Tuesday, May 30th, 2023
the Week of Proper 3 / Ordinary 8
the Week of Proper 3 / Ordinary 8
Preacher's Complete Homiletical Commentary Preacher's Homiletical
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These files are public domain.
Text Courtesy of BibleSupport.com. Used by Permission.
Exell, Joseph S. "Commentary on Matthew 8". Preacher's Complete Homiletical Commentary. https://studylight.org/
commentaries/ eng/ phc/ matthew-8.html. Funk & Wagnalls Company, 1892.
Exell, Joseph S. "Commentary on Matthew 8". Preacher's Complete Homiletical Commentary. https://studylight.org/
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Matthew 8:2. And behold, etc.—The time of this miracle seems too definitely fixed here to admit of our placing it where it stands in Mark and Luke, in whose Gospels no such precise note of time is given (Brown). Leper.—Confining ourselves to the Biblical form of the disease, we note:
1. Its probable origin in the squalor and wretchedness of the Egyptian bondage. It was the “botch, or plague of Egypt” (Deuteronomy 28:27). In the Egyptian legends of the Exodus, indeed, the Israelites were said to have been expelled because they were lepers (Jos., c. Apion, I. 26; Tacit., Hist., Matthew 8:3).
2. Its main features were the appearance of a bright spot on the flesh, whiter than the rest, spreading, inflaming, cracking; an ichorous humour oozing from the cracks; the skin becoming hard, scaly, “as white as snow” (Exodus 4:6; 2 Kings 5:27). One so affected was regarded as unclean; his touch brought defilement (Leviticus 13:3; Leviticus 13:11; Leviticus 13:15). He was looked upon as smitten with a Divine plague, and cases like those of Miriam (Numbers 12:10), Gehazi (2 Kings 5:27), and Uzziah (2 Chronicles 26:20), gave strength to the belief. He had to live apart from his fellows, to wear on his brow the outward sign of separation, to cry out the words of warning, “Unclean, unclean” (Leviticus 13:45). The idea which lay at the bottom of this separation seems to have been one of abhorrence rather than precaution. The disease was loathsome, but there is no evidence that it was contagious or even believed to be contagious. At the stage in which it reached its height, and the whole body was covered with the botch and scabs, the man was, by a strange contrast, declared to be ceremonially clean (Leviticus 13:13), and in this state, therefore, the leper might return to his kindred, and take his place among the worshippers of the synagogue (Plumptre). Worshipped Him.—The leper regarded Jesus at least as a great prophet, though it is difficult accurately to define the measure of knowledge possessed by such believers. Hence the import of this worship, and of the designation “Lord,” differed under various circumstances (Gerlach).
Matthew 8:4. The gift.—See Leviticus 14:0. For a testimony unto them.—Either:
1. To the priests, or:
2. To the people who were following Jesus. In either case to show that Jesus came to fulfil the law. Christ enjoins the cleansed leper to tell no one, thus instructing us that He would not have people converted by His miracles. Christ addresses Himself to men’s hearts not to their eyes or ears. He will not fling Himself from the height of the temple to persuade men (Carr).
MAIN HOMILETICS OF THE PARAGRAPH.—Matthew 8:1-4
Following up.—The story here told us is a fit sequel to the Sermon on the Mount. Its introduction is so (Matthew 8:1). Having gone up to the mountain (Matthew 5:1) for one purpose, the Saviour now “comes down” for another. Notwithstanding the faithfulness and even severity (in appearance) of much of His teaching, such was the power of it also (Matthew 7:28-29), that “great multitudes” follow Him still. In accordance with this, also, is the story itself. Alike in the leper’s request as described to us in it, and in the Saviour’s immediate reply, and in the parting injunction with which He concludes, we see that which follows up what has been told us before.
I. The leper’s request.—How remarkable this was in its nature. Leprosy before this time appears to have been regarded as a practically incurable thing. Only two instances of its cure—and those apparently miraculous ones—are mentioned before in the Bible (Numbers 12:11-15; 2 Kings 5:0; 2 Kings 5:0.). Neither does the law of Moses, with its many injunctions about the detection and spiritual treatment of this sickness, say anything about its cure. If spoken of at all in those days it is only spoken of as a signal exercise of God’s power (2 Kings 5:3; 2 Kings 5:8; 2 Kings 5:15). It is all the more noticeable, therefore, that in this case we see a man coming out of his way in order to ask it. He “worships Him” (Matthew 8:2) because, already, he believes in Him as a “prophet.” How remarkable also, was the tone of the request. It is made in hope—in much hope—hope in every quarter but one. Given the requisite mercy, the man who asks has no doubt of the power. Great as the boon is, there is power to grant it, if there be only the will (Matthew 8:2). How evidently, therefore, in this condition of things we are pointed back to the past. Pointed back by the hope. Amongst the many widely-reported “healings” of “all manner of sickness” related in Matthew 4:23-24, some healings even of leprosy could hardly have been missing. Hence the “hope” in this case. If done for others, why not for me? Pointed back by the doubt. With all else that was admirable in the Sermon on the Mount, there was not conspicuous that fulness of love of which so much was afterwards shown. Therefore, apparently, in this poor leper’s case, this measure of doubt. Jesus had “come not to destroy the law, but fulfil it” (Matthew 5:17). Would He, after all, only treat him as was done by the law?
II. The Saviour’s immediate reply.—How striking its mercy! Its mercy in beginning with that of which the poor suppliant was not sure. “If Thou art willing?” I am willing. Know that, to begin. Be assured that your application will not be cast out. Be assured, though so exposed to contempt, that you will meet with none at My hands. I have just pronounced a blessing on the “poor in spirit,” and the “meek,” and the “mournful” (Matthew 5:2-5), and will deal in the same spirit with you. And see, I show this by putting My hand upon you (contrast 2 Kings 7:3, etc.). How striking also its power! The “power” in its form. Not the word of experiment (2 Kings 4:31; 2 Kings 4:35); nor the word of entreaty (ibid. 33; 1 Kings 17:20); nor yet of dependence on the name of another (Acts 3:6); but the word of direct authority—the word of command. “I will, be thou clean.” Also the “power” in its issue. How complete the cure—“he was cleansed.” How direct—by a word and a touch; not by going away even to wash in Jordan (2 Kings 5:10; 2 Kings 5:13). How immediate—as the word was spoken. All these special proofs of very great power. So we read everywhere of God’s works and servants. See as to completeness Deuteronomy 32:4; as to swiftness Ezekiel 1:14; as to directness Psalms 33:4; Psalms 33:9.
III. The Saviour’s parting injunction.—This has two aspects, a negative and a positive. The negative refers to Himself. The exceptional power of this miracle, to say nothing also of its exceptional mercy, was just the thing certain, if proclaimed abroad, to add to His fame. Just the thing also that the subject of this miracle, in his wonder and gratitude, would be likely to speak of with this view. But that, we find here, was just the very thing which the Saviour did not wish to have done. He did not desire, He rather strongly deprecated the mere praise of mankind. Hence the first part of His injunction. “See thou tell no man.” Hence in this also we see a further connection with the Sermon on the Mount. As He there taught His disciples to do (Matthew 6:1, etc.), so He here does Himself. The positive side refers to Moses. There were certain officials to whom the man was to tell what was done. He was to go to the “priests” whom Moses had appointed. He was to submit to the examination which Moses had enjoined. He was to make the offerings which Moses had ordered (Leviticus 14:3-4; Leviticus 14:10). In other words, whilst forbidding the man in any way to magnify Himself, Jesus bids him do that which shall magnify Moses in every way. Just in accordance, therefore (so we notice once more), with what He had said a little before. “I am not come to destroy the law and the prophets, but to fulfil.” So, on the mountain He had said to the multitudes. So here, on the plain, in a different way, He now says to this man.
Thus strikingly and fitly did this conspicuous miracle—for such it appears to have been—being wrought in the presence of the multitudes who had been listening to the Sermon on the Mount—succeed to that Sermon. Thus did it both add to and confirm its teaching, and, as being also apparently the first of a very remarkable series of similar works (Matthew 8:9.), prepare for teaching of a deeper and more advanced kind. That Sermon had shown Jesus to be “mighty in word”—a Man to be heard when he spoke. These miracles showed Him to be a Man “mighty in deed”—a Man to be believed when He spoke (John 3:2). The two together cover the whole field of what an inspired teacher requires (see Acts 7:22; Luke 24:19.)
HOMILIES ON THE VERSES
Matthew 8:2-4. The miracles of Jesus.—
I. Seals of His authority.
II. Exercises of His love to men.
III. Types of truth.—Conder.
The cleansing of the leper.—Let us describe:—
I. This particular instance of leprosy.—Attention is at once arrested by the leper’s faith. This is the first instance in which we are called specially to note that element. The cure of a fever patient or of a demoniac must take place with no reference to the sufferer’s state of mind. Friends, in some of these cases, brought the patients and showed faith in the Healer. Now one comes of his own motion, declaring his own confidence in the Saviour. From this point onwards the narratives are rich with references to the link between personal faith and the desired healing. This man’s faith is shown by his immediate and earnest application—“He came to Jesus, beseeching Him;” and by his rendering to Jesus something like Divine honours—“kneeling down to Him he worshipped Him.” Still more distinctly does the character of his faith come out in his words, made emphatic by their exact reproduction in all three Gospels: “Lord, if Thou wilt Thou canst make me clean.” This faith was:—
1. Original.—There had been no previous instance amid all the Judæan and Galilean healings of such a cure.
2. Courageous.—For this was no slight form of the malady. St. Luke notes that this man “was full of leprosy.” The patient honoured Jesus, therefore, in taking to Him such a case and in such a spirit. But what of this “if Thou wilt”? Usually, it is assumed that here was a defect in the man’s faith. It is at least as probable that it shows his entire and implicit trust. He says in effect, “I know not whether it is the purpose of God that under Thy mission any lepers should be cleansed. Of the power of God in Thee to do it, I have no doubt; for it is mightily witnessed; and as for the intention, I cast myself on Thy Godlike heart; if Thou wilt, Thou canst.” In most of these particulars, this man’s faith is a model for us of the faith which saves. We have not, indeed, his difficulty to overcome. We know it is our Lord’s intention to save sinners.
