Healing Hands (Matthew 8:14-17)
When this pandemic first hit, I was terrified of COVID-19. Toward the end of January last year, when there were only a handful of cases in two or three states, I went to Lowe’s and got some face masks for the family. I started to call my parents and tell them they needed to get face masks, but I was afraid I was overreacting. I wouldn’t let Tammy or Wil go to the store; if we needed something, I’d run and get it. RJ was living with Tammy’s parents at the time, and I was worried to death that society would break down and we’d have no way to know what was going on with him. I desperately wanted him to come home, and I even told Tammy that I thought RJ needed to come home to be with the rest of us as this disease ravaged the country. Tammy and I watched the White House and the Virginia governor’s briefings daily to learn the latest.
I love Stephen King books—e.g., The Stand— and apocalyptic TV shows—e.g., The Walking Dead—and I think I allowed that fiction to cloud my judgment.
But I also know that some you were very concerned at the beginning. Maybe you were concerned to go out in public when the pandemic started; maybe you still have concerns about being around people. Maybe you wisely signed up to be vaccinated as soon as you received an invitation; I got my second dose this past week. Maybe you were afraid to visit your doctor; I had a condition that went unchecked for over a year. Maybe you’ve had a few scares about being exposed to COVID, and I know several of you have suffered with COVID. This past year has been one of great concern over our health.
In the first century, many folks were concerned about their health, and they didn’t have all the medical care we have. Peter’s mother-in-law was surely concerned about her health as she lay in bed with a fever. The families who brought their demon-possessed loved ones to Jesus were concerned about health. The sick who came to Jesus were concerned about their health.
In this morning’s text, Jesus healed Peter’s mother-in-law, cast out demons, and healed many sick; Matthew reminded his readers of Isaiah’s prophecy and made the point, “Jesus bore our diseases with his healing hands.” We often think of Isaiah 53 only in the context of Jesus’s death on the cross; we’re right to think of the passage in connection with Golgotha, but it also applied to Jesus’s miraculous healings.
Let’s take a look at how Jesus healed and learn that “Jesus bore our diseases with his healing hands.”
Scripture (Matthew 8:14-17)
Extended families often lived together, and adult children typically took care of their parents. Children of all ages were to honor father and mother (e.g., Ex 20:12). It’s probable that Peter’s father-in-law has died, and Peter and his wife have taken his mother-in-law into their home.
Fevers can be serious in our own day. They were even more serious in a day and age without modern medicine.
Jesus touched her hand, and the fever left her; she didn’t need any time to recover.
Peter’s mother-in-law got up and began waiting on Jesus. The fact that she got up and began waiting on Jesus demonstrates just how completely she was healed; one minute she was in bed with a fever, and the next minute she was up waiting on Jesus.
That evening many demon-possessed folks were brought to Jesus. Word of what Jesus had done spread rather quickly. People may have known Peter’s mother-in-law was sick and then have seen her up and about—that would have made quite the impression!
Jesus drove out the spirits with a word. Exorcists in the days of Jesus often used long incantations or appealed to magic supposedly passed down from Solomon to drive out spirits. They would even use strong-smelling roots to gag the spirits out of a person. Jesus didn’t do anything like that—he showed his power by simply speaking a word and causing the demons to leave.
Jesus healed all the sick. He didn’t heal just some of the sick, and he didn’t encounter some cases that were too difficult to heal; Jesus healed everybody.
Jesus’s healing in Capernaum was in fulfillment of prophecy from Isaiah 53:4. In Isaiah 53, the Lord Jesus is depicted as the Suffering Servant; part of the Servant’s work was not simply to die and remove the guilt of sin—His work also removed the physical illnesses of those he healed.
“Jesus bore our diseases with his healing hands.” Jesus bore a wide range of diseases in Matthew 8:14-17; no doubt, were he here on earth now, he would bear COVID-19 with the same power he demonstrated in Capernaum. Yet, as we think about applying this text, we want to think in much broader terms than COVID; we’re not always going to be in the midst of this pandemic, but there will always be diseases and there will always be Jesus. Let’s think about this text today.
