“And the men marveled, saying, ‘What sort of man is this, that even winds and sea obey him?'”
– Matthew 8:27
In , Jesus says, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me.” In Matthew 8, we see some of the areas in which Jesus has authority. In the first 17 verses, we see three examples of Jesus’ authority over illness.
The first man that Jesus heals is a leprous man (). The man does not ask Jesus to heal him, but instead tells Jesus that he knows that he can heal him if it is his will. This leprous man must have heard of what this rabbi had been doing. He knew, in faith, that Jesus had the authority over the body and could heal him of his disease. People with leprosy were separated from the community so the disease would not spread. It is astonishing that Jesus would even dare touch the man! Jesus did not just heal the man, but in , Jesus guided him in the direction of restoration to the community. When someone in the church is separated from the community, for whatever reason, it is important for us to guide them to restoration within the community of the body of Christ. Healing does not happen in isolation – instead, it involves an entire community of believers.
In , we see another example of Jesus’ authority over illness. When the centurion came to Jesus, he told him of his servant’s suffering. Jesus is quick to come to the aid of the man, but the centurion did not feel worthy to have him under his roof. If Jesus had come to the centurion’s house, it would have caused an uproar for him entering the home of a Gentile. In , the centurion shows by what he says that he understands the authority that Jesus possesses. He understands that he has the power to heal the man even at a distance. In Jesus’ reply to this man’s faith (), he marvels at the centurion and declares that many will come to the table of the Lord who are not a part of Israel. Jesus essentially says that there will be many Gentiles who come to know the Lord while there are many Jewish people who will not know the Lord because of their sinfulness and hypocrisy. One theological truth that we can glean from this interaction is that Jesus does not need to be present for healing to take place. It should comfort us that the same Jesus who healed the servant from a distance is the same Jesus who intercedes to the Father on behalf of us.
In his final example of authority over illness, Jesus heals Peter’s mother-in-law from a fever (). Immediately after she was healed, she began to serve those who were there. We all know that illness will strike us at some point. What we can learn from Peter’s mother-in-law is that we should spend our healthy times in service for the Lord. We do not know how many days we have, so we should be good stewards of each and every one. In , Matthew quotes a passage from Isaiah as being fulfilled in Jesus’ ministry to the sick. In the same way that he takes our illness and bears our disease, so too does he take our sin upon himself as our atoning sacrifice.
In , Jesus shows his authority over his disciples. In this section, we see two people come to Jesus wishing to be his disciples. The first one to come was a scribe, one of the religious leaders. When he said that he would follow Jesus wherever he went, Jesus knew that the scribe had no idea what he was promising. Jesus basic replies by saying, “I am homeless. Do you still want to come along?” Following Jesus was not going to be comfortable – it would require sacrificing everything.
The second person came to him and asked to go bury his father before following Jesus as a disciple. Burying one’s family members was an important part of culture at that time. In fact, this person’s father may not have even been sick. He wanted to wait until he was gone, bury his father, and go through the months of mourning. Only then would he follow Jesus. Jesus responds by telling him to let the dead bury the dead. Those who are spiritually dead can take care of burying those who physically die – discipleship is more urgent than that.
As we can see from these two encounters, discipleship is urgent and costly. In , Jesus declares that laborers are needed for the Lord’s harvest. The need is great and the need is urgent. Discipleship requires immediate obedience to Jesus Christ’s authority and complete commitment to the mission of God.
In , Jesus shows his authority over nature. We see him calm a storm in an instant that would normally take 24-48 hours to subside. One of the first things that we notice is that Jesus falls asleep on the boat. Jesus was like us in every way except for sin. He experienced tiredness, hunger, and thirst just as we do. This shows us that Jesus was truly and properly man.
When the storm comes on the sea, the disciples show a lack of faith in the protecting hand of their rabbi. It is interesting that Jesus’ closest disciples had less faith than the leprous man and the centurion! Jesus uses the moment to display not only his power over nature, but to prove to his disciples that they can trust him for protection. These disciples needed to learn a lesson in faith – too bad they still had much to learn.
Finally, Jesus shows us that he has power over spiritual forces and over evil by casting out the demons from the two men (). The two demons which possessed the men obviously knew Jesus’ identity and his authority. They ask him in if he was coming to torment them before the time. The “time” that they refer to is when Christ will cast all evil into hell at the time of judgment. Instead, the demons beg for Jesus to send them into a herd of pigs instead of harming them. Jesus’ authority is displayed in a single word – “Go!” Jesus has so much authority in this situation and every situation that, with just one word, he can command and it will be done.
When the demons went into the pigs, the pigs rushed into the lake and died. The townspeople were upset with this because pigs were a major export from that location. By the pigs rushing into the lake, the economics of the area were affected. This shows that the people’s priorities were not in helping the demon-possessed men, but in their own economic status. People continue to reject the helping hand of Christ and his disciples even to this day.
As disciples of Jesus Christ, we are completely under his direction, command, and authority. We have seen Jesus display his power over illness nature, and evil. The Christ who commands these things commands us to come and follow him.