The eighth chapter of St. Matthew’s Gospel is full of our Lord’s miracles: no less than five are specially recorded. There is beautiful fitness in this. It was fitting that the greatest sermon ever preached should be immediately followed by mighty proofs that the preacher was the Son of God. Those who heard the Sermon on the Mount would be obliged to confess that as "no one ever spoke the way this man does" (John 7:46), so also no one did such works.
The verses contain three great miracles: a leper is healed with a touch, a paralytic is made well by a word, a woman sick with a fever is restored in a moment to health and strength. On the face of these three miracles we may read three striking lessons. Let us examine them and lay them to heart.
1. Christ’s Great Power
First, let us learn how great is the power of our Lord Jesus Christ. Leprosy was the most fearful disease by which man’s body could be afflicted. The person who had it was like a dead person while he was still alive; it was a complaint regarded by physicians as incurable (see 2 Kings 5:7). Yet Jesus says, "Be clean!’ Immediately he was cured of his leprosy" (verse 3).
To heal a person of paralysis without even seeing him, by only speaking a word, is to do what our minds cannot even conceive: yet Jesus commands, and at once it is done (verses 6, 8 and 14). To give a woman prostrate with a fever, not merely relief, but strength to do work in an instant, would baffle the skill of all the physicians on earth: yet Jesus "touched" Peter’s wife’s mother and "she got up and began to wait on him" (verse 15). These are the doings of one who is almighty. There is no escape from the conclusion. This was "the finger of God" (Exodus 8:19).
We see here a broad foundation for the faith of a Christian. We are told in the Gospel to come to Jesus, to believe in Jesus, to live the life of faith in Jesus; we are encouraged to lean on him, to cast all our care on him, to rest all the weight of our souls on him. We may do so without fear: he can bear all; he is a strong rock: he is almighty. It was a fine saying of an old saint, "My faith can sleep sound on no other pillow than Christ’s omnipotence." He can give life to the dead; he can give power to the weak; he "increases the power of the weak" (Isaiah 40:29). Let us trust him and not be afraid. The world is full of snares; our hearts are weak. But with Jesus nothing is impossible.
2. Christ’s Compassion
Second, let us learn the mercifulness and compassion of our Lord Jesus Christ. The circumstances of the three cases we are now considering were all different. He heard the leper’s pitiful cry, "Lord, if you are willing, you can make me clean" (verse 2). He was told of the centurion’s servant, but he never saw him. He saw Peter’s wife’s mother, "lying in bed with a fever" (verse 14), and we are not told that he spoke a word. Yet in each case the heart of the Lord Jesus was one and the same. In each case he was quick to show mercy, and ready to heal. Each poor sufferer was tenderly pitied, and each effectively relieved.
We see here another strong foundation for our faith. Our great High Priest is very gracious. He is able to sympathize with our weaknesses (Hebrews 4:15); he is never tired of doing us good. He knows that we are a weak and feeble people in the midst of a weary and troubled world. He is as ready to bear with us and help us, as he was 1900 years ago. It is as true of him now as it was then that he "does not despise men" (Job 36:5). No heart can feel for us so much as the heart of Christ.
3. The Precious Grace of Faith
Third, let us learn what a precious thing is the grace of faith. We know little about the centurion described in these verses; his name, his nation, his past history are all hidden from us. But one thing we do know, and that is that he believed. "Lord," he says, "I do not deserve to have you come under my roof. But just say the word, and my servant will be healed" (verse 8). He believed, let us remember, when teachers of the law and Pharisees were unbelievers; he believed, though a Gentile born, when Israel was blinded. Our Lord pronounced upon him the commendation which has been read all over the world from that time to this: "I have not found anyone in Israel with such great faith" (verse 10).
Let us hold firmly on to this lesson. It deserves to be remembered. To believe Christ’s power and willingness to help, and to make practical use of our belief, is a rare and precious gift: let us always be thankful if we have it. To be willing to come to Jesus as helpless, lost sinners and commit our souls into his hands is a mighty privilege; let us always bless God if this willingness is ours, for it is his gift. Such faith is better than all other gifts and knowledge in the world. Many a poor converted heathen, who knows nothing but that he is sick of sin, and trusts in Jesus, will sit down in heaven while many learned scholars are rejected for evermore. Blessed indeed are they that believe!
What do we each know of this faith? This is the great question. Our learning may be small, but do we believe? Our opportunities of giving and working for Christ’s cause may be few, but do we believe? We may neither be able to preach, nor write, nor argue for the Gospel, but do we believe? May we never rest till we can answer this inquiry! Faith in Christ appears a small and simple thing to the children of this world. They see in it nothing great or grand. But faith in Christ is most precious in God’s sight and, like most precious things, is rare. By it true Christians live; by it they stand; by it they overcome the world. Without this faith no one can be saved.