Healed by the Great Physician
In high school, I had an old wrestling coach that literally never missed a day of school, never missed a day of practice, never missed anything ever. He claimed to never get sick.
So one day, I asked him about it. He said, “I sweat it out.” Whenever he felt a cold coming on he go into our wrestling room put on sweats, turn on a heater, and get on a stationary bike and literally sweat the cold out.
Apparently, that’s the cure for sickness. That’s scientific right? We have several doctors here all of them are shaking their heads no.
As crazy as it sounds, I’ve actually heard other people say something similar. It’s probably at this point, I need to make a public service announcement: if you feel sick, go see a doctor.
Now all the doctors and nurses are nodding. The truth is, everyone gets sick, my old coach was just in denial. He didn’t want to get help because he didn’t want to admit that anything was wrong. I think we can all relate to this on some level.
We don’t want to go to a doctor because we don’t want to admit that we’re sick! But we’re all sick, maybe not physically, but spiritually. We’re sick with the same illness, which is sin.
The truth is we all need to regularly see The Great Physician. We all need Jesus Christ. Not just once for a diagnosis, but everyday as our medication.
Interestingly, whenever you’re sick you have to go see the doctor. Rarely, does the doctor come to you. Now, I understand technology is closing that gap to some degree, but you still have to tell the doctor what’s wrong.
Jesus never had to diagnose anyone because he knew what was wrong before they could ever tell Him! His healing touch reaches all people: he reaches the far, he reaches the unexpected, and he remembers to reach the near.
Jesus reaches the far (vv. 1-4)
As soon as Jesus steps off the mountain and concludes his sermon on the mount, a leper approaches him. Leprosy, which today is called Hansen’s disease, is a gross disease where sores and open wounds cover the flesh.
There are a few things to keep in mind: First, leprosy is highly contagious. Physical contact can transmit the disease. More importantly, under Jewish law, anyone with leprosy was ceremonially unclean. They’d have to walk through the streets proclaim aloud “unclean!” so people would know to avoid them.
There’s a scene in the original version of the movie Ben Hur which depicts treatment of lepers. They’re living in a leperous colony in caves. They have these hooded coats on to cover up their bodies. The movie did an excellent job depicting them as outcasts living on the fringe of society. They lived in communities together because they couldn’t be a part of society.
But in this passage, there’s a leper who leaves his colony or community on the fringe of society, risking everything to ask Jesus to heal him.
If you remember from last week, the scribes and people were astonished with Jesus’ teaching because he taught as one with authority. Jesus is being recognized as this great teacher of the Jewish law and then this leper walks right up to him. He’s unclean! He’s supposed to remain hidden from society. And yet here he is, walking right up to Jesus and kneeling before him and saying, “Lord, if you will, you can make me clean.”
Here we have the most defiled person coming right up to this great teacher. If you didn’t know this story - wouldn’t this be a perfect opportunity for Jesus to turn him away? Shouldn’t Jesus look at him and immediately say, “You’re not even supposed to be here. Get away from me! You’re ceremonially unclean! I’m trying to keep the law!”
But Jesus doesn’t do that. What does he do? He reaches out and touches him. He touches him! Shocking. Touching a leper is supposed to make you unclean. But the opposite happens.
Jesus makes him clean. He says, “I will; be clean.” Jesus makes the unclean clean. And by showing himself to a priest he would be accepted back into Jewish society. It’s a truly amazing account.
But have you ever read this account and wondered, “Why does Jesus instruct him to tell no one?” Actually, it happens in several places in the gospels. Jesus heals someone and then instructs them to tell no one. Again, it’s the opposite of what you’d expect.
Why doesn’t Jesus say, “Go tell the world what just happened to you”? You know, Jesus did have an amazing healing ministry and it confirmed his deity as God in the flesh, but that wasn’t his primary mission.
His primary mission was to call people to faith and repentance because the kingdom of God was at hand. The Messiah, the Son of God’s, mission wasn’t primarily physical… it was spiritual. The problem with the leper wasn’t his leprosy. It was his sin.
And yet he healed this man. He didn’t have to heal this man. He didn’t have to stop and listen to him… but he did.
Leprosy was in large part looked down upon by the Jewish community because it represented God’s displeasure. Throughout the Scriptures, various people were struck with leprosy in order to signify God’s judgment.
