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Jesus, the Healer

Date: Jan. 31, 2016

Author: Dan Bockenfeld

Matthew 8:1-17

Key Verse: Matthew 8:17

“This was to fulfill what was spoken through the prophet Isaiah: ‘He took up our infirmities and bore our diseases.’”

This past week has been a bit of a rough one for my family. You might remember that last weekend my son Lucas wasn’t necessarily feeling well. He had been running a fever but didn’t really have any other symptoms. Unfortunately for my family that didn’t last long. He developed a cough and a sneeze and gave it to everyone in the family. Each of us had a fever, a cough and were sneezing. We took Lucas to the doctor on Tuesday to see what was up and he said that Lucas had a virus in his upper respiratory system. It was a bug that was going around knocking out families everywhere. Late Tuesday, he seemed better and had no sign of a fever by the next morning. I was with the kids on Wednesday and he seemed happy and fine until around 5:30, when he just wanted to sit on the couch next to me under a blanket. He sat like that until 7:15. Now, Lucas is two. There is very little that could keep a two-year-old still for nearly two hours. His temperature spiked above 102 °F and we had difficulty getting it down. It stayed that way all night long and to the next day. We took him into the doctor again and he was diagnosed with the flu. While recovering from one virus, he got another. He had been taking acetaminophen and ibuprofen for days, and at the very mention or sight of medicine, he would just say that he didn’t want it. Poor little guy, he was in need of healing. Healing is something that we all need from time to time or all the time. We get sick; we get injured; we get hurt; and we become broken. It is a fact of life. For centuries, for millennia, we have been afflicted and infected. In 2013, 611,105 people died because of heart disease in the United States; 584,881 people died of cancer; 149,205 people died of lower respiratory diseases; 130,557 people died via unintentional injury; and 128,978 people died of stroke. That’s 1.6 million people dying because of disease and injury. None of us has ever died, but we have all been sick, injured, in emotional distress, weary, depressed and what we really need is healing. In today’s passage, we find Jesus healing a lot of different people a lot of different ways. He heals from near; he heals from far; he heals a few; and he heals many. Jesus heals because he goes to the root of the malady.

Our passage today begins, “When Jesus came down from the mountainside, large crowds followed him. A man with leprosy came and knelt before him and said, ‘Lord, if you are willing, you can make me clean.’” (1-2) Jesus had been up on the mountain giving his Sermon on the Mount that we finished last week. He was talking to a multitude of people, and they were amazed at what he said and especially with how he said it. Jesus spoke with authority, more authority than they have ever seen, and when he finished his sermon, the crowd continued to follow him. As Jesus was walking along, a man with leprosy came and knelt before him. Now, leprosy is a disease caused by bacteria and there can be no symptoms for five to twenty years after infection. Eventually, the symptoms that do form are granulomas from around nerves, respiratory tract, skin and eyes. Granulomas are white blood cells that gather around an item that the immune system thinks is foreign and cannot get rid of. This means that the immune system cordons off nerves and skin thinking that they are foreign to the body. Over time, there is a loss of feeling and pain because the nerves no longer function. Then disfigurement can occur because the person does not know that they have been injured or if a secondary infection has taken place. In ancient times, leprosy was fatal and widely considered to highly contagious. It was impossible to cure. It was considered to be just as difficult to cure as death itself.

People with leprosy were required to live away from other people and not even have contact with people who were not infected. When this man comes to Jesus, there is a huge crowd around Jesus. He wasn’t supposed to be around non-infected people, but he approached Jesus. This shows some boldness in the man. He is bold in his belief that Jesus can heal him. When he comes to Jesus, the man kneels before him and calls him Lord. The man humbles himself before Jesus. He is bold and he is humble. The man does not ask Jesus for healing, he says, “Lord, if you are willing, you can make me clean.” He is sure of Jesus’ power and leaves the choice of healing up to Jesus’ willingness. There is a lot to commend this man about. He has faith and probably stronger faith than all of us here, but he is still a man with leprosy.