II. Our Lord’s method of dealing with it.—
1. St. Mark alone has the significant words, “And Jesus, moved with compassion.” We can see what an appeal there was to the Saviour-heart of Jesus in the case of such a man.
2. He “put forth His hand and touched him, saying, I will, be thou clean.” The act before the word. This was His immediate answer to the leper’s “if.” The doubt in the sufferer’s mind was mainly whether Jesus would have anything to do with outcasts from the church and commonwealth of Israel, and this was His reply. That touch was everything to the lonely outcast. It swept the barrier down that held him aloof from mankind. And this act reflected—how simply, yet grandly—the power as well as the grace of Jesus. He touched the polluted and took no pollution. Then the word; how apt! “I will;” exactly it meets and yet overpasses the leper’s prayer. He honours faith as faith honours Him. But He drives no bargain about its degree or kind. It is simply that He is trusted.—Prof. Laidlaw, D.D.
Cleansing the leper.—The Great Speaker is here the Great Healer.
I. Sorrow turns instinctively to the supernatural.—Leprosy was known among the Jews as “the finger of God.” The removal of leprosy was always considered a Divine act (2 Kings 5:7). When Christ sent an answer to John, He bade the disciples tell their master that “the lepers are cleansed,” etc. It is less easy to be an atheist in sorrow than in joy. Men are less courageous at midnight than noonday.
II. Christ is never deaf to sorrow’s cry.—“I will.” Did His “will” ever run counter to the sinner’s welfare? The will of man must concur with the will of God; he who would “find” must “seek.” The great difficulty is to persuade (not logically, but morally) men to have perfect faith in the Divine will, that it is not wise only, but loving. When they feel this they will pray, “Thy will be done,” etc.
III. Christ is superior alike to material contamination and legal restriction.—He could “touch” the leper and yet feel no injury. Others touched, and the touch meant death, but He touched and yet was uncontaminated. This is a type of His relation to sin. The ceremonial law forbade that the leper was to be touched. Christ superior to ceremonial limitations.—J. Parker, D.D.
The leprosy of Scripture.—The best experts now insist on distinguishing the leprosy of Scripture, or of the Hebrews, from the so-called “true leprosy” of mediæval and modern times. This disease is one of the most formidable and hopeless of known maladies, and finds its nearest analogue in scrofula or syphilis. It is irremediable by any known human means. Though not directly contagious, there is always the terrible risk to those who mingle much with the sufferers of at last falling under its power. This was the malady known from an early period of European civilisation for which the lazarettos, or lazar-houses of the middle ages were provided.… On the other hand, every probability, derived from the terms used in Scripture and in ancient medicine, from the very full description of its symptoms in the Old Testament, and from the whole strain of the narratives in which it occurs in the sacred text, goes to show that the leprosy there meant is a totally different malady. It was a skin disease of various and complicated forms, some of which may have had a resemblance to the symptoms of the modern terror. It was of repulsive aspect, indeed, but neither usually fatal nor absolutely irrecoverable. Whether the Hebrew leprosy was always, or ever, contagious is the second point of confusion which ought to be cleared. But here the true solution is not so evident. It involves the allied question, whether the Mosaic rules for its segregation were sanitary only, or were in no respect so, but only symbolic and religious. The truth seems to lie between the two. There is no need for the antithesis. There is fair ground for concluding that this leprosy was not necessarily infectious by contact; but that it was contagious in the wider sense of being communicable by social or family interchange; also that other similar diseases really infectious were not easy to distinguish from it. The Hebrew legislation, therefore, justifies itself at once on sanitary and on ceremonial grounds.—Prof. Laidlaw, D.D.
Leprosy a type of sin.—The use of leprosy as a type for sin is quite legitimate, but the analogy requires to be handled with greater accuracy and point than is usually applied to it. The usage in the Christian pulpit and commentary dates from the Fathers themselves, who no doubt had the proper Hebrew leprosy in view. But most theological or religious teaching on the subject has been coloured by the impression of “the deep-seated, all-pervading, corrupting, and mortal character of mediæval leprosy, rather than from anything said in the Bible.” (Sir Risdon Bennet, M.D.) Yet the figure presented in the Hebrew leprosy is full of significance, full of that peculiar aptness which marks the emblems of Scripture when truthfully interpreted. All diseases, especially those which Jesus healed, have their symbolic side, but Divine legislation itself emphasised the specialities of this one. These were:—
1. Its repulsiveness—We naturally shrink from skin diseases. So, could we see our own sinful nature and life as these appear in the sight of holy beings, above all of the Holiest, we should be appalled at its loathsomeness. Then:—
2. The suggestion of impurity or defilement in leprosy is most patent.—The appropriate and almost invariable word for its removal is “cleansing” in the narratives of our Lord’s cures. It is upon its uncleanness that the emphasis of the Bible representations of leprosy depend. And this leads to the kindred idea of:—
3. Isolation or separation.—An idea burned into the Hebrew mind by the sacred legislation. Here, then, is a sufficiently expressive symbolism. Sin, like leprosy, is hideous in the sight of all pure beings. It covers the soul, as that covers the body, with a universal taint of impurity. It is incurable by any ordinary human appliances. It separates from the camp of God’s Israel because it cuts off from the fellowship of God. The dead in trespasses and sins have no place in the true church of the living God. It is discovered by the law, but it is taken away only by the Son, who was manifest to do that which the law could not do, in that it was weak through the flesh.—Ibid.
Matthew 8:4. The Saviour’s injunction.—The charge was twofold:—
1. To keep silence.—The injunction, “See thou say nothing to any man,” was not unusual with Jesus in His healing miracles. The reasons for it might lie partly in the circumstances of the Master Himself. Much noise about the cure hindered His work; and in this case it proved so according to St. Mark’s pointed detail (Mark 1:45). Yet it could not be absolute concealment of the healing that the Lord intended to enjoin in this case, for it was performed in public before a multitude of people (Matthew 8:1). Rather, then, the other reason for the commanded silence must be supposed the stronger one here, viz. that which concerned the moral effect upon the subject of the cure. The disposition of the man was evidently such that silence, for a time at least, was a needful discipline.
2. To go to the priest.—This throws the clearest light upon the Saviour’s intention (see Mark 1:43, R. V., and margin). It has all the effect of a paradox. The blessing hand, a moment before stretched out to the unclean, now thrusts him away when he is cleansed. This brings again into full view the precise religious significance of leprosy and its cure. Leprosy was a social and spiritual ban even more than it was a disease. Set free from the disease, this man must at once be also set free from the curse and isolation which his disease entailed. That the Lord held this essential to such cases is proved by the uniformity of His procedure (cf. the narrative of Luke 17:0). This miracle must have for the Worker its proper attestation, and for the subject its due legal, social, and religious fruits. These could only be attained in the way here so pointedly prescribed, by recourse to those in charge of the sacred legislation. The main design, doubtless, of this immediate despatch to the priest was to complete the benefit for the man himself. He was really not cured in the highest sense till he was socially and spiritually restored to the commonwealth of Israel, and that by obedience to the Divine requirements. So let all our spiritual work and the marvels of God’s grace among us be brought to the test of the Divine precept, to the law and to the testimony. Leprosy was a vivid type of sin in the social death which it entailed. The means appointed for its ceremonial cleansing were emblematic of a restoration which goes to the very root of the spiritual life. To honour these, as Jesus here did, was to set forth a deep truth of His salvation. His pardon, His pronouncement that the soul is clean, carries with it that complete removal of sin’s pollution and power, which the pure and impartial judgment of God’s law must attest (Psalms 51:7-8; Psalms 51:12).—Ibid.
Matthew 8:5. A centurion.—I.e. a captain or commander of a century—a company normally composed of a hundred men, the sixtieth part of a legion in the Roman army. This centurion was probably an officer in the army of Herod Antipas, which would be modelled after the Roman fashion (ibid.). The presence of a centurion implied that of a garrison stationed at Capernaum to preserve order (Plumptre).
Matthew 8:6. Servant, παῖς, boy (R.V. margin).—The word is one which answers to the old English “chylde,” and denotes a servant in a peculiarly honourable sense (Laidlaw). Palsy, grievously tormented.—In this instance we have probably a case of progressive paralysis, attended by muscular spasms, and involving the respiratory movements, where death is manifestly imminent and inevitable. In such a case there would be symptoms indicative of great distress, as well as immediate danger to life (Sir R. Bennet, M.D.).
Matthew 8:9. I am a man under authority, etc.—His argument is evidently from less to more. “I am a servant, and know how to obey; a master, and know how to be obeyed. If my word, who am only a subordinate in command, be so promptly heeded, how much more Thine! My word, with the authority of Herod or Cæsar, how much more Thine with the authority of God!” (Laidlaw). My servant.—τῷ δούλῳ, bond-servant (R.V. margin).
Matthew 8:10. Marvelled.—A genuine, human wonder, which we shall not find at all stumbling, or foreign to our conception of the Man Christ Jesus, unless we have allowed one-sided theological views to take our Saviour away from us, and cannot tell where they have laid Him (Laidlaw).
Matthew 8:11. Sit down.—i.e. recline at a feast.
Matthew 8:12. Outer darkness.—i.e. the darkness outside the house in which the banquet is going on. Gnashing of teeth.—The natural bodily expression of extreme cold. It is the condition of one who is turned out of a heated banqueting-hall into the chill, dark, winters night, clad only in his light, festal robes. We are more familiar with the very similar expression, “chattering of teeth” (Tuck).
