THE GOSPEL OF MATTHEW
Lesson 13 Chapters 8-9
Jesus’ Ministry in the Galilee Continues
The miracles worked in Your name remind us that You are not bound by the laws You created for the natural world. But the greatest of the miracles at Your hand are those of the miracles of grace where men and women experience a sudden and unexpected conversion from ignorance to belief, from doubting and confusion to the certainty of faith, and from a life full of sin to a life defined by holiness. Send Your Holy Spirit to guide us, Lord, in our study of the miracles of healing Jesus demonstrated in His Galilean ministry. We pray in the name of God the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Amen.
+ + +
For not even after he went down from the mountain did the hearers leave, but even then the whole audience followed him because of the great love that was shown in what he had said. But most of all they were astonished at his authority. For when he said these things, he did not refer to another, as even the prophet Moses did, but everywhere he showed that he himself was the One who had the authority to decide … And when he was reminding them of the final day of judgment, he showed that he himself is the One who will bring justice, both through the punishments and through the honors.
St. John Chrysostom, The Gospel of Matthew, Homily 25.1
And he came down with them [the disciples] and stood on a stretch of level ground. A great crowd of his disciples and a large number of the people from all Judea and Jerusalem and the coastal region of Tyre and Sidon came to hear him and to be healed of their diseases; and even those who were tormented by unclean spirits were cured.
Matthew 8:28-29 ~ When Jesus finished these words, the crowds were astonished at his teaching, for he taught them as one having authority, and not as their scribes.
Matthew 7:28-29 is the end of the first of Jesus’ five discourses in the Gospel of Matthew. The phrase in verse 28, When Jesus finished these words …, or a similar formula, is used by St. Mathew to conclude each of Jesus’ five discourses (see 7:28; 11:1; 13:53; 19:1 and 26:1).
Question: Look at the last three teachings in the Sermon on the Mount:
- The Two Paths (7:13-14)
- The False Teacher versus the True Disciple (7:15-23)
- The Two Foundations (7:24-27)
What is the theme that links all three teachings?
Answer: Jesus ends the Sermon on the Mount with an eschatological teaching on the “end times” and the Last Judgment that will result in either eternal salvation in heaven or eternal condemnation in hell.
This is a pattern that will be repeated in the other discourses. Discourse #2, the Missionary Discourse (10:5-11:1), ends in three eschatological teachings:
- The Reward for Acknowledging and the Cost of Denying Christ (10:32-33)
- The Conditions of Discipleship (10:34-39)
- The Reward for Receiving Jesus’ Emissaries (10:40-42)
Discourse #3, Parables of the Kingdom (13:1-53), ends in three eschatological teachings:
- The Kingdom Compared to a Hidden Treasure (13:44)
- The Kingdom Compared to a Pearl of Great Price (13:45-46)
- The Kingdom Compared to the Sorting of Good and Bad Fish (13:47-50)
Discourse #4, the Sermon on the Life of the Community (18:1-19:1), breaks the pattern of three short teachings and ends in one long eschatological teaching:
- The Parable of the Unforgiving Servant (18:23-35)
Discourse #5, known as the Eschatological Discourse (24:1-25:46, also ends is three eschatological teachings:
- The Parable of the Ten Maidens (25:1-13)
- The Talents and Servants (25:14-30)
- The Last Judgment (25:31-46)
Question: What does this consistent pattern reveal within the unfolding story of Jesus ministry?
Answer: This pattern reveals that Jesus miracles and discourses in Matthew’s Gospel consistently reflects the progress of salvation history with the present unfolding into the promise of the future and the future concluding in the end of the “Age of Man” in the Last Judgment.
Chapter 8 ~ Jesus the Healer
Matthew chapters 8-10:4 contain the second narrative section and Jesus’ second discourse, entitled “the Missionary Discourse” is found in 10:5-10:42. The second narrative-discourse section is completed in 11:1 with the formula statement: When Jesus finished giving these commands … The narrative section contains ten miracle stories. The miracles take place in or near either the town of Capernaum or by the shores of the Sea of Galilee:
- The cleansing of a leper (8:1-4)
- The healing of the centurion’s servant (8:5-13)
- The healing of Simon-Peter’s mother-in-law (8:14-15)
- The healing of people possessed by demons and the sick in fulfillment of the prophecy in Isaiah 53:4 (8:16-17)
- The calming of the storm at sea (8:23-27)
- The healing of the Gadarene demoniacs (8:28-34)
- The healing of a paralytic (9:1-8)
- The healing of the official’s daughter and the woman with a hemorrhage (9:18-26)
- The healing of two bind men (9:27-31)
- The healing of a mute (9:32-34)
After the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus’ acts of healing take on the theme of Jesus fulfilling “the law and the prophets” as He promised in Matthew 5:17-18: Do not think that I have come to abolish the law or the prophets. I have come not to abolish but to fulfill. Amen, I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not the smallest letter or the smallest part of a letter will pass from the law until all things have taken place. Some may interpret this statement to mean that “to fulfill” the law means a literal enforcement of the exact letter of the law. However, in Jesus statement that until heaven and earth pass a way nothing of the law will pass, His meaning becomes clear. The end of heaven and earth is not the end of the world but the turning of the ages which comes with an apocalyptic event that will be revealed in Jesus’ death and resurrection which will inaugurate the new creation and final Age of Man that was prophesied by the prophet Isaiah:
- Lo, I am abut to create new heavens and a new earth; the things of the past shall not be remembered or come to mind (Is 65:17).
- As the new heavens and the new earth which I will make shall endure before me, says the LORD, so shall your race and your name endure. From one new moon to another, and from one Sabbath to another, all mankind shall come to worship before me, says the LORD (Is 66:22-23).
A miracle is defined as: A wonder or wonderful thing; something that excites astonishment; a sensible deviation from the known lows of nature, held to be wrought by a supernatural being; a supernatural event (New Webster’s International Dictionary, vol. 1, page 537). Miracle stories were common in the literature of the ancient world, but unlike the miracle stories found in secular literature, the miracles in the Gospels never affect anyone adversely and Jesus never uses His powers to advance His reputation as a “miracle worker,” unlike other “miracle workers” whose main motivation was to demonstrate their power to advance their reputations (see Acts 8:1-11). The purpose behind Jesus’ miracles was to relieve the suffering of individuals and to fulfill prophecy.
