Many of us have come to Christ because we needed healing. Some days, it feels like our whole life needs fixing. If you’re looking for a cure for your troubled mind or broken body, look no further than Jesus. In this abbreviated excerpt from the Cecil Sherman Formations Commentary Set, a collection of digestible lessons spanning the whole Bible, we will be looking at how Jesus proved Himself to be our Healer.


Healer: Matthew 9:27-38

Introduction

“Who Is This Jesus” is our theme. In this lesson we identify Jesus as “Healer.” Matthew meant for us to see Jesus as “Healer.” Our text comes from a cluster of healings Matthew pulled together. To feel the power of the text and catch the sense of what Matthew is trying to do, we need to see this text in its context.

  • 8:1-4 Jesus healed a leper.
  • 8:5-13 He healed the centurion’s servant.
  • 8:14-17 He healed Peter’s mother-in-law.
  • 8:28-9:1 He healed the Gadarene demoniacs.
  • 9:2-8 He healed a paralytic.
  • 9:18-26 He raised from the dead a little girl.
  • 9:27-31 He made two blind men see.
  • 9:32-34 He put a demon out of a mute man and made the man speak.

What is Matthew trying to tell us in this series of healing stories? I believe Matthew is telling us that healing is essential to identifying Jesus. Sometimes in our hurry to get to the teachings of Jesus, we almost skip over the healing stories. They create special problems and strain our credulity. They raise all sorts of questions for a science-oriented public that we need to face. Once, theologians tied science in knots. The church restricted the study of the physical world, but the tables turned. If the Bible speaks of miracles, then the Bible must be a primitive book that does not honor the scientific method.

The Same God who made the rules doctors live by is the God who occasionally does what we label as a miracle.

The scientific method of “knowing” is valuable, but it does not and cannot answer all questions. What is right and wrong? Is there a God? What is going to happen to me when I die? Science does not handle these questions very well. Further, there are times when healing doesn’t fit very well inside either the theological or the scientific box. People get well when doctors don’t think they have a chance. People die when it looks like they are going to get well. Why? All around healing there is art, science, mystery, and God. The same God who made the rules doctors live by is the God who occasionally does what we label as a miracle. God made the rules; He can lay the rules aside and work beyond our understandings when God chooses. God gets to be God.

In this comment I will not dwell at length on a particular miracle. I’m no better at dissecting a miracle than you are, but I can pull at the themes in these healing stories that have a bearing on who Jesus is and how I’m supposed to act his follower.

I. Healing and Compassion.

Jesus was tireless in his compassion, but have you ever worked in a “night shelter”? When morning comes you feel spent. Taking care of careless or helpless people burns energy like nothing else I know. Watch the way Matthew presents Jesus:

  • “When Jesus had come down from the mountain, great crowds followed him; and there was a leper”. (Mt 8:1)
  • “When he entered Capernaum, a centurion came to him, appealing to him, and saying, ‘Lord, my servant is… paralyzed’ “. (8:5)
  • “When he entered Peter’s house, he saw his mother-in-law lying in bed with a fever”. (8:14)
  • “When he came to the other side, to the country of Gadarenes, two demoniacs coming out of the tombs met him”. (8:28)
  • “And just then some people were carrying a paralyzed man lying on a bed. When Jesus saw their faith, he said to the paralytic”. (9:1-2)
  • “While he was saying these things to them, suddenly a leader of the synagogue came in…saying, ‘My daughter has just died’ ”. (9:18)
  • “As Jesus went on from there, two blind men followed him, crying loudly, ‘Have mercy on us, Son of David!’ ”. (9:27-28)

These examples make my point. Sick people were constantly asking Jesus for help. He did not brush them off; amazingly, he kept responding. His compassion was endless. I’ve worked in church offices where we acted like Jesus, and I’ve worked in places where you would never guess we had anything to do with Jesus. Compassion fatigue is common. The Apostle Paul said, “Brothers and sisters, do not be weary in doing what is right” (2 Thess 3:13). My inclination, while working with the poor, was to try to separate the worthy poor from the unworthy poor. This made me a detective, not a pastor.

I did better when I just tried to respond like Jesus. Note the marginal people in the list of sick people. Lepers were at the edge of Jewish society. Centurions were associated with the hated Romans. Demon-possessed people were chained in the cemeteries. One man was “a leader of the synagogue” (9:18). He was in the mainstream of Jewish life, but the man was desperate. Under normal circumstances he probably wouldn’t have been open to Jesus.

Our churches have developed a painful pattern. We can be defined as pretty normal, middle-class Americans. We need to recognize that the healing compassion of Jesus extended to the down-and-out, the excluded foreigners, the frightening insane. I’m pretty good at working with people who are like me. The people at the edges are more difficult, and I’ve observed they are difficult for the church too. We need to work on that. Jesus was at home with people at the margins.

