The Supernatural Healing Ministry of Jesus (Matthew Sermon 25 of 151)
June 30, 2002 | Andrew Davis
Miracles, Jesus Christ
Matthew's goal, in the first seven chapters of the book is to portray Jesus Christ as the King of the kingdom of heaven. That's why he came and right from the very beginning, he gives us a genealogy, which establishes that Jesus Christ is the Son of David; he is the rightful heir to the throne over Israel. He's the Son of Abraham also, and that means that he is the inheritor of the promise made to Abraham that through him, and through his offspring, all peoples on earth would be blessed, and that blessing is Jesus Christ. After that genealogy, we saw that Jesus was not only son of man, he had a human heritage— he had a human lineage— but he was also miraculously born of a virgin, of Mary. So his name was given to be Emmanuel, which means "God with us”; he is God incarnate. He's come to Earth for a reason. In the fullness of time, at the right time, he who is very God, a very God begotten, not made, took on a human body and came to earth for a purpose. And what was that purpose? —to save us from our sins. In Matthew chapter 2 we saw that the Magi longed to come and worship him and Herod longed to seek him, to destroy him and to kill him, because he was the King. In John Chapter 3 we saw John the Baptist proclaiming the way, saying, ”Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand, it's here, it's now, it's coming."
A kingdom needs a king, and that King is Jesus Christ. He submitted to John's baptism; baptized in order that he might fulfill all righteousness. In Matthew 4 we see the beginnings of his ministry as he also preaches the exact same message that John had, repent for the kingdom of heaven is at hand. We see here in Matthew 8, Jesus's miraculous power noted in Matthew 4.
There are two things that set Christ apart in terms of his life, that make him different than any other religious leader that's ever lived, and that is his mighty words and his mighty deeds —the things he said that no one else could have said. We get a tremendous sampling of that in the Sermon of the Mount: Matthew 5, 6, and 7. We've seen the teachings of Christ, but now we're going to see the mighty deeds of Christ. We're going to see the actions of Christ, things that only he can do. The supernatural healing ministry of Jesus Christ. We're going to see in Matthew 8 and 9 unfolding before us, Jesus' kingly power over our physical foes, disease and death. We're going to see Jesus' kingly power over natural foes, namely a storm when he stills the storm. We're going to see Jesus's kingly power over supernatural foes, in that he drives out the demon with the word. And we're going to see Jesus' kingly power over our greatest foe, our sin, when he says to a paralytic simply because he believes, "Take heart, son, your sins are forgiven you."
Jesus’ Healing Power
Our focus today is specifically on his power over disease, over sickness, over death. A number of pastors, including myself, were invited to come to Washington DC, to meet with other pastors and members of the House of Representatives and some senators who were believers in Christ to pray together. The original date for that was September 11th, the year 2001. That very morning I came with my luggage all packed up, ready to go, ready to drive right up to DC right by the Pentagon, and when I saw the Pentagon burning, I said, "I think my trip is cancelled today." Especially when the Congress was sequestered for their protection and safety. So the date for that pastoral meeting was rescheduled for October. You probably remember that day — that was the day of the anthrax scare, and I was in the building at the time. The day that anthrax was found in the ventilation system of the Congressional Building, I was there. I remember the panic that was coming over the nation over the next week, as we began to think about weapons of mass destruction, biological terror and anthrax and all this kind of thing. Fear was coming over our nation that there would be an anthrax epidemic all over this country. We know now that nothing happened, but it tapped into that deep-seated fear that we have of disease, isn't it true?
We're afraid of disease, we're afraid of an unseen foe, a virus, cancer, bacteria that can come into our bodies and we are helpless, and there's nothing we can do. Throughout the history of humanity, we have faced this fear. In the 14th century, bubonic plague swept across Europe and killed one out of every three people that lived there. Huge communities wiped out by disease, and there was terror. Recently, there has been concern over AIDS. We're always afraid of a disease for which there is no cure. We were wondering if perhaps AIDS could be transmitted by mosquitoes, like yellow fever and other diseases. There's a terror and fear of disease: ebola in Africa, E. Coli in certain fast food restaurants which shut them down.
