Matthew 8:1–17: The Authority to Cleanse our Sin
As Jesus preached in Matthew 5–7, his original hearers must have enjoyed what Christians sometimes call a “mountain-top experience.” They must have basked in the radiance of his teaching, as they were challenged, perplexed, astonished, encouraged, and mystified. Yet, now that the sermon is over, they must, with Jesus, come down from the mountain (v. 1). What will their lives be like when the descend from the glory of the mountain? Will Jesus shrink in stature from what he had been as a wise, authoritative teacher? Will the difficulties of day-to-day life eclipse Jesus’ glory by rendering him irrelevant? On the contrary, Jesus immediately demonstrates in Matthew 8:1–17 that his authority stretches beyond his teaching: Jesus has authority to cleanse us from sin.
1. How do these narratives of healing fit in with the larger context of Jesus’ public ministry, from Matthew 4–9? What is significant about Jesus’ being approached by a leper immediately upon descending from teaching on the mountain? What did the old covenant law say about lepers in Israel (Lev. 13–14)? What does Jesus do that transcends the weakness of the old covenant law? How does Jesus demonstrate his authority by healing this leper?
2. In what way were Gentiles considered unclean? Why does Jesus give special emphasis to his “coming” to heal the centurion’s servant (v. 7)? What causes Jesus to “marvel” at the centurion’s faith? How does Jesus’ coming near to this Gentile transcend the weakness of old covenant provisions for a temple by which God would draw near to his people? How does Jesus demonstrate his “authority” (v. 9) by healing this centurion’s servant?
3. What stands out to you as Jesus heals Peter’s mother-in-law (vv. 14–15)? What stands out to you as Jesus heals many with various physical sicknesses and demonic oppressions (v. 16)? In what way do these healings connect with the verse Matthew quotes here, from Isaiah 53:4? In what way does Jesus “take” our illnesses and “bear” our diseases? How does Jesus demonstrate his authority by these healings?
4. In what ways are we unclean? In what ways do we need to be cleansed from uncleanness? How do Jesus’ wounds heal us (Isa. 53:5)? Where does your conscience particularly prick you for uncleanness, pollution, and impurity? How have you sought to soothe your conscience when you think about sins that make you feel “dirty” and unclean? What does Jesus want you to know here about his own authority to cleanse your defiled conscience?