In this chapter, Jesus cleanses a leper; marvels at the faith of a centurion; heals Peter’s mother-in-law and then many others; tells two would-be disciples about the cost of discipleship (let the dead bury their dead); calms a storm; and delivers two Gadarene demoniacs.
As I write in the introduction to every chapter:
This translation and commentary is offered for free, gratis, across the worldwide web to Christians in oppressive (persecuting) or developing countries, who cannot afford printed commentaries or Study Bibles, though everyone can use the commentary and entire website, of course.
The commentary has a practical application (GrowApp) at the end of each section, for discipleship.
The Greek terms with brief definitions can be looked up at biblehub.com. However, I hope to bring different nuances to the few words I focus on. And I keep things nontechnical.
The translation is mine. I wrote it to learn what the Greek text really says. The translation tends to be literal, but complete literalism and readability are impossible, so adjustments had to be made. If you would like to see other translations, please go to biblegateway.com.
Links are provided for further study.
Jesus Cleanses a Leper (Matt. 8:1-4)
1 As Jesus came down from the mountain, a large crowd followed him. 2 And look! a leper came to him and fell down before him, saying, “Lord, if you are willing, you are able to cleanse me.” 3 And Jesus stretched out his hand and touched him, saying, “I am willing; be cleansed.” And immediately his leprosy was cleansed. 4 And Jesus said to him, “See to it that you tell no one. Instead, go show yourself to the priest, and bring the gift which Moses ordered, for a testimony to them.”
From Matt. 8:1 to 9:34, there are three blocks of three miracles each (8:1-17; 8:23-9:8; 9:18-34) broken up by three discipleship sections (8:18-22; 9:9-13; 14-17) (Osborne, p. 280).
Jesus coming down from a mountain recalls 5:1. Mountains are mentioned in Matthew at theological junctures: 4:8; 5:1; 8:1; 14:23; 15:29; 17:1, 9; 20:21; 24:3, 16; 26:30; 28:16. This fact may parallel Moses descending from his mountaintop (Turner and Osborne, comments on 8:1).
When the Father ordains a ministry and his chosen instrument teaches and heals people, the crowds gather. To be blunt, people gathered in large crowds around the healing ministries in the 1940s and 1950s, but from what I have read and observed in film clips on youtube and on Christian TV, it’s not clear to me that these healing ministers taught people adequately. Is there any chance that (so-called) “power-ministers” today can teach the kingdom and righteous living, as Jesus just did in the Sermon on the Mount?
Jesus is about to go into his adopted hometown of Capernaum (v. 5), and lepers would not be found in a town, so this happened out in the open, away from settlements of any kind. No doubt the people following Jesus scattered, when they saw the leper. No doubt he was shouting “unclean, unclean!” as the law prescribed.
The standard translation is leprosy, and healing this disease was one of the signs that the Messiah had come. Scholars nowadays say the word was generic for skin diseases. But let’s call the man “leper” for convenience.
A leper was required by law to wear torn clothes, let his hair be unkempt, cover the lower part of his face, and, as noted, cry out “Unclean! Unclean!” in order not to contaminate someone else (Lev. 13:45).
45 “Anyone with such a defiling disease must wear torn clothes, let their hair be unkempt, cover the lower part of their face and cry out, ‘Unclean! Unclean!’ 46 As long as they have the disease they remain unclean. They must live alone; they must live outside the camp. (Lev. 13:45-46, NIV)
Leprosy came to symbolize sin’s pollution (Osborne on v. 2).
This leper was clearly desperate. It makes me wonder how desperate we get when our need is great. Are we casual, or do we fall on our face? He simply knew that Jesus was his answer. He had heard the reports about him, and now he fell on his face before his healer.
“if you are willing”: it could simply be translated “if you want to.” He asked for his specific need to be met. He did not hesitate to clarify his need. In other cases, Jesus asked what the disabled or blind person wanted (e.g. Luke 18:41). Sometimes the answer is not always clear, for the sick can get used to being a victim. Two blind men shouted out their need for a miracle, as this leper did (Matt. 20:29-34).
“look!” It used to be translated as “behold!” It is the storyteller’s art to draw attention to the people and action that follows. “As you, my audience, sit and listen to me read this Gospel, listen up! Look! A man with skin disease interrupts the flow of Jesus’s progress to his next stop!”
“Lord”: “When the man calls Jesus ‘Lord,’ … he is affirming Jesus’ healing authority. Most likely the man intends great respect, while Matthew wants the reader to see more. The man’s humility and faith are remarkable at this early date and are particularly emphasized. To him Jesus has the power [you are able] to heal him; the only question is whether Jesus ‘wants’ to do so … He throws himself at Jesus’ feet and depends on his grace” (Osborne on 8:2).
Jesus’s response was perfect. He reached out his hand and touched him. God did that in the OT through a messenger: Exod. 3:20; 6:6; 7:15; 9:15; 15:12; Deut. 4:34; 5:15; 7:19; 11:2; 2 Kings 17:36; Ps. 136:12; Jer. 32:21). Jesus was simply following his Father’s example. It was bold and courageous to touch this unclean man. One reason that a leper was required to call out “Unclean! Unclean!” is that he must not touch and so defile anyone else. The leper did not touch Jesus; Jesus touched him, unconcerned for his own health. How could a skin disease get transferred to Jesus when he had healing power flowing from him? This power pushed the disease backwards. He was the healing Lord, not the possible victim.
“I am willing”: this could be simply translated, “I want to.” As noted in v. 2 and the excerpt from Osborne, now the question comes up, Is Jesus willing to heal my sickness? And the answer is that he is willing, generally.
This question comes up: then why did God not heal my loved one? He died! Answer: we live on planet earth, and disease temporarily has a right to be here, because it is a natural thing; it works by the laws of nature, and nature is terribly flawed. (Later on, when God brings in a new heaven and new earth, diseases won’t be allowed to live there.)
Next question: what happens when disease strikes a believer’s body? The human body lives in the shadowland (C.S. Lewis), between light and darkness, the gray world between black and white. The believer’s body is part of the natural world, but it is also in the process of being renewed by the Spirit of God (Rom. 8:10). That verse in Romans says that the body is subject to death because of the presence of sin (no, not only one single sin, but sin itself is still in us), but the Spirit gives life because of the gift of righteousness. That is the shadowlands—between our bodies wearing out and our bodies being restored. So Rom. 8:11 says that God will give life (future tense) to your mortal body. Therefore, one day you will depart from the shadowlands and go directly into heaven. Let’s face it. Sometimes the disease wins, despite the best medicine, like chemo, and despite the most faith-filled, fervent prayers. Again, let’s face it. Nature run amok sometimes wins.
Bottom line: we do not have enough information to figure out why your loved one did not get healed down here on earth, in the shadowlands. But one thing is certain: your loved one is in heaven, in perfect health. He no longer lives in the shadowlands, in his deteriorating body. He is in perfect light with his forever strong spirit body, waiting for his resurrected body.
One day I was invited to go in a carpool to pray for a woman whom I did not know and who had cancer. I went twice, and then the Spirit whispered to me that it was a sickness unto death. In other words, God was going to take her home. I told the driver over the phone before I went the third time that I don’t need to go. “Why not?” “Because I feel like she is supposed to go home.” “What?” “I could be wrong, but that’s what I heard. But don’t tell the lady; I could be wrong.” The driver, an older man, had very little discretion, so I don’t know whether he told anyone or even the lady with cancer. But that’s not the main point. The main point is that we did not end our first prayer session with the tag “if it be your will.” We assumed it was his will. However, sometimes God uses (not causes) disease to take us into eternity. The lady with cancer died; she was not healed.
Even the greatest faith teacher will eventually die, usually from heart failure. Yes, he may die peacefully in his sleep, but a bodily organ will have to give up; the body will visibly wear out from 21 years old to 91 years old or 101 (for example).
Many years later a close relative called me to say she got cancer. And the Spirit clearly whispered to me that this was “not a sickness unto death.” The chemo worked, and she is cancer free.
Back to this passage in Matthew. Praise God, this leper got healed instantly! Jesus was on the scene. Let’s hope with high expectations that you too will be healed. Don’t attach the tagline, “If it be your will” at the end of your prayer. Assume that it is his will, until you specifically and clearly hear otherwise. That’s the main lesson from v. 13: “I am willing.”
Recall Jesus’s own words. He said many lepers lived in ancient Israel, but only one Gentile leader was healed, Naaman the Syrian (Luke 4:27). The other Israelites with skin disease did not seek healing from Elisha, so were they perpetual victims in their own minds? Whatever they believed, they did not ask for help. Seek Jesus hard for your own healing. I do.
Why did Jesus tell him not to report the healing to anyone, when a large crowd saw the healing? He sent the healed man back to his hometown. His home context was about to come up.