II. Healing and Power.

Matthew’s message is clear. Miracles and the power it takes to accomplish a miracle identify Jesus as “Son of God.” Numerous commentators note that there are ten miracles cited in chapters 8–9, the same number of miracles Moses worked to free the Hebrews from Egypt. As Moses freed God’s people long ago, so Jesus frees people from their diseases in Matthew’s time.

In our time we have put our own “spin” on the miracles of Jesus. We see a compassionate Christ who cared about the hurting masses. But Matthew lived in another time. His Gospel set out to tell people who Jesus was, and he carefully constructed his material to deliver his message. Matthew wrote to answer our theme: “Who Is This Jesus?” Pulling together the miracles, presenting them in the way he did, was all for a purpose. Matthew is saying that because Jesus can heal, cast out demons, and raise a little girl from the dead, Jesus must be the Messiah and “Son of God.”

The first 400 years of Christianity were defining. When Matthew wrote (around AD 75 to 80), people did not have a clear fix on who Jesus was. The church had not hammered out her theology. Matthew’s stories of healing were basic building blocks for the church as she built the theology we take for granted today.

One other idea needs to be included in this section on “Healing and Power”. Several of the miracles have a comment about faith. “When Jesus saw their faith, he said to the paralytic” (9:2). When Jesus healed the centurion’s servant, there is this faith comment: “Truly I tell you, in no one in Israel have I found such faith” (8:10b). And the woman who had the hemorrhage drew a word about faith: “Take heart, daughter; your faith has made you well” (9:22).

Our faith plays an important part in all God does for us.

To what extent does our faith trigger Christ’s healing or God’s attention? I don’t know the answer, but the suggestion of this text is that our faith plays an important part in all God does for us. George Buttrick defined faith as “a native expectancy quickened in the course of man’s experience by the promptings of God”. Faith assumes we are not alone, and the God who “is there” wants good for us. And when people of faith greeted Jesus, they saw in him help, hope, and the nearness of God. There was the possibility that their desperate situations could be relieved and their diseases healed. Faith is not magic that will wipe away pain, but faith in God may loose the goodness and power of God in ways beyond my imagining. Then and now, God in Christ asks something of us even as we are asking of him.

III. Healing and Organization.

The conclusion of the “miracle chapters” is surprising. In verses 36-38 the text takes an unexpected turn. Two ideas you will want to consider:

(1) Jesus designed a strategy for caring and healing. All that had happened through chapters 8–9 can be compressed into a sentence. “When he saw the crowds he had compassion for them, because they were harassed and helpless” (9:36). Even Jesus, powerful and tireless as he was, could not reach or help all the “harassed and helpless.” There had to be some way to multiply himself.

From chapter 10, “Then Jesus summoned the twelve…and gave them authority over unclean spirits, to cast them out, and to cure every disease and every sickness” (10:1). The rest of Matthew 10 is instruction to the Twelve about how they are to extend the ministry of Jesus. When disciples like you and me are at our best, we are extensions of the healing ministry of Jesus.

(2) Jesus elevated the laity. “The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few; therefore ask the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest” (9:37-38). God’s work is not going to be accomplished by just priests or preachers. There aren’t enough of us. Fishermen and tax collectors will have to enlist, be trained, and commissioned to task. Jesus fast-tracked twelve laymen into ministry. And what Jesus did is still happening. From churches today, laypeople are becoming missionaries for two weeks, God’s carpenters for ten days, God’s healers for a month. The job is getting done. The style is different, but the result is the same. People are finding healing.

For Jesus, healing covered a lot of bases. It’s not a narrow term that refers only to physical diseases. I can be sick in mind and spirit. When Jesus healed someone, he would often add a word that suggests what I am trying to say. He healed people in body and spirit. We need to do the same. Jesus healed all our broken parts.

The healing power of Jesus was extended to the apostles. In these days we leave healing to doctors. I have never sensed the power to heal in my work in ministry, but I’m more open to the idea today than I was thirty years ago. I pray for the sick with greater faith and hope – I think it is what I am supposed to do. This series is about defining Jesus, but as we define him, we also are marking the course we are supposed to follow. Think about it.


Looking for more info on healing? Read our post about praying for healing!

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Cecil Sherman Formations Commentary Set Healer

The Cecil Sherman Formations Commentary Set (5 Vols) is a beautiful mix of commentary and devotional. It is divided into lessons that touch on a major theme (such as “Who Is This Jesus?”), helping you understand and apply lessons from the entire Bible. if you enjoyed this look into Jesus as Healer, add the Cecil Sherman Formations Commentary Set to your collection today!

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