Cambridge Bible for Schools and Colleges
Ch. Matthew 8:1-4. A Leper is cleansed
St Mark 1:40-44; St Luke 5:12, where the cure is placed in “a certain city.”
When he was come down from the mountain, great multitudes followed him.
And, behold, there came a leper and worshipped him, saying, Lord, if thou wilt, thou canst make me clean.2. a leper] St Luke has “full of leprosy,” a term implying the gravity of the disease,—not that it covered the whole body, in which case the leper was pronounced clean, Leviticus 13:12-13; Leviticus 13:16-17. See Our Lord’s Miracles of Healing, ch. 4 (Belcher). Leprosy is to be regarded as especially symbolic of sin: the beginning of the disease is almost unnoticed, it is contagious (this point is disputed, but see in confirmation of the note Belcher, Our Lord’s Miracles of Healing, ch. 4, also Meyer ad loc. who takes the same view), in its worst form it is incurable except by the touch of Christ; it separated a man and classed him with the dead.
worshipped him] The imperfect in the original marks that persistency in prayer, which Jesus had just promised should win acceptance; while the leper’s words imply a faith which is another condition of acceptance.
And Jesus put forth his hand, and touched him, saying, I will; be thou clean. And immediately his leprosy was cleansed.
And Jesus saith unto him, See thou tell no man; but go thy way, shew thyself to the priest, and offer the gift that Moses commanded, for a testimony unto them.4. the gift that Moses commanded] “two birds alive and clean, and cedar wood, and scarlet and hyssop.” And on the eighth day “two he lambs without blemish, and one ewe lamb of the first year without blemish, and three tenth deals of fine flour for a meat offering, mingled with oil, and one log of oil.” Leviticus 14:4; Leviticus 14:10.
for a testimony unto them] Either (1) to the priests, or (2) to the people who were following Jesus; in either case to shew that Jesus came to fulfil the law. Christ enjoins the cleansed leper to tell no one, thus instructing us that He would not have people converted by His miracles. Christ addresses Himself to men’s hearts not to their eyes or ears. He will not fling Himself from the height of the temple to persuade men.
And when Jesus was entered into Capernaum, there came unto him a centurion, beseeching him,5. a centurion] i. e. a captain or commander of a century—a company normally composed of a hundred men, the sixtieth part of a legion in the Roman army. This centurion was probably an officer in the army of Herod Antipas, which would be modelled after the Roman fashion.
5–13. Cure of a Centurion’s Servant
St Luke 7:1-10, where the incident is placed immediately after the Sermon on the Mount. The centurion sends a deputation of Jewish elders to Jesus, who speak of the worthiness of the centurion and of his love to the nation, “he built us a synagogue.” St Luke does not introduce our Lord’s comparison between Jew and Gentile, and the promises to the latter. This last point is characteristic—the rejection of the Jews is not dwelt upon when the Gospel is preached to the Gentiles. This might be further illustrated from the Acts.
And saying, Lord, my servant lieth at home sick of the palsy, grievously tormented.6. my servant] or “slave;” the Greek word is a more affectionate term than the word translated servant in Matthew 8:9.
the palsy] i. e. paralysis, a disease often free from acute suffering, but when it is accompanied by contraction of the muscles, the pain, as in this case, is very grievous. St Luke does not name the nature of the disease.
And Jesus saith unto him, I will come and heal him.
The centurion answered and said, Lord, I am not worthy that thou shouldest come under my roof: but speak the word only, and my servant shall be healed.8. The centurion answered] The argument lies in a comparison between the centurion’s command and the authority of Jesus. “If I who am under authority command others, how much more hast thou power to command who art under no authority? If I can send my soldiers or my slave to execute my orders, how much more canst thou send thy ministering spirits to do thy bidding?” The centurion was doubtless acquainted with the Jewish belief on the subject of angels, their subordination and their office as ministers of God.
For I am a man under authority, having soldiers under me: and I say to this man, Go, and he goeth; and to another, Come, and he cometh; and to my servant, Do this, and he doeth it.9. my servant] Rather, slave. Observe the centurion’s orders, his soldiers come and go, i. e. march when he bids them. His slave he orders to do this, i. e. perform any servile work.
Mark this as the first contact of Jesus with slavery. With such relations between master and slave as these slavery would soon pass away.
It was no express enactment of Christ, but the Spirit of Christ, which this centurion had caught, that abolished slavery.
When Jesus heard it, he marvelled, and said to them that followed, Verily I say unto you, I have not found so great faith, no, not in Israel.
