In Matthew 8 and 9, we see some demonstrations of the power of Jesus. In these two chapters, Matthew describes ten miracles performed by Jesus. The miracles were sometimes performed to meet human needs; sometimes they were performed to prove that Jesus was the true Messiah.
When Jesus came down from the mountain where He had given the Sermon on the Mount, He was followed by great multitudes (8:1). Jesus faced masses of people—persons with guilt and sin and needs of various kinds—but Jesus was Master of every situation. Jesus proved that He was God the Son by displaying His miraculous power.
1. Power Over Disease (8:1-22)
Lepers and Gentiles and women were considered outcasts by many religious Jews.
a. Cleansing the leper (8:1-4)
The leper described here had somehow learned about Jesus, and trusted His ability to heal. (Perhaps he heard Jesus give the Sermon on the Mount; anyhow, he came to Jesus and requested healing.) Leprosy has always been a dreadful disease. It infects the entire body. Its roots lie deep in the blood system. As the disease progresses—fingers fall off, eyelashes drop out, the nose begins to disappear, and hands and feet slowly rot away—leaving only festering stumps. The leper emits an unpleasant odor; one can smell the ulcerated skin when still several feet away.
According to the Mosaic Law (Leviticus 13:45), the leper had to go about with rent clothes and disheveled hair, and as he went, he was to cry “Unclean, unclean!” The Jewish rabbis required that no one was to come closer to a leper than six feet, and if the wind was blowing toward a person (from a leper), he had to stay still farther away.
This particular leper recognized his helpless condition, and seemed to sense that turning to Jesus was his only hope—and that is what he did. Jesus could have healed the man by merely speaking the word, but instead, He reached out His hand—and touched the man’s detestable skin (8:3). It takes divine grace to put an arm around a filthy, bad-smelling victim of disease and sin—but that’s all part of the task of reaching the outcasts of society for Christ. Leprosy then was about like AIDS today. There was no known cure. Jesus touched him! No one else would come near him! The leper had forgotten what the touch of a human hand was like—but Jesus, in all His compassion, touched him—and immediately the leprosy was gone.
A man who only minutes before was walking around crying “Unclean, unclean!” was now completely cleansed (8:3b). Leprosy is a type of sin; the point is that no case is too hard for Jesus. No person has fallen so low but that Jesus can reach him and make him a new person with new goals and new ambitions in life.
b. The centurion’s servant (8:5-13)
As Jesus was going into Capernaum, He met a Roman centurion—an army officer who was in charge of 100 men. The officer had a servant boy who was sick, and this soldier from the Roman army, the centurion, appealed to Jesus for help.
The “palsy” (8:6) was a disease that affected the muscles and organs of the human frame and paralyzed the body. But the centurion (even though most soldiers were noted for being cruel and proud), was a kindly sort of man. Luke’s account says that he had built a synagogue for the Jews (Luke 7:5), and Luke also says that the servant boy “was dear unto him” (Luke 7:2).
The centurion came to Jesus and appealed in behalf of the servant who was paralyzed and suffering greatly from the palsy. And Jesus was ready to go to the soldier’s home and heal the servant (8:7), but the centurion pointed out that really it was not necessary for the Lord to come to the house and lay His hand on the sick boy in order to banish the disease. The centurion, in essence said, “All you have to do is speak the word (right here), and my servant will be healed—even though he is some distance away.” The centurion had a calm belief. There was no need for a sign. He was a man of simple faith. Jesus was delighted by the faith of this Gentile army officer (8:10). It was an amazing declaration of faith and even more amazing because the centurion was a Gentile.
The servant boy was healed (8:13), and furthermore, Jesus (in 8:11-12) saw in this a foregleam of a vast host of other Gentile believers who would later come into a right relationship with God. People from the east and west, from all parts of the earth, would someday enter the Lord’s kingdom.
c. Peter’s mother-in-law (8:14-17)
Jesus knew that Peter’s wife’s mother was sick. And Jesus quickly healed her. And without any need for time to recover from her wasting fever, she arose and she ministered to them—serving a meal. The Greek word translated “ministered” means “waiting on” or “serving” them. Here was a woman lying on her bed, tossing with a common fever. Jesus touched her hand (8:15) and at once she was healed, and had strength to go to work immediately.
Surely Jesus has power over disease. In fact, that same evening, people came from all the regions round about, and Jesus “healed all that were sick” (8:16b). No matter what the disease was—Jesus healed them all. No one was disappointed; no one had come in vain.
2. Power Over Nature (8:23-27)
Jesus had clearly proved His power over disease. But lest people view Him merely as a kind of traveling medical clinic, He demonstrated His power over the wind and the waves, as well as over disease.