Question: When Jesus was invited to misuse His powers? See Mt 4:1-11.
Answer: In His desert temptation, Satan urged Jesus to use His powers to prove He was the Son of God. Jesus resisted the temptation and did not abuse His powers.
Question: Who was the prototype miracle worker in the Old Testament and what is the significant link between this person and Jesus?
Answer: God gave Moses the power to work signs and wonders to liberate the children of Israel from Egyptian slavery, to guide the children of Israel to Mt. Sinai and later to the Plains of Moab across the Jordan River from the “Promised Land” of Canaan. The people of the Galilee were already beginning to recognize Jesus as the new Moses in the new law He taught in the Beatitudes and the Sermon on the Mount, but now they will see Him as the new Moses in Jesus’ miraculous acts as God’s supreme prophet.
Matthew 8:1-4 ~ Cleansing a Leper
1 When Jesus came down from the mountain, great crowds followed him. 2 And then a leper approached, did him homage, and said, “Lord, if you wish you can make me clean.” 3 He stretched out his hand, touched him, and said, “I will do it. Be made clean.” His leprosy was cleansed immediately. 4 Then Jesus said to him, “See that you tell no one, but go show yourself to the priest, and offer the gift that Moses prescribed; that will be proof for them.”
The Gospel of Luke provides the information that when Jesus came down from the mountain a great crowd of people awaited Him, coming from as far away as Judea and Jerusalem and the Gentile costal region of Tyre and Sidon. Luke records that they came to hear him and to be healed of their diseases; and even those who were tormented by unclean sprits were cured. Everyone in the crowd sought to touch him because power came forth from him and healed them all (Lk 6:17-19).
St. Matthew tells us that among those in need of healing was a man suffering from leprosy. He approaches Jesus humbly and respectfully, addressing Jesus as “Lord.”
- The victim must be brought to the priest who will examine the person outside the camp/town.
- If the priest determines the skin lesion is indeed a contagious disease like leprosy, the person will be declared “unclean” and will be expelled from the community and prohibited from communal worship.
- If the person believes he is healed of leprosy, that person will present himself to the priest for a physical examination.
- If the priest determines that he is indeed healed, the person will submit himself to a seven day ritual purification ceremony.
- On the eighth day the person can be declared ritually “clean” and can be readmitted to the community and to liturgical worship in which he will offer a sacrifice of one unblemished male lamb and one log of oil as a guilt offering in a ritual ceremony. He will also offer one unblemished yearling ewe lamb as a sin offering and then another unblemished male lamb as a whole burnt offering with three tenths of an ephah of fine flour mixed with oil for a cereal offering.
- All who continued to suffer from a contagious skin disease were expelled from the camp and remained isolated from the community and worship.
Question: What happened if an “unclean” person came in contact with a ritually “clean” person? See Lev chapter 15 and Jn 19:28.
Answer: The condition of “uncleanness” could be transferred to the other person. One could become ritually “unclean” and therefore unfit for worship in a number of ways, including contact with a Gentile or by entering a Gentile residence.
Question: It is the man’s faith in Jesus that brings about his healing. What is the radical change in the Law concerning Jesus and the “unclean”?
Answer: Instead of Jesus being contaminated by the “unclean” coming into contact with Him, Jesus imparts His righteousness to the “unclean” and they become “clean.”
Question: Why does Jesus ask the man to keep his healing by Jesus a secret?
Answer: A possible answer is that Jesus has only three years to deliver His Gospel message of salvation before the antagonism of the Old Covenant hierarchy progresses from irritation to a deep hatred that results in His crucifixion. He needs the time allotted to Him to spread His message from one end of the Holy Land to the other and to call as many people of the Old Covenant to faith and belief in the Messiah as possible.
Question: Why does Jesus tell the man to go to the priests? See Mt 5:18-20; Lev 14:1-31.
Answer: Only the priest can pronounce the man “clean” and free to return to the community and to communal worship in the Temple. The Old Covenant Law is still in effect, as Jesus said in Matthew 5:17-18. Jesus supports the Law. It isn’t until He has paid the price of mankind’s sins that the ritual purify laws will no longer be binding on members of the New Covenant.
Matthew 8:5-13 ~ The Healing of the Centurion’s Servant
5 When he entered Capernaum, a centurion approached him and appealed to him, 6 saying, “Lord, my servant [pais] is lying at home paralyzed, suffering dreadfully.” 7He said to him, “I will come and cure him.” 8The centurion said in reply, “Lord, I am not worthy to have you enter under my roof; only say the word and my servant will be healed. 9 For I too am a person subject to authority, with soldiers subject to me. And I say to one, Go,’ and he goes; and to another, Come here,’ and he comes; and to my slave, Do this,’ and he does it.” 10 When Jesus heard this, he was amazed and said to those following him, “Amen, I say to you, in no one in Israel have I found such faith. 11 I say to you, many will come from the east and the west, and will recline with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob at the banquet in the kingdom of heaven, 12 but the children of the kingdom will be driven out into the outer darkness, where there will be wailing and grinding of teeth.” 13 And Jesus said to the centurion, “You may go; as you have believed, let it be done for you.” And at that very hour [his] servant [son] was healed.
Capernaum was the headquarters of Jesus’ public ministry (Mt 4:13). In Hebrew it means “village of Nahum.” It is a town on the northwestern shore of the Sea of Galilee, located about two and one-half miles from the mouth of the Jordan River and was the headquarters of Peter, Andrew and the Zebedee family’s fishing business. St. Peter lived in Capernaum with his family and his wife and her mother. Outside of the Gospels, the town is mentioned by the Jewish historian Flavius Josephus, by Jewish Talmudic sources, and in the accounts of Christian pilgrims from the Byzantine period.
Question: What is the significance of the way the Centurion addresses Jesus?
Answer: Like the leper, the Roman officer addresses Jesus with the honorific title “Lord.”
In this case, the title the Roman uses is more than a title of politeness “it is a title which suggests he considers Jesus to “out rank” him “to have greater authority. It would have been very unusual for a Roman to address a common Jew in this manner.
The Romans had occupied the Holy Land since 63 BC. The Roman centurion was an officer who was typically in command of a hundred men in a Roman legion. He was a Gentile “God-fearer” “a Gentile who professed belief in Yahweh but had not submitted to the covenant ritual of circumcision or the ritual bath of conversion, thereby not fully entering the Old Covenant Church. This same story appears in Luke 7:1-10 in which the Jewish elders of the Capernaum Synagogue approach Jesus to vouch for a Gentile Roman centurion they considered to be a friend and to act as the intermediaries between Jesus and the righteous Gentile, saying He deserves to have you do this for him, for he loves our nation and he built the synagogue for us (Lk 7:4).