Instead of looking at this man, I want to look at Jesus. When the man made his claim about Jesus, Jesus responded. “Jesus reached out his hand and touched the man. ‘I am willing,’ he said. ‘Be clean!’ Immediately he was cleansed of his leprosy.” (3) Jesus touched the man. According to Jewish law, Jesus was in danger of becoming unclean himself by touching the man with leprosy. As a teacher, Jesus would have been well aware of this fact, as would the entire crowd. However, none of that mattered to Jesus. One of God’s children was in need and he was willing to help. When Jesus heals, he heals willingly. The Bible calls for believers to love God with everything we have. Similarly, when Jesus does what he does, he does it with everything he has. When he is willing to heal, he isn’t ten percent willing; he isn’t twenty-five percent willing or even seventy-five percent willing. Jesus is one hundred percent willing to heal this man. If Jesus was any less willing, he could have healed him from afar, but instead he was so willing that he went to the man, touched the man and healed him. Jesus is willing to touch our nastiness, to touch our disgustingness, to touch all the vileness in our lives in order to heal us. A number of weeks ago, my daughter woke up, came out of her room and threw up in the hallway. It was thick and disgusting and on the walls. My love for her helped me to clean up the mess: to wipe the walls and the floor and make sure Ella was ok. I was willing to help her with all I had. Jesus is the same way. He is willing to heal no matter how nasty it gets. In the case of the man with leprosy, the man was healed immediately. Jesus is a willing healer.

After healing the man with leprosy, Jesus continued to Capernaum, his base of operations. There, Jesus met a centurion, who was asking for help. “Lord,” he said, “my servant lies at home paralyzed, suffering terribly.” (6) This situation is, again, unusual. The centurion was a Roman soldier, a Gentile. Also, his people were occupying the nation, so the Jews really didn’t like them. Yet, this Gentile soldier, who would be considered just as unclean as the man with leprosy, came to Jesus concerning his paralyzed servant. Also, like the man with leprosy, the centurion approached Jesus with great respect. He called him “Lord” and simply told Jesus what was going on. The man’s servant was paralyzed. Unlike the man with leprosy, this was not a disease, but an injury. Like the other man, however, Jesus was willing to heal. Some translations state that Jesus said, “I will go and heal him.” Others state, “Shall I go and heal him?” At any rate, Jesus was willing to follow the centurion to his home, a Gentile, unclean home.

The centurion, on the other hand, had other ideas. He replied, “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; and that one, ‘Come,’ and he comes. I say to my servant, ‘Do this,’ and he does it.” (8-9) Either the centurion recognized the Jewish/Gentile relationship or he simply saw Jesus’ greatness and divinity and saw that he was not deserving to have Jesus come to his house. He knew that Jesus had the power to heal and he knew that that power was not limited to being in proximity to the one being healed. Jesus had the authority to order healing from anywhere and the centurion knew that it would be done. He saw it as he saw his own life. He was in charge of a group of one hundred soldiers. Each of those soldiers follows the centurion’s orders no matter what they are. If one of his soldiers is ordered to go to his death, he would obey without question. In the same way, the centurion saw that Jesus’ order to heal would be obeyed without question.

Jesus was amazed at the centurion’s response. No one had ever had enough faith to trust Jesus at his word. All other healing and miracles up to this point happened with Jesus being in the vicinity of the one needing healing. The one who was healed knew that Jesus did it because he was right there. The centurion had no proof that Jesus’ word worked until he got back home to see the result, yet he trusted that the healing had happened. Jesus said that he hadn’t found anyone in Israel with such faith and those who have such faith would join in the heavenly feast, while those you feel entitled will be thrown out. Jesus then told the centurion to go and that it would be done just as he believed it would and at that moment the servant was healed.

