Matthew 8Note here, in general, that the Jews paid civil adoration to their kings and to their prophets: thus Saul stooped with his face to the ground to Samuel; Nebuchadnezzer fell on his face before Daniel, and Obadiah before Elijah; from whence may be gathered, that the adorations given to Christ by them that knew nothing of his divinity, were paid him as a prophet sent from God.
Only next, several particulars are here observable; as, 1. The petitioner, and that is a leper; he came and worshipped Christ, and petitions him to heal him, saying, Lord, if thou wilt, thou canst make me clean. Where he discovers a firm belief of Christ's power, but a diffidence and distrust in Christ's will, to heal him.
Learn, Christ's divine power must be fully assented to, and firmly believed by all those that expect benefit by him, and healing from him.
Observe, 2. How readily our Saviour grants his petition; Jesus touched him, saying, I will: be thou clean. Our Saviour, by touching the leper, shewed himself to be above the law, as God; though subject to the law, as man; for by the ceremonial law, the leper was forbidden to be touched. Yet it was a received rule among the Jews, that a prophet might vary from the punctilios of the ceremonial law, or change a ritual law; so did Elijah stretch himself on the dead child, and Elisha on the Shunamite's son, notwithstanding the prohibition of coming near the dead. But Christ's curing the leper by the word of his mouth, and the touch of his hand, shewed his divine power, and proved himself to be truly and really sent of God; leprosy being called by the Jews the finger of God, a disease of his sending, and of his removing, our Saviour, therefore, as a proof and of his being the Messias, tells the disciples of John, That the lepers were cleansed, Matt 11:5 and the dead raised. Which being put together, intimates that the cleansing of the leper is as peculiar and act of divine power, as the raising of the dead; and accordingly, 2Kgs 5:7 said the king, Am I a God, that this man sends to me to cure a man of his leprosy?
Observe, 3. The certainty and suddenness of the cure; immediately his leprosy was cleansed. Christ not only cured him without means, but without the ordinary time required for such a cure. Thus Christ shewed both power and will to cure him miraculously, who believed his power, but questioned his willingness.
Observe, 4. The charge and command given by Christ after the cure: first, To tell it to no man: wherein the modesty, humility, and piety, of Christ, is discovered, together with the care of his own safety. His modesty, in not desiring his good deeds should be proclaimed; his humility, in shunning vain-glorious applause and commendation; his piety, in desiring all the praise, honour, and glory, should redound entirely to God; his care of his own safety, lest the publishing of this miracle should create him untimely danger from the Pharisees.
Christians, behold your pattern to do much good, and make but little noise. Christ affected no popular air, he did not spoil a good work by vain ostentation. When we work hard for God, take we great care that pride doth not blow either it or us. O how difficult it is for us to do much service, and not value ourselves too much for the services which we do!
The second part of the charge which Christ gave the recovered leper, was, To shew himself to the priest, and offer the gift which Moses commanded for a testimony unto them; that is, a testimony to the Jews, that he was the Messiah, and that he did not oppose the ceremonial law given by Moses.
Where Note, That our Saviour would have the ceremonial law punctually observed, so long as the time for its continuance did endure; though he came to destroy that law, yet whilst it stood, he would have it observed.
Here Dr. Lightfoot observes, that though the priesthood was much degenerated from its primitive institution, by human inventions, yet Christ sends the leper to submit to it; because though they did corrupt, yet they did not extinguish the divine institution.
The second miracle our Saviour works in this chapter, is the healing of the centurion's servant.
Where Observe, 1. The person that applies to our Saviour for help and healing: he was a Gentile, an heathen, a Roman soldier, an officer or commander; yet he believes in, and relies upon the power of Christ.
Note, That such is the freeness of divine grace, that it extends itself to all sorts and ranks, to all orders and degrees of men, without exception. Even the bloody trade of war yields worthy clients to Christ: he doth not so much regard who we are, and with what dispositions and inclinations we come unto him.