Such Gentiles as the centurion were permitted to receive instruction in the synagogues and were permitted to bring sacrifices to the Court of the Gentiles at the Jerusalem Temple, but did not consider themselves bound by other regulations such as the observance of the dietary laws. The Roman centurion Cornelius, in Acts 10:1-49, is described as a “God-fearer” (Acts 10:2). Since these men were not fully members of the covenant, they were still considered to be ritually unclean, as were all Gentiles. If the man had been a Gentile convert to the Sinai Covenant, he would have not hesitated in inviting Jesus to his home.
In verse 6 the Centurion refers to the paralyzed person in his household as his pais in the Greek text. Biblical scholars identify this as an ambiguous word which can mean both “child” and “servant” (Harrington, The Gospel of Matthew, Sacra Pagina, page 113). A minor child was considered to be his/her father’s servant until the child either came of age or married.
Jesus’ response is also ambiguous in the Greek text. It is possible to translate His response to the Centurion as either as promise, “I will come” or as an offer, “shall I come?”
Question: Why does the Centurion refuse Jesus’ offer to come to his home and what is familiar about verse 8?
Answer: The man’s response has to do with both his faith in Jesus to heal his son/servant and his sensitivity to the ritual purity problem for a religious Jew entering a Gentile home, which is why he tells Jesus he is not worthy for Jesus to “enter under my roof.” Verse 8 is a response of the priest and the congregation in the Communion Rite of the Mass.
In the Communion Rite of the Mass, the priest elevates the Host, saying “Behold the Lamb of God; behold Him who takes away the sins of the world. Blessed are those called to the supper of the Lamb.” As the priest breaks the Host, the people, together with the priest say: “Lord, I am not worthy that you should enter under my roof, but only say the word and my soul shall be healed,” repeating part of the Centurion’s response from Matthew 8:8 (see the underlined words of the Scripture passage).
Entering a Gentile residence is the same problem that the priests and Pharisees will have in their refusal to enter Pilate’s Praetorium/Court of law when they bring Jesus to the Roman governor to try him for treason and blasphemy (Jn 19:28). If a Jew becomes defiled by contact with a Gentile, he becomes ritually unclean and must perform ritual purity rites. Until the rituals of purity were completed, the person was barred from the “camp of God and from worship at God’s altar; such a person remained “unclean” until sundown.(1)
Jesus commends the Gentile’s faith and his recognition that Jesus’ power and authority came from God as a model for all believers who will one day come to faith from the corners of the earth. The Centurion’s faith foreshadows the gathering of the Gentile nations into the family of God.
In Matthew 8:11 Jesus says: I say to you, many will come from the east and the west, and will recline with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob at the banquet in the kingdom of heaven, 12 but the children [sons] of the kingdom will be driven out into the outer darkness, where there will be wailing and grinding of teeth.” The phrase alluding to the gathering of the Gentile nations to worship the Messiah and depiction of those who reject the Messiah as being condemned to a place of “wailing and grinding of teeth” is found both in Matthew 8:11 and Luke 13:28-29: Then he will say to you, I do not know where [you] are from. Depart from me, all you evildoers!’ And there will be wailing and grinding of teeth when you see Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob and all the prophets in the kingdom of God and you yourselves cast out. And people will come from the east and the west and from the north and the south and will recline at table in the kingdom of God (Lk 13:27-29).
Question: Who are the “children [literally “sons”] of the kingdom” who will be driven out into the outer darkness in verse 12? For other biblical references to the place of “weeping and gnashing of teeth” in the Gospel of Matthew see Mt 22:13; 24:51; 25:30.
Answer: These dispossessed sons are those Jews to whom the kingdom has been promised but who, in rejecting their Messiah, receive not the “kingdom of light” but the “kingdom of darkness” that is the domain of Satan and his fallen angels.
The community of Qumran was located on the shores of the Dead Sea near the site where a library of over 900 ancient scrolls were discovered in 1947 in a series of 11 caves. The community of Qumran may have been a ritual purification site for pilgrims traveling to Jerusalem (only c. 16 miles to the east). The site was destroyed by the Roman army in 68 AD and after a short period as a Roman outpost, was never inhabited again. Among the Bible texts, the commentaries on Scripture, and other secular documents discovered in the caves was a document believed to have been the community’s “Manual of Discipline” or “Community Rule” that has been dated to the 1stcentury BC/AD. The text teaches that God has sovereignty over Creation and that “He allotted unto man two Spirits that he should walk in them until the time of His visitation” referring to the coming of the Messiah (Manual of Discipline, 3:18). The document continues by distinguishing between the two Spirits that offer the choice of two paths or life goals to the “sons of Light” who walk in the ways of light under the guidance of “the Prince of Light,” as opposed to the “sons of Darkness” who walk in the ways of darkness under the guidance of the “Angel of Darkness,” Satan. The teaching in that document is similar to Jesus’ teaching in Matthew 8:11.
Question: What path had the righteous Gentile chosen and what was his reward?
Answer: He chose the path of Light and his reward was that his petition was granted and his servant or son was healed.
Matthew 8:14-15 ~ The Healing of Peter’s Mother-in-Law
14 Jesus entered the house of Peter, and saw his mother-in-law lying in bed with a fever. 15 He touched her hand, the fever left her, and she rose and waited on him.
This healing takes place in Peter’s house in Capernaum.(2)
Question: Jesus’ miracles were not limited to public healings. How is this healing different from the others we have been reading about?
Answer: There was no petition for healing; Jesus saw the need and He responded.
Question: How did Peter’s mother-in-law express her gratitude?
Answer: She immediately rose from her sick-bed and “waited on” Jesus; perhaps she got Him something to eat.
Matthew 8:16-17 ~ Healing in fulfillment of the Scriptures
16 When it was evening, they brought him many who were possessed by demons, and he drove out the spirits by a word and cured all the sick, 17 to fulfill what had been said by Isaiah the prophet: “He took away our infirmities and bore our diseases.”
