Jesus and needy individuals (Matthew 8:1-4)

Matthew mentions that Jesus was followed by great crowds and no doubt each of them had a story to tell about what they thought of Jesus and perhaps some of them had received a great blessing from him. Nevertheless, in this chapter, Matthew chooses to describe isolated incidents in which Jesus helped unlikely people.

The Gospel of Matthew was constructed by him, under the guidance of the Holy Spirit, so that we could learn about Jesus. In this chapter he includes several occasions when Jesus performed a miracle. Matthew has already mentioned that Jesus performed miracles, but until now he did not say very much about them. Now he chooses several that reveal among other things the power of Jesus over disease, death and demonic destruction, things that were the consequences of sin. Each incident tells us other details about Jesus as well, but the overall design is to reveal the incredible power of Jesus over other kinds of power. 

As far as the ritual religion of Israel was concerned, lepers were banned from the temple and could not participate in any of the services. This did not mean that a leper could not worship God in private. Yet the nature of his illness meant that he lived life in isolation because he was not allowed to mix with society. Lepers were outcasts both as far as religion and daily interaction was concerned.

Why did Matthew include this story? One obvious reason is that the performance of such a miracle was evidence that Jesus was the Messiah. The Old Testament contains many predictions about the activities of the Messiah and one was that he would help people in great need. A second reason would be his desire to tell social outcasts, of which there were many at that time, that Jesus, although now exalted to heaven by the time Matthew wrote his gospel, welcomes such outcasts into his company. A third reason is that leprosy is a picture of sin and therefore when someone was cured of leprosy he illustrated what Jesus can do for sinners in the gospel. 

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