Observe, 2. The person whom the centurion comes to Christ for; not for himself, not for his son, but for his servant. His servant is sick, he doth not drive him out of doors, nor stand gazing by his bed-side, but looks out for relief for him: a worthy example! Some masters have not so much regard to their sick servants as they gave to their oxen or their swine: but he is not worthy of a good servant, that in a time of sickness is not willing to serve his servant. A conceit of superiority must beget in no man a neglect of charitable offices towards inferiors.
Observe, 3. Upon whom the centurion seeks, and with what zeal and application: he seeks not to wizards and conjurors, but to the physician, for his poor servant; yea, to Christ, the best physician; and this not with a formal relation in his mouth, but with a vehement aggravation of of the disease; My servant is grievously tormented: where the master's condolency and tender sympathy with his afflicted servant, is both matter of commendation and imitation also.
Observe, 4. The happy mixture of humility and faith which was found in the centurion; he owns his unworthiness of having Christ come under his roof, yet he acknowledged Christ's power, that by speaking of a word his servant might be healed by him. Humility is both the fruit of faith, and the companion of faith; an humble soul has an high esteem of Christ, and a low esteem of himself.
Observe, 5. How our blessed Saviour exceeds both his desires and expectations; Christ says, not only will I heal him, but, I will come and heal him: Wonderful condescension!
In Joh 4:47 we read of a certain nobleman and ruler that twice entreated our Saviour to come to his house and heal his son, but our Lord refused, and did not stir a foot: here the centurion doth but barely tell Christ of his poor servant's sickness, and Christ, both unmasked and undesired, says, I will come and heal him.
O how far was Christ from seeming in the least to honour riches and despise poverty! He that came in the form of a servant, goes down and visits a sick servant upon his poor pallet-bed, that would not visit the rich couch of the ruler's son. How should we stoop to the lowest offices of love and kindness to one another, when Christ thus condescendingly abased himself before us!
Observe, 6. The notice and observation which our Saviour takes of the centurion's faith; he wondered at it from him, who had wrought it in him. Christ wrought this faith as God, and wondered at it as man; what can be more wonderful than to see Christ wonder? We do not find our Saviour wondering at worldly pomp and greatness. When the disciples wondered at the magnificence of the temple, Christ rather rebuked them, than wondered with them; but when he sees the gracious acts of faith, he is ravished with wonder.
Let it teach us to place our admiration where Christ fixes his: let us be more affected with the least measure of grace in a good man, than with all the gaieties and glory of a great man; let us not envy the one, but admire the other.
This was the first occasion that Christ took to speak of the calling of the Gentiles, and rejection of the Jews.
Observe, here, That the unbelieving Jews are called the children of the kingdom, because born within the pale of the visible church: they presumed that the kingdom of heaven was entailed upon them, because they were Abraham's seed; they boasted of, and gloried in, their external and outward privileges.
Note, thence, 1. That gospel ordinances, and church-privileges enjoyed, are a special honour to a people admitted to the participation of them: our Saviour here stiles the Jews upon that account, The children of the kingdom.
2. That such privileges enjoyed, but not improved, do provoke Almighty God to inflict the heaviest of judgments upon a people; The children of the kingdom shall be cast unto outer darkness; that is, into the darkness of hell, where shall be perpetual lamentations for the remembrance of the gospel kindly offered, but unthankfully rejected.
The next miracle which our Saviour wrought, was in curing Peter's wife's mother of a fever: the miracle was not in curing an incurable distemper, but in the way and manner of curing: for,
1. It was by a touch of our Saviour;s hand.
2. It was instantaneous and sudden: immediately the fever left her.
3. The visible effects of her recovery presently appeared: She instantly arose and ministered unto them, That she could arise, argued her cure miraculous; that she could and did arise and administer unto Christ, argued her thankfulness, and a great sense of his goodness upon her mind.
Note here, 1. That marriage is the mistress of the gospel, yea, even in the apostles themselves and in Peter, the chiefest of them, was neither censured nor condemned by our Saviour. St. Peter had a wife and family, which Christ condescends to visit.
Observe, 2. That the first thing which Christ takes notice of in the house which he condescends to visit, is what aileth any in it; what need they stand in of his help and healing; and accordingly, together with his presence, he affords them relief.
Learn, 3. That when Christ has graciously visited and healed any of his servants, it ought to be their first work and next care to administer unto Christ; that is, to employ their recovered health, and improve their renewed strength in his service; She arose and ministered.