MAIN HOMILETICS OF THE PARAGRAPH.—Matthew 8:5-13
Repeating the type.—With some points of difference, there are more of similarity between this miracle and the last. The leper was probably outside of Capernaum, the centurion was within. In the former story it is an outcast who asks; it is the man of position in this. There the sufferer prays for himself; here the sufferer is prayed for by another. Yet for all this there are two main features common to both. Equally notable in both cases is the marvellousness of the work; equally notable the simplicity of the means.
I. The marvellousness of the work.—How fearful the evil, in the first place, as well in this case as in that! If leprosy was awful outwardly, so was “palsy” (Matthew 8:6) within. It is said of the nerves, in cases of wasting, that they are the last to lose weight. When these are affected, therefore, nothing is right. How much was wrong in the present case is shown by two things. The poor sufferer was so ill that he had been left “lying at home” (Matthew 8:6). He could neither come nor be brought (contrast Matthew 9:2). The poor sufferer suffered so much that only the strongest language could be used of his case. He was “grievously tormented”—in fearful pain—“en proie à de violentes douleurs” (Lasserre). Also, as in the previous instance, how complete the cure. “The servant was healed,” not relieved only, not partially cured, not merely made convalescent, or on the way to recovery, but with the recovery over, the journey accomplished, sickness gone (and suffering also), and health and ease in their place. Also, yet more, all this in a moment; not by a tedious climb, but as it were by a spring (Matthew 8:13, cf. Matthew 8:3). Also, further yet, as before, by a word; and that, in this case, by a word afar off, out of the hearing and in a place beyond the sight of him of whom it was spoken; and addressed to another (Matthew 8:13) and not himself. In this case, in short, there was that present which only the very largest faith (Matthew 8:10) had thought of before. Shall we say, therefore, of the healing in question, that it was effected by only a word? So far as the man who was healed was concerned, it was effected by less than a word—by a thought. A “thought” about this man—which he knew nothing about—brought him up, as with the swiftness of thought, from the very shadow of death to meridian life!
II. The simplicity of the means.—How was this wonderful triumph accomplished so far as man was concerned? It was accomplished by faith. That faith was present in this case is easily seen. The very coming to Jesus for help, as in the case of the leper before, is a proof of this truth. No man would come for help where he had no hope of obtaining it (see Hebrews 11:6). Also the faith present was of a very remarkable kind. The testimony of the centurion to the Saviour proves this to be so (Matthew 8:8-9). Where do we find the appearance of stronger faith than we find in those words? Thy commands to sickness and suffering are like mine to my soldiers. I have only to let them know what I wish, and it is immediately done. So also of all the forces which are now distressing and killing my servant at home. Any message of Thine to them will be obeyed by them at once. Nor was this signal faith in appearance only. It was also a fact. So we are taught, on the other hand, by the testimony of Jesus to the centurion. “I have not found so great faith” even where men are renowned for it most. Lastly, the effect produced was distinctly connected with faith. Connected with it directly by the Saviour Himself. “As thou hast believed so be it done” (Matthew 8:13). Connected with it to the exclusion of everything else. This stranger was accepted, and many others with him, because of their faith. Others would be rejected, although nominally of Israel, because men without faith. Faith it was, therefore, and nothing but faith, which brought this wonder about.
Thus does this story, therefore, enforce the lesson of the story before. In the case of the leper there were just two things to recommend him to Jesus, the presence of faith in him on the one hand, and the severity of his need on the other. But these two were enough. Jesus put forth His hand and touched him, and sent him away a healed man. Exactly the same two recommendations were found in this other case too. Exactly the same treatment, therefore, was accorded to it. It is the rule of His kingdom throughout. In all the Saviour’s subsequent miracles, if not expressly, by plain implication, the same rule is observed. See, for example, in the immediately subsequent chapter (Matthew 9:1-8; Matthew 9:18; Matthew 9:22; Matthew 9:27-28). It was well, therefore, that this key-note should be struck—and struck twice—at the first; even in these two stories which are the first of their kind related at length.
HOMILIES ON THE VERSES
Matthew 8:5-13. The centurion and the Captain of the Lord’s host.—
I. The man and his faith.—
1. If we put together the traits of character given by Matthew and Luke, we get a lovable picture of a man with a much tenderer heart than might be expected to beat beneath the armour of a mercenary soldier, set to overawe a sullen people. Like so many of the better spirits of that strange era, he had been drawn to “love our nation,” certainly not because of their amiability, but because of the revelation which they possessed. He had built them a synagogue, and thereby expressed his adhesion to their worship, and won the confidence even of the suspicious elders. His solicitude for his servant bespeaks a nature from which neither the harshness of military life nor the natural carelessness about a slave’s welfare had been able to banish the sweetness. The crowning trait of his character is his humility, which is manifest in Matthew, and even more conspicuous in Luke’s version of the story, where he does not venture to approach the miracle-working Rabbi, but sends the elders to intercede for him. Such a character, springing up in heathenism, like a fair flower on some waste unsheltered open, puts to shame the results of centuries of patient culture by the Great Husbandman, as shown in the Jewish nation. One can scarcely help noticing the common type of character, in different degrees, shown in the centurions of the New Testament; this man, the anonymous one, who stood by the cross, and was more open to its teachings than rulers and priests, Cornelius, and the kindly Julius who had Paul in charge on his voyage.
2. The centurion’s appeal, as given by Matthew, does not say what he wants, but simply tells the tale of suffering, as if that were enough to move Christ’s heart. The sad sisters at Bethany sent a like message to Jesus, but their confidence was the growth of years of close friendship. This man’s was greater because its foundation was less.
3. Christ’s answer is full of consciousness of power, as well as of willingness to meet the unbreathed prayer. He volunteers to come where He had not been asked. He refuses to go when His going seems made an indispensable condition of His miracle, as in the story of the healing of the “nobleman’s” son at Capernaum. His wisdom may be trusted to decide when it is best to exceed and when to fall short of our wishes. Here the promise to come is spoken to evoke the noble confession which follows, and so to give the centurion a higher blessing than his servant’s healing, even a self-conscious and uttered faith.
4. That confession begins with humble acknowledgment of unworthiness, and rises to perhaps the clearest and deepest conception of Christ’s authority over all the forces of the universe which was ever attained during His earthly life. But the centurion’s conception of the manner of exercising the power is the remarkable thing here. A word is enough.
II. The eulogium on faith.—The confession is followed by praise from Christ’s lips. Contrast His calm acceptance of the highest place which could be given Him with the king’s “Am I God, to kill and to make alive?” or with Peter’s “Why look ye so earnestly on us?” The centurion’s faith was great in the clearness of the belief which it included; great in the difficulties which it had overcome; great in the rapidity of growth on so slight a knowledge of Jesus; great in the firmness and completeness of its moral part, confidence; great in the humility which it produced. The centurion was, in some sense, the first-fruits of the Gentiles, and our Lord’s sad prescience sees in him the forerunner of a long train who shall exercise a faith which puts the children of the kingdom to shame. Those to whom the kingdom was offered shall, some of them, not be there. What could be plainer, when taken in connection with the immediately preceding eulogium on the centurion’s faith, than this teaching, that the one condition of entrance into the kingdom is just that which the centurion had, and Israel had not, viz. faith in Him. The darkness is but, as it were, the externalising of the dispositions of those who are in it. Darkness reigned in them here, the darkness of sin; and now they dwell in darkness of sorrow, the creation of their own evil natures. The picture is darkly shaded, but by One who “speaks that He knows,” and whose every word throbbed with love.
III. The answer to faith.—“Go thy way,” etc. These great words of Christ’s give the key of His storehouse into our hands, and lay down the law to which He rigidly adheres. Our faith is the measure of our reception. As St. Bernard beautifully says, “He puts the oil of His mercy into the vase of our trust.” The centurion’s willingness to be content with a word showed a strong faith, which He confirms by demonstrating that it had not thought too loftily of Him.—A. Maclaren, D.D.
Matthew 8:5-10. Christ and the centurion’s servant.—Loving zeal a characteristic of the kingdom of heaven.
I. The servant obeying his master from attachment and devotedness; or Christianity in the domestic circle and in civil society.
II. The centurion serving his subordinate from esteem and compassion; or Christian philanthropy.
III. Christ serving both; or, the kingdom of grace.—J. P. Lange, D.D.
The centurion’s regard for his servant.—We know something of the hardening effects of slavery in the United States of America. But, as the greatest of Roman historians (Mommsen) tells us, African slavery is a mere drop in the ocean in comparison with the horrors of slavery in the old Roman empire. Even so tenderhearted and amiable a man as Cicero once blushed and offered an abject apology because he so far forgot himself as to feel a twinge of regret at the painful death of a slave. It was in this corrupt and horrible atmosphere that this man cared for his slave; and I know nothing that is more noble, more indicative of the Godlike man, than a proper courtesy and thoughtfulness and a disinterested and unselfish care for those who are our social inferiors.—H. P. Hughes, M.A.
Matthew 8:11-12. A great transformation.—The great transformation of near and far in the kingdom of God.
I. In the cause of history.—
1. At the time of Christ.
2. At the time of the migration of nations.
3. At the time of the Reformation.
II. Its inner lesson.—
1. The penitent sinner who relinquishes every claim, hears the call of mercy afar off.
2. The least appearance of self-righteousness obstructs our view of the light of salvation, however near.—J. P. Lange, D.D.
Matthew 8:13. The centurion’s faith.—
I. What were the characteristics of the faith of the centurion of Capernaum?—
1. It must have been a thing of gradual growth, and it must have grown under no ordinary difficulties.
2. It was marked by thoroughness.
3. By humility.
II. Why should such a disposition, such an effort of faith, have this power?—
1. It involves knowledge of facts, which are of the first importance to the religious well-being of men.
2. It is a test or criterion of the predominant disposition of the soul or character.—Jealousy (scribes and Pharisees), habit of insincerity (rich ruler, etc.), a scornful or satirical temper (“Can any good thing come out of Nazareth?”) are fatal to growth of faith.
