DESPERATE SITUATIONS SHOULD PROMPT EVEN THE OUTCASTS OF SOCIETY TO REACH OUT TO JESUS FOR THE POWER OF HIS HEALING TOUCH
Richard Gardner: The most adequate proposal on Matthew’s design in this section [8:1 – 9:34] is that he has organized the collection in terms of alternating sections on miracles and discipleship (cf. Meier, 1980:79-80; Gundry, 1982:138). What we have then are three groups of miracle stories, each containing three narratives (8:1-17; 8:23—9:8; 9:18-34), and two sections of material on discipleship which serve as interludes (8:18-22; 9:9-17). Through this arrangement of material, Matthew portrays the disciples as apprentices in mission, who will soon be called to perform mighty works in Jesus’ name (9:35 – 10:42). . .
In compiling this material, Matthew has left his imprint in several ways.
- First, he has constructed a new geographical framework for the stories, in which Capernaum serves as the hub for Jesus’ movements.
- Second, he has rearranged the order of several Markan accounts, so that they fit better in the new framework.
- Third, he has greatly compressed most of the narratives, focusing on essentials. More specifically, Matthew (cf. Bornkamm, Barth, Held: 225):
(1) Uses compact, stock phrases to tell his stories.
(2) Gives little attention to secondary characters or actions.
(3) Repeats certain catchwords to link and unify his material.
(4) Lets Jesus’ dialogue with supplicants stand out as central.
(5) Gives special prominence to the theme of faith.
D. A. Carson: Certainly these chapters cannot legitimately be broken down in some simplistic fashion. Though Matthew’s pericopes cohere nicely, he intertwines his themes, keeping several going at once like a literary juggler. Thus these chapters are best approached inductively; and one can trace emphases on faith, discipleship, the Gentile mission, a diverse christological pattern, and more. At the same time, these chapters prove that Jesus, whose mission in part was to preach, teach, and heal (4:23; 9:35), fulfilled the whole of it. . .
One cannot fail to observe that of the many healing miracles Matthew could have related in the first half of this chapter, he has focused on a leper, a Gentile, and a woman. The leper was ceremonially unclean and therefore an outcast; the Roman centurion, though a man of status within Roman legions, was a Gentile and therefore without religious status in this Jewish context; as a woman, Peter’s mother-in-law would have been excluded from some privileges and responsibilities open only to males. But they are the ones whose healing Matthew reports.
Richard Gardner: From the outset, therefore, Matthew wants us to appreciate the inclusive character of Jesus’ mission. His mighty works break through social barriers of every sort.
R. T. France: The first group of three miracle stories seems to be treated as a connected whole, in that here, unlike in the following two groups, there is a concluding general summary of Jesus’ work of healing (v. 16) which then prompts Matthew to add a formula-quotation (v. 17) encapsulating the motif of deliverance which underlies these healings. Matthew’s rearrangement of the traditional order of the healings recorded in Mark 1:29–45, so that the story of the leper comes first, is perhaps also designed to highlight Jesus’ work of deliverance by putting up front a more striking instance of Jesus’ restoration of the distressed and excluded than the relatively mundane fever of Peter’s mother-in-law.
(:1) TRANSITION: FROM AUTHORITY IN TEACHING TO AUTHORITY IN HEALING
“And when He had come down from the mountain, great multitudes followed Him.”
D. A. Carson: The introductory kai idou (lit., “and behold”; also in Luke, absent from Mark, untranslated in NIV) does not require that this healing immediately follow the sermon. In Matthew, kai idou has a broad range, sometimes serving as a loose connective, sometimes introducing a startling thought or event, and sometimes, as here, marking the beginning of a new pericope.
Grant Osborne: The “large crowds followed” (here “followed” [ἀκολουθέω] does not connote discipleship but interest in Jesus) repeats 4:25 and 7:28, showing the Sermon had relevance not just for the disciples but even for the uncommitted crowds.