Question: What is the significance of the fulfillment passage in relation to the Sermon on the Mount (see 5:17), and what is the significance of this particular Old Testament passage that Matthew quotes (remember, when Old Testament Scripture is quoted, one must read the entire passage).
- Jesus’ healing miracles are signs that are evidence that He is fulfilling the Law and the prophets as He promised in Matthew 5:17.
- The passage in Isaiah is the prophecy of the Lord’s “Suffering Servant.” Matthew’s message is that Jesus is the Suffering Servant who takes upon Himself the sins of the people.
- The end of the Isaiah passage in 53:12 reveals that the miracles Jesus performs are signs that point to the fulfillment of God’s plan that will be revealed in the Passion of the Christ.
Matthew 8:18-22 ~ The cost of discipleship
18 When Jesus saw a crowd around him, he gave orders to cross to the other side. 19 A scribe approached and said to him, “Teacher, I will follow you wherever you go.” 20 Jesus answered him, “Foxes have dens and birds of the sky have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to rest his head.” 21 Another of [his] disciples said to him, “Lord, let me go first and bury my father.” 22 But Jesus answered him, “Follow me, and let the dead bury their dead.”
The crowds had grown to be so great they may have become unsafe. Jesus gave orders to withdraw to the eastern side of the Sea of Galilee. Before they depart, Jesus is approached by two men, one desiring to become a disciple and a man who was already a disciple who wanted to make a request for a leave of absence.
The first man was a scribe. Unlike other scribes in the Gospels who are usually united with the Pharisees in opposition to Jesus, this man appears to be sincere in his expressed desire to become a disciple, addressing Jesus as “teacher” (didaskale). Scribes were originally men with the writing skills to draw up legal documents. When many Levites became trained scribes, the professional scribe developed skills in advising in legal matters and in the interpretation of the Law of the Torah. See Matthew 13:52 and 23:24 for positive references to scribes.
Question: Why does Jesus appear to discourage the man in verse 20?
Answer: As a scribe the man enjoyed a profession where he made a good income, had a home, and where he was admired and respected in the community. Jesus’ warning is that He can offer him none of these things “Jesus doesn’t even have a home to call His own. He wants the man to understand the cost of discipleship.
Under the Law, children were responsible for mourning and burying their parents and other relatives (Tob 1:16-20; 4:3; 6:15; Mishnah: Ber. 3:1).
Question: How is Jesus’ disciple’s request similar to Elisha’s request of Elijah in 1 Kings 19:19-21?
Answer: Elisha was Elijah’s disciple and requested permission to say goodbye to his parents and his old life before following the prophet. His request was granted.
Question: When the second man, a disciple, asks Jesus for permission to bury his father, a religious obligation under the Law, why does Jesus not give the man His blessing to go and bury his father? Also see Lk 9:59 where Jesus says to the disciple “Let the dead bury the dead. But you proclaim the kingdom of God.”
Answer: Jesus did not give the disciple permission to leave and bury his father because the time allowed to Jesus to announce the coming of the Kingdom and the Gospel of salvation to the Jews is very short. He must use all the time He has to prepare His disciples for His Passion and to carry the Gospel of salvation to the ends of the earth.
Question: What did Jesus mean when He said: “Follow me, and let the dead bury their dead.”
Answer: It sounds harsh, but Jesus is probably using hyperbole to shock His disciples and to impress upon the urgency of His mission “without the gift of eternal life, everyone alive can be considered the “walking dead.”
Matthew 8:23-27 ~ Jesus Calms the Sea
23 He got into a boat and his disciples followed him. 24 Suddenly a violent storm came up on the sea, so that the boat was being swamped by waves; but he was asleep. 25 They came and woke him, saying, “Lord, save us! We are perishing!” 26 He said to them, “Why are you terrified, O you of little faith?” Then he got up, rebuked the winds and the sea, and there was great calm. 27 The men were amazed and said, “What sort of man is this, whom even the winds and the sea obey?”
In this translation the crisis is a sudden storm. However, in the Greek text, the crisis that causes the huge waves is not a storm “the word in Greek is seismos, meaning “earthquake” (also see Mt 27:51-53). This is a word that has apocalyptic overtones and recalls the prophecy of Ezekiel: …and in my jealousy, in my fiery wrath, I swear: On that day there shall be a great shaking upon the land of Israel. Before me shall tremble the fish of the sea and the birds of the air, the beasts of the field and all the reptiles that crawl upon the ground, and all men who are on the land … I will prove my greatness and holiness and make myself known in the sight of many nations; thus they shall know that I am the LORD (Ez 38:19-23).
Question: Why was it that Jesus did not initially respond to the crisis?
Answer: It may be that He wanted His disciples to believe in His power to control nature and to save their lives. He wanted them to ask for salvation.
Question: The disciples call out “Lord, save us” in verse 25. What does this petition suggest?
Answer: They are acknowledging both Jesus’ sovereignty over them and their belief that He has the power over the forces of nature to save them from death.
Question: What is the lesson in this miracle story for us?
Answer: God responds to our pleas for salvation, but if we do not want His help and prefer to remain self-sufficient, He will allow it.
Question: Notice Jesus’ rebuke in verse 26: He said to them, “Why are you terrified, O you of little faith?” Why does He rebuke them?
Answer: The rebuke is not for their petition but for their panic. They have some faith but only a little.
Matthew 8:26b-27 ~ Then he got up, rebuked the winds and the sea, and there was great calm. 27 The men were amazed and said, “What sort of man is this, whom even the winds and the sea obey?”
Question: What is the purpose of this miracle?
Answer: This miracle demonstrates that Jesus is more than a man with the gift of healing. He can command the forces of nature. The purpose of this miracle is to illicit the response from His disciples in verse 27 “who is He really?
At this point, the disciples may have recalled the psalmist’s words in Psalm 107:28-30: In their distress they cried to the LORD, who brought them out of their peril, hushed the storm to a murmur’ the waves of the sea were stilled. They rejoiced that the sea grew calm, that God brought them to the harbor they longed for.
Matthew 8:28-34 ~ The Healing of the Gadarene Demoniacs
28 When he came to the other side, to the territory of the Gadarene, two demoniacs who were coming from the tombs met him. They were so savage that no one could travel by that road. 29 They cried out, “What have you to do with us, Son of God? Have you come here to torment us before the appointed time? 30 Some distance away a herd of many swine was feeding. 31 The demons pleaded with him, “If you drive us out, send us into the herd of swine.” 32 And he said to them, “Go then!” They came out and entered the swine, and the whole herd rushed down the steep bank into the sea where they drowned. 33 The swine herders ran away, and when they came to the town they reported everything, including what had happened to the demoniacs. 34 Thereupon the whole town came out to meet Jesus, and when they saw him they begged him to leave their district.
