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He Took Up Our Infirmities
Key Verse: 8:17 “This was to fulfill what was spoken through the prophet Isaiah: ‘He took up our infirmities and carried our disease.”
In chapters 5-7, Jesus called his disciples and taught them the Golden Rules. In order to grow as citizens in the Kingdom of God, it is required for his disciples to keep the Gold Rules, the constitution of the Kingdom of God. In chapters 8-9, Jesus heals many kinds of sick people, demonstrating his divine love and power in many ways. In today’s passage, Jesus heals a man with leprosy (1-4). Jesus heals a centurion's servant (5-13). Jesus heals Peter's wife's mother (14,15). Jesus heals many who are brought to the doors at sunset (16,17). In this way, Jesus took up all our infirmities.
There are several ways to understand Jesus’ healing ministry. Humanists praise Jesus’ healing ministry for his unconditional love for the sick. Jesus heals the sick and cares for the needy not randomly out of his humanism. Matthew prayerfully records Jesus’ healing ministry as of fulfilling what was spoken through the prophet. Especially, he emphasizes on the healing power of Jesus’ words. Living in this world, we are hurting each other due to our selfish desires and indifferences. We are wounded deeply by our sins. In spite of medical achievement, there is no way for healing the wounded hearts. But Jesus heals and makes us whole with his word. And Jesus carries out his healing the sick and the wounded not out of his human love, but out of his obedience to fulfill God’s promise without fail. Since Jesus came down from the mountain and healed the sick, there is a way for our sick and wounded soul and body to be healed. How can we be healed? It depends on how we respond to Jesus’ word. All who are healed respond to Jesus’ word by faith, believing that Jesus’ word has the power to heal and to save. Jesus is Mighty to heal and save.
I. Jesus touches the man with leprosy and heals him (1-4).
Look at verse 1. "When he came down from the mountainside, large crowds followed him." Jesus did not set up the commanding tower at the top of mountain to control people from above. Instead, he came down from the mountainside and saw large crowds following him. Jesus did not pay his attention to political and social system that produced so many sick and poor. Rather, he paid his attention to people who were sick and poor. Jesus had mercy on them, and helped them one by one practically with great compassion. When Jesus did so, they all experienced that the kingdom of God was near them. May God help us to be shepherds like Jesus so that all campus students around us may experience that the kingdom of God is near.
Out of large crowds, there was a man with leprosy. He came and knelt before Jesus and said, “Lord, if you are willing, you can make me clean” (2). A man with leprosy asked Jesus for help. When we ask for help, someone might say, “Hmm.. well… let me think about it.” How do we feel? We feel so uncomfortable, knowing that our request burdens others. In order to avoid such uncomfortable feelings, we try not to ask for help and we want other not to ask us for help. In short, we choose to live a selfish life. But selfishness burdens all of us most.
How did Jesus respond to his sudden request? Verse 3 says, “Jesus reached out his hand and touched the man. “I am willing,” he said. “Be clean!” Immediately he was cleansed of his leprosy.” When a man with leprosy came to Jesus, he did not feel burdened by him at all. Rather, he said, “I am willing. Be clean.” Jesus is always willing to help and willing to give and willing to serve and willing to heal us. Jesus is willing to invite all of us to him, saying “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest” (Mt 11:28). What a wonderful rest we can have in Jesus who never be burdened by us even at night!
First of all, Jesus reached out his hand and touched the man. Is there any meaning to why Jesus healed the man with leprosy by touching him? Do you know how difficult it is to touch the man with leprosy? In the movie, “Ben-Hur”, Miriam and Tirzah, his sister and mother, contracted leprosy in prison and expel them from the city. His sister and mother beg Esther to conceal their leprosy from Ben-Hur so she tells him that his mother and sister died. Leprosy makes the relationship between mother and son and between sister and brother be separated. Later, when Ben-Hur finds his mother and sister in the Valley of the Lepers, they do not want him come and touch them. One tragedy of leprosy is that it makes people ugly as well as miserable. We all are made in the image of God, which is very beautiful to look at. There is a young man who spends a lot of time looking into the mirror to admire his appearance. Maybe he spends too much time to go to school on time. However, the woman who was once looked so beautiful did not want Ben-Hur to come near her since her image with leper was too hideous to behold. Human beings are made to live together in society. It is a great blessing to live together in a community even though we fight with one another sometimes. When we do live separately, we do reduce the possibility of fighting each other, but do live a life of being isolated. This man with leprosy was quarantined and segregated. So he felt extremely lonely. Loneliness is the serious disease caused by sin of selfishness.
