Jesus the Healer

Posted: January 1, 2012 in Matthew
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Matthew 8:1-17, “Jesus the Healer”

Our world has a need for healing!  Whether it’s people lined up outside of a faith crusade, or lined up outside of the ER, there’s no doubt that one of the greatest needs that people have is physical healing.  Even those who are incredibly solid & mature in their walk with Christ sometimes find their faith shaken when presented with a physical disease or emergency situation.  Problems with our bodies of a way of rocking us to our core & reprioritizing what we think is most important in life.

It makes sense, when we stop to think about it.  As Christians, we sometimes have a tendency of spiritualizing some of this way – thinking that because our spiritual needs are so eternally vital that our physical needs don’t matter much at all.  To be sure, our spiritual needs ought to have the utmost priority…after all, that has a direct impact on not only the next several decades, but the next several eons!  But that doesn’t mean that our physical needs aren’t important.  After all, God created us as physical beings in His own image & we will have a physical existence (though resurrected in our redemption) that will last throughout eternity.  Even God Himself put on physical flesh & dwelt among us (which is what we celebrated at Christmastime) & Jesus will remain incarnate forever.  So obviously the physical has a good deal of value to God.  If it didn’t matter, why bother creating a physical universe in the 1st place?

Thus it makes sense that Jesus spends so much time in the gospel bringing physical healing to people.  In Matthew’s chronology, he just got done with a major doctrinal section in which Jesus taught the multitudes in the Sermon on the Mount.  Jesus had taught what it meant to live as a citizen of the kingdom of God.  Now Matthew is going to show that Jesus had the authority to teach them because He is the King.  A major part of Jesus’ authority is seen in His healings.

What’s so striking about this section (among other things) is the variety here.  Look at who Jesus heals: the unclean, the Gentiles, a woman, and various other unnamed people.  It didn’t matter what their background was, it only mattered that Jesus is Lord.  Look at what He healed: leprosy, paralysis, fever, demon-possession – ranging from the physically minor to the supernatural.  If Jesus can heal all of that, what can we bring to Him that He cannot handle?

Ultimately, what we see here is that physical disease is a symptom of a greater problem: spiritual death.  We need healing; Jesus is our healer.

Matthew 8:1–17 (NKJV)
1 When He had come down from the mountain, great multitudes followed Him.

  • Multitudes followed Him at this time – they wouldn’t always follow Him.  Religious crowds do not always equal born-again believers.
  • The idea here is one of a public ministry.  Jesus has given some fairly revolutionary teaching among the people of Galilee – now He’s going to demonstrate the authority by which He taught these things.  Public miracles to back up His public teaching.

2 And behold, a leper came and worshiped Him, saying, “Lord, if You are willing, You can make me clean.” 3 Then Jesus put out His hand and touched him, saying, “I am willing; be cleansed.” Immediately his leprosy was cleansed.