Miriam, Moses’ sister, was struck with leprosy for challenging Moses’ authority in Numbers 12. Gehazi, the servant of the prophet Elisha, was struck with leprosy for his greediness in 2 Kings 5. And Joab was struck with leprosy for seeking revenge in 2 Samuel 3.
Here’s my point: There is significant Biblical evidence to support the Jewish understanding that God’s judgment was directly tied to leprosy.
I tell you this because there is a high probability that everyone there looked at this leprous man and wondered what he must have done to be judged by God. Obviously, we don’t know if the leper was being judged by God. Really, it’s not the point of this passage.
But I can’t help but see rich symbolism in this passage. When Jesus reached out and cleansed this leper, he was bearing the judgment of God on himself. He was bearing his sin.
Do you feel the weight of that? Too often we forget the magnitude of our sin. We forget that we’re sinners, and all our sin will earn us is death and hell. So we live our lives willfully ignorant of our sins.
Even for those of us who are born again, we often have a tendency to think of ourselves as cleaner than we actually are.
The famous Bible commentator Matthew Henry said it well. He said, “Sin is leprosy of the soul.”
It’s like we’re lepers looking down at our skin saying to ourselves, “The leprosy isn’t that bad” when it’s actually killing us.
Christians and non-Christians alike need the good news of Jesus Christ. The leper was far from God, but Jesus still reached out and touched him.
If you don’t see your sin nature as a leprous disease slowly destroying you - you’ll never see your need for Jesus Christ. Do you see yourself as a dirty leper that needs to be cleansed by the blood of Jesus Christ?
I have a pastor friend who shared a pretty funny story on Facebook a few months ago. One of his young children asked him “Daddy, do you preach the same thing every Sunday?”
He thought about it for a second and said, “Sort of, yes.”
In verses 1-4 we have a clear picture of the gospel. We need to constantly reminded of the good news of Jesus Christ. It’s not just good news when you get saved. It continues to be good news for the rest of your life.
It’s what that hymn calls the old old story. The story never changes, but it should change you and me.
Do you need Christ to touch you this morning?
Immediately following the healing of the leper were told another story of healing in verses 5-13.
Jesus reaches the unexpected (vv. 5-13)
Jesus then heads to Capernaum, and when he arrives he is confronted by a centurion who asks him to heal his servant. Interestingly, Jesus says he’s never seen such faith like his.
It’s unexpected. You expect him to say something like this about a disciple or a Jewish leader, but not a Roman soldier.
You don’t have to be a military man or woman to know that the military isn’t known for their holiness. That was true then and I think it’s still true today.
Most of us have probably heard wild stories about Navy ships porting overseas and the debauchery that takes place.
But nevertheless, here is this centurion breaking every stereotype. He exhibits uncommon humility and extraordinary faith. It’s just a wonderful reminder that God has a remnant of believers everywhere - even in the military.
As a side note, I’m sure many of you pray for the men and women in our Armed Forces as you should. Please remember to pray for strength, fellowship, and perseverance for our Christian brothers and sisters in uniform.
Back to Matthew 8.
The centurion asks Jesus to heal his servant and Jesus says, “I will come and heal him.” Notice that Jesus doesn’t refuse to heal the centurion’s servant. But the centurion understands something about Jesus that many folks didn’t: He understood his power. He understood his authority. He understood who Jesus was.
He knew that Jesus didn’t need to be physically present at his house in order to heal his servant. He knew that Christ’s power operated outside of the physical world.
The centurion exhibited extraordinary faith and uncommon humility.
That’s why he says, “Lord, I am not worthy to have you come under my roof, but only say the word, and my servant will be healed.”
Amazing humility and faith from one of the least likely people: a non-Jewish, powerful, Roman centurion. Jesus said he had never seen such faith in all of Israel.
And Jesus makes sure to point how extraordinary this man’s faith was to those around him.
He used the centurion and his servant as an object lesson for those around him.
Many who are not ethnically Jewish are believers, while many who are ethnically Jewish are not believers.
Just as you wouldn’t expect a Roman centurion to exhibit such faith, the Jews certainly would not expect to see many Gentiles in heaven or to learn that many Jews would actually wind up in Hell.
That’s why Jesus says in verses 11-12, “I tell you, many will come from east and west and recline at table with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob in the kingdom of heaven, 12 while the sons of the kingdom will be thrown into the outer darkness. In that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.”
