Seven Lessons From A Day Of Miracles
The great miracles which our Lord Jesus performed while he walked on this earth were, without question, supernatural works. They were, indisputably, miraculous works. The Jews made every false accusation imaginable against our Lord’s claims as the Christ, the Son of God. But they never raised even the slightest hint of a question about either his genealogy or the validity of the miracles he performed. Both were matters of public record beyond dispute. They could not be denied, or even called into question.
Our Lord’s numerous, unprecedented miracles served two purposes: (1.) They proved him to be the Christ, the Messiah, the Son of God (Matt. 11:4-5). And (2.) the miracles, like all the supernatural works of God in the deliverances of his people in the Old Testament, were designed to be pictures of God’s saving grace and were intended to teach us spiritual lessons.
In this chapter Matthew briefly describes some of the miracles performed by our Lord in a single day. Our Lord’s miracles are both pictures of his grace and object lessons full of spiritual instruction for those who have eyes to see and ears to hear the things that are here revealed. J.C. Ryle wrote, “There is a beautiful fitness in this. It was fitting that the greatest sermon ever preached should be immediately followed by mighty proofs that the preacher was the Son of God.”
First, in verses 1-4 we are given a lesson about repentance. Would you know how to come to Christ? Do you want to know how a sinner can come to Christ and obtain mercy from him? If you are interested, learn from the leper.
"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. 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, show thyself to the priest, and offer the gift that Moses commanded, for a testimony unto them." (vv. 1-4)
This poor wretch is representative of every poor sinner, convinced of the leprosy of sin by God the Holy Spirit, coming to Christ. Being convinced of Christ's ability to heal him, this man came to Christ as he was, a leper! He was an unclean, unworthy, legal outcast. Death was in his breath. He had an incurable disease. He had no right to approach the Lord Jesus. But he knew that no one else could do anything for him. So he came out of the crowd to the Savior.
He worshipped Christ as Lord, bowing down in humble reverence before a man whom he acknowledged to be his rightful, sovereign Lord. There is no other way to come to the Savior (Mark 7:18; Luke 23:42; Acts 9:5). The leper freely acknowledged Christ’s sovereign right to give or withhold grace according to his own sovereign pleasure as Lord. — “If thou wilt, thou canst make me whole.”
There may have been great weakness in his faith. He seems to have been confident that the Lord Jesus was able to heal him, but not that he was willing to do so. Yet, the apparent weakness of his faith did not prevent Christ’s mercy. Be sure you do not fail to see this. It is not the strength of our faith, but Christ the Object of our faith, that saves us.
Trusting Christ, he obtained mercy. — “And Jesus put forth his hand, and touched him, saying, I will; be thou clean. And immediately his leprosy was cleansed.” The Master tenderly touched him with his hand, as if to indicate his loving sympathy with the poor leper; and he still reaches out the hand of tender omnipotence to touch the needy soul coming to him. Then he healed him by the power of his word. He said, “I will;” and with a word of grace the Son of God made this vile son of Adam clean. — “Be thou clean.” If we would obtain mercy, if we would be saved, we must come to Christ, just like this leper did.
In verses 5-13 we are given a lesson about faith. While the scribes and Pharisees and the people of Israel despised the Lord Jesus and his gospel, this unnamed Roman officer fully believed that the Man standing before him was the only Lord God, sovereign over all things, with whom nothing is impossible, or even difficult (vv. 5-10).
“And when Jesus was entered into Capernaum, there came unto him a centurion, beseeching him, And saying, Lord, my servant lieth at home sick of the palsy, grievously tormented. 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. 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. When Jesus heard it, he marveled, and said to them that followed, Verily I say unto you, I have not found so great faith, no, not in Israel." (vv. 5-10).
This centurion shows what a great and precious gift the gift of faith is (v. 10). To believe Christ, to trust him, is a rare and precious gift of God’s saving grace (Eph. 2:8-9; Phil. 1:29). How thankful we should be if we have this gift of grace, for few do! Few are willing to come to Christ as helpless, lost sinners, and commit their souls to him. Few will forsake their own righteousness and trust Christ alone as the Lord our Righteousness. Few will come to Christ, trusting him alone to save them.
Faith in Christ appears to be a small and insignificant thing in the eyes of the world. But true faith, that faith that “worketh by love,” is the highest privilege, greatest gift, and rarest jewel in the world. Many have religion. But few have faith. This centurion had faith. So great was his faith in Christ, that the Lord Jesus “marveled” at it.
I cannot help asking, “Why is that fact recorded by divine inspiration?” Why did the Lord Jesus who gave this man the faith he exercised marvel at the display of it? Why has the Holy Spirit recorded it here in his Word? Was it not to emphasize the fact that true faith in Christ is a personal thing? True, God gave the centurion faith. We rejoice in the knowledge of that fact. Yet, the faith given was the centurion’s. It was his because God gave it to him.
