Peter Misselbrook's Blog
Jan 10 2013 - Matthew 8:1-17 – He ... bore our diseases

The passage we have been reading this morning is packed with accounts of Jesus healing the sick. It begins with a man with leprosy who knelt before Jesus and declared "Lord, if you are willing, you can make me clean" (Matthew 8:2). The leper has no doubts about Jesus' ability to heal, but is Jesus willing to make him well? Is a poor leper worthy of Jesus' attention? Jesus answer is immediate, "I am willing. Be clean!" (8:3). Jesus is willing to heal him, and he is healed.

The second story concerns the servant of a centurion who is sick and in pain. The response of the centurion to Jesus' offer to come and heal his servant underlines Jesus' power to heal. The centurion is a man who has power to direct his soldiers and servants and they must obey him. He recognises that Jesus also has similar but far greater power; Jesus can command sickness to leave and it will do so. Jesus acknowledges this insight and heals the centurion's servant with a word of command without coming into the centurion's house.

The third story concerns Peter's mother-in-law whom Jesus healed from a fever with a touch. Then, in the evening he drove out demons from many who were possessed simply by his word of command and healed all of those who were sick.

Together these stories emphasise that Jesus is willing to heal, Jesus has power to heal and that Jesus heals all who are brought to him. Matthew tells us that in this way Jesus fulfils the prophecy of Isaiah, "He took up our infirmities and bore our diseases" (Matthew 8:17, cf. Isaiah 53:4).

These accounts paint a wonderful picture of the power of Jesus to transform the lives of those he touches. Yet it remains a puzzling picture. If Jesus is the same yesterday, and today and for ever, why are Christians today not always healed? It is a plain fact that we are not; no Christian has ever been saved from the ultimate fate of death (even Lazarus eventually died, for he is not still around today). The passage we have read seems to close off all possible responses; Jesus is both willing and able to heal.

Matthew links Jesus' work of healing with the prophecy concerning the Suffering Servant in Isaiah 53. Jesus suffering and death upon the cross were on our behalf. He has broken the power of death and of sickness. And by his resurrection he gives life, life in all its fullness. But, for us, the fullness of that victory is not yet. It is only when Christ shall return and our bodies are transformed or raised from the dust of death that "the saying that is written will come true, 'Death has been swallowed up in victory'" (1 Corinthians 15:54 – note the context). Jesus' miracles of healing were signs of the kingdom, anticipations of the day when the very fabric of creation will be transformed through his resurrection power.

Meanwhile we live in a world still subject to sickness, pain and death – and injustice, tyranny and oppression. Praise God we do experience healing in response to prayer – the gracious touch of the Saviour's hand bringing tokens of the future into the present. But such healing is not always granted and it always remains incomplete. We look for and long for the day when all things shall be made new; a day when God himself shall wipe away every tear from our eyes.

Heavenly Father, thank you that Jesus had compassion on the crowds and went around healing the sick. Thank you that we see in him your purpose to mend a broken world. Thank you that, through his cross and resurrection, Jesus has broken the power of death and that he is the beginning and hope of the new creation. By his risen power, enable me to bring healing to a hurting world.

Peter Misselbrook