The Essential Jesus

Jesus' Miracles

Matthew 8-9

Teaching t12691

Introduction

Brief review of series theme – draw upon the four gospels to survey key events in Jesus’ life and key elements of His ministry.  Matthew summarizes two key elements of Jesus’ early public ministry in Galilee (MAP; read Matt. 4:23,24,25) – His public teaching and His healing miracles.  It was both of these together that drew so many people to Him.  LAST WEEK we looked at an example of Jesus’ teaching in Matt. 5-7.  THIS WEEK we look at examples of His healing miracles in Matt. 8,9.

Let’s start by reading right through the examples (read).  Each miracle is worthy of its own teaching, but let’s first consider them more generally by asking these questions: Did He really do them?  How are they different/similar?  How is Jesus different from contemporary “healers?”  Why did He do them?

Did He really do them?

It’s not surprising that people have trouble believing that Jesus really did this!  After all, things like this don’t happen normally.  (But it wasn’t normal to Jesus’ audience either – note their amazed reaction in 8:27; 9:8,33.)  Many think that they are mythical/legendary accounts that should be excised from Jesus’ biography (e.g., The Jefferson Bible[1]; Jesus Seminar).

These are eye-witness accounts from sane, intelligent people whose historical trustworthiness in other areas has been verified (EXAMPLE), and who suffered greatly for their testimony (e.g., Matthew in 9:9).  Eye-witness testimony should be accepted unless the witnesses discredit themselves.

Even Jesus’ enemies acknowledged that He performed miracles (9:34).  The Talmud says: “Yeshu of Nazareth was hanged on the day of preparation for the Passover because he practiced sorcery and led the people astray.”[2]

How are they different/similar?

On the one hand, we see a striking diversity in these miracles:

Jesus demonstrates His authority over different kinds of human problems: sickness, nature, demons and death.  Even within these different spheres, we see differences (e.g., acute & chronic sickness).

Jesus heals very different kinds of people (e.g., Jewish/Roman; male/female; old/young; rich/poor; strangers/inner circle; etc.).

On the other hand, see a striking unity in these miracles:

Jesus always uses His supernatural power redemptively for humans – never destructively.[3]  (ALSO: contrast to Infancy Gospel Of Thomas).

Jesus almost always healed people instantaneously and completely (8:3,13,15,32; 9:6,7,22,25,30,33).[4]

How is Jesus different from contemporary “healers?”

Many have an reflex aversion to Jesus’ healing ministry because they are aware of so-called “healers” who travel around drawing crowds, staging fake healings, and bilking people out of their money – all in the name of Jesus and citing His healings as their example.  So Jesus accumulates guilt by association with these people.  But Jesus’ healing miracles are very different from these “healer-dealers.”

He had no interest in drawing crowds.  He urged people He had healed to keep quiet about it (9:30).  When crowds began to gather, He departed (8:18). 

When people wanted to give Him political power because of His miracles, He decisively declined (Jn. 6:14,15).

There is no record of Jesus either asking for or receiving money for His healings.  He lived very simply (8:20), apparently using donations to meet their simple needs and giving the rest to the poor (Jn. 12:5).

Why did He do them?

What was Jesus’ objective in performing these healing miracles?  If He didn’t do them for money or fame or power, then why did He do them?  This passage provides at least three answers to this question.

He healed people in order to fulfill Old Testament Messianic prophecies (8:16,17).  God wanted His people to recognize their Messiah when He came, so through the Old Testament prophets He gave dozens of predictions about the Him (e.g., TIME; DESCENT; BIRTH-PLACE; etc.).  Prophets sometimes performed healing miracles as God’s spokespersons, but they predicted that the Messiah would have an unprecedented healing ministry (see also Isa. 35:5,6).  So through this aspect of His ministry, Jesus was validating His Messianic claims.

He healed people because He had compassion for their suffering (touched the leper in 8:3; 9:36).  Jesus expressed the full range of human emotions (e.g., anger; joy; sadness), but His compassion is the emotional reaction most noted in the gospels.  As God’s Son, as God-incarnate, Jesus’ healing miracles demonstrate that God both cares about our suffering and is able to do something about our suffering.  They are foretastes of His kingdom which He will establish when He returns (quote Rev. 21:4).  More on this more in a few minutes . . .

He physically healed these people in order to signify the spiritual healing He came to offer all people.  This is why John calls Jesus’ miracles “signs” (Jn. 20:31) – physical healings of individuals, but also symbolic acts that illustrate His ability to meet our deepest spiritual needs (CHART).  Jesus’ healing of the paralytic (9:2-8) is an example.

Read 9:2.  Strange that Jesus would say “Your sins are forgiven” to a man who is paralyzed!  The man may well have been disappointed, but Jesus seems to notifying him (and us) that his sins were his biggest problem.  What ultimate good would it do to have his physical body fixed if his sins kept him alienated from God in this life and sentenced him to eternal separation from God in the next life?  Jesus sets this situation up as a way of teaching what his (and our) biggest problem is and Who alone can fix it.

Read 9:3.  The religious leaders were right that only God has the authority to forgive people of all of their sins.  If you sin against me, I can forgive you of those sins.  But what if I declare that I forgive you of the sins you’ve committed against other people, or of all the sins you’ve ever committed?  Jesus declares that all of this man’s sins have been forgiven – so He is claiming to be God.  Since they didn’t believe that Jesus was God, they concluded that He was committing blasphemy.

