Our theme for 2022 is Journey With Jesus. We are taking our journey with Jesus from the Gospel of Matthew. Now that we are moving past the Sermon on the Mount, Matthew is going to record various accounts and events in the life of Jesus. One thing you will notice as you go through Matthew’s gospel is that he is not recording a continuous story. The gospel is not giving us a chronological account nor is it telling us an order of events. Rather, we are seeing short accounts from the life of Jesus, placed together to give us another angle on Jesus’ life. There are two reasons why I bring up this important point.
First, there is a strong temptation by many to want to supplement Matthew’s account with the accounts recorded in the other gospels. I cannot tell you how many commentaries and research works I consulted that did this. Rather than taking the text as it is presented, they go to the other gospels to fill in some of the missing details. This is a big mistake. There is a reason Matthew has recorded what he recorded the way he recorded it. Matthew, nor the Holy Spirit, did not write this gospel believing that his readers would have to go read the other gospels to fully understand what he is writing. We are messing up what Matthew wrote when we import the information from the other gospels into Matthew’s account. So as we journey with Jesus with Matthew’s gospel, please try to not bring in what you know from the other gospels into these accounts.
Second, Matthew records very quick snapshots with few details in many of these accounts. There are some places where Matthew gives us a lengthy account where he wants us to spend a lot of time consider the picture of Jesus presented. But we will see in chapter 8-9 the accounts are very short in comparison to the other gospel accounts. I believe this is one reason why people are tempted to fill in details from the other gospel accounts. Rather than doing this, we are going to look at these short snapshots from Jesus’ life and hold them together to see the theme and thread that Matthew is showing us about Jesus. There is a reason why Matthew, moved by the Holy Spirit, put these events from the life of Jesus next to each other. There is a reason for their placement. There is a message that Matthew is teaching us about Jesus. This is what we are going to uncover as we journey with Jesus in this gospel. Chapters 8-9 record many miracles that Jesus performed which are intended to show the power of Jesus in your life. So open your copies of God’s word to Matthew 8 and we are going to look at the first 17 verses in this lesson about healing.
The Willingness to Heal (8:1-4)
Matthew 8 opens with Jesus concluding his sermon that he proclaimed on the mountain. He is coming down the mountain after preaching that sermon and large crowds are following him. You can imagine the crowd that is walking beside him and behind him. Imagine this large crowd of people encircling Jesus. Have you ever seen on tv how a crowd will follow a celebrity or a sports star? It is just a mass of people are trying to get as close as they can to see the person. There is just a mass of people around Jesus. But something very surprising happens. A man with leprosy comes to Jesus and kneels before him. Remember that people with skin diseases were considered unclean and needed to be separated from the community (cf. Numbers 5:2; Leviticus 13-14). This means that this crowd had to move out of the way as this unclean man approached Jesus.
Listen to what this man says to Jesus. “Lord, if you are willing, you can make me clean.” This is quite an understanding about Jesus. The man does not question if Jesus has the ability to heal. He knows that Jesus does and that is why he has approached Jesus, though he is unclean. The man only has one question. Is Jesus willing to heal him? You can make me clean if you want to. You have the power. Do you want to heal me? Now this man with this skin disease would not be a person that anyone would want to be near. Everyone would want to avoid him. Everyone would want to send him away.
But look at what Jesus does in verse 3. Jesus reached out his hand and touched the man. Did Jesus have to do that to heal him? Did Jesus have to touch this unclean man who has a skin disease? No, he did not have to do that. Jesus reaches out his hand and says, “I am willing. Be clean.” Immediately this man’s leprosy was cleansed. Jesus then tells the man to show himself to the priest as the Law of Moses commanded and it will be a testimony to them that the healer has come.
The first picture that Matthew presents is to show us that Jesus has come because he wants to heal you. He desires to heal. He is willing to heal. You will not come to Jesus for help and healing and find him saying no to you. You have not come to an unwilling savior. In your filthiness, Jesus does not recoil or shutter. He does not tell you to stay back. Jesus is not repulsed by you. You can come to him with all of your sins and find a willing savior.
The Authority to Heal (8:5-13)
The second picture Matthew presents to us begins in verse 5. A centurion approaches Jesus when he comes to Capernaum. The centurion tells Jesus that he has a servant who is lying paralyzed at home and is suffering terribly. Notice that we see the willingness of Jesus again. Jesus says that he will come to heal the servant (8:7). You would think this would be exactly what the centurion wants. But be amazed by how the centurion responds to Jesus.
In verse 8 the centurion says that he is completely unworthy to have Jesus come to his house. But all that is needed is for Jesus to give the command and his servant will be healed. Notice that this comes from the centurion’s understanding of authority. He tells soldiers under his authority to do things and they do it. The centurion understands Jesus’ authority over sickness and diseases. Just say the word and it will happen. He knows that Jesus does not have to be there to accomplish his will. The command is enough.