And I say unto you, That many shall come from the east and west, and shall sit down with Abraham, and Isaac, and Jacob, in the kingdom of heaven.11. sit down] i. e. recline at a feast. The image of a banquet is often used to represent the joy of the kingdom of heaven. Luke 14:15; Luke 22:29-30; Revelation 19:9.
But the children of the kingdom shall be cast out into outer darkness: there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth.12. outer darkness] i. e. the darkness outside the house in which the banquet is going on.
And Jesus said unto the centurion, Go thy way; and as thou hast believed, so be it done unto thee. And his servant was healed in the selfsame hour.
And when Jesus was come into Peter's house, he saw his wife's mother laid, and sick of a fever.14. Peter’s house] From John 1:44 we learn that Bethsaida was the city of Andrew and Simon Peter. Either then (i) they had changed their home to Capernaum, or (2) Bethsaida was close to Capernaum. One theory is that Bethsaida was the port of Capernaum.
laid, and sick of a fever] St Luke uses a technical term, “great fever,” the symptoms of which were those of typhus fever.
laid] Literally, struck down, an expression which denotes the great and sudden prostration which characterises typhus fever.
14–17. The Cure of Peter’s Mother-in-law of a Fever, Mark 1:29-31; Luke 4:38-39St Luke’s description bears special marks of scientific accuracy.
And he touched her hand, and the fever left her: and she arose, and ministered unto them.15. the fever left her] The completeness and suddenness of the cure prove the miraculous nature of it.
ministered unto them] Eager, as good housewives are to return to their work.
unto them] There is high MS. authority for “unto Him.”
When the even was come, they brought unto him many that were possessed with devils: and he cast out the spirits with his word, and healed all that were sick:16. with his word] not by a touch, as in the case of leprosy and fever. Christ never laid his hand on demoniacs.
That it might be fulfilled which was spoken by Esaias the prophet, saying, Himself took our infirmities, and bare our sicknesses.17. Isaiah 53:4.
Now when Jesus saw great multitudes about him, he gave commandment to depart unto the other side.18–22. Fitness for Discipleship. Luke 9:57-62St Luke names three instances, and places the scene of the incident in Samaria.
The instances are typical of the way in which Jesus deals with different characters. To one attracted by the promises of the Gospel and full of eagerness, Jesus presents the darker side—the difficulties of the Christian life; the half-hearted discipleship of the other is confronted with the necessity of absolute self-renunciation.
And a certain scribe came, and said unto him, Master, I will follow thee whithersoever thou goest.19. We are not told whether this scribe, thus brought face to face with privation and hardship, was daunted like the young ruler (ch. Matthew 19:16), or persevered like the sons of Zebedee (ch. Matthew 20:22).
And Jesus saith unto him, The foxes have holes, and the birds of the air have nests; but the Son of man hath not where to lay his head.20. the Son of man] The origin of this expression as a Messianic title is found in Daniel 7:13 : “I saw in the night visions, and, behold, one like the Son of man came with (in) the clouds of heaven, and came to the Ancient of days, and they brought him before him.” Hence to the Jews it would be a familiar designation of the Messiah—the King whose “everlasting dominion” is described in the next verse (Daniel 7:14). (See Dr Pusey, On Daniel, Lecture ii.)
The Hebraism may be considered in the light of similar expressions, “sons of light,” “son of perdition,” “son of peace,” &c., in all of which the genitive denotes a quality inherent in the subject. Sons of light=the spiritually enlightened, sons of wisdom=the wise. By the Son of man then is meant He who is essentially man, who took man’s nature upon Him, who is man’s representative before God, shewing the possibilities of purified human nature, and so making atonement practicable.
The title “Son of man,” so frequently used by our Lord of Himself, is not applied to Him except by Stephen (Acts 7:56), “I see the heavens opened, and the Son of man standing on the right hand of God.” It occurs also in the Vision of St John with a direct reference to the words of Daniel (Revelation 1:13; Revelation 14:14).
And another of his disciples said unto him, Lord, suffer me first to go and bury my father.21. to go] Rather, to go away, depart.
But Jesus said unto him, Follow me; and let the dead bury their dead.22. let the dead bury their dead] Or, their own dead. The exact force of this is not quite clear. The word “dead” is used first in a figurative, secondly, in a literal sense. In a figurative sense by the “dead” are intended those who are outside the kingdom, who are dead to the true life. Perhaps a brother or brothers of the disciple had rejected Christ, “let them bury their father.” Another way of understanding the proverb is: Let those who are dead in Christ, dead to the world, bury their dead—their affections and lusts, all that connects them with that dead past. St Luke, after “let the dead bury their dead,” adds, “but go thou and preach the kingdom of God.” Perhaps no incident marks more decisively the height of self-abandonment required by Jesus of His followers. In this instance the disciple is called upon to renounce for Christ’s sake the last and most sacred of filial duties. The unswerving devotion to Christ is illustrated in the parallel passage (Luke 9:62) by “the man who puts his hand to the plough.”