Why did Jesus command him not to tell others? He did not want to excite popular excitement about Jesus miraculous work. Jesus downplayed the miracles (Luke 4:35, 41; 8:56; Matt. 9:30; 12:16; Mark 1:34; 3:12; 5:43; 7:36; 8:26). He really wanted to teach. Miracles are the sign that back up teaching. Teaching is the main thing. Miracles without teaching is just a show. Turner: “Most likely the silence enjoined here is due to Jesus’s reluctance to stir up the crowds. At times Jesus found it necessary to withdraw from the scene when the notoriety due to his miracles reached near-riot proportions (e.g. 4:23-5:1; 8:18; 13:2; 21:11) […] Also, the hostility of the religious leaders seemed to grow in direct proportion to Jesus popularity with the masses (9:32-34; 12:22-24; 15:12, 21; 16:1, 4, 20)” (comments on 8:3-4).
The offering for recovery from skin disease was two live kosher birds and other items (Lev. 14:4-6). Then the cleansed person has to shave all his hair and beard, wash his clothes, and take a bath (v. 9). Later they must offer two male lambs and one-year-old ewe lamb and other items. Together, they must have been expensive, and the leper could not work, so he must have had grateful relatives who supplied him with the offerings.
“for a testimony to them”: It is all right to tell the priest—a doctor today—that God healed you. Let him take the x-rays and examine your blood and other things. Then he will see that you are healed. It is your miracle testimony to him.
One last comment on v. 14: Jesus followed the law of Moses about offerings before he died on the cross (though no record says that he offered any sacrifices). It is a sure thing that when he was resurrected and healed people with skin diseases through his disciples, he never told the healed persons to go to the temple and offer the sacrifices prescribed by Moses. The gospel was going out across their known world, far outside tiny Israel. There was no longer any need for the Levitical temple system, which was put under God’s judgment and was destroyed by the Romans in A.D. 70 (Luke 19:41-45; 21:20-24; 23:26-31; Matt. 21:33-45).
Progressive revelation is a fact of the Bible. Moral law from the Old is retained in the New, but rituals and harsh penalties and ceremonies and dietary laws and calendar observances (and so on) are not retained. Please interpret Scripture clearly and properly, in its historical context.
GrowApp for Matt. 8:1-4
A.. Jesus was willing to heal the leper. Do you believe he is willing to heal you?
Jesus Heals a Centurion’s Servant (Matt. 8:5-13)
5 As he was going into Capernaum, a centurion came up to him, pleading with him, 6 saying, “Lord, my servant is lying down, paralyzed, at the house, suffering terribly.” 7 Jesus said to him, “Shall I go and heal him?” 8 Then in reply, the centurion said, “Lord, I am unqualified for you to come under my roof. Instead, just say the word, and my servant will be healed. 9 I also am a man under authority, having soldiers under me. I say to one, ‘Go!’ And he goes. And to another, ‘Come!’ and he comes. And to my servant, ‘Do this!’ and he does. 10 When Jesus heard this, he marveled and said to those following him, “I tell you the truth: I have not found anyone in Israel with such strong faith! 11 I tell you that many will come from the east and west and recline with Abraham and Isaac and Jacob in the kingdom of heaven, 12 but the sons and daughters of the kingdom will be thrown into farthest darkness, and in at that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.” 13 Then Jesus said to the centurion, “Go. Just as you have believed, let it be done for you.” And his servant was healed at that moment.
This passage contains a great lesson of faith for Renewalists). Jesus can command a blessed result (healing in this case) from a distance. He does not need to be in the room. It is the structure of the human world that orders and commands can be given, and the underlings have to obey. Disease is under Jesus, and he commands it to go. The centurion’s basic insight is the lesser-to-greater. If a centurion (lesser) can command soldiers, then Jesus (greater) can command diseases, even at a distance, with one word.
Capernaum is his adopted hometown (4:13). Carson points out that it was an important garrison town for the Romans. However, France says that auxiliary troops were employed, so they came from the local region. The official Roman army was not stationed there, and not many soldiers were around when Herod Antipas ruled there. But this centurion was a Gentile.
Huge crowds are still following him. His teaching and healing ministry was anointed.
The centurion calls him “Lord.” Some say it should be translated “sir” or “lord.” You can choose whichever one you want.
The Greek word for “servant” is sometimes translated as “child,” normally below the age of puberty; here it seems to be a close servant (Luke’s Gospel clearly says a slave in 7:2). The centurion had affection for him, as if he were his own child.
“Shall I go and heal him?” Most translations have the question as a statement. “I shall go and heal him.” However, I like what Grammarian Olmstead said. The developing narrative suggests this is a question (15:21-28). In other words, Jesus was not yet ready to minister to the Gentiles (Matt. 10:5-6). And he is testing the centurion to find our whether he should go—or will the centurion have so much faith that he will tell Jesus it is not necessary to go, but to speak the word.
It is possible to detect, by the Spirit, faith surging in someone. Paul saw faith in a man crippled from birth, and the crippled man was healed (Acts 14:9). I believe Jesus saw extraordinary faith in the centurion and said, “Shall I go …?” or “I shall go ….” The centurion rose to the challenge and answered in faith. “There’s no need for you to go. Just speak the word!”
Further, the first-person pronoun “I” (egō, pronounced eh-goh) is not necessary for this context, or else we would have to translate it as “I myself shall go and heal him.” It seems as if Jesus might have the option of sending someone else to go! No. There’s no need for such an over-emphasis. So phrasing it as a question is better grammatically and semantically (France, p. 313).
Luke 7:1-10 records that the Jewish elders said that the centurion was worthy of a visit, because he did kind things for the Jewish people. The implication is that Jesus was hesitating, until the elders encouraged him. This whole idea of hesitation sets up the scene nicely. Jesus is about to be stunned by the Gentile’s faith-filled answer, in contrast to the Jewish people’s reliance on their heritage and residence in Israel.
“heal”: The verb is therapeuō (pronounced thair-ah-pew-oh, our word therapy is related to it), and it means to “make whole, restore, heal, cure, care for.”
The centurion replies brilliantly, through the words of faith. He was a man under authority, so he had authority. Osborne translate the phrase “under authority” as “possessing authority.” Then he writes: “The phrase possessing authority does not just mean he himself is ‘under’ others but rather that he has received great authority from his superiors. Only Caesar had ultimate authority, but he delegated it to the governor and then the legate, tribune, and centurion. The centurion was, in fact, the key leader in a legion … and had autonomous authority to direct his men in battle. His commands came with the authority of the emperor himself” (comment on 8:9). Did you catch Osborne’s insight? The centurion had his authority ultimately from God. We have our authority ultimately from God through his Son.
We need to submit to God first. Here is how Jesus used his authority:
24 Then comes the end, when he [Jesus] delivers the kingdom to God the Father after destroying every rule and every authority and power. 25 For he must reign until he has put all his enemies under his feet. 26 The last enemy to be destroyed is death. 27 For “God has put all things in subjection under his feet.” But when it says, “all things are put in subjection,” it is plain that he is excepted who put all things in subjection under him. 28 When all things are subjected to him, then the Son himself will also be subjected to him who put all things in subjection under him, that God may be all in all. (1 Cor. 15:24-28, ESV)
Jesus gladly submits himself to the authority of his Father, after the Father enabled him to conquer death by the resurrection. He will have destroyed every rule and every authority and power at the very end. The last enemy is death, which he conquered by his death and resurrection, but it has yet to end its full and final effect. When the new kingdom comes, which vanquishes the final enemy (death), he will hand over everything to the Father and submit to him. You have to submit first, go out and conquer in the Father’s name, second, and resubmit to him, third. This process is ongoing throughout your life.
Here is Jesus humbling himself, and then he is given all authority:
5 Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, 6 who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, 7 but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. 8 And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. 9 Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, 10 so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, 11 and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father. (Phil. 2:5-11, ESV)
Jesus took on the form of a servant, lived life in ministry and authority, and then went through death. Since he submitted to the Father’s authority, he was exalted and given the name that is above every name. All of us will bow our knees and confess with our tongues that Jesus Christ is Lord. Submit to Jesus’s authority first, and then he will give you authority under him.
That’s the principle that the centurion learned and teaches us.
“unqualified”: it is the adjective hikanos (pronounced hee-kah-noss), and it can mean, depending on the context, “sufficient, adequate, large enough … fit, appropriate, competent, able, worthy.” With the negative “not,” I translated it as “unqualified.” No doubt the centurion understood that he was a Gentile and this disqualified him from the ministry of such a popular Jewish teacher and healer.
This centurion understood authority. It is the noun exousia (pronounced ex-oo-see-ah), and it means, depending on the context: “right to act,” “freedom of choice,” “power, capability, might, power, authority, absolute power”; “power or authority exercised by rulers by virtue of their offices; official power; domain or jurisdiction, spiritual powers.”
As I note elsewhere, the difference between authority and power is parallel to a policeman’s badge and his gun. The badge symbolizes his right to exercise his power through his gun, if necessary. The gun backs up his authority with power. But the distinction should not be pressed too hard, because exousia can also mean “power.” In any case, God through Jesus can distribute authority to his followers (Matt. 10:1; Luke 10:19; John 1:12). Jesus will give us authority even over the nations, if we overcome trials and persecution (Rev. 2:26). And he is about to distribute his power in Acts 2.
Never forget that you have his authority and power to live a victorious life over your personal flaws and sins and Satan. They no longer have power and authority over you; you have power and authority over them.