I. (:2-4) HEALING THE LEPER – CLEANSING THE UNCLEAN – ENGAGING WITH SOCIAL OUTCASTS (HELPLESS SINNERS)
Donald Hagner: The unique authority of Jesus, just previously heard in his exceptional words, is now to be seen in a series of exceptional deeds. The first of them is recounted briefly and directly. There is a sense in which leprosy is an archetypal fruit of the original fall of humanity. It leaves its victims in a most pitiable state: ostracized, helpless, hopeless, despairing. The cursed leper, like fallen humanity, has no options until he encounters the messianic king who will make all things new. His simple confidence in the ability of Jesus to cure his disease is impressive. If only he wills to do it! But this precisely is the work of the Messiah: to restore the created order from its bondage to decay: “I do want to do it!” The very presence of Jesus represents God’s “Yes!” to the request of this poor man and to all who suffer. As Jesus reached out to the leper, God in Jesus has reached out to all victims of sin. The leper was cured immediately by only a word from Jesus. This same Jesus cures his people, the Church, from a whole host of maladies stemming from the fall, both spiritual and physical. Indeed it is the ultimate purpose of Jesus, as part of the future eschatological consummation, to heal every malady without exception.
A. (:2) The Approach of a Hopeful Leper
“And behold, a leper came to Him, and bowed down to Him, saying,
‘Lord, if You are willing, You can make me clean.’”
William Barclay: Leprosy might begin with the loss of all sensation in some part of the body; the nerve trunks are affected; the muscles waste away; the tendons contract until the hands are like claws. There follows ulceration of the hands and feet. Then comes the progressive loss of fingers and toes, until in the end a whole hand or a whole foot may drop off. The duration of that kind of leprosy is anything from twenty to thirty years. It is a kind of terrible progressive death in which the sufferer dies by inches.
The physical condition of the leper was terrible; but there was something which made it worse. The Jewish historian Josephus tells us that lepers were treated ‘as if they were, in effect, dead men’. Immediately leprosy was diagnosed, the leper was absolutely and completely banished from human society. ‘He shall remain unclean as long as he has the disease; he is unclean. He shall live alone; his dwelling shall be outside the camp’ (Leviticus 13:46). Lepers had to go with torn clothes and dishevelled hair, with a covering upon the upper lip, and, as they went, they had to cry: ‘Unclean, unclean’ (Leviticus 13:45). In the middle ages, if anyone contracted leprosy, the priest donned his stole and took his crucifix, and brought the leper into the church. He then read the burial service over the person, who for all human purposes was dead.
In Palestine in the time of Jesus, lepers were barred from Jerusalem and from all walled towns. In the synagogue, there was provided for them a little isolated chamber, ten feet high and six feet wide, called the Mechitsah. The law enumerated sixty-one different contacts which could defile, and the defilement involved in contact with a leper was second only to the defilement involved in contact with a dead body. A leper did not even have to enter a house, but need only look in across the threshold for that house to become unclean even to the roof beams. Even in an open place it was illegal to greet a leper. No one might come nearer to a leper than four cubits – a cubit is eighteen inches. If the wind was blowing towards a person from a leper, the leper must stand at least 100 cubits away. One Rabbi would not even eat an egg bought in a street where a leper had passed by. Another Rabbi actually boasted that he flung stones at lepers to keep them away. Other Rabbis hid themselves, or took to their heels, at the sight of a leper even in the distance.
There never has been any disease which so separated one human being from another as leprosy did. And it was just such a man whom Jesus touched. To a Jew, there would be no more amazing sentence in the New Testament than the simple statement: ‘And Jesus stretched out his hand and touched the leper.’
Daniel Doriani: The leper displayed great audacity when he cut through the crowd, but he showed great reverence when he approached Jesus. He knelt down, in the posture of adoration. He also kept his distance, due to his leprosy. He called Jesus “Lord” out of respect. He could not yet know the whole truth about Jesus, but he did take steps toward full discipleship.