Read 9:4,5.  On one level, it is easier to say “Your sins are forgiven” because people can’t verify whether this statement is fulfilled, while they can verify whether “Get up and walk” is fulfilled.  On another level, it is more difficult to say “Your sins are forgiven” because (in this setting) this requires divine authority, and exposes its claimant to the charge of blasphemy.

Read 9:6,7.  “So that you may know that the Son of Man has authority to forgive sins.”   By connecting the man’s sickness with his sinfulness, Jesus’ healing of his sickness validates His claim to forgive him of his sins.  The physical healing is a “sign” of Jesus’ ability to administer a deeper, more important spiritual healing (Jn. 6,9,11).

What about you?  Do you ask God to fix your symptoms (EXAMPLES) – and then get disappointed/angry when He refuses?  What if He wants to heal your root problem first?  What if answering your symptoms would help you to keep your root problem unresolved?

Jesus offers complete forgiveness as a free gift – but we must receive it by choosing to put our faith in Him (quote Eph. 2:8,9).  This is why so many of the healing miracles in chapters 8 & 9 mention the recipients’ faith (see also 8:10,13,26; 9:2,22,28,29).  Saving faith doesn’t not have to be free from all questions or doubt (they were often amazed when He healed them!).  It is simply the willingness to entrust yourself to Jesus as your Savior, and to ask Him to forgive you and rescue from your lostness.

Epilogue

Read 9:35-38.  Note the verbs of 9:36,37 – “seeing,” “felt compassion,” “said.”  Seeing something ignited His heart to feel something, which led to doing something.[5]

What did Jesus see?  He saw the people described in 9:35b, like the people we just read about in chapters 8 & 9.  They were like sheep without a shepherd – downcast and distressed (or bewildered and helpless).  Unlike the religious leaders, their sufferings had convinced them that they could not make their lives work, that they needed a Good Shepherd to heal them and lead them.  Need is the mother of spiritual receptivity.  Because they were “poor in spirit,” they were a “plentiful harvest” – receptive to God’s redemption through Jesus.

Because of what Jesus saw, He felt something.  What did He feel?  He felt compassion for them.  His heart felt for them and with them, pitying their condition and desiring to relieve them of their distress.

Because of what Jesus felt, He did something.  What did He do?  He told His disciples to pray that God would send more workers into His harvest.  Jesus always planned to harvest receptive souls through His followers.  So He urges His disciples to pray for God to send more workers so that the harvest may not rot in the fields.  And as they (presumably) pray, Jesus begins to send them to the fields He has selected for them (see 10:1ff.).

Many of us in this room have been seeing – seeing whole groups in our community who are downcast and distressed, who know that they are unable to make their lives work, who know that they need something or someone to deliver and heal them.  People who are addicted to drugs, family members of addicts, military veterans who are shattered by war, urban youths who are broken by absent or dysfunctional families, people going through divorce, people who are dying of terminal diseases, people who have family members who have killed themselves, people who struggle with mental illness, etc.  Messy people, but people who are poor in spirit.  Do you see them?  Have you asked God to open your eyes to see them – or do you distract yourself with another cooking or home-improvement or reality TV show?  Or do you focus your attention only on your own family and friends, and maybe on your next vacation?

Maybe you don’t want to see because you’re afraid that if you see you feel overwhelmed.  But if you’re willing to ask God to enable you to see, He will also enable you to feel compassion for those whom you see.  He is also able to give you a heart of love for hurting people, a heart that motivates you to serve them instead of dismissing them or treating them like a project.

And if you are willing to let God enable you to feel compassion for people, you will be motivated by the vastness of the need to pray – to pray for more workers, to pray for a way into these “fields,” to pray for Him to send you out as a worker into the field He has prepared for you.  Over the past 8 years, many people in this room have been praying for this.  In answer to our prayers, He has raised up ministry teams in many of these “fields” and sent many of us to them to reap a harvest.  But we see more “ripe fields,” so we’re praying (especially at Prayer Concerts) for more teams and for more workers who see and feel and pray.  Will you join us?


[1]The Life and Morals of Jesus of Nazareth, commonly referred to as the Jefferson Bible, was a book constructed by Thomas Jefferson in the later years of his life by cutting and pasting with a razor and glue numerous sections from the New Testament as extractions of the doctrine of Jesus. Jefferson's condensed composition is especially notable for its exclusion of all miracles by Jesus and most mentions of the supernatural, including sections of the four gospels which contain the Resurrection and most other miracles, and passages indicating Jesus was divine.”  https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jefferson_Bible

[2] TB Sanhedrin 43a (Baraitha), cited in Mark Lane, The Gospel According to Mark (Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1974), p. 142.

[3] Even Jesus’ one “destructive” miracle (cursing the fig tree) was not destructive for humans, and had a redemptive purpose (to warn Israel of judgment for their refusal to believe in Him as Messiah).

[4] The two instances in which Jesus healed someone gradually or in stages (Jn. 9:6,7; Mk. 8:22-25) seem to be for instructional purposes.

[5] Luke describes this same sequence with the Good Samaritan in Lk. 10:33,34 and in Paul in Acts 17:16,17.