Matthew 8: Submission to God
(t) Submission to God
The theme of Matthew eight is submission to God. The healings/exorcisms recorded in this chapter are therefore meant to teach us valuable truths in relation to this subject. It is entirely fitting for this to be the next area of consideration given: 1) the crowd’s current yet fickle infatuation w/Jesus (7:28-8:1 = They were singing His praise only b/c it wasn’t yet costing them anything – see Joh 6:54-66), 2) Jesus’ prior identification of false Christians/teachers as those who reject this very thing (7:13-23). Here (then) is what God expects us to learn about submission to Him (thru the events/words of Jesus in chapter 8):
(i) 1. Submission To God (STG) is the acceptable way to say “thank-you” for His blessings in our life.
(2-4) = This leper’s request was no doubt prompted by what he knew about Jesus as a Healer (4:23-25 w/8:1). (BTW) it is not by accident that Jesus’ Sermon On the Mount address is sandwiched between multiple accounts of miraculous healing. Such acts were necessary if He were to be seriously considered Israel’s new Moses (Deu 18:15-22 w/Deu 13:1-2; That “what he says comes true” includes “signs and wonders”/miraculous healing is confirmed by passages like 2Co 12:12 – “apostle” – lit. “messenger” as in prophetic messenger). This also wb the calling card of the coming Messiah, something Jesus (and the gospel writers) recognized as well (Luk 4:16-22 w/Isa 61:1-2; see also VERSES 16-17 w/Isa 53:4). (However), the fact that Matthew (along w/the other synoptic gospels) record Jesus prescribing certain post-healing obligations (again, 4) tells us there was far more to this healing than simply a demonstration of His Messiahship. Like all Scripture, practical instruction is the intended purpose (Rom 15:4; 1Co 10:11). Approaching these verses from that perspective – while at the same time, considering Jesus’ call away from personal praise (“say nothing to anyone”) and to the observance of the Law (“show yourself to the priest and offer the gift that Moses commanded for a proof” – i.e. what the Law demands in re: a healed leper – Lev 14:1-32), reveals the following: what Jesus (or God) ultimately wants as our act of thanksgiving (or way of saying “thank you”) for His blessings in our lives is not telling everyone how great He is or telling everyone about Him, but more importantly, that we would (all the more) live in complete submission to Him. That we would be all the more driven to obey God’s Law. Other Scripture that supports/reinforces this truth (Phi 2:1-8; 1Pe 1:23-2:3; Deu 8:6-20; Psa 34:8-22, 37:1-3; Eze 16:1-22; Mic 6:6-8).
(a) Examples of failure in this area = God blessing us w/the ability to make money and then not tithing (Gen 18:8); Husbands – God blessing us w/a family yet not taking the time to disciple/discipline them (Eph 5:25-31, 6:4); God blessing us w/a mind and not thinking righteously or before we act (2Co 10:5); being the person who has to tell everyone about how great your Jesus is, yet proving to be worst employee, neighbor, parent, spouse, etc. (2Sa 12:14 w/Deu 4:5-8)
(i) 2. STG is what impresses Jesus and identifies those possessing the kind of (Christian) religion that saves.
(5-9) = The first thing the centurion does after Jesus agrees to “come and heal” his servant was to make it clear to Jesus that he viewed his appeal (for healing) as being made to One who not only ranked much higher than himself (8 – “Lord, I am not worthy to have you come under my roof”), but One he would willingly submit to and accommodate (“only say the word, and my servant will be healed”). And that b/c the centurion understood that such respectful submission is expected from those under those in “authority” (again, 9). Jesus’ response is timely and telling (10) = The centurion’s expression of submission blew Jesus away (10 – “he marveled”). It is what He had hoped to find among the Jews but did not (10- “w/no one in Israel have I found such faith”). It is also what He identifies as the kind of (Christian) religion (or again, “faith”) that saves (11-13) = What the centurion “believed” was (once more) that if he were to receive anything from Jesus (healing for his servant, eternal salvation), it would mean submission to Him as “Lord” (or Master). This (then) is what impresses God and makes the difference between those who wb reclining “at (the) table w/Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob in the kingdom of heaven” – a clear reference to the future heavenly feast the Jews referred to as the Messianic banquet or what Christians refer to as “the marriage supper of the Lamb (Mat 26:29; Luk 14:15; Rev 19:7-9), and those who will not – i.e. who wb “thrown into the outer darkness”, the place where there wb “weeping and gnashing of teeth”, a clear reference to Hell (Mat 13:41-42). This (too) then is the value of our submission to God. It is what impresses Him and identifies us as possessing the kind of religion/Christianity that saves (again Mic 6:6-8, “to walk humbly” = to submit in obedience. The same idea is picked up in Jam 1:22-27; Jer 9:23-25).
