Don’t believe them. That’s right, don’t believe a word they say. I know they entice others with their fancy words and their promises, but Christian, do not believe them. You know whom I speak of don’t you? Those ones who claim that when you come to Jesus then your pains and woes will disappear. Yes, you know them. Those one who proclaim, “IF ONLY YOU HAD MORE FAITH THEN YOU WOULD BE HEALED!” Those ones who proclaim that our Savior bears all are diseases, sorrows and iniquities therefore they are gone for good. ‘LIVE IN VICTORY!” they jump and scream from their pulpits. Shame on them. They implore you with a promise of healing, shame on them. They focus on the benefits of the Savior, rather on the Savior himself. Yes, shame, indeed. Or perhaps its a whisper in your ear that softly speaks saying, “If only you had more faith, then God would heal you.” Again it whispers, imploring you, “You were meant to have all manner of things in this life, suffer not and live in bliss.” Disease and suffering is not the ultimate enemy that is to be overcome, rather, it is sin. It is sin that lies behind our suffering and sickness, that is, the effects of sin and the sorrows it brings. Oh we need a Savior that will bear up in himself this sin and the suffering it brings. Our hope is to be in a greater victory to be accomplished in the cross of our Lord which enables us to echo the Apostle Paul when he says, “Wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death?” And with a voice which exclaims in hopeful expectation, “Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord!” (Romans 7:24–25 ESV). This morning, may we see in the Gospel of Matthew more than a healing but Christ who bears up our infirmities and provides hope for those whom have come to see their desperate need for salvation. So church, do not believe them that proclaim merely the availability of all sorts of healings in Jesus, but rather listen to the Scriptures proclaim the ultimate power of our Savior: “There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. For the law of the Spirit of life has set you free in Christ Jesus from the law of sin and death.” (Romans 8:1–2 ESV).
The prophet Isaiah writes of a suffering servant. A servant who bears our iniquities, that is, our sins and transgressions. Christ has bore our sins in his flesh, he did so by submitting himself to the will of the father and the dominion of death. Again the apostle says,“though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the form of a servant,being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.” (Philippians 2:6–8 ESV). So what is our Gospel writer trying to convey? Surely he is confirming to us an historical event during the earthly ministry of our Lord, but what is the depth of meaning behind such an occasion which is seemingly eclipsed by other greater occasions. Church we must see; this is the essence of the gospel; he bore our sins and submitted himself to death. This is not merely a story of healing a disease, this is a moment which exposes the nature of our Savior and our utter dependence upon his mercy and grace. With a touch, with a word, with sweet and subtle approach is our Lord able to heal the sickness of our hearts. Oh if we were to focus our devotion more upon our need for healing from sin, then our need for physical healing would diminish in light of the greater need. Yet, he is not without compassion for the physical needs. Nor are we to be so.
To this end, the Apostle gives us, the church, this command,“Rejoice in hope, be patient in tribulation, be constant in prayer. Contribute to the needs of the saints and seek to show hospitality. Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse them. Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep.” (Romans 12:12–15 ESV) Listen to the words: rejoice, not in having all your desires fulfilled but in a hope in what is to come. Of this hope the Psalmist proclaims,“O God, be not far from me; O my God, make haste to help me! May my accusers be put to shame and consumed; with scorn and disgrace may they be covered who seek my hurt. But I will hope continually and will praise you yet more and more.” (Psalms 71:12–14 ESV) Though our world be filled with turmoil and temptation, we rest in the hope of our God. And likewise be patient, not only when the world is at peace around you, but even when in times of mayhem and confusion. For sin will reign upon the earth until the coming of our Lord to inaugurate a new heavens and a new earth. And do not neglect the consistency of prayer for the act of prayer binds the Christian to the heart of God. And may we heed the call to submit to one another and display the hospitality of Christ towards each other. And finally may we, instead of displaying a false sense of happiness, seek to truly rejoice in times of joy and bitterly weep in times of despair and sorrow. This is the church of Christ, this is the body of those who have been healed by the sweet grace of our God through his Son by the Spirit that we may manifest his grace in a very real and physical