Matt 8:2 behold, there came a leper
Leprosy is a contagious, infectious disease which affects the skin, particularly the nose, face, hands, and feet, etc. The lesions are unsightly raised scaly lesions which often drain infected fluid. In its latest stages, fingers, toes and portions of the face can be eaten away and fall off. The disease is disfiguring and unmerciful in that the individual suffers for decades or years, usually dying of some other ailment. Leprosy is still present today, affecting millions in poor tropical countries.
Among the Jews, leprosy became a dreaded plague. The leper, once pronounced unclean by a priest, was to be an outcast, 'his clothes shall be rent, and his head bare, and he shall put a covering upon his upper lip, and shall cry, Unclean, unclean. All the days wherein the plague shall be in him he shall be defiled; he is unclean: he shall dwell alone; without the camp' (Lev 13:45-46). The leper's uncleanness became a metaphor for spiritual uncleanness and he was to stay without the camp lest he infect the others. "The leper, thus fearfully bearing about the body the outward and visible tokens of sin in the soul, was treated throughout as a sinner, as one in whom sin had reached its climax, as one dead in trespasses and sins, He was himself a dreadful parable of death. He bore about him the emblems of death (Lev. 13:45); the rent garments, mourning for himself as one dead; the head bare as they were wont to have it who were defiled by communion with the dead (Num. 6:9; Ezek, 24:27); and the lip covered (Ezek. 24:17)...But the leper was as one dead, and as such was shut out of the camp, and the city." (Jesus the Christ, p. 187) Christ's healing of this leper, then, is symbolic of the Master's power over both physical disease and spiritual disease. He could make the leper clean and the sinner whole. It is also an example of his interest in and love for the most despised and downtrodden of mankind.
Matt 8:3 Jesus put forth his hand, and touched him, saying...be thou clean
No Jew would dare approach a leper, let alone touch him. Yet, there was One whose perfect love knew no fear-the Holy One could not be contaminated by decaying flesh, and this leper was privileged to feel the touch of the Master's hand. Sister Chieko Okazaki said, "...he 'put forth his hand, and touched him.' Then he said, 'I will; be thou clean' (Matt. 8:1Matt. 8:2Matt. 8:3Matt. 8:1-3). I can't help thinking that the sheer physical fact of a loving touch was as healing to this person, whom no one had willingly touched for years, as the words of compassion and the act of healing must have been." (Disciples, 121 - 122.)
"The Savior's healing declaration, 'Be thou clean' (see Matthew 8:2-3), is a literal promise to the faithful and repentant. It may be that all of the miraculous healings performed by Jesus were but tangible symbols of the greatest healing that he alone could perform-the healing of sick spirits and the cleansing of sin-stained souls. 'The greatest miracles I see today,' declared President Harold B. Lee, 'are not necessarily the healing of sick bodies, but the greatest miracles I see are the healing of sick souls, those who are sick in soul and spirit and are downhearted and distraught, on the verge of nervous breakdowns' (CR, April 1973, p. 178)." (Joseph Fielding McConkie and Robert L. Millet, Doctrinal Commentary on the Book of Mormon, 4: 42.)
Matt 8:4 See thou tell no man
Thomas S. Monson
"My thoughts turned backward in time-back to the Holy Land; back to Him who on that special mountain taught His disciples the true spirit of giving when He counseled, 'Take heed that ye do not your alms before men, to be seen of them. . . . When thou doest alms, let not thy left hand know what thy right hand doeth.' (Matthew 6:1, 3.)
"Then, as though to indelibly impress on their souls the practical application of this sacred truth, He came down from the mountain with a great multitude following Him. 'And, behold, there came a leper and worshipped him, saying, Lord, if thou wilt, thou canst make me clean. And Jesus put forth his hand, and touched him, saying, I will; be thou clean. And immediately his leprosy was cleansed. And Jesus saith unto him, See thou tell no man.' (Matthew 8:2-4.)
"The word anonymous had a precious meaning then. It still has." (Live the Good Life, 28.)