How about the ones that kill more of us than any of those, heart disease, lung disease, cancer? We stand and we face these things absolutely helpless, apart from Christ. We are scientific people, aren't we? We think that perhaps if we know more about each and every disease, if we could just do more research that we could abolish all disease and death from the earth, but it cannot be because it says in Revelation 21, "There will be no more death, or mourning, or crying, or pain, in the new Heaven and the new Earth." And then it says, "For the old order of things has passed away." What does that tell you? That disease and death are part of this order now and will be until the end. And so, we face disease and if it were not for what we're going to read about in our Scripture today namely, Jesus's miraculous power over disease, we would have no hope. We do not put our trust in the science of pharmaceuticals but rather in Christ, Christ who alone has power over all things, Christ who is the supernatural healer of all diseases.
As we look at Jesus as portrayed in Matthew's account, he's going to be listing ten miracles over the next few chapters. First, we’ll see the cleansing of a leper, then Jesus healing a centurion's servant, and then the healing of Peter's mother-in-law. Then, Matthew gives us a kind of a summary statement. I think this is what happens with the miraculous accounts in the New Testament. He did so many miracles, there was so much healing going on that they chose to give in the Bible, just some vignette, some individual stories to give us representation of what he had done after which there are summary statements like John says, "Look, if I wrote down everything that Jesus did and all of the implications and all of the stories, I suppose that even earth itself could not hold the books that would be written." There were just rivers of miracles flowing through Jesus, unlike ever has been seen before or has been seen since then.
Matthew picks a representative sampling of Jesus's supernatural miraculous healing power. We see him healing a leper, healing a Gentile and healing a woman. And it's interesting, those three would have been seen to be outcast or in a lower level of society. I think Matthew chooses these three on purpose, to show Jesus's love, his willingness to reach out to every man, every woman, every child, every nation with his supernatural healing power. As we look at the miracles of Jesus we see a recurring theme. And it's not just with the healings but with every miracle that Jesus did. What is that theme? - Man can't, but Jesus can. You can sum up all the miracles that way. Man can't, but Jesus can. We come face-to-face with our own impotence, our weakness. We cannot defeat sin and death, we cannot defeat disease, but Jesus can do all things. Therefore, I think these miracles also give us a picture of our spiritual situation. Do they not? You look at a leper who comes to Jesus covered with rags, with filthy rags, and he's covered with the effects of the disease, he looks terrible, he's unacceptable spiritually, he's an outcast. That's a picture of us, isn't it? Jesus said in the Sermon on the Mount, "Blessed are the spiritual beggars, for theirs is the Kingdom of Heaven.” It's a picture of our spiritual state. More than anything, I think the miracles are given for a purpose, and that is to mark Jesus as God and to mark him as our savior, worthy of our trust. That as we make much of the name of Jesus, people from all over the world will call on that name for salvation and they will be saved. The miracles are given for that very reason, to demonstrate Jesus is God.
But for other lesser reasons as well. One of the reasons is that it was through Christ that God created the human body. He wove us together, he knit us together, it says, in our mother's womb. And we are fearfully and wonderfully made. You have a nervous system, you have a circulation system, you have a digestion system, and a reproductive system, and muscles, and bones, and all of this is fit together marvelously, isn't it? Who can understand the complexities of the human body? It was through sin that disease entered, and the body lost its capabilities. We became subject to death really, every day. Our cells do not replicate the way they should, there's mutations and problems within us. We are not strong, and we are not healthy. We are not well the way he created us to be good at the beginning. The healing ministry of Jesus really is a redemption back, a buying back of what God originally intended for us. Now, in the end, it will only come with a resurrection body. What is a resurrection body going to be like? No weariness, no fatigue, no disease, no diminishment of capabilities as time goes on, what God intended at the start. It was sin and disease that brought these things in. And so we see a picture of a reversing of the curse, but in the end we see also the depiction of God's power, and his grace, and his mercy, and his compassion, to heal us of our real burden which is sin.
