Matthew 8 (cont)
In many, if not the majority of Jesus’ miracles, He does not pause to pray before He performs the miracle. There are no scriptures in the New Testament where Jesus or the disciples were known to pray before performing a healing or to instruct others to pray in the act of performing a miracle. Jesus is asked a question by the leper and simply gives a two-word response that results in the man’s deliverance from a debilitating, disfiguring disease. Notice also that the miracle is channeled through Jesus’ will, not His emotions or His mind. He isn’t working Himself up into an emotional state, or for that matter, calming Himself before acting. He isn’t conjuring some metaphysical mental attitude or a positive mental state. He simply and casually responds with “I will,” and the man is immediately set free. The point is that the manner in which Jesus performed miracles and healings and His disciples likewise is very different than the way those who believe in such things attempt to do them today. In view of the fact that modern renewalist believers experience far fewer positive outcomes in prayers for healing and deliverance than Jesus and the disciples reportedly did tells us, we could learn from them if we would take the time or care to actually learn from these recorded encounters, especially in the gospels.
In verse 4, Jesus tells the man strictly not to tell anyone what had happened to him. Why would Jesus not want this miracle to be publicized? This is another departure in the methodology of Jesus regarding the miraculous that is very different than the way things are done today. Isa. 42:1-2 says that the coming Messiah would not be one to draw attention to Himself. With the advent of the internet, what had once become a 24-hour news cycle has now become a two-second timeframe for anything you have to say to capture someone’s attention. Because of this, sensationalism and misleading headlines are the rule of the day, even among the most respected news sources in our culture. Unfortunately, this has bled over into Christian publications and sources as well, whose headline and subtitles read more like the National Enquirer than any thoughtful, spiritually enriching source of information. Jesus never did things this way, in fact, quite the opposite.
Next, we see Jesus interacting with a centurion. This is the second of two very controversial things Jesus has done this far. First, in the Sermon on the Mount, He taught His followers to think of God and relate to God as their Father. This was far more controversial than we immediately recognized. Let us remember that the primary charge for which Jesus was crucified was for claiming that God was His Father. To make such a statement, and to teach others likewise was an absolute obscenity to the religious mentalities of the day. Secondly, here in verses 6-13, to find Jesus interacting with a Gentile, and a Roman at that was disgusting to a Jewish mind. Jesus anticipates this and declares in verse 11 that many Gentiles will sit in the kingdom of Heaven with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, while many Jews (children of the kingdom) would be cast into outer darkness. The term outer darkness is not just a euphemism for hell. Outer darkness was a descriptor for the outer court of the temple at night when all natural light faded, and the only illumination was from the lampstand in the inner court, or the Shekinah glory in the Holy of Holies. This gives new insight into the remark that Jesus made “work while it is day, for the night comes when no man can work…” It has to do with discerning the times and the seasons of God and cooperating, moving forward with Him into deeper intimacy and cooperation with His Spirit over time, in your life’s circumstances.
The centurion’s faith was remarkable to Jesus. To the centurion, immerse in the martial culture of the Roman army, Jesus was a man moving in authority. This reflects as well what Jesus did with the leper earlier in the chapter. Jesus healed the man with an act of His will, saying, “I will,” and the man was cleansed. The centurion understood that his own authority over 100 men was an exercise of his will. It didn’t matter what he thought (mental realm) or how he felt (emotional state) when it came time to give his men a command. Neither did he pause to ask the command structure above him (praying) before he acted in command or exercise of his authority. He simply understood the responsibility given to him and exercised it, expecting those under him to respond.
After their deliverance, the herdsmen who kept the pigs went into the city to tell their tale. Rather than honoring Jesus, the entire population with one voice goes out to meet Jesus, desiring that He would depart and not come anywhere near them. What a judgment against this town! There are communities like this all around us. Our schools, our public venues, our courts, and whole communities make it abundantly clear by their laws, and their declarations that God is not welcome. Perhaps it is because, as in the case of the Gergesenes, they had a deeper affinity with the pig herders or the men in a state of demon possession than they did in the living Christ come to bring them light in the darkness? When our communities show themselves to be so averse to faith, it is more than unbelief. It is an indicator of a malevolent demonic presence actually in control not just of a few individuals, but an entire city and people group. Upon hearing this, Jesus, without a word, simply turns and board His ship again and departs. What a lost opportunity!