Matthew 8:16-17

MIRACLES IN A CROWD

Matt. 8:16-17

And, when it was late in the day, they brought to him many who were in the power of evil spirits, and he cast out the spirits with a word, and healed all those who were ill. This happened that the saying spoken through the prophet Isaiah might be fulfilled: “He took our weaknesses and carried our sins.”

As we have already seen, Mark’s account of this series of incidents makes it clear that they happened on the Sabbath day (Mk.1:21-34). That explains why this scene happened late in the day, at the evening time. According to the Sabbath Law, which forbade all work on the Sabbath day, it was illegal to heal on the Sabbath. Steps could be taken to prevent a person from getting any worse, but no steps might be taken to make him any better. The general law was that on the Sabbath medical attention might only be given to those whose lives were actually in danger. Further, it was illegal to carry a burden on the Sabbath day, and a burden was anything which weighed more than two dried figs. It was, therefore, illegal to carry a sick person from place to place on a stretcher or in one’s arms or on one’s shoulders, for to do so would have been to carry a burden. Officially the Sabbath ended when two stars could be seen in the sky, for there were no clocks to tell the time in those days. That is why the crowd in Capernaum waited until the evening time to come to Jesus for the healing which they knew he could give.

But we must think of what Jesus had been doing on that Sabbath day. He had been in the synagogue and had healed the demon-possessed man. He had sent healing to the centurion’s servant. He had healed Peter’s wife’s mother. No doubt he had preached and taught all day; and no doubt he had encountered those who were bitter in their opposition to him. Now it was evening. God gave to men the day for work, and the evening for rest. The evening is the time of quiet when work is laid aside. But it was not so for Jesus. At the time when he might have expected rest, he was surrounded by the insistent demands of human need–and selflessly and uncomplainingly and with a divine generosity he met them all. So long as there was a soul in need there was no rest for Jesus Christ.

That scene called to Matthew’s mind the saying of Isaiah (Isa.53:4) where it is said of the servant of the Lord that he bore our weaknesses and carried our sins.

The follower of Christ cannot seek for rest while there are others to be helped and healed; and the strange thing is that he will find his own weariness refreshed and his own weakness strengthened in the service of others. Somehow he will find that as the demands come, strength also comes; and somehow he will find that he is able to go on for the sake of others when he feels that he cannot take another step for himself.

Back to: THE GOSPEL OF MATTHEW

Back to: Barclay’s Commentary

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