Healing the Leper
Though we are not going to study it now, one of the miracles that Jesus does in Matthew 9, is of a paralyzed man lying before Jesus. It says, "When Jesus saw their faith, he said to that paralyzed man, take heart son, your sins are forgiven." The connection between his healing ministry, and his power to forgive sin should be before us at all times. Let's look at the details that Matthew gives us. First, we have Jesus healing a leper and he's healed to draw near, by that I mean he's healed to draw near to God. He was a social outcast he was a religious outcast, this man. Jesus is coming down from the mountain, he's given the Sermon on the Mount and the crowds are astonished at his teaching. They're amazed at his authority because he taught them as one who had authority and not as the teachers of the law. As he's coming down from the mountain, a huge throng of people comes to him. Many times you think, "If I could only have lived back then, I would go back and see Jesus face-to-face, and the two of us would sit down and we'd talk for hours." You wouldn't get near him, you wouldn't be able to get close, because the reputation had spread all over that land, and people were coming, they were bringing sick people everywhere, they were coming, throngs of them. You couldn't get even close to Jesus. It was one man that seemed to be able to get close and he was a leper. Perhaps once people saw who he was, they ran away from him screaming, perhaps pelting the dirt and rocks. The Law of Moses required they call out and say, "Unclean, unclean,” so that no one would catch his contagion, his disease. He had leprosy.
We've come to understand leprosy a little bit better. When I was in Pakistan actually, visiting a leprosy hospital, I shook their hands, and I was told it was alright. You look at them and it is really a very, very sad thing. One of the things they worked on the most in the leprosy hospital is getting shoes fitted just perfectly for them. Modern science has told us that leprosy is really a nerve disease. It attacks the nerves so that you can't feel anymore. We want to be free from pain but pain is a great gift from God, is it not? It tells you to stop doing what you're doing. But you see a leper can't feel that, he'll pick up a splintered hammer, and start to use it and he'll just keep on using it, not realizing that he's gouging himself with... Gouging his hand with splinters. And even when he's done, he doesn't feel the splinters so they get infected. Little by little, he loses the flesh on his hand because of the infections. Or perhaps that little nerve in your eye that tells your eyelid it's time to blink, your eyes are getting dry. Well, that nerve is destroyed by leprosy, and so he doesn't blink and little by little, he goes blind. If the disease has had time to work on his face, perhaps he bites his lip while eating and his flesh is destroyed by disease.
The leper in Matthew probably looked horrible, a religious outcast, unable to worship, unable to go to the temple. He had to cry out, "Unclean, unclean." People probably made way for this leper as he came near Jesus. Look at the humility as he falls on the ground before him, kneels down and says, "Lord, if you are willing you can make me clean." You see the humble request that he makes, "Lord, if you are a willing." Listen to what he said, "If you are willing, you can make me clean." That's tremendous, isn't it? There is no lack of power in Christ to heal. I don't care what disease you may have brought in with you today, or if you have a loved one that has a disease, there is no lack of power in Christ to heal. If he wants to, he can heal everybody. This man comes humbly and says, "If you are willing, you can. You have power to do it, you can make me clean.” Incredible faith and incredible humility. But Jesus has already shown his willingness, hasn't he? He's been driving out demons, he's been cleansing the lepers, he's been healing. And so, the willingness is already there. That's why he's here, but he assures him and he says so gently, he says, "I am willing, be clean." And just as he speaks, he touches the man, he reaches out and touches him. This was forbidden by the law of Moses, because the moment that Jesus would touch this man, he himself would become ceremonially unclean, except that he's different than anyone that ever lived. If you have a light room filled with bright lights beside a dark room, and a door between them, when the door opens, light floods into that dark room. So it was when Jesus touched that man. Healing and strength went from Jesus right to the hands of that leper, and he was cured immediately. His nerves were renewed, his flesh regenerated, he was new again, he was clean, completely, immediately. This is incredible power, just like the night that Jesus was arrested, and Peter chopped off Malchus's ear. Jesus just reached out his hand and touched his ear and gave him a new ear. Only Christ can do that, and so he heals him.