Wanting to be healed from his loneliness, he was not sure whether Jesus was willing, but was sure that Jesus could make him clean. His coming to Jesus was the expression of his faith in Jesus. When nobody wanted to come close to this man, Jesus came close to him. When nobody wanted to be touched by a leper, Jesus touched him when Jesus saw his faith. Jesus’ touch is the healing of all our loneliness and wounds. Jesus’ touch is beyond human ability. We like to touch something beautiful and someone who look good. But we cannot bear to talk with someone who look ugly, who burden us. But Jesus was different. He touched a man with leprosy in order to heal him. He took the infirmities of the man with leprosy by touching him without fear.
Second, Jesus said, “Be clean.” Upon Jesus’ words spoken, immediately he was cleansed of his leprosy. His rotting flesh became as healthy as that of a newborn baby. His muscles regained their strength, his nerves were healed. His appearance became as handsome as that of a movie star. He became a new man. The Bible indicates that the symptoms of leprosy are very similar to the symptoms of sin. As leprosy makes a man ugly, so sin destroys the image of God in man, making him hideous. As leprosy dulls sensitivity to pain, so sin sears the conscience. As leprosy separates a person from society, so sin separates us from God and from other people. As leprosy is ultimately fatal, so sin leads to death, both physical and spiritual. As leprosy was incurable, so sin is incurable by any human means. Only Jesus' words have power to cleanse all our dirty sins. Jesus' words have power to restore the image of God in us. When we come to Jesus as we are by faith, Jesus welcomes us and is willing to cleanse us. Jesus said, "I am willing. Be clean!" Ben-Hur witnessed the crucifixion of Jesus and heard Jesus talk of forgiveness of sins while on the cross. On the cross, he watched his sister and mother miraculously healed. He confessed that he felt His voice take the sword out of my hand. Indeed, Jesus carries all our infirmities and diseases, despite ourselves. Jesus is willing to carry all infirmities of campus students at Rutgers and Princeton. Let us invite them all to Jesus by touching them one by one.
II. Go! Let it be done just as you believed it would (5-13).
Look at verse 5. "When Jesus had entered Capernaum, a centurion came to him, asking for help." Here, Capernaum became the center of Jesus' Galilean ministry. A centurion was a Roman army officer in charge of 100 soldiers. They were the backbone of the Roman army. The centurion had a servant who was very sick. In those days, servants or slaves were treated like property. When they became ill, their masters could abandon them like an old junk car. The centurion in this passage was different. This centurion was grieved when his servant became ill. This centurion saw his servant as his own son. Because of this, he did not hold on to his pride of being a Roman centurion. He was willing to curb his pride and ignore his prestige if only he could help his servant. This centurion had noble humanity within him.
But the centurion's true greatness was his faith in Jesus’ words. Look at verses 7 and 8. "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.'" This is a very brief conversation. Even though this is a short conversation between Jesus and the centurion, the true greatness of the centurion is very well revealed. What was his true greatness? Was it his achievement in his society? Was it his humanity in his heart? It is his faith in Jesus’ words. It is the faith of “just say the word.” Humanly speaking, the centurion was a commander of the occupying forces. Jesus was a poor evangelist from the colony. So the centurion could have demanded Jesus to come. But he did not see Jesus from a human point of view. Rather, he saw Jesus as Lord. Jesus said to him, "I will go and heal him." But the centurion thought he did not deserve to have Jesus come to his house. He was also deeply aware of the culture of the Jews, and that they were not allowed to enter the homes of Gentiles. Though Jesus was ready to go to his house, the centurion did not want to put Jesus in a difficult position. He said, "...just say the word and my servant will be healed."
