Prepared by Dr. John E. Marshall
Matt. 9:35a “And Jesus went about all the cities and villages,. . .”
No one questioned the fact of Jesus’ miracles. The truth was too obvious to refute. The Pharisees could only lamely say Jesus was in cahoots with the devil.
The storm was gathering, and Jesus eventually dealt with His opposition more bluntly, but at this point too much needed to be done for Him to be deterred from His mission of mercy. On this occasion, the only answer Jesus gave to His critics was to continue doing kind deeds. Harsh words from others could not keep Him from doing good. He stayed to the task, even as the moon stays to its course despite the barking of dogs and the howling of wolves. Sometimes we do need to answer our critics, but often our best response is not words, but quiet goodness.
Verse 35 is Jesus’ résumé, His biographical sketch. It capsulizes in one sentence all He was about. His story begins with travel. “Jesus went.” His whole life seemed wrapped up in going. He journeyed from Heaven to Earth, and once He arrived here, He set Himself to traveling. Here was a totally new thing, a missionary from Heaven making ceaseless journeys, not for tourism or commerce, but for love’s sake, to win souls for God. Jesus showed us, as well as told us, what to do.
Fulfilling the Great Commission requires geographic mobility. The old paradigm of pray and send money is obsolete. We now realize we were wrong in holding that view and are upgrading it to the more accurate paradigm of pray, send money, and go. Jesus traveled for us. When did we last pack a suitcase for Him?
Changing from immobility to mobility has been one of my most difficult transitions. I’m like my Grandpa Hill, who in his last years was totally contented to sit in his comfortable chair and watch soap operas, baseball, and TV preachers. We offered to take him to the mountains. He said, “I’ve seen a mountain.” We tried to get him to go to a beach. He said, “I’ve seen the ocean.” To be perfectly honest, I liked his attitude. But to be used of God, I had to overcome the mind-set.
Jesus didn’t sit back and wait for folks to come to Him. He was ever in the business of seeking them. We too must not wait for people to come to us. Most don’t know they’re supposed to come or how to come. Of this one thing I am sure, to do our duty, we must, as Jesus did, leave home and go where hurting people are.
Matt. 9:35b “. . .teaching in their synagogues,. . .”
“Went,” the main verb of our text, is supported by three present participles which continue this analysis of Jesus’ life and work. Teachers, look no farther for the perfect role model. Jesus’ use of parables, props, homespun stories, point and counterpoint, and piercing application made Him the greatest teacher of all time.
Synagogues provided natural meeting places for instruction. In synagogues, the Old Testament was the textbook. Jesus sought to convince the people’s minds, to stir the intellect, by interpreting, explaining, and applying their own Scriptures.
Please note, Jesus went to public worship, though the leaders were corrupt. Judaism had grown sick at soul, but Jesus did not use that as an excuse to avoid the duty of attending corporate worship. We often forget, church members are human beings, not angels. No local church will ever be able to dot every i and cross every t. If you ever do find a perfect church, don’t join it, you’ll mess it up. Support your church, pray for your church, and like Jesus never stop attending church.
Matt. 9:35c “. . .and preaching the gospel of the kingdom,. . .”
Synagogue instruction usually entailed interaction between teachers and learners, give and take. Some issues, though, are beyond debate or discussion. They call for a pronouncement, a royal decree, preaching. Jesus was the ultimate preacher. His Sermon on the Mount is the finest speech in the history of oratory.
Preaching is often essential. In question and answer sessions, we can become more concerned with how we are going to phrase our next comment than with hearing what is being taught. Thus, we sometimes need to sit still while someone else instils. Jesus wanted His message heard loud and clear. In His own Person and presence, God is here. The King has come to reign over His people.
Matt. 9:35d “. . .and healing every sickness and every disease among the
Note the double use of the word “every.” Jesus’ heart went out to all, not only to favorites or a few select, refined, saintly souls. He was perfect, even in the most minute details of His ministry. It is said no man is a hero to his chauffeur. Many who shine in spotlights disappoint in dim lights. Jesus, though, was consistent. Publicly and privately, He always did good everywhere everyday to everyone.
Traveling let Jesus have contact with all kinds of hurting people. To each, He carried His own sunshine and Springtime with Him. As Ivor Powell says, Jesus was wonderful and the people knew it. In Him unselfishness climaxed. His life will forever remain the highest ideal of pure benevolence. He is not only consummate Teacher and supreme Preacher, but also ultimate Physician. By caring for mind and body as well as for spirit, Jesus put dignity on all the healing arts.
Jesus’ healing miracles not only confirmed He truly was Messiah, they also proved His love. Jesus healed because He cared. Healing, and all other acts of kindness, should not be done solely as a physical means to a spiritual end. Kindness is worth being done on its own merit, as an act of love and compassion.
In India I had my first experience with medical missions. I watched Kevin and Kristy McCall daily work into bone-tired exhaustion. Both said they were there primarily to gather people to hear the Gospel. The sentiment is legitimate. Since Hell is hot, Heaven is sweet, and both last forever, saving a soul is more important than healing a body. However, Kevin and Kristy were not content solely to get the crowd in. For hours Kevin leaned over Kristy’s shoulder and kept medicines stuck between his fingers, trying to anticipate what patients needed. Kristy, over one thousand times, said farewell by putting both her hands on the patient’s knees and smiling. There was more to it than the calculated gathering of a crowd. Unconditional love was flowing. Not once was a sick person asked in advance if they were Christian, Hindu, or Muslim. Anyone needing help was welcome, and after being helped, not once was anyone forced to stay to hear the Gospel spoken.
In our kindness, beware two extremes. First, avoid healing and helping in ways that give Jesus no credit at all. He should somehow be acknowledged as the Source of our love. Without being ostentatious, find subtle, creative ways (e.g. jewelry, slogans on caps and shirts, wall-hangings, Bible on our desk, etc.) to let it be known we are doing the kindness as an echo of Jesus’ kindness to us, and a conduit of His kindness through us. Don’t rob Jesus of recognition He deserves.
Second, avoid healing and helping solely to convert prechristians. Our sole motivation must never be another notch in our tomahawk. The human body was created to be the temple of the Holy Spirit. Thus, the body is in and of itself precious and sacred. It should be cared for, if for no other reason than this, that it is made to be indwelt by the Holy, whether the Holy One is present or not. Our Master healed the ear of the High Priest’s servant (LK 22:51), knowing full well the High Priest would not become a believer. Jesus died for all, knowing most would reject Him.
“All good work is God’s work” (Glover), and should naturally flow from the love God placed in us. Jesus healed and helped all. Therefore, we should, too.