Jesus heals a leper
- 8:1 When Jesus walked down the mountain after the sermon, a big crowd followed him.
- 8:2 A man suffering from leprosy1 knelt in front of Jesus and said, “Please sir, you can heal me and make me clean2 again if you want to.”
- 8:3 “I want to,” Jesus said. Jesus reached out and touched the man and said, “Be healed.” In that moment, the man’s leprosy vanished and he was clean again.
- 8:4 Jesus told the man, “See to it that you don’t tell anyone about this. I want you to go straight to the priest and take along the sacrificial offering3 required in the law of Moses. That way the priest can let everyone know that you’re clean again.”
Roman soldier of faith
- 8:5 Jesus was headed back to the town of Capernaum when a Roman centurion4 came to meet him. The soldier said,
- 8:6 “Please sir, I have a young servant back at home, lying sick in bed. He’s paralyzed and in a lot of pain.”
- 8:7 Jesus said, “I’ll come with you and heal him.”
- 8:8 But the soldier answered, “Sir, I don’t deserve to have you in my home. You don’t need to bother going there. Just say the word and you’ll heal the boy.
- 8:9 I understand the chain of command. There are officers over me and there are soldiers under my command. If I tell one soldier, ‘Go,’ he goes. If I tell another soldier, ‘Come,’ he comes. If I tell my servant, ‘Get this done,’ he gets it done.”
- 8:10 When Jesus heard this, he admired the man. He turned to the people following him and he said, “Let me tell you something. Nowhere in all of Israel have I come across such remarkable faith.
- 8:11 Let me tell you something else. Non-Jewish people from all over the world will join Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob in the Kingdom of Heaven.
- 8:12 But many of the Jews who think they’re already citizens of the Kingdom are going to get tossed out into the darkness. They’ll cry so hard that they’ll grind their teeth.”5
- 8:13 Jesus told the soldier, “You can go on home now. When you get there, you’ll find that what you believed would happen has happened.” The soldier’s servant was healed that very hour.
Jesus heals Peter’s mother-in-law
- 8:14 When Jesus finally got to Peter’s house, he saw Peter’s mother-in-law lying sick in bed with a fever.
- 8:15 Jesus touched the woman’s hand and her fever disappeared. She got right up and fixed him a meal.
- 8:16 Word spread, and people started showing up for healing that evening. Jesus performed exorcisms, driving out the evil spirits with nothing more than a word. He healed every sick person brought to him.
- 8:17 This fulfills something that the prophet Isaiah predicted:
“He takes our sicknesses.
He carries off our diseases.”6
A scribe who follows Jesus
- 8:18 Swarmed by the crowd, Jesus told his disciples it was time to sail to the other side of the lake.
- 8:19 As they were getting ready to go, one of the Jewish scholars known as scribes came up to Jesus. The scribe said, “Teacher, I can see that you’re leaving, but I want you to know I’ll follow you wherever you go.”
- 8:20 Jesus said, “Foxes live in dens. Birds nest in branches. But the Son of Humans7 doesn’t even have a place to lay his head.”
- 8:21 Another disciple who had been following him said, “Master, please excuse me from this trip so I can go bury my father.”
- 8:22 Jesus told him, “Make other arrangements. It’s more important that you tell people about the Kingdom of Heaven.”8
Jesus calms a storm
- 8:23 Jesus climbed into the boat, and the disciples followed.
- 8:24 While they were out on the lake, a sudden windstorm swooped down on them. High waves swamped the boat and it started to sink. Jesus slept.
- 8:25 The disciples woke Jesus and screamed, “Master, save us! We’re going to die!”
- 8:26 Jesus said, “Why are you scared? You sure don’t have much faith.” Then Jesus stood up and ordered the wind and the sea to calm down. A great hush fell upon the lake.
- 8:27 The men realized what they had just seen was absolutely amazing. Among themselves they asked, “What kind of a man is this—someone who can order the wind and the sea to obey him?”
Demon-possessed pigs drown
- 8:28 When they got to the other side of the lake, they climbed out of the boat and onto the territory of the Gerasenes.9 Two demon-possessed men came out of the nearby graveyard. These men were violent. People avoided the area because the men would not let them pass.
- 8:29 The men screamed at Jesus, “Son of God, what are you doing here now? It’s not time to torture us yet. Have you come to torture us early?”
- 8:30 A large herd of pigs was eating off in the distance.
- 8:31 The demons begged Jesus, “If you’re going to make us come out, send us into that herd of pigs over there.”
- 8:32 Jesus told the demons, “Leave.” So they left the men and went into the pigs. That’s when the entire herd rushed down the steep bank and into the Sea of Galilee, where they drowned.
- 8:33 The pig herders ran into town and told everyone about this, and about what happened to the demon possessed men.
- 8:34 Everyone in town came to meet Jesus. But when they got there, they pleaded with him to go away and leave them alone. They didn’t want him in their territory.
The Greek word for leprosy could refer to a lot of different skin disorders, most of which are far less critical than leprosy, known today as Hansen’s disease.
People with serious skin diseases were considered ritually unclean. They were not allowed to worship in the Temple. Anyone who touched them was considered ritually unclean as well, and had to go through cleansing rituals. See Leviticus 5:3. Jews thought to have been cured of leprosy or any other skin disease had to sacrifice two birds, bathe, and wait another week before the priest could declare the person cured on the eighth day after a second sacrifice, this one of three lambs, with grain, and olive oil (Leviticus 14).