Jesus and His disciples crossed to the eastern side of the Sea of Galilee. The town of Gadara was about five miles southeast of the sea (see Mk 5:1-10 and Lk 8:26-29). Flavius Josephus refers to this town as possessing the territory that extended to the sea coast (Josephus, Life 9 ). This side of the Sea of Galilee was composed of mostly Gentile communities; Gadara was one of the Greek culture cities of the Decapolis (“ten cities”).(3)
The two demon possessed men were living in the chambers of rock hewn tombs. Jesus’ confrontation with these two men recalls Isaiah 65:2-4: I have stretched out my hands all the day to a rebellious people, who walk in evil paths and follow their own thoughts; people who provoke me continually, to my face, offering sacrifices in the groves and burning incense on bricks, living among the graves and spending the night in caverns, eating swine’s flesh with carrion broth in their dishes … Contact with the dead made one “unclean” as did eating unclean animals like pigs (Lev 11:7; Dt 14:8).
Question: What are demons? See Rev 12:8-9; CCC 391-92, 414.
Answer: They are angels who allied themselves with Satan when he rebelled against God. For their sin, they were cast out of heaven.
Question: What is interesting about the way the two violent demoniacs address Jesus, and what does it say to those who acknowledge that Jesus may be the son of God but reject “organized religion”? See Jam 4:19.
Answer: The demon possessed men recognized Jesus’ true identity as the Son of God when others did not. Even the demons acknowledge that Jesus is the Son of God but that will not count toward their salvation. It takes more than knowledge; salvation requires covenant union and obedience to everything Jesus taught.
Even if the Jews do not recognize their Messiah, the demons know His true identity (also see Mk 1:24; 3:11; Lk 4:41; Acts 16:17; 19:15). Jesus has the power over demons. He will communicate this same power of exorcism to His Apostles along with the power to forgive sins and to heal the sick (Mt 18:18; Jn 20:22-23; CCC 1506).
Question: How do the demoniacs challenge to Jesus in verse 29b and what does their challenge suggest? See Mt 12:28; Lk 10:17-19; Jn 12:31-32; Rev 20:7-10.
Answer: They ask what He has to do with them at this point in salvation history. It suggests that they have some knowledge of the defeat of Satan at the end of the final age of mankind, and they apparently knew that this way not yet that time.
Question: Why do they ask Jesus to send them into the herd of pigs?
Answer: They wanted to remain on earth and not be returned to the Abyss or the Fiery Pit that is the abode of Satan and his fallen angels (demons).
When Jesus casts the demons into the herd of pigs, the pigs drown themselves in the sea and the townspeople who are probably both frightened and angry at the loss of revenue ask Him to leave.
Question: Jesus knew the pigs would kill themselves. Why did He then cast the demons into the herd and destroy the prosperity of the owners of the herd? See Lev 11:6-7.
Answer: Jews were forbidden to eat or to raise unclean animals like pigs. That Jesus allowed the herd to be destroyed suggests that the owners were Jews and were in violation of the Law. He probably wouldn’t have destroyed pigs owned by Gentiles because they did not live under the Law of the covenant.
This miracle story may also be a fulfillment the prophecy of carrying the message of salvation to the pagan Gentiles in Isaiah 65:1-5: I was ready to respond to those who asked me not, to be found by those who sought me not. I said: Here I am! Here I am! To a nation that did not call upon my name. I have stretched out my hands all the day to a rebellious people, who walk in evil paths and follow their own thoughts, people who provoke me continually to my face, offering sacrifices in the groves and burning incense on bricks. Living among the graces and spending the night in caverns, eating swine’s flesh, with carrion broth in their dishes, Crying out, “hold back, do not touch me I am too sacred for you! Pork, an unclean animal to an Israelite/Jew that they are even forbidden to raise, is what the people in this prophecy claim have made them holy. Gentiles where pork consumers and offered swine in sacrifices to false gods. The prophet ridicules them in their claim that their practices have made them “sacred.”
News of Jesus’ miracle on the Gentile side of the Sea of Galilee spread through the towns of the Decapolis and encouraged Jews as well as Gentiles living in the region to seek out the Jewish rabbi and healer. St. Mark records that one of the men Jesus healed asked to remain with Him (Mk 5:15-10). Jesus urged him to go home and to announce to his family and community everything “that the Lord in his pity has done for you” (Mt 5:18-20). In obedience to Jesus’ command, the man began to proclaim Jesus’ works of healing in the Decapolis. We know from Matthew 4:25; 5:20; and 7:31 that people from this region were already coming to hear Jesus preach and this man’s testimony only increased the numbers of people who were willing to come to Jesus.
Chapter 9 ~ Jesus Returns to Capernaum
Matthew 9:1-7 ~ The Healing of the Paralytic
1 He entered a boat, made the crossing, and came into his own town. 2 And there people brought to him a paralytic lying on a stretcher. When Jesus saw their faith, he said to the paralytic, “Courage, child, your sins are forgiven. 3 At that, some of the scribes said to themselves, “This man is blaspheming.” 4 Jesus knew what they were thinking, and said, “Why do you harbor evil thoughts? 5 Which is easier, to say, Your sins are forgiven,’ or to say, Rise and walk’? 6 But that you may know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins” “he then said to the paralytic, “Rise, pick up your stretcher, and go home.” 7 He rose and went home. 8 When the crowds saw this they were struck with awe and glorified God who had given such authority to human beings.
Jesus and His Apostles crossed to the northwest side of the lake and retuned to Capernaum. There, some people brought Him a man who was paralyzed.
Question: What was it about the friends of the paralyzed man that impressed Jesus? See St. Marks account in Mk 2:1-12.
Answer: They were so determined to get Jesus’ help for their friend that they removed the roof of Peter’s house to lower their friend’s bed down into the room where Jesus was staying.
Question: What is the significance of Jesus’ statement concerning the faith of the man’s friends: When Jesus saw their faith, he said to the paralytic, “Courage, child, your sins are forgiven.