Robert Gundry: “If you’re willing” sets out an unsure possibility. “You are able” sets out a sure fact. Thus the leper expresses uncertainty about Jesus’ willingness but certainty about Jesus’ ability.
Craig Blomberg: The leper reveals an astonishing confidence in Jesus’ power (“you can”), especially in light of the Jewish belief that cures of lepers were as difficult as resurrections from the dead (based originally on 2 Kgs 5:7). At the same time, the leper defers to Jesus’ sovereignty (“if you are willing”). These twin thrusts are crucial in all Christian prayers for healing.
B. (:3) The Healing by the Compassionate Touch of Jesus
“And He stretched out His hand and touched him, saying, ‘I am willing; be cleansed.’ And immediately his leprosy was cleansed.”
Charles Swindoll: Jesus’ response to the man’s plea for cleansing teaches something vital about His character. In this snapshot, we witness not only a confirmation of Jesus’ divine power and authority but also a clear example of His compassion, grace, mercy, and love. Unlike a normal person who feared the hideous disease of leprosy, Jesus didn’t take a step back to avoid accidental contact. Instead, He condescended to the man’s deplorable condition, reached out His hand, and touched him. Jesus touched him! I can imagine the gasps from the crowd. Maybe at that moment the Lord even lost a few disgusted hangers-on who couldn’t follow somebody who would sink so low.
With His merciful action came words of divine power: “I am willing; be cleansed” (8:3). Just as light came into existence in obedience to the word of God (Gen. 1:3), the man’s leprosy obeyed Jesus’ word and left him instantly.
Among the inevitable oohs and aahs of the crowd, Jesus leaned in and instructed the former leper to follow the required protocols of the Law regarding leprosy described in Leviticus 14. Instead of telling everyone about the miracle, the cleansed leper was to fulfill the requirements before the priest and make the required offering (Matt. 8:4). Though Matthew doesn’t recount what happened to the former leper, we can imagine the astonishment of the priest who examined him and heard that Jesus had healed the man instantly, demonstrating not only His divine power but also His divine goodness. This man of Nazareth was surely the long-awaited Messiah, the King of Israel . . . but also so much more!
C. (:4) The Command to Follow the Procedure Required by Moses
“And Jesus said to him, ‘See that you tell no one; but go, show yourself to the priest,
and present the offering that Moses commanded, for a testimony to them.’”
Daniel Doriani: Jesus says, “Tell no one but a priest,” for two reasons (8:4).
- The report to the priests testifies that God is at work and authenticates the healing as genuine.
- Examination by the priests also lets the man return to home and family, to work and friends.
E. Michael Green: A testimony to what? To the fact that one greater than Moses had come; to the fact that what Judaism could not do, in cleansing from leprosy and from the disease of sin that it represented, the fulfiller of Judaism was doing. Here was no intrusion: it was the completion of all that Judaism pointed to. What a frontispiece for the book of miracles!
Donald Hagner: Jesus desires simply to avoid inflaming popular, but mistaken, messianic expectations that looked for an immediate national-political deliverance. . .
Craig Blomberg: The leper will bear witness to his healing, however, precisely by making it public when he appears before the priest. “As a testimony to them” should not be taken as a sign of Matthew’s conservatism regarding the law, as if the phrase meant to prove to others that Jesus was not a law breaker. Rather, Jesus implies that the man should testify to what he has done for him. Jesus’ healings will disclose his unparalleled authority over sickness, matching the unique authority his preaching and teaching has already illustrated (7:28-29). The identical phrase recurs in 10:18 and 24:14, where the testimony clearly refers to the good news of Jesus himself. In Mark 6:11 it even carries the sense of a testimony against them, and there may be slight overtones of such hostility here too. Jesus does what the religious leaders cannot do and in a way that often alienates them.
