Scripture Reading: Matthew 8 - 10 …
As you read these chapters it is easy to see why people then and now tend to focus on the power of Jesus to heal every disease and to cast out evil spirits. Reading about Jesus’ ministry in the Gospels it feels like a rapid-fire account of events, one after the other, all of which were astounding and confusing to those who saw them, even to the twelve. There was clearly nothing that Jesus could not do, from healing the sick to raising the dead, from calming the storm to casting out demons. Yet ultimately, that's not why He came! There’s so much more. And you begin to hear that message in the words of Jesus recorded for us here by one who was an eyewitness.
People are often told today that Jesus will take away all their diseases and solve all of their problems and make their life easy, almost like heaven on earth. Why wait? You can have it all now! But that’s not what Jesus taught or why He came. What is of greater importance in these chapters and throughout the Gospels is the central purpose of Jesus' coming, of His life and ministry, and of God's sending His Son into the world: Forgiveness!! It was not Jesus’ desire to be known as the great “healer.” Notice that Jesus told them repeatedly, "Don't tell anyone!" Of course, they did and news spread throughout the countryside that this man was able to heal diseases.
However, it is in His words to the paralytic and the reaction of some of the teachers of the law that we find the real purpose of His coming. Seeing the faith of those who brought the paralytic to Him, Jesus said to the man who was lying on his mat, "Take heart, son; your sins are forgiven" (9:2) Jesus had to have known what the reaction of the religious leaders would be. “This fellow is blaspheming!” they said (9:3). They rightly knew that only GOD could forgive sins. Knowing their thoughts, Jesus said, "So that you may know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins … Get up, take your mat and go home!" (9:6). There it is, so clear that only the blind could not and cannot see it: Jesus WAS God! Jesus IS God!!
Later, when at the home of Matthew, the tax collector, and again hearing the criticism of the Pharisees because he was eating with tax collectors and sinners, Jesus said, "I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners" (9:13). Jesus came to offer Himself as the perfect sacrifice for sins on the cross and to offer forgiveness and eternal life to all who believe in Him.
Many people today continue to be focused on physical healing as an essential part of the ministry of the Gospel and of those who are disciples of Jesus. Some debate the issue by pointing to what Jesus did and then at what He told the disciples to do in Chapter 10. He "gave them authority to drive out evil spirits and to heal every disease and sickness" (10:1). Having no great desire to enter into that debate, I will simply say that I know Jesus has the power to do the same thing today, and that God still performs miracles and sometimes answers the prayers of His people by bringing miraculous healing and even casting out demons. God hasn't changed.
But … was that the primary purpose of Jesus' coming … then or now?? In his second letter to the Corinthians the Apostle Paul, inspired by the Spirit of God to write down what God wants His people to know through all generations, wrote, “The things that mark an apostle – signs, wonders and miracles – were done among you with great perseverance” (II Corinthians 12:12). The writer of Hebrews calls his readers to pay careful attention to the message of salvation that they had heard: “This salvation was confirmed to us by those who heard Him. God also testified to it by signs, wonders and various miracles, and gifts of the Holy Spirit distributed according to His will” (Hebrews 2:3-4). Whether some or all of these things continue today is up for debate, for this was a unique time in history as the ones who were with Jesus testified to the truth of who Jesus was and what He came to do.
They were entrusted with the Gospel, with the message that has the power to save sinners from the wrath of God, from His eternal judgment. Jesus told them that He did not come to bring peace on earth, but a sword (10:34). The Gospel divides people because it demands a response. You either believe that Jesus suffered God's wrath on the cross and confess Him as Savior and Lord, thus receiving His forgiveness … or you don't.
Jesus said, "Anyone who does not take his cross and follow me is not worthy of me. Whoever finds his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it" (10:38-39). It is true, you see, that you can be physically healed by Jesus and still face the wrath of God in hell. The greater thing … the greater gift … the greater purpose of Jesus' coming was His sacrifice on the cross, by which He removed the barrier that stood between us and God and reconciled us to the Father. When we "lose," when we give up that which we desire in this life, we find true life in Christ. Jesus MAY heal our bodies, but He ALWAYS heals the spirits of those who come to Him by faith.
While people clamor to those who claim to offer physical healing, the Gospel offers true spiritual healing to all who believe. It is the message the disciples proclaimed, the message of God’s kingdom, of the reign of Jesus Christ, that is "the power of God for the salvation of all who believe" (Romans 1:16). You must believe that Jesus has the power to forgive your sins, to heal your soul, to bring your dead spirit to life!
Praise God for this message that points to Jesus and that carries with it the power to SAVE … to bring spiritual healing to those who are spiritually DEAD in their sin. As surely as Jesus healed the sick and raised the dead in full sight of witnesses, so He does today through the preaching and teaching of His Word through you and me who believe. We are the laborers who are sent out into His harvest field and God promises to use us to gather in the final part of the harvest before Jesus returns.
May we be found so doing when He comes!
"Father, how can we thank You for healing our sinful hearts and minds through the power of Your Word! Draw us to find in the Gospel the healing we need and to proclaim to all that Jesus is willing to heal THEM! Then You will be glorified and Your kingdom will come in our midst. In Jesus' name, Amen"