Reading Time: 8 Minutes
Matthew began this section on healing with the remarkable account of a leper being cleansed from his disease. He next described how Jesus healed the servant of a Roman official with an authoritative word from a distance. Healing is, once again, a topic of today’s passage.
Matthew 8.14-17 – And when Jesus entered Peter’s house, he saw his mother-in-law lying sick with a fever. 15 He touched her hand, and the fever left her, and she rose and began to serve him.
16 That evening they brought to him many who were oppressed by demons, and he cast out the spirits with a word and healed all who were sick.
17 This was to fulfill what was spoken by the prophet Isaiah: “He took our illnesses and bore our diseases.”
There are 22 accounts of healing in the Gospels of Matthew, Mark and Luke. Of these, 15 are among marginalized people. In what we have seen so far, an outcast leper, a Gentile official’s servant, and a woman (Peter’s mother-in-law) received healing. Authors differ, but they estimate between 50-70% of Jesus’ public ministry was devoted to healing sickness and delivering people from evil.
Matthew connected the healing ministry of Jesus to Isaiah’s prophecy (verse 17). Isaiah wrote:
“Surely he has borne our griefs
and carried our sorrows;
yet we esteemed him stricken,
smitten by God, and afflicted.
5 But he was pierced for our transgressions;
he was crushed for our iniquities;
upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace,
and with his wounds we are healed.” (Isaiah 53.4-5)
Jesus came to fulfill what Isaiah wrote about the Messiah. Jesus was harmed beyond measure to make peace for us with God. He was stricken, afflicted, and chastened for our sins. This is why he is able to bring us into a peaceful relationship with God.
Jesus bore the griefs and carried the sorrows of people like the leper, the centurion’s servant, and Peter’s mother-in-law. We can be confident that Jesus continues to care for the marginalized, the oppressed, the broken, the vulnerable, and the grieving today.
The third element of Isaiah’s prophecy had to do with healing. He said “with his wounds we are healed” (verse 5). A significant amount of Jesus’ ministry demonstrated this aspect of Isaiah’s message about the Messiah. Again, this is true of his work today.
God Works Through Us
All that Jesus came to do is available today. He forgives, he relates to the broken, and he heals. If we are to learn to live the Jesus-kind-of-life from him, we will be involved in these activities.
— The broken, the vulnerable, the outcasts, and the oppressed know Jesus loves them, when people like us live with them the way we see Jesus doing it in the Gospels. As we read Matthew, let’s pay attention to how he connects with people and seek to imitate his actions.
I think Maywood people do a good job of accepting others. I am very thankful for the many ways I see people reach out. My encouragement is that we look at the fringes of a crowd and welcome anyone who seems to be on the outside. This may apply to church meetings, AA groups or social gatherings.
— At Maywood Baptist Church, we have seen the power of introducing people to Jesus. If we can get people to Jesus, he will forgive their sins, set them free from addictions, and give them a life they never dreamed possible. Let’s be on the lookout for people we can help get into a relationship with Jesus.
Do you have someone for whom you are praying? Ask the Lord to point out one of your friends to care for. Begin praying for that person. If possible, begin relating to this person with the goal of helping them become one of Jesus’ friends.
— Being used by Jesus in his continued mission of healing is also something that is part of living a life like Jesus. Sharing this ministry with Jesus is not beyond what God desires to do through you.
Consider the examples of healing in Matthew 8. The leper was not a highly gifted spiritual leader. The centurion knew fighting and policing, but probably knew virtually nothing about healing. Peter’s mother-in-law was a passive recipient of Jesus touch. The multitude who came were brought to Jesus were only qualified because they came to Jesus.
None of the people we have observed used special techniques or had unusual qualifications. They did have enough faith in Jesus that they came to him and trusted him with their need. All of us have the opportunity to bring people to Jesus.
Our Joy and Honor
The greatest Being of all wants our help. He has a world of wounded, hurting, lost, and broken people that he wants to love, heal and save. Whether you know it or not, he wants you to be part of that mission.
Right now, we have a big job in America. The Pew Research Center pictures an America where people no longer feel a need or desire for church affiliation.
A summary of their research shows that “the number of Americans who do not identify with any religion continues to grow at a rapid pace. One-fifth of the U.S. public – and a third of adults under 30 – are religiously unaffiliated today, the highest percentages ever in Pew Research Center polling.”
Jesus’ outreach to the oppressed, the vulnerable and the broken seems to be lacking, at least to these unaffiliated people. Those who participated in their research “are much more likely than the public overall to say that churches and other religious organizations are too concerned with money and power, too focused on rules, and too involved in politics.”
Even though they have no intention of joining a church or religious body, they value some aspects of what the church does. Research shows: “A majority of the religiously unaffiliated clearly think that religion can be a force for good in society, with three-quarters saying religious organizations bring people together and help strengthen community bonds (78%) and a similar number saying religious organizations play an important role in helping the poor and needy (77%).”
Pew Research describe this large group in America as “the unaffiliated composed largely of religious ‘seekers’ who are looking for a spiritual home and have not found it yet.”
Jesus’ Ministry is Desired
As I read the research paper by Pew Research, it dawned on me that people long for what Jesus came to give. Let’s agree to be the kind of people who give to others what Jesus gave.
— They long for the ministry of healing Jesus that gave to the broken, oppressed, vulnerable and more. Jesus wants to use ordinary people like us to cooperate with him in healing activity.
— They long for a spiritual home for their soul. Followers of Jesus can certainly provide this home, if we are willing to join Jesus in his often “messy” work with those who need him.
— Their negative opinions of power, money and politics in the church demonstrate a desire for grace, love, and acceptance. Jesus was opposed by a religious system, because he offered grace, love and acceptance. Let’s join Jesus in his mission.
Dear Jesus, we praise you for the picture we find of you in Matthew’s Gospel. We are challenged and blessed to know that you want us to join you in this work. Please help us to join you in your healing, accepting, and grace-giving work. May we help people in our world become your friends.