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"He Took Our Infirmities and Bore Our Diseases."

Matthew 8:1-32

James R. Davis

Matthew records Jesus' birth, baptism, the sermon on the mountainside and then Matthew turns his attention to how Jesus began to live out the principles he had preached on the mountainside. Jesus' miracles were his sermons put into action. That's why Nicodemus was so impressed with them.

Although Jesus worshipped regularly at the temple Jesus didn't spend his time trying to change an outmoded way of doing things down at the temple. Jesus came to change hearts and he knew that the only way he could do that was through a personal touch. To do this he understood the need to focus on those on the peripheral. Those forgotten and unwanted. Persons like the blind man or the man with a withered hand. He spent his time with those only thought of as they were forming their religious arguments saying, "Is it his sins or his parents sin?" I can only imagine what would have happened if Jesus had of come and endeavored to take on the political hierarchy down at the synagogue. Even God wouldn't have lived three years with that approach. Yet, he did something even more radical. He focused on those who were lost. Maybe we ought to spend our time ministering to those no one wants to minister too.

Jesus knew that sometimes the most indirect way of doing things was the most direct way it could be done. That is one of life's hard lessons. Jesus didn't bother to network his way through the powerful political system. He didn't come in changing their organizational structure. He didn't seek the naturally gifted to get them to use their natural gifts in the spiritual realm. He didn't look for the movers and shakers of the community to get things done. He directed his attention to those who were shaking because they felt the presence of God and that was what moved them into his presence's.  He directed his attention to the ignorant and unlearned. He came to empower the powerless. Those were the ones whom his kingdom included and was inherited by. His approach left the religious Jews shaking in their boots. Jesus proclaimed " . . . many will come from the east and west and sit at the table with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob in the kingdom . . . the sons of the kingdom will be thrown into the outer darkness . . ." (Matthew 8:11-12) We must remember, that at times, even the most indirect approach gets very direct.

Jesus began his ministry serving the oppressed. He ministered to those who had a real sense of their personal unworthiness and their poverty of spirit. Jesus demonstrated what he meant when he said, "Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted." (Matthew 5:4-4) He spent his time ministering to those who understood their needs. He ministered to those who would not be allowed in the temple or it courts. Those who were on the peripheral, who were considered unclean, seemed to have received a double portion of his time.

Jesus Touches the Untouchable

Matthews 8:1-4
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."
3 Jesus reached out his hand and touched the man. "I am willing," he said. "Be clean!" Immediately he was cured of his leprosy. Then Jesus said to him, "See that you don't tell anyone. But go, show yourself to the priest and offer the gift Moses commanded, as a testimony to them."

Imagine for a moment Jesus coming down off of the mountainside, the crowds are following him. One can almost see the commotion in the crowd. As Jesus looks over at the commotion people begin to scatter to the left and the right and the crowd drops back as this one man approaches Jesus. The man is crying, "Unclean, Unclean."  As he draws closer it is evident that everyone is fleeing because he is a leper. The leper came up to Jesus and saying, "Lord if you will, you can make me clean." Cleansing a leper would be paramount to raising the dead. But the man expresses no doubt of Jesus' power only his concern for Jesus' willingness.

Jesus stretched out his hand and touched him, saying, "I will; be clean." Immediately the man was cleansed. Here we see the compassion of a man who defied the practice concerning lepers, for the Law forbid the touching of a leper. Jesus acted with authority, not fearing or hesitating to be of service. Jesus didn't come with the authority of dominance. Jesus came to take his disease upon himself. Jesus' purpose for performing the miracles was to demonstrate God's nature. Jesus' miracles were always kind and helpful. They communicated God's compassion for humanity. "And seeing the multitudes, He felt compassion for them, because they were distressed and downcast like sheep without a shepherd." (Matthew 9:36)

Jesus defied all the notions that mixing with sinners defiles God's people. He touched them and took their burdens upon himself.

Jesus Accepts the Unacceptable

Matthew 8:5-13
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." The centurion replied, "Lord, I do not deserve to have you come under my roof. But just say the word, and my servant will be healed. For I myself am a man under authority, with soldiers under me. I tell this one, 'Go,' and he goes; and that one, 'Come,' and he comes. I say to my servant, 'Do this,' and he does it." 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. I say to you that many will come from the east and the west, and will take their places at the feast with Abraham, Isaac and Jacob in the kingdom of heaven. But the subjects of the kingdom will be thrown outside, into the darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth." Then Jesus said to the centurion, "Go! It will be done just as you believed it would." And his servant was healed at that very hour.

Then a centurion came to him desiring that his paralyzed servant be healed. Jesus said, "I will come and heal him." But the centurion told Jesus all the reasons that he was not worthy for Jesus to come under his roof.