Having healed the leper, Jesus has revealed himself, he's revealed his power, he's revealed his compassion, he's revealed his tenderness, he's revealed his person, he is God. But now he wants to conceal himself. It's very interesting, he says, "See that no one knows about this, don't tell anyone, but instead go show yourself to the priest and offer the gift Moses commanded as a testimony to them." What's he referring to? In Leviticus, an offering was to be given by somebody cured of leprosy. As soon as they noticed that they were cured, they had to bring an offering to the priest. And so, Jesus said, "Go be a missionary to the priest, and tell them. But don't tell the folks around here." Jesus meticulously obeyed the law of Moses, he said, "Do not suppose that I have come to abolish the Law and the Prophets. I have not come to abolish them, but to fulfill them, I tell you the truth, until Heaven and Earth pass away, not the smallest letter or the least stroke of a pen will by any means disappear from the Law until everything is fulfilled." He meticulously obeyed the law of Moses and said, "Go offer that gift that Moses commanded. But don't tell anyone about this healing." Jesus obeys, but the man does not obey Jesus. We don't see this in Matthew, but Mark tells us what happened. Mark 1:45, it says, "He went out and began to talk freely spreading the news and as a result Jesus could no longer enter a town openly, but stayed outside in lonely places and people still came to him from everywhere." Perhaps we get a little bit of an inside there as to what Jesus’ reasons were. It was hard enough to move around at that point and he didn't need yet another crush of people coming. We don't really know, but we do know that the man refused to obey Jesus.
Healing the Gentile Servant
In verses 5-13, we see the second specific healing — Jesus healing a Gentile to be invited to the feast. This means he's healed to be invited to the feast of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, to sit at the feast with them. This is a striking thing because Jews and Gentiles during Jesus' time hated each other, especially the Jews hated the Romans because the Romans were dominating them. The Romans were in charge and had used their power to lord it over them. They were taking taxes from them; they would confiscate farms, whatever they needed. So the Jews hated the Romans. There was, it says in Ephesians 2, a barrier, dividing wall of hostility between Jew and Gentile, so much so that a Jew would not enter into the home of a Gentile. It seems that this centurion knew about all of this. The centurion's a very humble man who fears God. He was a Gentile, a Roman. He came to Palestine and at some point he came to understand the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. He came to believe in him and trust in him. We get from Luke's gospel that he loved the Jewish nation so much that he built a synagogue for them, but he would not have been permitted to go in the building.
What do you think all of his Roman soldiers, other centurions and his commanding officers would have thought if he had gone on behalf of a servant no less, not even for himself, but on behalf of a servant, to a Jewish carpenter and asked for healing. But that's exactly what he did. And he goes with incredible humility, saying, "Lord, I do not deserve to have you under my roof.” He comes humbly, he calls him Lord. There's a humility here, just as there was with the Leper. We also see the humility of Jesus. In verse six, it says, "Lord, my servant lies at home paralyzed and in terrible suffering." And Jesus said to him, "I will go and heal him." One of the most challenging aspects of Jesus to me as a minister of the Gospel is that he is constantly interruptible. No matter what you need, you come to Jesus and he goes with you to meet that need. He does it with Jairus when Jairus comes to ask for healing for his daughter. He does it again and again. He gets up and goes completely interruptible. He didn't have an agenda for himself that day, only to serve God, only to love his fellow neighbor. There's a humility in Jesus as well.
The centurion says, "Lord, I do not deserve to have you come under my roof, but just say the word and my servant will be healed. For, I, myself, am a man under authority with soldiers under me. I tell this one, go, and he goes, I tell that one, come, and he comes. I say to my servant, do this, and he does it." Now, what is going on here? The centurion is taking what he knows about the world from his Roman army perspective and applying it to the invisible spiritual realm. That is faith. He says, “I’m in the Roman army. The Roman army has conquered the world, not because their swords are stronger than anybody else's, not because they had secret weapons that no one else had, but because of their discipline and structure. So much so that the Emperor could give the word, the tribunes would hear the word and give it to their regional commanders, regional commanders right on down the chain of command to a centurion who is in charge of 100 men." The centurion would get the word and turn right around and pass it on to the hundred men and they would do it and he knew that they would do it, he didn't have to go and see. Because the discipline of the Roman army was such that if you did not obey a command, you would be executed. So with absolute certainty that word that came from emperor right on down the hierarchies to the lowly foot soldier would be obeyed. And he said, "You know something? That's what's going on in the physical realm. Jesus, you are the emperor. You are the king. You give the word. Just speak it and it will be done." Isn't that incredible? "Just say the word." Now, perhaps he didn't understand the theological significance of all of it, that it was Christ, it was God through Christ that spoke, "Let there be light" and there was light, let there be an Earth and there is Earth, let there be mountains and rivers and there are. He just speaks and it is. I don't know if he understood all that, but he understood enough.