Faith in Christ is not a notion, or a doctrine, or a principle. It is the heart confidence of every needy sinner who looks to Christ as his only Savior, that causes him to confess, “My Lord, and my God” (John 20:28). Yes, it is God’s gift and God’s operation in us. Faith is the fruit of the Holy Spirit (Gal. 5:23). Yet, it is our faith. If God gave it to me, that makes it mine.
The breath in my lungs is God’s gift. He enables me to breathe. Yet, it is my breath and my breathing that is the evidence that God still gives me life. And the breathing of my body is as necessary to my living as God’s gift of life. The two cannot be separated. If you doubt that, try putting a plastic bag over your face and see if you can live without breathing!
So it is with faith. We “are the children of God by faith in Christ Jesus” (Gal. 3:26). The Holy Spirit tells us plainly that the faith you have by his grace is “your faith in Christ” (Eph. 1:15; 1 Cor. 1:4; 2:5). It is God’s gift; and because God gave it to you, it is “your faith.”
And “your faith in Christ” is just as necessary, just as vital to your everlasting salvation, and just as precious (2 Pet. 1:1) as God’s decree of election, Christ’s accomplished redemption, and the Holy Spirit’s effectual call. — “Without faith it is impossible to please him: for he that cometh to God must believe that he is, and that he is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him” (Heb. 11:6).
Do you, like the Philippian jailer of old, ask, “What must I do to be saved?” I do not hesitate to answer with Paul and Silas, “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved” (Acts 16:30-31). Do not allow anyone to put you looking to yourself and your experience. “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ,” and salvation is yours.
Do you ask, “How can I know that I am saved?” Answer this one question — “Dost thou believe on the Son of God?” It does not matter whether you can answer, “What did you know when you first professed faith in Christ?” or, “Was the man preaching a sound gospel preacher?” or, “When did you believe?” Those questions are totally irrelevant. This is the only question to be answered — “Dost thou believe on the Son of God?” If you now trust the Lord Jesus Christ, salvation is yours.
This centurion is held before us as a picture of God’s elect among the Gentiles who must be saved (vv. 11-12).
"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. But the children of the kingdom shall be cast out into outer darkness: there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth."
Some, who vainly imagine that they have obtained “new light”, vehemently assert that anyone who uses such terms as “saving faith” and “effectual faith” is a blaspheming heretic. Were such assertions not so serious and deluding, they would be laughable. The Lord Jesus tells us that this man’s faith in him was effectual faith. — “Go thy way; and as thou hast believed, so be it done unto thee.” Then, Matthew tells us, “And his servant was healed in the selfsame hour” (v. 13). Be assured, that which men call “new light” is old satanic darkness!
In verses 14-17 there is a lesson about sickness.
“And when Jesus was come into Peter's house, he saw his wife's mother laid, and sick of a fever. And he touched her hand, and the fever left her: and she arose, and ministered unto them. 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: That it might be fulfilled which was spoken by Esaias the prophet, saying, Himself took our infirmities, and bare our sicknesses.”
Indeed, there is much to be learned in these verses. And the things taught are so obvious that only willfully ignorant people can miss the meaning of Matthew’s words. Certainly, it was the intent of the Holy Spirit in this passage to give us a clear, indisputable record of the fact that the Apostle Peter was a married man. This was recorded by divine design long before the idolatrous papists arose promoting the notion that celibacy is required for true spirituality.
Certainly we see in this passage a clear demonstration of the fact that faith in Christ and faithfulness to Christ do not prevent sickness and disease, pain and sorrow, or bereavement and death. These things are all the results of sin, and the results of sin ran through Peter’s house, just as it does any other man’s.
Those who are the objects of God’s mercy should be diligent in the Lord’s service. As soon as Peter’s mother-in-law was healed, “She arose and ministered unto them,” unto the Lord Jesus, unto Peter, and unto all who were with them. Nothing so effectually inspires love for and devotion to the Lord Jesus Christ and his people as gratitude for grace experienced.
Our great Savior, our sovereign Lord, is in complete control of all things, including sickness and disease. He sends it. He controls it. And he removes it. It takes no more than his word or his touch to relieve his suffering child.
And what could be sweeter, more comforting, or more honoring to our blessed Lord than the statement given in verse 17 that the Lord Jesus Christ, “Himself took our infirmities, and bare our sicknesses”? Our Savior so completely identifies himself with us that he takes our infirmities and sicknesses to be his own, just as surely as he bare our sin in his body on the tree. This verse does not teach that there is healing from sickness and disease in the atonement. It teaches that there is sympathy in the Savior, who sends sickness and death or healing and life, as he sees fit, to the people he loves.