Myron Augsburger suggests that the centurion understood the authority of Jesus Christ and knew that he was from God.1 That is why he said, "Lord, I am not worthy that You should come under my roof. But only speak a word, and my servant will be healed. For I also am a man under authority, having soldiers under me. And I say to this one, 'Go,' and he goes and to another, 'Come,' and he comes; and to my servant, 'Do this,' and he does it." He seemed to know exactly who Jesus was. It is amazing that it was Gentile magi that came at his birth proclaiming his glory and here we find another Gentile soldier that seems to have no doubt to who Jesus is. It was amazing that the less privileged knew Jesus well.

His faith marvelled Jesus Christ. Jesus healed the servant and proclaimed that he had not seen that kind of faith among the sons of the kingdom . . . that is among Abraham's descendants.  Jesus then extends the hope of the Messianic promise to the Gentiles. "And I say to you that many will come from the east and west, and sit down with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob in the kingdom of heaven." (v. 11) The centurion came to Jesus making a request. Then Jesus said to the centurion, "Go! It will be done just as you believed it would." And his servant was healed at that very hour. (Matthew 8:13) He knew that Jesus had power to heal whether far or near.

Jesus Does the Unthinkable

Matt 8:14-17
When Jesus came into Peter's house, he saw Peter's mother-in-law lying in bed with a fever.
He touched her hand and the fever left her, and she got up and began to wait on him. When evening came, many who were demon-possessed were brought to him, and he drove out the spirits with a word and healed all the sick. This was to fulfill what was spoken through the prophet Isaiah: "He took up our infirmities and carried our diseases."

Jesus crosses the gender line and challenges sabbatical law. Jesus then healed Peter's mother-in-law and she got up and began to serve him. Jesus gave his undivided attention to a woman who would normally not get that kind of attention. According to Mark's gospel, Peter's mother-in-law was healed on the Sabbath. Jesus had taught in the synagogue and ministered in healing, and as he returned to the house, they told him of her illness. Jesus appears to have taken the initiative and reaching out his hand to the woman with the fever and healed her. "Then that evening the whole town gathered at the door, and Jesus healed many who had various diseases. He also drove out many demons, but he would not let the demons speak because they knew who he was. (Mark 1:32-34) Then they bring Jesus the sick and demon possessed and he heals them all.

Matthew closes this section about Jesus' healing saying that it was a fulfillment of Isaiah's prophecy. "He took up our infirmities and carried our sorrows." (Isaiah 53:4)

Jesus came to demonstrate his power to take upon himself our infirmities and carry our diseases. When we understand that some mistakes cannot be corrected, some problems cannot be overcome and when it dawns on us that some losses cannot be restored, it is then that we need the personal power of Christ. Jesus Christ can give us a new start, a new birth, a meaningful life even after an irretrievable loss.

Jesus Does the Orthodox in an Unorthodox Manner

Matt 8:18-23
When Jesus saw the crowd around him, he gave orders to cross to the other side of the lake.
Then a teacher of the law came to him and said, "Teacher, I will follow you wherever you go."
Jesus replied, "Foxes have holes and birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has no place to lay his head."  Another disciple said to him, "Lord, first let me go and bury my father." But Jesus told him, "Follow me, and let the dead bury their own dead." Then he got into the boat and his disciples followed him.

Jesus' miracles weren't showy. They weren't performed to get a crowd. He always avoided the crowd.  In fact he didn't want to draw a great deal of attention. Jesus often instructed those whom he healed not to talk too much. Jesus told the leper not to tell anyone what he had done. (Matthew 8:4, 18; 9:30; Luke 8:56) Evidently those healed already believed he was somebody. He didn't allow the demons he cast out to tell who he was. Jesus never wanted anyone so caught up in his greatness that it overshadowed his purpose for coming.

Some love to get caught up in great causes because the greatness of the cause overshadows their smallness and helps them cast a greater shadow. We like to be involved in things that are great because we believe that it enlarges us. Yet this makes it easy to overlook our real need.

Jesus had a way of getting to the heart of matters.  A scribe came to Jesus and said, "Teacher, I will follow you wherever you go." Jesus reminded him that the Son of man doesn't have a place to lay his head. Jesus didn't want him coming with any delusions. Another would be disciple came to Jesus desiring to follow him but requested permission to go bury his dead father. Jesus said, "Let the dead bury the dead."  In essence Jesus taught that if you are looking for greatness you will be disappointed. If you are looking for an excuse for not following me you are overlooking the greatest need in your life. Most of us want to come to Jesus on our terms. But we must pay his price. Those who found Jesus were those who understood their need of his healing. They are the one's who are willing to pay the price. It is Jesus Christ that knows and understands your deepest need . . . just listen to him.

Jesus didn't want his message sensationalized. He just planted it in the cultivated hearts of needed folks. The untouchables and the unacceptable never seemed to mind that he did the unthinkable in the most unorthodox manner. Those are the hearts into which he planted the gospel and when it grew it overpowered the powerful. These individuals flourished and the powerful perished.