For nearly all the references of that word and a developed theology.
Here is the principle of authority. As noted, it is the lesser-to-greater argument. If the centurion (lesser) can command his soldiers and servants, then Jesus (greater) can command diseases with a word. The centurion is under command, and he commands those under him. The centurion recognized that Jesus had authority over a disease, even paralysis. But then the centurion went a step further with his insight. All Jesus had to do was command the disease from a distance. Something would then happen in another realm. The word gets communicated to the disease. Here’s an imperfect illustration. The word is like an invisible sound wave from an explosion and hits everything around it and blows out windows, and possibly knocks down houses. We cannot see the sound wave, but we can feel its effect. The analogy is weak because we can hear it. But imagine a wave that we cannot see or hear. If such a thing exists, that would be a better comparison. So it is in the other realm. It is as if Jesus’s word of command blows out the disease. The paralyzed servant couldn’t see or hear it reach his body, but he can feel its effect. He got up and walked, when the centurion wasn’t even there yet. This is amazing.
“instead”: this is a strong contrast. In effect, the centurion is saying: Instead of coming under my roof, just speak the word. “Just” can be translated as “merely” or “only.”
“word”: here it is the noun logos, and it is very rich in meaning, but here in this context it is just one word of command.
“healed”: this verb is iaomai (pronounced ee-ah-oh-my), and it means, unsurprisingly, “healed, cure, restore.” In other words, it is synonymous with therapeuō (and see v. 7 for more comments).
“servant”: The word servant here is doulos (pronounced doo-loss) and could be translated as slave, but I chose servant because in Jewish culture a Hebrew man who sold himself into servitude to his fellow Jew was like an indentured servant whose term of service had a limit; he was freed in the seventh year. But then the indentured servant could stay with his family, if he liked his owner (Exod. 21:2-6; Lev. 25:38-46; Deut. 15:12-18). So there was a lot of liberty even in servitude, in the Hebrew Bible (Old Testament).
It is a sure thing, however, that Matthew’s Greek-speaking audience, knowledgeable about their own larger Greek culture, would have heard “slave” in the word doulos. So if you wish to interpret it like that, then that’s your decision. But culturally at that time, slavery had nothing to do with colonial or modern slavery.
In v. 6, Matthew uses a different word for servant, pais, which speaks of youth, though in that verse it is probably just a synonym for servant. In any case, the Greek says that the servant was honored by the centurion.
In these three verses, Jesus contrasts the Gentile centurion’s faith with the Jewish nation’s misguided belief that they automatically have God’s favor by virtue of living in Israel and by being Jewish. Ethnicity and the law mattered to them. But Jesus has never heard even one Jew living in Israel who had this high and deep faith. Not one.
“I tell you the truth”: Matthew uses this expression thirty times in his Gospel. “Truth” comes from the word amēn (pronounced ah-main and comes into English as amen). It expresses the authority of the one who utters it. The Hebrew root ’mn means faithfulness, reliability and certainty. It could be translated as “truly I tell you” or I tell you with certainty.” Jesus’s faith in his own words is remarkable and points to his unique calling. In the OT and later Jewish writings is indicates a solemn pronouncement, but Jesus’ “introductory uses of amēn to confirm his own words is unique” (France at his comment on 5:18). The authoritative formula emphasizes pronouncements which are noteworthy and will be surprising or uncomfortable to the listener.
“kingdom of heaven”: Matthew substitutes “heaven” (literally heavens or plural) nearly every time (except for 12:28; 19:24; 21:31, 43, where he uses kingdom of God). Why? Four possible reasons: (1) Maybe some extra-pious Jews preferred the circumlocution or the roundabout way of speaking, but this answer is not always the right one, for Matthew does use the phrase “kingdom of God” four times; (2) the phrase “kingdom of heaven” points to Christ’s post-resurrection authority; God’s sovereignty in heaven and earth (beginning with Jesus’s ministry) is now mediated through Jesus (28:18); (3) “kingdom of God” makes God the king (26:29) and leaves less room to ascribe the kingdom to Jesus (16:28; 25:31, 34, 40; 27:42), but the phrase “kingdom of heaven” leaves more room to say Jesus is the king Messiah. (4) It may be a stylistic variation that has no deeper reasoning behind it (France). In my view the third option shows the close connection to the doctrine of the Trinity; the Father and Son share authority, after the Father gives it to him during the incarnation. The kingdom of heaven is both the kingdom of the Father and the kingdom of the Messiah (Carson). And, since I like streamlined interpretations, the fourth one also appeals to me.
Now let’s go for a general consideration of the kingdom of heaven / God. As noted in other verses that mention the kingdom in this commentary, the kingdom is God’s power, authority, rule, reign and sovereignty. He exerts all those things over all the universe but more specifically over the lives of people. It is his invisible realm, and throughout the Gospels Jesus is explaining and demonstrating what it looks like before their very eyes and ears. It is gradually being manifested from the realm of faith to the visible realm, but it is not political in the human sense. It is a secret kingdom because it does not enter humanity with trumpets blaring and full power and glory. This grand display will happen when Jesus comes back. In his first coming, it woos people to surrender to it. We can enter God’s kingdom by being born again (John 3:3, 5), by repenting (Matt. 4:17; Mark 1:5), by having the faith of children (Matt. 18:4; Mark 10:14-15), by being transferred from the kingdom of darkness into the kingdom of the Son whom God loves (Col. 1:13), and by seeing their own poverty and need for the kingdom (Matt. 5:3; Luke 6:20; Jas. 2:5). The kingdom has already come in part at his First Coming, but not yet with full manifestation and glory and power until his Second Coming.
1 Introducing the Kingdom of God (begin a ten-part series)
“faith”: the noun is pistis (pronounced peace-teace or pis-tiss), and it is used 243 times. Its basic meaning is the “belief, trust, confidence,” and it can also mean “faithfulness” and “trustworthy” (Mounce p. 232). It is directional, and the best direction is faith in God (Mark 11:22; 1 Thess. 1:8; 1 Pet. 1:21; Heb. 6:1) and faith in Jesus (Acts 3:16; 20:21; 24:24; Gal. 3:26; Eph. 1:15; Col. 1:4; 1 Tim. 3:13). Believing (verb) and faith (noun) is very important to God. It is the language of heaven. We live on earth and by faith see the invisible world where God is. We must believe he exists; then we must exercise our faith to believe he loves us and intends to save us. We must have saving faith by trusting in Jesus and his finished work on the cross.
Forsaking All, I Trust Him
Let’s discuss the verb believe and the noun faith more deeply. It is the language of the kingdom of God. It is how God expects us to relate to him. It is the opposite of doubt, which is manifested in whining and complaining and fear. Instead, faith is, first, a gift that God has distributed to everyone (Rom. 12:3). Second, it is directional (Rom. 10:9-11; Acts 20:21). We cannot rightly have faith in faith. It must be faith in God through Christ. Third, faith in Christ is different from faith in one’s ability to follow God on one’s own. It is different from keeping hundreds of religious laws and rules. This is one of Luke’s main themes in Acts, culminating in the Jerusalem Council (Acts 15) and Paul’s ministry for the rest of Acts. Faith in Jesus over faith in law keeping. Fourth, there is faith as a set of beliefs and doctrines, which are built on Scripture (Acts 6:7). Fifth, there is also a surge of faith that is poured out and transmitted through the Spirit when people need it most (1 Cor. 12:9). It is one of the nine charismata or manifestations of grace (1 Cor 12:7-11). Sixth, one can build faith and starve doubt by feasting on Scripture and the words about Christ (Rom. 10:17).
In this verse they had faith for their friend to be healed. They directed their faith towards Jesus the healer. They acted before the paralytic was healed. They had such confidence in the healing power of Jesus that they broke through the barriers—now that’s the faith that God likes!
“I tell you”: this clause also denotes an authoritative and solemn pronouncement which may surprise his listeners and make them uncomfortable.
So what will be the outcome of the contrast? Many Gentiles will come in from the east and west and enjoy the Messianic banquet—that’s what reclining means, reclining at table—in the Messianic Age. These verses are forerunners to the Great Commission and outreach to the entire world. In contrast, the sons and daughters of the kingdom—unbelieving Jews—will be tossed outside, because they trusted in the wrong foundation: ethnic heritage and the law. It has always and will always be about faith in God, and now faith in God through his Messiah. Yes, believing Jews will be part of the banquet, too. A new plan is afoot.
“sons and daughters”: Carson says the phrasing means “belonging to” or “destined for.” I translated it as “sons and daughters,” because in this context, the term is generic and inclusive. But the deeper meaning is that there will be a great shock when the Chosen People who trusted in the wrong things will be shown the door into outer or extreme darkness, away from the celebratory banquet.
“that place”: The Greek says ekei, which means “there” or “that place.” Unfortunately most translations don’t pick up on the ambiguity of their translations: “There shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth.” Here it is, more awkwardly but accurately: “The weeping and the gnashing will be there, in that place.” The standard translation (“there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth”) makes “there” into the wrong kind of adverb, or at least it is not clear in English. The clearer translation is as I have it.
