What does Matthew 8:1 mean?
ESV: When he came down from the mountain, great crowds followed him.
NIV: When Jesus came down from the mountainside, large crowds followed him.
NASB: When Jesus came down from the mountain, large crowds followed Him.
CSB: When he came down from the mountain, large crowds followed him.
NLT: Large crowds followed Jesus as he came down the mountainside.
KJV: When he was come down from the mountain, great multitudes followed him.
Over the previous three chapters, Matthew presented Jesus' teaching of what we now call the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5:1–2). Jesus had walked up to an elevated spot, likely north of the Sea of Galilee near the town of Capernaum. He sat down, surrounded by His disciples, followers, and a crowd of listeners. His teaching in that sermon astounded the crowds—Jesus not only gave deeper meaning to the Word of God (Matthew 5:17), He corrected the hypocrisy of Israel's religious leaders (Matthew 5:20). And He did so with authority, rather than deferring to the views of other people (Matthew 7:28–29).
Now the sermon is complete, and Jesus comes down from the mountain. The large crowds that have been following Him from town to town grow even larger. They have been impressed by His teaching, as well as drawn from many miles in every direction to see His supernatural healings and casting out of demons.
Matthew 8—9 will describe several instances when Jesus healed the sick and freed the demon-possessed. These records are not necessarily given in chronological order. It was common in ancient writing to collect information by topic, and not necessarily grouping events according to time. Matthew chooses to group Jesus' miracles mostly into one section of his book. The reason for including these events is to show Christ's power over both the "natural" and "supernatural" worlds. These are all evidence that Jesus is truly the Messiah.
Matthew 8:1–4 describes Jesus' encounter with a man afflicted with leprosy. In great faith and humility, the man kneels before Jesus and declares that Jesus can make him clean if He wants to. Jesus touches the man, and the man immediately healed. Jesus commands the man not to tell anyone about what has happened. Instead, he is to go to the priest to present the offerings commanded by Moses for healed lepers who want to be officially declared clean again.
Matthew begins a series of stories revealing Jesus' authority over sickness, demons, and even the weather. Jesus heals a humble man with leprosy and great faith. He then heals the servant of a Roman centurion who understands that Jesus does not need to come to his home; He can just speak a word. Jesus praises the Gentile man's amazing faith. After healing many more, Jesus and the disciples get caught in a deadly storm on the Sea of Galilee. Jesus stops the storm with a word. Later, He casts demons out of two men and into a huge herd of pigs.
Matthew 8 follows the conclusion of Jesus' Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5:1–2). He turns to telling a series of dramatic stories to show Jesus' power and authority over every kind of disease, over demons, and even over the weather. Jesus also gives brief teachings about the hard road of following Him on earth. He calms a violent storm with a single command and casts demons from two violently possessed men. Matthew will focus mostly on miracles until shifting focus to Jesus' teachings and parables in chapter 11.
The Gospel of Matthew clearly shows the influence of its writer's background, and his effort to reach a specific audience. Matthew was one of Jesus' twelve disciples, a Jewish man, and a former tax collector. This profession would have required literacy, and Matthew may have transcribed some of Jesus' words as they were spoken. This book is filled with references to the Old Testament, demonstrating to Israel that Jesus is the Promised One. Matthew also includes many references to coins, likely due to his former profession. Matthew records extensive accounts of Jesus' teaching, more than the other three Gospels.
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