Jesus Test the Unbelief of Believers

Matthew 8:23-27
Then he got into the boat and his disciples followed him. Without warning, a furious storm came up on the lake, so that the waves swept over the boat. But Jesus was sleeping. The disciples went and woke him, saying, "Lord, save us! We're going to drown!" He replied, "You of little faith, why are you so afraid?" Then he got up and rebuked the winds and the waves, and it was completely calm. The men were amazed and asked, "What kind of man is this? Even the winds and the waves obey him!"

Why are we so afraid that the storms of life are going to overwhelm us? Why, "Even the winds and waves obey him!" Jesus took his disciples out on the Sea of Galilee. It was not unusual for the stormy winds to rise suddenly from the mountains and suddenly sweep across the water suddenly. These men had spent their lives fishing on this lake. Yet they sensed that this storm brought great danger. Insomuch so that they feared for their lives.

It is amazing how the leper and centurion came to Jesus expressing such great faith having only heard about Jesus. Yet, his disciples who are following him express so little faith crying out of desperation "Lord, save us!" When Jesus calmed the storm they asked, "What kind of man is this?"

Jesus Tames the Untamable

Matthew 8:28-34
When he arrived at the other side in the region of the Gadarenes, two demon-possessed men coming from the tombs met him. They were so violent that no one could pass that way. "What do you want with us, Son of God?" they shouted. "Have you come here to torture us before the appointed time?" Some distance from them a large herd of pigs was feeding. The demons begged Jesus, "If you drive us out, send us into the herd of pigs." He said to them, "Go!" So they came out and went into the pigs, and the whole herd rushed down the steep bank into the lake and died in the water. Those tending the pigs ran off, went into the town and reported all this, including what had happened to the demon-possessed men. Then the whole town went out to meet Jesus. And when they saw him, they pleaded with him to leave their region.

Mark tells us in his account of the incident that no one was able to bind the demon possessed man any more, even with a chain. Numerous attempts had been made by the Gadarenes, but each attempt had failed and the demon possessed became more and more violent. He was a raving mad man, running around naked, cursing, ripping and tearing at anything that came near him. He was even mutilating his own body. (Mark 5:4-5)

Imagine this man heading straight for Jesus and his disciples on this remote section of the beach. No one dared pass by. He had been totally abandoned by humanity. The Gadarenes had given up on him. He was untamable. But when the man came to Jesus he had a certain degree of civility making request of Jesus. They didn't come threatening him as they had others. My dad used to break horses. He always told us that to break a horse you have to show him who is boss. The demons knew who was boss and they came to Jesus subdued.

Here we see the power of helping one needy person. The whole town heard about it. Mark records that the man wanted to get in the boat and leave with Jesus. But Jesus wouldn't let him. But Jesus told him, "Go home to your family and tell them how much the Lord has done for you, and how he has had mercy on you." So the man went away and began to tell in the Decapolis how much Jesus had done for him. And all the people were amazed." (Mark 5:19-20) Jesus go tell what Jesus has done for you . . .  what an unorthodox way to tell others about Jesus Christ. No great fan fare.

James tells us that the demons believe and tremble. (James 2:19) Many are concerned about their statements of faith. It is as if we want to sum up all we know about God or at least what believe to be important in just a few statements. Well the demons could easily have a statement of faith. From these verses we understand that they believe in the existence of God and the deity of Christ, as well as the reality of the future judgement. They believed in prayer. They believed that Christ had power to send them into the herd of swine. 2

Demon possession doesn't seem to be prevalent today. It was a common occurrence in New Testament times. But what the devil does today is just as far reaching. Satan robs us of our sanity, fills us with fear, robs us of hope, destroys homes, alienates friends and condemns us to eternal judgment. Satan seeks to isolate us from society. But Jesus demonstrates his power over Satan.

Conclusion:

In Matthew chapters 1-4 we were introduced to the Person of the King. In Matthew chapters 5-7 we were introduced to the principles of the King. In Matthew chapter 8 we are introduced to the power of the King. If a king does not have the power to accomplish anything, what good are his credentials or his principles? 3

The amazing thing about Jesus' approach to ministry is that he dealt with each person wherever he found them. He always knew how to deal with their most vital need in a caring way. Whether it was a physical ailment or a spiritual ailment, commitment or the lack of it he was ready to intervene. He manifested his power to intercede. He also manifested his williingness to take upon himself our infirmities and our diseases as he intercedes on our behalf.

Footnotes:

 
1. Myron Augsburger, The Communicator's Commentary, Word Books, Waco, Texas, pg. 111.

    2. Warren W. Wiersbe, Be Loyal, Victor Books, Wheaton, Ill. Pg.60-61.

    3. Ibid. Pg. 58
 
 

 

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