3. It is leverage.—It sets the soul in motion; it embodies an element of will. Faith does not create, it only apprehends its objects.
III. The reward of faith.—
1. To nations.
2. To churches.
3. To individual souls.—Canon Liddon.
Matthew 8:16. When the even was come.—Or, as St. Luke has it, “while the sun was setting.” There were two reasons why the time should be thus specified.
1. It was natural that the sick should be brought in the cool of the evening, rather than in the scorching heat of the afternoon.
2. It was the Sabbath, and the feeling which made the Pharisees question the lawfulness of a man’s carrying the bed on which he had been lying (John 5:10), would probably have deterred the friends of the sick from bringing them as long as it lasted. But with sunset the Sabbath came to a close, and then they would feel themselves free to act (Plumptre). Possessed with devils.—Or demoniacs. Persons who had lost hold of the helm of self-control, and who were, in both body and mind, steered hither and thither, without any regard to the chart of reason, by malevolent spirits (Morison). But some hold a different view. “We cannot find more in this so-called devil-possession than an attempt to explain cases of disease which were obscure then, and are obscure still” (Tuck).
Matthew 8:17. Himself took our infirmities, etc. (Isaiah 53:4).—A more literal translation of the original Hebrew than is given in our Old Testament version (Morison).
MAIN HOMILETICS OF THE PARAGRAPH.—Matthew 8:14-17
One and all.—These two narratives, though in some respects different, may well be taken together. Both illustrate the special nature of the healing work of the Saviour. In the first story we see its singular completeness. In the second, its amazing extent. In the comment made on this second story, its wonderful depth.
I. Its singular completeness.—We see this, on the one hand, in the state of things with which the Saviour began. Coming into the house of Peter He finds his wife’s mother suffering from a fever. It appears to have been an attack of fever of a very serious kind. St. Luke, as a physician, seems to have especially noted this fact, and speaks of it as “great” (Luke 4:38). Its effects, however, of themselves, seem to have testified sufficiently to this fact. The sufferer’s strength had altogether given way under its fury. She was “laid”—almost she had “flung herself”—on the bed. Not even for such a guest as Jesus was she able to rise. The state of things that finally followed on this. Touching her hand—and “lifting her up” (Mark 1:31)—the Saviour both banished the fever and brought back her strength. Also (Mark 1:31 again), He did this “immediately” Also, yet more, He did it so that all her vigour came back. She was immediately as strong as she had been before the fever came on, and was soon engaged again in the same kind of duties as she attended to then. “She arose and ministered unto them”—unto Him (so some)—thus showing, if we adopt that reading, that He had touched her heart as well as her hand; and so that there was nothing deficient, in any way, in what He had done.
II. The amazing extent of Christ’s work.—How wide, in every way, in the second narrative is the area touched by His mercy! How wide, to begin, in mere number and magnitude. “When the even was come”—probably the eve after the Sabbath (Mark 1:31-32), when it would be lawful to do so—they “brought unto Him many.” So many (we learn from Mark 1:33), that “all the city was gathered together at the door.” How wide in variety also. Those who were “possessed with devils,” and so, in all probability, would not have come by themselves. Those who were suffering from sickness, and so, in all probability, could not have come by themselves. All these—all such of all sorts on that memorable evening to be found in that populous city—met together outside that door. What an assemblage they were! All differing in the nature, but none in the fact—and probably in the extremity—of their needs. Such and so, however, in no case, were they allowed to remain. The more there came the more there were “healed” (Matthew 8:16). He healed them “all.” The more varied their needs, the more varied His help. The greater their extremity, the more present His power (cf. Luke 5:17).
Oh! in what divers pains they met!
Oh! with what joy they went away!
III. Its wonderful depth.—There was more here beneath the surface than there was even upon it. There was the hidden power, in the first place, of the spirits of evil. All sickness is spoken of sometimes as being not unconnected with them (Job 2:6; Luke 13:16; Acts 10:38, etc.). There were some sicknesses which are spoken of as being in a special way connected with them. Such are mentioned here in Matthew 8:16; and still more explicitly in the parallel passage of Mark 1:32; Mark 1:34. We cannot doubt, therefore, even though we do not know how, that these were at work in this case. Also here again, beneath the surface—though not in such a way, therefore, as to be minutely followed by us—there was the operation of sin. For what is sin but the shadow of death? And what is “death” but “the wages of sin?” (Romans 6:23). And how could there be the shadow without the substance that casts it? And how the substance without its cause? And is not this truth implied also in those striking words of the prophet (Isaiah 33:24)? Not to say, also, that the general truth of the hand of the evil one in our sicknesses carries with it also the general truth of the presence of sin? For what could he do against us, with all his power, were it not for our sin? Lastly, there was here, beneath the surface, the atoning passion of Christ. How was it that He could so far deliver these victims of Satan and sin? Because He was about to do that which should deliver them from still worse! Because “by death” He was about to “destroy him that had the power of death, i.e. the devil” (Hebrews 2:14). Because as the “Lamb of God,” He was about to “take away the sins of the world;” and to “bear our sins in His own body on the tree.” Such were His sympathy with us, and His work for us in connection with our sins. It was the same spirit which He shows here in regard to our sorrows. “Himself took our infirmities and bare our sicknesses.” We may say this because He actually did thus with regard to their roots.
Two brief pregnant truths follow from this:—
1. Jesus is the Saviour of all.—However many, however diverse, however needy those who come to Him for salvation, they cannot exhaust either His love or His power. “All fullness”—of every kind—“dwelleth” in Him.
2. Jesus is the Saviour of each.—He is as ready for one as He is for the multitude (Matthew 8:2; Matthew 8:6; Matthew 8:14; Matthew 8:16). “Him that cometh to Me”—not only them that come to Me—“I will in no wise cast out” (John 6:37).
HOMILIES ON THE VERSES
Matthew 8:14-15. The healing of Peter’s wife’s mother.—
1. Marriage is lawful and honourable in the preachers of the gospel.
2. Christ will not disdain to visit the families of His own, how mean soever they be.
3. The special thing our Lord taketh notice of in the house He cometh unto is what aileth any in it, and what need they stand in of His help.
4. Christ will show His goodness and power as need be, for the comfort of His friends.
5. Although this might seem no great matter, in comparison of other miracles, yet faith will observe Christ’s Divine power in a little matter, as clearly as in the greatest work.
6. What benefit we receive of Christ ought to be employed for service to Him and His followers.—David Dickson.
Simon’s wife’s mother.—The noticeable features of the transaction are these:—
I. That this healing was done at the request of those around Jesus (Luke 4:38).—Jesus sought out many cases Himself, and healed them unasked. Here He gives examples numberless of the converse—for this was only the first of a whole crowd of such answered requests that afternoon and evening (Matthew 8:16)—direct seals of His own maxim, “ask and ye shall receive.” Ask, not only for yourselves, but for others. “Ask believing, and it shall be done unto you.”
II. The specific action with which the cure was accompanied.—The laying His hands upon the patient. This action seems to have characterised the whole group of healings which took place on this occasion, for St. Luke says of this great transaction, that “He laid His hands on every one of them and healed them” (Luke 4:40). The action, though not invariable, was a very frequent one with Him. We may regard it as giving a sacramental character to these healings. It was significant that the Sent of God and the Saviour of men should use such an action. It means that He comes as well to reverse the curse of disease and suffering as to remove the sin which brought it. That He absolves both from the guilt and from the yoke of sin and restores men to the favour of God.
III. The immediate and entire recovery of the patient.—In addition to the statement common to all the synoptic Gospels, that the completeness of the recovery was proved by the good dame’s prompt help at the table, St. Luke records the “rebuke” of the fever—a detail which would strike the mind of a physician. The transaction is utterly removed by these details out of the category of an ordinary event.—Prof. Laidlaw, D.D.
Matthew 8:14. Sin as a fever.—Sin may be likened unto a fever:—
I. In regard of the origin thereof.—Both arise within.
II. In regard of the nature thereof.—
1. The substance of the fever is a heat besides nature, which extinguisheth the natural heat. So the fire of concupiscence and lust of sin, doth extinguish the fire and heat of zeal.
2. The fever ariseth diversely, from divers humours. So sin sometimes ariseth from the lust of the flesh, sometimes from the lust of the eyes, sometimes from the pride of life.
3. There are two kinds of fever: a continual fever and a fever with some intermission. Some sin with intermissions of repentance, some sin perpetually.
III. In regard of the manner of the proceeding thereof.—
1. At first the fever makes us cold, but by and by we burn. So at first we are afraid of sin, by and by fearless thereof.
2. The fever inflames the whole body. So sin wounds and enfeebles us, from the crown of the head to the sole of the foot.
IV. In regard of the effects.—
1. The fever debilitates and weakens the whole man. So by sin we are so weakened that we are neither able to walk in the ways of God, nor run the race that He hath set before us, nor work out our salvation.
2. The fever in the understanding disturbs and takes away the use of reason, making a man not know what he saith or doth. And this is very often mortal and deadly. So, when men grow obstinate and bold in sinning, and are neither sensible of sin nor punishment, but will do whatsoever they will, it is an argument of a soul not distant from death.
3. The fever in the appetite produceth these effects:
(1) It loathes the most wholesome things. So sin makes us loathe good works and good counsel.
(2) It longs for that which is unwholesome. So we love the vain pleasures of sin, etc.
(3) There is a thirst not to be quenched or satisfied. So many are furious in sinning, and cannot cease to sin.