So where is “that place”? Some see it as a spiritual dimension, but away from God so far that his light does not reach it, so that place is dark. Others see it as far outside the banquet, but they can see the lights coming from the feast, but they are not invited in but remain outside. Others ask: how can the lake of fire, which produces light, coexist with farthest or outer darkness? They cannot. Therefore, some interpreters conclude that punishment in the afterlife takes on different dimensions: fire in one place, and darkness in another.
Still another interpretation is possible. Charismatic Presbyterian theologian J. Rodman Williams (d. 2008) says fire and darkness are just metaphors, which cannot be taken literally, for separation from God and punishment:
These two terms, “darkness” and “fire,” that point to the final state of the lost might seem to be opposites, because darkness, even black darkness, suggests nothing like fire or the light of a blazing fire. Thus again we must guard against identifying the particular terms with literal reality, such as a place of black darkness or of blazing fire. Rather, darkness and fire are metaphors that express the profound truth, on the one hand, of terrible estrangement and isolation from God, and on the other, the pain and misery of unrelieved punishment. It is significant that Jesus in His portrayals of darkness and fire often adds the statement “There men will weep and gnash their teeth.” This weeping and gnashing … vividly suggests both suffering and despair. So whether the metaphor is darkness or fire, the picture is indeed a grim one, even beyond the ability of any figure of speech to express.
One further word: both darkness and fire refer to the basic situation of the lost after Last Judgment. However, we have already observed that there will be degrees of punishment; hence in some sense the darkness and fire will not be wholly the same. Some punishment will be more tolerable than other punishment: some people will receive a greater condemnation, while some (to change the figure) will be “beaten with few blows” [Luke 12:48]. Thus we should not understand the overall picture of the state of the lost to exclude differences in degree of punishment. Even as for the righteous in the world to come, there will be varying rewards, so for the unrighteous, the punishment will not be the same. (Renewal Theology, vol. 3, 470-71).
For the record, Williams did not believe in annihilationism (or terminalism or conditionalism) or universal reconciliation (or restorationism).
However, if you want to take the images of darkness and fire literally, you may certainly do so. It’s up to you. It should be noted that Jesus says nothing about the outer darkness lasting for eternity here.
Please see my three posts on the topic and the Scriptural support for each theory:
Each of these theories teach punishment in hell, so the question is the duration of the punishment. In these three theories of punishment in the afterlife, you decide. I suggest that God has not made the details as clear as some in the eternal conscious torment camp have led us to believe because he wants us to focus on kingdom living right now and reach as many people as possible. I therefore consider the details of punishment in the afterlife to be a secondary doctrine. Whichever theory you land on, please follow this wise advice:
In the essentials, unity; in the nonessentials liberty; in all things charity (or love).
Please don’t make this focused and narrow part of doctrine a test for orthodoxy or heresy. Give people space. We will all find out when the time comes. Convert to Christ and remain in him, and then you will not experience hell at all, no matter how long it lasts.
“weeping and gnashing”: “Weeping indicates mourning over damnation, and gnashing of teeth may indicate “strong emotion similar to it … but it probably signifies primarily anguish” (Keener, p. 269). Keener also says that weeping means mourning over damnation, and gnashing of teeth may indicate anger or a strong emotion similar to it. Carson says weeping may indicate suffering, and gnashing indicates despair, and Osborne agrees.
In any case, existence in punishment is unhappy and produces despair and even anger. Perhaps the gnashing can also mean cursing in anger. (See these verses for gnashing: Acts 7:54; Job 16:9; Pss. 34:16; 36:12; 112:10; Lam. 2:16). Since weeping indicates remorse, it is not quite accurate to claim that hell is locked from the inside as if people want to be there, though maybe only the enraged do want this.
As noted, it is best to avoid such punishment, whatever it entails, by putting your faith in Christ and remaining in union with him.
“just as”: It means in proportion to his faith. It is hard to put into words how the centurion had that much faith. He was used to the military chain of command, and he made the connection to Jesus being the emperor or king over the spiritual world (and at the Second Coming, over the visible world, too, though the centurion did not say as much). Do we see Jesus as king over our lives? Do we really believe he has command over the spirit world and over disease and even our entire lives? Osborne translate the command of Jesus: “Go, let it be done for you just as you have believed.”
“believed”: see v. 10 for further comment.
How much trust (= faith) do we have in the Father and his Son? Do we have enough faith to speak so confidently (also related to faith) of the Father’s and Son’s power? The Son loves it when people overturn the natural order and grab hold of the kingdom with a witty reply or wise action (Matt. 9:18-26; 15:21-28). He responds favorably.
“at that moment”: the Greek literally says “at that hour.” The ancient world did not have clocks, so it is best to translate the term as “at that moment.”
Now this healing brings up the question: why doesn’t everyone get healed? In v. 3, I already dealt with this question, which can never have an adequate and full answer now.
Osborne: “The centuries-old debate as to whether prayer changes things will never be ultimately resolved this side of heaven, but a close examination of the effects of prayer throughout Scripture has convinced me that prayer brings God’s presence in a new way. So in that sense, prayer does change things: it matters when more and more pray and when we pray more intensely. More than that we cannot say, for Scripture never truly resolves the tension” (p. 295).
I like that quotation because prayer brings down God’s manifest presence, and when more people pray, and pray more intensely, it matters; it’s effective.
Here is the parallel passage in Luke 7:
Luke 7 (scroll down to vv. 1-10, where I offer a brief explanation of the trivial differences in the two accounts. The bottom line is that they just don’t matter. We get the gist of the story.
At this link, celebrate the similarities, not the differences:
A difference ≠ a contradiction
GrowApp for Matt. 8:5-13
A.. Where’s your faith? How do you strengthen it? How much do you really trust King Jesus?
Jesus Heals Many People (Matt. 8:14-17)
14 When Jesus entered Peter’s house, he saw Peter’s mother-in-law laid up and having a fever. 15 Then he touched her hand, and the fever left her, and she got up and began to serve him. 16 When evening came, they brought to him many demonized people, and he expelled the spirits with a word, and he healed all those having sicknesses, 17 so that the word spoken through the prophet Isaiah would be fulfilled:
He took our diseases,
And he carried our sicknesses [Is. 53:4]
Verses 16-17 are summary verses, which we also see in Matt. 4:23-25 and 9:35.
I added the proper noun Peter in the second half, to avoid confusion. It was not Jesus’s mother-in-law!
Jesus again touched the sick person. Luke says he rebuked the fever (4:38). Merely touching or rebuking or doing both resulted in healing. The healing was instant, much like the centurion’s servant’s healing was instant.
“left”: it is the verb meaning to “release” or “let go.” The fever loosed its grip on her, so to speak.
The crowd must have heard about the healing and watched her prepare the food for Jesus. They saw the instant results. Then the news spread like wildfire.
“demonized”: the one verb is translated simply. There are two main ways in the Greek NT to express demonic attacks to varying degrees, from full possession to just attacks: “have a demon” and “demonized.” The latter term is used often in Matthew: 4:24; 8:16, 28, 35; 9:32; 12:22; 15:22, but only once in Luke (8:36), and Mark four times (1:32; 5:15, 16, 18). John uses the term once (10:21). In Luke 8:26-39, Luke uses both “have a demon” and “demonized,” so he sees the terms synonymously. “Demonized” comes from the verb daimonizomai (pronounced dy-mo-nee-zo-my), which just adds the suffix –iz- to the noun daimōn (pronounced dy-moan). It is a very convenient quality about Greek (English has this ability too: modern to modernize). Just add this suffix to a noun or adjective, and it turns into a verb. So it looks like “have a demon” and “be demonized” are synonyms. The context determines how severe the possession was. In this verse it is used generally, without precision as to the depth of possession.
The main point is that he tossed out or threw out or cast out or expelled (all possible translations) the demon with a word. He did not have to use incantation or spells or read from a magic book. His word was probably, “Go!” (v. 32). We Renewalists (Pentecostals, Charismatics, and Neo-Charismatics) believe deliverances like these happen today, and it is amazing to us that Jesus could accomplish the demon expulsion with a word. I have heard of a powerful minister, now deceased, who could do this. I went to his church for about a decade, though I personally never saw him do this because after the initial surge of demonic activity, things quieted down, which is when I came.
“healed”: see v. 7 for more comments.
He expelled them with a word: Word is the term Greek noun logos, but it is not a long sermon in this context. He spoke a word of command. In his name, we too have authority to speak a word of command to a demon.
“Matthew links Jesus’s healing of physical illnesses to his substitutionary death for sinners (1:21; 20:28; 26:28). As indications of kingdom authority, the healings are token of the ultimate eschatological results of Jesus’s redemption” (Turner, his comments on 8:17). Jesus not only fulfills quoted verses, in this case Is. 53:4, but also patterns and themes and old Sinai practices. So in this sense the entire OT points to him.
Messianic Prophecies (long table of fulfilled quoted verses)
Now let’s take an excursus into soteriology (doctrine of salvation).