Dean L. Larsen
"We have a perfect model to follow in the Savior himself. He had great power that he could have used to compel people to follow him and to be obedient to his word. Occasionally he demonstrated this power in miraculous ways, but never with the intent to command a following. It was not uncommon for him to ask of those who had been the recipients of his marvelous power to keep the matter to themselves and tell no one. Such was the case with the leper whom Jesus healed. 'See thou tell no man' (Matt. 8:4) was the Savior's charge in this case. It was almost as though he feared that men would follow him because of his power rather than as a result of having learned his truths and having valued them because they were true." ("Let Your Light So Shine," Ensign, Sept. 1981, 21)
Matt 8:4 shew thyself to the priest, and offer the gift that Moses commanded
Matthew's main purpose in his gospel is to convince the Jews that Jesus is the Christ, in fulfillment of the Law of Moses. Accordingly, He demonstrates how Christ's instructions conformed perfectly to the ancient law.
In the rare circumstance that leprosy should go into remission, there was provision in the Law of Moses for the individual to be cleansed ceremonially and return to a normal life. The process involved an 8-day cleansing in which the individual offered two birds, the blood of one was taken and sprinkled on the leper. All body hair had to be shaved, the body and clothes cleaned. A week later, the individual could return to the priest. The priest would then offer a sin offering of two lambs or, if poor, one lamb and two birds. Once the atoning blood and ceremonial oil were anointed, the individual was clean (Lev 14). The cleansing process involved water, oil (symbolic of the Spirit) and blood, 'For by the water ye keep the commandment; by the Spirit ye are justified, and by the blood ye are sanctified' (Moses 6:60).
Matt 8:10 When Jesus heard it, he marvelled
James E. Talmage taught, "Both Matthew and Luke tell us that Jesus marveled at the faith shown by the centurion, who begged that his beloved servant be healed (Matt. 8:10; Luke 7:9). Some have queried how Christ, whom they consider to have been omniscient during His life in the flesh, could have marveled at anything." (Jesus the Christ, p. 260.) The Joseph Smith Translation changes this to clarify that it was not Christ who marveled. Yet, it seems that Christ could still be impressed without diminishing his omniscience. Elder Talmage continues, "The meaning of the passage is evident in the sense that when the fact of the centurion's faith was brought to His attention, He pondered over it, and contemplated it, probably as a refreshing contrast to the absence of faith He so generally encountered. In similar way, though with sorrow in place of joy, He is said to have marveled at the people's unbelief (Mark 6:6)." (Jesus the Christ, p. 260.)
Matt 8:11 many shall come from the east and west, and shall sit down with Abraham
"Jesus told his Jewish listeners that the kingdom of God would be taken from them 'and given to a nation bringing forth the fruits thereof' (Matt. 21:43). He also said that many Gentiles would sit down in the kingdom of heaven with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob (Matt. 8:5-12). Paul taught that in his day the Gentiles would be given an opportunity to receive the gospel, be adopted into the house of Israel, and receive the blessings of the covenant people (Rom. 9:1, 11), concluding that 'blindness in part is happened to Israel, until the fulness of the Gentiles be come in' (Rom. 11:25)...Latter-day revelation further teaches that in the last days the restored gospel will 'go forth unto the ends of the earth, unto the Gentiles first, and then, behold, and lo, they shall turn unto the Jews' (D&C 90:9-11), so 'that all who will hear may hear' (D&C 1:11) and 'all the families of the earth be blessed' (Abr. 2:11). When the Gentiles reject the gospel, 'the times of the Gentiles [will] be fulfilled' (D&C 45:29-30)." (Nyman, Monte S. An Ensign to All People, pp. 49-56)
Matt 8:12 the children of the kingdom shall be cast out
Religious pride ran high among the Jews. To even consider that Gentiles might have a place in heaven above what an Israelite could expect was practically blasphemy. Elder James E. Talmage wrote, "Judaism held that the posterity of Abraham had an assured place in the kingdom of the expected Messiah, and that no proselyte from among the Gentiles could possibly attain the rank and distinction of which the 'children' were sure." (Jesus the Christ, 115)
There is a modern day corollary, in that there are some members of the Church who take more pride in belonging to the only true church than they do in living its precepts. For them, we might say, "that many shall come from among the Christians and Moslems, and shall sit down with Abraham, and Isaac, and Jacob, in the kingdom of heaven. But many members of the Church shall be cast out into outer darkness: there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth." If you don't think that statement is fair, consider the following:
'Behold, vengeance cometh speedily upon the inhabitants of the earth, a day of wrath, a day of burning, a day of desolation...