(g) How this preaches the gospel = Notice Jesus mentions that it wb “the sons of the kingdom” who are thrown into Hell. IOW: those who were (at one time) a part of the covenant community and people of God (in this case, Jews in the OC) will be among the multitudes experiencing eternal damnation in the future. This therefore means that what we gain as justification/salvation thru our faith/covenant relationship w/God (or Christ) can be forfeited. IOW: we must maintain thru faithful obedience (i.e. submission to God!) the justification/salvation we gained by faith or face losing it and ending up in the same eternally damning place as the rest of the world. Jesus’ words (here) reveal the doctrine of Eternal Security or “once saved always saved” to be heretical. Other Scripture which supports this – i.e. that the good news of salvation is conditioned upon our faithful/persevering submission to God (Mat 10:22; Rom 11:17-22; Col 1:23; 2Pe 1:5-11, 2:20-22; Heb 10:19-39).
(i) 3. STG is why Jesus can be our Savior.
(14-17) = The words “spoken by the prophet Isaiah” come from Isaiah 53, chapter four. By telling us that Jesus fulfilled them, Matthew provides the reason for sharing the various healing accounts. IOW: now we know why Matthew mentions Jesus healing “w/ a word all who were sick” (16) – including Peter’s “mother-in-law lying sick w/ a fever” (14), or the “many who were oppressed by demons” (16). He does it not as a way to brag about Jesus’ supernatural capabilities, but to (once again) prove that Jesus was (indeed) the Savior God’s people had been waiting for. That Jesus was (through His actions of healing), meeting the prophetic criteria for the coming Messiah/Christ established in such Messianic texts as Isaiah 53. That being said, Matthew’s reference to this prophecy carries w/it practical importance as well. It is here that we discern both Matthew’s intended instruction and its connection to the main theme of STG (see Isa 53:4-5) = Messiah’s ability to bear “our griefs” and to carry “our sorrows” (or as Matthew interprets it, to take “our illnesses” and bear “our diseases”) was due to same reason He would also be considered “stricken (or) smitten by God and afflicted”. It was b/c of His willingness to be “wounded for our transgressions” and “crushed for our iniquities”. It was thru “His chastisement” that we are afforded (or “brought”) the “peace” of healing. Or as Isaiah puts it, “With His stripes (i.e. His suffering on the cross) we are healed.” How does that relate back to Matthew? How does that establish the instruction in our verses there or connect back to our theme? By telling us why Jesus can be our Savior not only from sin, but also the pain and suffering of this life. He can (and is that kind of Savior) b/c of His STG. That’s what those verses in Isaiah 53 point out – and why Matthew makes reference to it in (8:17). Jesus was a healer (“yes”) and it meant He fulfilled Isaiah 53’s criteria in re: to Messiah/Christ (“yes”), but (according also to Isaiah), the reason He was able to do all of this was b/c of His willingness to suffer for us; to bear our sins (again, “by His stripes we are healed”). IOW: STG is why Jesus can be our Savior. Other Scripture which teaches this (Phi 2:8-11).
(a) Jesus’ STG thru suffering is to function as our example in suffering also = (1Pe 2:18-24).
(g) How this preaches the gospel = It preaches the gospel principle of LBS. (Again) for Jesus to be Savior (versus in our case, possess Him as our Savior), He (too) needed to STG as Lord.