Some interpreters say that vv. 16-17 are about Jesus carrying the people’s disease during his earthly ministry, before he died for our sins on the cross, so healing is not in the atonement on the cross and therefore healing does not happen today. But this adds up to nothing but extra-clever reasoning by the cessationists (those who believe the gifts in 1 Cor. 12:7-11 and signs and wonders have ceased). Just the opposite is true. Jesus’s entire ministry, from his baptism to his cross and resurrection and ascension, carries on today. (“Jesus Christ is the same, yesterday, today, and forever,” Heb. 13:8, NIV.) I believe that healing is in the atonement, just like all sorts of other kingdom benefits are in it. It is never a good idea to “limit” his atonement by indirect reasoning.
Example: (a) people can never resist his grace for salvation; (b) not all people are saved; (c) therefore his grace for salvation is not offered to everyone; and (d) therefore his salvation done on the cross (atonement) is limited to the elect or those who were called by grace; (e) and therefore, finally, the atonement is limited to the elect. Convoluted and indirect.
It is better to look directly at verses covering Christ’s atoning death on the cross—and he died for all. “He is the atoning sacrifice for our sins, and not only for our sins but also for the sins of the whole world” (1 John 2:2, NIV, emphasis added). “All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and all are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus. God presented Christ as a sacrifice of atonement, through the shedding off his blood—to be received by faith (Rom. 3:23-25, NIV, emphasis added). This redemption and atonement is received by faith. Therefore, the door is open to anyone and everyone—all—who have faith to receive his grace, which leads to redemption and the atonement being applied to anyone and everyone—all—who have faith! The initiative begins with God, and our faith responds to his freely offered grace—offered to anyone and everyone—all. His grace is efficacious or effective to the everyone who believes or has faith, and Christ’s sacrifice of atonement is received by faith. There is no limited atonement on offer.
So from his healing ministry during his life, to his death on the cross, he carried our diseases. His healing was exhibited throughout his life, even after the ascension. Now the question is: Is healing guaranteed in every case? I have attempted to answer the question in v. 3, though no ultimate answer is available to us on the earthly side of eternity. For a fuller discussion, see this post, once again:
We should believe for healing for every person, as our “default setting,” until God tells us otherwise for a specific individual. God has spoken to me twice that he was going to take a person home, to heaven. One was an older woman I did not know and the other one was my half-brother. In all other cases I assume God intends to heal, so far.
“diseases”: it is the plural of the noun astheneia (pronounced ah-stheh-nay-ah), and the prefix a– is the negation, and the stem –sthen– means “strength” or “strong,” so literally it means “unstrong.” It means, depending on the context, primarily “weakness”; and secondarily “sickness, disease.” The NIV translates it throughout the NT: weakness (most often), weaknesses, weak, crippled, diseases, illness, illnesses, infirmities, infirmity, invalid, sick, sickness, sicknesses. Here in v. 17 it means illnesses or sicknesses.
“Curing disease with a mere word (8:3, 8) was quite unusual, contrasting with most of the popular magicians of the day” (Keener, p. 272).
GrowApp for Matt. 8:14-17
A.. Isaiah 53 is a short chapter. Please read it. Do you see the Messiah Jesus in the chapter? Jot down your ideas.
The Maybe Followers of Jesus (Matt. 8:18-22)
18 When Jesus saw the crowd around him, he gave orders to depart for the other side of the lake. 19 Then a teacher of the law approached and said to him, “Teacher, I’ll follow you where you may go!” 20 Jesus said to him, “Foxes have dens and birds of the sky nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay his head.” 21 Another of his disciples said to him, “Lord, permit me first to depart and bury my father.” 22 But Jesus said to him, “Follow me, and let the dead bury their own dead.”
Jesus just gave orders to depart to the other side of the lake. The Greek verb can be translated “go away” to the other side. The context is the Lake of Galilee, but the phrase is not in Greek. It was supplied based on the context.
Jesus of course adopted Capernaum as his hometown, and he may have had a house there (Mark 3:20), though some say it was someone else’s house. But his statement about foxes and wild birds (as opposed to domestic fowl) appear in the context of being an itinerant teacher; he spent many days and nights away from Capernaum. Most people back then did not leave their small farming or fishing village. Back in the 1970s I had a roommate whose grandparents, who were farmers, never even left their home county—and they had cars! Yes, people traveled by walking, and there was mobility back then, but most stayed in a small area. Was the teacher of the law ready to travel around and sleep under the stars?
“teacher of the law”: they were also called scribes.
As a class, they were the Watchdogs of Theology and Behavior (David E. Garland, Luke: Zondervan Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament [Zondervan, 2011], p. 243). The problem which Jesus had with them can be summed up in Eccl. 7:16: “Be not overly righteous.” He did not quote that verse, but to him they were much too enamored with the finer points of the law, while neglecting its spirit (Luke 11:37-52; Matt. 23:1-36). Instead, he quoted this verse from Hos. 6:6: “I desire mercy, not sacrifice” (Matt. 9:13; 12:7). Overdoing righteousness, believe it or not, can damage one’s relationship with God and others.
However, this teacher seemed to be a little different. He was willing to follow Jesus. He deserves partial credit for this. Jesus did not turn him down instantly or out of hand. Rather, the point is that the enthusiastic man better count the cost before following Jesus. The teacher has to know what he is getting into.
“Son of Man”: This is the first time it is used in Matthew’s Gospel. it both means the powerful, divine Son of man (Dan. 7:13-14) and the human son of man—Ezekiel himself—in the book of Ezekiel (numerous references). Jesus was and still is in heaven both divine and human.
Initially, the teacher of the law / scribe probably wanted to get in the boat, but Jesus challenged him. According to one commentator quoted by Osborne, the Greek can subtly mean that the teacher of the law intended this attitude: “Jesus, this is your lucky day. I have decided to be your disciple” (comment on 8:19). No, someone back then can follow Jesus, as the crowds did, but God has to woo the person to become a close follower of Jesus and not quit. Would the scribe, a would-be disciple, be willing to live out in the open air like birds and not even have a den as foxes have?
“disciples”: the noun is mathētēs (singular and pronounced mah-they-tayss), and it is used 261 times in the NT, though many of them are duplicates in the three synoptic Gospels of Matthew, Mark, and Luke. BDAG, considered by many to be the authoritative lexicon of the Greek NT, says of the noun (1) “one who engages in learning through instruction from another, pupil, apprentice”; (2) “one who is rather constantly associated with someone who has a pedagogical reputation or a particular set of views, disciple, adherent.”
Now a man wants to bury his father.
Jewish law said that if a man touches a corpse, then he is unclean for seven days and then he became pure again (Num. 19:11-12). Apparently, Jesus knew that if the man went away or departed from following him, in order to go back and bury his father, then he might never return. The call of the kingdom is paramount. Jesus said he had come to divide family members against family member (Matt. 10:34-39).
Further, did the father just die? That may not be exactly right. Anther read of the situation says that the old father may not have been at death’s door. He may have had many years left before he died. Then the delay to follow Jesus would be indefinite. “But father and son might wish to be together before the father dies … and current Semitic idioms show that ‘I must first bury my father’ can function as a request to wait until one’s father dies—perhaps for years—so that one may fulfill the ultimate filial obligation before leaving home” (Keener, p. 276).
On the other hand, if we take the disciple’s situation in life literally, namely, that his father had just died, and the man had to go back and bury him, then this call to discipleship really is radical—very, very radical. But I believe Jesus saw a deficiency in the man that turned his father into an idol, and the man needed to break with him. I believe that Jesus recognized that if the man went away even for seven days to wait until he was clean again, he would never come back.
This situation may not apply to you. You may already be a follower of Jesus, and your father or someone else died recently. You should go to his funeral and memorial service. In your life situation, it is not either-or, cut-and-dry, because you already decided to follow Jesus. In contrast, this man in vv. 21-22 was not yet ready to follow Jesus.
“the dead bury their own dead”: this means that the spiritually dead should bury their physical dead. Who is spiritually dead? The ones who show no interest in the kingdom or in following Jesus. The kingdom of God is of utmost importance.
Jesus wanted people to follow him and welcomed the masses; nor did Jesus actually want prospective disciples to abandon him. … But those who would genuinely be disciples of the king must count the cost before they begin following him (Luke 14:26-35). (Parallels from some other radical ancient teachers demonstrate that commitment rather than harshness was Jesus’ intent ….) (Keener, p. 277)
Jesus often used aphorisms for their shock value and here wants to demonstrate the extent of a total commitment to himself, which took absolute priority even over the greatest obligation such as one parents … This was not meant to be a general rule on the priority of Jesus and was not to be followed in all instances (cf. Matt. 5:29-30; 19:21). Still, it is a shocking statement intended to demand radical commitment in light of the overruling importance of kingdom duties (Osborne, comment on 8:22)
GrowApp for Matt. 8:18-22
A.. Jesus had said that the road and gate leading to life are narrow (7:13-14). How resolved are you to follow Jesus? Will you quit when challenged? Or will you persevere (hang in there)? Do you depend on yourself or the power of the Spirit?
Jesus Calms the Storm (Matt. 8:23-27)
23 When he got in a boat, his disciples followed him. 24 And look! A strong storm arose on the lake, to the point that the boat was hidden by the waves! But Jesus was sleeping. 25 They approached and woke him up, saying, “Lord, save us! We are perishing!” 26 Then he told them, “Why are you so cowardly, you of little faith?” Then he got up and rebuked the winds and the lake. There was a great calm. 27 The men were amazed, saying, “What kind of man is this? Because even the winds and the lake obey him!”
