Matthew 8:1-17 Part 1

We’ve spent the last ten months in perhaps the greatest occurrence of instruction in history!  The Sermon on the Mount, as we call it, is the Gospel of the Kingdom, and the Word of Life.  As Matthew told us back in chapter four and verse twenty-three, Jesus went about all of Galilee preaching the Gospel of the Kingdom and healing all kinds of sickness and disease.

And in accord with that, Matthew has presented Jesus’ first sermon – and now, by Divine inspiration, we will witness some of His mighty works.

Matthew has recorded, by the will of the Spirit of God, a real sermon, and now we’ll see that he’s recorded some real miracles!  The sermon we just finished is not, as some would have us believe, a compilation of Jesus’ sayings.  And neither are these miracles we’re about to witness a collection of deeds put together by this Gospel writer!  They actually occurred this way, and in this order, and the words spoken are correct!

Verses one through seventeen fill out the rest of the day in which Jesus spoke the words in the Sermon on the Mount.  Then the second day of His ministry is recorded in chapter eight, verses eighteen through chapter nine, verse eight.  And then the third day is found in chapter nine, verses ten, through thirty-four.  And I give you that simple breakdown not to bore you with technical details, but simply to provide you with a historical perspective that I think is important.  I think that most people would read the Gospel of Matthew with that flat perspective which we’ve talked about several times before, and never would realize that chapters five through nine are the recording of three days of actual history.  Jesus actually climbed that mountain near the Sea of Galilee and taught these very words!  And the rest of that day, and the next two days, were spent going from one place to another in Galilee – exhibiting His authority!

And Matthew then closes chapter nine with the same words found in chapter four verse twenty-three – that Jesus was preaching the Gospel of the Kingdom and going through all of Galilee healing all kinds of sickness and disease.  So, having repeated those words, Matthew has formed a whole for us – one with two parts:  the preaching of the Gospel and the miracles.  And both are exhibiting His authority over all of creation.

That’s the first point – the historicity of it all.  These aren’t mystical things or mythical things.  They’re historical things that you and I could have seen and heard had we been there.

The second point I want to make, before we come to the actual words of the text, is that those events in space and time which we call “miraculous” events – for example, the healing of the leper here in the text this morning, or the parting of the red Sea for the exodus from Egypt – are simply God working in a different way from that which He normally works!  From our standpoint they may be miracles – or mighty works of God (and there’s nothing wrong with that) – but from God’s viewpoint it is only an altering of what is normal – for a purpose!

God normally causes things to occur in certain ways, and everything that occurs is caused by God.  And since things don’t act the way they do by laws of physics – but only by the direct work of God – then it should not be such an amazing thing that Jesus can interrupt the normal course of such a disease as leprosy working through ones body!

Now, if a disease were interrupted in some way from its normal course in some physical or natural way, then that would be a physical feat to amaze everybody!  And it would be an amazing thing because things don’t operate in a normal way – according to the laws of physics (so-called), but everything works at the direct will of God the Father, for His Own glory and for the good of all of His Own children, and His creation!

And since God does work all things by His direct will and providence, then why should it be such a mystical and mysterious event when He chooses to do something different, in a different way?

This is the very reason why liberals must deny that miracles ever happened, and why they must try and explain them by some naturally occurring phenomenon!  To them, physics works the same every time.  But when something unusual happens, physics cannot be to blame – our understanding of it is to blame!  Every event which ever happened can somehow be explained – only if we had enough information!  Nothing ever happens outside the laws of physics, because laws are laws and nothing can supercede them!  See the presuppositions?

And if, just one time, they were to admit that something intervened in a physical “law”, then they would then have to admit also that somewhere, something has more authority than natural law!

Of course, we understand that there’s no such thing as natural law, and that God is the One Who, with wisdom, power, holiness, justice, goodness and truth, determines whatsoever comes to pass.  But the liberal believes that weather patterns normally pass from southwest to northeast by a series of events which, when occurring, inevitably lead to that pattern!  It’s physical law!