You don't need to come to my house, just speak and it is done. Now, ordinarily, Jesus loved to go and do the healing in person. Why? So that the people would understand the connection between Jesus and the healing. It wasn't necessary this time. A man already knows, if I just speak, it's me that heals. And so it is. At this point Jesus just rejoices. Look at verse 10 through 12, "When Jesus heard this he was astonished and said to those following him, I tell you the truth, I have not found anyone in Israel with such great faith. I say to you that many will come from the east and the west and will take their places at the feast with Abraham, Isaac and Jacob in the kingdom of heaven. But the subjects of the Kingdom will be thrown outside into the darkness where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth." It's an incredible statement that Jesus makes here.
In his humanity, Jesus hears this word from the Gentile centurion, and he is astonished. He's amazed at this man's faith. Then he makes a pronouncement: "I haven't found anyone in Israel with faith like this." There's no one among the subjects of the Kingdom that he's going to mention that has a faith like this. Jesus understands better than anyone else what's going on in the invisible realm. He makes a prophecy. He's saying there are going to be Gentiles in heaven. There's going to be many Gentiles in heaven. There's going to be people from as far as the east and the west, and they will come and sit at the same feast; there's only one God, there's only one feasting table, and there's only one Savior, Jesus Christ. He says, "You know, I tell you the truth, there's going to be people from every tribe and language and people and nation." Jesus made a pronouncement that there would be people believing in Christ, from the ends of the earth. The very thing that God had already said through Abraham. He said, "Through your seed, through your offspring, all peoples on earth will be blessed." There's going to be a feast. Do you have your place reserved? Are you sure there's a name tag and a seat for you? Do you have a place at the banqueting table through faith in Christ? Because if you don't, there's only one other alternative, it's either feast or it's hell.
Look at the next verse when Jesus said, "The subjects of the Kingdom who do not believe in me, who do not accept my authority, who do not understand who I am, will be thrown outside into the darkness, where there is weeping and gnashing of teeth." This is nothing other than the doctrine of hell, and it's coming right from the loving lips of our gentle Saviour, Jesus Christ. He did not shy away from warning us about hell. We must understand the suffering and torment of those who reject the gospel message. We must fear it, we must shun it, we must witness, including these words as Jesus did. There is an outer darkness and there will be some in it, those who reject. Then he releases the healing word. Look at Verse 13, "And then Jesus said to the centurion, go. It will be done just as you believed it would. And his servant was healed at that very hour." Isn't that incredible? I wonder what it would be like to be the paralyzed servant. You're laying there and you're in great suffering and all of a sudden something happens and you're moving. Your legs are moving, your arms are moving, you can walk again, you can sit up, you're totally healed, you feel better than you felt in years. He is healed to serve; we're healed to serve anyway, aren't we?
Healing a Woman
Next we get Jesus healing a woman. In verses 14 and 15, it says, "When Jesus came into Peter's house he saw Peter's mother-in-law lying in bed with a fever, he touched her hand and the fever left her and she got up and began to wait on him." The first thing I get out of this is simply this, Peter had a mother-in-law. He must have had a wife. I'm a former Roman Catholic and they say that Peter was the first Pope, and they also say that clergy cannot be married. Well, here's Peter with a mother-in-law and a wife. Apparently she was hospitable. She had the gift of hospitality and opened up her home to Jesus. We're going to learn later in Matthew 8 that Jesus has no place to lay his head. “Foxes have holes and birds of the air have nests but the Son of man has no place to lay his head.” This woman invites Jesus in, "Stay with us."
