They who pretend to be critical in the Harmony of the evangelists, place this passage, and all that follows to the end of Matt. 8:14-9:38 before the sermon on the mount, according to the order which Mark and Luke observe in placing it. Dr. Lightfoot places only this passage before the sermon on the mount, and Matt. 8:18 after. Here we have,
I. A particular account of the cure of Peter’s wife’s mother, who was ill of a fever; in which observe,
1. The case, which was nothing extraordinary; fevers are the most common distempers; but, the patient being a near relation of Peter’s, it is recorded as an instance of Christ’s peculiar care of, and kindness to, the families of his disciples. Here we find, (1.) That Peter had a wife, and yet was called to be an apostle of Christ; and Christ countenanced the marriage state, by being thus kind to his wife’s relations. The church of Rome, therefore, which forbids ministers to marry, goes contrary to that apostle from whom they pretend to derive an infallibility. (2.) That Peter had a house, though Christ had not, Matt. 8:20. Thus was the disciple better provided for than his Lord. (3.) That he had a house at Capernaum, though he was originally of Bethsaida; it is probably, he removed to Capernaum, when Christ removed thither, and made that his principal residence. Note, It is worth while to change our quarters, that we may be near to Christ, and have opportunities of converse with him. When the ark removes, Israel must remove and go after it. (4.) That he had his wife’s mother with him in his family, which is an example to yoke-fellows to be kind to one another’s relations as their own. Probably, this good woman was old, and yet was respected and taken care of, as old people ought to be, with all possible tenderness. (5.) That she lay ill of a fever. Neither the strength of youth, nor the weakness and coldness of age, will be a fence against diseases of this kind. The palsy was a chronical disease, the fever an acute disease, but both were brought to Christ.
2. The cure, Matt. 8:15. (1.) How it was effected; He touched her hand; not to know the disease, as the physicians do, by the pulse, but to heal it. This was an intimation of his kindness and tenderness; he is himself touched with the feeling of our infirmities; it likewise shows the way of spiritual healing, by the exerting of the power of Christ with his word, and the application of Christ to ourselves. The scripture speaks the word, the Spirit gives the touch, touches the heart, touches the hand. (2.) How it was evidenced: this showed that the fever left her, she arose, and ministered to them. By this it appears, [1.] That the mercy was perfected. They that recover from fevers by the power of nature are commonly weak and feeble, and unfit for business a great while after; to show therefore that this cure was above the power of nature, she was immediately so well as to go about the business of the house. [2.] That the mercy was sanctified; and the mercies that are so are indeed perfected. Though she was thus dignified by a peculiar favour, yet she does not assume importance, but is as ready to wait at table, if there be occasion, as any servant. They must be humble whom Christ has honoured; being thus delivered, she studies what she shall render. It is very fit that they whom Christ hath healed should minister unto him, as his humble servants, all their days.
II. Here is a general account of the many cures that Christ wrought. This cure of Peter’s mother-in-law brought him abundance of patients. “He healed such a one; why not me? Such a one’s friend, why not mine?” Now we are here told,
1. What he did, Matt. 8:16. (1.) He cast out devils; cast out the evil spirits with his word. There may be much of Satan’s agency, by the divine permission, in those diseases of which natural causes may be assigned, as in Job’s boils, especially in the diseases of the mind; but, about the time of Christ’s being in the world, there seems to have been more than ordinary letting loose of the devil, to possess and vex the bodies of people; he came, having great wrath, for he knew that his time was short; and God wisely ordered it so, that Christ might have the fairer and more frequent opportunities of showing his power over Satan, and the purpose and design of his coming into the world, which was to disarm and dispossess Satan, to break his power, and to destroy his works; and his success was as glorious as his design was gracious. (2.) He healed all that were sick; all without exception, though the patient was ever so mean, and the case ever so bad.
2. How the scripture was herein fulfilled, Matt. 8:17. The accomplishment of the Old-Testament prophecies was the great thing Christ had in his eye, and the great proof of his being the Messiah: among other things, it was written of him (Isa. 53:4), Surely he hath borne our griefs, and carried our sorrows: it is referred to, 1 Pet. 2:24; and there it is construed, he hath borne our sins; here it is referred to, and is construed, he hath borne our sicknesses; our sins make our sicknesses our griefs; Christ bore away sin by the merit of his death, and bore away sickness by the miracles of his life; nay, though those miracles are ceased, we may say, that he bore our sicknesses then, when he bore our sins in his own body upon the tree; for sin is both the cause and the sting of sickness. Many are the diseases and calamities to which we are liable in the body: and there is more, in this one line of the gospels, to support and comfort us under them, than in all the writings of the philosophers—that Jesus Christ bore our sicknesses, and carried our sorrows; he bore them before us; though he was never sick, yet he was hungry, and thirsty, and weary, and troubled in spirit, sorrowful and very heavy; he bore them for us in his passion, and bears them with us in compassion, being touched with the feeling of our infirmities: and thus he bears them off from us, and makes them sit light, if it be not our own fault. Observe how emphatically it is expressed here: Himself took our infirmities, and bare our sicknesses; he was both able and willing to interpose in that matter, and concerned to deal with our infirmities and sicknesses, as our Physician; that part of the calamity of the human nature was his particular care, which he evidenced by his great readiness to cure diseases; and he is no less powerful, no less tender now, for we are sure that never were any the worse for going to heaven.