The authority of Jesus in action

Rembrandt - Calming the storm

Lots of things to say about Jesus’ miracles in Matthew 8-9.

The first is that the miracles are emphasizing Jesus’ authority in his actions just as the Sermon on the Mount had. Jesus’ actions, like his teaching, is evidence that the kingdom of God is present.

The second thing to notice is that there are 3 miracles – then a double narrative relating to discipleship – 3 more miracles – another double narrative about discipleship – 3 more miracles. The structure is intending to point out that the appropriate was to respond to the person having such great authority is to follow him in discipleship. The discipleship narratives emphasize the great demands of following Jesus (leaving house and not even burying one’s father who just died) – but his greatness and authority makes such demands reasonable. The discipleship narratives also point to feasting and joy with Jesus in the kingdom of heaven even for the least worthy of people.

First set of three

In the Old Testament leprosy was a blight from God (Miriam, Joab’s descendants, Gehazi, Uzziah c.f. Moses’ hand) and removed by God (Miriam, Naaman). Jesus stretched out his hand and touched him – and willed him to be clean.

The healing of the centurion’s servant points to Jesus again relating to an outsider. Jesus heals with a word and marvels at this man’s faith. Jesus speaks of many Gentiles who will sit with Abraham and the patriarchs at the messianic banquet in the kingdom of heaven.

Peter’s mother-in-law as a woman completes the set of three healings toward those who were regarded as being lower in Jewish religious culture.

Second set of three

The wind and waves are rebuked. Who is this man? In the Old Testament there was only one who commanded the winds and the sea.

The Gadarene demons are driven out and sent to Sheol – unclean land, unclean tombs, unclean spirits, unclean pigs. Jesus is the one who has authority to judge the spirits.

The paralytic’s sins are forgiven and he is raised for the dust. What is the response to this man? Fear (in a non-understanding way) and glorify God who had given such authority to men.

While the first set of three particularly points to the authority of Jesus exercised in compassion, the second set of three points to Jesus’ identity – he heals leprosy, controls the seas, judges the spirits, forgives sin, raises the dead – he is God!

Final set of three.

The final set of three demonstrates that miracles point beyond themselves. Jesus raises the dead who have faith in him, he gives spiritual sight and hearing to those who do not know God. He regenerates hearts such that the spiritually mute cry out to God in praise.

He speaks; and, listening to His voice,
New life the dead receive,
New life the dead receive,
The mournful, broken hearts rejoice,
The humble poor believe.
The humble poor believe.
The humble poor believe.

Hear Him, ye deaf; His praise, ye dumb,
Your loosen’d tongues employ;
Your loosen’d tongues employ;
Ye blind, behold your Saviour come;
And leap, ye lame, for joy.
And leap, ye lame, for joy.
And leap, ye lame, for joy.