Today’s passage is set in Capernaum, Jesus’ home during His time in Galilee (Matt. 4:13). As in His healing of the centurion’s servant there, our Lord uses a miracle to reveal His authority, but this time the person restored to health is a close acquaintance of Christ, a relative of Peter, one of Jesus’ chief disciples.
Archaeologists think they have found Peter’s house in Capernaum, under the ruins of a church built there early in church history, corroborating the historicity of Matthew 8:14–17. In any case, Jesus finds Peter’s mother-in-law “sick with a fever” when He enters the home (v. 14). According to tradition it is improper to touch a feverish individual, but Jesus breaks this unbiblical custom and heals the woman (v. 15). Her restoration is instantaneous, and she immediately rises and serves her guest. By the Messiah’s great authority, disease must vanish when He desires to bring healing.
That evening, the citizens of Capernaum bring demoniacs and the physically ill to Jesus for healing (v. 16). The people come after the sunset because it marks the end of the Sabbath (Mark 1:21–34), a day on which healing would break God’s law, according to the Pharisees (3:1–6). Of course, Jesus will later demonstrate this instruction to be false, but at this point He apparently heals without explaining how such work actually fulfills the Sabbath’s intent.
Matthew 8:17 tells us the Great Physician’s work fulfills Isaiah 53:4. In context, Isaiah is describing how the Suffering Servant bears His people’s sin (see v. 5). Matthew’s reference to Isaiah’s prophecy makes sense considering that the presence of illness and death is rooted ultimately in the fall of man. Jesus’ healing begins to roll back the terrible effects of sin, thereby showing Him to be the Suffering Servant who suffers God’s wrath to save His elect. Charles Spurgeon says, “Jesus is able to heal all the mischief that sin has worked…because He Himself took our sin upon Himself by His sacred Substitution. Sin is the root of our infirmities and diseases and so, in taking the root, He took all the bitter fruit which that root did bear” (The Metropolitan Tabernacle Pulpit, vol. 36, sermon no. 2,124).
Dr. John MacArthur writes: “In eternity, all sickness will be removed, so ultimately, healing is included in the benefits of the atonement” (The MacArthur Bible Commentary, p. 825). We have no right to expect that all our illnesses will be healed in this present age, only in the eternal state will Christ’s work be fully applied and all disease gone. Still, we should pray for the sick knowing that our God may bring healing if we ask in faith and trust in His good purposes.
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