Answer: It wasn’t the paralytic’s faith that generated the healing, but the faith of his friends. We should never take for granted the power of our petitions made on behalf of someone else.
Notice that Jesus linked the man’s condition to his sins. Jesus may have been appealing to the cultural assumption that there was a link between sin and sickness (Jn 9:2), but it is more likely that He is demonstrating His authority to heal body and soul.
Question: Why do some of the scribes accuse Jesus of blasphemy? Hint: the Law defined blasphemy as consisting in misusing the Divine Name Yahweh; see Lev 24:15-16 and Num 15:30. What other miracle has taken place in this exchange?
Answer: The scribes, who are also in many cases teachers of the Law, believe Jesus has usurped God’s divine prerogative by declaring the man’s sins are forgiven. Their accusation was not voiced publically, but Jesus knew their thoughts and challenged them.
Question: The miracle story of the paraplegic and his friends reveals what other power Jesus possess in addition to healing the sick, His power over nature and His authority to forgive sins? See Jer 11:20; Ps 7:9; 2 Chr 6:30; Sir 43:18-19.
Answer: His power to read hearts, a divine power attributed only to God.
Matthew 9:9-13 ~ The Call of St. Matthew
9 As Jesus passed on from there, he saw a man named Matthew sitting at the customs post. He said to him, “Follow me.” And he got up and followed him. 10 While he was at table in his house, many tax collectors and sinners came and sat with Jesus and his disciples. 11 The Pharisees saw this and said to his disciples, “Why does your teacher eat with tax collectors and sinners?” 12 He heard this and said, “Those who are well do not need a physician, but the sick do. 13Go and learn the meaning of the words, I desire mercy, not sacrifice.’ I did not come to call the righteous but sinners.”
St. Matthew, as was the duty of all tax collectors (telonai), was sitting at his customs post (telonion), probably a tollbooth at which fees were collected on goods (especially barrels of salted fish) as they were transported out of the tetarchy of the Galilee to other parts of the provinces. His name is the Greek form of the Hebrew name meaning “gift of God.” Like the other Apostles called by Jesus to “Follow me,” St. Matthew, also known as Levi (Mk 2:13-14; Lk 5:27-28), leaves his profession and his comfortable life to follow Jesus. Like Elisha (1 Kings 19:21) Matthew appears to be saying goodbye to his old life by giving a feast and sharing his decision to follow Jesus with his friends, exposing them to what could be a life altering experience in sharing a meal with the Messiah and His disciples (verse 10). The literal Greek translation records that the guests “reclined” at the banquet table. It was at that time the custom to observe the Greek form of formal dining by resting on a couch with the couches radiating out from a banquet table in a U shape or resting on a bank of couches in a U shape around small tables (also in Mt 26:20 at the Last Supper). A room in this formal banquet arrangement was called in the Latin a triclinium.
Matthew 9:10-11 ~ While he was at table in his house, many tax collectors and sinners came and sat with Jesus and his disciples. 11 The Pharisees saw this and said to his disciples, “Why does your teacher eat with tax collectors and sinners?”
Since the Pharisees are observing the banquet, it may be that the Pharisees had stationed themselves where they could see the arriving guests, or the banquet may have been held in an open courtyard. The second scenario seems more likely since Jesus “heard” their criticism.
Question: Why did the Pharisees rank the tax collectors with sinners? Hint: the Pharisees were strict observers of the Law.
Answer: Tax collectors were ranked with sinners because they were suspected of overcharging the taxes collected from the common people for the hated Romans. It was a sin to take advantage of one’s fellow covenant member. Their sin was regarded as theft.
They collected taxes for the Romans and were allowed to keep whatever they could collect above the required minimum due the Romans. Sinners were those who, because of their profession, life-style or actions failed to meet the standards of righteousness under the Law. St. Mark’s addition “for there were many who followed him” (Mk 2:15) suggests that many of the other the tax collectors and sinners at the banquet were also either followers of Jesus or supporters.
The Pharisees refer to Jesus as “teacher” so as not to offend the disciples, but they were trying to diminish Jesus in the esteem of His followers.
Question: How does Jesus rebuke the Pharisees who were not invited but who considered themselves to be above reproach in their obedience to the Law and in living righteous lives? What comparison does He make?
Answer: He make a comparison between the sick and the healthy. He sick need a physician to heal them physically just as the sinners need Jesus to heal them spiritually. The righteous are already on the path to salvation.
Question: Why in His rebuke does Jesus quote Hosea 6:6, For it is love that I desire, not sacrifice, and knowledge of God rather than holocausts?
Answer: Instead of only external performance in obedience to the Law, God prefers the inward quality of genuine humility, love, and contrition “this is the kind of personal sacrifice that is pleasing to God above the material sacrifice of whole burnt offerings.
Matthew 9:14-17 ~ A Question about the Practice of Fasting
14 Then the disciples of John approached him and said, “Why do we and the Pharisees fast [much], but your disciples do not fast?” 15Jesus answered them, “Can the wedding guests mourn as long as the bridegroom is with them? The days will come when the bridegroom is taken away from them, and then they will fast. 16 No one patches an old cloak with a piece of unshrunken cloth, for its fullness pulls away from the cloak and the tear gets worse. 17 People do not put new wine into old wineskins. Otherwise the skins burst, the wine spills out, and the skins are ruined. Rather, they pour new wine into fresh wineskins, and both are preserved.”
The Pharisees’ criticism of Jesus may have prompted the disciples of John the Baptist question Jesus on the different rules of fasting observed by His disciples as opposed to John’s disciples and the Pharisees. Jesus answers their question with a parable.
Question: Who is the “bridegroom” and who are the “wedding guests” in the parable?
Answer: Jesus is the bridegroom and the wedding guests are those who have come to embrace His Gospel message of salvation.
Jesus’ point is that mourning rituals are not appropriate to a joyful wedding celebration “compared to the joy of God the Son’s visitation to mankind.
Question: When will the “bridegroom” be “taken away” and the wedding guests will mourn?
Answer: When Jesus suffers His Passion.
With Jesus’ Passion and death, it will become appropriate for His disciples to fast and mourn. In this exchange we get the sense of the urgency of Jesus’ mission. Then Jesus offers the comparison between old and new cloth and old and new wineskins in verses 16-17.
Question: What does the old piece of the cloak that cannot be patched with a new piece of cloth and the old wineskin that cannot hold new wine refer to? See Heb 8:7-8, 13.