II. (:5-13) HEALING THE CENTURION’S SERVANT – MERCY FOR GENTILES –
RESPONSE TO ETHNIC “UNCLEANNESS” — DEMONSTRATION OF AUTHORITY – EXAMPLE OF GREAT FAITH
Donald Hagner: The second miracle performed by Jesus in this section is indeed remarkable in its own right: the healing of a terribly ill child at a distance and by the speaking of a word. The story in itself stresses the sovereign authority and uniqueness of Jesus, though Matthew draws no special attention to the Christological significance of the story. Indeed he focuses on the faith of the gentile centurion, faith that put Israel to shame. In Matthew’s insertion of vv 11–12, Jesus declares that in the future Israel will be displaced by believing Gentiles, an emphasis that comes to sharp expression later in the parables of 21:33–44 and 22:1–10. The kingdom brought by Jesus is by its nature undeniably universal in scope. The centurion’s faith is the first fruit of a ministry that will be designed to “make disciples of all nations” (28:19; cf. 24:14). What is anticipated here and commanded at the end of the Gospel finds its fruition in the course of the events narrated by the Acts of the Apostles. According to Paul’s outline of events in Rom 11, the failure of the Jews made possible in God’s wisdom the opportunity of the Gentiles. And Israel, not excluded from the great commission (28:19), “if they do not persist in their unbelief” (Rom 11:23), will yet take her proper place at the banquet of the table, together with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, and the Gentiles, whose faith (cf. Rom 11:20) is ultimately made possible by Israel herself (cf. Rom 9:5; 11:18).
E. Michael Green: The apostolic gospel was “first for the Jew, then for the Gentile”. That is exactly what we find prefigured in the Gospels. To be sure, Jesus concentrated on Israel during his ministry, but there are a number of pointers to the Gentile mission that would later develop. This is one of them. Jesus reaches out to this Gentile army officer. His concern is universal. We never read of him entering a Gentile home, but we do find him saying the word (8), and that word of Jesus is mighty to heal. The word of the risen and ascended Jesus was mighty both to transform lives and to heal bodies, in the Gentile mission as well as among those Jews who were responding to their Messiah. A story like this would be an enormous encouragement to those Gentile believers (many of them, no doubt, in Matthew’s own congregation) who had never seen Jesus, but who had trusted his word and felt his power in their lives. And the attitude of this pagan centurion was a great example of the proper approach to Jesus. For it spoke of simple, profound faith. That was what brought Abraham to experience the power of God. Abraham believed God and it was credited to him as righteousness. But in Israel in Jesus’ day there was not too much of that living trust in God’s power to heal.
William Barclay: The centurion was a Gentile, and therefore strict orthodox Jews would have said that he was merely fuel for the fires of hell; he was the servant of a foreign government and of an occupying power, and therefore nationalistic Jews would have said that he was a candidate for assassination and not for assistance; the servant was a slave, and a slave was no more than a living tool. Here we see the love of God going out to help the man whom everyone hated and the slave whom everyone despised.
A. (:5-7) The Approach of a Hopeful Centurion
- (:5-6) The Pleading Request of the Centurion
“And when He had entered Capernaum, a centurion came to Him, entreating Him, 6 and saying, ‘Lord, my servant is lying paralyzed at home,
suffering great pain.’”
Daniel Doriani: This miracle takes place in Capernaum, a town on the northern tip of the Sea of Galilee. Jesus adopted Capernaum as his new hometown and the center of his ministry in Galilee. Capernaum was a trading city that stood at a crossroads, so it was logical for the Romans to have a tax station there and to support it with a garrison of imperial troops.
The leader of that garrison was a centurion. A centurion commanded the basic fighting unit of the Roman army. The most talented soldiers became centurions. They were the backbone of the army, maintained discipline, and gave orders. Central players in the alien occupation of Israel, centurions were roughly equivalent to a Nazi captain in the Netherlands or France in World War II. Why would Jesus help such a man?
William Barclay: It is quite clear that this centurion was an extraordinary man, for he loved his slave. It may well be that it was his totally unusual and unexpected gentleness and love which so moved Jesus when the centurion first came to him. Love always covers a multitude of sins; those who care for others are always near to Jesus Christ.
