Summary: Great faith, little faith, and no faith - which is yours?
DEGREES OF FAITH, AND THE REFUSAL TO BELIEVE.
I. The proactive faith of the leper (Matthew 8:2-4).
(Matthew 8:2) Behold! The untouchable comes away from the margins of society, and worships the Lord. The leper has faith in Jesus’ ability to heal him, and submits to His will.
(Matthew 8:3) Jesus touches the leper! Jesus is willing, and speaks the word. The transformation is immediate.
(Matthew 8:4) There is a time to be silent (Ecclesiastes 3:7). Jesus does not court popularity, but gives the former leper instructions in accordance with the ceremonial law of the time. A clean bill of health is a testimony to the doctors that Jesus’ has healed us.
Leprosy is often used as a figure for sin. Jesus proved His willingness to cleanse us from our sin by pouring forth the fountain of His life’s blood on the Cross of Calvary. When we are made right with God through the Lord Jesus Christ, the next step is initiation into the believing community.
II. The great faith of the centurion (Matthew 8:5-13).
(Matthew 8:5) Matthew’s Gospel has much about it that highlights the fact that Jesus is the Jewish Messiah. Yet the second healing of the New Testament involved a Gentile. A Roman centurion, in an act of true submissive prayer, brought his situation to Jesus and laid it as His feet.
(Matthew 8:6) The centurion told Jesus of his servant’s torment. It is not for us to tell Jesus how and when He should act, but merely to lay out our problems before Him. This outsider stated his case, but made no demands.
(Matthew 8:7) Again Jesus expressed His willingness. He would come to the centurion’s home. Jesus would heal the servant.
(Matthew 8:8) The centurion recognised his own unworthiness, and submitted to Jesus’ authority. One word from Jesus would suffice.
(Matthew 8:9) This experienced soldier understood Jesus’ commission in light of his own.
(Matthew 8:10) Jesus marvelled at the man’s great faith. He marvelled, too, that he did not find such faith in Israel, which was the Church of the day. Sometimes those who are settled back on their lees, complacent in spirit, need to learn from those in the margins.
I wrote this verse in the front cover of my copy of George Muller’s biography. Like all believers, Mr Muller believed God for the saving of his own soul, and that of others. Brother George trusted Jesus for everything from his first sixpence to the building of the orphanage in Bristol, England, which bore his name.
(Matthew 8:11) East and west join Abraham, Isaac and Jacob in the kingdom of heaven (Revelation 7:9). The Gentiles are grafted in whilst, for the time being, Israel is broken from her root (Romans 11:12-24).
(Matthew 8:12) Some people who enjoy outward blessings will be cast out, at last, into hell.
(Matthew 8:13) Jesus dismissed the centurion. That man had one last test of his faith: he had to stay in belief all the way home. When he got home and enquired how things were going with his servant he would be told that there had been a remarkable recovery, a miraculous healing no less, at the very moment that Jesus had spoken the word (cf. John 4:46-53).
III. The disciples’ little faith (Matthew 8:23-27).
(Matthew 8:26) The opposite of faith is fear, and if we have small faith it is because we are fearful. Even with what they had seen so far of Jesus’ power to heal, the disciples still doubted that He would have power over the elements. Yet Jesus is the One who created all these things, and the winds and the waves that toss our lives hither and thither must obey Him.
IV. The devils believe that Jesus is the Son of God (Matthew 8:28-34).
(Matthew 8:29) Even the devils believe, and tremble (James 2:19)! The religious authorities who were plotting to kill Jesus also knew what they were doing, and to whom (Luke 20: 14; Luke 20:19). Unbelief is no excuse: we need to find out who this God is in whom we refuse to believe.
(Matthew 8:34) Wonder of wonders, a whole city came out to meet Jesus: but only to use their democratic voice to reject Him! Similarly in Jerusalem somewhat less than a week would pass between Palm Sunday and Good Friday. Will we have faith to receive Him (John 1:12), and continue with Him, or will we at last fall away?