Jesus is saying that you’ll see non-ethnic Jews, Gentiles, in heaven among the patriarchs of the Jewish faith: Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. Again it’s not what you’d expect, but Jesus is saying something rather profound here and it’s this: The messiah isn’t just going to save the Jewish people, he’s going to save people from every nation and every tongue.
The centurion servant passage is about faith. “Let it be done for you as you have believed.”
It isn’t about your ethnicity, your background, or who your parents are; it’s about the object of your faith.
Too often we assume there are some people beyond God’s reach. We assume their heart is too hard toward the gospel message.
Maybe you’ve heard of Rosaria Butterfield. She has an incredible testimony of faith. She was living a homosexual lifestyle, a hardened atheist, and an active academic. In fact, she was a department head from the University of Syracuse.
She met a pastor as she was writing an anti-christian book. Long story short, through her relationship with this pastor the Lord saved her. She shares all of this in her book “The Secret Thoughts on an Unlikely Convert.”
Just as you wouldn’t expect Christ to save a faraway servant, you wouldn’t expect someone like Rosaria Butterfield to put her faith in Christ.
We don't always believe that Jesus is capable or powerful enough to work. We tend to think that Jesus isn’t powerful enough to work in the lives of unbelievers or sometimes in our own lives…
But we fall into a trap of believing there is more to being a Christian, so we think we need to go to this conference, or join another Bible study, or go to seminary. There’s nothing wrong with any of these things. I’ve done all them.
We don’t have the faith to ask Him for things in prayer. We convince ourselves that faith isn’t enough. But this Roman soldier walks right up to Jesus and has faith that he not only can but that he will save.
Faith in Jesus Christ. That’s it. End of the story.
You’ve probably heard don’t miss the forest through the trees. Don’t miss Christ through all the Christian activities.
It can sneak up on you expectedly. But God is gracious and he has a way to reaching you even in the midst of unexpected circumstances.
Jesus reaches the near (vv. 14-17) :
Verses 14-17 introduce a third healing but mention even more healings. This time it’s Peter’s mother-in-law. Interestingly, she doesn’t appear to be suffering from anything major. She was simply ill. There’s nothing good about being ill, but when you compare that to paralysis and leprosy it seems a bit more mild. But Christ touches her hand and heals her. It’s so quick, it’s so matter of fact, you can almost read right over it.
But isn’t it amazing that the same kindness, tenderness, and care that Jesus shows to the leper and to the centurion’s servant, he shows to Peter’s mother-in-law. Peter was one of Jesus’s closest disciples so his mother-in-law was likely someone that Jesus already knew.
He’s reaches the far and the near.
Too often we take those who are closest to us for granted. We’ll be kind to this stranger over here but be harsh to our spouse. Or worse, the way we act in public is completely different from the way we act in private.
Unfortunately, the church is notorious for that.
Notice that’s not how Christ operates. The grace he shows to the leper and the centurion's servant is the same grace he extends to Peter’s mother-in-law. His grace knows no bounds. It extends to everyone.
After she’s healed she immediately begins to serve them.
Matthew shared this detail to demonstrate that the illness was completely gone. Jesus healed her and immediately she felt better. In fact, she felt so good she was able to go about the business of the house.
We know that Christ performed many miraculous healings that aren’t recorded in detail in the Scriptures. We get a glimpse of that in the following verses. He exercised demons and sent them out simply by the power of his word. No rituals. No essential oils. Just his word.
When I think about the power of God’s word I think about creation. God created everything from nothing simply by the power of his word.
God has power of the physical world. Just as He’s sovereign over the natural, He’s sovereign over the of the spiritual.
The reformer Martin Luther would often refer to Satan as God’s devil, because the devil has no power over Almighty God. Evil has no power over Him.
The Scriptures tell us that God is the author and sustainer of life.
And yet he cares about the leper and the servant and the mother-in-law! He cares about their physical well-being and their eternal souls. The sovereign creator of the world cares about your soul and the details of your life.
I’m so paranoid of forgetting our son Eli somewhere. Fortunately, it hasn’t happened yet, but knowing me it probably will.
We have a dear friend watch Eli for my wife and I a few mornings a week so she can get some work done. And while our friend is watching him, we’ll often run into folks at a coffee shop who ask us: Where’s Eli?
And sometimes I like to mess with them, look at Lauren with a panicked look on my face and say “Oh no!”