- (:7) The Positive Response of Jesus
“And He said to him, ‘I will come and heal him.’”
Grant Osborne: The emphasis once more is on the compassion of Christ, now willing to help even a despised Roman.
B. (:8-9) The Authority of Jesus Recognized by the Centurion
- (:8) Effectiveness of the Word of Jesus – Reasoning from the lesser to the greater
“But the centurion answered and said, ‘Lord, I am not worthy for You to come under my roof, but just say the word, and my servant will be healed.’”
D. A. Carson: The centurion’s reply opens with “Lord,” implying tenacity and deference (cf. v.6; 7:21–23). As John the Baptist felt unworthy to baptize Jesus, so this centurion felt unworthy to entertain him in his home. The feeling of unworthiness did not arise from an awareness that the centurion might render Jesus ceremonially defiled (contra Bonnard); race had nothing to do with it. Hikanos (“sufficient,” “worthy,” GK 2653) here as elsewhere (3:11; 1Co 15:9; 2Co 2:16) reveals the man’s sense of unworthiness (NIV, “do not deserve”) in the face of Jesus’ authority (cf. TDNT, 3:294; France, “Exegesis in Practice,” 258). “Here was one who was in the state described in the first clauses of the ‘Beatitudes,’ and to whom came the promise of the second clauses; because Christ is the connecting link between the two” (Edersheim, Life and Times, 1:549; emphasis his). . .
Precisely because Jesus was under God’s authority, he was vested with God’s authority, so that when Jesus spoke, God spoke. To defy Jesus was to defy God; and Jesus’ word must therefore be vested with God’s authority that is able to heal sickness. This analogy, though not perfect, reveals an astonishing faith that recognizes that Jesus needed neither ritual, magic, nor any other help; his authority was God’s authority, and his word was effective because it was God’s word.
Grant Osborne: This sense of unworthiness happens throughout Scripture (Gen 18:27; Job 42:6; Isa 6:5; Luke 5:8) when people come face to face with their own fallenness. The centurion is not a follower at this point but might recognize the presence of God in Jesus and thus realize how little he deserves his help. The first is definitely present, and there may be a hint of the latter.
- (:9) Effectiveness of the Word of the Centurion
“For I, too, am a man under authority, with soldiers under me;
and I say to this one, ‘Go!’ and he goes, and to another, ‘Come!’ and he comes, and to my slave, ‘Do this!’ and he does it.”
C. (:10-12) The Amazement of Jesus over Such Great Faith in a Gentile
- (:10) Commendation of the Gentile Centurion for His Faith
“Now when Jesus heard this, He marveled, and said to those who were following, ‘Truly I say to you, I have not found such great faith with anyone in Israel.’”
Warren Wiersbe: Twice in the Gospels it is recorded that Jesus marveled: here, at the great faith of the Gentile centurion, and in Mark 6:6, at the great unbelief of the Jews. Matthew recorded two “Gentile” miracles: this one and the healing of the daughter of the Syrophoenician woman (Matt. 15:21–28). In both cases, the Lord was impressed with their great faith. This is an early indication that the Jews would not believe, but the Gentiles would. Also, in both of these miracles, our Lord healed from a distance. This was a reminder of the spiritual position of the Gentiles “far off” (Eph. 2:12–13).
Grant Osborne: The faith of this military man is indeed remarkable. Such men were normally the ones who most mistreated the Jews and looked down on them with contempt. That one of the very people most mistrusted by the Jewish people would be the one who showed them what faith really was is astounding.
