Matthew 4:23-25 Jesus the Healer (Lenten 1)

This past Advent season we looked at some contrasting pairs of words describing Jesus and his ministry.  He is the Prophet and the prophesied, the King and the servant, the Priest and the sacrifice, the one who is coming and yet who is here.  These juxtaposed nouns taught us a lot about the ministry of our Lord and we were blessed by a greater understanding of our Savior and Lord.  Since that series was so appreciated and enjoyable to do, this Lenten season we are going to continue looking at some other nouns that describe Jesus and his ministry.  We will explore Jesus as our Teacher, our brother, the Lord of Creation, our friend and ultimately, the long-awaited Messiah.  But today we will start by seeing that Jesus is our healer. 

At the beginning of the Gospel of Matthew after the opening chapters about the miraculous birth and the calling of the first disciples, we find these words, (Matt. 4:23) Jesus went throughout Galilee, teaching in their synagogues, preaching the good news of the kingdom, and healing every disease and sickness among the people.  Jesus’ ministry was composed of these three facets – Preaching, teaching, and healing.  He taught the Word to religious people.  He expounded the Torah in its true sense, not as a series of dos and don’ts but as an explanation of what it means to Love the Lord your God with all your heart, and soul, and mind and strengthto love your neighbor as yourself (Matt 22:37, 39).

In fact, as the crowds heard His expositions of the Torah, they routinely responded with statements like (Matt. 13:54) “Where did this man get this wisdom and these miraculous powers?” or (Mark 1:27) “What is this? A new teaching — and with authority!”  In fact, the gospels regularly record the people’s amazement at the teachings of Jesus.  Following the Sermon on the Mount, Matthew writes (Matt. 7:28-29) When Jesus had finished saying these things, the crowds were amazed at his teaching, because he taught as one who had authority, and not as their teachers of the law.

Jesus was a Teacher, in a league of his own.  He knew the Word for it originated in him. 2Pet. 1:20-21 Above all, you must understand that no prophecy of Scripture came about by the prophet’s own interpretation. For prophecy never had its origin in the will of man, but men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit. It was the very Spirit of God that indwelt him.  More than that, John’s gospel opens with words telling us that Jesus is the very Word of God.  He taught powerfully because it was in him and flowed out of his being.

But Jesus was also preacher declaring the good news of the kingdom.  Jesus proclaimed that God was near, and his reign was breaking into this world (Matt 3:7).  He said the Kingdom of Heaven, the place of God’s reign and rule, was at hand.  A kingdom where God promised to pardon, protect and save sinners by making them righteous. (2Th. 3:3) But the Lord is faithful, and he will strengthen and protect you from the evil one. (1Tim. 1:15) Here is a trustworthy saying that deserves full acceptance: Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners — of whom I am the worst.

In fact, it was because of his preaching and teaching that Jesus also came as the Great Healer.  His healing ministry added depth to his proclamation, giving visible signs and expression to the promise of complete forgiveness.  Did you know that there are at least 39 different stories in the Gospels that recount specific acts of healing that Jesus performed?  13 of these are found in Matthew’s gospel.  Compare that to the 8 occurrences where people are called to repent or repentance, or the 10 occurrence of Believ*, and we will quickly see that Jesus’ ministry of healing is important.  In fact, it is so important that the gospel of Matthew repeats verse 4:23 nearly verbatim again in 9:35.  Between chapters 4 and 9 Jesus teaches the Sermon on the Mount and he performs many great miraculous healings.  Matthew wants his readers to understand that the healing ministry and the preaching ministry are intimately connected.  One magnifies the other.

This verse about Jesus’ teaching and healing is crucial to understanding His ultimate mission.  Preaching and teaching is pretty easy to understand. (Rom. 10:14 How, then, can they call on the one they have not believed in? And how can they believe in the one of whom they have not heard? And how can they hear without someone preaching to them?) But why healing?  There are three reasons that Matthew Henry outlined over three hundred years ago that are still pertinent today.  The first is that the Jesus’ healing ministry was miraculous proving that Jesus had authority over both the physical world and the spiritual world. Matt. 9:5-6 Which is easier: to say, ‘Your sins are forgiven,’ or to say, ‘Get up and walk’? But so that you may know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins. . . .” Then he said to the paralytic, “Get up, take your mat and go home.”

When Jesus healed every disease and sickness among the people (Matt 4:23) the first thing we are to note is the totality of the command and ability of Christ.  Diseases are those ailments that are lasting and long-term.  They don’t go away by their own accord, but persist in the body and cause continually diminished performance.  But sicknesses tend to be more temporary and passing, one can get over a sickness, while one must live with a disease.

But the miracle is that the great Healer cured every disease and sickness among the people.  It didn’t matter whether it was persistent, like blindness and lameness or temporary like a fever and chills; the Lord Jesus has authority over them all.  And as he taught that the Kingdom was breaking in, he displayed its power among the people as evidence of the truth.  In fact, the listing of healings that Christ effected is staggering, the passage declares (Matt. 4:24) News about him spread all over Syria, and people brought to him all who were ill with various diseases, those suffering severe pain, the demon-possessed, those having seizures, and the paralyzed, and he healed them.

It wasn’t just some things that Jesus cured, the gospel goes on to record the healing of a paralytic, 2 demon possessed men, the raising of a dead girl, the healing of a bleeding woman for 12 years, restoration of sight to the blind and mute and the healing of multiple demon possessed people.  You see as the creator of the World, Jesus Christ has authority over the physical world and He is able to remake it and restore it to proper function. Furthermore, as the exalted Lord, he is ruler over ever force in the creation.  All are subject to him and all must obey.  In fact, because of his healing ministry, Jesus shows that everything in rebellion to the reign of God is being subjected to the in breaking Kingdom being established.