And when he was entered into a ship, his disciples followed him.23. a ship] Rather, the ship or fishing-boat, i. e. the boat which Jesus always used.
23–27. The Storm on the Lake. Mark 4:35-41; Luke 8:22-25St Mark, as usual, adds some interesting details: “it was evening-there were other little ships-a great storm of wind—the waves beat into the ship—He was asleep on a pillow in the hinder part of the ship.”
With all these points of difference in seven short verses, how can it be said that St Mark’s Gospel is an abridgment of St Matthew’s?
And, behold, there arose a great tempest in the sea, insomuch that the ship was covered with the waves: but he was asleep.24. he was asleep] The expression in the original is very impressive. He, the Master, continued to sleep. It is the only place where the sleep of Jesus is named.
And his disciples came to him, and awoke him, saying, Lord, save us: we perish.
And he saith unto them, Why are ye fearful, O ye of little faith? Then he arose, and rebuked the winds and the sea; and there was a great calm.26. faith = “trust,” “confidence.”
But the men marvelled, saying, What manner of man is this, that even the winds and the sea obey him!27. the men] the disciples, and other fishermen who were also on the Lake: see account in Mark.
And when he was come to the other side into the country of the Gergesenes, there met him two possessed with devils, coming out of the tombs, exceeding fierce, so that no man might pass by that way.28. Gergesenes] The readings vary between Gerasenes, Gadarenes and Gergesenes. Gerasa and Gergesa are forms of the same name. Gadara was some distance to the south of the Lake. It was, however, the capital of Peræa, and the more important place; possibly Gergesa was under its jurisdiction. Gergesa is identified with the modern Khersa; in the neighbourhood of which “rocks with caves in them very suitable for tombs, a verdant sward with bulbous roots on which the swine might feed” (Macgregor, Rob Roy), and a steep descent to the verge of the Lake, exactly correspond with the circumstances of the miracle. (See Map.)
tombs hewn out of the mountain-sides formed convenient dwelling-places for the demoniacs.
28–34. The Gadarene Demoniacs. St Mark 5:1-20; St Luke 8:26-39St Mark and St Luke make mention of one demoniac only. St Mark relates the incident at greater length and with more particularity. St Matthew omits the impossibility of binding him with chains, the absence of clothing, the wild cries night and day, the name “legion,” the prayer not to be sent into the “abyss” (Luke), the request of one of the demoniacs to be with Jesus, and the charge which Jesus gives him to tell his friends what great things the Lord had done for him.
And, behold, they cried out, saying, What have we to do with thee, Jesus, thou Son of God? art thou come hither to torment us before the time?29. What have we to do with thee] Not “what is there in common between you and us?” but “what cause of war is there between us?” The same expression occurs in this sense 2 Chronicles 35:21.
And there was a good way off from them an herd of many swine feeding.
So the devils besought him, saying, If thou cast us out, suffer us to go away into the herd of swine.31. devils] The Greek word here and in the parallel passages is a masculine and not a neuter form. The same word occurs in two other passages (Revelation 16:14; Revelation 18:2), and nowhere else in N. T.
And he said unto them, Go. And when they were come out, they went into the herd of swine: and, behold, the whole herd of swine ran violently down a steep place into the sea, and perished in the waters.32. a steep place] Translate, the steep place. The slope of Gergesa, familiar to Matthew and to the readers of his Gospel.
And they that kept them fled, and went their ways into the city, and told every thing, and what was befallen to the possessed of the devils.33. they that kept them] It does not appear whether these were Jews or Gentiles, more probably the latter; if the former, they were transgressing the law.
(1) This narrative may be regarded as a signal instance of Metanoia, or change from the old evil state to the new life. (2) It recalls the connection between sin and disease. The majority of cases of mania may be traced to sins of impurity; the impurity expelled, the man becomes sound in body as well as in mind. (3) The destruction of the swine should present no difficulty. The same God, who, for purposes often hidden, allows men to die by thousands in war or by pestilence, here, by the destruction of a herd of swine, enforces a moral lesson which the world has never forgotten.
And, behold, the whole city came out to meet Jesus: and when they saw him, they besought him that he would depart out of their coasts.34. that he would depart] The motive for the request was fear lest a greater disaster should follow (Meyer).