This sermon was preached at Peace Hill Christian Fellowship on February 5, 2012. To listen to the audio, just click on this link – Matt 8:14-17.
Matthew 8:14-17 — THE HEALING OF HARMS
We always need to be reminded WHO this Jesus is, who we are encountering when we take the Communion meal. Stern judge? Nagging teacher? Harmless guru? These verses show us an important aspect of the Jesus we share today: the one who trades his strength for our weakness.
In his life, work, healing, and teaching on earth, Jesus began to make God’s dream for the world come true (the kingdom of God). This involved, among other things, Jesus compassionately sharing our sufferings and temptations and powerfully delivering people from internal and external oppression. His whole life, not just his final days, fulfilled the role of the Suffering Servant that Isaiah had prophesied (Isaiah 53, cited and alluded to again and again in the New Testament). Jesus took onto himself, and carried away, the things that torment people: disease, demonic forces, and in the end, sin and guilt and death-as-separation-from-God.
Trade Your Unhealth for Jesus’ Health This chapter comes right after the Sermon on the Mount. Jesus has, in chapters 5-7, laid down a powerful, but intimidating, Rule for how people in God’s world should live. But now he comes down off the mountain, and rather than starting to crack the whip over people who can’t measure up, he makes a point of healing, touching, restoring, and including the lowest and the least. At the start of ch. 8 Jesus heals, by touch, a leper, someone who was contagious, outcast, and ritually unclean, who had to live outside of society, who would never be allowed into church, who was never ever touched. Jesus grasps his hand and heals him. Jesus doesn’t catch leprosy; the man catches healing! Jesus goes on to heal the servant of a Roman officer from the occupying army—again, an outsider. Now he heals a woman—someone who is of lower status in his society. He touches her and heals her from a potentially deadly fever. By evening, the whole town is coming to him with their sick and their disturbed. He heals them not just by doing some trick, but by taking their unhealth on himself, and giving them wholeness in return. These healings demonstrate God’s power over the physical and spiritual world, but they also show that Jesus has a “contagious health.”
Guided by the Holy Spirit, Matthew sees that Jesus does what Isaiah predicted about the Suffering Servant (Isa. 53): “Surely he took up our weakness and bore our suffering.” This is something mysterious: Jesus’ victory over disease and spiritual powers is not painless for him. He doesn’t just “kick out” the problem, like some TV healers claim to do. He takes it on himself. It costs him, but he does it out of compassion for those who are suffering.
Seeing Jesus like this should encourage us all to come to him with real-world problems, no matter how difficult they seem. He is still the compassionate healer. Don’t get cleaned up first; show up in your mess and say “Jesus, here I am. I am not well on my own. I need your power to work in me.”
Important note: Not all requests result in healing. We pray, and sometimes he does heal (we’ve seen it in our congregation & families), but the final victory over disease and death hasn’t yet appeared, and creation still groans with impatience for the final day of healing and resurrection (Romans 8, Isaiah 25:7-8). But even as we wait and suffer, Jesus promises that he is with us to encourage us and give us strength.
Trade Your Sin and Guilt for Jesus’ Innocence Jesus had another exchange to make, as well. As important as it was to heal sicknesses, he didn’t want to stop at just that. In his last meal with his disciples, in Matthew 26, Jesus tells them that the bread and wine are symbols of what he’s about to do for the world on the following day. He says of the wine: “This is my blood of covenant commitment, poured out for you and for many, and it brings forgiveness of sins” (verse 28). Jesus’ death was connected with all the healing he’d been doing—it’s all the same project of exchanging his good for our bad. He didn’t just carry away a few people’s diseases in Palestine in AD 30. Jesus promises us that in what he does at the cross—giving up his life, his body and blood—God absorbs our sin and guilt and gives us in return a rock-solid commitment to treating us as his innocent, beloved children. As Paul put it in II Corinthians 5:21, “God made him who knew no sin (Jesus) to be sin on our behalf, so that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.”
These are familiar concepts, but pause in them for a moment: your sins, your failings and your faulty efforts to “get it right this time,” are not what God sees in you; they are not your identity, because Christ has taken that onto himself and borne it away.
As we live between Jesus’ first coming and his final victory, we should come trustingly to him (and bring others to him) for healing of body and spirit, and for the forgiveness of sins.