Even though, Jesus is still very willing to heal the servant, this section highlights Jesus’ authority to heal. His authority does not extend to immediately around him. Nor does it extend to merely infectious diseases. Jesus has the ability to heal anyone, anywhere and at any time. Jesus took the servant who was broken and could not move and just said the word and he was healed. In both accounts, the healing happened immediately. There wasn’t a delay or a deliberation. Jesus did not plead the they would be healed, but it was with a simple word that they were healed, just like the centurion believed. At the time of creation, God spoke creation into existence. God said, “Let there be light,” and there was light. There wasn’t a deliberation to determine if light actually wanted to exist. It just obeyed and existed without delay. The same type of authority exists in Jesus’ healing. Jesus has authority over disease and injury.

After healing the centurion’s servant, Jesus went to Peter’s house. Peter’s house is widely believed to be Jesus base of operations for his ministry. It is the place where Jesus would always return to after teaching, preaching and healing in the countryside. Peter’s family would have known Jesus very well and served his ministry in many ways. However, when Jesus arrived this time, there was something different. “When Jesus came into Peter’s house, he saw Peter’s mother-in-law lying in bed with a fever.” (14) Peter’s mother-in-law was sick in bed with a fever. Illness had come close. But again, to Jesus, this was but another healing. He was willing and he had the authority, so he healed Peter’s mother-in-law. “He touched her hand and the fever left her, and she got up and began to wait on him.” (15) This time, Jesus didn’t even say anything. He just touched her hand and the fever left her. When Lucas had his higher fever late Wednesday and Thursday, he just wanted to sleep. For a period of about 24 hours, he just wanted to lie down and sleep. His temperature didn’t go below 102 °F and was a high as 104 °F. Medicine was not helping. So, our whole family laid our hands on him and prayed for him one by one: Ella, Viola and then me. Within an hour, his sleepiness lifted and his temperature dropped. He was feeling more like his normal self. We got close to Lucas and prayed for him. Likewise, in this section, we see Jesus get intimate in his healing.

In the healing of the man with leprosy, the centurion’s servant, and Peter’s mother-in-law, the healing was personal and intimate. Jesus knew exactly what was wrong and what was needed. He didn’t just help with the physical, but he dealt with deeper issues. The man with leprosy was sick, but his disease isolated him from other people. No one wanted to touch him, and depending on how far along his condition was, he might not have been able to feel it anyway. He was cocooned in his own body, and Jesus came to give him what he needed, not only healing, but human touch. No one said anything about Jesus touching the man with leprosy, but it was that sort of intimate healing that he needed. In the same way, the centurion needed more than to have his servant healed. The centurion needed to witness Jesus’ authority, so Jesus showed it to him. That is the kind of healer that Jesus is. When we go to see a doctor, we receive care, but it is not hyper-individualized. Treatments are not individually tailored to our specific needs and situations. Dosing of medications is determined by our body size and even then, the treatment in not a holistic one. Our physical malady may be treated but the emotional issues may still remain. Jesus is able to know what our whole issue is and able to get to the root of it all. Jesus is an intimate healer.

After healing Peter’s mother-in-law, it wasn’t over. “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.” (16) Jesus had more healing to do. There were a lot of demon-possessed people that were brought to Jesus. He drove out the spirits and healed all of the sick. I’m not sure how many people this was, but it seems like quite a few. After all the healing that Jesus performed, he could have been weary, but instead, he was able to continue healing people. This verse shows that there is no limit to Jesus ability to heal. He can go all night and the next day and his power will not run out. There is no healing that is too large. Healing leprosy was second to raising the dead in terms of difficulty and yet, Jesus healed the man of his leprosy. We have the ability to cure leprosy now, through medicine, but paralysis is still something that we cannot heal. Scientists and doctors are working on it, but right now we have no cure. Yet, Jesus healed the paralyzed servant. There is no limit to what Jesus can do. Jesus is a limitless healer.

If we put this all together, what do we get? We have Jesus as a willing healer. We have Jesus with the authority to heal. We have Jesus with intimate knowledge to know how to heal correctly. We have Jesus with limitless power to actually heal everything. Our lives are filled with need for healing. There are some right now in this room who are living with an affliction, whether disease, pain, or emotional distress. But there is healing in Jesus. All of us will be faced with maladies at some point. Heart disease, cancer, flu, broken bones, paralysis, arthritis, organ failure, PTSD, and depression are all on the board for our collective future. When we are afflicted, we can have two outlooks. We can live hopeless, wallowing in our malady; or we can have hope, knowing that we have a healer that is willing and able to handle anything that comes his way. That hope is so important to have. There are independent studies that show that hope and faith can be the difference between healing and death.