The Sea of Galilee is 13 miles long and 8 miles wide; it is below Sea Level, and is surrounded on three sides by steep hills. It’s not unusual for violent storms to suddenly sweep across the water. In this case, Jesus undoubtedly knew that the storm was coming, and certainly could have prevented it—but He permitted the storm to come as it did, in order to teach the disciples some needful lessons.
Jesus entered the boat with His disciples (8:23), and while they were crossing the huge lake, the storm bore down upon them (8:24). There may have been a supernatural element in this storm, because even the hearty fishermen (accustomed to sudden storms) were frightened when the boat began to sink (8:25).
Jesus was asleep, but the terrified disciples awakened Him and said, “Lord save us, we perish.” Jesus spoke to the wind and the sea, and immediately these elements of nature obeyed His voice. The wild rage of the wind and the huge waves of the sea suddenly ground to a halt, and 8:26b says, “There was a great calm.” Jesus not only has power over disease; He has complete control over the forces of nature.
This account is a picture of all of us. Every one of us is journeying across the sea of life. On one side of the huge sea is the cradle; on the other side is the grave. We are all moving from the cradle to the grave. The journey is short—but during that journey, storms come to all of us. There are storms of affliction and temptation and misfortune; there are storms of sickness and family problems and disappointments and financial difficulties.
Who can help us when the storms come? The answer is: The same Jesus who calmed the sea! He says, in essence, to those who serve Him, “Fear not, for I am with you; I will never let the waves overcome you” (see Isaiah 43:2 and 1 Corinthians 10:13). It is wonderful to know that all circumstances in life, including the difficult places, are subject to the control of our powerful Savior—and we must learn to trust Him.
“God moves in mysterious ways
His wonders to perform;
He plants his footsteps in the sea,
And rides upon the storm.
Ye fearful saints—fresh courage take;
The clouds ye so much dread
Are big with mercy—and shall break
In blessings on your head.”
Jesus is the All-Powerful-One. Even the wind and the sea obey Him!
3. Power Over Demons (8:28-34)
When Jesus and the disciples reached the east side of the Sea of Galilee (the land of the Gadarenes), Jesus encountered two unusually fierce demoniacs. They lived among the tombs. They had broken, according to Mark’s account, every chain used to bind them. They cried out to Jesus as if in torment. This shows what the devil can do to human beings. He fills the individual with fear. Satan can rob people of a home and respectable friends.
Demons are fallen angels who joined Satan in his rebellion against God, and are now evil spirits under Satan’s control. Jesus commanded the demons to leave the men, but fearing that Jesus would send them into the pit “before the time” (8:29), they sought permission to enter into a herd of pigs. Jesus granted permission, and the pigs plunged headlong into the Sea of Galilee (8:32). Jesus delivered the men of Gadara from the bondage of demon possession. The point is this: Jesus is much more powerful than the devil.
When the people in the nearby village learned that the pigs had perished, they were upset. Instead of rejoicing in the marvelous deed of mercy—done in behalf of two hopeless men—the people begged Jesus to get out of their country. To the degraded Gadarenes, the swine were of far greater value than the souls of people. And that is how it has always been. Unregenerate people are more concerned about getting material possessions than they are about faithfully serving Christ. This is true for many church members as well. Gripped by the lure of material things, energy is put into grasping, buying, and exchanging goods that will someday be burned up.
4. Power Over Sin (9:1-17)
Jesus passed back over the Sea of Galilee (9:1), and returned to the town of Capernaum. Immediately a helpless case was brought to His attention.
Verse 2 says that a man sick of the palsy was brought to Jesus. The sick man, according to the account in Mark, had been let down through the roof. Four men arrived carrying the paralyzed man on a stretcher. And because the crowd was so great, they went to the roof of the house, broke open part of the roof, and lowered the man, lying on his cot, in front of Jesus. Jesus was moved by their faith—but instead of saying to the man, “Be thou healed,” He said instead, “Thy sins be forgiven thee” (9:2b).
Jesus used the occasion to stress the significance of the more important and eternal kind of healing He had come to do. People are prone to consider physical ills of greater concern than the sinfulness of the heart—and so, frequently people stress the preservation of bodily health more than the matter of being absolutely right with God. Jesus knew that it was more important for the sick man to have his sins forgiven than it was to have his body healed.