And upon my house shall it begin, and from my house shall it go forth, saith the Lord;
First among those among you, saith the Lord, who have professed to know my name and have not known me, and have blasphemed against me in the midst of my house, saith the Lord.' (DC 112:24-26)
Mark E. Petersen
"'But the children of the kingdom shall be cast out into outer darkness: there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth.' (Matt. 8:11-12.)
"And what does that mean? That unfaithful descendants of Abraham will be cast out regardless of their blood line, and that some from the east and west of non-Abrahamic lineage will be taken into the kingdom of heaven to dwell there with Abraham if they will obey.
"So the Ishmaelites need not worry. If they will be faithful to the teachings of Christ, they can and will go with Abraham into the kingdom of heaven. This will come to them even while covenanted descendants of Abraham are being cast out because of their disobedience.
"Obedience is the thing! God, who is no respecter of persons, offers salvation to all who will accept it on terms of true compliance with the commandments, regardless of race." (Abraham: Friend of God, 110.)
Matt 8:17 Himself took our infirmities, and bare our sicknesses
Bruce R. McConkie
"Isaiah's actual Messianically spoken words were: 'Surely he hath borne our griefs, and carried our sorrows' (Isa. 53:4); and what Matthew said was: 'Himself took our infirmities, and bare our sicknesses' (Matt. 8:17). Isaiah's clear meaning is that the Messiah takes upon himself the sins-and hence the griefs and sorrows, for these come because of sin-of all men on condition of repentance. Matthew simply assumes his apostolic prerogative to give added meaning to Isaiah's words by applying them-properly-to the physical healings that are a type and pattern of the spiritual healings wrought through the infinite and eternal atonement of Him who ransoms men both temporally and spiritually." (The Mortal Messiah: From Bethlehem to Calvary, 2: 52.)
Neal A. Maxwell
"Hence Jesus not only bore our sins personally in order to atone for them, but He also bore our pains, infirmities, and afflictions. Thereby ensured is the precious fact that Jesus' mercy would be full, because He knows how to succor us in a unique, merciful, and personal way-amid all of that through which we mortals individually pass. Having so purchased us once, His glad and great investment in us continues Acts 20:28." (One More Strain of Praise, 48.)
Matt 8:20 The foxes have holes...but the Son of man hath not where to lay his head
Harold B. Lee
"It was the lament of the Master in His day: 'The foxes have holes, and the birds of the air have nests; but the Son of Man hath not where to lay his head.' (Matt. 8:20Matt. 8:20.) President Brigham Young explained the reason for this statement of the Savior:
"Because the house which the Father had commanded to be built for his reception, although completed, had become polluted, and hence the saying: 'My house is the house of prayer; but ye have made it a den of thieves.' ... Although he drove out the money-changers, ... that did not purify the house, so that he could not sleep in it, for an holy thing dwelleth not in an unholy temple. (Discourses of Brigham Young, p. 414.)" (Ye Are the Light of the World: Selected Sermons and Writings of Harold B. Lee, Chap. 25)
Gordon B. Hinckley
"There is a loneliness in all aspects of leadership. . . . It was ever thus. The price of leadership is loneliness. The price of adherence to conscience is loneliness. The price of adherence to principle is loneliness. I think it is inescapable. The Savior of the world was a man who walked in loneliness. I do not know of any statement more underlined with the pathos of loneliness than His statement:
'The foxes have holes, and the birds of the air have nests; but the Son of Man hath not where to lay his head.' (Matthew 8:20.)