  • Healing #1: cleansing the unclean.  What was leprosy?  We know it today as Hansen’s disease…a bacterial infection that can cause extensive skin & nerve damage.  Whether or not the leper in question had Hansen’s disease is unknown – the term was generally used to describe all sorts of skin condition.  Those with leprosy were considered culturally unclean, since the various diseases were potentially contagious.
    • Leprosy was often a picture of sin in the Bible.  To whom can the sinner turn?  The person who is utterly infected with sin that will eventually bring their death has zero hope, other than being completely cleansed & cured.  They’ve got to go to a person who can heal them.  False hope doesn’t cut it for a leper.  Someone offering the latest “snake-oil” medicine doesn’t offer hope; they offer little comfort because their treatment fails & still leads to potential death.  What a leper needs is TRUE healing.  What a sinner needs is TRUE healing.  False hopes from false messiahs and false prophets don’t do anything except prolong the inevitable.  Someone might feel better about themselves on their way to hell, but they’re still headed to the same place.  They need TRUE healing, and that only comes through Jesus Christ. …
  • The leper came.  The leper worshipped.  Different gospel accounts place this event earlier in Jesus’ ministry (Matthew tends to organize his gospel by theme, rather than date), so potentially this was the very first leper healed by Jesus.  Most likely, the leper had no prior experience to assume that Jesus could heal the disease.  Only one Hebrew in history had ever been healed of severe leprosy (Miriam, after she insulted Moses), and the only other example was the Syrian general Naaman, healed by Elijah.  Whatever Jesus had done before, it would have been minor compared to healing someone with leprosy – yet the leper had the faith that Jesus could do it.  Why?  Because he believed that Jesus was God…the leper “came and worshiped Him.”  Some scholars interpret the worship here as simply a sign of respect, but the context shows something drastically different.  (1) The leper is in need of help that only the most powerful prophets of God had ever addressed before, (2) the leper calls Jesus “Lord,” which technically could mean “Sir,” but has a far greater attachment in the Hebrew culture to God, and (3) bows before Jesus in submission (which is what the Greek word for “worship” here means).  Put it all together, and there’s little doubt that the leper believed that Jesus is the Christ.  So he came to Jesus for help.
    • Coming to Jesus is an obvious step, but often a forgotten one.  It seems that many people want a blessing from Christ, but never want to actually come to Him in submission, bowing before Him as Lord.  They want to go to heaven, they just don’t want Jesus to be there – or at least not for Jesus to actually be on the throne reigning as King.  It doesn’t work that way.  If we want to experience the power and provision that Christ offers, we must be willing to come & worship.
  • Notice what the leper acknowledged the issue as.  It wasn’t Jesus’ ability that the leper was unsure of; it was Jesus’ willingness.  Jesus obviously had the power – and the leper believed that to be the case, even though he had never witnessed Jesus heal anyone else of leprosy.  But for the leper to be healed, Jesus needed to be willing.  It wasn’t the leper’s faith or ability or anything else the leper could bring that would heal him; it was completely left up to the will of God.
    • That’s true regarding physical and spiritual healing.  Obviously with any physical healings we experience today, it’s completely left up to the will of God.  We certainly ask in faith, but our faith cannot manipulate God into doing something He doesn’t want to do.  We leave ourselves in His hands, being submissive to His will.  On the spiritual level, we see the same thing when it comes to the forgiveness of sin.  It’s not the ability we bring, or gifts we offer that save us, it’s completely up to the will of God to grant us salvation.  The good news is that we have the promise of God’s will to save through Christ & it’s proclaimed throughout the Scriptures!
  • Jesus was willing!  Notice the order.  First Jesus demonstrated compassion, THEN Jesus healed the man.  The truly amazing thing about this story is that Jesus touched the leper BEFORE the leper was healed.  People just didn’t do that sort of thing.  To touch a leper was to be ceremonially defiled, and the person would have to go through all sorts of requirements to be proclaimed clean again.  But not Jesus.  Obviously whoever He touched would be instantaneously clean, so there would be no defilement – but more than that, Jesus was more concerned about the person than about the rumors.  He looked upon this man with compassion (how long had that been for the man?), and reached out & touched him before proclaiming his healing.  Who knows how long it had been since the man had experienced any human touch at all – and yet God Incarnate reached out to him.
    • How great is the compassion of Christ!  What a loving and marvelous God we serve.  That He would reach out to us beyond time and space, purging us of our sin, and bringing His rebellious creation back to Himself in glorious relationship.  Amazing!
  • How soon was the leper healed?  Immediately & totally.  When Jesus cleansed him, he was cleansed.  When Jesus heals someone, they’re healed…period.

4 And Jesus said to him, “See that you tell no one; but go your way, show yourself to the priest, and offer the gift that Moses commanded, as a testimony to them.”

  • This was according to the law.  Leviticus 14 goes into great detail about what was to happen when a leper was cleansed of his leprosy.  It’s interesting that so much detail is given when apparently the leprosy was cleansed so few times.  Only two instances are recorded in the Old Testament of miraculous healings.  Of course, the term “leprosy” carried a much broader meaning & encompassed all sorts of temporary skin diseases, so the ritual in Lev 14 would apply for those types of leprosy as well.  Yet this would have been one of the only occasions in history for it to occur with severe (otherwise incurable) leprosy.
  • The reason for the gift was as a testimony to the priest.  Remember that a leper was cast out of general society & considered completely unclean.  If the priest had the testimony of healing & proclaimed the man clean, he’d be able to rejoin his family and friends for the first time in ages.
  • The bigger question is: why would Jesus want the man to stay silent?  There are some different thoughts here.  We know from other gospel accounts that once word got out about the leper’s healing that Jesus had difficulty moving from place to place simply because there were so many people following Him.  Yet at the same time, there seems to be something bigger at work here.  If this man went to priest & showed himself to be miraculously cleansed, then the natural question for the priest would be “how could this happen?” – and that would have been a testimony for the priest regarding the promised Messiah.  In other words, the man’s silence & simply obedience to the law would have been a far greater testimony to the work of Christ than his outspokenness.
    • Obviously it’s never wrong to give glory and praise to God for the work that Jesus has done in our lives.  But we can take away from that testimony if our lives don’t reflect that work.

5 Now when Jesus had entered Capernaum, a centurion came to Him, pleading with Him, 6 saying, “Lord, my servant is lying at home paralyzed, dreadfully tormented.”