Jesus is our hope because he heals completely. He knows the fullness of our maladies and knows their true root. Jesus came to take care of that root issue. What I am going to talk about, honestly, I’ve never heard before. I’ve seen bits and pieces, but never have I heard it put together like this before. Let’s look at our last verse. “This was to fulfill what was spoken through the prophet Isaiah: ‘He took up our infirmities and bore our diseases.’” (17) Jesus came to this earth to fulfill God’s plan and as the verse mentions, Jesus came to take up our infirmities and bear our diseases. Jesus came to carry our maladies, as we can see in the rest of this passage, but for those eagle-eyed people out there, you might recognize that the verse is taken from Isaiah 53, a very famous passage. In that book, the verse is translated, “Surely he took up our pain and bore our suffering,” (Isaiah 53:4) Infirmities and diseases are also translated as pain and suffering. When you continue in Isaiah, “But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities;” (Isaiah 53:5) Here were have transgressions and iniquities, and these refer to sin. So when you take this back to the previous verse, it also looks like it is referring to sin. Matthew uses it for disease, but Isaiah also uses it for sin. This is not to say that sin is like a disease. This actually means something even more. They are not like each other; they are one and the same. Disease and brokenness are the direct result of sin. Let me explain.

I do not mean that your malady is the direct result of your sin. It might be, but not necessarily. I will say that again: I do not mean that your sickness is the direct result of your sin. However, disease, pain and suffering did not enter into the world until sin entered the world. Before sin, there was no disease; there was no pain; there was no death. As Paul wrote, “sin entered the world through one man, and death through sin, and in this way death came to all people, because all sinned.” (Romans 5:12) Sin broke the order of the world and created a way for creation to die. Humanity would die through disease and injury. Disease exists because of everyone’s sin. All the little sins snowballed and perverted the world. What was designed to be good transformed to become deadly. This is the root of all disease and injury. If you remove sin, then there is no more disease or injury or death. We will not feel pain, only joy. To heal global disease, you must treat global sin, and that, we know, is the whole reason why Jesus came to this earth.

Jesus came to take sin away. He came to this earth to suffer and die on the cross to bear the weight of our sins. Jesus came to die in our place, so that he may rise before us and conquer death and defeat sin. Jesus died on the cross and rose from the dead. Then he ascended to heaven to prepare a place for us until the right time. At the time, there will be a new heaven and a new earth. “There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.” (Revelation 21:4) The new heaven and the new earth will be a place were creation is restored to its perfect state, like before sin existed in the world. Without sin, there will be no disease, pain or death. There is just life everlasting. That is the ultimate hope that we have. We will be completely, fully, 100% healed of everything that has ever afflicted us. Jesus has the power; he has the authority; and he is willing.

What this means for us now is that there is a possibility for us to be healed now of something that afflicts us, but it is merely heaven breaking through. This current creation is falling apart and cracking, and through those cracks, heaven is shining through. Every healing and restoration that happens now is another crack in creation as heaven breaks through. Now, not every malady will be healed in this creation. Many of us will remain afflicted until the day heaven fully breaks through. This is not a knock against Jesus. It just shows us that our hope lies beyond the shattered façade to the new creation underneath.

Jesus came to heal. He is willing to heal, has the authority to heal, knows all the intimate knowledge to heal us properly and has the limitless power to heal all of our maladies. No matter what afflicts us, Jesus can take care of it. He is the healer and he heals completely. The root of all our maladies is sin, everyone’s sin, and Jesus came to bear all those sins on the cross. He solved sin and is creating a new heaven and new earth where there is no sin, disease, pain or death. That new creation is breaking through into this one, and we can know that every crack that forms is one more step to complete healing.

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