In Matthew 8, we see several instances of Jesus speaking, and his words having great impact. Matthew 8 comes directly on the heels of the Sermon on the Mount, where Jesus’s words leave people in awe:
And when Jesus finished these sayings, the crowds were astonished at his teaching, for he was teaching them as one who had authority, and not as their scribes. (Matthew 7:28-29)
This theme continues throughout Chapter 8, as Jesus displays astonishing power and authority through the words he speaks. For example:
In Matthew 8:1-4, Jesus cleanses a leper. Jesus reaches out and touches the man; a gesture which would make any other practicing Jew “unclean” by Old Testament standards. But Jesus is different. When Jesus touches unclean people, their status changes; not Jesus’s status. Jesus remains clean; the leper is made clean. But Jesus doesn’t just touch the man; he also speaks.
And Jesus stretched out his hand and touched him, saying, “I will; be clean.” (Matthew 8:3A)
In Matthew 8:5-13, a centurion approaches Jesus, begging that his servant be healed. The centurion must have been desperate; he was likely affluent in his community, and thus unlikely to turn to a traveling Jewish religious teacher for assistance. Jesus agrees to visit the servant at the centurion’s home, but the centurion has a better idea:
“Lord, I am not worthy to have you come under my roof, but only say the word, and my servant will be healed.” (Matthew 8:8B)
The centurion knows what it’s like to have authority. When a man in his position speaks, things get done. This Gentile centurion recognizes the authority and power in Jesus’s words; and in fact, he’s so confident in the power of Jesus’s words that he bets his servant’s fate on it. Sure enough, Jesus heals the servant by speaking from a distance, and the centurion is commended for his faith.
In Matthew 8:14-17, we read that Jesus heals Peter’s mother-in-law, along with many who are sick. But we also see an easily overlooked detail about Jesus’s method of casting evil spirits out of those oppressed by demons. How does he do it? “With a word” (Matthew 8:16).
We see similar examples in Matthew 8:23-27, as well as Matthew 8:28-34. In the first passage, Jesus calms a storm by “rebuking” (Matthew 8:26B) the winds and the sea. In the second passage, Jesus casts a large number of demons out of two men – and all he has to do is say, “Go” (Matthew 8:32A).
After seeing multiple examples of the power of Jesus’s words, we should have the same reaction the crowds had to the Sermon on the Mount: astonishment. Who else can speak with such authority? Who else’s words are so powerful that creation itself obeys? Why, none other than God himself:
And God said, “Let there be light,” and there was light. (Genesis 1:3)
He set the earth on its foundations, so that it should never be moved. You covered it with the deep as with a garment; the waters stood above the mountains. At your rebuke they fled; at the sound of your thunder they took to flight. (Psalm 104:5-7)
Only God himself is supposed to be able to speak with such power and authority – and yet, here we see Jesus doing just that. Perhaps this proves that Jesus really is who he says he is: the Son of God.
“Truly, truly, I say to you, the Son can do nothing of his own accord, but only what he sees the Father doing. For whatever the Father does, the Son does likewise.” (John 5:19)
When God speaks in the Old Testament, things happen. When Jesus speaks in the New Testament, things happen. That’s because Jesus is not only fully man; he is fully God. The crowds were right to be astonished at Jesus’s words, and to observe that he spoke with far greater authority than their scribes. He’s the very son of God, united in power and authority with his Father. When we read the words of Jesus, I pray we’d have the same sense of awe.