  • Healing #2: caring for the Gentile.  A centurion was a Roman commander – the word literally means that he was over 100 men.  It’s a reminder that Judea was an occupied territory & Roman garrisons were scattered throughout the land.  Many Jews were looking for a political messiah who would deliver them from the Roman oppression.  How would Jesus react to this soldier?  Even more than that, Matthew shows that this soldier didn’t quite fit the stereotype.  Instead of oppressive, this centurion was submissive.  It would have stood out to the Jewish reader.  Instead of being harsh, this centurion had compassion upon his servant.  Luke’s account uses the normal word for “slave” here, but Matthew indicates that this could have been a child.  Perhaps this was a servant child in the centurion’s household who had a sudden ailment come upon him.  Whatever the case, the centurion certainly didn’t treat the servant with disdain, but was obviously troubled & moved with compassion for someone who was suffering.  By all appearances, this Roman centurion seemed to be a God-fearing Gentile.
  • The centurion came.  The centurion pleaded.  Luke’s account has a slightly different version of this event.  In Luke 7, the centurion doesn’t directly come to Jesus, but instead sends word through messengers (Jewish elders & other friends).  Is this a contradiction with Matthew?  No.  Matthew’s account is simply an abbreviated version & Luke gives more details.  The centurion is still the one who took the initiative to approach Jesus – he actually shows himself to be familiar with the Jewish customs, and apparently did not want to cause Jesus any kind of ceremonial defilement.  However he came to Jesus, he still came in faith.  As with the leper, he pleads with Jesus – implying that as long as Jesus is willing, this servant boy will be healed.

7 And Jesus said to him, “I will come and heal him.” 8 The centurion answered and said, “Lord, I am not worthy that You should come under my roof. But only speak a word, and my servant will be healed. 9 For I also am a man under authority, having soldiers under me. And I say to this one, ‘Go,’ and he goes; and to another, ‘Come,’ and he comes; and to my servant, ‘Do this,’ and he does it.”

  • Jesus offers to come, but the centurion stops Him.  Is the Roman contradicting Jesus?  No – he’s submitting to Him.  Objection: “Wait a second.  How can protesting against Jesus’ offer to come to the servant be an act of submission?”  Because the centurion wasn’t rebelling against the authority of God, he was actually magnifying it in his life.
    • The centurion recognized his lack of worth
    • The centurion recognized the power of God
  • A wonderful illustration of what it means to have authority!  Military commanders are well used to orders & authority & chain of command. … It’s the same way with God.  The word of God has authority!
  • With that in mind – knowing that God created the heavens and the earth by the word of His mouth – the very atoms and molecules bow to the authority of God – do we start to understand the magnitude of our sin when we rebel against God?  God’s words have authority…what He states instantly comes to reality.  Yet God has given mankind free will, allowing us to rebel against His authoritative word.  Mankind dares to do what the molecules of the universe would never conceive of doing.  People wonder sometimes why sin is such a big deal.  Sin is a big deal because it’s the antithesis of the normal state of the universe is.  Mankind is unique in its rebellion – and thankfully, also unique in being the recipient of God’s grace.

10 When Jesus heard it, He marveled, and said to those who followed, “Assuredly, I say to you, I have not found such great faith, not even in Israel!

  • Can Almighty God truly marvel at anything & be amazed?  Yes, if Jesus is acting in His humanity.  Remember that Jesus is 100% God & 100% Man – two natures in one person, inseparably intertwined together.  There are times that Jesus demonstrates omniscience (as when He knew what the Pharisees were thinking after proclaiming a man’s sins healed prior to healing him – Mt 9:6), and other times where He seemingly chose not to exercise His omniscience…this being one of the cases.  However the amazement came about, it’s a pretty striking thing to make God the Son marvel!  This obviously stood out.
  • Usually when Jesus is found talking about someone’s faith, He’s talking about how “little” it is.  We’ll actually see a bit of a contrast with Jesus’ disciples later in Ch 8 regarding the winds & waves on the Sea of Galilee.  They had little faith, whereas this Gentile Centurion had great faith.  That wasn’t just the case with the disciples – that was the case all over the land of Israel!  The people of Israel had been expecting the Messiah – they had been given the Scriptures – they had seen multitudes of miracles – they had been the recipients of the promises of God going all the way back to Abraham.  And yet even they didn’t have the simple faith of this Gentile Roman soldier.  Of course Jesus could just say the word, because Jesus is God.  The Roman understood that; the Jews had a harder time receiving even the simpler acts of the Lord Jesus.
    • How’s your faith?  What is it that you believe God is capable of doing?  Or what is it that you (deep down) believe that it is impossible for God to do?