Mark 4:35-41 and Luke 8:22-25 also have this story.
Mark says they got in the boat during the evening. By the time they got out to the middle of the lake, it was dark. So the darkness adds to the tension of the narrative, but as usual Matthew trims these smaller elements. That’s why I nickname him “Matthew the Trimmer” (though he does not trim every detail, like the pair of demoniacs [see below] the two blind men in 20:29-34)
Why does Jesus feel called to go to the other side? Probably because the Father by the Spirit informed him that two men really needed help. See the next pericope.
Once God calls you, nothing will stop you, except yourself. Always be obedient. There’s a blessing on the other side of the lake. The goal achieved will bless others by God’s love and grace.
You can google the so-called “Jesus boat” which was found recently. It was active around the time that Jesus was alive. It is impressive to see, for it gives a good idea what boats were like back then. However, this boat on which Jesus boarded seems to be bigger than that one. But who knows? When he taught, he sometimes launched out on to a boat just offshore, and he could have used that very boat.
Mark says other boats were with him (Mark4:36), so a small “fleet” had launched out. Therefore the “Jesus boat” may indeed have been one in the small fleet.
“look!” it is a modern translation of “behold!” It means something exciting (positive or negative) or unexpectant is coming. “Pay attention!” “Observe carefully!” “Watch!” Maybe in some contexts we could translate it as follows: “Oh no!” Or “Wow!”
“lake”: it is most often translated as “sea,” because of the Greek word, but the Shorter Lexicon offers the option of “lake.” And since the body of water in Galilee is a lake, I chose this term. The old traditional title, “The Sea of Galilee,” to modern readers, makes no sense when they see it on an online map; the term is inaccurate.
The Lake of Galilee sits in a bowl, with high hills around it. Historians teach us that rushing winds would sometimes sweep down and hit the water, creating high waves. And so it is happening here.
“hidden”: that is a literal translation, but “swamped” works too. It may even be better, because it is a more powerful image. But I like to keep this translation more on the literal side. The waves were so high that they hid the boat.
Blomberg is open to the idea that the sudden storm was a satanic attack, as it may have happened in 14:24:
Matthew, however, calls the storm a seismos (literally, earthquake), a term used for apocalyptic upheavals (cf. 24:7; 27:54; 28:2), often with preternatural overtones. This seems to be no ordinary storm but one in which Satan is attacking. The boat is in danger of being swamped, and lives are at risk. Amazingly, Jesus remains so calm that he continues to sleep. The disciples rouse him and beg for help. “Save” and perish (“drown”) refer first of all to the disciples’ physical lives, but by Matthew’s time they have become the standard terms for spiritual salvation and destruction. Matthew may well intend a double entendre here. (comment on 8:23-25)
Jesus was sleeping. It is truly amazing that he was sleeping during the storm. I heard a younger TV teacher say something like: “If you can’t sleep through your storm, then you don’t really trust God.” She added that Jesus had just said they were to go to the other side of the lake. Therefore, they were going to get there, regardless of the storm. Her idea was clever. In this case, Jesus literally slept. “In the OT sleep in difficult situations symbolized a deep trust in God (Job 11:18-19; Ps 3:5-6; Prov 3:24-26)” (Osborne, comment on 8:24).
In our case, we need to be as calm as the water, after Jesus rebuked the storm. “A great calm occurred.” Our rest and calm needs to be in our heart and soul. The circumstances may look stormy—may be stormy—but our hearts and soul can remain calm and carry on.
“to the point”: a more standard translation would be “with the result that” or “so that”
Are you sleeping during the time of our greatest need? We are perishing right now! Wake up! Don’t you care? Save us! They didn’t know that he could calm the storm, when they used the word “save.” It could also be translated as “rescue!” “The “us” had to be inserted.
The verb for save is sōzō: Since the theology of salvation (soteriology) is so critical for our lives, let’s look more closely at the noun salvation, which is sōtēria (pronounced soh-tay-ree-ah and used 46 times) and at the verb sōzō (pronounced soh-zoh and used 106 times)
Greek is the language of the NT. BDAG defines the noun sōtēria as follows, depending on the context: (1) “deliverance, preservation” … (2) “salvation.”
The verb sōzō means “save, rescue, heal” in a variety of contexts, but mostly it is used of saving the soul. BDAG says that the verb means, depending on the context: (1) “to preserve or rescue from natural dangers and afflictions, save, keep from harm, preserve,” and the sub-definitions under no. 1 are as follows: save from death; bring out safely; save from disease; keep, preserve in good condition; thrive, prosper, get on well; (2) “to save or preserve from transcendent danger or destruction, save or preserve from ‘eternal’ death … “bring Messianic salvation, bring to salvation,” and in the passive it means “be saved, attain salvation”; (3) some passages in the NT say we fit under the first and second definition at the same time (Mark 8:5; Luke 9:24; Rom. 9:27; 1 Cor. 3:15).
Another rarer verb is diasōzō (pronounced dee-ah-soh-zoh and used 8 times), and the prefix means “through.” Here are the occurrences: Mark 14:36; Luke 7:3; Acts 23:24; 27:43-44; 28:1, 4; 2; 1 Pet. 3:20. It means what the regular verb does, but often to be rescued through and up to the very end, like Paul’s ship landing on Malta after going through the storm.
As noted throughout this commentary, the noun salvation and the verb save go a lot farther than just preparing the soul to go on to heaven. Together, they have additional benefits: keeping and preserving and rescuing from harm and dangers; saving or freeing from diseases and demonic oppression; and saving or rescuing from sin dominating us; ushering into heaven and rescuing us from final judgment. What is our response to the gift of salvation? You are grateful and then you are moved to act. When you help or rescue one man from homelessness or an orphan from his oppression, you have moved one giant step towards salvation of his soul. Sometimes feeding a hungry man and giving clothes to the naked or taking him to a medical clinic come before saving his soul.
All of it is a package called salvation and saved.
“perish”: it comes from the verb apollumi (pronounced ah-poh-loo-mee), and it means, depending on the context: (1) “to cause or experience destruction (active voice) ruin, destroy”; (middle voice) “perish, be ruined”; (2) “to fail to obtain what one expects or anticipates, lose out on, lose”; (3) “to lose something that one already has or be separated from a normal connection, lose, be lost” (BDAG). The Shorter Lexicon adds “die.”
In this verse a freer translation could be “drown.” But in our modern world we still retain the phrase “perish at sea.” So I went with “perish.”
“lake”: see comments on v. 24.
“cowardly”: Wow! That term is a lot stronger than “afraid” in this context. Jesus rebuked them as well. Mark also has cowardly in Greek (4:40). Luke softens the Greek to “afraid” (8:25).
“commands”: it is the verb epitassō (pronounced eh-pea-tahs-soh), and it means “order” or “command.” It combines the prefix preposition epi– (on or upon) and tassō, which means, depending on the context, to “place or station, appoint to an office, put in charge of, assign, belong to, fix, determine, appoint.” Adding the prefix means you stand over the problem and command it. Notice how Jesus did not pray a flowery prayer. “O thou great God, if it be thy will, I prithee to still this storm!” No, he commanded.
The issue of rebuking a storm brings up a systematic theology lesson for us today: Did Jesus work this miracle by his divine nature and the Father’s will, or by the power of the Holy Spirit through the Father’s will? If it was done through his divine nature, then we cannot repeat this miracle. Yes, we partake of the divine nature (1 Pet. 1:4), but we are not fully God, as Jesus was. If he did this miracle by the power of the Spirit, then we can do the same, according to the Father’s will, because we too have the power of the Spirit. Some theologians say it was by his divine nature; other Bible interpreters say it was accomplished by the Spirit. The testimony of Scripture says that Jesus was anointed by the Spirit and worked all of his miracles by the Spirit (see Acts 10:38; John 3:34).
Further, the Father and the Spirit cooperated with his divine nature, so the first and third persons of the Trinity is working together in the Son of God. His entire ministry was about doing what the Father did and in a similar manner.
19 “Jesus then replied and said to them, “I tell you the firm truth: The Son is unable to do anything on his own, unless it is something he sees the Father doing, for the things that he does—the Son also does those things in like manner. 20 For the Father loves the Son and shows to him everything that he himself is doing” … (John 5:19-20).
“Unable” should not be over-interpreted, but simply means that in his ministry, the Father empowers him. So in those two verses, the Father and Son cooperate to do the works–the miracles. And the Father anointed the Son with the Spirit. Thus, the Father, Son and Holy Spirit performed the works or miracles in the Gospels. It is the Trinity working together who inaugurated the kingdom of God and confirmed it by the signs and wonders. We too, by the Father’s will, and in the name of Jesus, through the power of the Spirit can do the works of God.
So all of his prayers and commands were done by the Father’s will.
In the 1970s, during the height of the Charismatic Renewal, leaders on TV were either very brave and faith-filled or very foolish. They prayed against storms.
