Ill prepared for teaching a youth bible study last Wednesday, I decided to do what every sober minded youth pastor who had not prepared in advanced does: Pray and simply go through the Word. We had been doing a chapter by chapter study on the book of Matthew, and after discussing the wonderful teachings of Jesus as contained within the Sermon of the Mount (chapters 5-7), we began studying as Jesus moved into his healing and exorcism ministries.
We read through chapter 8, and I immediately noticed a pattern I found interesting. The chapter can be divided as follows:
I. Healing Ministry
- Healing of the Leper
- A Centurion’s faith, healing of his Servant
- Healing of Peter’s Mother-in-Law
II. Exorcism Ministry
- Exorcisms of the many at Capernaum
- Exorcisms of Gardarenes (two demon possessed men, and the herd of pigs).
III. Additional Miracles & Teachings
- Instruction Regarding Following Jesus
- Mastery over the Storm
What I would like to focus on are the healing accounts. One central element takes center stage regarding the first two accounts: the nature of faith. We quickly see a pattern. In the accounts of the Leper, the man’s faith is made evident in his comment, “Lord, if you are willing, You can make me clean,” (Mt 8:2). What follows his faith is a healing of his leprosy, and an odd comment by Jesus: “See that you don’t tell anyone; but go, show yourself to the priest, and offer the gift that Moses prescribed, as a testimony to them,” (Mt 8:4). Without getting deeply into the essence of offering a gift, or the secretive ‘don’t tell anyone’ comment, there is value in seeing that (1) The Leper’s healing is a product of faith in Jesus, (2) Jesus calls him to respond with worship and service, namely seen in the call for him to go make a sacrifice.
A similar pattern is seen in the other two accounts. In the Centurion’s example, we see the strong statement used when this officer asks for healing on behalf of his servant: “I assure you: I have not found anyone in Israel with so great a faith!” (Mt 8:10). In addition, Jesus not only makes this significant statement, but reacts to the Centurion’s plea by being “amazed,” (Mt 8:10). What is it that makes his faith so amazing?
I would argue it to be the correlation between his faith and his humility (a starting point for Jewish wisdom found pounded throughout the Wisdom books and the Old Testament). Jesus himself calls us to be like ‘little children’ (as in humbled, not ignorant). Social classes were incredibly fixed, and to witness a Roman officer, of such power and authority, begging on behalf of his (most likely) Jewish servant is incredible. The humility to bypass such fixed social lines, and have faith in the wandering Jesus, is significant.
His faith and humility produce the following response regarding the request for healing: “‘Go, As you have believed, let it be done for you.’ And his servant was cured that very moment,” (Mt 8:13).
So far we see a pattern: Faith in Christ leads to healing. Although not every healing account in the New Testament is directly attached to faith in Jesus (by his Sovereignty, Jesus uses healing in other accounts to strengthen faith), the pattern arises none-the-less.
In the case of Peter’s mother-in-law, what we wish to focus in on is her response.”When Jesus went into Peter’s house, He saw his mother-in-law lying in bed with a fever. So He touched her had, and the fever left her. Then she got up and began to serve him,” (Mt 8:14-15). Emphasize the serve. Her response to her healing was to serve King Jesus, or in other words, to produce good works.
We can see an outline here of justification/healing by faith, and our response to this healing (good works). The latter follows for good reason. However these healing stories exist not to simply tell us about physical healing. Matthew ends these accounts with this important statement: “He…healed all who were sick, so that what was spoken through the prophet Isaiah might be fulfilled: He Himself took our weaknesses and carried our diseases,” (Mt 8:17, bold is OT quoted in Is 53:4).
These healing accounts now not only teach us about the correlation between healing and faith, and our response to being physically healed (seen in Peter’s mother-in-law and the worship of the Leper), but it points to the greater healing of Isaiah’s famous suffering servant passage. In this Isaiah passage, we are told of the great spiritual healing of the cross! These physical healings are merely a shadow of the spiritual healing to come.
We now have observed the following: (1) Jesus responds to the faith that these individuals have in Him by healing them, (2) These individuals respond to their healing with worship and good works/service, (3) These physical healing prophetically point to the Greater Spiritual Healing found in Isaiah’s Suffering Servant, namely Jesus and the Cross.
Would we then be surprised to find the same pattern of (1) and (2) in the apostles understanding of the Greater Healing? We now move to Ephesians to make this point. Within chapter 2, we find such a pattern. After articulating the sinfulness of man (we are dead in our trespasses and children under wrath, Eph 2:1-3), Paul provides us with a beautiful summary of the Gospel. It is undeniable that Grace and Faith play the central role in the person of Jesus Christ:
- “By grace you are saved!” (2:5)
- “display the immeasurable riches of His grace in [His] kindness to us in Christ Jesus.” (2:7)
- “For by grace you are saved through faith… it is God’s gift,” (2:8)
God provides the ultimate healing by the majesty and wonder of his grace. We receive this healing as a gift through faith, as the Matthew healing accounts received their physical healing “as they believed [faith]” (Mt 8:13). In addition, we see another correlation. After Paul places our sinfulness in contrast with the immeasurable grace given to us in Jesus, he concludes the segment with the following:
- “For we are His creation–created in Christ Jesus for good works,” (Eph 2:10).
Notice now no good works precedes our receiving grace and salvation (emphasized by God’s usage of the word ‘gift’ to describe it, and the ‘not from works’ commentary). Rather, this verse falls after (1.) the statement of man’s complete depravity and (2.) the grace we receive through faith in Jesus. Our response to the contrast of (1.) and (2.) and our gratitude thereof leads us to (3.) good works.
Does this all sound familiar? We find it in these earlier mentioned healing accounts. In Mt 8 faith in Jesus produces physical healing (by His Grace), and in Eph 2 the Greater spiritual healing/salvation is produced through faith in Jesus (by His Grace). How does this segment of physical healing miracles concludes in Mt 8? With Peter’s mother-in-law responding with gratitude for her healing in the form of serving Jesus. How does Paul conclude his gospel presentation in Eph 2? By reminding us in whom we find identity in, and in calling us to good works as a response of the gratitude we have from the realities of (1.) and (2.).
How wonderful the hand of our Doctor. How full of grace the mercies of our King.