It was very common about the time of our Saviour's coming in the flesh, for the devil bodily to possess persons, and very grievously to torment them. This is one of the sad and dismal evils which sin had made us liable an obnoxious to, to be bodily possessed by Satan; whan we give Satan the power of our hearts, it is a just and righteous thing wiah God, to give him the possession of bodies.
But who is the person that dispossesses Satan? Christ Jesus; it is a stronger than the strong man that must cast out Satan: our Jesus in whom we trust, by his powerful word alone can deliver us from Satan's power, and all the sad effects and consequences thereof.
But observe, with what condolency and sympathizing piety he exercises these acts of mercy and compassion towards poor creatures: he is said to take our infirmities upon himself, and to bare our sicknesses: he bare the guilt, which was the cause of these griefs and sorrows; and he bare the sorrows themselves, by a tender sympathy with us under the burden of them. Christ considers our sufferings as his own: he was afflicted in all our afflictions, and pained with all our pains; in this sense, he took our infirmities and bare our sicknesses.
Observe here, A person resolving to follow Christ; a good resolution, if made deliberately, and not rashly, not for sinister ends and secular advantages; which, it is to be feared, was the case here, by the answer which our Saviour gives; for, says he, foxes have holes, &c. that is, my condition in this world is very poor, worse than the birds of the air, for they have their fixed nests; or the beasts of the earth, for they have their dens and holes; but I have no fixed habitation.
Note,1. That many persons take up rash and sudden resolutions to follow Christ, before they have well considered what it will cost them; what they are likely to lose by being his disciples.
2. That such men may find themselves miserably mistaken, who expect to gain any thing by following of Christ, but their soul's salvation.
Note, 3. The title given to Christ; he is stiled here and frequently elsewhere, The Son of man.
1. To shew the truth of his humanity; the Son of man must be man.
2. To shew the depth of his abasement; Christ humbled, yea, emptied himself, when being the Son of God he submitted to be made man: The Son of man hath not where to lay his head.
We must not suppose by this prohibition that Christ disallows or disapproves of any civil office from one person to another, much less of a child to a parent, either living or dying: but he lets us know,
1. That no office of love and service to man, must be preferred before our duty to God, unto whom we owe our first obedience.
2. That lawful and decent offices become sinful, when they hinder greater duties.
3. That such as are called to the work and employment of the ministry, must mind that alone, and leave inferior duties to inferior persons: as if our Saviour had said, Others will serve well enough to bury the dead; but thou that art a consecrated person must do that unto which thou art consecrated and set apart. Under the law the priest might not come near a dead corpse, nor meddle with the interment of their own parents; unto which our Saviour probably alludes.
Observe here, 1. Christ and his disciples no sooner put forth to sea, but dangers attend and difficulties do accompany them: a tempest arose, and the ship was covered with waves.
Learn thence, That the presence of Christ itself doth not exempt his disciples and followers from trouble and danger: here is a great tempest about the disciples ears, though Christ was in their company.
Observe, 2. The posture our Saviour was in when the tempest arose; he being weary on the land, was fallen, asleep in the ship: our blessed Redeemer hereby sheweth himself to be truly and really man; as he took upon him our human nature, so he subjected himself to our human infirmities.
Observe, 3. The disciples' application made to him; they awake him with a sad outcry Lord, save us: we perish. Here was faith mixed with human frailty: they had faith in his power, that he could save them; but being asleep, they concluded he must awake before he could save them: whereas though his human nature was asleep, yet his divine nature neither slumbered nor slept.
Learn hence, That the prevalency of fear in a time of great and imminent danger, though it may argue weakness of faith, yet it is no evidence of want of faith: in the midst of the disciples' fears they believed Christ's power.
Observe, 4. A double rebuke given by our Saviour.
(1.) To the winds and seas; next to the fears of his disciples; He rebukes the winds and seas and instantly they are calm; when the sea was as furious as a madman, Christ by his divine power calms it.
Learn hence, That the most raging winds and outrageous seas cannot stand before the rebukes of Christ; if once he rebukes them, their rage is down; God lays a law upon the most lawless creatures, even when they seem to act the most lawlessly.