- (:11-12) Contrast in Final Destiny between Accepted Gentiles and Rejected Jews
a. (:11) Accepted Gentiles
“And I say to you, that many shall come from east and west, and recline at the table with Abraham, and Isaac, and Jacob, in the kingdom of heaven;”
R. T. France: The imagery of reclining at table with the Hebrew patriarchs would inevitably speak to Jewish readers of the messianic banquet which was a popular way of thinking of the ultimate blessedness of the true people of God. In popular Jewish thought it would be taken for granted that, while not every Jew might prove worthy of a place at the banquet, it would be a Jewish gathering, while non-Jews would find themselves outside in the darkness; to be the people of God meant, for all practical purposes, to be Jewish. Jesus’ saying dramatically challenges this instinctive assumption, both by including “many” others from foreign parts (“east and west”) on the guest list, and also daring to exclude those who were assumed to have a right to be there, the “sons of the kingdom.” To add insult to injury, the fate of these “sons of the kingdom” is described in the terms traditionally used in Jewish descriptions of the fate of the ungodly (and therefore, predominantly, the Gentiles), “darkness outside,” “weeping and gnashing of teeth.” The reason they are rejected is not explicit within this saying, but in the context in which Matthew has placed it it must be linked with the fact that Jesus has not found in Israel faith like that of the centurion. Thus belonging to the kingdom of heaven is found to depend not on ancestry but on faith.
Robert Gundry: Jesus’ Authority in Pronouncing Believing Gentiles Accepted and Unbelieving Israelites Rejected –
That believing Gentiles will recline on cushions to eat with the sainted patriarchs at the banquet of salvation, commonly called “the messianic banquet,” strikes an astoundingly happy note for the Gentiles and a dreadfully ominous note for unbelieving Jews, called “the sons of the kingdom” in the sense that but for disinheriting themselves through unbelief, as God’s chosen people they should inherit the kingdom.
Their destiny to be “thrown out into the darkness farther outside” refers to darkness outside the brightly lit hall where the festivities of the banquet will take place. “Farther outside” stresses the distance of that darkness from the banqueting hall. Such a distance will preclude any hope of late entry. Sorrow over exclusion from the kingdom will lead to weeping and gritting of teeth.
b. (:12) Rejected Jews
“but the sons of the kingdom shall be cast out into the outer darkness;
in that place there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth.”
Charles Swindoll: Jesus then used this remarkable faith —from a Gentile, no less —as evidence that God’s plan of redemption would ultimately include believers not only from Israel but also “from east and west” —that is, from among the Gentiles. They would find a place at the table with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob in the kingdom of heaven, while the natural “sons of the kingdom” —Jews —would be cast far away if they remained in their unbelief (8:11-12).
Richard Gardner: For Matthew’s community, the saying in verses 11-12 is a sobering reminder that the kingdom is open to all but guaranteed to none. Only those who believe as the centurion believed will sit at table with Jesus and Abraham.
Grant Osborne: “Outermost darkness” (τὸ σκότος τὸ ἐξώτερον) is that darkness that is completely “outside” the light of God, namely, the place of final punishment. It is in complete contrast with the light and joy of the banquet scene.
John MacArthur: Some people are confused, because it says that hell is a place of darkness, and also a place of fire, and they wonder how you can have fire without having light. And that’s part of the supernatural quality of hell, that there will be fire, fire of torment, and along with it, total darkness, a phenomenon created by God for eternal punishment. Outer darkness, that’s a place; just like heaven is a place. And the horror of that place can be seen in the phrase at the end of verse 12: “There shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth.” That’s the effect of the darkness: the loss of all happiness, the loss of all joy, the rage of helpless despair, the excruciating torment of eternal darkness, weeping, and gnashing of teeth.
D. (:13) The Announcement of the Healing Accomplished Remotely in Accordance with the Centurion’s Faith
- Petition Granted
“And Jesus said to the centurion, ‘Go your way;
let it be done to you as you have believed.’”
Daniel Doriani: Matthew also wants us to grasp the extent of Jesus’ authority. Without stating the doctrine in theological terms, Matthew shows us who Jesus is. His power extends wherever his will ordains it. He is omnipotent and can project his power wherever he wishes, since he is also omnipresent. He partakes of the distinctive attributes of God, for he is God.
- Punctual Miracle of Healing
“And the servant was healed that very hour.”
