Matthew 8: 1-17: Healing the Sick
The days that the Lord spent with the disciples and the people of Galilee were busy days, full from morning to night with good kind works - healing the sick and comforting those in trouble. Let us go with the multitude who followed Him as He came down from the mountain where He had spoken the Blessings. One of the first to meet Him and to kneel before Him asking His help was a leper, a poor man, sick with a disease which was considered most unclean, who was not allowed to live with other people in the town but must stay outside and cry, "Unclean!" to warn anyone from coming near. This poor leper made bold to come to the Lord, for he felt that the Lord could make him clean. And the Lord did not drive him away, as many others would have done, but He "put forth his hand, and touched him, saying, I will; be thou clean," and the man was healed.
And soon they were at the gate of Capernaum where the Lord now lived, and they were going through the streets of the town. Now another man came asking the Lord's help. He was a centurion, the commander of a band of soldiers. He was not one of the Jews, but a stranger, called by the Jews a Gentile. This made it the more remarkable that he came or sent messengers to the Lord asking His help. And he was not asking for himself, but for his servant who was lying at home sick of the palsy, grievously tormented. Those who had the palsy could not control their motions. Sometimes they could not move at all and sometimes could not stop the working of the muscles. The centurion could command his soldiers and his servant and be obeyed, and he believed that if the Lord would but speak the word his servant would be healed. And it was so. The Lord spoke the word, "and his servant was healed in the selfsame hour." The Lord's touch and even His word had power to heal.
And there were more sick people healed that day. In Peter's house the mother of Peter's wife was sick with a fever. The Lord touched her hand and she was well. And before the day was done many people were coming to the Lord bringing friends who were suffering with something worse than sickness. They were "possessed with devils"; evil spirits had power over them and made them do and say what the evil spirits pleased, and often they made them do harm to themselves and other people. How sad! How pitiful! And what could anybody do to help them? But the Lord could help. The evil spirits knew His power, and when He told them to go they must go. That evening in Capernaum many who were possessed with devils were set free by the Lord, and many sick people were healed.
We must read the story, and it will leave in your minds a picture of the busy usefulness which filled the days the Lord spent on earth with His disciples.
In the Sermon on the Mount the Lord taught the motives and principles of the Christian life., Then coming down from the mountain He showed in His own abundant good deeds the working out of these principles in practical life. We must study the story carefully, and while we learn of the natural good works that the Lord did we shall remember that they are also a sort of picture of deeper works that He was doing and is doing for men's souls.
The healing of the leper. Learn what you can about this disease that we read of so often in both Old and New Testaments. It affected especially the skin, making it white or discolored in spots or over the whole body, and sometimes breaking out in sores. 'You can read the Jewish law about the lepers in Leviticus 13, and about the offering required when a leper was cleansed, in the following chapter. For the man in our story to make this offering would be an acknowledgment on his part that it was by the power of God that he was healed.
Before going further with the story glance at the map of the Sea of Galilee, and trace the way from the Mountain of the Blessings to Capernaum.
Compare the account of healing the centurion's servant in verses 5-13 of our lesson with the account of the same event in Luke 7:1-10. Often two accounts of the same event in different Gospels make the picture more complete. The real reason for the differences is for the sake of the spiritual meaning, different parts of the spiritual lesson being emphasized in the different Gospels. "Centurion" in the Roman army was the title of an officer, whose command, when full, numbered a hundred men. The centurion in the story was no doubt in the service of Herod, the Governor of Galilee, and the story makes it plain that he was not a Jew but a Gentile. Still he asked the Lord's help with a humility and a faith more than was shown by the Jews; and we shall find this true of other Gentiles as we read on in the story of the Lord's life. Ignorant, simple-hearted people who are humble and obedient are more ready for heaven than those who are learned in holy things and self-satisfied. For this reason, we learn in Heaven and Hell many heathen at the present day come into heaven more easily than Christians.
Peter's house was now in Capernaum. At an earlier time Bethsaida, a town near Capernaum on the shore of the Sea of Galilee, was the city of Andrew and Peter. (John 1:44) The Lord healed one in Peter's house, and then at evening His power went forth to the multitudes who gathered at the door. (Mark 1:33) So each day the little family of the disciples felt His power; and it reached forth more remotely and obscurely to many who stood as it were without in evening shadow.
Find the prophecy referred to in verse 17. (Isaiah 53) The chapter of prophecy brought by this reference into the Gospel story at this point, shows that these blessed works were fruits of deep inward conflicts in our Lord's life; it shows also the Divine tenderness and sympathy in which the Lord received and healed the people who pressed about Him.
1. "When he was come down from the mountain." What mountain? What had the Lord done there?
2. Why did the leper meet the Lord outside the town? What leper have we learned of in the Old Testament, who was healed by the Lord's power?
3. The centurion had soldiers under him: how many? Do you think he was a good man?
4. Who were healed at Peter's house?
5. In what other form do we know the name Esaias? In what verse of chapter 53 do you find this prophecy?
You can enjoy with the little children the glimpse of the busy usefulness of the Lord's life, when He came down with the multitude from the mountain to show them the practical working out of the Christian law. Can we also see something of the deeper, spiritual works represented by this series of miracles?
What is one of the first effects upon yourself of a careful study of the Sermon on the Mount? Does it not make you feel that your conduct and your worship have been shallow and lifeless? You feel that you are a spiritual leper. The Lord can heal your leprosy, can help you to make life genuinely alive by filling it with Christian spirit. (A. 6963)
The healing of the centurion's servant pictures another kind of help in practical living out of the Sermon on the Mount. The centurion's words suggest that he stands for that trait so characteristic of the Romans, obedience to law in outward conduct. The palsy of his servant represents failure to realize this obedience in practical details. But the Lord gives power to be perfect in obedience. The Lord's words about the centurion and the many from the east and west who sit down in the kingdom of heaven, show that faithful obedience in life is a necessary preparation for heaven, and there is often more of such preparation among the heathen and among those who make little pretence of spiritual life. Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob stand for the degrees of spiritual life, which in heaven are enjoyed from the Lord. (A. 3708; E. 252; H. 324)
The sickness in Peter's house must represent some weakness in that element of life of which Peter is the type. Peter, who spoke for the disciples in declaring their faith in the Lord (Matthew 16:16), is the type of faith in the Lord, as John is the type of love for Him. (A. preface to Genesis 18 and 22.) The fever in Peter's house pictures an excitement or disturbance of mind that prevents faith's activity and enjoyment. Notice that in healing the mother the Lord touched her hand, the power of active service, and that when healed she arose and ministered unto them. (See study of the passage in "Matthew's Gospel," J. Worcester.)
In what way did the Lord take our infirmities and bear our sicknesses? and how has this passage been misunderstood? (A. 1846)