been unusual since they were supposed to be separated from the rest of society, it is just my speculation but maybe he felt he could blend in with all the other sick people. Upon closer inspection we notice that Jesus did not go looking for this man but he came to Jesus to make his request known. Leprosy in the NT was named for many differing types of skin diseases, along with traditional leprosy as we know it today. Notice he did not dare demand that Jesus make him whole, but he came humbly saying, “Lord if you will, you can make me clean.” It should be noted that healings were not a common thing and it was considered to be as difficult as raising the dead. Jesus without any hesitation reached out and TOUCHED the man saying “I will, be clean.” And immediately his ailment was cured. The only stipulations Jesus gave this man were not to say anything to anyone about what had transpired, and he was to go and show himself to the priest. It was something for Jesus to touch this man it would have made him ceremonially unclean himself. This man recognized that Jesus had some sort of authority over disease or else he would not have come and sought him out. What kind of recognition are you giving to Jesus in your life?
Moving on we come to Capernaum, where Jesus had chosen to make his base of operations so to speak. This town was in Jesus’ day an important garrison town, because not every town had its own military presence. From that presence came a man who was a centurion, notice here again that the man came to Jesus with his request. After Jesus was apprized of the situation with the centurions servant Jesus tells the man that he will come to wherever he was and heal him. This again was something that would have been a no-no in Jesus time; a Jew especially a Rabi doesn’t enter the house of a gentile. In those days it was common to ask for prayer from a Rabi or in our case a pastor. But that is not what the centurion is asking for he is specifically looking for a healing. What makes this passage so important is the fact that the man would not let Jesus come to where his man was, he stated, “he was unworthy to have you come under my roof, but only say the word and my servant will be healed.” This man was not making some simple statement about a Rabi he was acknowledging the authority that God had given to him. He draws the analogy of his leadership and understanding the power his word carries and Jesus’ word was much more authoritative. D.A. Carson in his commentary on Matthew says, “This analogy, though not perfect, reveals an astonishing faith that recognizes that Jesus needed neither ritual, magic, nor any other help; his authority was God’s authority and his word was effective because it was God’s word.” That is a powerful statement! Let’s take a moment just to let that sink in, here is a man not of Jewish descent and he is able to recognize the power of God in Christ while he was walking the earth.
I personally love Jesus’ response to this, it is said that he marveled at the response of the centurion. This man was able to make the God of the universe pause and marvel at his faith. Because he had a faith greater than those in Israel. There is one other instance in which someone who was not of Israel showed great faith and that is the Canaanite women in Matthew 15:21-28. Her daughter was possessed by a demon and she came begging to Jesus to heal her daughter. He responded is it right to take the bread from the children and give it to the dogs. You need to understand that in that day a dog was a lowly creature a scavenger it was not you fluffy house per that many of us have now a days. So in essence what he is saying is it right to give away what is meant for Israel to someone of lesser status, so to speak. Her response was that even the dogs get the crumbs from the master’s table. All she was asking for was what ever he could spare. So like the centurion she recognized the greatness the lied within Jesus.
Jesus, how I just love the sound of his name, Jesus! Jesus goes on to lay out what is going to happen showing that gentiles will come in and enjoy what was prepared for Israel, by means of entering into heaven, while the Jews will be cast out because they have not recognized who Jesus truly is. Again we see Jesus tells the man to go and it was done as he had requested, because he had believed. This time Jesus had not stipulations for him. Are you starting to get a clearer picture of whom Jesus is? If not keep with me; we will keep painting his portrait.
In the next paragraph we notice that there has been no change time so we may assume that this is still on the same day when Jesus enters Peter’s home and finds Peter’s mother in law lying sick and with a fever. This needs to be understood that the word his in this sentence is not referring to Jesus but to Peter. Fever in that day was caused by many things and itself was thought to be a disease, so to touch someone with a fever would make you unclean. For the second time in this chapter the Lord has touched someone who should have made him unclean, but it did not. As soon as she was touched the fever left her, she got up and started to serve the Lord Jesus. I would dare say that when the Lord touches the dirty parts of our lives we should be grateful when he cleanses us and find ways to begin serving.
The very next verse points out that Jesus work was carried on into that evening. He was casting out demons merely by speaking a word to them, imagine the kind of power and authority Jesus’ words had. He still speaks to us today through his Holy Spirit and the Bible. It also says that he healed all, notice that he healed all who were sick, not some of them, not a few of them but all of them that were brought to him that were sick received healing.