11 And I say to you that many will come from east and west, and sit down with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob in the kingdom of heaven. 12 But the sons of the kingdom will be cast out into outer darkness. There will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.”

  • It’s been often said that when we get to heaven, we will be surprised by who’s there & also surprised at who’s not.  Jesus seems to have originated the thought!  In regards to the Centurion’s faith, Jesus makes it clear that this was a man who demonstrated saving faith in the Son of God, and that there would be many more Gentiles to come who would do the same.  And while there would be many Gentiles who would be saved, there would also be many Jews who would be cast out.  The Jews would have thought themselves to be sons of the kingdom (after all, they had the ethnic identity & the Scriptures), but their lack of faith showed them to belong to the outer darkness.
  • Family history doesn’t save you.  Religious affiliation doesn’t save.  Nor does knowledge of the Bible, personal philosophy, good intentions, or how nice of a person we think we are.  NONE of those things save.  ONLY faith in Christ Jesus saves.

13 Then Jesus said to the centurion, “Go your way; and as you have believed, so let it be done for you.” And his servant was healed that same hour.

  • The result?  Immediate healing.  Jesus spoke the word & the servant was “healed at that same hour.
  • Some have read Jesus’ statement here to be a further test of the centurion – that the servant might be healed only in proportion to the amount of faith that the centurion demonstrated.  More likely, Jesus is simply proclaiming the fact of healing.  The centurion HAD believed, so “as” (since) he had already believed, Jesus healed.

14 Now when Jesus had come into Peter’s house, He saw his wife’s mother lying sick with a fever. 15 So He touched her hand, and the fever left her. And she arose and served them.

  • Healing #3: Peter’s mother-in-law…healing a woman.  Only a couple of verses are given to this miracle, which almost seems like an afterthought – but obviously it’s got an important role to play if it’s included in Scripture.  Jesus had healed a leper, a Gentile, and now: a woman.  All of the cultural boundaries that the Jews had set up for themselves were being crossed over & done away with in the ministry of Christ.  His healing, just like His salvation was made available to Jew, Gentile, male, female, slave, free alike.
  • What’s so striking is the simplicity of it all.  Peter’s mother-in-law doesn’t come to Jesus, but it seems that Jesus was told of the need (Mk 1:30),  just came in to the house, simply touched her without uttering a word & the fever was instantaneously gone.  How thorough was the healing?  Most people who have a fever take a bit to recover; she felt well enough to get up and serve.

16 When evening had come, they brought to Him many who were demon-possessed. And He cast out the spirits with a word, and healed all who were sick, 17 that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by Isaiah the prophet, saying: “He Himself took our infirmities And bore our sicknesses.”

