Matthew 8:23-27 Jesus Again Speaks A Word.
Wind and waves when out in a boat could spell death, as it has for many. From a purely human perspective the disciples were right to be afraid. However, they also should have known, from what they saw and heard of Jesus, that his presence was enough. In fact, they were the ones who followed him into the boat. Seeing Jesus asleep would have been a good clue that all was well. There is something like a metaphor here. We are sometimes guilty of believing that God is asleep while the wind and waves of our lives seem to threaten our very existence. This is the kind of fear that is incompatible with faith.
However, they did have a little faith, because rather than remain silent they woke Jesus up, and as he had done many times before, all he had to do was speak a word and the winds and waves subsided. Of course the men marvelled because “even the winds and the sea obey Him” (v. 27). But he who created all things certainly also rules them, which is something he does every moment. This was just a graphic example in the experience of his disciples, a window through which to see what he does moment by moment, and in his providence directs it all for the good of his family. Faith comes by his word spoken.
Matthew 8:14-22 True Disciples Are Those Who Follow.
Healings and the casting out of demons continued, beginning with Peter’s mother-in-law (vv. 14-15). As in the case of the Centurion, all that was necessary was for Jesus to speak a word (v. 16). All of these healings fulfilled the words of the prophet Isaiah saying, “He Himself took our infirmities and bore our sicknesses” (v. 17; Is. 53:4). These healings were physical and spiritual, as Peter would reiterate in his first letter (2:24). The responses from the people varied. Peter’s mother-in-law, when the fever left her, arose and served her guests (v. 15). On the other hand, as they were about to depart, there was “a certain scribe” who said that he would follow Jesus wherever he went (vv. 18-19). Perhaps Jesus, knowing what is in the hearts of men, explained that unlike foxes and birds he had no place to lay his head (v. 20).
We have no indication whether the scribe chose to follow him or not. “Then another of His disciples said to Him, ‘Lord, let me first go and bury my father.’ But Jesus said to him, ‘Follow Me, and let the dead bury their own dead’” (vv. 21-22). Jesus had a specific mission, given to him by the Father, and for that reason he had to keep moving toward his goal. The gospel message was one of life and death. Jesus was saying to the man that those not willing to follow him, whether then or since then, were dead people who in this case were burying a corpse. His mission was to bring life. The man truly had a life and death decision to make, and it is the same one all people face. When he but spoke a word people were healed and the demon possessed were delivered. It is the same way with many who hear the word of the gospel.
Matthew 8:5-13 “Only Speak A Word.”
Jesus taught and acted as one who had authority (7:29). He had just demonstrated that authority in the healing of the leper (8:1-4). The centurion heard and saw. This man understood the power of the spoken word from one who had authority. As a soldier commanding soldiers it was part of his daily life. Just as the leper expressed his belief in the divinity of Jesus by worshipping him, even so the centurion expressed the same belief in Jesus, that his words were the very words of God and were therefore authoritative (vv. 5-7 Cf. Lk. 7:1ff.). “Only speak a word,” was the centurion’s plea (vv. 8-9 Cf. Ps. 107:20).
This is the “great faith” that the Lord seeks, which he found not in the covenanted community of Israel, but from the lips of a Gentile (v. 10). Those who have like faith will be among the true covenanted children of the kingdom (v. 11 Cf. Mal. 1:11), but those without this faith in the Son will be children of the kingdom who think that physical descent and outward symbols are enough. The latter rejected the Son, but the former, like the centurion, are those who believe in the divine authority of the Son, and so bear the fruit of true believers (v. 12 Cf. Mt. 21:43; Lk. 13:28). “As you have believed, so let it be done” (v. 13).
Matthew 8:1-4 Jesus Cleanses A Leper.
Among the crowd that followed Jesus down the mountain there was a leper who obviously believed that Jesus was indeed God, because Matthew records that he worshipped Jesus (vv. 1-2a Cf. Mk. 1:40-45). He also believed that if Jesus was willing, he could cleanse him of his leprosy (v. 2a). Jesus was willing, and so the man was made clean (v. 3 Cf. Lk. 4:27). Ultimately our condition in life is governed by God’s will, it is but for us to faith in him and his will for us. However, it was also important for the man to bear testimony, according to the law, of the reality of his cleansing, as prescribed through Moses (v. 4 Cf. Lk. 5:14; Lev. 13-14; 14:2; Dt. 24:8). Jesus did not come to abolish the Law or the Prophets, but to fulfill them (5:17-20).
Matthew 7:24-29 Building On The Rock.
The ‘therefore’ that begins verse 24 tells us that what Jesus is about to say follows upon what Matthew has recorded him as just saying (Cf. Lk. 6:47-49). The crux of the preceding verses (15-23), is that by one’s fruit one is known, and to be a true believer involves first being known by Jesus (v. 23). The fruit of those known is that they live according to the law. “Therefore,” Jesus says, “whoever hears these sayings of Mine, and does them, I will liken him to a wise man who built his house on a rock” (v. 24). A wise person is one who lives their life according to all the Scriptures – the Law, the Prophets, and the teachings of Jesus, for they are all one. However, anyone who heard what Jesus was saying, again including his teaching to live according to the Law and the Prophets (5:17-20), is like someone who builds their house on sand that gets washed away. In placing his teaching on a par with the Law and the Prophets, he showed that he spoke by his own authority, not like the scribes, and for this reason the people were also amazed (vv. 28-29 Cf. Mt. 13:34; Jn. 7:46).
Matthew 7:15-23 By Their Fruit You Will Know If They Are Known.