But these are the same ones who could never believe that an event such as Jonah’s survival in the belly of a fish for three days was an actual historical event!  It doesn’t make sense, and it defies the laws of nature!  Therefore it could not have occurred!  It’s myth!

But, in denying it, what isn’t realized is that they also, primarily, deny the Sovereign, providential care of creation by its Author!  And, secondarily, they deny the words of Jesus, Who, later on in this Gospel, confirms the authenticity and historicity of that event where Jonah was forcibly expelled into a Gentile country to preach the Gospel!  And the implications of that fact are so mind-boggling, maybe that’s the reason most people have trouble believing that what happened to Jonah really happened!

But whatever the reason, neither do they believe that God is the first cause of everything, and that gravity is not a natural law!  They do not believe that plants grow by the will of God, and not by the natural process of soil, water and nutrients!  They’ll go into infinite detail in describing the process, but the process then becomes its own first cause!  And the Sovereign God of creation is removed from the picture as men begin to worship the creature rather than the Creator!  This is, of course, the earth-first- environmentalists’ initial error – earth is first.  The creature earth has become the thing worshipped – the thing most admired.

That’s the second point.  First, that these things set before us are historical events; second, that God providentially determines what-so-ever comes to pass – and, therefore, miracles are not mystical events.  And, now thirdly, although the text of Scripture says that Jesus looked upon the people in their infirmities with compassion – we want to see that compassion was not the primary motivation for His miracles!

Now, that would really upset fundamentalists, wouldn’t it?  Most would have people believe that Jesus broke into the natural flow of history – and then overcame natural, physical law by mysteriously working miracles for the benefit of man – and his primary motivation for doing that was compassion for man in His plight!

Don’t let anybody say, now, that I preached that Jesus was not compassionate toward sick and diseased people!  If not now, then someday soon, I will be among the infirmed to one degree or another.  And I trust that God will love me and care for me in my weakness and frailty.  When one is ill that becomes a very important issue!

But even though that’s the case, compassion was still not Jesus’ primary motivation for healing the sick and diseased!  (and doing all the other miracles!)  And Jesus Himself says any number of times, His primary motivation was that God the Son bring glory to God the Father by doing His Will!  This is what He said as recorded in John six, thirty-eight:  “For I came down from heaven, not to do mine own will, but the will of Him that sent me.”

The apostle Paul says that Jesus, as the express image of His Father, came to reveal the Father!  And in doing all these miracles, God the Son, second Person of the Triune God, Sovereign Creator without Whom nothing was made that was made, was being exhibited before men, and was demonstrating to men, that He did have control over every facet of nature, and that every molecule of creation did what He command it to do, and that He had the power and authority to control all things for whatever purpose!

He came to demonstrate that nature did not run itself, or that some set of internal laws kept things on their same course!  But that He – God – was the One Who was nature’s authority!  And that He could command the wind to blow, as it did on the Sea of Galilee, and then command it to stop!  And He could cause a few fish to fill thousands of men and their families!  And He could raise up a dead man such as His beloved Lazarus by simply telling him to come.  And He could, Himself, live after having been put to death by men!

His “miracles” were an exhibition to men that He was God with us – prophesied by all the Old Testament prophets – and that He did, indeed, have Divine authority, and that He, indeed, could do what He said He was going to do!

Secondarily to that we see His compassion for the sin of Israel and for the sickness and facilities of men.  And let no one say that His love for His people was not the love of God Himself, for the suffering and death He went through proves the depth of His love for us!

Now just one quick fourth thing and we’ll be through.  Although these kinds of distinctions aren’t really made in Scripture, as we as humans view them, there are distinctions – but Jesus not only exhibited control over physical creation, He also showed complete authority over spiritual creation!  That sounds so simple, but it has to be made as a separate and important point, because there are many false prophets out there who would preach to us and have us believe that, even though Jesus controlled physical things, there is still a battle going on for superiority between forces in the spiritual world!  But, people, I make the point again – as I have in the past – Jesus is God, and He has complete authority in His Kingdom – and all creation (without physical and spiritual distinctions) is ruled by Him in all of its details!