Craig Blomberg: Matthew concludes the passage by narrating the miracle almost as an afterthought. Jesus’ healing nevertheless verifies the appropriateness of the man’s faith, and it occurs at a time and in a way which confirms that supernatural power has been at work.
III. (:14-15) HEALING PETER’S MOTHER-IN-LAW – DEALING WITH INFIRMITIES AND GENDER “UNCLEANNESS” – RESTORATION TO SERVICE
Donald Hagner: A third miracle is reported by Matthew with deliberate brevity. With a touch, Jesus cures the fever of Peter’s mother-in-law, and again the incomparable authority of Jesus becomes apparent. The passage thus has a basically christological character. Even the concluding words that suggest the proper response of the disciple point again to Jesus himself. The miracle summary passage has the same effect. With a word, Jesus casts out demons; he heals all the sick who come to him. The particular miracle stories chosen by Matthew for his narrative are thus but representatives of the vast healing ministry Jesus had among the people. This is an important part of the story for Matthew and is designated specifically as the fulfillment of OT prophecy. It is a sign of the reality of the presence of the kingdom of God announced by Jesus. . .
These single stories, these specific healing narratives, are not the heart of the gospel. Disease is not the true enemy that must be overcome: that enemy is sin, for the fallen world produced by sin lies ultimately behind the suffering and sickness of this age. This is the enemy to be conquered by the end of the story (cf. 26:28). Properly perceived, these healings are most important as symbols of the much greater “healing” that is at the heart of the gospel, the healing of the cross. At the same time, they foreshadow the fulfillment of the age to come when all suffering and sickness are finally removed (cf. Rev 21:1–4). During his ministry, the healings performed by Jesus were the fulfillment of prophecy; but Isa 53:4 guarantees no one healing in the present age. What is guaranteed is that Christ’s atoning death will in the eschaton provide healing for all without exception. The healings through the ministry of Jesus and those experienced in our day are the first-fruits, the down payment, of the final experience of deliverance.
A. (:14) Reacting to a Critical Illness
“And when Jesus had come to Peter’s home,
He saw his mother-in-law lying sick in bed with a fever.”
Charles Swindoll: In the next snapshot of Jesus’ power, we move from a display of His divine authority among the religiously remote and physically distant to a close, personal act of healing —a member of Peter’s own family in Peter’s own home.
D. A. Carson: Peter was married (1Co 9:5) and had moved with his brother Andrew from their home in Bethsaida (Jn 1:44) to Capernaum, possibly to remain near Jesus (Mt 4:13). His mother-in-law’s fever (v.14) may have been malarial; fever itself was considered a disease, not a symptom, at that time (cf. Jn 4:52; Ac 28:8). Jewish halakah forbade touching persons with many kinds of fever (Str-B, 1:479–80). But Jesus healed with a touch (v.15). As in v.3, the touch did not defile the healer but healed the defiled.
Robert Gundry: That she was “thrown” on a bed portrays the fever as a malevolent force, just as in 8:6 a servant’s having been “thrown” on a bed by some disablement portrayed the disablement as a malevolent force. In both cases, Jesus’ conquest of the force exhibits lordly authority.
B. (:15a) Responding with a Healing Touch
“And He touched her hand, and the fever left her;”
William Barclay: Jesus was never too tired to help; the demands of human need never came to him as an intolerable nuisance. Jesus was not one of these people who are at their best in public and at their worst in private. No situation was too humble for him to help. He did not need an admiring audience to be at his best. In a crowd or in a cottage, his love and his power were at the disposal of anyone who needed him.
C. (:15b) Restoring Her to Health and Service
“and she arose, and waited on Him.”
Richard Gardner: She typifies the way all those restored by Jesus should serve him.
Warren Wiersbe: Women did not hold a high position in Israel, and it is doubtful that a Pharisee would have paid much attention to the need in Peter’s home. Jesus healed her with a touch, and she responded by serving Him and the other men.
