About the Gospel Reading, Matthew 8:5-13


In Matthew, 4: 15, Jesus left Nazareth and went to live in Capernaum.  Some biblical scholars believe this move is a fulfillment of a prophesy in Isaiah 9:1-2, “by way of the sea … dwelling along the seacoast … Galilee of the Gentiles, a people who walk in darkness, behold a great light; and you who dwell in the country of the shadow of death, upon you a light will shine…”.    Capernaum was located on the northern shore of the Sea of Galilee.  Galilee was considered the land of people who walk in darkness, that is, without the religious advantages of Jerusalem and Judea.  It was considered by Old Testament writing to be the land of the shadow of death, where the darkness is most dense (Job 10:21, Ps 107:10; Jer 13:16; Amos 5:8).   Jesus’ move to Capernaum, biblical historians think not only fulfills the Old Testament prophesy but points to the extension of the Gospel of bringing the light to the people of all nations.

According to 1 Maccabees 5:23, the Jewish population in Galilee in 164 B.C. , was so small it could be transported to Judea for protection; but, by Jesus’ time, the population was large and mixed and the Jewish population was substantial.  The people were fishermen and farmers and it is believed that the Apostles Peter, James, Andrew, John and Matthew lived in the Galilee area. 

Capernaum was an important Roman garrison town and Centurions were the military backbone throughout the Roman Empire that maintained discipline and executed orders.   As a Roman military commander, the Centurion’s word to his men was the word of the Roman Emperor; and, when he gave his men a command, they obeyed it as if it came from the Roman Emperor himself.  Likewise, in this Gospel reading, the Centurion’s belief that Jesus’ Word alone would heal his servant indicates that the Centurion believes that a Word from Jesus to heal his servant is the same as a Word from God’s Himself.     This is what Jesus marvels at.  He marvels at the fact that the Centurion, a Gentile, exhibited greater belief in Jesus’ Divinity then Jesus’ own people did in His hometown of Nazareth (Mark 6:6).    

At the end of today’s Gospel reading, Matthew 8:11, 12 “..while the sons of the kingdom will be thrown into the outer darkness; there men will weep and gnash their teeth..”, biblical scholars believe this statement is referring to the Israelites who deny the Divinity of Jesus Christ and the reference of weeping and gnashing of teeth are descriptions according to Jewish tradition of the unrighteous dead in Hades (Enoch 103:8) and is referenced in the New Testament in Matthew 13:42-43, 50; 22:13; 24:51; 25:30; and Luke 13:28.

References:  Josephus, The Antiquities of the Jews, The Jewish War, Edersheim:TheLife and Times of Jesus the Messiah; Schurer:AHistory of the Jewish People in the Time of Christ; Harvard Theological Review; Deissmann:Light from the Ancient East; NKJV.

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