(i) 4. STG is not contingent on our safety or security.
(18-19) = That Jesus’ present location is Capernaum is a safe bet given: 1) His last known stated location (5), 2) what tradition and archeological evidence points to as the location of Peter’s house (i.e. where He has attracted a “crowd: due to His ability to miraculously heal). This (then) is also why He gives “orders to go over to the other side” (18). He is instructing His disciples to prepare a boat that will take Him across lake Capernaum/sea of Galilee so that He can garner a break and some needed rest from the chaos and the crowds.
That this is (indeed) why Jesus is sequestering the trip is confirmed by the next section of verses and Jesus’ actions therein (23-25 – “they went and woke Him” – i.e. Jesus was resting; see Mar 4:35-38; see also 6:30-32 – Jesus regularly took boat trips for rest and relaxation). This current trip (however) was interrupted by a “scribe” (or expert in God’s Law) ready (or so he thought) to claim his allegiance to Jesus (19 – “teacher, I will follow you wherever you go”). The problem? Though he knew God’s Law – and no doubt had heard Jesus on the neighborhood hill strongly supporting its continuing observance in the life of God’s people, his commitment to such things was only to the degree that it was safe/secure. Hence, Jesus’ response in (20) = That Jesus is implying He (or His disciples) could not claim somewhere as their home – or even own a house, must be discarded based on the fact that Jesus did call Capernaum “home”, even possessed a house there (Mar 2:1-4, see also Mat 4:13). What (then) Jesus is saying is that STG (i.e. following Him – and by consequence, obeying God’s Law) requires doing it even when it is not safe or may cost you some level of personal security. This (iow) is what is meant by “foxes have holes, and the birds of the air have nests” (i.e. they have places of refuge/safety to run or fly into), but the Son of Man (i.e. Jesus) has nowhere to lay His head.” (i.e. nowhere which will ultimately be safe in this world). And the same wb true for His followers (Mat 10:16-25).
Moving on (then) to the next verse we find a similar case (21). The interchange between Jesus and this second man, is actually prompted by Jesus (according to Luk 9:58-59). And again, there is a danger of missing what is actually happening (here) based on our initial assumptions. In this case, it is the assumption that this man simply wants to pay his respects and do his necessary duty of a son in seeing that his father gets a proper burial. However, if that were true, it is entirely unrealistic to think this man would currently be in conversation w/Jesus since time was of the essence in such situations. Lack of modern technology meant those dead could not remain above ground long before becoming extremely “ripe”. Hence Martha’s complaint regarding Lazarus (Joh 11:39). What (then) this man is getting at by his words is far more nuanced. His concern is not showing respect to his dead father, but making sure he is around to receive the inheritance when his father dies. It is a request to take his own hiatus (in this case, from following Jesus/STG) to go back home, returning only after he has buried his father (and garnered his share of the assets). Therefore, like the man before him, he (too) has the contingency (or condition) or personal safety or security. In this instance, the kind of safety or security that comes from wealth. Jesus’ response (once again) drives home the important instruction found in these verses (22) = Following Christ gives no license to “leave” its path in order to secure our place in this world (financially or otherwise). And those who do so are like those they wait to “bury”. They are the spiritually “dead” and not true disciples. Once more (then), STG is not contingent on our security or safety. We are to continue following Christ, even when where it leads, provides none of those things.
(a) Examples of failure in this area = Refusing to move to where there is a biblical church b/c it may mean leaving your job/career or struggling financially; Taking a job or pursuing a career where no biblical churches exist; Making the excuse that you cannot leave where there is no church b/c of health, family, employment or the risk of danger (Joh 12:25-26; Jam 4:13-17).
(i) 5. STG includes giving Jesus’ control over the circumstances of our life.
