We have been looking at the Sermon on the Mount as found in Matthew's gospel. The sermon begins with chapter five, and ends at the conclusion of chapter seven. Jesus didn't worry about "keeping it short and sweet." Chapters eight and nine deal with the authority and power of Jesus to heal.
"When he came down from the mountainside large crowds followed him. A man with leprosy came and knelt before him and said, 'Lord, if you are willing, you can make me clean.' Jesus reached out his hand and touched the man. 'I am willing,' he said. 'Be clean!' Immediately he was cured of his leprosy." (Matthew 8:1-3)
From here on, Jesus performs several healings. Here, he heals a leper, next he heals a centurion, then he heals Peter's mother-in-law. So, let's focus on these three healings. Now, since I have become a Christian I have prayed for the sick and observed others doing the same. I have heard folks declare that God healed them. Then, there are those moments when it doesn't appear that healing is going to take place. Do I believe that God can heal? Yes! I do! I believe that God can do anything. I shall never forget the day Vangie (I won't give her last name) came to church for the very first time. Everyone knew her, and were aware of her lifestyle. She was an alcoholic in every sense of the word. But, there she was...at church. And she attended every service from that point on. One night she made her way to the altar and gave her life to the Lord. Unfortunately, not long after that she was told that she had cancer. But, we prayed for her. Ladies from the church made sure she made it for her treatments. As time went on she gave a report as to what the doctors were telling her. One night, she stood up with tears in her eyes and said, "The doctors can not explain what has happened. They can not find the cancer. I am healed. WOW! I'll never forget that. Nor, will I truly ever forget attending her funeral six weeks later. I have wondered and wondered, "What was your purpose in that, God?" Well, I think I know, but I'm not for certain. I think, in reality, Vangie was in fact, healed. She also brought the church together in a way it hadn't been together in a long time. The point is, sometimes healing is not always about the body of the person needing healed. Sometimes, God's acts of healing are about everyone else.
Let's look at the bigger picture in regard to these healing narratives. What is interesting is that in the Gospel of Matthew there are ten miracles that are recorded. Is it important that there are only ten miracles listed in Matthew? Yes! One could automatically assume that it was because there were ten commandments. But, no! That is actually not the reason. The reason is, the ten miracles correspond with the ten wonders performed before the Israelites while they were in Egypt. Remember, Matthew is writing to a Jewish-Christian audience.
What was the healing of the leper about? Well, preacher, it showed us how Jesus can heal. Duh! Well, no! That was not the true purpose of any of the healing miracles. Nope, they were all about the bigger picture. Lepers were outcasts from society. If you touched a leper you risked contamination and became unclean yourself. Notice, Jesus touched the man. Jesus touching this man should have made Jesus unclean, but instead made the leper clean. Jesus' actions would be offensive to the authorities of Israel. So, he commanded the leper to obey the requirements of Leviticus 14:2-7. Remember, Jesus said, according to Matthew: "I have not come to abolish the Law...but to fulfill." (Mat. 5:17b) Here, in the first recorded miracle Jesus makes this clear through his action.
"When Jesus had entered Capernaum, a centurion came to him, asking for help. 'Lord,' he said, 'my servant lies at home paralyzed and in terrible suffering.' Jesus said to him, 'I will go and heal him.'" (Mathew 8:5-7)
The centurion is a Gentile and a Roman officer in command of 100 soldiers. Why tell this account? Well, we discover the following: "When Jesus heard this, he was astonished and said to those following him, 'I tell you the truth, I have not found anyone in Israel with such great faith." (Mat. 8:10) The centurion came to Jesus with the faith that he expected to find in Israel, but didn't. This is not necessarily telling us that "if you have great faith, then you will be healed," (It is not saying that we wont either), but Jesus is comparing the faith of a Gentile soldier to that of his own people.
O.K., what about the healing of Peter's mother-in-law? "When Jesus came into Peter's house, he saw Peter's mother-in-law in bed with a fever. He touched her hand and the fever left her, and she got up and began to wait in him." (Mat. 8:14-15) In this passage we discover that Peter had his own home. (In Mark's Gospel we are told that it is Peter and Andrew's home) I have actually seen the remnants of this house while in Israel. It was a large structure. This home also appeared to become the headquarters for Jesus' Galilean ministry. It is located at the head of the Sea of Galilee. (Actually a lake in that it is fresh water) Notice, the important thing here is not that Peter's mother-in-law is healed. (although that is important) What we need to notice is what she did afterwards. She "got up and began to wait on him." The wording here is somewhat different than how Mark tells it. Mark says she served them, while Matthew says she served him. (and again, it was not because they each heard it differently like the bad reporting of a car accident) (In case you are wondering why I keep harping on that, well, one: it is because it is imperative that we get our understanding of how we got the Bible correct. Two: One year during a Bible study I kept teaching how there were differences in the telling of the Bible and one guy afterwards said, 'Well, it's like my momma used to say. If four people saw a car accident they would all four have four different reports as to how it happened. My argument once again: If those four went to court to testify and gave four different reports, the case would be thrown out. And, according to all that we know Mark and Luke were not ever with Jesus when all this happened. O.K., back to the mother-in-law serving him. Her healing causes her to "pay it forward" by serving Jesus. The Greek word for serve is diakoneo. Hmm...look that word over and see if you recognize an English word. Yes, it is the word from which we get our word deacon. Yes, Peter's mother-in-law performs the role of a deacon. She returns the favor by serving Jesus.
Please join me tomorrow as we continue our work together. God Bless! -Pastor Rick