"There is no lonelier picture in history than of the Savior upon the cross, alone, the Redeemer of mankind, the Savior of the world, bringing to pass the atonement, the Son of God suffering for the sins of mankind. As I think of that I reflect on a statement made by Channing Pollock. 'Judas with his thirty pieces of silver was a failure. Christ on the cross was the greatest figure of time and eternity.'" (Teachings of Gordon B. Hinckley, 304.)
Thomas S. Monson
"Seek the help of the Lord...Remember, we do not run alone in this great race of life-we can have the help of the Lord. However, before we can take Jesus as our companion, before we can follow Him as our guide, we must find Him. You ask, 'How can we find Jesus?' I would like to suggest that, first of all, we need to make room for Him. He said that,
'The foxes have holes, and the birds of the air have nests; but the Son of man hath not where to lay his head.' (Matt. 8:20.)
"...As I drive through the many parts of this land, as I see the homes of America, I note that most homes have a room for Mary, a room for John-bedrooms, eating rooms, playrooms, sewing rooms-but I ask the fundamental question, 'Is there room for Christ?' Is there room for the Son of Almighty God, our Savior, and our Redeemer?
"The invitation of the Lord is directed to each of us: 'Behold, I stand at the door, and knock: if any man hear my voice, and open the door, I will come in to him, . . .' (Rev. 3:20.)
"Oh, my young brothers and sisters, make room for the Lord in your homes and in your hearts, and He will be a welcome companion. He will be by your side. He will teach you the way of truth." (May 11, 1965, BYU Speeches of the Year, 1965, p. 9.)
Matt 8:22 Follow me; and let the dead bury their dead
The traditional interpretation of this phrase, that the spiritually dead should bury the dead, is offered by Elder Talmage, but Elder Widstoe offers an interesting alternative to the translation.
James E. Talmage
"Some readers have felt that this injunction was harsh, though such an inference is scarcely justified. While it would be manifestly unfilial for a son to absent himself from his father's funeral under ordinary conditions, nevertheless, if that son had been set apart to service of importance transcending all personal or family obligations, his ministerial duty would of right take precedence...The duties of ministry in the kingdom pertained to spiritual life; one dedicated thereto might well allow those who were negligent of spiritual things, and figuratively speaking, spiritually dead, to bury their dead.
"A third instance is presented; a man who wanted to be a disciple of the Lord asked that, before entering upon his duties, he be permitted to go home and bid farewell to his family and friends. The reply of Jesus has become an aphorism in life and literature: 'No man, having put his hand to the plough, and looking back, is fit for the kingdom of God' (Lu 9:62)."(Jesus the Christ, 284.)
John A. Widstoe
"Errors in the translation of the Bible are due primarily to the fact that the original documents are lost. The manuscripts from which our Bible translations have been made are copies, perhaps copies of copies, of the originals...The wrong word may be written, or a word so written as to convey a false meaning; for example...the statement, 'Let the dead bury the dead' has been perplexing. The Aramaic word for dead is metta and for town, matta. It becomes likely, therefore, that the true saying was 'Let the town bury the dead,' a very common practice in the days of Christ." (Evidences and Reconciliations, 97)
Matt 8:24 the ship was covered with waves: but he was asleep
James E. Talmage
"Jesus found a resting place near the stern of the ship and soon fell asleep. A great storm arose; and still He slept. The circumstance is instructive as it evidences at once the reality of the physical attributes of Christ, and the healthy, normal condition of His body. He was subject to fatigue and bodily exhaustion from other causes, as are all men; without food He grew hungry; without drink He thirsted; by labor He became weary. The fact that after a day of strenuous effort He could calmly sleep, even amidst the turmoil of a tempest." (Jesus the Christ, 285)
Matt 8:26 he arose, and rebuked the winds and the sea; and there was a great calm
"Storms fascinate me. Maybe it's because I grew up in the desert where rain, or even a cloud, is something of a novelty. Since each storm in the desert is an Event, I have learned from the few I have encountered...I have learned that not all storms can be experienced from within the safe boundaries of home or inside the family car. But when a literal or figurative storm threatens to overwhelm me, I remember a certain storm-tossed sea and a band of frightened disciples awakening the Master. As they watched Christ calm the raging sea, the early disciples marveled, saying, 'What manner of man is this, that even the winds and the sea obey him!' (Matt. 8:27.) The elements are indeed subject to Christ, as we must be. And I know that in my own life, if I am grounded on the foundation that is Christ, he alone has the power to say 'Peace, be still,' and my troubled way will be made calm. Most of all, I have learned that the storms of life are best endured if we are prepared, surrounded by those we love, and, through faith, 'clasped in the arms of Jesus' (Morm. 5:11)." (Eliza Tanner, "Safe from the Storms," Ensign, Sept. 1995, 8)
Matt 8:27 What manner of man is this, that even the winds and the sea obey him!