I joke, but even when he’s sleeping I’ll forget that he’s in his room.
Sometimes we forget those who are closest to us. Sometimes we take those who are close to us for granted.
If we’re honest, I think we all treat people differently for a variety of reasons. We treat the people that we know well differently from the people we don’t know at all. In one sense that’s natural, but we’re more likely to have a road rage outburst on someone we don’t know. We won’t say things in person that we’re willing to say online.
But the kindness of Jesus is the same towards everyone. He treats the outcast leper, the centurion’s servant, and Peter’s mother-in-law all the same. His love is the same.
But you and I don’t love as we ought to. We don’t have compassion like we should. We don’t do the things that we should.
Really, everything we’ve looked at comes together in verse 17.
This was to fulfill what was spoken by the prophet Isaiah: “He took our illnesses and bore our diseases.”
Verse 17 quotes Isaiah 53:4. Interestingly, Isaiah 53:4 uses the words “griefs and sorrows” which Matthew quotes as “illnesses and diseases.” If you know anything about Isaiah 53, it’s the passage about the suffering servant.
The prophet Isaiah penned these words hundreds of years before Jesus was born and yet it describes beautifully what Christ went through on the cross. You’ve probably heard this passage before. I’ll read you some of the more popular portions of that passage:
Surely he has borne our griefs
and carried our sorrows;
yet we esteemed him stricken,
smitten by God, and afflicted.
5 But he was pierced for our transgressions;
he was crushed for our iniquities;
upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace,
and with his wounds we are healed.
6 All we like sheep have gone astray;
we have turned—every one—to his own way;
and the Lord has laid on him
the iniquity of us all.
This passage makes sense in light of what we know about Christ and the cross. On the surface it could look like Matthew is misquoting this verse.
What does Isaiah chapter 53 have to do with the healing ministry of Jesus we’ve read about?
Here’s the key: Matthew understood illness and disease as a reference to our sin.
Earlier I quoted Matthew Henry as saying, “Sin is leprosy of the soul.” This is exactly what Apostle Matthew is referring to.
A more general way of thinking of it is, “Sin is the disease of the soul.”
Sin, the incurable, life-taking, hell-bounding disease, is what Jesus bore on the cross.
Our world isn’t as it should be because of sin. Think about that. Before the fall, there was no disease. There was no sickness. There was no anxiety. There was no hostility between loved ones.
Adam and Eve had perfect communion with God in the Garden. But after Adam rebelled against God and ate of the fruit he released sin into the world.
The results of sin are not just death. It’s sickness and disease. It’s anxiety. It’s hostility between loved ones.
Everything that is wrong with the world is the result of the curse of sin.
And so what we see in these verses, through the healing ministry of Jesus, is Jesus undoing the curse of sin. He takes away leprosy. He takes away paralysis. He takes away illness.
The physical healing always pointed to something much greater: spiritual healing.
Earlier I told you all about my old coach and how he claimed to wouldn’t get sick. The truth is - he would. He just refused to take care of himself. He refused to get the proper treatment.
Too often, we treat Christ with the same flippancy. I’ll go back to church for the kids. Maybe I’ll read my Bible more when I’m older and retired.
And so we think of ourselves as hospital patients with plenty of time. Right before I pass away I’ll call for Christ and he’ll rush in and save me at the last minute.
Here’s the truth that few people are willing to tell you. If this is your mentality, you’re already dead. You’ve spiritually flat-lined.
The Scriptures say you’re dead in your sins and trespasses. You don’t have the ability to wait. You don’t have the ability to call out to Christ. Dead people can’t speak!
Just as Christ did a supernatural work to the leper, the centurion’s servant, and Peter’s mother-in-law, he’s going to have to do a supernatural work on your leprous heart.
If you don’t know Jesus Christ, do you want to truly live?
Some of you might be thinking, “Well Jake, I trust in Jesus Christ and I know I’m spiritually alive.” And to that I say Amen!
To keep our hospital analogy going, you are alive… but barely. You’re a spiritual cancer patient and your chemotherapy is the gospel.
With each day that passes we need the medicine of the gospel in our veins more and more. We need to continue to repent and die unto ourselves so we can live unto Christ.
You see we all need to be healed by the Great Physician. We all need healing.
Do you know him? And do you see your need?
May we see our need for him more and more with each passing day. Amen.