Some thoughts from Matthew 8:1-17

A couple of my teen guys and I have been working our way through the Gospel of Matthew. I have tried to share with them some of the observations I have made, and look forward to hearing from them as they encounter the Scriptures. I was most encouraged when one of my guys said last week, “for the first time in my life I am realizing just how important the Word of God is.” He has begun to read it to see what God has to say, and he is being drawn into the divine narrative more and more.

Here are a couple of my observations from Matthew 8:1-17, as I intend to share them with my congregation soon:

Matthew 8:1-17

Open Read Matthew 8:1-17

  • The three stories that open Matthew 8, remind me a of story of two Irish families living at the turn of 19th century.
  • House in the Dark illustration[1]:

The O’Learys and the MacMillans lived as neighbors at the turn of the century. One day a young man in a suit came to their village to explain that they would soon have electricity for the first time. The MacMillans responded with their typical enthusiasm and filled out the appropriate papers to have their house wired.

The O’Learys were more cautious. After all, they had lived for generations without electricity and had managed just fine. They weren’t about to throw money after every passing fad. So they decided to wait. If electricity was as good as everyone said, they could always sign up later.

In the weeks that followed, the MacMillans busily prepared their house for electrical power. They clamped wires and sockets to the walls and hung bulbs from the ceiling.

When the big day finally came, the MacMillans invited their neighbors, including the O’Learys, to a grand lighting party. With a dramatic flourish, Mr. MacMillan threw a switch and the bulbs began to glow for the first time. The MacMillan house was illuminated more brightly than it had ever been lit before.

There was a gasp. “How lovely!” someone said.

Then another gasp. “How filthy!” someone else said.

It was true. No one had noticed it before in the dim light, but years of oil lamps had left a film of dingy soot over everything. The walls were grimy, there were cobwebs in the corner, and dust covered the floor.

The O’Learys decided right then and there that they would never install electricity in their home. They would never suffer the humiliation of having their dirty home exposed by the light.

After the party, the MacMillans went to work. They scrubbed the soot off the walls and ceiling, cleaned the cobwebs, and swept away the dust. They had indeed been embarrassed by their dirty home when the lights came on, but within a day, their house was cleaner than it had ever been.

Meanwhile, the O’Learys continued to live comfortably in their dimly lit home filled with soot, cobwebs, and filth.

  • Application:

Many people today choose to live in the dark. They don’t want anyone to see the dirt—what’s really going on in their lives. Sometimes they don’t want to see it themselves. They avoid the light for fear that they will see the truth and be forced to clean up their acts.

“This is the verdict: Light has come into the world, but men loved darkness instead of light because their deeds were evil. Everyone who does evil hates the light, and will not come into the light for fear that his deeds will be exposed. But whoever lives by the truth comes into the light, so that it may be seen plainly that what he has done has been done through God” (John 3:19-21).

  • But what happens when you recognize the hurt, the dirt, or the pain in your life and you want help? You’ll want to do something about that stuff…
  • I think we can learn some things from the leper, the centurion and the many in Capernaum who came to Jesus, helpless and hopeful.

The Leper:

  • A leper, a religious and social outcast comes and kneels at Jesus feet and asks for cleansing.
    • He took great risks, and violates religious rules to approach a crowd
    • But he recognizes something special about Jesus and He asks Jesus, “if you are willing, you can make me clean”
    • Look again at Jesus’ response to this man, in v. 3, “I am willing.” But did you notice what else Jesus does, he touches the untouchable. The Jews rigoursly guarded their purity, and here is Jesus turning Jewish conventions about purity on their ear. Where the Jews were interested in guarding themselves from contamination, Jesus contaminates the world with his holiness!

The Centurion:

  • That Jesus touched a leper is indeed quite a feat, and now he is approached by centurion who begs for Jesus to heal his servant who is quite sick. The centurion belives in Jesus power, and implores Jesus to just say a word and his servant would be healed
  • The centurion’s request about Jesus’ powerful word, plays off the previous section (the S.O.M) – for indeed we encounter Jesus powerful word, as one like a new Moses leading his people on a new Exodus
  • Jesus is astonished at the centurion’s great faith and for the first time in the gospels, Jesus heals from a distance

Peter’s mother-in-law and the crowd:

  • Sickness in the ancient world was believed to be attributed to spiritual forces, so when Jesus enters Peter’s house and heals his mother-in-law he is directly confronting the forces that are opposed to Yahweh
  • Notice as well that the very next story is of Jesus healing all those who were demon possessed and sick that were brought to him

A couple of final observations:

  • Jesus is willing to help those who come to him for help no matter what the problem is
    • Lepers and those with physical sickness and many others who are sin sick
    • Jesus doesn’t shy away from human suffering
    • Part of the goodnews is the God has come in the flesh
      • That is why Jesus is known as Immanuel (Matthew 1:22-23)
      • And that God hasn’t forgotten us, or abandoned humanity but has come to rescue us and restore us to a right relationship with HIM!
  • Jesus is the fulfillment of the OT hope that the messiah would take up our infirmities and carry our diseases (8:17)
  • Jesus’ word and touch are powerful in gospels
    • Jesus’ word and his touch are powerful still
  • Faith in the power Jesus stirs the response of Jesus


[1] Youth Specialties: Hot Illustrations for Youth, House in the Dark

About Jason Retherford

The random musings of a youth minister.
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