In verse 9 the centurion explained why he had such faith in Jesus' words. He said, "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." People generally do not like to be under authority. But this centurion learned the nature of command through his army career. He could submit to the authority over him, so he could also exercise authority over his subordinates. When he saw Jesus, he recognized him as his chief commander. So he applied this principle to Jesus. His faith was expressed through obedience to the authority of Jesus' word. This is the faith of “just say the word” that we should learn from him. People hate the word "obedience," but love the word “reason.” Why? It is because we belong to Adam. Since we belong to Adam, Adam's disobedience is circulating in our blood. In order to practice the faith of “just say the word,” we must belong to Jesus. Hebrew 5:8-9 say, “Jesus, even though he is the Son of God, learned obedience from what he suffered and, once made perfect, became the source of eternal salvation for all who obey him.” We must belong to Jesus. In Adam all die, but in Christ all will be made alive (1 Cor 15;22) . Then we can believe that Jesus heal us with his word. We can believe that Jesus heal all our sheep when they believe in his words.
Look at verse 10. "When Jesus heard this, he was amazed and said to those following him, 'Truly I tell you, I have not found anyone in Israel with such great faith.'" Jesus was rarely amazed at anything. But here, Jesus was really amazed at the centurion's faith. Jesus was amazed that even though he was a Gentile Roman soldier, he had greater faith than the people of Israel. Through his faith, Jesus had a great vision that many Gentiles from the east and west would humbly accept him as their Savior and participate in the feast with Abraham, Isaac and Jacob in the kingdom of heaven (11). But at the same time, Jesus foresaw that even though the Israelites were chosen by God, when they had no faith in Jesus, they would be thrown outside into the darkness, where there would be weeping and gnashing of teeth (12). Here we learn that any person who has faith in Jesus can enter the kingdom of heaven through faith in Jesus. John 1:11-13 say, “He came to that which was his own, but his own did not receive him. Yet to all who did receive him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God—children born not of natural descent, nor of human decision or a husband’s will, but born of God.”
Look at verse 13. Jesus blessed the centurion's faith, saying, "Go! Let it be done just as you believed it would." Jesus was pleased with his faith and blessed his faith. And his servant was healed at that moment. Jesus’ word has the power to change us. Jesus’ word has the power to make us go and make disciples of all nations. Peter was a man who tried to achieve his political ambition so that it was impossible for him to listen to Jesus and to change. He was sick with his desire for power. Later, he confessed that he was changed by the living word of Jesus. 1 Peter 1:23, "For you have been born again, not of perishable seed, but of imperishable, through the living and enduring word of God."
III. He took up our infirmities (14-17).
Look at verse 14. When Jesus came into Peter's house, he saw Peter's mother-in law lying in bed with a fever. Why did she have a fever? Perhaps it was due to stress over the fact that Peter was crazy to follow Jesus, abandoning his fishing business. She wondered how he would provide for her daughter. Maybe she began to speak ill of Peter; then she got a fever. Jesus understood this woman very well. He went to her and touched her hand and the fever left her. When evening came, Jesus drove out evil spirits from many people who were suffering from evil spirits, and healed all the sick (16). Jesus must have been tired. He had been serving people all day long. However, Jesus did not tell the crowd of needy people to go away and come back during office hours. Instead, Jesus welcomed them and drove out evil spirits with a word and healed all the sick one by one out of his great compassion.
When the author Matthew saw Jesus serving many kinds of needy people with mercy and love, he remembered the words of Isaiah the prophet: "He took up our infirmities and bore our diseases." This is a quotation from Isaiah 54:4 which foretold the coming and ministry of the Messiah. God did not abandon mankind to suffer with infirmities. In his great mercy, God sent Jesus as our Messiah to bring healing. No one can bear others' infirmities, for we are each fully burdened by our own infirmities. But Jesus took up our infirmities and bore our diseases. Jesus did not feel burdened by our infirmities, or blame us for our sins. Instead Jesus understood our weaknesses and took up our infirmities. Eventually Jesus bore all our sins in his body and took them away through his atoning sacrifice. Jesus wants to restore God’s image in us fully. Jesus took up all our infirmities as his obedience of fulfilling God’s promise. Jesus heals the sick, not at random based on good mind, but to fulfill God’s world mission purpose. Humanism brings us to nowhere. But Jesus’ commitment to fulfill God’s world salvation plan brings us to live in the kingdom of God. We do pray for 5loaves and 2fish orchestra not based on our good mind, but on Jesus’ command “Go and makes disciples of all nations. Let us all come to Jesus by faith of “just say the word” with pray that God may make America a Kingdom of Priests and a Holy Nation. Let us all come to Jesus by faith of “just say the word” with pray that God may send 100,000 missionaries from America to the world.