As Robert Hawker observed, “What a beautiful representation is here made of the lovely, and all-loving Jesus!” What a display this is of his sovereignty! What a display of his grace! Christ Jesus “Himself took our infirmities, and bare our sicknesses.” There was no possibility of him ever becoming sick. Sickness is the result of sin; and he “knew no sin.” Yet, as he was made sin for us and bore our sins in his body on the tree, so here we see that by sympathy he bore our sicknesses. In this sense, he knew and felt more what sin and the sorrows of sin and sickness are than we for whom he bore them. He who felt the whole weight and burden of our sins, and the wrath of God as our Surety, must have known more and felt more, both of the bitterness of sin itself, and all the horrid consequences of sin, than we can ever imagine. If righteous Lot vexed his soul day by day with the filthy deeds of the Sodomites (2 Peter 2:7), what must have been the feelings of our blessed Lord Jesus as he beheld the sins of his redeemed? Thus, throughout the days of his earthly life, our dear Savior “bore our sicknesses,” until at last he gave himself a ransom for us, to redeem us from sin and all its consequences.
Read verse 16 again. Here is a lesson about usefulness. — “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.” Throughout the four gospels we see constant mention of the fact that men and women brought other needy men and women to the Lord Jesus to be healed by him, and were always commended for doing so. Some may think. “God does not need man.” I could not agree with you more. God does not need us. But I rejoice in the fact that God has chosen and ordained the use of saved sinners for the saving of other sinners.
The highest, greatest, most useful service we can perform to the souls of men is to bring them to Christ. And I will leave for you to make of it what you will, but it is a fact that no one in the New Testament ever brought a needy soul to the Savior who did not obtain for their friend the mercy they sought. What a hopeful thought! God honors that faith that brings sinners to Christ. In fact, we are told in Luke 5:20 that when our Savior saw the faith of those four men who carried their friend to him, he said to the man, “Thy sins are forgiven thee.”
In verses 18-22 our Lord Jesus teaches us a lesson about discipleship.
“Now when Jesus saw great multitudes about him, he gave commandment to depart unto the other side. And a certain scribe came, and said unto him, Master, I will follow thee whithersoever thou goest. 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. And another of his disciples said unto him, Lord, suffer me first to go and bury my father. But Jesus said unto him, Follow me; and let the dead bury their dead.”
Our Master was not one of our modern, slick, polished, soul winning evangelists, who will use every trick imaginable to get people to make a profession of faith. When the scribe came and said, “I will follow thee,” and one who professed to be his disciple said, “I will follow just as soon as I have buried my father,” our Master replied with solemn words of warning and reproof (vv. 20, 22).
If we would be faithful to God and to the souls of men, we must keep back nothing from those who say they want to follow Christ. We must never enlist souls in the cause of Christ under false pretences. Let all who would follow Christ sit down first and count the lost. Before any can wear the crown of glory, he must daily take up his cross and follow the Master. That may mean giving up earthly comfort. It may mean neglecting ordinary, but unnecessary, duties of life. Someone will bury the dead! Discipleship means Christ is all and Christ is first!
This is the first place in the New Testament in which we meet with the phrase ‘Son of Man,’ in reference to the Lord Jesus Christ. It is a phrase our Savior frequently used. He seems to have particularly delighted in calling himself by this title. It is a title by which he set forth his wonderful condescension and his great love in assuming our nature. He who “thought it not robbery to be equal with God” was delighted to become one of us, that he might redeem us. — “For ye know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that, though he was rich, yet for your sakes he became poor, that ye through his poverty might be rich.”
In verses 23-27 we see the disciples with the Lord Jesus crossing the Sea of Galilee and learn a lesson about fear.
“And when he was entered into a ship, his disciples followed him. And, behold, there arose a great tempest in the sea, insomuch that the ship was covered with the waves: but he was asleep. 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. But the men marveled, saying, What manner of man is this, that even the winds and the sea obey him!”
Fear is inconsistent with faith. Yet, the two often live together in the same heart. True, saving faith is often mingled with fear, weakness, and infirmity. This is a humbling lesson, but a needful one. Many standing upon the shore may laugh at and chide these terrified disciples. But experience tells me that very few behave more confidently when they are in the storm themselves.
Many who believe Christ and love him, who gladly and truly forsake all to follow him, are full of fear in the face of danger. Many have faith enough to cry out, “Lord save us, we perish,” who do not have faith enough to ride out the hurricane at sea in the little fishing boat with tranquility. We will never know the weakness of our faith until it is tried. But weak faith is not false faith. I have often been made to rejoice in reading David’s words in Psalm 56:3, even as my heart broke with the acknowledgement of my fear and unbelief. — “What time I am afraid, I will trust in thee!”
