Prepared by Dr. John E. Marshall
Matt. 8:16d “. . .and healed all that were sick:. . .”
Healing Peter’s mother-in-law on the Sabbath brought our Great Physician many more patients with physical illnesses. Jesus taught us to be kind to others every way we can. He was concerned for not only people’s spiritual well-being, but also their other needs. Our Master cared about the whole person–spiritual, financial, emotional, physical, relational. Every need one can have, Jesus cares about it.
The prechristians you have frequent contact with–not only try to witness to them. Care about their whole lives. When they fall sick or have a problem with finances or relationships, tell them you are praying for them. Over ninety percent of Americans believe prayer yields positive benefits. It is a safe inroad into other people’s lives. By caring in this way for their physical and other needs, we may earn their confidence and eventually gain an ear to have influence in their spiritual life.
Kindness in any form is Christianity in action. Bradford the martyr felt every hour wasted in which he did not do a kindness, either with his tongue, pen, or hand. Like Bradford and our Master, always be looking for assorted ways to help others.
Matt. 8:17a “That it might be fulfilled which was spoken by Esaias the
prophet, saying, Himself took our infirmities,. . . .”
Rather than emphasize the gladness of the healed, Matthew highlighted the sadness of the Healer. “Christ in some real sense endured the loads He removed” (Maclaren). Scripture never says Jesus laughed out loud. Life was serious to Him.
Jesus experienced a depth of suffering and sorrow we will never begin to fathom. In our glib and giddy culture, with its fanatic and rabid lust for superficial happiness, we find it hard to sing with appreciation the words of Philip Bliss’ song:
“Man of Sorrows,” what a name,
For the Son of God who came,
Ruined sinners to reclaim.
The way of the cross is not for the flippant. There is definitely joy in the journey, but following Christ requires a deep-seated, serious, and somber understanding of the sullied reputation of God and of the ruined lostness of humanity.
Christian living contains little value apart from sacrifice, taking up one’s own cross and following Jesus’ example. At huge cost to Himself, Jesus helped others.
This remarkable Capernaum event took place after sunset, at the end of a busy, exhausting day. It was night, time to rest, but Jesus could not turn away hurting people. In His estimation, opportunities to help were obligations to help.
With every nook and cranny around Peter’s house filled with misery, Jesus could do nothing but deny Himself and help. With tears of compassion in His own tired eyes He opened blind eyes. In mercy He used His weary hands to touch and heal withered hands. With love He walked on His fatigued feet to enable a cripple to walk. With concern He bent His aching back to heal the backs of others.
Out of the crucible of one person’s sacrifice often comes another person’s cup of joy. Because Jesus was willing to be inconvenienced, a whole city was blessed. On this Hospital Sunday in Capernaum, moans and groans and pleadings dominated the early evening, but waned in the night, being displaced by rejoicing and shouting which became louder and louder. Finally, by morning, mourning was gone and laughing had taken over. The sun set on a sick city, but rose the next morning on a town free of disease. Maybe no town in the history of the world had been as happy as Capernaum was this Sunday morning. Maybe no man in the history of the world had been as tired as Jesus was this Sunday morning. To be a blessing always costs.
Our text reminds us, Jesus was willing, in our behalf, to suffer all the way to a cross. Verse seventeen, a quote of Isaiah 53:4, is probably the passage most often quoted by health and wealth advocates. They claim, since Jesus bore all sicknesses on the cross, we have been set free from them, and if we have enough faith, we will never experience them. The preponderance of Biblical evidence rejects this notion.
Jesus did bear our sicknesses on the cross. “Sin is the root of our infirmities and diseases; and so, in taking the root, Jesus took all the bitter fruit which that root did bear” (Spurgeon). However, this does not mean all illness is removed from us.
Jesus died our death at Calvary, but our bodies still die. Due to His death, believers shall eventually escape the presence of death, but only in Heaven.
Jesus bore our sins in His body at Golgotha, but is sin gone from us? Is any of us perfect? Due to Christ’s death, believers will someday never sin, but not here.
Jesus took our sicknesses into Himself on the cross, but we will not be free of them till we reach Paradise. Only in Heaven will no one ever say, “I am sick.”
Someday, oh blissful thought, there will be for believers no more death and no more sickness because there will be no more sin. Until then, we battle all three.
Paul the Apostle ranks as one of the mightiest champions of our faith. He wrote inerrantly against sin, yet sinned. He raised people from the dead, yet died.
He healed sickness in others, yet had to endure illness. He had a thorn in the flesh, a physical ailment in his body, which he thrice asked God to heal, but the Lord said no each time. Speaking of this illness, Paul thrice used the Greek word used in our text (astheneias): “Of myself I will not glory, but in mine infirmities. . . .I rather glory in my infirmities. . . .I take pleasure in infirmities” (2 C 12:5,9,10).
Paul did not “name it and claim it.” He did not say his illness should be taken away. Health and wealth advocates would disagree with him on this.
Paul instead came to see his illness as a plus, not a weakness, and said it had made him a stronger Christian. This is how the atonement deals with sickness in this world. Illness is not always removed, but can always be turned to our good.
To health and wealth advocates we say it is not always God’s will to heal. He heals who He chooses to. He does not heal who He chooses not to. He does not let us enter the secret chambers of His reasoning to understand why He does or doesn’t.
Now a word to Baptists. God does heal sometimes. Even as we often stereotype all our charismatic brothers and sisters as believing God always desires to heal, they sometimes stereotype all us Baptists as believing God never wants to heal.
I once saw on television a health and wealth preacher extending an invitation for people to be healed. He instructed his audience, “All you who believe in healing, come forward right now.” He then looked straight into the camera and said, “You Baptists, stay sick.” Like most caricatures, his words were an exaggeration based on a shred of truth. Afraid of hyper-emotionalism or being labelled fanatics, Baptists often are slow to pray for healing. Thus, in this same sermon in which I call for health and wealth people to pull back, I call for Baptists to push forward.
Pray for healing. Ask for it. Intercede on behalf of others for it. Then also pray with deep conviction, “Nevertheless, Lord, not my will, but Thine, be done.”
After we have prayed, whatever results, whether we are healed or remain sick, give God the glory. Also, in either case, use extreme caution as to how we interpret the result. Healing and non-healing are both equally due to God’s infinite love and wisdom, and are caused by reasons we usually do not fully understand.
We need to calm the healed, and comfort the sick. The healed must not act as if something is wrong with the faith of the sick. Do not intrude on sick people’s lives by saying they need greater faith or that you want to lay your hands on them.
It is unkind to assume they have not already prayed in faith believing. Take time to do your homework and to be courteous. Talk to a friend of the sick one to learn how best to proceed. In the meantime, silently and privately pray for the sick.