Matthew 8:1–13 comment (0)
April 24, 2014
By Catherine Lawrence
Related Scripture: Matthew 8:1–13
Bible Studies for Life
Department of Religion, Samford University
The passage for this week’s lesson falls within a collection of materials in Matthew’s Gospel that illustrate various aspects of Jesus’ public ministry in Galilee. In the summary statements of Matthew 4:23 and 9:35 we learn that Jesus went about Galilee preaching, teaching and healing. The Sermon on the Mount (Matt. 5–7) thus illustrates Jesus’ teaching, while Matthew 8–9 focus especially on Jesus’ healing ministry. Both His teaching and His healings reveal Jesus as one with supreme authority. As word spread about Jesus, many turned to Him for help and hope (Matt. 4:24–25). In Matthew 8:1–13, two men in particular found hope in Jesus’ ability to heal. Their stories form the focus of our study this week.
Matthew 8:1–4 describes Jesus’ encounter with a man suffering from a skin disease. Both in the Old Testament era and in Jesus’ day, skin disease rendered a person ceremonially unclean, which led to that person’s exclusion from the life of the community. Leviticus 13:45–46, for example, instructed a person with a skin disease to tear his clothes, leave his hair unkempt, live alone outside the camp and cry out “unclean, unclean” so people would know to keep their distance. Yet the man in Matthew 8 came and knelt before Jesus and said, “Lord, if You choose, You can make me clean” (v. 2). The man apparently had no doubt that Jesus had the power to heal him; his only question was whether Jesus was willing to do so. Jesus did not hesitate. He touched the man and said, “Be made clean.” Immediately the man was healed. Jesus then sent the man to the priest to be examined and to carry out the purification ritual prescribed for a person healed of a skin disease (see Lev. 14:1–32).
Jesus’ power to heal and authority over disease is evident in this story. Also striking, however, is Jesus’ desire to heal. Without hesitation, Jesus healed the man’s disease. Jesus also did not hesitate to touch the unclean man before He healed him. Most people would have avoided touching the man at all costs so as to avoid becoming ceremonially unclean themselves. But Jesus did not hesitate, and He did not become unclean by touching the man; instead Jesus made the man clean (“his leprosy was cleansed”) (v. 3). The man with the skin disease found hope in Jesus and in Jesus’ desire to heal him.
Matthew 8:5–13 describes Jesus’ encounter with a centurion. A centurion was a Roman military official who commanded 100 men. This centurion told Jesus about his servant, who was gravely ill. When Jesus offered to go and cure the servant, the centurion insisted that he did not feel worthy to have Jesus come into his home. Rather he believed that Jesus needed only to “speak the word” for his servant to be healed (v. 8). The centurion, as one who both obeyed and wielded authority (v. 9), understood and believed that Jesus had authority over disease to the extent Jesus could simply command healing to occur and it would happen — even at a distance.
The Roman centurion’s faith amazed Jesus (v. 10). Among the Jews, Jesus had not found such faith. Instead here was a Gentile who exemplified the kind of faith many of the Jews lacked. Jesus honored the centurion’s faith by healing the man’s servant (v. 13). Jesus also affirmed that many Gentiles with faith like that of the centurion will be welcomed into God’s kingdom (v. 11), while many Jews — “the heirs of the Kingdom” and yet lacking faith — will be cast out (v. 12).
Again in this story of the Roman centurion and his servant, Jesus’ power to heal and have authority over disease is evident. The centurion came to Jesus (v. 5) because he believed he could find hope in Him — and Jesus rewarded the centurion’s great faith.
God is able and God is willing to help and to heal. Our hope in any and all of life’s circumstances lies in Him.