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Healing, faith, and prophecy fulfilled

Could you imagine healing leprosy with just a touch?  Could you imagine the outrage of the rule keepers when Jesus--a rabbi--touched an unclean man.  Maybe he knew something the rule keepers should have known.
Could you imagine healing leprosy with just a touch? Could you imagine the outrage of the rule keepers when Jesus--a rabbi--touched an unclean man. Maybe he knew something the rule keepers should have known.
Photo by Robertus Pudyanto/Getty Images

Read Matthew 8:1-17

Jesus came down the mountain and immediately he was asked to heal.

A man with leprosy said to Jesus, “If you are willing, you can make me clean.” He didn’t say “if you can.” The man with leprosy was already convinced that Jesus could heal him.

Interesting use of “If you can” and “if you will.”

So the lesson that seems to begin with healing is really an introduction to faith.

Jesus said, “Yes, I am willing.” He said, “I do want to.” For those with eyes to see, they might have gotten a glimpse of prophecy being fulfilled.

Jesus healed the man but touched him in the process. This surely had to raise some eyebrows among the rule-keepers. A teacher—a rabbi—surely would not touch such and unclean man.

But he did and he healed him.

Then he told the man not to tell anyone what had just happened. Instead he was to go the priest and make the sacrifice required by the law.

At first glance, this might seem a little counterproductive. Jesus just healed this man in broad daylight in front of many witnesses. This wasn’t going to be kept a secret.

So why tell the healed man to do what he told him?

Why?

Jesus had just finished teaching that he was not doing away with the law. The man was healed but Jesus told him to go and do what the law required. Jesus honored the law.

He ignored the rules about touching unclean people but he honored the law.

This healing did not take place in Jerusalem. Jesus had just come down from the top of the mountain where he had been teaching, mostly likely near the Sea of Galilee. That meant this man had to make a journey to see the priests.

While there may have been synagogues that were closer than Jerusalem; sacrifices were only made in the temple.

Many witnessed the miracle and the word of this healing would surely spread quickly but Jesus sent this man on a mission to uphold the law and to alert those who should have known prophecy best that it was being fulfilled in their time.

The messenger did not need to stir up the crowds along the way. The message was for those who should have had eyes to see.

The next section is truly one of my favorites.

A Roman Centurion—an officer, a commanding officer—comes to Jesus. Right away we see that this story doesn’t fit the standard model.

The Romans had their own gods. They were not for real and they didn’t even invent most of them. The Greeks had an inventory of gods so the Romans just renamed them when they became the dominant power of the time.

Caesar, of course, had declared himself to be a god and that was a sore spot for most of the Jews. So this story has a similar quality to the parable of the Good Samaritan. It includes someone from a group of people that the Jews didn’t like. In this case it was a Roman officer and not a Samaritan, but both groups were despised.

The centurion came to Jesus. He did not send for Jesus. He came to him.

He asked him to heal his servant. He wasn’t asking for his wife or son or another family member but for his servant. That’s a little more compassion than a Roman officer would be expected to have for a person who probably was not even a Roman citizen.

But sure enough, this Roman officer is asking Jesus to heal his servant.

Jesus told him that he would come to his house. This is where it gets really interesting.

The officer said that there was no need for that. All Jesus needed to do was say the word. The officer knew what it was to command and to be commanded.

You might think that he was testing Jesus, but everything about him said that this was a genuine request made with great faith and understanding.

This was a man who lived in a culture of authority and he embraced the authority of Jesus.

If you ever wondered if Jesus was ever surprised about anything, this might be a scripture to ponder.

The various translations of this section read: Jesus was surprised, he was amazed, or Jesus marveled.

At what?

Faith! And this was faith from a person where you might least expect it.

And Jesus follows this with another message to God’s Chosen People.

What message?

The people who should have this much faith are missing the boat while those from everywhere else are hearing this message of good news quite clearly.

This is also a foreshadowing of the mission of the apostles to take the gospel to the world.

Oh by the way—the servant was healed at that very moment. Jesus didn’t need to make the trip. What the centurion believed in the name of Jesus was given to him.

How did Jesus follow this up?

He went to Peter’s home where his wife lay sick and Jesus healed her.

He healed her and she got up and went to work waiting on Jesus.

It seems that this part of Matthew has a lot of healing in it, but we must not miss that it also fulfilled prophecy.

He did this to make come true what the prophet Isaiah had said, “He himself took our sickness and carried away our diseases.”

Matthew’s gospel only tells us a little bit of the story from Isaiah. Consider this in a fuller context.

But he endured the suffering that should have been ours,
the pain that we should have borne.
All the while we thought that his suffering
was punishment sent by God.
But because of our sins he was wounded,
beaten because of the evil we did.
We are healed by the punishment he suffered,
made whole by the blows he received.
All of us were like sheep that were lost,
each of us going his own way.
But the Lord made the punishment fall on him,
the punishment all of us deserved.

Jesus healed, he took our pain and sickness and suffering, and even very early in his ministry, having just come down from the Sermon on the Mount, we find him on the way to the cross.

Those who should have seen this coming did not.

Some who might have been without a clue, knew to come to Jesus.

Jesus isn’t turning the world upside-down. He is turning it right-side up.

Amen.