Should we pray for a nature miracle, against hurricanes and tornados? Of course. Pray for your need. However, before anyone starts proclaiming a nature miracle or rebuking a storm before it happens, he better be clear that he got a prophetic word that God wants to answer his prayer. The man who prays may be listening to his own “mighty thoughts of faith” which do not always equal God’s thoughts. And so if he prays “a prayer of faith” and broadcasts the nature miracle on TV before it happens, it might not come to pass, and so he will subject the church to mockery. One may object that a man of faith prayed against a hurricane coming to shore, and it did not come to shore. But the problem is that hurricanes often veer off from the shore and go due north (Hurricane Dorian), while others slam into cities and wreak damage despite the prayers (Hurricanes Andrew and Katrina). Be careful, Renewalists of the fiery and showy variety! Don’t be presumptuous and put the Lord to the test. We learned the opposite from Jesus, who said he would not jump off a building and force God’s hand (Matt. 4:5-7). Truly hear from God before you strut around in your own strength.
Remember, it was Jesus’s mission to go over to the opposite side of the lake. He was a perfect follower of his Father. You or I may not be such a perfect follower. We are imperfect. And we may be speaking presumptuously, from our own thoughts, not God’s thoughts.
Now for those of us who are not fiery revivalists, yes, you can certainly pray that God will enable you to survive during a natural disaster. And you can even pray that a hurricane veer off into the Atlantic or a tornado lifts off the ground before it hits your house. But God answers this prayer; don’t be so self-centered that you believe you had anything to do with it.
Best of all, we regular people can prepare for storms. We should listen to the authorities when they tell us to evacuate before a hurricane hits or build an underground storm shelter in the backyard if tornadoes might come your way. Even a hole in the ground with proper support and storm doors can save your life. In California, authorities are retrofitting key buildings and other structures to prepare for earthquakes. That’s the right idea.
Don’t be caught off guard. Prepare and pray and run, if you have to!
Here are Scriptures about God rebuking the sea (all from the ESV):
Then the channels of the sea were seen,
and the foundations of the world were laid bare
at your rebuke, O Lord,
at the blast of the breath of your nostrils. (Ps. 18:15)
You covered it with the deep as with a garment;
the waters stood above the mountains.
7 At your rebuke they fled;
at the sound of your thunder they took to flight. (Ps. 104:6-7)
He rebuked the Red Sea, and it became dry,
and he led them through the deep as through a desert. (Ps. 106:9)
Behold, by my rebuke I dry up the sea,
I make the rivers a desert (Is. 50:2)
He rebukes the sea and makes it dry;
he dries up all the rivers (Nah. 1:4)
Bottom line: In light of those verses, you can certainly try to rebuke violent nature in Jesus’s name, but depend on the Father. It is by his will that this must be done. Be careful about arrogating too much power to yourself. And just because you string word together (“I give glory to God; this is his work”) does not mean you are not concentrating too much power in yourself. In any case, when Jesus rebuked the winds and the lake of Galilee, he did so in his own authority. Jesus’s followers have to do so in his name. And he controls how his name is used and which prayers to answer.
One other theological point: If Jesus rebuked the storm by his divine nature, then this is one more indication that he was God in the flesh because in those OT verses, only God could rebuke storms.
Similar to what we saw in Blomberg’s comments, Osborne is open to the idea that there was a cosmic battle embedded in the story, a satanic attack. “It is best to say there may be an echo of a cosmic conflict here, but the main thrust is Jesus’ power over nature. Jesus was the agent of creation behind this world (John 1:3; 1 Cor 8:6; Col 1:16; Heb 1:2) and so controls the forces of nature” (comment on 8:26).
The disciples’ reaction was appropriate. Truly, what kind of man was this? You and I would have been equally stunned.
“lake”: see v. 24 for more comments.
GrowApp for Matt. 8:23-27
A.. When you face a stormy circumstance, are you cowardly and have little faith? Or do you stand strong in faith, believing that if God does not instantly calm your storm, he will see you through it?
Jesus Delivers the Two Gadarene Demoniacs (Matt. 8:28-34)
28 After he went to the other side of the lake into the region where the Gadarenes lived, two demonized men, coming from the tombs, confronted him. They were very dangerous, so that no one was able to pass along that road. 29 Then look! They shrieked, saying, “Why are you interfering with us, Son of God? Have you come here to torment us before the time?” 30 There was, at a distance from them, a herd of many pigs, feeding. 31 The demons begged him, saying, “If you expel us, send us into the herd of pigs!” 32 He said to them, “Go!” They exited and departed into the swine. And look! The entire herd rushed down the steep slope into the lake and perished in the water. 33 Then the swineherds fled and left for the town and reported everything—even the things about the demonized men. 34 Then surprise! The entire town went out for a meeting with Jesus, and after they saw him, they implored him to cross over, out of their vicinity.
Let’s first tackle the issue of the two demoniacs, when Mark 5:1-20 and Luke 8:26-39 have one. The short answer is that Matthew knew by independent knowledge that there were two, and Mark and Luke, who were not eyewitnesses, knew of one. Or Mark and Luke merely trimmed one, to remove extra details. Example: you say, “I saw John in town today, and I had not seen him in years!” But John and Mary were together, yet you name only John. There is nothing problematic here (Carson). France, after listing the possible reasons for Matthew’s doubling (it takes two or three witnesses for a fact to be established; cf. Num. 35:30; Deut. 17:6; 19:15), says that in the end it is matter of “speculation.” Keener says the doubling is an acceptable literary practice. Osborne says that Matthew doubles up often: two blind men (9:27-31; 20:29-34); two donkeys (21:2); two in the field and at the mill (24:40-41); two servants (24:45-51). Osborne says Mark and Luke may have omitted one of the demoniacs to focus on the one for dramatic purposes. He also says Matthew didn’t make things up.
My take: I like Carson’s traditional explanation. France’s may be the safer one (speculation without a firm answer).
Blomberg: “Only Matthew speaks of two demoniacs, but he does not thereby contradict Mark and Luke. Neither of the other Evangelists refers to “only” one. Perhaps one of the two dominated the conversation. But Matthew elsewhere includes two characters, where parallel accounts have one (9:27; 20:30)” (comment on 8:28-29)
However, we must stop the foolishness of a brittle position on Scripture. “If there are disagreements or differences, then the brittle Bible breaks into pieces, and so does my brittle faith! I quit!” No. Don’t allow sneering skeptics to get under your skin (I no longer do). To me personally, the issue does not matter (anymore) because the main point of the passage is clear and has been accomplished in all three versions. Jesus is launching an attack on the kingdom of Satan, and as the Son of God ushers in the kingdom of God. Jesus is binding the strong man or Satan (Matt. 12:29-32). There is nothing contradictory about the essence of the three versions.
Including data points in one Gospel
Omitting data points in another Gospel
= Differences ≠ Contradiction
= Differences ≠ errors
How can there be a contradiction when one Gospel is silent on some minor details which the other Gospel includes? There is no contradiction.
My view of Scripture: It’s very high, but I don’t believe in “total inerrancy” or “hyper-inerrancy”; I allow for the inspired authors to rearrange the material, without their taking away from the truth of the passage (and so do many total inerrantists).
Begin a series on the reliability of the Gospels. Start with the Conclusion which has quick summaries and links back to the other parts:
The Gospels have a massive number of agreements in their storylines, so focus on and celebrate them:
See this part in the series that puts the differences in perspective (a difference ≠ a contradiction):
Many postmodern critics read these ancient documents in bad faith, believing that the authors were liars and plagiarists. The critics employ no subtlety and finesse and look for ways to put these texts down. They will never be satisfied. They belong to their own hyper-skeptical age.
I urge everyone to see them for who they are and not take them seriously.
The region of the Gadarenes is on the southeastern side of the lake. It was primarily Gentile. You can google it. This was a region where Gentiles lived, for Jews considered pigs to be unclean (Lev. 11:7; Deut. 14:8).
As for Mark’s “Gerasenes” (Mark 5:1) and Matthew’s “Gadarenes,” “Gerasa was larger and more powerful in Mark’s time; hence Mark used the more prominent city to identify the region …; Matthew, probably writing to Christians in Syria who knew the region better, clarifies the matter by naming the prominent city near the lake itself … In both Gospels, the writer is simply identifying the region; Gadara and Gerasa were both parts of the Decapolis, a primarily Gentile area with a large Jewish population” (Keener, p. 282).
See the links on the reliability of the Gospels, above.
The disciples were with him, and they needed training in taking authority over demons. They may have been baffled as to why Jesus was called to go over to this Gentile region, but now they are no longer mystified. Two men needed a large-scale deliverance session.
“demonized”: see v. 16 for further comment. The context indicates that these two men were completely possessed, not just attacked.
Matthews informs us that they were so dangerous—again indicating total possession—that people could not pass along the road by the tombs, an appropriate place for demonized men. The seven sons of Sceva found out how dangerous demons could be. The demon-possessed man pounced on the seven men, overpowered them, and beat them up (Acts 19:11-17).