Sickness is not always directly related to some specific sin in an individual’s life. For example, the man who was born blind, recorded in John 9, was afflicted so that Jesus could get glory. But in the case described in Matthew 9, as with many physical ailments, it seems the paralysis was due to sin in the man’s life—and Jesus forgave him. I am sure the young man’s face grew brighter as he sensed the comfort that came with God’s gracious forgiveness.
To forgive sins is a right which God alone has—and because the religious leaders were not at all convinced that Jesus was God, they accused Him of blasphemy (9:3). Jesus knew their thoughts (9:4), and went on further to prove His deity by healing the man’s physical ailment as well (9:6).
The “scribes” (9:3) supposed that no one knew what was going on in their heads, but Jesus can read hearts and discern spirits. He knows our words before they are even spoken. We learn in Hebrews 4:13 that “All things are naked and opened unto the eyes of him with whom we have to do.” What we think of in private when no one sees us; what we think of in church services during times when our expressions are sober and serious—our Lord Jesus knows. This thought should cause us to cry out with the Psalmist, “Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable in thy sight” (Psalm 19:14).
5. Power Over Death (9:18-35)
Jesus had demonstrated His power over dreaded diseases, over the elements of nature, and over unclean spirits. Now Jesus confronted the last enemy—death.
We learn from the other Gospel accounts that “the ruler” who came to Jesus (9:18) was a man named “Jairus.” It must have been difficult for Jairus to come to Jesus, since he was a devout Jew, and a leader in the synagogue. But Jairus’ love for his dying daughter compelled him to seek help from Jesus, even though most Jews questioned the validity of what Jesus was doing.
And even though Jairus seemed to believe that Jesus would heal his daughter, preparations for the funeral were already in motion (9:23). Mourners were hired to make loud laments. Minstrels (flute players) were already at the house.
When Jesus arrived at the home of Jairus, He dismissed the mourners. It seems that Jesus preferred to work in the quiet. And then he told the family members that her death was only temporary (9:24). It was like a sleep from which she would soon awake. And they laughed with a laughter of scorn.
Did you ever stand by the bedside of someone who was dying? Did you ever touch a dead body? Nothing else is so final, so still, and so cold.
Can Jesus do anything for the young girl? Can He bring life back to her body, and warmth to her spirit, and color to her cheeks?
Jesus took the tender hand of this 12-year-old girl, according to Mark’s account, and said, “Damsel, I say unto thee, arise” (Mark 5:41)—and immediately she sat up, jumped out of bed, and began walking! And the parents, the friends, the mourners, the disciples, the crowd—all knew that Jesus had performed a mighty miracle; He had raised the girl from the dead.
In 9:20-22, we learn that on the way to Jairus’ house, Jesus was momentarily delayed by a woman who suffered an incurable disease. Mark says she had been seeking the help of many doctors, but none could help her (Mark 5:26). She had learned of Jesus, and believed that if she could just touch the border of His garment, she would be healed (verses 20-21).
In the midst of the jostling crowd, she made her way to His side, reached out her hand, and was rewarded with instant healing (9:22). Jesus knew that the woman had touched His garment. We do not know how, but Jesus knew the difference between the crush of that choking crowd, and the touch of faith in the heart of one desperate soul.
One of the beauties of the account in 9:18-26, is that here were two almost opposite kinds of persons—and yet Jesus met the needs of both.
Jairus was a leading Jewish man, a ruler of the synagogue—a top man in the synagogue. The woman with an issue of blood was unknown and had no prestige.
Jairus’ daughter was healthy for twelve years, and then died; the woman who touched His garment was sick for twelve years, and then she was made well.
Jairus’ need was public, and everyone knew about it. His twelve-year-old daughter was sick and had died; the woman’s need was private, and scarcely anyone else was aware of it.
Jesus understood the needs in both cases, and brought the help they needed.
Matthew 9 closes with an account of two further brief miraculous healings. In 9:27-31, it was the restoration of sight to two blind men. In 9:32-35, it was the restoration of speech to a man who was mute.
The long series of miracles described in Matthew 8 and 9 made such an impact on the people, that the enemies of Christ were troubled, and they leveled the charge that Jesus used the power of Satan to cast our demons (9:34). That is a dangerous thing to do. We should never attribute the work of God to devils, because that constitutes the unpardonable sin (see Mark 3:29-30).
The miracles in Matthew 8 and 9 demonstrate that Jesus has complete power and complete sovereignty in every realm of life. There is no human need that Jesus cannot meet if He chooses to do so. No sin is too black; no problem is too difficult; no circumstance is too hard—for His power!
Jesus is more than “the stranger of Galilee.” Jesus is the powerful Son of God! Such power demands our respect, and it should inspire complete confidence in His ability to deal with any situation which may confront us!