Monday, April 8, 2013

The Morning After: Jesus' Authority over Disease (Matthew 8:1-17)

I started a new series yesterday as we jumped back into the book of Matthew. At the end of the Sermon on the Mount, we are told the people were astonished at the teaching of Jesus. His teaching was filled with a kind of authority they had never heard before. When He came down from the mountain, we are told that his reputation was growing as great crowds followed Him. It was at this time that Jesus demonstrates that it was not just His teaching that was authoritative, but He was authoritative over all things.

In Matthew 8:1-17, Jesus demonstrates that authority by healing three unlikely people: A leper, a gentile, and a woman. All three of these people would have been considered outsiders to a Jewish man.

Jesus Heals A Leper
Leprosy was a very serious condition in biblical times. So much so that those with the disease were often referred to as the "walking dead." Not only was it an excruciating disease on the body, it also affected the soul as the people were isolated (Leviticus 13:45-46). Despite this public rejection, this man approaches Jesus and says, "Lord, if you will, you can make me clean." He came to Jesus knowing that Jesus had the authority to heal him. His point was not whether Jesus could, but whether Jesus would. Jesus responded by touching the man and healing him. The touch affirmed how much Jesus cared for the man.

Jesus Heals A Gentile's Servant
In Capernaum, a centurion approached Jesus to inform Him that his servant was paralyzed and suffering terribly (Luke says he was near death). Just like the leper, this man never asks Jesus to do anything. He simply informs Jesus of his situation. The only explanation I can give for why these two do not beg Jesus to heal them is that they felt so much like an outsider that they did not want to presume that Jesus wanted to help.

After Jesus offered to go to the man's house to help, the soldier acknowledged that Jesus had the authority to heal from a distance. This was not just a faith in Jesus' ability to heal, but it was an affirmation that he understood Jesus came with the authority of God. He understood the authority of Jesus when most in Israel didn't. In response, Jesus heals the man's servant.

Jesus Heals Peter's Mother-in-Law
The first thing we have to acknowledge here is that Peter was married. He was originally from Bethsaida and probably moved the family to Capernaum, which was the ministry home of Jesus, in His early days. His mother-in-law was with them and was at home with a great fever. She was near death. Jesus enters and heals her so effectively that she gets up and serves Him.

What's the Point?
Are these miracles simply about the compassion for people who are struggling with some sort of disease? Yes and no. Yes, Jesus was trying to alleviate the pain and suffering that people went through. But ultimately, these miracles were to point to something greater. They were to point the people to a time and place when there would no longer be sickness. That is why Matthew quotes Isaiah 53:4 in verse 17. There are obviously practical benefits to the atonement of Jesus Christ, and Jesus often does heal people of their sickness. But the ultimate physical fulfillment of the atonement is after we die or when He returns. It is eternal, not temporal. There will be a time when Jesus will show His ultimate authority over sickness and disease. But until then, there are four things we can do.

1. Believe that Jesus has the authority to heal.
2. Make our requests made known to Him.
3. Trust His grace to get through our day.
4. Long for the day when all sickness will be removed.

If you want to read my notes or see the study guide, you can find them HERE (there was a glitch in the recording, so unfortunately, no audio of this sermon is available).

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