When you did your lesson, you undoubtably turned to the gospels of Mark and Luke for more details on some of our questions. If you looked at them at any great extent you probably realized that Matthew's order here in chapter 8 does not correspond to Mark's and Luke's. Mark and Luke give us a chronological view of Jesus' life. Sometimes they tell of the same events, sometimes they don't, but they both tell the story of Jesus' ministry in timely order. In fact, as we look at the first chapter of Mark we can get an idea of what Jesus did on one particular day of his life.
In Mark 1:21 we find Jesus in Capernaum. On a Sabbath day Jesus is teaching in a synagogue there. The people are amazed at His teaching. While He is teaching there, a man with an unclean spirit enters and confronts Jesus and identifies Him as the Holy One of God. Jesus rebukes the man and casts his evil spirit out. All in the middle of that day's services.
After services (verse 29), Peter, Andrew, James and John enter the house of Simon Peter along with Jesus. They find that Peter's mother-in-law is sick in bed with a fever. Jesus then heals this lady who then begins serving them.
We're down now in verse 32 of Mark chapter 1. It is now sundown and the Sabbath is over. On the Sabbath day the Jews did no work and traveled no great distances. But the Sabbath is over when at least two stars can be seen in the night sky. (Remember they counted their 24-hour days from sundown to sundown.) So now that the sun was down, the people in the area begin bringing to Jesus all the sick and demon-possessed. Mark tells us the whole town came to Peter's door. (It is a good thing Peter's mother-in-law is now well with all this company coming.) Jesus heals various diseases and drives out many demons. He would not let the demons speak, because they knew who He was.
Mark doesn't tell us how much sleep Jesus got that night. Sounds like He had had a very busy day. Sounds like He was up late performing miracles. He tells us in verse 35 that Jesus rose up early, while it was still dark, left the house for a solitary place where He PRAYED. While He was gaining notoriety among men, He felt the need to stay in touch with His Heavenly Father by communing with Him in prayer. His disciples begin looking for Him and upon finding Him tell that "Everyone is looking for you!" Jesus tells them it is time to move on to the nearby villages so He can preach there also.
After checking several different "Harmonies of the Gospels," and attempting to combine the four Gospels into a chronological order, they all agree that it is sometime after this that somewhere in the region of Galilee Jesus heals the leper that Matthew mentions at the beginning of chapter 8. And it is quite a bit later than that, upon their return to Capernaum that the Centurion seeks Jesus' power to heal his servant. It is from Jesus' earlier visit to Capernaum and His healing of Peter's mother-in-law and others, that this Roman Centurion is basing His faith in Jesus' power to heal.
Jesus makes more trips into the region of Galilee and back to Capernaum and back out into the Galilean region, all the while performing more miracles. The crowds in Galilee love Him, His teachings and His powers. It is when He is in this region that He most often asks people not to tell of their being healed by Him. He didn't need more witnesses here. The people were already wanting to make Him their earthly king, which was not what Jesus had in mind.
One day He was down by the Sea of Galilee again, and the crowds began to gather. So much so that He decides to get into a boat and teach from the boat to the crowds upon the shore. This is the memorable day mentioned in Matthew 13 and Mark 4 when He tells them seven parables, i.e., the PARABLE OF THE SOWER, the PARABLE OF THE WHEAT AND TARES, the MUSTARD SEED, LEAVEN, HIDDEN TREASURE, THE PEARL OF GREAT PRICE, and the PARABLE OF THE DRAGNET. After giving them these words of wisdom to ponder, He now asks that the boat take Him to the other side of the Sea of Galilee.
We are now back in chapter 8 of Matthew. It is on this trip after telling all these parables that the storm arises out on the sea. The storm becomes life-threatening. Jesus is asleep. The disciples are frightened. They either forget or don't realize the power that lies in their precious cargo. FEAR, FOR THE MOMENT, PARALYZES THEIR FAITH. They awaken their Master who, after rebuking His disciples, rebukes the storm. The wind and the waves cease. All around is calm.
The men are left with a new reverence for their Master. They marvel that even the elements are subject to His command. WE realize that even in Christ's miracles, PARABLES can be found. He had just been telling parables; now He has performed one for them.
For instance, this SEA of Galilee can represent the restless and sinful world. The WIND is the blast of persecution, and at times it does seem as if our Lord is asleep and doesn't hear the cry of the sufferers and the faint-hearted and the afraid. The tempest-driven boat is the Church. It sails across the ocean of the world's history to the "other side" of the life beyond the grave. The waves of the world rage against the Church, yet never prevail in overwhelming it, because Christ is in it. His perpetual presence in and with His Church, assures its protection and deliverance. For the sinner rocked by the winds of sin and passion, there is hope if only he will cry, "Lord, save me; I perish." Immediately, Christ can give the spirit peace.
Before you get down on Matthew for not recording these events in chronological order, remember that was not his purpose for writing this Gospel. Matthew puts Jesus's life more in categories, i.e., "This is what Jesus taught," "This are the miracles he performed," "Here are some of His parables," etc. He doesn't start paying attention to the order of events until shortly before the last week of Jesus' life.
Remember Matthew was writing to the Jews. One of his purposes of writing this gospel was to WAKE this Jewish nation up to the fact that Jesus of Nazareth was the Messiah that they had been waiting for for centuries. How does he do that? Let's attempt to look at this book as a Jew of the first century would look at it.
By the time any Jew of that day had read through the first seven chapters of Matthew's book, he would already be in a state of shock. Imagine, if you will, a Jew sitting back in his Lazy Boy recliner, or on a padded pew in the synagogue with his feet propped up on the song rack in front of him, getting settled to read this strange book he has heard about. As he begins to read this book of Matthew, he realizes that Jesus fulfills the prophesies made by the ancient Jewish prophets about the coming of the Messiah. The feet go down and the man is sitting up paying attention. After all, the Jews have been waiting for Him to come for quite a long time. The accounts of John the Baptist and the wilderness temptation keep him intrigued. As he gets to the Sermon on the Mount, he encounters such words of LOVE and WISDOM. Intermingled with those words are condemnations for those he is suppose to have respected. Midway through this Sermon, he is sitting on the edge of his seat. MATTHEW HAS HIM PRIMED NOW. In a sense, Matthew is telling this Jew, "I've told you His divine love by telling you of His words, now let me tell you of His divine love by telling you of His DEEDS -- His miracles." In chapter 8, this Jew is in for the shock of his life. Look at all the shocking action of Jesus to a Jew in this chapter alone:
Sometimes we forget to be shocked by Jesus' miracles. We've heard them since we were children. They tend to become just words on a page to us, put there to answer questions for a class. In studying HOW it was done, and WHY it was done, sometimes we lose perspective of WHY it was done. Today let's look at the miracles and marvel at them. The miracles are so far removed from us today. Miracles, prophets, tongues, etc., were given to this age surrounding Jesus to act as a scaffolding around a young CHURCH as it was being established and built. It was to support the workers who were building this church. (The Devil sent his demons at this time to counter the work of God.) When the work was completed, the church well established, the scaffolding--the miraculous gifts--were no longer needed. In Zechariah 13:2, the Lord said, "I will also remove from the land the prophets and the unclean spirit." The church is capable of standing on its own now, with only one remaining miracle - the miracle of God's GRACE that is capable of saving us all from this world's illnesses and giving us room at the banquet table with Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. He becomes OUR Messiah, in control of our eternal lives.
West-Ark Church of Christ, Fort Smith, AR