Matthew 8-9: Authority

  • Read Matthew 8-9 here.
  • If you missed Sunday’s sermon (6 February) you can listen to it here.

Chapters 8 and 9 of Matthew’s Gospel describe 10 miracles performed by Jesus.  (Give or take 1 or 2 depending which events you group and which you separate.)  The scope of the miracles is quite diverse as he heals, casts out demons, reprograms the weather, raises the dead, and perhaps most miraculously of all, he forgives sins.

I could preach a sermon, or post a blog on each of these miracles, but in keeping with looking at the big picture of Matthew I’m going to use this post to highlight how Matthew weaves his themes throughout his writing.

I mentioned in my previous post how the summary comments regarding the Sermon on the Mount highlighted the authority with which Jesus delivered it.  Back in 4:23 Jesus’ ministry was summarised as “proclaiming the good news of the kingdom, and healing every disease and sickness among the people.” Matthew the proceeds to give examples of both the preaching and healing aspects of his ministry.

When looking at chapters 5-9 as a complete unit, authority is a good summary word.  First, Jesus’ teaching was authoritative, now we see the power of his healing ministry.

In 8:8-9 the centurion compares his military authority to the divine authority of Jesus.

“Lord, I do not deserve to have you come under my roof. But just say the word, and my servant will be healed.  For I myself am a  man under authority, with soldiers under me. I tell this one ‘Go,’ and he goes; and that one, ‘Come’ and he comes….

This comparison with human military authority, and the whole authority topic in general, reminds us of Matt. 1:1 which declares Jesus to be the Messianic descendant of king David.  If Jesus is a great king, then it’s no surprise to see him speak and act with authority, that’s actually just what we’d expect.

In 9:6 Jesus himself declares that he has the authority to forgive sins.  “But I want you to know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins….”  He performs a healing as evidence of his authority to forgive sins and in 9:8 the crowd praises God for giving this authority to a man for the benefit of humanity. This statement using the messianic title “Son of Man” reminds us of the angel’s words to Joseph regarding the birth of Jesus.  “You are to give him the name Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins.

Lastly, and slightly outside the parameters of our passage, in 10:1, 7 Jesus blesses his disciples with a measure of his authority to heal and drive out demons as he commissions them to disperse and proclaim the message, “The kingdom of heaven has come near.”  The same message that Jesus himself proclaimed in 4:17.

Matthew 1:1 describes Jesus as the Messiah.  The Sermon on the Mount and the miracles of Jesus illustrate the authority he carries as the Messiah.  All of chapters 5-9 demonstrate the Good News that the “The kingdom of heaven has come near.”  This is what the kingdom looks like.  It demands a higher ethic of the heart and hand while also demonstrating the power of God available to citizens of the kingdom.

  • The concept of authority is not the only link between chapters 5-7 & 8-9.  Can you see some others?
  • Compared to God’s love, how important is the authority of Jesus in your life?
  • How does the authority of Jesus express itself in your life?
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