Bible Commentaries
Matthew 8

Sutcliffe's Commentary on the Old and New TestamentsSutcliffe's Commentary

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Verses 1-34

Matthew 8:2 . Behold, there came a leper and worshipped him. After having preached his sermon, and discovered his doctrine, says Jerome, an opportunity presented itself of displaying miracles, thereby to confirm the audience in the things he had delivered. Respecting the case of the leper, see on Leviticus 13:0. Mark 1:41. Luke 17:0.

Matthew 8:5 . There came to him a centurion. See on Luke 7:0.

Matthew 8:6 . Lord, my servant lieth at home sick. This religious and humane centurion is a model for masters to get religious instruction and aid for their families. It may save them from ruin. Herod’s ill educated daughter asked for the head of John the baptist. What becomes of children and servants, when they have lost their morals, and lost their modesty.

Matthew 8:11 . Many shall come from the east and west, like the Roman centurion. As this stranger has done, so shall many of the gentiles come to me with the like faith, and obtain eternal life. Christ clearly refers here to the promises made to the gentiles scattered abroad on the earth.

Sit down with Abraham and Isaac and Jacob. The kingdom of heaven is compared to a banquet, where Abraham, the father of the faithful, enjoys the foremost place, and the other guests sit down together with him. This made the learned Camero be of opinion, that as those were very much honoured who reclined themselves in the bosoms of the guests; so those were perfectly happy, yea happier than the rest, who were said to be in the bosom of Abraham. However, Capel laughs at this notion, and asserts that Abraham’s bosom was not called so from the posture of the guests at table, but from little children, beloved by their parents, who sometimes took them into their bosoms, sometimes let them sleep there, for the pious are said to sleep and rest from their labours, when they have paid the last debt to nature. But where can they be said to enjoy this rest and sleep better, than in the bosom of the father of the faithful?

Matthew 8:12 . The children of the kingdom shall be cast out. These are the jews, who were promised the kingdom by a covenant above the rest of mankind, had they not by unbelief deprived themselves thereof.

Into outer darkness. Christ treats here of the kingdom of heaven under the similitude of a supper, which being enjoyed in the night, many lights were set up to adorn it: so that they who were guests at it were in great light, and they who were absent in great darkness. The comparison refers to the kingdom of heaven; for they who enjoy the beatitude of that mansion need not the light of the sun, nor the light of a candle, because the Lord God illuminates them. On the other hand, those who are deprived of heaven, the Lord God doth not illuminate them, and they are said to be in outer darkness, which is opposed to the light of the house from which they are excluded.

Villalpandus, in his apparatus of the city and temple of Jerusalem, book 2. chap. 8, observes that the scriptures frequently mention a prison under the name of darkness; to prove which, Psalms 107:10 is cited. “Sitting in darkness, and in the shadow of death, bound in affliction and iron.” All these are hardships which persons doomed to a prison are forced to sustain. In this sense David Kimchi, and before him, the Chaldaic, understood this passage. And that place in Isaiah 49:9, Say to the prisoners, go forth, and you that are in darkness, reveal or show yourselves, is but a repetition of the liberation of prisoners from darkness. Yet a prison is not denominated darkness only, though there is so near a resemblance between the one and the other, that in the book of Wisdom, chap. Matthew 17:2, the former is called darkness itself. Homer uses a similar word.

Αυτος δ ’ εις αιδεω ιεναι δομων ευρωεντα .

ODYSS. k. 512.

But do you go into Pluto’s dark house.

In order to point out the infernal punishment to such as continued obstinate in their impieties, our Lord calls it by the name of a prison, which at that time of day was received with the greatest horror. The prison itself being filled with the deepest gloom was called darkness, and in reference to its situation, outer darkness. The hardships to which those within were exposed, gave occasion for the additional words pronounced by Christ, in the following sentence.

There shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth. There shall be the greatest affliction and distraction, which are designated here by weeping and gnashing of teeth. Whence Jerome infers that there shall be a resurrection of the body; “Si fletus oculorum, est, et stridor dentium ossa demonstrat, vera est ergo corporum et eorundem membrorum, quæ ceciderant, resurrectio.” Several commentators, from this place of scripture compared with that of Job 19:26, gather that hell or gehenna is twofold, one of extreme heat, the other of immoderate cold. Gregory the great expounds that saying of Job 24:19, “Let him pass from the snow waters to extreme heat, and his sin to hell,” of the immoderate conduct of wicked men in all their actions, who pass from the cold of infidelity very often to the heat of heresy. Others suppose Job’s meaning to be, that sinners pass from the immoderate cold of this life to excessive heat in hell; or they pass from one calamity into another. As to the opinion of Eliphaz, who asserted that God always punished the wicked in this life, Job refutes it by the testimony of his own experience, that the pious were doomed to hardships; and the wicked did not die with any distressing feelings in their last moments, but went off the stage of the world as in a slumber. Much the same language Job uses, where he speaks of the death of sinners: Job 21:23-24.