V. In regard of the end thereof.—Sometimes a fever ends in health and life of itself; sometimes it ends in health and life by the use of good means and the help of the physician; sometimes it ends in a sickly and weakly estate; sometimes it ends in death. Sin differs from a fever in that it cannot be cured of itself. It is cured and healed by Christ the only Physician of the soul.—Richard Ward.
Matthew 8:16. The healing Christ.—
1. No time was unseasonable to Christ, when people came to Him. “When the even was come,” when rest was due to Christ.
2. Among other effects which sin hath brought upon men, this is one, to be bodily possessed with devils.
3. There is no method of liberating men of devils but that they come, or be presented by others, to Christ.
4. Christ by His word or command can easily deliver men from deepest possession.
5. Never man came to Him to be helped whom He cured not; therefore justly do they perish who come not unto Him.—David Dickson.
Matthew 8:17. Christ bearing our sicknesses.—It is, at first blush, paradoxical to quote words which seem to express, not what the recovered crowds and their friends were enjoying, but what the Healer Himself was undertaking. But note the occasion. Not without significance are these words quoted in connection with this remarkable Sabbath day’s work. From morning to evening, and beyond evening into night, had Jesus been curing diseases—bodily, mental, and spiritual. He was, doubtless, much fatigued. Much virtue had gone out of Him. Much compassion had been excited within Him. He had found many harrowing cases of possession to deal with. Many sore distresses had been subjected to His view. True, He had been victorious over them all. It was a day of gladness in that place such as had never been seen since it was a place of human habitation, and doubtless the soul of Immanuel rejoiced in this outpouring of God-like help. But this well chosen citation directs our attention to some other aspects of the Lord’s healing offices. Think of the Son of God, the Eternal King of a city where no inhabitant can ever say, “I am sick,” now sojourning among suffering men. See what work ready for Him, what evils to grapple with in one little town of one obscure province of this dark earth, on one Sabbath afternoon. Then, think of His three years’ ministry, day after day healing, helping, suffering with and for men. Think, further, of the tremendous mass of human misery which Jesus Christ, through His blessed gospel, has come to remove, of the weight of His glorious but mighty undertaking, as it lay upon His mind during that compassionate, open-eyed public life of His in Judæa and Galilee. Think, finally, of the innumerable evils of humanity meeting upon Him—Him alone—who was to redeem us from them, and the force of the words will make itself felt.—Prof. Laidlaw, D.D.
Christ’s vicarious sufferings.—It is a further surprise, leading to a further expansion in the sense of this great utterance, to note that the words “took” and “bare” will not admit of being rendered merely “took away” or “carried off.” They are the proper terms for representative, place-taking, substitutionary suffering. Scholarship admits no other rendering of them. Now, at first sight, or on a superficial view, it does seem strange to say that Jesus “bare” or “carried,” like a surety or substitute, men’s sicknesses and infirmities when, in point of fact, He was sympathising with them, or better still, was relieving and removing them. But the truth is, in a great deal of our Christian teaching the central doctrine of atonement has been shrivelled up to a mere test-point of orthodoxy, instead of taking in the breadth of the Scriptures. Is not this quotation of the Evangelist a fresh light thrown on the vicarious work of Jesus? Not His death alone bare that character, but His life as well. The same redeeming energy was shown in these blessed healings as when in the latest and highest phase of it, He, through the Eternal Spirit, offered Himself without spot unto God. And the connection of the two sides of this great redemptive work becomes clear when we read the Scriptures in their own light. Accept the doctrinal standpoint of the sacred writers, and the whole becomes clear as a sunbeam. Suffering and disease are effects of sin and types of sin. The removal of disease, then, is an effect and a symbol of the removal of sin itself. And He who takes away the sin of the world is He who takes it upon Himself in life and death. As Jesus wrought these mighty and merciful works throughout the towns and villages of Galilee, He was showing Himself, by type and foretaste, the suffering, yet conquering Redeemer upon whom the Lord had laid that iniquity of us all from which all our pains and diseases flow.—Ibid.
Christ and affliction.—This central thought brings the diseases and sufferings of the children of God in every age within the sweep of that healing ministry of Jesus. There is more in this one line of the Gospel to support suffering Christians than in all the writings of the philosophers. Sicknesses and infirmities are to God’s children no longer of the curse, but within the covenant. He bore them for us in His passion; He bears them with us in His compassion. He can be touched with a feeling of them all. He touches them with the transmuting power of His love, and so makes them “light afflictions which are but for a moment, working out for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory.”—Ibid.
Matthew 8:18. To depart.—Thus Jesus sought repose, and gave to the people time to bear fruit from His teaching, and kindled their interest in Himself for the future (Bengel).
Matthew 8:20. Nests = shelter, roosts, or lodging places (R.V. margin). The Son of man.—The origin of this expression as a Messianic title is found in Daniel 7:13. Hence to the Jews it would be a familiar designation of the Messiah—the King whose “everlasting dominion” is described in the next verse (Daniel 7:14). The Hebraism may be considered in the light of similar expressions, “sons of light,” “son of perdition,” “son of peace,” etc., in all of which the genitive denotes a quality inherent in the subject. Sons of light = the spiritually enlightened, sons of wisdom = the wise. By the Son of man then is meant He who is essentially man, who took man’s nature upon Him, who is man’s representative before God, showing the possibilities of purified human nature, and so making atonement practicable (Carr).
Matthew 8:22. Let the dead, etc.—Like all the other paradoxical sayings of our Lord, the key to it is the different senses—a higher and a lower—in which, the same word “dead” is used (Brown).
MAIN HOMILETICS OF THE PARAGRAPH.—Matthew 8:18-22
A significant pause.—This passage begins with a remarkable change. Instead of being ready, as before, to welcome and heal the “multitudes,” the Saviour deliberately goes away from them (Matthew 8:18). With equal deliberation He takes away His “disciples” (Matthew 8:23). His reasons for this double action may be gathered from what follows—from the story of the “scribe” (Matthew 8:19-20); the story of the “disciple” (Matthew 8:21-22).
I. The case of the scribe.—To understand this, see first what is said here about him. “There came one who was a scribe” as it may be translated (see R.V.). Evidently his position and office are of importance in the story. As a scribe he was more accustomed to lead than to follow. All the more is it to be noted that he addresses Christ here as a “Teacher” and offers to follow His lead, and offers to do so at this particular juncture, when the Saviour is preparing to leave. “Let us go to the other side.” “I will go too, if you will let me.” More than that, “I will follow Thee, whithersoever Thou goest” (Matthew 8:19). Does he not appear to be a disciple indeed? When we turn, next, however, to what was said to him, there is a great change in the scene. Instead of being welcomed, he is almost forbidden to do as he proposes. At any rate he is taught indirectly to count the cost of the step (Matthew 8:20). He is bidden to consider Who it is that he proposes to follow; what His lot will be, what His companionship means. Not even the irrational creation will be, at times, so without shelter as He. Also, if this is to be true of the Leader, what will be true of His followers? With so little for Himself, what can He bestow upon them? What all this implies, in the third place. About the man himself, on the one hand? That his real motive in wishing to follow was hardly known to himself. That he had been attracted by the Lord’s miracles and became desirous of being associated with such a Great One. Apparently, also, that he expected much worldly advantage from being permitted to do so (cf. John 6:26; Acts 8:19). About many others beside, on the other hand. “Ex uno disce omnes.” There would be many others like him; persons ready to follow but not to be taught; glad to receive but not to labour; anxious to get but not to give. “Non tali auxilio, nec defensoribus istis, tempus eget.” All such followers would be to the Saviour rather a hindrance than a help (2 Timothy 2:4, etc.). Therefore, at this juncture, in the most effectual way possible, He would be rid of all such. Let true disciples—and true disciples only—come with Me to My work.
II. The case of the disciple.—His original position was exactly opposite to that of the other. He was a “disciple” already. There came one who was a “disciple” (Matthew 8:21). He had been called to, and had not only volunteered for, that office and work. This is distinctly stated (if the account be the same, and it is quite the same in other respects, as Luke 9:59-60); and follows from the fact that we find him expected here (as all disciples are) to follow and learn (John 8:31). Hence, therefore, in the next place, the very natural character of the request he preferred. It was simply that he might be allowed to postpone doing what he had been asked to do then (Matthew 8:21). Postpone it only, not neglect it entirely. Postpone it on account of another duty which had great claims on him as a son; as great, in fact, in that direction, as could very well be. Who should bury a father if not his own son? What son, also, if he neglects that duty could make amends for it afterwards? Hence, finally, the great significance of the reply he received (Matthew 8:22). What did this mean to that disciple himself? Does it not mean that the duty even of burying a father could be fitly discharged by those other members of his family who had not been so called to, and so specially fitted for, Christ’s work as himself? Does it not mean, therefore, that, for himself, he should put no other work above that? No, nor even before that work, though but for a time. Was not this reply, also, though thus addressed to one, meant for others beside? Let all disciples there present understand from it what true discipleship means. Wherever may be the “other side” to which the Saviour asks them to go in His company, they must be ready to go with Him at once—all other persons, and calls, and duties, whatsoever, being left behind for His sake. Always a truth, this, of the highest importance, it was doubly so at that time.
See here in conclusion:—
1. How much this Teacher thought of His work.—When the presence of others with idle wonder and interested motives threatens to interfere with it, He at once leaves them behind. When the most pressing of other duties comes in competition with this, He at once leaves that other for this, and commands the same to all His. Nothing must hinder this paramount aim (John 4:34; Luke 12:50).
2. How much we ought to think of it too.—Shall we neglect what was thus provided for us? Shall we despise what was thus valued by Him? Especially when we remember that it was so valued by Him because of its importance to us! Nothing is there, surely, that in our eyes should stand higher than this.