  • Healing #4: cleansing the multitudes.  Obviously the other Jews were not left out of Jesus’ healing ministry.  On several occasions, those who came to Jesus specifically asking for healing received it.  In this case, the healings were specifically associated with demonic possession & Jesus demonstrates His absolute authority over physical AND spiritual matters.
  • Why is it important to know that Jesus has the authority and power to heal physical disease?  Two reasons: (1) It’s a foretaste of the kingdom to come, (2) It’s a shadow of the abundant life.
    • It’s a foretaste of the kingdom to come.  One of the most oft-quoted promises about heaven is that it will be a place where there is no more sickness, death, crying, or pain.  The true Messiah (the King of kings who institutes that eternal kingdom) ought to be able to offer that in this world as a foretaste of things yet to come.  And that’s exactly what Jesus did.  He shows His kingly authority as the Messiah because He brings the kingdom with Him wherever He goes.  It’s a proof of who He is.  In fact, these sorts of healing miracles are exactly what Jesus pointed to as proof of His Messiahship when questioned by John the Baptist. (Matt 11:4-6).  Jesus’ current physical healings simply foreshadow the perfect reign He will institute in the millennial kingdom (and beyond).
    • It’s a shadow of the true abundant life that Jesus gives.  Healing sicknesses is only a natural byproduct of the One who gives eternal life.  After all, what assurance could we have of life beyond the grave if Jesus couldn’t do anything about the sicknesses that take us to the grave in the 1st place.  If Jesus was powerless over physical infirmities, how could the Jews who witnessed His ministry trust Him to have power over spiritual sin?  After all, what’s worse: disease or death?  With disease (even horrible disease) we at least have a fighting chance.  Death is simply final.  If Jesus claims to offer victory over the grave, then surely He ought to be able to beat disease or any other ailment presented to Him.  He can & He did.  In fact, this is exactly the point Jesus demonstrated when He healed the lame man that was lowered to Him through Peter’s roof.  Jesus forgave the man of his sins, but THEN healed him physically in order to demonstrate the authority Jesus had to forgive his sins.
  • The quote from Isaiah is actually from Isaiah 53.  Matthew has demonstrated a pattern of showing how Jesus fulfills prophecy & he does so again here.  The interesting thing about the prophecy is that this seems to be Matthew’s own translation of the original Hebrew, as it doesn’t follow the LXX or any other version used at the time.  Isaiah 53:4–5, "(4) Surely He has borne our griefs And carried our sorrows; Yet we esteemed Him stricken, Smitten by God, and afflicted. (5) But He was wounded for our transgressions, He was bruised for our iniquities; The chastisement for our peace was upon Him, And by His stripes we are healed." []  Obviously the original context is regarding healing from spiritual sin – Matthew simply demonstrates that our physical healings are tied up along with Christ in His atonement at the cross.
  • So here’s the $10,000 question: If Jesus healed everyone who came to Him then, why doesn’t Jesus heal everyone today?  Three answers to that:
    • First, we need to realize that Jesus did not always heal everyone all of the time.  There were certainly occasions that He did heal everyone who came to Him (as here in Ch 8), but this wasn’t the case every time.  All sorts of people were suffering at the pool of Bethesda, but Jesus only picked out one person to heal (and the man wasn’t even looking for Jesus at the time – Jn 5).  When Jesus went to Nazareth & was rejected there, apparently He only did a few minor healings, but no truly mighty work there (Mk 6:5).  So obviously Jesus did not heal everyone He looked at or came in contact with – though He healed often & to an extent that has not been seen before or since.  We need to remember that physical healing is not always the will of God.  Paul healed many people in his ministry, but didn’t heal everyone (he left Trophemus in Miletus sick – 2 Tim 4:20), or even himself (with the thorn in his flesh).  Sometimes God has a plan for us IN our pain.  We learn humility & dependency upon God – we learn what it means to share in the fellowship of the sufferings of Christ – we learn what it means that God’s grace is sufficient for us, and more.  There’s no way to learn these truths apart from suffering & God’s desire for us to mature has a greater need than some of our temporal relief.
    • Second, we need to understand that Jesus will heal all of His followers eventually.  That was Matthew’s greater point in (loosely) quoting Isaiah 53.  We have a greater abundant eternal life to which we look forward!  The physical healings we may/may not experience in this life are just a foretaste of what’s yet to come.  The eternal life is what we really seek after!  Those who have received Jesus as Lord will experience eternal life & thus all of us will be healed in that way.
    • Third, although Jesus does not today heal everyone physically, He does still heal some.  The fact that not everyone experiences physical healing should never deter us from asking from those healings.  In fact, the Bible specifically tells us to ask.  James 5:14–16, "(14) Is anyone among you sick? Let him call for the elders of the church, and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord. (15) And the prayer of faith will save the sick, and the Lord will raise him up. And if he has committed sins, he will be forgiven. (16) Confess your trespasses to one another, and pray for one another, that you may be healed. The effective, fervent prayer of a righteous man avails much." []
    • The bottom line: we know Jesus can heal – we know Jesus is willing to heal – we know Jesus has authority to heal – we know Jesus has promised to heal eventually – so ask Him.  Ask in faith & leave the results up to Him.

Conclusion:
Such variety in the healings of Christ!  Who He healed: the leper – the Gentile’s servant – a woman – all/anyone.  What He healed: leprosy – paralysis – fever – demon possession.  How He healed: touch/will – word – silent touch – unsaid ways with the multitudes.  What’s too hard for Jesus?  Nothing!  He’s the Lord!

  • Jesus has compassion to heal
  • Jesus has authority to heal
  • Jesus has the ability to heal

Jesus’ healing is a sign of His kingdom reign.  Go to Him with your needs, but go to Him in faith submitting to Him as Lord.

In all of this, by far the most important aspect is Jesus’ ability to heal from the sickness of sin.  It was the Fall of Man that introduced sickness to the world in the first place, and with that sickness came death.  Physical healing can be important, but it only really addresses a symptom of a greater problem: eternal spiritual death.  Jesus brings healing.  Because of the cross & resurrection, we have absolute assurance that Jesus heals us of the greatest disease: sin & separation from God.  At the cross, Jesus took our infirmities (our iniquities) upon Himself.  In the resurrection Jesus gives us life beyond the grave.  That’s TOTAL healing!

Have you been healed?  Have you been attended to by the Great Physician?  NOW is the time to be healed from the sickness of sin.  Jesus can heal – He’s willing – He’s got the authority – but you must come to Him in faith, believing Him to be Lord.

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