Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Matthew 8:5-13: Some Observations

Sunday morning I had the joy of sharing from Matthew 8:5-13. What a powerful part of Scripture. Remember, Matthew's gospel, in my opinion, is the first gospel written and is technically the first book ever written on Christian discipleship (Matt. 28:19-20). This section of Matthew has so much in it. I break the text up into four parts:
  1. The Request and the Response (8:5-7)
  2. The Problem and the Solution (8:8-9)
  3. The Kingdom and the Darkness (8:10-12)
  4. What Jesus Says and What Jesus Does (8:13)
Jesus' ascent to the place of teaching for the Sermon on the Mount was preceded by healing, healing, healing. (Before any new cessationist friends visiting the blog get "razzled," I too am a cessationist.) Nevertheless, the information concerning those healings is an authorial commentary by Matthew: "Jesus was going throughout all Galilee, teaching in their synagogues and proclaiming the gospel of the kingdom, and healing every kind of disease and every kind of sickness among the people. The news about Him spread throughout all Syria; and they brought to Him all who were ill, those suffering with various diseases and pains, demoniacs, epileptics, paralytics; and He healed them" (4:23-24). In Matthew 8, Jesus' descent from the place where he taught was marked by healings as well.  In chapter eight, however, are found the first narrative accounts accompanying the healings. The reader actually gets to "see" and "hear" Jesus and those who are in great need interact with each other. In a sense, the accounts seem to be an escalation in the activity (8:1-4, the leper; 8:5-13, the centurion; 8:14-15, Peter's mother-in-law). Two shorter narratives surround the narrative with the centurion and Jesus. And, concluding the section, Matthew returns to offering a description of the events similar to chapter 4. The only additional  difference between chapter four and chapter eight is the inclusion of Matthew's OT citation (πληρωθῇ).

Here are a few observations worth considering:
  1. In verses 6 and 8, do you like the NASU translation "my servant" for ὁ παῖς μου? The translation in verse 9 is "my slave" (τῷ δούλῳ μου).  Do you think the difference being made between the two is correctly communicated with the difference in English between "servant" and "slave?" I don't. It seems to me that the centurion is actually stressing the young age of this particular servant. The NVI, for example, apparently recognizes no distinction, both being translated "siervo."
  2. In 8:3, 8:7, and 8:8, three different words are used to describe the healing. In 8:3, the Greek word καθαρίσθητι is used. In 8:7, Jesus uses the word θεραπεύσω, and in 8:8, the centurion uses the word ἰαθήσεται. Concerning the first, it appears that this word is the "standard" word used in the LXX in order to describe the "healing" of lepers (see 2 Kings 5:13, LXX). That use is easily explained. But why are two different words used in the account with the centurion? So far, the only answer that I could come up with is that semantically they are similar, but the latter seems to be a standard verb for "healing" when wanting to describe the healing in the passive tense.
  3. And, did you notice how 8:11-13 is similar to what is described in 9:4-7? While Jesus does not say the words, "Which is easier...," the same is implied in Matthew 8:11-13. Jesus inserts the statement about the kingdom and the darkness prior to healing the centurion's young servant in order to demonstrate that he is the one who has the authority to grant permission for persons (even Gentiles) to enter his kingdom and the authority to cast persons (even sons of the kingdom) out of the kingdom.
Oh, its late. Time to go to bed.

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