HOMILIES ON THE VERSES
Matthew 8:19-22. Too hasty and too slow.—These words of our Lord seem to be stumbling blocks deliberately placed in the way of those who are anxious to become His disciples. Let us examine these two cases more closely. We may assume at once that they are not what at first they appear to be. The two cases are the antithesis of each other. They are specimens of two extremes.
I. The too hasty disciple.—He is a scribe—a man of position and influence, of learning and intelligence, who, were he attaching himself to the new cause, could be of immense advantage to it, worth a dozen ignorant fishermen or boorish villagers. He has been attracted by Christ’s preaching and miracles, and all at once, without delay, or reserve, or conditions, he says unto Him, “Lord, I will follow Thee whithersoever Thou goest.” It was a magnificent offer, and at first sight we should expect that Christ would at once commend the man’s earnestness. But, on the contrary, what is Christ’s reply? “Foxes have holes, and the birds of the air have nests; but the Son of man hath not where to lay His head”—as much as to say, “You had better not follow Me, for nothing awaits those who become My disciples, but poverty and privation, and evidently this is not what you expect.” Now, the reason of Christ’s forbidding reply is, that He rightly gauged this man, He read Him through and through, and knew that, notwithstanding his fair profession and liberal offer, he had not counted the cost, he could not stand the minimum test of ordinary discipleship. The character of the man may be summed up in a sentence. His profession of religious attachment was inspired by feeling and impulse only. His determination was formed under the influence of emotion, and not of the understanding, and a glance at the context reveals the secret of his zeal. Our Lord had just preached His peerless sermon, and performed some of His most wonderful works (Matthew 8:16). Wondering crowds had flocked to see Him; the excitement was intense. The scribe had caught the contagion; and while his wonder and enthusiasm were raised to the utmost pitch, all at once he formed the resolution to become a disciple, and broke out into the exclamation, “Master, I will follow Thee whithersoever Thou goest.” But he had neither considered the nature of the service nor the cost of the undertaking. We need to beware of that religion which is based on feeling alone.
II. The too slow disciple.—The first offered himself as a disciple; the second is called by Christ, but asks for delay. He was already a disciple at large. He is now invited to become a regular disciple. The command which our Lord imposes upon him strikes us at first as being harsh and unreasonable, and many attempts have been made to soften the austerity or explain it away. The words to which the chief objection has been taken still remain in all their bluntness, “Let the dead bury their dead,” i.e. let the spiritually dead bury their own physically dead; let those ungodly brothers of yours look after your aged father; leave the world and the things of the world to mind themselves, but follow thou Me.” What is the explanation of this apparently unfeeling command? For light on the subject we must refer to the circumstances. This man has been for some time a disciple at large, hovering around the outer circle of Christ’s followers; but there has been a slackness or backwardness about him indicating a disposition to fall away. At this particular time, owing to Christ’s preaching and mighty works, there has been a renewed enthusiasm among His followers—a kind of revival of spiritual fervour. Our Saviour, conscious of this man’s spiritual condition, urges him to take advantage of the occasion and come to a decision at once. It was now or never. Every moment was precious. Every delay and temptation might involve a relapse into worldliness. Therefore He must deal with the case sharply and decisively. There were elements of good about the man. He had desires and aspirations after a Christ-like service; but this was a critical moment in his history, when a postponement of the gospel call would virtually be its rejection; when a return into the midst of a peculiarly worldly circle of relatives, where he would be exposed to ridicule and opposition, would involve such danger to his soul that Christ must absolutely forbid his request.—John Boyd, M.A.
Christ repelling and attracting.—We have Christ:—
I. Repelling the too willing.
II. Drawing to Himself the half-reluctant.—A. Maclaren, D.D.
Impulsiveness and hesitancy.—
I. The impulsive scribe.
II. The hesitating disciple.—J. M. Gibson, D.D.
Precipitancy and procrastination.—
I. The rash or precipitate disciple.
II. The procrastinating or entangled disciple.—D. Brown, D.D.
Matthew 8:19. Following Christ.—Whatever may have been the motive that prompted their utterance, these words considered in themselves, express the feelings of a truly devoted disciple. They are the true expression of a soul wholly consecrated to Christ. Taking them in this sense, let us ask what do they imply?
I. The recognition of Christ’s claims.—It is possible to realise much of the benefits of His death, and yet but very imperfectly recognise Christ’s lordship over us. He must take the place of absolute supremacy (Acts 10:36; 1 Corinthians 6:19; Acts 27:23). We are only safe as we recognise Christ’s claims. It is also because we fail to recognise Christ’s lordship that we often get burdened with anxiety and hampered with care.
II. Obedience to Christ’s commands.—(See John 2:5.) Christ claims our obedience, step by step, as He reveals to us His will, and gives us His commands. “His commands are not grievous,” i.e. they may be fulfilled. To follow Christ is not the same thing as to have a religion or a system of morality. It implies that we have come to a Person. It is the obedience of the heart.
III. Likeness to Christ’s character.—Outward conformity to Christ can only come by union and fellowship with Him in the secret springs of one’s being. “The branch cannot bear fruit from itself” (John 15:4). As one has said, here is “the imperative of a natural law,” cannot. So is it also the imperative of a spiritual law, the law of true service. And because He had taken the place of a servant, He voluntarily submits to the same law which He bids us to observe (John 5:30; John 8:28; John 14:10).—Evan H. Hopkins, M.A.
Matthew 8:21-22. Spiritual evolution.—He who follows Christ will be an example of moral and spiritual evolution. There will be progress of the whole nature to higher and higher planes. But that does not mean progress of every part and along every line. Only the nobler powers and capacities of his nature are to be nourished. Only the fittest will survive. If there is to be true progress of the whole man, there must be degeneration of certain parts. Let us take a few examples of this truth. We have to bury:—
I. Dead hopes and ideals.—There can be no true progress of man unless there be progress in aspiration.
II. Black days of the past.—Days of mistake. Do not dissipate the energy of the present, and miss its golden opportunities through morbid pining for that which cannot be.
III. Great sorrows.—The greater sorrows of life influence us differently. To many they have been an occasion of greater spiritual impulse. But with others they have had a paralysing effect. They have become self-centred. A sorrow may be great and mysterious, but let it not be overwhelming. On the death of the Prince Consort The Times of December 16th, 1861, stated that after the first passionate burst of grief was over, the Queen called her children around her and said that although she felt crushed by the loss of one who had been her life-companion, she knew how much was expected of her, and asked for their assistance in order that she might do her duty to them and her country. Our Queen has been true to her word. The wound has never healed and never will, “till God’s love set her at his side again.” But she has exemplified in her splendid career the very spirit of this passage.—R. Baldwin Brindley.
“Suffer me first to go and bury my father.”—The words “Suffer me first to go and bury my father,” probably do not mean that the man wished to bury his father who was already dead; but that he wished to put off becoming a follower of Jesus until he should have buried his father, who at that time was still alive. After the natural bond which still united him to his parents’ house was dissolved in the way of nature, he would devote himself to the new task in connection with the kingdom of God. I have been prompted to this interpretation by the following communication in the Feuille religieuse du canton de Vaud (1879, p. 476, ff.), to which Pastor L. Monod of Lyons, has called my attention. A missionary in Syria, M. Waldmeier, there relates that an intelligent and rich young Turk, whom he had advised at the close of his education to make a tour to Europe, had answered, “I must first of all bury my father.” As that father had hitherto been in the enjoyment of good health, the missionary expressed surprise at the sad intelligence of his death. But the young man hastened to set his mind at rest in regard to his father, and explained that he only meant that one must before all things devote himself to the duties owed to his relatives. If, in this same sense, the form of expression, “would first bury my father,” was used by the man who was called to be a disciple, the answer of Jesus loses the appearance of harshness which is otherwise attached to it, and gains a very striking and significant sense. When, in place of all the other considerations that bound him to his paternal home, the man mentioned the burying of his father, which, on the one hand, postponed to an indefinite future the required severance from his home, and which, on the other hand, indicated a duty apparently so weighty that all further contention in regard to his refusal appeared to be precluded, Jesus, however, did not, in the given circumstances, recognise the alleged duty to be one which gave the man a right to shirk the duty of preaching the kingdom of God to which he was now called. In the view of the speaker, the alleged reason—that he should bury his father—directly represented all the other reasons why he should not quit his home, and indirectly it made those other reasons appear as weighty duties of filial piety. Jesus, on the contrary, found it characteristic that the other specified a duty that was to be performed for the dead, and not for the living. The “burying of the dead” appeared to Him a figurative and comprehensive designation for all acts which have reference, not to the life, but to the death of men; not to their soul, but to the perishing body. In this sense He says, “Let the dead (those who are destitute of true life) bury their dead.”—H. H. Wendt, D.D.
MAIN HOMILETICS OF THE PARAGRAPH.—Matthew 8:23-27
Dormant power.—In the first verses of this passage the resolution of Matthew 8:18 is executed in part. The disciples—apparently with some reluctance—enter a ship. They “follow” Jesus into the “boat” (R. V.). The “boat” which He had possibly spoken of previously (Matthew 8:18). The “boat” which probably to their nautical eyes seemed too small for its work. (Note the words “gave commandment” in Matthew 8:18.) The voyage which followed was characterised by two principal features. On the part of the disciples there was an agitated appeal. On the part of the Saviour a gracious response.