Jesus Christ has been given all of creation as His Kingdom in order to fulfill all righteousness, as He told John the Baptizer, and when that is summarily accomplished He will turn it back to His Father complete and perfect!  And He will have glorified His Father in every respect – accomplishing His will that every single one who sees the Son and faiths in Him shall have eternal life.  (John chapter six)

And now let’s go to the text as we see Jesus beginning to exhibit His authority among men.

Verse one: 


“After His coming down from the mountain, large crowds pressed after Him; and, lo, a leper approached, paying homage to Him saying, ‘Lord, if You are willing you are able to pronounce me clean!’ and, stretching out His hand He touched him saying, ‘I am willing, you are cleansed.’ And instantly his leprosy was cleansed.”  “And Jesus was saying to him ‘See that you speak to no one, but go and show yourself to the priest and present the gift prescribed by Moses in testimony to them.’”


Now, as we look at this quickly, it is an amazing thing that a leper even got close to Jesus!  Because lepers were banned from society by Law as unclean.  Not because leprosy is infectious, since it isn’t, but for the same reasons that touching a dead person causes uncleanness or the issue of flow from bodily functions is unclean – or the uncleanness resulting from any number of physical sins.  And there was ceremonial uncleanness and societal banishment because of it!  We don’t need to go into all of the Theological reasons for that in this setting, but theses were laws of separation which were intended to separate Israel and keep Israel aware of the deadness which belongs to mankind, and the distinctions which need to be made between the people of God and all others – who were, indeed, dead in their degradation and iniquity!

But in the event that a leper, or one who had been pronounced ceremonially unclean, was to be allowed back into the Covenant society (Leviticus fourteen), they had to bring sin offerings, submit to week-long examinations by the priest, and then present thank-offerings in order to be pronounced clean and be allowed back into society!  That’s what Jesus meant here in verse four, when He says for the leper to go and show himself to the priest and offer the gift prescribed in the Law!  The ceremonial Law had not yet been fulfilled by the Reality which it foreshadowed, so Jesus, Who said He came not to abrogate the Law but to fulfill it, here confirms His Own Authorship of it and prescribed its every detail!  Especially since the One who healed the leper is the One foreshadowed in the Old Testament Ceremonial Law!  So this leper has the unique distinction of being healed by the sacrifice of God and then going back to the temple and participating in the ceremony which foreshadowed that sacrifice!

And Jesus tells the man to see to it that he speaks to no one before he sees the priest!  Now, that’s not, as some would have us believe, a restriction on the leper’s joy and his witnessing to the power of the Son of God.  Neither is it for the purpose of protecting Jesus from the authorities – it couldn’t be that, because hundreds of people were following Him and watching Him and talking about Him, and one more wasn’t going to make a lot of difference!

The reason Jesus tells him not to speak to anyone before he sees the priest is because of the Law!  He’s been banned – legally banned from society, and segregated from any contact with the covenant people! And He’s unclean until he’s legally pronounced fit for societal re-integration!  So Jesus, the High Priest of God’s Covenant people, upholds every Law of the Priesthood – because He’s the foreshadowed Priest!  How could He possibly annul or destroy or abrogate any part of the Old Testament Word of God when He is the Word made flesh – the very embodiment and fulfillment of every Word in the Old Ceremony!

Well, we’re about to run out of time, and this is as good a stopping place as any, although I have a lot more to say about these first four verses.  But, needless to say, sacrifice cannot be made without the shedding of blood.  And it is this shedding of blood and our union in Him which is celebrated this morning at the table.  And we come before our High Priest with thanksgiving that we have been pronounced ceremonially clean by the compassionate grace of God, through the shedding of the blood of our Lord Jesus Christ – The Word – the Warrior King – the High Priest.