Second, Jesus’ healing ministry shows the mercy of God to humanity.  In healing people, our Lord was displaying the Love of God, which is the foundation of his entire kingdom. Paul writes of three great things: Faith hope and love – but he says, the greatest of these is Love (1Cor 13:13).  Every act of healing that Jesus brought was a display of God’s Love for broken people.  He showed love to those who suffered with severe pain, lit. those preoccupied with torture.  There are some sicknesses that are just so great that people feel as though they are in a medieval torture cell, strung upon the rack as their body suffers and groans each moment of the day.   To these our Lord showed his mercy, relieving their pain.  To those with seizures, or what used to be called “moonstruck” or lunacy, he restored the mind so that they might know the kindness and love of God their savior.  To the paralyzed, he gave the love of being made whole, becoming a full participant in the Kingdom and to the demon possessed he granted a foretaste of his love, a love which would permanently free humanity from slavery to sin, death, the devil and his demons.

Jesus’ healing ministry was a picture of the in breaking reign of God in creation.  His healing was a picture of the Kingdom of Love coming near. This is why he healed and it is also why he proclaimed.  One was a verbal representation, the other was a visual, tactile representation of the reality which was coming to humanity, in much the same way that our sacraments – baptism and communion are visual, sensory and real displays of what Jesus has done for us by washing away our sins and nourishing us with his life.

But, Jesus’ healing ministry was also a mystery that came to show how our physical realities are really indicative of our need for spiritual healing.  What I mean is this, after one particular healing of a paralytic in Matthew 9, Jesus declares, (Matt. 9:12-13) On hearing this, Jesus said, “It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. But go and learn what this means: ‘I desire mercy, not sacrifice.’ For I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners.”

Our Lord healed the physical and spiritual maladies of people because he wanted to display to the world, our utter need for true healing in our souls toward God.  In the ancient Hebrew mind, all disease and sickness was the result of hostile forces opposing the rule of God.  Psalm 38 gives us a glimpse of this: (Psa. 38:3-4) Because of your wrath there is no health in my body; my bones have no soundness because of my sin. My guilt has overwhelmed me like a burden too heavy to bear. And James picks up that theme in his epistle with these words, (James 5:14-16) Is any one of you sick? He should call the elders of the church to pray over him and anoint him with oil in the name of the Lord. And the prayer offered in faith will make the sick person well; the Lord will raise him up. If he has sinned, he will be forgiven. Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed.

I am not suggesting that every illness we experience is the result of personal sin on our part, and neither is the Scripture, for the gospels recount the story of a man born blind not because of his own sin, or the sin of his parents, but born simply so that the power of God could be displayed in the world (John 9:2ff).  But without negating this truth, there is something unique about the connection between physical illness and spiritual rebellion.  Both are examples in the world of things actively resisting the will of the Father and the establishment of his kingdom.  Both are the result of death and the only way for there to be ultimate relief for the one and the other is if the words of the Maker, recreate all that is opposed to His rule and make it useful once again.

Jesus healed people physically to show us that He wants to heal you and I spiritually!  As we look towards Lent are we prepared to confess those places in our life where our pride has blinded us to our spiritual sickness?  Are we ready to let the Great Physician cauterise our heart, cut out that cancer and give us an infusion of healthy blood?

There are so many sicknesses that the gospel, through the power of the Spirit can heal in our lives. As the Word says, Gal. 5:22-23  But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Jesus can bring healing from pride and selfishness by giving us a heart of service and compassion.  He can cure greed by causing generosity to well up.  He destroys lust, pornography, sexual abuse and all other forms of sexual dysfunction by teaching us to truly love others instead of using them for our own gratification.  Jesus wants to bring healing from busyness by giving us eyes to see people not tasks.  He desires to heal us from the incessant rules we create about what it means to be holy, righteous and good, by leading us into true conformity in heart and mind to his own character and will.  He wants to break down our rebellion and the voice of human reason and prudence in our mind that talks us out of complete and radical obedience to the promptings of his spirit and he wants to replace it with courage and boldness to act and do what is pleasing in his sight. 2Tim. 1:7 For God did not give us a spirit of timidity, but a spirit of power, of love and of self-discipline.

People of God Jesus wants to heal you and his healing will be miraculous, merciful and a mystery.  You will never fully grasp how it is that you have changed, but you will be able to see the result.  Sometimes that healing may come from a word that is preached or a Scripture that is read; and at other times it may come from an experience we have in life with some dirt and spittle, like the man whose eyes were restored in John 9.  Either way, it matters not, Jesus is healing and every act of healing he brings comes through his wisdom and his ways.

Are you ready to be healed? Will you bring what ails you and cry out, “Lord have mercy on me.  I want to truly see as you see.  Change me.  Make me whole.  Fix all that rebels within me making me spiritually sick.” Come to the one who calls sinners and sends them home as saints.  Come to the Great Physician.  Come to the healer.  He alone can make you well.

Sermon Outline

Jesus’ Ministry of Preaching, Teaching, Healing

Why Healing?

Miracles prove his authority over physical and spiritual

Mercy shows that love is the foundation of his Kingdom

Mystery of how the physical shows we need a spiritual healing

Jesus wants to heal you!

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About Scott Roberts

pastor of Hope in Christ Church, Bellingham, WA
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