I. An agitated appeal.—The occasion of this was a “great tempest”—a sort of convulsion (a σεισμὸς) in that sea. The author of “The Land and the Book” tells us that such tempests are common still in those parts, and that they are caused principally by the sudden rush of the wind down some of the deep gullies on the eastern side of the lake. This fact seems to explain much that we read of in this case. A vessel making for the East would be especially exposed to that wind; and the waves raised by it would naturally drive over its prow so as to “cover” the decks of such a “boat” where it had them, and “fill” it where it had none (Matthew 8:24; Mark 4:37). Either way, the peril was great. Could they hope, in such a craft, to survive such a storm? The ground of their appeal lay in the unexpected attitude of their Master and Lord at that time. Somewhere away from those navigating the vessel (note the word “came” in Matthew 8:25)—somewhere, St. Mark says, as would be natural in such a storm (see above), in the “hinder part” of the vessel, with “His head on a pillow”—He was buried in “sleep” To us this is an affecting evidence of the true humanity of the Master, and of the serious effects of His many labours at times upon it. To them it would doubtless have a different look. Was it lack of discernment? Was it want of concern? Should they not, in any case, wake Him out of His sleep? The nature of their appeal, when they came to make it, was in full accord with such feelings. On the one hand, as natural to men who did not know how many moments they had to live, it was exceedingly brief and abrupt. “Help, Lord, we perish” (see R.V.). On the other hand, as men feeling their need of all the sympathy and help that they could possibly obtain in their awful extremity, there was something like a tone of reproach—almost of complaint—not to say of accusation itself—in their words. St. Mark’s language (Mark 4:38) puts this very bluntly indeed. “Carest Thou not that we perish?” Almost “Have you no feeling at all for our need?” Great indeed must have been the tempest within them to give such utterance to such thoughts.
II. A gracious response.—For gracious it was—most gracious—though in the form of rebuke. A rebuke, first, to the disciples themselves. “Why are ye fearful”—timorous—ye “little-faithed” souls? What is there really to fear? What is there lacking except in your faith? In form, of course,—and in effect also—this was to them a rebuke. But what a rebuke! What pity was in it! What assurance as well! How exactly calculated to begin quieting the storm of feeling within them! Could there, indeed, have been greater love consistent with truth? The other rebuke was but the sequel to this; its complement, as it were. Very wise was its direction. “He rebuked the winds and the sea” (Matthew 8:26). He attacked the cause of their danger; the spring of their fears. Let these be hushed, there would be terror no more. Very effectual were its first consequences. Not the winds only but the waves are silent. Not the waves only but the lingering “swell” by which such waves were usually followed. All motion was gone. “There was a great calm” (Matthew 8:26). Very striking were its remoter results. There was now as great a stillness in the hearts of those who looked on as there was in the elements round about them. A stillness more than the stillness of peace, though doubtless, in their circumstances, that would be blessed and deep. It was the stillness of wonder; the hush of bewilderment; the silence of awe. “What manner of man is this, that even the winds and the sea obey Him?” (Matthew 8:27). A question that may very well have been accompanied by others. Where was our faith? How came we ever to question His power? How came we ever to question His love? Shall we ever do so again?
This story has long been valued by all true disciples of Christ. It is a beautiful illustration of His ways of dealing with those that are His.
1. Of the way in which sometimes He brings them into trial.—Himself (perhaps) bidding them do that which is contrary to their judgments; Himself allowing their fears and scruples to appear justified for a time; Himself leaving them to do battle with the forces against them, almost in despair. Does He care for us at all? Is it beyond Him to help us? Why are things with us thus? (Judges 6:13). Can we hope ever to get to the other side of this cloud?
2. Of the way in which He may be expected to bring them through their trials at last.—Viz. in such a way as to learn far more both of His mercy and power; in such a way, therefore, as to reach a greater “calm” and deeper “faith” in the end; and to wonder, therefore, now as much at our former fears as we did at His slumber before.
HOMILIES ON THE VERSES
Matthew 8:23-27. Christ stilling the tempest.—
1. Our Lord, of set purpose, will lead His disciples into dangers, for the stirring up and trial of their faith, and for evidencing His own glory.
2. His presence exempteth not His disciples from trouble and danger.
3. Our Lord, as He took on Him our nature, so also He subjected Himself to our natural and sinless infirmities. Being weary, He falls asleep.
4. The church may be like to be drowned, and Christ may seem to neglect the matter.
5. The church must believe Christ to be God and able to deliver them. He can carry Himself as one asleep, to the end He may be awakened by their prayers.
6. As a sense of danger and need is a choice argument when we deal with Christ for help; so is it an ordinary forerunner of deliverance and help.
7. It is a simple misbelief to be too much afraid to perish in Christ’s company and service. “Why are ye fearful?”
8. He can make a difference between small faith and no faith, and as He will reprove unbelief, so will He not despise the smallest measure of belief.
9. Whether He seem to sleep or to be awake, He is Lord of heaven and earth, Ruler and Commander of wind, sea, and land, whom all the creatures must obey.
10. The glory of the deliverance which Christ doth give to His people in their greatest strait is marvellous and far above all that they can apprehend ere it come. “The men marvelled.”
11. The faith which Christ’s disciples had in His Godhead was little in comparison of what they had ground for. “What manner of man is this?” etc.—David Dickson.
The stilling of the tempest.—
I. Christ’s sleep in the storm.—His calm slumber is contrasted with the hurly-burly of the tempest and the fear of the crew. It was the sleep of physical exhaustion after a hard day’s work. It is a sign of His true manhood, of His toil up to the very edge of His strength. It is also a sign of His calm conscience and pure heart. Jonah slept through the storm because his conscience was stupefied; but Christ as a tired child laying its head on its mother’s lap. That sleep may have a symbolical meaning for us. Though Christ is present, the storm comes, and He is sleeping through it. He delays His help that He may try our faith and quicken our prayers. He sleeps, but He never oversleeps, and there are no too-lates with Him.
II. The awaking cry of fear.—The broken abruptness of their appeal reveals the urgency of the case in the experienced eyes of these fishermen. “Save us” is the language of faith; “we perish” is that of fear. That strange blending of opposites is often repeated by us. A faith which does not wholly suppress fear may still be most real; and the highest faith has ever the consciousness that unless Christ help, and that speedily, we perish.
III. The gentle remonstrance.—There is something very majestic in the tranquillity of our Lord’s awakening, and, if we follow Matthew’s order, in His addressing Himself first to the disciples’ weakness, and letting the storm rage on. It can do no harm, and, for the present, may blow as it listeth, while He gives the trembling disciples a lesson. Observe how lovingly our Lord meets an imperfect faith. He has no rebuke for their rude awaking. He does not find fault with them for being “fearful,” but for being “so fearful” as to let their fear cover their faith, just as the waves were doing the boat. He shows them and us the reason for overwhelming fear as being the deficiency in our faith. And He casts all into the form of a question, thus softening rebuke, and calming their terrors by the appeal to their common sense. Fear is irrational if we can exercise faith.
IV. The word that calms the storm.—Christ yields to the cry of an imperfect faith, and so strengthens it. He does not quench the dimly burning wick, but tends it and feeds it with oil—by His inward gifts and by His answers to prayer—till it burns up clear and smokeless, a faith without fear. As He lay asleep He showed the weakness of manhood; but He woke to manifest the power of indwelling Divinity. So it is always in His life, where, side by side with the signs of humiliation and participation in man’s weakness, we ever have tokens of His Divinity breaking through the veil. All this is a symbol of our individual lives, as well as of the history of the church.—A. Maclaren, D.D.
Matthew 8:28. Gergesenes.—The readings vary between Gerasenes, Gadarenes, and Gergesenes (Carr). Modern research claims to have ascertained the exact locality of the transaction. The ruins right opposite the plain of Gennesaret, from which they had sailed, bear still the name of Kersa or Gersa. About a quarter of an hour to the south of Gersa is a steep bluff, which descends abruptly on a narrow ledge of shore. The whole neighbourhood abounds in limestone caverns and rock chambers. These local features meet the requirements of the story (Laidlaw). Two possessed with devils.—See on Matthew 8:16. St. Mark and St. Luke speak of “one” only. A like difference meets us in St. Matthew’s “two blind men” at Jericho (Matthew 20:30) as compared with the “one” of the two other Gospels. The natural explanation is that, in each case, one was more prominent than the other in speech or act, and so was remembered and specified, while the other was either forgotten or left unnoticed. The difference, as far as it goes, is obviously in favour of the independence of St. Matthew’s narrative (Plumptre).
Matthew 8:29. Thou Son of God.—The utterance rather of the demons than of the demoniacs (Morison).
Matthew 8:30. Swine.—Unclean animals that were an abomination to all true Jews (Leviticus 11:7; Deuteronomy 14:8). The keeping of them or the rearing of them was strictly forbidden by the Jewish canon-law, as Dr. Lightfoot shows in his “Exercitations” (ibid.).
Matthew 8:31. Suffer us to go away, etc.—Whence such a request? We are not told, and we need not anxiously conjecture. Theophylact supposes that their aim was to arrest the influence of Jesus in the locality, by stirring up the opposition of the proprietors of the flock. Perhaps there was pure malice. Perhaps, too, there was infatuated malice, for it is needless to suppose that they always—or even that they ever—reasoned well. Are they not always, in the end, outwitted? (ibid.).
Matthew 8:32. Go.—We are at least on the right track in suggesting that only in some such way could the man be delivered from the inextricable confusion between himself and the unclean spirits in which he had been involved. Not till he saw the demoniac forces that had oppressed him transferred to the bodies of other creatures, and working on them the effects which they had wrought on him, could he believe in his own deliverance. Those who measure rightly the worth of a human spirit thus restored to itself, to its fellowmen, and to God, will not think that the destruction of brute life was too dear a price to pay for its restoration. Other subordinate ends—such, e.g., as that it was a penalty on those who kept the unclean beasts for their violation of the law, or that it taught men that it was through their indulgence of the swinish nature in themselves that they became subject to the darker and more demoniac passions—have been suggested with more or less plausibility (Plumptre).
MAIN HOMILETICS OF THE PARAGRAPH.—Matthew 8:28-34
The powers of darkness.—What happened by the way, when the Saviour took His “disciples” away from the “multitudes” which He had gathered around Him at Capernaum, for the “other side” of the lake, is told us in the verses preceding. What happened when they arrived thither is found in the verses before us. They may be fitly treated, we think, as illustrating on the one hand, the extent of His power; and on the other, the depth of His mercy.