Answer: In both cases the comparison is to the Old and New Covenants. The Old Covenant must be fulfilled and become transformed into the New Covenant. The Old Covenant in its present form is not capable of holding all that is glorious that is the New Covenant in Christ Jesus.
|Old versus new cloth and wineskins
|Old versus New Covenant
|Old cloth cannot be patched with new cloth; the new, unshrunken cloth will not properly fit the old garment when the garment is washed and shrinks.
|The Old Covenant was necessary for its time to cover the covenant people in righteousness, but the Gospel of Jesus Christ is a new garment that cannot become a patch for the Old Covenant.
|Old wineskins have already stretched to capacity with the fermentation of the wine. If new wine is poured into old skins, the fermenting wine will expand and burst the skins and both will be destroyed.
|The eternal gifts of the New Covenant cannot be contained within the limits of the Old Covenant. The eternal gifts of God’s grace that fill the children of God in the New Covenant must fulfill and transform the Old Covenant.
Matthew 9:18-26 ~ The Official’s Daughter and the Woman with a Hemorrhage
18 While he was saying these things to them, an official came forward, knelt down before him, and said, “My daughter has just died. But come, lay your hand on her, and she will live.” 19 Jesus rose and followed him, and so did his disciples. 20A woman suffering hemorrhages for twelve years came up behind him and touched the tassel on his cloak. 21 She said to herself, “if only I can touch his cloak, I shall be cured.” 22 Jesus turned around and saw her, and said, “Courage, daughter! Your faith has saved you.” And from that hour the woman was cured. 23 When Jesus arrived at the official’s house and saw the flute players and the crowd who were making a commotion, 24 he said, “Go away! The girl is not dead but sleeping.” And they ridiculed him. 25 When the crowd was put out, he came and took her by the hand, and the little girl arose. 26 And news of this spread throughout all the land.
Here we have two healing miracles told within one story. The linking of the stories is significant. Please read St. Mark’s more detailed version of the story in 5:21-43. Mark includes a number of additional details that reveal the significance of the story and its relationship to the nation of Israel. We discover from Mark’s account that the girl Jesus raised from the dead was 12 years old (Mk 5: 42). We also discover that the name of her father was Jarius (Mk 5:22).
Question: What Old Testament miracle might have encouraged Jarius to ask Jesus to raise his daughter from the dead? See 2 Kng 4:18-37.
Answer: The prophet Elisha raised the son of the Shunammite woman from the dead.
While Jesus was on his way to the home of Jarius, a woman with a bleeding condition sought His help.
Question: For how many years had the woman suffered from uncontrolled bleeding?
Answer: For 12 years.
Question: The woman had a condition that may have been caused by fibrous tumors in the uterus. How had this condition affected her life? See Lev 15:19-30.
Answer: For 12 years she had been ritually unclean. Anything on which she sat or laid became unclean and anyone who touched her or her bed or garments became unclean. Continuing in this state of ritual impurity, she could not attend her synagogue or Temple worship.
Question: When the woman reached to touch the tassel on Jesus’ cloak, what was she touching? See Num 15:38-39 and Dt 22:12.
Answer: She was touching the tassel that all righteous men of the covenant were required to wear on their outer garments.
She grasp the tzitziyot of Jesus’ talit in her desperation to receive a healing.
Question: Why was she afraid? Why did Jesus tell her to have courage?
Answer: Probably because normally she would have made Jesus ritually unclean through her touch. Jesus told her to have courage because she had not made Him ritually unclean, but He was going to heal her and make her “clean” for the first time in 12 years.
Matthew 9:23 ~ When Jesus arrived at the official’s house and saw the flute players and the crowd who were making a commotion …
When Jesus arrived at Jarius’ house, the mourning for the dead girl’s funeral was already in progress.
Question: Why does Jesus insist that the child is not dead? What does her rising from the dead prefigure?
Answer: His statement is a message of hope for the family. When Jesus raises the child from death to life her miracle prefigures His own Resurrection.
Question: What comparisons can you make between the two stories and the relationship between those stories and the chosen people of Israel?
|The Official’s Daughter
|The Bleeding Woman
|The official calls her his “daughter” (Mt 9:18; Mk 5:23)
|Jesus calls the woman “daughter” (Mt 9:22; Mk 5:34)
|Both the girl and the woman are “daughters” of Israel
|The official’s daughter is 12 years old (Mk 5:42)
|The woman bled for 12 years (Mt 9:20; Mk 5:25)
|12 is the number of Israel “originally composed of 12 tribes
|Jesus raised the daughter of Jarius’ from the dead (Mt 9:25; Mk 5:42)
|Jesus healed the bleeding woman (Mt 9:22; Mk 5:34)
|Jesus came to heal the faithful remnant of Israel and raised the faithful remnant of Israel from bondage to death to new life in Christ Jesus.
|Michal E. Hunt © 2011
In Bishop Eusebius’ 4th century AD Church History, he records that the woman with the uncontrolled bleeding lived in Caesarea Philippi and that she spread the Gospel message in her city, made her home a Church-home and erected two statues, one of Jesus and the second of herself reaching out to touch the fringe of His garment to commemorate the event of her healing (Church History, Book 6, chapter 18).(4)
Matthew 9:27-31 ~ The Healing of Two Blind Men
27 And as Jesus passed on from there, two blind men followed [him], crying out, “Son of David, have pity on us!’ 28 When he entered the house, the blind men approached him and Jesus said to them, “Do you believe that I can do this?” “Yes, Lord,” they said to him. 29 Then he touched their eyes and said, “Let it be done for you according to your faith.” 30And their eyes were opened. Jesus warned them sternly, “See that no one knows about this.” 31 But they went out and spread word of him through all the land.
Question: These men are blind but in what way do they address Jesus that shows their spiritual sight is better than many of the people surrounding Jesus?
Answer: They immediately address Jesus as the “son of David,” meaning they are acknowledging that Jesus is the Messiah and the Davidic heir prophesied by the prophets.
After Jesus heals the men, He again asks them to keep the miracle a secret. However, they joy cannot be contained and the spread word of Jesus’ great act of mercy.
Matthew 9:32-34 ~ The Healing of a Mute
32 As they were going out, a demoniac who could not speak was brought to him, 33 and when the demon was driven out the mute person spoke. The crowds were amazed and said, “Nothing like this has ever been seen in Israel.” 34 But the Pharisees said, “He drives out demons by the prince of demons.”