(2.) Christ rebukes his disciples' fears; Why are ye fearful? No sooner was the storm up, but their fears were up, and they were as much overset with their boisterous passions, as the vessel was with the tempestuous winds; and accordingly Christ rebukes the tempest within, and then the tempest without: first he calms their hearts, and then the seas.
From this instance we see, that great faith in the habit may appear little in act and exercise. The disciples' faith in forsaking all and following Christ, was great faith, but in this present act their faith was week, through the prevalency of their fear.
Note lastly, That the disciples' faith was lessened by their fear: fear is generated by unbelief, and unbelief strengthened by fear; as in things natural there is a circular generation, vapours beget showers, and showers vapours; so it is in things moral, nothing can cure us of fear, till God cures us of unbelief; Christ therefore takes an effectual method to rid the disciples of their fears, by rebuking their unbelief.
We read of few, if any in the Old Testament, that were possessed with evil spirits; but of many in the New Testament. Our Saviour came into the workd to destroy the works of the devil; therefore he suffered Satan to enter some human bodies, to shew his divine power in casting them out.
Note here, 1. That the evil angels by their fall, lost their purity but not their power.
2. That they do no oftener exert their power in doing mischief to the bodies and lives of men, is from the restraining power of God. The devils cannot do all the mischief they would, and they shall not do all they can.
Observe, The devils knew Christ to be the Son of God, and that he came into the world to be a Saviour, but not their Saviour; and therefore they cry out, What have we to do with thee? or thou with us?
O what an uncomfortable faith is this, to believe that Christ is a Saviour, and at the same time to know that he is none of our Saviour! But what is their outcry against Christ? This, Art thou come to torment us before the time?
Learn, 1. That there are tortures appointed to the spiritual natures of evil angels. The fire of hell is conceived to be partly material, and partly spiritual; partly material, to work upon bodies of evil men, and partly spritual to work upon the souls of men, and the spirits of evil angels.
Learn, 2. That though the devils be now as full of discontent as they can be, yet they are not so full of torment as they shall be; their speech here intimates, that there will be a time when their torments shall be increased when they shall have their fill of torment: therefore they pray, Increase not our torments before the appointed time of their increase.
Observe here, 1. A notable evidence of Satan's limited power, that a whole legion of devils had not power to destroy one man, nor were able to hurt the meanest creatures without permission.
Observe, 2. The devil's acknowledgement of their own impotency, and Christ's power; their asking leave of Christ to go into the swine shews that they could not go of themselves.
Learn hence, 1. The restlessness of Satan's malice; he will hurt the swine rather than not hurt at all.
2. That though Satan's malice be infinite, yet his power is limited and bounded; as he cannot do all the mischief he would, so he shall not do all he can.
Although Christ seldom wrought any destructive miracle, and although he certainly foresaw that the swine would perish in the waters; yet that the people might see how great the power and malice of the devil would be, if not restrained by Christ, he permitted him to ever into the swine: Christ said unto them, Go; and how glad was Satan of this permission to enter into the swine, in order to their destruction.
Let it teach us our duty, by prayer to commit ourselves, and all that we have, morning and evening, into the hands of God's care; all that we have in the house, and all that we have in the field, that it may be preserved from the power and malice of evil spirits.
Observe, 1. What a contary effect this miracle which Christ wrought had upon these people: instead of believing on him for his miraculous cure of the opssessed, the loss of their swine enraged them, and makes them desire Christ to depart from them. Temporal losses are so great in worldly men's estimation, that spiritual advantages are nothing esteemed: carnal hearts perfer their swine before their Saviour; and had rather lose Christ's presence than their worldly profits.
Observe, 2. How unanimous and importunate the Gadarenes were to get rid of Christ, the whole city came out, and are not only willing to his departure, but they beseech him to depart out of their coasts.
Learn, hence, That deplorably sad is the condition of such from whom Christ departs; more deplorably sad is their state who say unto Christ, depart; but most deplorably sad is the case of them that intreat and beseech Christ to depart, from them. Thus did the Gadarenes, and accordingly Christ took ship and departed from them, and we never read of his return unto them.
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