The eighth chapter of Matthew’s Gospel is full of our Lord’s miracles. No less than five are expressly recorded in detail here. There is a beautiful fitness in this! It was fitting that the greatest sermon ever preached should be immediately followed by mighty proof that the Preacher was the Son of God Himself. Those who heard the Sermon on the Mount would be obliged to confess that just as “none spake such words as this man,” neither did anyone do such works as He.
Verses 1-15 contain a narrative of three of these great miracles. A leper is healed with a touch, a palsied man is made well by a word, and a woman sick with fever is restored in an instant to health and strength. On the face of these three miracles, we may observe the greatness of the power of Christ. Leprosy is the most fearful disease by which a person’s body can be afflicted, and is regarded by physicians as incurable. Yet Jesus says, “Be thou clean, and immediately the leprosy was cleansed!” Then, too, to heal a person of the palsy without even seeing him; and to do so by only speaking a word – that is something which our minds cannot even conceive. Yet Jesus commands, and it is done at once. But even that is not all. To give a woman who is prostrate with a fever, not merely relief, but even strength to do work immediately – this would baffle the skill of all the physicians on earth. Yet Jesus “touched” Peter’s wife’s mother; and “she arose, and ministered unto them.” There is no escape from the conclusion that this was indeed “the finger of God” (Ex. 8:19).
Behold here a broad foundation for the faith of a Christian! We are told in the Gospel to come to Jesus, to believe on Him, and to live the life of faith in Him. We are encouraged to lean upon Him, to cast all our care upon Him, and to repose all the weight of our souls upon Him. And we may do so without fear! Why? Because He can bear all! He is a strong Rock, but He is also very gracious. He can be “touched with the feeling of our infirmities.” He knows that we are a weak and feeble people in the midst of a weary and troublous world. He is as ready to bear with us and help us today as He was 2,000 years ago. Indeed, no other heart can feel for us so much as the heart of Jesus!
In verses 18-22, we see a striking example of our Lord’s wisdom in dealing with those who professed a willingness to be His disciples. A certain scribe offers to follow our Lord wherever He goes. It is a remarkable offer, but it receives a remarkable answer. It is not directly accepted, and yet it is not flatly rejected, either. Our Lord only makes the solemn reply, “The foxes have holes, and the birds of the air have nests; but the Son of man hath not where to lay his head.” Then another follower of our Lord comes forward and asks to be allowed to bury his father before going any further in the path of a disciple. The request seems, at first sight, to be a natural and lawful one. But it draws from our Lord’s lips a reply that is no less solemn than the one which we have already referred to: “Follow me, and let the dead bury their dead.” There is something deeply impressive in both of these sayings. They teach us plainly that when people show a desire to profess themselves to be true disciples of Christ, they should be clearly warned to “count the cost” before they begin. Let us tell them plainly that there is a crown of glory at the end; but let us also tell them, no less plainly, that there is a daily cross in the way.
Verses 23-27 teach us that true saving faith is often mingled with much infirmity. Our Savior and His disciples are crossing the Sea of Galilee in a boat. A storm arises, and the boat is in danger of being filled with water by the waves that beat over it. Meanwhile, Jesus is asleep. The frightened disciples awake Him and cry to Him for help. He hears their cries and stills the waters with a word, so that there is “a great calm.” At the same time, He gently reproves the anxiety of His disciples. “Why are ye fearful, ye of little faith?” Often, we do not know the weakness of our faith until we are placed in the furnace of trial and anxiety. We have great reason to thank God that Jesus, our Great High Priest, is very compassionate and tender-hearted. The prayer even of “little faith” is heard and gets an answer!
The subject of the last seven verses of this chapter is deep and mysterious. The casting out of a devil is here described with special fullness. It is one of those passages which throw strong light on a dark and difficult point. From the time of the Garden of Eden, the devil has labored to injure mankind; and until Christ returns, he will never cease to tempt us and practice mischief against us. In the days of Jesus’ earthly ministry, it is clear that the devil had a peculiar power over the bodies of certain people, as well as over their souls. And even in our own times, there is very likely more of this bodily possession than we would like to believe. But we must also settle it firmly in our minds that the power of the devil is limited. Mighty as he is, there is One Who is mightier still! Satan and his agents are keenly set on doing harm in the world, but they can only work by permission. They could not even hurt one of the Gergesene pigs unless the Son of God – who delivered two humans with immortal souls from their bondage – permitted them to do so. Christ is mankind’s great Deliverer from the power of the devil! It was prophesied in Genesis 3:15 that the Messiah would bruise the serpent’s head. He began to bruise that head when He was born of the Virgin Mary, and He triumphed over that head when He died upon the cross.
We give thanks to You, O Lord Jesus, for being so very compassionate and tender-hearted toward us, and not cast us off because of our sad defects! Amen.
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