However, the mother-in-law has a fever. Now what is a fever? A disease has come and the body's immune system responds by elevating the temperature. The idea is the body can handle it and the disease can't. Back in those days when there was not medication or advanced medical techniques, when there were no hospitals, a fever frequently meant death. Jesus comes in and just simply touches her. He speaks to her and rebukes the fever, "Get out of here, fever." The fever's rebuked and instantly her body temperature returns to normal. Whatever bug or virus, whatever was in her, is gone, defeated. Not by her immune system, but by the powerful word of Jesus. He speaks the word and she's healed. She's strengthened now and what does she do? She gets up and begins to serve him. I want to focus on that. There is healing available today for you through the same power of Christ, but it's temporary. If Jesus restores your health to you, it's just because he wants you to serve him more in this world. I think we forget that. There are faith healing ministries who take this statement in Matthew 8:17, "He took up our infirmities and carried our diseases and by his wounds were healed,” and they say “You're healed from every disease and sickness." There are faith healing ministries like that and they say that if you're not healed it's because you lack faith. If Jesus heals you, it's because he wants you to serve him longer on this Earth. The mother-in-law is healed, she's strengthened, she gets up and begins to serve. If Jesus heals you, it's so that you can serve him longer on this Earth, and also to show his compassion, his love,his mercy and his kindness.
Then we get this beautiful summary statement, verse 16, "When evening came many who were demon possessed were brought to him." " And he drove out the spirits with a word and healed all the sick." It's a summary statement; a river of miraculous power flowing through Jesus. This was to fulfill what was spoken through the prophet, Isaiah. “He took up our infirmities and carried our diseases.” The ultimate fulfillment here is spiritual because if you go to Isaiah 53 where he's quoting, it says, "Surely he took up our infirmities and carried our sorrows, yet we considered him stricken by God, smitten by him and afflicted. But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities, the punishment that brought us peace was upon him and by his wounds we are healed. We all like sheep have gone astray, each of us has turned to his own way and the Lord has laid on him the iniquity, the sin of us all." The real healing is spiritual. The real healing is turning to Christ for Salvation.
As we look at this passage, what application can we get from this? First, please stand in awe of the person of Christ. There is no disease that he faces that he could not heal with a word. Do you understand that? It doesn't matter if you've been amputated? He could recreate your hand just as he did with the ear that day. It doesn't matter if you have AIDS, he can heal. It doesn't matter if you have anthrax, it doesn't matter what disease. There is no disease that has come to man that he cannot heal. He has all power in heaven and on earth. Stand in awe of him, he is God, he's in the flesh; stand in awe of the person of Christ and understand his power. It is not always his will to heal. Sometimes it is, but his power is under his sovereign control. Christ is ruler of all. Secondly, trust him to heal. . You may have a disease, you may have walked in here today with cancer. Do you realize that your ultimate trust should not be in chemotherapy, your ultimate trust should not be in radiation treatments, it should not be in the skill of your surgeon or in a pharmaceutical technique. It is Jesus ultimately who heals, for he is the great physician.
I commend to you, therefore, his compassion and gentleness and his supernatural power as God and his perfect wisdom to know what to do. There’s only one way to get a resurrection body and that's to exchange the one you have. How much we focus on this world We're here for a short time. If, miraculously by faith, he heals you, he wants you to serve him more. That's all, you've got more time on Earth to serve Christ. Trust him to heal you physically or to heal a loved one, come humbly to him. It says in James 5, "The prayer offered in faith will make the sick person well, the Lord will raise him up." God can heal today as he healed back then. But finally allow Christ to take up your true burden.
He took up our infirmities, he carried our diseases, we, all, like sheep have gone astray. Each of us has turned to his own way and the Lord has laid on him the iniquity of us all. Jesus suffered on the cross to bear your burden, to take your sins away. Trust him for that, trust him for salvation. Jesus said, "Come to me all you who are weary and burdened and I will give you rest, take My yoke upon you and learn from me for I am gentle and humble in heart and you will find rest for your souls for my yoke is easy and my burden is light." Come to Christ for healing from sin.