Jesus is absolutely amazed at the faith of this centurion. His faith is proclaimed to be greater than anyone that he has encountered in Israel (8:10). Jesus goes further to note that this will not be the only time this happens. People from the east and west are going to enjoy the banquet in the kingdom of heaven while many of the sons of the kingdom will be cast out. This is a declaration that the Gentiles are included in the restoration call of the kingdom. It will not be just Jews that are scattered abroad that will be called to enter the kingdom. When the prophets spoke of bringing scattered Israel back, the attitude would have been that this would only include physical Jews. But Jesus says that when the Lord said they were bringing scattered Israel back, it included the whole world of people. Even the Gentiles will be called to come and they will enjoy the benefits of the kingdom while many of physical Israel will miss out.
We will spend more time talking about this in future lessons because Jesus will make this point often. But we need to observe verse 12 carefully because it is the first time that we hear Jesus talking about eternal punishment. The description Jesus gives here of missing out of belonging to the kingdom of heaven is “outer darkness where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.” Not belonging to Jesus is a frightening picture. It is pictured as deep darkness with great pain and sadness. Jesus is willing to keep us from this painful outcome by healing us. Jesus has the authority to keep us from this painful outcome. Jesus has the power to heal us by his very words. He does not need to come down from heaven and physically touch you. His words have the power to heal your life.
Do we look at Jesus’ authority in this light? His words have the power and authority to heal your life and cleanse your sins. This is why our theme for this year is to look at the life and teachings of Jesus. But the healing you want and the healing you need in your life can come to you through his powerful words. Let me plead with you to read, know, and be healed by the words of Jesus. You have the power in your hands. You are holding the healing you need in your hands. This leads us to the final picture that Matthew presents about Jesus. Look at Matthew 8:14-17.
The Ability to Heal (8:14-17)
The final picture reveals Jesus’ amazing ability to heal. He is able to immediately heal Peter’s mother-in-law. Many who are demon-possessed are brought to Jesus and he drove out those spirits with just a word. Look at the words of verse 16. Jesus healed all who were sick. Jesus healed all who were sick, even the most extreme situations like people who had unclean spirits. Jesus has the desire to heal you. Jesus has the authority to heal you through his words. Jesus has the ability to heal every sin. There is nothing too hard for Jesus to cleanse and heal.
The Faith to Be Healed
Look how Matthew concludes his picture of Jesus in verse 17.
This was to fulfill what was spoken by the prophet Isaiah: “He took our illnesses and bore our diseases.” (Matthew 8:17 ESV)
This is a quotation from Isaiah 53:4, a passage that we know well as a messianic prophecy. The point Matthew is making by quoting Isaiah’s prophecy is to show that seeing these visible healing miracles revealed Jesus taking care of our greatness sickness and is the solution to our greatness need. We have a sin problem that he desired to solve, has the authority to solve, and can heal any sin and pain that exists in your life.
But Matthew wants us to see what we need to do. Look at the faith of the man with leprosy. He says to Jesus, “You can make me clean” (8:2). He has the faith in Jesus for cleansing. Look at the faith of the centurion who says to Jesus that you can just say the word to bring healing. Jesus says in verse 13, “Go; let it be done for you as you have believed.” Then we see the many who are bringing those with unclean spirits to Jesus with the faith that Jesus can heal them with a word.
Life change can begin today by having the faith that Jesus has the desire, the authority, and the ability to heal your life. But we easily fall into a trap that Isaiah prophesied would happen. Listen to what Isaiah said would happen from the very place where Matthew quoted.
He was like someone people turned away from; he was despised, and we didn’t value him. Yet he himself bore our sicknesses, and he carried our pains; but we in turn regarded him stricken, struck down by God, and afflicted. (Isaiah 53:3–4 CSB)
Jesus has come with the offer for healing and cleansing. But we do not value him in that way. We despise him our lives. We hold him unworthy of our time. We consider him useless to our lives. Rather than believing in what Jesus can do for us, we reject him and despise him. We value our jobs. We value money. We value possessions. We put our faith in ourselves. We put our hope in this life and in our abilities. We do not value him nor believe in what he can do for ourselves. This is what Matthew wants us to stop and consider. You can healed. You can be changed. You can be cleansed. You can have what you are looking for if you will believe in Jesus. Give your life to him. Listen to his words. Follow his guidance. Do what he says. This is the display of faith believing that Jesus has come for you. Do not say Jesus can’t. Do not say Jesus won’t. Jesus is willing and able. Do you want him? Do you value him? Do you see him as the answer for your life so you can have healing, help, and hope? This is what Jesus is offering you.