As if the Sermon on the Mount was not evidence enough of Christ's power and authority, chapter 8 catalogues miracle after miracle. Just as the great Sermon demonstrated that He was the Messiah in word, the events in chapter 8 testified that he was the Messiah in deed. Still, the disciples are without the gift of the Holy Ghost-they do not fully understand who he really is. Hence, they marvel, 'saying, What manner of man is this, that even the winds and the sea obey him!' (Matt 8:27).
"The miracles performed by Jesus were an important part of his earthly ministry. He used miracles to show compassion, to teach, to inspire, to motivate, and to testify that he was the true Messiah. After his death and resurrection, his disciples continued to perform miracles and to testify that he was the Messiah, the Son of God who had come in power and authority. The Gospel writers used his miracles to testify that he had power over all enemies. The healing of the leper, the centurion's servant, and Peter's mother-in-law testified that his power extends to persons of all nations, both Jew and Gentile. The calming of the sea extended his power to include power over nature and the elements. Casting out the unclean spirits testified of his power over devils and all evil... For individuals in all generations, accounts of the miracles reveal the power of Jesus over all enemies and testify that he was the Son of God and that he had sufficient power to perform the Atonement and bring immortality and the possibility of eternal life to all men." (Rex C. Reeve, Jr., Studies in Scripture, Vol. 5: The Gospels, ed by Kent P. Jackson and Robert L. Millet, 226.)
Matt 8:29 What have we to do with thee, Jesus, thou Son of God?
Ironically, while the disciples are still trying to comprehend the mission and manner of Jesus of Nazareth, the devils immediately know and understand who He is. Yet, before we proceed with a discussion of this interesting miracle, consider for a moment how difficult this story would be to understand without a clear knowledge of the pre-mortal life and Council in Heaven. Historically, Christianity has had a very poor understanding of these concepts. What if you did not understand Christ's pre-mortal mission or that He even existed before being born of Mary? What if you did not understand where these devils came from originally? What if you didn't understand the veil of forgetfulness which accompanies all who enter mortality? What if you didn't understand the importance of coming to earth to obtain a body? What if you didn't understand that Satan's followers would do anything to possess a physical body-even if it is that of a pig? And what if you didn't understand what is going to happen to Satan and his angels at the final judgment? Without an understanding of these key elements, this interaction between Christ and the devils would be most confusing.
Bruce R. McConkie
"Our Lord's true identity is known to unclean spirits. Mortal men may profess not to know of his divinity, but there is no doubt in the minds of the devils in hell. They remember him from their pre-existent association. They know he was foreordained to be the Redeemer, that he was born into the world as the literal offspring of the Father, and that their course in opposing him is one in open rebellion against Deity." (Doctrinal New Testament Commentary, 1: 314.)