This seems like a “minor miracle,” but the results were major, for after sundown (when the Sabbath ended), the whole city gathered at the door that the Lord might meet their needs (Mark 1:32–34). Blessing in the home ought to lead to blessing in the community. The change in one woman’s life led to miracles in the lives of many people.
(:16-17) — EPILOGUE – GENERAL HEALING IN FULFILMENT OF OT PROPHECY
A. (:16) General Healing
“And when evening had come,
they brought to Him many who were demon-possessed;
and He cast out the spirits with a word, and healed all who were ill”
Grant Osborne: News of Jesus’ miracles traveled fast, and now many are brought to Jesus. Matthew centers on the “demon-possessed” here and mentions such in three summaries (4:24; 7:22; 8:17) and five exorcism stories (8:28–34; 9:32–34; 12:22–24; 15:22–28; 17:14–20). Jesus’ authority extended not only to nature and physical illness but to the spirit world as well. This is the second occurrence of “demon-possessed” (δαιμονιζομένους) in Matthew, and it will become a major theme in terms of Jesus’ authority and victory over the cosmic powers (of nature as well as of the satanic realm; see 4:24; 8:28–34; 9:32–34; 10:8; 11:18; 12:22–29; 15:21–28; 17:14–23 for demons; and 8:23–27; 14:22–33 for storms).
B. (:17) Fulfilment of OT Prophecy
“in order that what was spoken through Isaiah the prophet might be fulfilled, saying,
‘He Himself took our infirmities, and carried away our diseases.’”
Daniel Doriani: Jesus took all our brokenness on himself when he suffered and died for our sins. Isaiah 53 says he did this by covering the sin that causes grief and disease.
Matthew’s great insight is this: Jesus’ healings also flow from his death on our behalf, as a substitute for our sins. The substitution offers healing because it removes the sin that is the root of disease. So atonement and healing belong together. When Matthew speaks of sin one minute and disease the next, he follows Jesus, who came to cure sin and all its effects. For Jesus links salvation and healing. When Jesus met a paralyzed man, first he said, “Your sins are forgiven.” Then he said, “Get up, take your mat and go home” (Matt. 9:2, 6).
When we believe in Jesus, God begins to deliver us from all the consequences of sin. Some day, he will restore all that we lost because of sin, but that process is never complete in this life. The Lord will fully vanquish sin and disease when he comes again and restores the earth. But we have the right to expect real and substantial healing now.
Richard Gardner: The quotation from Isaiah 53:4 concludes the narrative and attests Matthew’s creative use of the OT. In the Hebrew text of Isaiah, sickness or infirmity is a metaphor for suffering related to sin, which the Servant takes upon himself and bears vicariously (cf. Isa. 53:4-6; 1 Pet. 2:24). As cited by Matthew, however, Isaiah’s words describe physical diseases or infirmities, which Jesus removes through his ministry of healing. This too is a part of Jesus’ fulfillment of the biblical promise.
E. Michael Green: But here the Isaiah passage seems to be used with a secondary application. It is related not to the death of Jesus but to his healing ministry. And it seems to say that so costly was this healing that Jesus took up our infirmities on himself, and carried our diseases (17). He bore our sicknesses as well as our sins. There is no suggestion of Calvary here. There is no justification for the claim of some charismatics that Jesus bore our sicknesses as well as our sins upon the cross. But Matthew does see the healing ministry of Jesus as part of the pain and hardship which Isaiah foresaw for the Servant of the Lord in chapters 40–55 of his book. Of course, sickness is related (though not, according to Scripture, directly related) to sin, and so it is not possible entirely to dissociate the healing ministry from the vicarious suffering in this picture of the Servant. But Matthew sees him here coming from the mountain of revelation (chs. 5–7) and entering into the valley of the shadow, where sickness and demonic forces held sway. And he was willing to carry the burden of the pain, ostracism and defilement of broken humankind, just as he would later bear its sin. Here is a fulfilment of the prophet’s words deeper than he could ever have imagined.