If you have the strong faith of Job that can say, “though he slay me, yet will I trust him” (Job 13-15), do not despise that weak, trembling, fearful faith that cries, “Master, carest thou not that we perish?” (Mk. 4:38). The Lord Jesus did not despise such faith, but nurtured it. Let us do the same.
Let us give thanks to God for a great high Priest who is compassionate and tender-hearted. He knows our frame. He remembers that we are dust. He considers and is touched with the feeling of our infirmities. He does not cast us off because of our defects. He reproves. But he pities those whom he reproves. And even the prayer of fearful “little faith” does not go unheard and unanswered by him.
In these verses we are given a beautiful, clear, and instructive picture of our Savior’s two-fold nature as the God-man, our Mediator. Here is Christ the man sleeping because he is tired. And here is Christ our God, the One by whom all things were made, rebuking the winds and sea. Who but the Creator could thus command the mighty waters?
What sweet consolation this passage ought to bring to our souls in every time of trouble to hush all the winds and storms of life. Our God and Savior sometimes appears to be asleep, inattentive, and uncaring when our little boats are filling with water and our distressed souls cry, “Lord, save us: we perish!” Ever remember, he is with you in the midst of your storms. He will keep your little boat safe. And, at the appointed time, he will deliver you. He will arise and rebuke winds and sea, and there shall be a great calm. Storms of fear, and storms of temptation must all subside at the command of our omnipotent God and Savior.
In verses 28-34 the Holy Spirit uses two demon possessed men, a heard of hogs, and a group of worldly business men to teach us a lesson about unbelief. In these last seven verses Matthew describes our Savior casting out devils with unusual fullness and detail. These verses must not be overlooked and ignored.
“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. 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? 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. 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. 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. 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.”
The devil and the demons of hell are real. I do not pretend to know much about the subject of demonology. And, frankly, I do not want to know much about it. But I warn all who read these lines. The devil is a real adversary to our souls. Demons are real. Only a fool will deny their existence. And only a fool will investigate their operations.
And I rejoice to assert that Satan, the demons of hell, and the powers of darkness are under the total control of the Lord Jesus Christ. We are no match for them. But the Son of God holds the chain that binds them. They can go only where he leads them, and do only what he commands them to do (John 12:30; Rev. 20:1). Powerful as he is, Satan is not omnipotent. He only operates by divine permission (Job 1).
Learn this, too, none but Christ can deliver lost souls from the power of Satan (Acts 10:38; Heb. 7:25). He who bruised the serpent’s head is the only one who can bind the strong man, cast him out of his house, and dispossess him (Gen. 3:15; Matt. 12:28-29).
And here we see a clear demonstration of the fact that there is no greater hindrance to faith in Christ, and no greater power to keep sinners in the darkness and death of unbelief than the love of the world demonstrated by these Gergesenes. God walked on their shores in human flesh. Yet, they believed not! Demon possessed lunatics were retrieved form the clutches of Satan before their very eyes. Yet, they believed not! The sovereign Master of heaven, earth, and hell stood before these men. Yet, they believed not, and even begged him to go away! Why! The “hope of their gains was gone” (Acts 16:19).
What multitudes perish in unbelief, under the wrath of God for he same reason as these Gergesenes! Their only concern is for money. They care nothing for Christ, his Word, their souls, or the glory of God. A terrible, infectious, spreading disease had entered their hearts. It is a disease from which we ought ever to pray for deliverance. It is called “worldliness,” which is the love of the world.
"Love not the world, neither the things that are in the world. If any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life, is not of the Father, but is of the world. And the world passeth away, and the lust thereof: but he that doeth the will of God abideth for ever." (1 John 2:15-17)
“Behold the wonders of our wonder-working God,” was Robert Hawker’s admonition in his reflections on Matthew 8. “See the leprous man cleansed; the paralytic healed; the raging fever subdued; yea, the winds, sea, and devils, in a moment brought under the word of our Jesus. But let us not stop here. He that cleansed the poor leper in his body, can and will cleanse all the leprosy of soul in his people. He that gave strength to the palsy of nature, can and will make the crippled in soul to leap as a hart; and all the feverish lusts of his redeemed Jesus will subdue! Oh! thou gracious God of our salvation! No storms of hell, nor storms of indwelling corruption, nor storms of the world, shall drown thy people! Jesus, for a while may appear to our impatient minds as inattentive, but he hath said, ‘For the sighing of the poor, and the oppression of the needy, now will I arise!’ And oh! with what tenderness and fellow-feeling the Lord Jesus enters into all the concerns of his redeemed. Truly Lord, it may be said of thee, thou dost thyself take our infirmities, and bare our sicknesses! Oh! vouchsafe thy continual presence with us! and never, never Lord, do thou depart out of our coasts!”