Question: The Pharisees do not deny Jesus has power as a healer, but in their jealousy what do they claim concerning Jesus’ miracles?
Answer: They claim that Jesus heals by the power of Satan.
This unpardonable accusation highlights the Pharisees growing hostility to Jesus. When the Pharisees make a similar accusation in Matthew 12:24 Jesus rebukes them, calling their accusation that He heals not by the power of the Holy Spirit but by the power of Satan a sin against the Holy Spirit (Mt 12:31-32). The Pharisees and the chief priests have become the failed shepherds of Israel.
Matthew 9:35-37 ~ The Distress of the People and the Compassion of Jesus
35 Jesus went around to all the towns and villages, teaching in their synagogues, proclaiming the gospel of the kingdom, and curing every disease and illness. 36 At the sight of the crowds, his heart was moved with pity for them because they were troubled and abandoned, like sheep without a shepherd. 37 Then he said to his disciples, “The harvest is abundant but the laborers are few, 38 so ask the master of the harvest to send out laborers for his harvest.
Jesus could see that the hierarchy of the Old Covenant Church had failed the people “they were “sheep without a shepherd.” Jesus’ compassion for the people and their condition recalls similar metaphors in Numbers 27:17; 1 Kings 22:17; Judith 11:19, and especially the passages from Ezekiel chapter 34.
Question: What is the harvest, who are the laborers and who is the Master of the harvest?
Answer: The “harvest” refers to the harvest of souls into heaven, the laborers are the disciples of Jesus Christ who gather the souls of the just through the message of the gift of salvation, the Master of the harvest is God.
Matthew 9:35-10:4 establishes the setting for the Missionary Discourse that is to follow, serving as a bridge between Jesus’ acts of power in chapters 8 and 9 and His instructions to His disciples who begin to share His mission in chapter 10 when Jesus, the Good Shepherd, provides Israel with His shepherds to gather the people in the good news of His Gospel of salvation.
Thus the word of the LORD came to me: Son of man, prophesy against the shepherds of Israel in these words prophesy to them [to the shepherds]: Thus says the LORD God: Woe to the shepherds of Israel who have been pasturing themselves! … Therefore, shepherds, hear the word of the LORD: As I live, says the LORD God, because my sheep have been given over to pillage, and because my sheep have become food for every wild beast, for lack of a shepherd; because my shepherds did not look after my sheep, but pastured themselves and did not pasture my sheep; because of this, shepherds, hear the word of the LORD: Thus says the LORD God: I swear I am coming against these shepherds. I will claim my sheep from them and put a stop to their shepherding my sheep so that they may no longer pasture themselves, I will save my sheep, that they may no longer be food for their mouths. For thus says the LORD God: I myself will look after and tend my sheep. As a shepherd tends his flock when he finds himself among his scattered sheep, so will I tend my sheep. I will rescue them from every place where they were scattered when it was cloudy and dark … I will appoint one shepherd over them to pasture them, my servant David; he shall pasture them and be their shepherd. I the Lord, will be their God, and my servant David shall be prince among them. I the LORD have spoken.
Ezekiel 34:1-2, 7-12, 23-24
Questions for group discussion:
Question: According to Matthew 8:18-22, what are the costs of discipleship?
Question: What does the miracle story of the storm at sea tell you about how to approach difficulties in your life?
Question: In the miracle story in 9:18-24, there are three principal characters in addition to Jesus: the father (Jarius), the bleeding woman, and the dead girl. Describe how each person encounters Jesus and with which person do you identify most? Why?
Question: In 9:34 we begin to see the tension between the bearers of the “good news” of the Messiah and His message of the coming of the Kingdom and those who stand in opposition to Jesus’ message. Where do you see this tension in today’s society?
1. Normally, the period of time a person remained “unclean” and separated from the community lasted until sundown (i.e., Lev 11:39-40; 15:5-27; 4-7; Num 19:21-22). However, if a member of the covenant came in contact with a dead body, he remained unclean for a period of seven days (Num 19:11-16), and that person must undergo a ritual purification on the third and seventh days of their contamination (Num 19:17-20). All those members of the community who were suffering from contagious skin diseases or from discharges, or who had become unclean by touching a corpse were to be expelled from camp until they became ritually purified, God commanded, “so that they do not pollute their encampments, in the heart of which I dwell” (Num 5:1-3). Entering into a Gentile courtyard was not considered to be an area of contamination, this is why the Jews remained in the courtyard for Jesus trial.
2. The ruins of a 1st century AD synagogue have been discovered beneath the ruins of a synagogue dating to from the late 2nd century to the 5th century AD. A few yards to the south are the remains of a triple octagonal 5th century AD Christian Church constructed over a 4th century AD house-church which incorporates and preserves the remains of a 1st century AD home believed to be Peter’s house, based on inscriptions of early Christians and early pilgrim accounts.
3. Augustus Caesar gave the city to Herod the Great in the 1st century BC. In an inscription dated to the Hellenistic period, the city is referred to as a “cultivator of the arts.” While it was a mostly Gentile community, there was a small Jewish population. One of the love poems of Meleager of Gadara in the 1st century BC mentions the Jewish Sabbath. Roman scholar Pliny the Elder (c. 77 AD) listed the ten towns as Damascus, Philadelphia, Raphana, Scythopolis, Gadara, Hippos, Dion, Pella, Gerasa, and Canatha.
4. Bishop Eusebius’ account of the statues erected in honor of the healing miracle of the woman who suffered from an issue of blood is repeated by several other early Christian writers including Sozomen in Church History, 5.21, and Philostorgius in his Church History, 7.3. Both Sozomen and Philostorgius record that the statues in Caesarea Philippi were destroyed by order of the apostate Roman Emperor Julian in the late 4th century AD. Archaeologists excavating in the ruins of the old city of Caesarea Philippi have discovered a 1st century AD Roman period dwelling with Christian symbols on the interior walls. It is believed that this house was the site of a 1st century AD Christian “church home,” or “domus ecclesia,” a place of Christian worship before the time of the Christian Roman Emperor Constantine. It is possible that archaeologists have discovered the home of the woman whose faith in Jesus Christ cured her of an illness from which she had suffered for twelve years, and in her gratitude she not only erected statues to commemorate her healing but provided her home as the meeting place for the early Christian disciples of Jesus the Messiah