Matt 8:29 art thou come hither to torment us before the time
These devils live in fear of Christ and his power. Interestingly, they know their future as well as they remember their past. They are concerned about an appointed torment at an appointed time. Most likely, they were referring to the final judgment when the devil and his angels are forever cast off, 'the devil and his angels . . . shall go away into everlasting fire; prepared for them; and their torment is as a lake of fire and brimstone, whose flame ascendeth up forever and ever and has no end.' (2 Ne 9:16) The "appointed time" comes after the short season when Satan is loosed again, 'And the devil that deceived them was cast into the lake of fire and brimstone, where the beast and the false prophet are, and shall be tormented day and night for ever and ever' (Rev 20:10).
Matt 8:31 If thou cast us out, suffer us to go away into the herd of swine
"The great principle of happiness consists in having a body. The Devil has no body, and herein is his punishment. He is pleased when he can obtain the tabernacle of [a] man, and when cast out by the Savior, he asked to go into the herd of swine, showing that he would prefer a swine's body to having none. All beings who have bodies have power over those who have not. The Devil has no power over us, only as we permit him; the moment we revolt at anything which comes from God, the Devil takes power.
"The Devil is without a tabernacle, and the Lord has set bounds to all spirits. Hence comes the saying: 'Thou son of David, why art thou come to torment us before the time?' Jesus commanded him to come out of the man, and the Devil besought him that he might enter in a herd of swine nearby. For the Devil knew they were a covetous people, and if he could kill their hogs, they would drive Jesus out of their coasts, and he then would have tabernacle[s] enough. Jesus permitted him to enter into the swine.
"Wicked spirits have their bounds, limits, and laws by which they are governed or controlled and know their future destiny. Hence those that were in the maniac said to our Savior, 'Art thou come to torment us before the time?'
"The greatness of his punishment is that he shall not have a tabernacle; this is his punishment. So the Devil thinks to thwart the decree of God by going up and down in the earth seeking whom he may destroy-any person that he can find that will yield to him. He will bind him and take possession of the body and reign there, glorying in it mightily, not thinking that he had got a stolen tabernacle. By and by, someone of authority will come along and cast him out and restore the tabernacle to his rightful owner. But the Devil steals a tabernacle because he has not one of his own, but if he steals one he is liable to be turned out of doors.
"When Lucifer was hurled from heaven, the decree was that he should not obtain a tabernacle, nor those that were with him, but go abroad upon the earth exposed to the anger of the elements, naked and bare. But ofttimes he lays hold upon men, binds up their spirits, enters their habitations, laughs at the decree of God, and rejoices in that he hath a house to dwell in. By and by, he is expelled by authority and goes abroad mourning, naked upon the earth like a man without a house, exposed to the tempest and the storm.
"The mortification of Satan consists in his not being permitted to take a body. He sometimes gets possession of a body, but when the proven authorities turn him out of doors, he finds it was not his but a stolen one." (Kent P. Jackson, comp. and ed., Joseph Smith's Commentary on the Bible, 85.)
Matt 8:34 they besought him that he would depart out of their coasts
Bruce R. McConkie
"Why did the whole city beseech Jesus to depart from their region? A dramatic miracle had come to their personal knowledge, and it created fear rather than faith in the hearts of the people. Why? Some few, perhaps, were fearful and angry because of the loss of their property. But the real reason was far more basic. These people, worldly and carnal by nature, actually preferred their way of life to that which they would have been obligated to pursue, had they accepted the gospel. Millions of people in the world today have a similar outlook. Such persons are not converted to the truth by miracles; they prefer to gratify their own sensual appetites rather than forsake the world. People whose whole hearts and desires are set on the things of the world would not accept the gospel, 'though one rose from the dead' and taught it to them. (Luke 16:31.) Similarly they would not believe the Book of Mormon even if they had a view of the Gold Plates and the Urim and Thummim. (D. & C. 5:8-10.) Men, in the ultimate analysis, are controlled and governed by the desires of their hearts. When they desire and love darkness rather than light, neither miracles nor any thing else is sufficient to convert their benighted souls. Rather they rebel against the truth, reject the prophets, and pray Jesus 'to depart out of their coasts.'" (Doctrinal New Testament Commentary, 1:313)