Two live birds, according to Leviticus 14:4.
Commander of a unit of roughly 100 soldiers, which is where we got the “century” for centurion.
A more literal translation says there will be “weeping and gnashing of teeth.” Matthew seems to use that phrase to refer to people getting what they deserve on Judgment Day.
Isaiah 53:4. Matthew seems to be trying to demonstrate that the healing ministry of Jesus would eventually cost him his life, but that it would show the extent of God’s concern for humanity’s spiritual health.
Usually translated “Son of Man.” This is a title Jesus used a lot to describe himself. In the Jewish Bible the phrase contains hints of divinity in some passages and humanity in others–perhaps a perfect phrase for describing someone Christians would say was fully God and fully human. Hint of the divine: the prophet Daniel saw someone like a son of man coming from heaven (Daniel 7:13 NLT). Hint of the human: God often described Ezekiel as a mere mortal by using the phrase “son of man” (Ezekiel 2:1 NLT).
The cryptic line from Jesus is more literally, “Let the dead bury their own dead.” Some scholars translate that a bit like this paraphrase: “Let the spiritually dead bury the physically dead.” Whatever the case, Jesus knows he’s going to be crucified soon and then ascend to heaven. And so as important as it is in Jewish tradition for a son to bury his dead father or perhaps to wait for his deathly ill father to die, it’s even more important to follow Jesus.
Some ancient manuscripts call the people Gadarenes and Gergesenes. The area is on the eastern side of the Sea of Galilee, in the Golan Heights area occupied by Israel. Christians in the early centuries of the movement identified the village of Kursi as the site of the exorcism. It has the only steep bank in the region that drops into the lake. “The entire herd rushed down the steep bank and into the Sea of Galilee, where they drowned” (8:32).
One of the big “why” questions in this chapter is why Jesus would heal a man of leprosy or whatever the skin disease was, and then tell the man, “See to it that you don’t tell anyone about this” (8:4). I mean come on, we have leprosy one morning, we get healed in the afternoon, someone asks us what happened, and we say, “Can’t say.” Not to happen. Why would Jesus tell him to keep it quiet?
A Roman soldier is the first one on record to express a belief that Jesus had power beyond time and space. In other healings, Jesus is touching the people. But this soldier seems to believe that Jesus can heal from a distance at any time he wants. What do you think would compel him to believe that?
As Jesus gets ready to head toward Jerusalem, he says some strange things to strangers. He tells a man who wants to go home and bury his father before he joins up with Jesus and the disciples that the grieving man should “Make other arrangements” (8:22). And in Luke’s account, Jesus tells another man who simply wants to go home and say goodbye to his family first that if “you’re looking behind you, you’re not going to make it into the Kingdom of God” (Luke 9:62). Well, if you’re going to say strange things like that, you might as well say them to strangers. What’s the point of this section? Why do you think Matthew and Luke thought it was important enough to include in the story of Jesus?
When Jesus and his disciples are sailing across the Sea of Galilee and a storm threatens to sink the boat, the disciples wake up Jesus—who was apparently a deep sleeper. It seems perfectly natural to worry about dying in a situation like that. Yet Jesus seems to criticize them for it. He calmed the storm, after asking his disciples “Why are you scared? You sure don’t have much faith” (8:26). Don’t you think Jesus was asking a little much of them?
The odd story about Jesus curing demon-possessed men by sending the demons into a herd of pigs (8:28-34) is full of questions that no one seems able to answer. What is the one question that comes out of the story that you would absolutely love to know the answer to? Here’s one possibility: What happened to the demons?
What do you think the villagers thought when they came to the shoreline of the Sea of Galilee and saw what Mark’s account of the story says was 2,000 dead pigs floating in the water (Mark 5:13)?
Why do you think the people in the territory of the Gerasenes were so terrified of Jesus after he healed the demon-possessed man that they asked him to leave? You would think they would want someone with that kind of power to stick around and heal other people, wouldn’t you?
There are plenty of Christians who have trouble with the idea of demons and Satan as some kind of sentient spirit being. They prefer to think of demonic spirits in the Bible as physical problems such as epilepsy, which were misdiagnosed as demonic possession. And they prefer to think of the evil in the world as a contagious behavior, a bit like copycat crimes. But throughout the stories of Jesus, he is talking to these entities. How do you think we should understand what’s going on here?
LIFE APPLICATION. In Mark’s account of the story, the Greek word that describes the compassion Jesus felt when he saw the leper is splanchnizomai (splonk NEES oh my). It means “guts” or “intestines.” Casual English Bible explains it this way: “What Jesus saw made him sick to his stomach. Moved with compassion” (Mark 1:41) Jesus healed the man. There are plenty of wrenching illnesses and diseases that sicken us when we see them tearing people up. What are some you have seen that bothered you most?
LIFE APPLICATION. Why do you think it’s often so hard to have faith that God will do what we want him to do—the kind of faith the Roman soldier had?
LIFE APPLICATION. Do you think some Christians struggle with the stories in the Bible about Jesus healing everybody who came to him when just about the only way people get healed today is by going to the doctor?