The Law and the prophets gave several criteria by which to test the prophets, whether they were true or false. If what they predicted did not come to pass even once, they were false. If they were able to perform signs and wonders, but the god they worshipped was not the LORD, they were false. Most importantly, if what they taught was contrary to the Law and the rest of the Scriptures, the canonical/hermeneutical test, they were false. All of these tests shared the same basic principle, which Jesus reiterates here. A true prophet’s character, seen in word and deed, is one which is in harmony with the Scriptures.
No one is perfect, but perfection for saints is also seen in repentance when they go wrong. False prophets actually make an effort to appear genuine – wolves in sheep’s clothing, but their intent is to devour the sheep (v. 15; Jer. 26:16; Mic. 3:5). One can no more get good fruit from a false prophet than one can get edible fruit, signs and products of covenantal blessing, from thorn bushes and thistles, the signs and products of covenantal cursing (Mt. 7:20; 12:33; Lk. 6:43). As in the broad way that leads to destruction (vv. 13-14), false prophets and those who follow them, will be thrown into the fire. “Therefore by their fruits you will know them” (v. 20 Cf. Mt. 12:33; Jn. 15:2, 6).
Words are not enough. Anyone can say that they are a Christian, especially if it is not true. The question is whether one does the will of the Father in heaven. Again, it does not matter whether one has prophesied, cast out demons, or performed any other wonders, if they practice lawlessness, meaning that it is the accepted course of their lives to live contrary to God’s law. The crux of the matter is not a person’s claim to know Jesus, but whether he has ever known them, for salvation is based first and foremost on Jesus knowing us first, for only then can we know him. Many will hear, “I never knew you” (v. 23).
Matthew 7:13-14 Life Over Death.
Jesus taught that there were two ways to walk in life, a narrow one that few find or take, and a wide one found and traveled by many. This would certainly seem to suggest something similar to Robert Frost’s famous poem, where he took the road less travelled by, and that made all the difference. What is the narrow gate? Whatever it is, it also opens up to a difficult way. The other gate is wide, and the way beyond it is broad, but it ultimately leads to destruction. Another word for destruction might be perdition. So the choices are, a way that is difficult but which leads to life. Or, a way that is broad and spacious, but ultimately leads to perdition. The former is the Christian way. Yes it is challenging, but ultimately it is life over death. Matthew will proceed to relate Jesus’ teaching concerning false prophets, and no doubt they preached the broad and easy way, which end is destruction (vv. 15ff.).
Matthew 7:1-12 Proper Judgement.
Some of Jesus’ teachings often lead to wildly different interpretations. Some see this passage in such a way that it would ultimately lead to abolishing all rule and order. Obviously there is a danger in pulling verse 1 out of its context. Integrity demands that whatever standard one lives by, and by which one forms an opinion of the actions of others, one is mindful of living up to it themselves. Jesus is stating a reality – that we all have some standard by which we view ourselves and those around us. This is inevitable. In fact, Jesus is teaching a standard here, and it is one of integrity. Judgements will and must be made, but before one makes any judgement we must ask ourselves if we are living according to that same rule.
No one, other than Jesus himself, is perfect. The point is to examine ourselves to see that we seek to live by the same standard by which we view the world and others in it. Clearly Jesus is employing hyperbole when he spoke of a plank in one’s eye, but it was to emphasize the point. The so-called golden rule is a great place to start. Do we do unto others as we would have them do unto us (v.12)? We err if we separate verses 1-6 from 7-12. We should seek, knock, and ask not only of the Father, but others also, and be willing ourselves to help if we can. As Jesus said, even evil people know how to give to their own children, how much more will the Father care for his children?
However, Jesus does say that we are not to give that which is holy to dogs, nor cast our pearls before swine, lest they trample them under their feet and then turn to tear us apart. This is not a naïve ethic, which fails to take into account the presence of evil people bent on our destruction. Whether this be an evil neighbour, or a nation rising to defeat our own, there are certain people who are committed to our destruction if they could. There are those who we know will seek to destroy us no matter what good we seek for them. “He who corrects a scoffer gets shame for himself, and he who rebukes a wicked man only harms himself. Don not correct a scoffer, lest he hate you; rebuke a wise man and he will love you” (Pr. 9:7-8).
Matthew 6:25-34 Do Not Worry.
Jesus said that the Father knows what we need before we even ask, and then went on to teach that the real focus of prayer ought to be on the Father’s will as it is expressed in the ten commandments (6:5-14). Life is indeed more than food and clothing (v. 25). Even the birds are fed and clothed by the Father, how much more then his children (v. 26). Worrying won’t change a thing- except take away our peace (v. 27). Even the flowers of the field are beautifully clothed, though they do not toil or spin their garments (v. 28). So also was Solomon was arrayed more than these (v. 29). If this is true of flowers which pass so quickly, how much more will he clothe his children who live to glorify him, and enjoy him forever (v. 30)? The Father knows we need food and clothing. Our highest concern should rather be the pursuit of his kingdom, and his righteousness, because all these other things will be given to us. “Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about its own things. Sufficient is the day is its own trouble” (v. 34).
Matthew 6:22-24 Light And Service.
The eye, the very medium through which most people view the world, is either receptive to the light which God provides, or it does not (vv. 22-23 Cf. Lk. 11:33-36). Through the Lord Jesus the new man gets new eyes to see this light. As the psalmist put it, “In Your light we see light” (Ps. 36:9). There are some things which are black and white. One such thing is that the Lord alone is God, an affirmation of the first commandment (Dt. 5:7). Therefore, we are to have no other gods before him (Dt. 5:8). One cannot serve both God and money. To serve the latter is to make of wealth an idol in place of the one true God (v. 24 Cf. Lk. 16:9-13; Gal. 1:10).