I. The extent of His power.—The first step towards a fitting realisation of this is to be found in what is told us of the persons He meets with on landing. As the boat touches the shore there have come down to meet Him two highly exceptional men. They are exceptional in their wildness, their fierceness, their strength (Mark 5:4). Also because of these things they had the neighbourhood almost to themselves (Matthew 8:28). Other men shunned a place which such worse than beasts as could neither be “tamed” nor controlled, had to themselves. Besides this, they were believed to be exceptional in a still more evil degree. In the eyes of the Saviour, and so of truth, they were in a special degree under the influence and control of the spirits of evil. They were “δαιμονιζόμενοι” men possessed with devils—in a peculiarly manifest way. The language they employ, in the next place, was in full accord with this view of their case. It is language which has little or nothing to do with those unhappy beings as men. There is a knowledge of the present which those isolated wanderers could hardly have learned (Matthew 8:29, “Jesus, Thou Son of God”). There is a knowledge of the future of which the same can be said, and which points also to what we are not told anywhere of the children of men (end of Matthew 8:29, also Matthew 25:41). And there is a request or entreaty which would be absolutely impossible, if not unmeaning, if merely spoken by men. A numerous “herd of swine” is seen feeding some distance away. The voices that speak are voices asking permission to “enter into” those swine. Such a request would be an utter absurdity if only spoken by men. Moreover, the voices themselves are such as to teach, by the language they use, that they are not uttered by men. How could men even think of asking not to be “cast out” (Matthew 8:31) of themselves? Evidently, therefore, there are beings here which are other than men. The issue of the request, in the last place, tells just the same tale. “Permit us to go,” the voices cry out. The Saviour replies to them by whomsoever they are uttered. He says to them, “Go.” What follows next? The real utterers of those strange utterances do as He permits. They “go out”; they go away; they “go into” the swine (Matthew 8:32). Suddenly maddened, the whole herd rushes down the “steep” cliff, and is choked in the sea at its foot. Who can doubt that there were powers here far greater than man’s? Who can doubt also that there is a Power here far greater than theirs?
II. The depth of His mercy.—The case of the persons delivered may show this, to begin. What befel the swine is vivid evidence of what had been previously suffered by them. The very suddenness and universality of that sweep to destruction only makes this the more plain. What must have been the condition of those two human personalities—each, it may be believed, with a capacity for suffering beyond that of all the swine in existence—when in the hands and at the mercy—if they had mercy at all—of such powers! And what an act of mercy therefore—as well as of power—was that of setting them free! What a merciful substitution of heaven for hell must it have seemed to their hearts! On the other hand, we see almost equal mercy in that which ensued. When the swine rushed down into the waters, those that kept them rushed away to the “city,” and, open-mouthed, and doubtless with abundance of gesture, told the story of their loss; as also of what had happened in consequence to the two demoniac men. Touched in purse and so to the quick, the greedy owners come forth. They see Jesus; they see the men He has blessed; they see where their riches had been. This last sight affects them the most. They have but one request to prefer. Would He “depart out of their coasts?” (Matthew 8:34). Not to see Him now; never to see Him again; that is all they desire. To this insolent requirement the Saviour replies only in meekness and love. Without a word of anger—or even of remonstrance so far as we know—the Saviour does as they ask. Instead of this, if we may judge from Luke 8:39, He goes away in a spirit of deepest concern for those who have sent Him away—and so is as merciful to them as, in another way, to the poor demoniacs themselves!
Do we not also see, in conclusion:—
1. How excellent a lesson there would be in all this to the disciples of Christ.—Having before seen Jesus in triumphant contact with nature, they now see Him the same in contact with Hades!
2. How exceedingly unwise it is to judge hastily and a priori about such matters as these.—Who can tell what goes on—or what ought to go on—in the invisible world?
3. How wide and deep are the scriptural foundations for the belief implied here.—Cf. as above, end of Matthew 8:29 with Matthew 25:41; also Luke 8:31; Revelation 20:3, etc.; also Acts 16:16-17, compared with the utterances noted above.
4. How there is a kind of “possession” even now which is as bad in result as anything described here.—A “possession” which, as it were, “casts out” the presence of Jesus Himself, a “possession,” therefore, which does the very worst for us that even Satan can wish.
HOMILIES ON THE VERSES
Matthew 8:28-34. Christ casting out devils.—
1. Christ went nowhere but for a special errand. Pity for these two poor possessed men moved Him to cross the sea of Tiberius.
2. Christ can make the devils bring men to Him.
3. The malice of the devils is exceeding cruel, where they can get liberty to show it against men.
4. However powerful devils may be, yet they can neither stand out against Christ’s power, nor flee from Him, nor abide His presence.
5. The case of possessed souls, in whom the spirit of disobedience doth rule, is to be seen in these whose bodies were possessed with devils. The man is their lodging-house. He is no more master of his own actions, but Satan’s slave. The man’s eyes look for Satan, his hands and feet work and walk for Satan, his throat is made Satan’s blowing-horn, his mouth speaketh for Satan.
6. Devils knew Christ to be the Son of God, but they knew also that He came not into the world for their good, but to be the Saviour of men. “What have we to do with Thee?”
7. Although it is not in the power of devils not to yield to Christ, yet they retain their wicked aversion to obey Him, being loth to leave the possession they have got. They would be let alone by Him if they could.
8. They know there is a time coming when they shall be more tormented than they are as yet.
9. They cannot hurt so much as a sow except Christ, Lord of heaven and earth, do suffer them.
10. The Lord sometimes suffereth Satan to have his will of men’s bodies and goods.
11. These wicked spirits love always to do evil, and make it a sport to destroy what they are permitted.
12. To the end that the trial of men may be perfected, Christ will have them to know the spiritual benefits of the gospel, as well as the temporal inconveniences following it. This is why Christ will have the Gadarenes know of the delivery of the men possessed with devils, as well as of the drowning of the swine. The swineherds tell them of all, that so they might be inexcusable.
13. Men left to themselves will choose anything rather than Christ, and will do no better than these Gadarenes did.
14. Temporal loss of swine is so great in worldly men’s estimation that spiritual advantage is nothing esteemed of.
15. If men see nothing of Christ’s sweet mercies, but only take up His power they will be loth to have Him in their company (Matthew 8:34). Such worldly men will rather quit the gospel than hazard their worldly goods.
16. This is the greatest token of Christ’s leaving a place, or not coming into a place, when the whole place doth consist only of Gadarenes, and all do consent that He should depart; for there apparently He hath no errand to stay Him; and wherever Christ hath no employment, thence will He remove.—David Dickson.
Matthew 8:28-29. A Saviour, not a tormentor.—
1. It would seem that there were two natures in the men—one, a good and sane nature, urging them to go to meet Jesus, the other, a bad and mad nature, making them cry, “What have we to do with Thee, Thou Son of God?” Is it not so with all of us? Two voices there are within—one calling us to what is healthy and holy, the other to all that is destructive and bad.
2. Just as the Saviour did not land on the coast of the Gadarenes to torment them, but to save them from the demons and sins that were their real tormentors, so He did not come into the world to torment us, but to save us from evil passions and desires, than which there are no worse tormentors.
3. It may be frankly admitted that true religion does restrain our conduct; but this ought not to be considered a tormenting characteristic, because every man, if he is to remain a man and not to become a brute, must restrain himself.
4. Nor does Christ torment us by taking up all our time. What time does it take to do everything to the glory of God, which is true religion? No more time than to do everything to God’s dishonour.
5. “What have we to do with Thee, Thou Son of God?” was the question asked by these wretched men, and each of us must ask the same question at different periods of life.—E. J. Hardy, M.A.
Matthew 8:34. Christ and the commercial spirit.—We may observe:—
I. That it is the special mission of Christ to save men from the devil.—
1. The devil has possession of man.
2. The devil in the man becomes injurious to him and makes him injurious to all about him.
3. When once the devil gains possession he will not go out; he must be cast out.
4. Christ only can cast out the devil from the human soul.
II. That the salvation of man may involve the destruction of property.—This may be an unavoidable consequence of the progress of a good work, or it may be an indirect result following upon a particular case. Thus:
1. Property may lose its value, e.g. the damsel who had the spirit of divination; progress of the gospel destroying the trade of the craftsmen of Ephesus.
2. Property may even be destroyed. The chariots of Egypt; idols of Israel and the nations; goods and cattle of the Amalekites.
III. That it is possible to suppose a state of society in which property is more highly prized than man.—The loss of the swine held to be more important than the saving of a man. Is not this the besetting sin of a commercial age? “Wealth accumulates and men decay.” This is also the characteristic of despotic governments—Turkey and the East generally—all slaveholders, etc. There are three states of society to which we may direct attention.
1. The slave state. When man can hold property in man.
2. The commercial state. When man regards man as a means of increasing his wealth, as if one class lived for the aggrandisement of another.
3. The Christian state. When man holds property for man, as a trust for humane and benevolent purposes, never to be set against the highest welfare of the race.
IV. That when people prefer property to man, they may well wish to be rid of Christ.—Where Jesus is, there are:
1. Sacrifices to be made for the good of others.
2. Efforts to be made for the good of others.
3. Men are to be saved at all risks.
V. That when people show that they prefer wealth to humanity, Christ is not likely to make His abode with them.—He gives them up to commerce and devils, since they desire Him to depart from them.
1. May not this be so in a society or church?
2. May not men of business experience a crisis when they must hold their wealth for Christ, or else hold their wealth instead of Christ?
3. How awful the condition of those who prefer wealth and devils to Christ.
1. Set a high value on everything human.
2. Save the human from the diabolical.
3. Let property, and time, and talent, be devoted to this work.
4. Let us be assured that this is the work of Christ, and therefore worthy of us.—W. Whale.