(23-24) = The common denominator in the remaining verses is the same: they are about people not willing to give Jesus control over the circumstances of their lives. The disciples who get in the “boat” w/Jesus represent the first example (of this). B/C “there arose a great storm on the sea (meaning the sea of Galilee or lake Capernaum), so that the boat was being swamped by the waves”, they freak out. Notice (again) what they do in re: to Jesus (who is fast “asleep”) (25 –“we are perishing” = “We are about to die!”). This however is the furthest thing from the truth and it is over before it began (26). Though things seemed completely chaotic and out of control (even deadly), Jesus had it all under control. That included the weather and the sea. Hence why the disciples respond the way they do in (27). The point not to miss in all of this is the fact that Jesus does more than simply ask them, “Why are you afraid” and them calm things down. He charges them w/unfaithfulness (26 –“O you of little faith [or] faithfulness”). IOW: It isn’t just the storm that gets rebuked. These disciples were letting their current circumstances control them rather than continuing to trust that Jesus (the sovereign ruler of the universe) was still very much in control (even while asleep). And in that moment, what was forfeited was their STG (i.e. their faith or faithfulness). They deserved (then) the rebuke they got. The same is true as it relates to Matthew’s final example (or possibly worse), the account regarding the two demon-possessed men (28-34). Here we find another example of Jesus’ sovereign control over all things – including the spiritual realm. Jesus delivers these men from the power of some exceptionally vicious demons. Hence again why verse 28 says, “no one could pass that way”.
The demons were (according to Luke’s account) many (or a “legion”) and strong. So much so that subduing these men through the use of guards and chains had proved worthless. Jesus (however) not only removes the demons (sending them into a “herd of pigs”), but (as Luke’ gospel also tell us) put each man into his right mind (Luk 8:26-35). This (then) is what those city folk – who “came out to meet Jesus” (34), become witnesses to. The death of pack of pigs and the amazing deliverance of two men from the shackles of satanic oppression. Yet here is their response, they “begged him to leave their region.” (34). That is at least how this final verse in Matthew eight records it. Luke’s account says “the people…asked Him to depart from them, for they were seized with great fear.” Rather than their fear being turn to amazement (or marvel) as it was for the disciples in the boat, Jesus’ actions actually caused these people to become afraid and shun His presence. IOW: His sovereign control was viewed as threat. They feared letting Him have that much of control over their lives – such submission was too much – or as people think today, “encroaching on their personal freedoms”. Hence the reason I say this example is possibly worse than the former. Submitting to God to the point of giving Him control over every aspect of their lives (or the circumstances of their lives) was not just something they failed to do, it is what they refused to do. What (then) they deserved was far more than to be rebuked. They deserved to be abandoned – which is exactly what Luke’s gospel tells us Jesus did (Luk 8:37). (BTW) never does Jesus return (nor send His disciples) into this region again. Why? B/C Jesus doesn’t offer salvation to those whose version of STG rejects His control over every aspect/the circumstances of their life. This (then) once more is the instruction one should be mining out of these verses in re: to the chapter’s overall theme. STG includes giving Jesus control in this area (i.e. over every aspect/the circumstances of our life).
(a) Examples of failing in this area = Refusing to fast (i.e. refusing to give Jesus control over my eating habits); refusing to tithe or live w/in my means (i.e. refusing to give Jesus control over my finances); Using the excuse, “I wasn’t thinking” or refusing to grow in my understanding of the Bible, the gospel or my Christian Faith thru deep, diligent study (i.e. refusing to give Jesus control over my mind).
 “The phrase, ‘to bury one’s father’ is a traditional idiom that refers specifically to the duty of a son to remain at home and care for his parents until they are laid to rest respectfully.” – Ken E. Bailey (Through Peasant Eyes, p.26). As it relates to inheritance being the concern of the man in Matthew 8:21, early church father Chrysostom comments, “After burial he must of necessity proceed to inquire about the will, then about the distribution of the inheritance, and all other things that follow thereupon.”
 The fact that Luke’s gospel only records one of the two men does not call into question the accuracy of either account. Instead, we have yet another example of why God gave us multiple books in relation to Jesus’ life and ministry (i.e. gospels). It sb also be assumed that whatever was true in re: to the man mentioned in Luke’s gospel, the same is also the case for the other.