The King’s Dominion


The Sermon on the Mount gave the teaching of Jesus on the nature of the Kingdom of God; Matthew now organizes many of the evidences that Jesus is the King of this Kingdom. Chapters 8 and 9 give instances of Jesus’ power over all kinds of diseases and his perfect immunity to the dangers that they carried. He shows his power over spiritual forces that have been arrayed against his glory since before the creation of Eden. He showed that he has the power over death as well as the forces of nature. Given that, he has the intrinsic right to call people to surrender their lives to him while he manifests his compassion over confused and wandering souls. Matthew began the narrative of these chapters with an event that showed how Jesus still affirmed the ceremonial law (8:4), while personally remaining clean though he had touched a leper. Later Matthew included a conversation (9:14-17) that shows that soon all the ceremonies will be done away in that all they symbolized has been fulfilled.

I. Jesus demonstrated that he possessed all power over everything in this fallen world. This is in fulfillment of Genesis 3:15, “He will crush your head.”

A. His power over disease –

1. Jesus confronted the destructive power of leprosy. Leviticus 13, 14 give great detail about the observation of the disease, quarantines for the purpose of observation, declarations of uncleanness, isolation, and lengthy sacrificial rituals for the declaration of healing. Jesus simply reached out his hand, touched the unclean man, healed him completely, and sent him to the priest. See Luke 17:11-19 for Jesus’ cleansing of ten lepers with the same instructions.

2. He healed Peter’s mother-in-law who had a fever, who arose and showed no after-affects and served Jesus.

3. He healed a paralytic whose strength became such as to pick up his own transportable bed and carried it home (9:1-8).

4. He healed a woman who had had a discharge of blood for twelve years (9:20-22).

5. Jesus healed two blind men (9:27-31).

6. Matthew summarized Jesus’ activities of healing by recording that he “healed all who were sick” (8:16 and “healing every disease and every affliction” (9:35). Noting that was known as a disease of that time was beyond the reach of Jesus’ healing power.

7. Jesus showed at least three truths about sickness in these healing miracles: (1) disease is real and has a variety of effects on people debilitating them in various areas of their lives. He never ridiculed the ideas that sickness really exists. (2) We should have compassion on those who are sick and find ways to bring healing. This gives a strong foundation to the medical profession, to research designed to heal without destroying life in the process. (3) Jesus did not simply utter a word over the entire world and say, “let disease exist no longer.” It will be with us until the time of the redemption of all things, when some go to the second, and eternal, death, and others receive glorified bodies like the incorruptible body of our Lord Jesus and live without sickness, pain, and all the effects of the Fall.

B. His power over Death  (9:18, 24, 25)– Jesus, earlier in this Matthean context, gave a pithy memorable statement that marked clearly the difference between physical death and spiritual death. “Let the dead bury their own dead” (8:22; Luke 9:60). Here he gives another, “The girl is not dead but sleeping.” (9:24). Jesus’ redemptive work transformed the prospect of death and made him King over both its physical and spiritual manifestations—in his omnipotence resides the intrinsic power to reverse the effects of both, in his wisdom resides the immutable purpose to do what pleases him, and in the incarnational suffering of Christ the moral path toward the defeat of death was established (Hebrews 2:14, 15; 6:12-20; 7:27). Like sleep, death, for those favored with the grace of Christ, will terminate with a refreshment of the body. In sleep, while the body rests, the mind remains active in dreams in puzzling juxtapositions of experiences, feelings, events, concerns, and even conversation. So in death, for those redeemed, the mind is active, but in a perfect state of truthful perception of the presence of Christ and his glory. Replete with such consciousness. the spirit glows with a joyful expectation of the resurrection of a fully restored body in which to experience all the benefits of a sin-free, death free environment limited only by the illimitable joy, glory, and love of the triune God.

C. His power over Devils

1. Two demoniacs from Gedara, violent and mighty because of their being possessed of demons, come forth to confront Jesus.

Their habitation was foul indeed, fit for such rebellious angels in the soul of rebellious men. They dwelt among the bodies of the dead in the proximity of pigs. Both of these realities were antithetical to the canons of holiness for Israelites. They were triply unclean: born dead in trespasses and sins, living in forbidden places in a forbidden environment, and indwelt by demons.

The demons knew who Jesus was and knew their eventual destination: He was the Son of the Living God and their eventual abode would be in a place where the almighty power of this person would be shown in their eternal torment. One wonders if such imprecations from profane people actually is a testimony of the satanic within them: “I’ll be damned.”

They preferred pigs to the presence of Jesus and asked for a dismissal from beings made in his image into a place forbidden to his people. The number of them must have been enormous for all the pigs were indwelt and the force of evil so agitated them that immediate destruction was their destiny.

Matthew records the event, giving note to only one word spoken by Jesus, ”Go,” so absolute is his authority. Luke also records that initially Jesus asked the name of the evil forces (Luke 8:30), recognizing the personal nature of the opposition to his rule as well as to the well-being of his image-bearers.

The people preferred their profit from the pigs to the presence of Jesus on their shore.

2. He cast the demon out of a man who was mute as a result of the presence of the demons (9:32-34). So remarkable was this event that the Pharisees thought surely he must be in league with Satan himself to be able to have immediate control over these beings.

D. His power over natural forces – During a storm when he “rebuked the winds and the sea” he showed the power, as in the case of the demons, of his spoken word. This obviously gives us a link to the creation in which the Creator spoke the world into existence (Genesis 1:3, 6, 9, 11, 14, 20, 24) and the testimony of Hebrews 1:3 – “He upholds the universe by the word of his power.”