“Why are you interfering with us”: Grammarian Olmstead says that the Greek idiom literally reads: “What [is] to us and you?” Rhetorically it asks, “What have we to do with you?” That is, “What business is it of yours to interfere with us?” The Septuagint (pronounced sep-TOO-a-gent) is the third-to-second century translation into Greek from the Hebrew Bible. It uses this idiom in Judg. 11:12; 2 Sam. 16:10; 19:23; 1 Kgs. 17:18; 2 Kings 3:13; 2 Chron. 35:21. It is always abrupt, is often harsh, and consistently introduces distance between the speaker and hearer (p. 183). These demons were arrogant smart alecks, but they had to acknowledge that Jesus was the Son of God. In the spirit world, they probably saw Jesus rebuke Satan in the Temptation (Matt. 4:1-12).
Matthew introduces an eschatological (end times) element to the story with the word “time.” Apparently these demons understood what their ultimate fate was, but they did not know when exactly it was going to happen. No, Jesus was not going to torment them personally, but he was going to send them into hell, which was prepared for Satan and his angels (demons), and that state was going to be torment enough (Matt. 25:41). The legion of demons understood that Jesus had authority to command them.
In his name, we also have authority to command demons.
“time”: the noun here is kairos (pronounced kye-ross and is used 85 times), which speaks more of a quality time than quantity. BDAG defines the noun as follows: (1) a point of time or period of time, time, period, frequently with the implication of being especially fit for something and without emphasis on precise chronology. (a) Generally a welcome time or difficult time … fruitful times; (b) a moment or period as especially appropriate the right, proper, favorable time … at the right time; (2) a defined period for an event, definite, fixed time (e.g. period of fasting or mourning in accord with the changes in season), in due time (Gal. 6:9); (3) a period characterized by some aspect of special crisis, time; (a) generally the present time (Rom. 13:11; 12:11); (b) One of the chief terms relating to the endtime … the time of crisis, the last times.
All of this stand in a mild contrast—not a sharp contrast—from chronos. Greek has another word for time: chronos (pronounced khro-noss), which measures one day, one week or one month after another.
In this context, the demons must mean the third definition and (b), the end time.
Getting kicked out of a region meant that the demons have lost their authority over a jurisdiction and were going to the abyss to await judgment. Jesus was in the process of binding the strong man and pushing him out and shrinking his territory (Matt. 12:29).
The demons recognized Jesus as the Son of God. Let’s look into some systematic theology. Jesus was the Son of the Father eternally, before creation. The Son has no beginning. He and the Father always were, together. The relationship is portrayed in this Father-Son way so we can understand who God is more clearly. Now he relates to us as his sons and daughters. On our repentance and salvation and union with Christ, we are brought into his eternal family.
Evidently demons don’t like to be without a physical body to possess (Matt. 12:43-45). So they made a deal with Jesus. Send us into the pigs (Mark 5:13 says there were about 2000 pigs). He allowed it, but they must not have realized that the pigs would do a swan dive—a pig dive—into the lake, where they died. Did they escape the pigs’ bodies upon their deaths? Unknown (to me at least). But it seems that when the pigs dissolved into nothing by now, they escaped the bodies. Yet let’s not speculate like this. Let’s move on.
I really like how Jesus issued a one-word command: “Go!” It is authoritative. Jesus was definitely in charge.
“lake”: see v. 24 for more comments.
A little Renewal theology (Renewal Movements encompass Pentecostals, Charismatics and Neo-Charismatics and independent, Spirit-filled churches). Yes, Jesus was God incarnate, but his unique divinity that he took with him to earth was hidden (not lost) behind his humanity. As he lived and moved on earth, he was subject to the everyday human limitations of life—hunger, sleep, fatigue and thirst, for instance. He was also anointed by the Spirit. He was the Anointed One. So the Father and the Spirit worked in Jesus of Nazareth—the Trinity together, but we will never be able to figure out in detail how the three cooperated together. Here the Father willed that his Son—the Son of God—cast out demons. We too are anointed by the Spirit, and through this lesson in this pericope (pronounced puh-rih-koh-pea) or unit or section of Scripture, kingdom citizens also learn how to cast out demons, after Jesus ascended to heaven.
It is amazing to me how calm Jesus was. Authority and calm go together. Flashy Renewalists who shriek during deliverances are just insecure. Instead, be authoritative and calm, in Jesus’s name.
As for the loss of property when the pigs drowned and today’s readers feeling sad, Blomberg is right: “Readers concerned about the destruction of animal life and the loss of the farmers’ livelihood exhibit a contemporary sentimentality not shared by a Jewish audience who knew these pig farmers should not have been raising animals whose meat was forbidden to eat. Human sanity and salvation, moreover, must always take priority over financial prosperity” (comment on 8:32)
“Surprise!” I chose this translation over the traditional “behold.” It always surprises me that the townspeople chose the pigs over Jesus and the delivered men. Yes, the swine was their livelihood or business, but honestly! People first! But if you don’t like “surprise,” then run with “behold.”
They ask him to leave their borders. We don’t want a miracle worker! How deceived can these people be? That deceived.
See my posts about Satan in the area of systematic theology:
“their”: And here we have another instance of their (see 4:23; 7:29; 9:35; 10:17; 12:9; 13:54; 22:7; 22:16). Why does Matthew keep saying “their synagogue or their city or their teachers of the law? My opinion: his community has moved well past Judaism and must distinguish between the newly formed Christian community and the old Jewish community.
GrowApp for Matt. 8:28-34
A.. Has Jesus set you free from any demonic influence (even false doctrine can be used by Satan)? Read James 4:7. What does it teach you about deliverance?
Summary and Conclusion
Jesus works a variety of miracles in this chapter, with one pericope (pronounced puh-RIH-koh-pea) or unit or section about discipleship. The last verse ending the Sermon on the Mount says that Jesus taught them as one having authority. All the pericopes in this chapter are designed to demonstrate his authority as the Messiah.
First, Jesus compassionately heals a leper. This is a sign that he was the Messiah, for one of the abilities of the Messiah, so it was popularly believed, is that he could cleanse lepers. Jesus referred to the time when Elijah the prophet healed Namaan the Syrian of his skin disease, and the return of Elijah was a sign that the Messiah was here (Mal. 4:5-6).
Second, Jesus’s authority is expansively revealed—more than the summary statement in vv. 16-17—that he has authority over disease from a distance when the centurion said as much. Then the centurion’s servant was healed from a distance.
Third, Jesus healed Peter’s mother-in-law; then Jesus had a healing session in the evening. Mark 1:21-34 indicates that they had gone to the synagogue, so the people brought the sick when the Sabbath was over, only in the evening. In modern terms, it is almost as if everyone had attended church and then they brought the carload of the lame and diseased to the local healer who healed all of them. Amazing to me. Matthew clearly connects this summary statement of healing with the Servant of the Lord in Is. 53:4-5. Healing is in the atonement and Christ’s sacrifice, and he is implementing it and opening the door to it during his ministry before the cross. Then it will be in the atonement on the cross.
Fourth, then Matthew deals with discipleship. Only those who are willing to follow him anywhere and can count the cost can be his disciple. He has the authority to decide who his disciples should be.
Fifth, his authority is revealed most plainly in his calming the storm. OT verses say that God does this, and so does Jesus. Many Renewalists believe they can too, but caution must be exercised because nature attacked Jesus personally. When he was in Jerusalem, it is possible that the winds whipped up the water in the lake of Galilee up north, but no record shows him rebuking the storm from Jerusalem. The need must be present to Jesus, like the centurion’s story teaches. The centurion spoke for his servant, personally to Jesus. So when a hurricane is coming towards the east coast, one man can certainly pray against it and the Christian community up and down the east coast praying in unison would be better, only in accord with the Father’s will, but be prepared to evacuate. The Father allows nature to do her thing, and now we have to learn what her thing is and work with her, often by avoiding her.
Eighth and finally, Jesus reveals his authority by expelling thousands of demons out of two demonized men. They were so dangerous that people could not walk by that road near the tombs. It is remarkable to Renewalists (like me) how calm he was when the demoniacs confronted him. The demons had to submit to Jesus’s authority. He was in charge. He is Lord.
Blomberg, Craig L. Matthew: The New American Commentary. Vol. 22 (Broadman, 1992).
Carson, D. A. Matthew: The Expositor’s Bible Commentary. Rev. Ed. by Tremper Longman III and David E. Garland. Vol. 9. (Zondervan, 2010).
France, R. T. The Gospel of Matthew: New International Commentary on the New Testament. (Eerdmans 2007).
Garland, David E. Reading Matthew: A Literary and Theological Commentary (Smyth and Helways, 2001).
The Greek New Testament. Fifth Revised Edition by Barbara Aland, Kurt Aland, Johannes Karavidopoulos, Carlo M. Martini, Bruce M. Metzger (United Bible Society, 2014).
Keener, Craig. A Commentary on the Gospel of Matthew. (Eerdmans 1999).
Olmstead, Wesley G. Matthew 1-14: A Handbook on the Greek Text. (Baylor UP, 2019).
Osborne, Grant R. Matthew: Zondervan Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament. (Zondervan, 2010).
Turner, David L. Matthew: Baker Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament (Baker Academic, 2008).