I must confess when I first read verses 18-22 (REREAD IF NECCISSARY) I wondered what purpose did they serve, because they were unlike the previous verses filled with healings and great acts of faith. As I read along I realized that this section is a bridge for the rest of the chapter. It leads us back to our original question of who Jesus is, and lays out the cost to follow him.
After a brief interchange with some would be followers Jesus and his disciples finally enter the boat to head to the other side of the Sea of Galilee. This boat was not a tiny vessel nor was it extremely large, it has been discovered that fishing boats from that era were about 26.5 ft long and 7.5ft wide; large enough for all the men to fit on it comfortably. I mention the size of the boat because Matthew mentions the size of the storm saying that it was a GREAT storm. Storms were known to brew up out of nowhere on the Sea of Galilee, because it sits down in a valley between mountains, apparently this storm was larger than the normal surge that would happen. During this storm Jesus was a sleep in the boat not necessarily unaware of what is going on but unfazed by it.
At this moment the disciples fear was palpable, because they could no longer stand what was happening around them they went and woke Jesus up from his sleep; saying “Save us Lord; we are perishing.” Do you see what is happening here they have some measure of faith that Jesus is capable of saving them from the storm, but not enough faith that they will make it to the other side. Jesus asked them why are they afraid of you of little faith? You would think that their faith was great because they asked him to stop the storm, but they were lacking in faith to make it through the storm having the God of the universe with them. We want to be quick to criticize the disciples for their lack of faith but as a believer I have had many times in my walk were the Lord has had to give me that gentle rebuke of you of little faith. While I knew he could do it, I may not have always trusted that he would.
So what does Jesus do? He stands up in the boat (which is not advisable) and rebuked the winds and the sea. In Mark 4:39 we are told he says “Peace! Be Still!!” and the wind ceased and the waves calmed. It did not take a moment to decide whether or not if it was going to obey, it did as it was told immediately. This caused the men to marvel. If you remember earlier in this chapter The Lord marveled at the centurions faith. They were asking among themselves what kind of man is this? These men who have been with him for sometime now and have seen him perform many miracles in just this chapter alone are still unsure about who this man is. Again I ask you who do you say he is? He has shown that he not only has control over the human body, and demons, but he also has control over the natural world.
After reaching the other side of the sea they came upon the town or Gadarenes, and were approached by two demon possessed men. Some things you need to know about this town is that it lays in the predominantly Gentile region of the Decapolis, and on the hillside were probably ancient tombs that these two men came out of. Carson points out that Jesus retreated here not for ministry but to get away from the crowds. So these men possibly met them along the shoreline. Did you see how fierce these demons possessed men were, so much so that no on could pass by them! But that did not hinder Jesus from attempting to do so. Notice that these demons automatically recognized who Jesus was, when they ask, “What have you to do with us, O Son of God?” This right here gives us an answer to the question we have been asking, who is Jesus, he is the Son of God, but not only that he should be Lord and Savior to you as well. If all you do is recognize him as the Son of God you are no better than the demons according to James 2:19 who believe that God is one and they shudder!! The next thing they say is have you come to torment us before the time? Or the appointed time; showing that they know what is supposed to happen to them and their leader. Verse 30 helps reinforce the fact that they were in a Gentile area because there was a herd of pigs near by (in Marks account he numbers them close to 2k) at least at some distance. The ESV says that they begged, other terms such as implored or plead or made an appeal to Jesus could have been used also. They begged to be sent into the herd of pigs and Jesus told them to GO! Which in turn caused the pigs to commit mass suicide by running off the steep bank into the water. If you look closely you will see that this time it is the herdsmen who go and tell of what has happened to the towns people, not only what had happened to the pigs but also what had happened to the demon possessed men, before the Lord could say not to. Then the entire city came out meet this Jesus who had just ruined their livelihood, and they begged him to leave. According to RC Sproul, they not only asked him to leave because of what he had done to the herd, they recognized him as GOD!
After our journey we should see Jesus more clearly. Is he who he said he was when he claimed to be God? Or is he merely some crazy man that was able to convince men to follow him and perpetrate a lie for centuries. We have seen him heal numerous people, cast out demons, and calm a storm. You have two options now you can either recognize him as God, and receive him as your Lord and Savior or you can deny what he has done and go on about your life as you have never heard any of this information.
If you would like to know more about this Jesus I’d be more than happy to speak with you. Go in the peace of God.