Matthew 8:19-20 . Master, I will follow thee whither-soever thou goest. This scribe, this lawyer seemed to have been struck with our Saviour’s discourse and miracles; and without a doubt, he meant to follow him as a candidate for the ministry. Jesus reminded him of the sacrifices he must make, of the hardships he must endure: the foxes have holes, but (Hebraically, ben Adam, the son of Adam, Psalms 8:4.) the Son of man hath not where to lay his head. A young minister must have a realizing faith in the coming and kingdom of the Lord, to enable him to encounter privations, and to work for God. But let not young men be discouraged; the disciples had no lack of food or of raiment.

Matthew 8:21 . Another of his disciples. Clemens of Alexandria says, from an ancient tradition, that this was Philip.

Suffer me first to go and bury my father. He supposed it was time enough for him to be a follower of Christ after he had performed this last sad office. But Christ tells him that every thing is to be postponed to the hearing of his doctrine, and that the opportunity of learning his precepts is to be embraced with both hands. For an affair of the last importance was at stake, namely, either the obtaining or losing the comforts of eternal life. “This disciple,” says Cyril, “did not request our Lord to bury his deceased father, but to give him leave to support him in his old age, till he should die and be buried by him; which desire was rejected by Christ, because there were others in a capacity to take care of him.”

Matthew 8:22 . Follow me. Our Saviour, says Ambrose, prohibits him from paying funeral honours to his father, to let him know that human things were to give place to things divine. The desire of this disciple was laudable in itself, but the obstacle arising from it was of greater consequence; for he that separates his desire, loses his affection; and he that divides his care, stops the progress he should make. So that things of the greatest consequence are to be first undertaken.

Matthew 8:31 . Suffer us to go into the herd of swine. The ejection of the devil was an action peculiar to Christ; whereas to force them into the swine, our Saviour had no occasion. The devils themselves begged for this, and were able of their own strength to perform it, provided no superior power gave them obstruction. This made Christ restrain a power which he had in himself to hinder them, probably for weighty reasons. In the place where this scene was exhibited, great numbers of jews and greeks promiscuously inhabited. The latter ridiculed the jewish rites, especially their abstaining from swine’s flesh, which they looked upon as a device of human superstition. Christ’s permitting the devils to enter the swine, evidently showed the greeks that the jewish religion was agreeable to the command of God; and at the same time, acquainted those jews who were too curious in imitating the grecian customs, with the mystic sense of the law, that such amongst them as abandoned themselves to the pursuit of filthy and unlawful pleasures were not pleasing to God, but were the slaves of the devil. St. Athanasius, in the life of St. Antonius, has words to this effect: “The greatest malice that devils can create in themselves, has no influence over swine; much more is their authority over man, who is formed after God’s own image, restrained; so that it is our duty to stand in awe of God only, and not to be fearful of them.” The word “go” is not the word of one commanding, but permitting, as appears from the Greek text in this place, and also from the Vulgate. Mark 5:13, and Luke 8:32. And this permission Christ gave to the devils, to discover the height of their malice and malignity, with a view to spread the fame of the miracle he did to a greater distance, and show the devils themselves the largeness of that kindness he had conferred upon them with regard to their liberty.


What a field of glory opens more and more, as we follow the footsteps of the Son of God. The first case noted here is that of a leper, kneeling devoutly to utter the vows and feelings of his heart. “Lord, if thou wilt, thou canst make me clean.” Here is simple faith, and faith without a shade of doubt. The mercy that followed, corresponded with the faith itself. Jesus touched the poor leper, while others with equal caution avoided him, and said, I will, be thou clean. Christ’s touch was like that of the altar; sin and uncleanness existed no more. Who then, says the excellent Marlorat, can doubt his virtue and power; and whatever of incredulity there may be in us, who shall henceforth dare to distrust his goodness? Why then carry about with us this foul leprosy, this body of sin and death? Let us earnestly pray that God would so cleanse the thoughts of our hearts that we may perfectly love him, and worthily magnify his holy name.

In the centurion we have, it would seem, a superior display of victorious faith, a faith exercised on behalf of another; faith for a distant cure, and faith in a gentile. What cannot the power of faith do, which takes hold of the power of God. Assuredly those acts of faith for the body were all associated with moralizing effects upon the heart.

Peter’s wife’s mother was the next to experience healing mercy. Health and peace attend the Saviour’s presence. Other ministers should endeavour to learn of Christ, to cause the families they visit to rejoice; and leave a blessing behind them, by prayer and edifying conversation, seasoned with grace.

Go on then, happy pilgrims, in all the journies and voyages of life. Take the Saviour with you; and though he may seem asleep in the time of a tempest, he will hear your prayers, will arise and bid the winds and the waves be still. Well did Moses pray, If thy presence go not with us, carry us not up hence.

Bibliographical Information
Sutcliffe, Joseph. "Commentary on Matthew 8". Sutcliffe's Commentary on the Old and New Testaments. 1835.