Because Jesus bore diseases with his healing hands, you bear the diseases of others.
In other words, you minister to the sick and hurting. If you claim to be the people of Christ, you must live as Jesus lived: “Whoever claims to live in him must live as Jesus did” (1 Jn 2:6).
Jesus showed great compassion in this text. He touched Peter’s mother-in-law. Because women were unclean during their monthly cycle (Lev 15:19), most men would not touch women. Jesus cared more about this poor woman in bed than he did about ritual purity. Then, at the end of the day, when word got around about the Healer in town, Jesus spent time healing the sick and casting out demons.
Jesus showed great compassion to the hurting. “When Jesus landed and saw a large crowd, he had compassion on them and healed their sick” (Matt 14:14). When two blind men called out to Jesus to heal them, “Jesus had compassion on them and touched their eyes. Immediately they received their sight” (Matt 20:34).
If you are to bear the diseases of others, you must demonstrate compassion. “Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn” (Rom 12:15). “As God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience” (Col 3:12).
Whether someone is suffering from COVID or another disease, there are so many opportunities to show the compassion of Jesus. How can you show compassion to those who are sick? Maybe you go to the grocery store or pharmacy and take food or medications by the house. Maybe you call to check on someone and break up the monotony of being stuck at home. Maybe you offer rides to the doctor. Maybe you sit with them at the doctor’s office, if there’s a chance of bad news. Maybe you send a card.
Find someone hurting this week and show the compassion of Jesus. How will you show Jesus’s compassion this week?
Because Jesus bore diseases with his healing hands, you bear people to Jesus.
Notice what Matthew said: “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” (Matt 8:16). The demon-possessed folks couldn’t have gotten to Jesus without help, and the demon-possessed people of Capernaum were brought to Jesus.
Throughout the Gospels, you find the sick being brought to Jesus. In Capernaum, four men tried to get their lame friend to Jesus; when there wasn’t any room at the door, they climbed up on the roof, dug through the roof, and lowered their friend down smack dab in front of the Lord (Mk 2:1-5). When Jesus arrived in Gennesaret, the people “ran throughout that whole region and carried the sick on mats to wherever they heard he was” (Mk 6:55). When Lazarus was sick, Mary and Martha sent word to Jesus to come and heal their brother (Jn 11:1-3).
There is absolutely nothing more powerful we can do for our sick friends than to take them to Jesus and ask the Lord to heal them. Do you realize that when we pray for our sick friends and family that we are taking their names before the One who still has the power to heal the sick? When Hezekiah was told that he was not going to recover from his illness, he turned his face to the wall and wept and prayed; God sent Isaiah to the king’s chamber to tell Hezekiah that he would add 15 years to his life (2 Ki 20:1-11).
Prayer has such great power. Jesus: “You may ask me for anything in my name, and I will do it” (Jn 14:14). “If our hearts do not condemn us, we have confidence before God and receive from him anything we ask, because we keep his commands and do what pleases him” (1 Jn 3:21-22).
Remember what James, the brother of Jesus, said? “Is anyone among you sick? Let them call the elders of the church to pray over them and anoint them with oil in the name of the Lord. And the prayer offered in faith will make the sick person well; the Lord will raise them up” (Js 5:14-15). In context, I’m convinced that the “sick person” is one who is spiritually sick, but the same principle applies.
To make sure we understood he wrote a broad principle, James reminded us of Elijah: “Elijah was a human being, even as we are. He prayed earnestly that it would not rain, and it did not rain on the land for three and a half years. Again he prayed, and the heavens gave rain, and the earth produced its crops” (Js 5:17-18). “Elijah was a human being, even as we are.” Elijah wasn’t heard because he was holier than you are. Elijah wasn’t heard because he was a prophet. Elijah was just as you are; God heard him, and God answered him. You have that same confidence before the Father.
As you know, God answers prayer according to his will, not yours. Yet, God still answers prayer in a mighty way.
This week take the prayer list and mention each of those names before the Father. Ask God for healing. Ask God for his richest blessings upon each person. Ask God to do what no doctor can. Ask God to use his great power.
Do you need God to use his mighty power to cleanse your life of sin?