E. The spiritual implications of such power. (9:1-8) – Jesus indicated that the purpose of all these manifestations of power and authority was to support his claim to be able to forgive sins, and to demonstrate that so deep was his compassion and mercy that he would call and could indeed forgive the worst, most corrupt of sinners (9:13).

F. Jesus had the right to command absolute obedience and loyalty, to determine the direction and purpose of one’s life – He did not coddle those that indicated some fascination with following him, but put before them his absolute rights, even though he was in a state of humility presently. 8:18-22. 9:9.

II. 8:5-13 – A Gentile’s faith demonstrated these truths and the coming of the New Covenant.

A. He is approached by a Gentile

1. The New Testament is called by that name for a good reason. It is the record of the fulfillment of the prophecies contained in Ezekiel 36, Jeremiah 31, and other places about the establishment of a covenant built on the internal principle of faith, a faith that comes from a heart changed by the effectual operations of the Spirit of God. This was the message Jesus gave Nicodemus in John 3:3, 5, the woman at the well in John 4:23, and served as a sign that his time for dying had come when the Greeks sought him in John 12:21-24, 32., and his pressing forward the faith of a Canaanite woman in Matthew 15:21-28.

2. This foreshadows one of the most important doctrinal developments under the full light of the gospel—justification by faith apart from works of the Law (Galatians 5:2-6). Jesus slowly sets forth what he had announced in the Sermon on the Mount about his fulfillment of the Law—the ceremonial law as a foreshadowing of his work had been fulfilled and thus removed from the sphere of true worship and his personal answering of all the demands of the moral Law constitute our justification before God, only through faith in him (Galatians 3:21, 22).

B. He described the situation with a servant showing that he assumed the compassion, wisdom, and power of Jesus.

1. Not only had the centurion come to Jesus specifically for the sake of this servant, but the servant was in the home of the centurion, showing his personal concern.

2. He was empathetic with the condition of the servant, “paralyzed . . ., suffering greatly.”

3. Clearly he had heard of Jesus teaching with authority, and could not have failed to surmise the nature of his person from the multiplicity of reports about his activities. (Matthew 4:23-25; 8:1).

C. Verses 7-10 – Responding to Jesus’ willingness to come to his home to heal him, the centurion showed the depth of his trust and confidence in the majestic authority of Jesus.

1. When Jesus indicated a willingness to come to his home in order to heal his servant, the centurion admitted both his own unworthiness for any favor at all, while at the same time an absolute trust both in the willingness and the authority of Jesus to do this thing.

2. Given his high position in worldly affairs, this did not affect his true and humble submission in spiritual comprehension. “I am not worthy.” He did not intend for Jesus’ journey to his home to be a mark of his own importance but he did all that he could to deflect any impression of importance from himself to Jesus.

3. He was absolutely convinced of the transcendent authority of Jesus as the creator and sustainer of all things, and that the well-being of his creatures depended solely on his will. “Only say the word.”

4  He had absorbed the true meaning of authority in human affairs, both for his position under the authority of others and for his position of authority over others. This statement indicated that he was convinced of the absoluteness of Jesus’ authority, that he simply could utter the words expressive of his will and control even the elements that defined the bodily condition of a person in a remote location.

D. On the basis of such faith, not of ethnic origin or ceremonial accuracy, will the kingdom of God be built..

1. “Such faith” – Jesus does not refer to the amount of faith, but to the mature character of it. Already many following him had faith, but the depth of trust is directly proportioned to the perception of the greatness of Jesus. So far, according to Jesus at this point in his ministry of proclaiming the kingdom, Jesus had encountered no one that had submitted himself to Jesus with such a profound grasp of the implications of his teachings, his actions and his claims.

2. “East and West” – from all around the globe, from all the nations of the Gentiles, confessing, believing sinners would enter the kingdom to be with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob and enjoy the fellowship of all the promises implied in the spiritual covenant Jesus had made with those Patriarchs..

3. A tragic irony attends this observation by Jesus. Those who had access to the Scriptures and could have immediate knowledge of all that God intended to do in the way of salvation would be left out. To them were revealed the promise of the Messiah, the necessity of an atoning sacrifice, the spiritual qualities of repentance and faith with the necessity of the Spirit’s enablement. They will not understand and will be left outside the kingdom (John 3:9-12; Acts 28:24-28). Jesus gave a more extended narrative of this reality in chapter 10.

E. Spurgeon commented on this passage: “How sad to think that the descendants of those patriarchs shall be cast out like refuse, thrown behind the wall in the dark, and left in the cold to gnash their teeth in anguish! What a turning of things upside down! The nearest cast out, and the furthest made nigh! How often is this the case! The centurion comes from the camp to Christ, and the Israelite goes from the synagogue to hell. The harlot bows at Jesus’ feet a penitent, while the self-righteous Pharisee rejects the great salvation. Oh, that this incident may sweetly persuade us to believe greatly; and may none of us doubt the power of the incarnate Son of God!”

Tom has most recently served as the Professor of Historical Theology at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. He previously taught at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School where he was Professor of Church History and Chair of the Department of Church History. Prior to that, he taught at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary and Mid-America Baptist Theological Seminary. Along with numerous journal articles and scholarly papers, Dr. Nettles is the author and editor of fifteen books. Among his books are By His Grace and For His Glory; Baptists and the Bible, James Petigru Boyce: A Southern Baptist Statesman, and Living by Revealed Truth: The Life and Pastoral Theology of Charles H. Spurgeon.
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