way. This is what we do. This is charity, love, faith, hope and grace. Yes, Christ can heal, but his healings are never meant to solely satisfy the recipient in the moment. No rather Christ’s healings are two-fold. They are intended to transform the receiver, as it did with Peter’s mother-in-law. Christ heals and our response is to serve him with our whole being. The second component to Christ’s healings it to draw our attention to the end of this age, where we shall burst forth from the grave as did Christ and receive from him an incorruptible body like his free from the effects of sin and death. Christ heals in order to signal a new day to come. The fact remains that those who receive healing in this life will still experience death, it is only in the resurrection that we will finally experience a domain free from the pain of death and disease. May we have the hope in which John speaks saying, “Beloved, we are God’s children now, and what we will be has not yet appeared; but we know that when he appears we shall be like him, because we shall see him as he is.” (1 John 3:2 ESV) Now hold fast Christian to this promise of resurrection for it is our hope. Of this the apostle says to the church in Thessolonica, “For the Lord himself will descend from heaven with a cry of command, with the voice of an archangel, and with the sound of the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first.” (1 Thessalonians 4:16 ESV)
What else are we to learn of the grace and nature of our Lord according to this passage? Should we not see our need for imitation? Christ, who has submitted himself to the dominion of death, has given us the example for which we must set our hearts and minds to. This is not the task of the simple-minded, this is the task of those who have received the healing grace of our God through Jesus Christ but the revitalizing power of the Holy Spirit. The text says that “He touched her hand, and the fever left her, and she rose and began to serve him.” (Matthew 8:15 ESV) She rose to serve him, both in the moment but also set forth an example of becoming a disciple of Christ. The Greek word here is diakano, from which we derive our word deacon, or servant. A deacon is one who is dedicated to serving Christ and the church. Are we not to imitate a life of service, whether or not we have an official title or not? Surely those who are in Christ have a commitment to follow in the footsteps, not of the old Adam, but of the new Adam, that is Christ. A Christian life apart from the imitation of Christ is anything but the Christian life. Because Christ willingly submitted himself to God, we willingly submit to our leaders and one another. Because Christ came to heal, we go and we seek to heal. Because Christ suffered, we too should expect to suffer. The one who has healed our sickness has given us the holy mandate to go throughout the nations proclaiming all that he has taught us in the Scripture (Matthew 28:19) and perpetuate disciples through baptizing and teaching. To declare to the world that which is in the Scriptures is to proclaim the words of the Prophet Isaiah when he says, “He took our illness and and bore our disease” that is “he bore our griefs and carried our sorrows.” How did he do this? Through the cross. Oh that we would proclaim that message, not of our victorious life, but of the life and passion of our Lord in order that we might stand before God at the judgement not because of our own righteousness but because of the righteousness of the Son who bore our sickness of sin. A message of healing apart from the truth of the cross is a not a message of healing but of idolatry. The charge for the redeemed is to be like Christ and proclaim the truth of the cross. May the words of the Apostle be fulfilled in our body when he says, “I therefore, a prisoner for the Lord, urge you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.” (Ephesians 4:1–3 ESV)
So do not believe them, Christian. Do not believe those who promise a life of fullness now, but believe those who point the way to Christ as the means for fullness in the life to come. Turn your eyes away from the vulgarity of those who proclaim that faith in Jesus Christ will produce for you all your desires for health and wealth. Our God is sovereign and will heal those whom he chooses, but take greater comfort in the grace shown to sinners in the healing power displayed upon the cross. The center point here is not the multitude of healings, but rather, the power of our Lord who now sits at the right hand of the Father pleading our case before him and awaiting that moment for when the trumpet shall sound and the Lord shall descend and we will finally have all that we need in Jesus Christ, that is, a body free from the sting of sin and death. So do not believe the embellished words of the false teacher, and turn away from the whispers of sinful lusts which give you cause to doubt the aim to which you proclaim faith in Christ. But rather watch and pray O Christian, for the coming of our Savior and take comfort in knowing that he has carried the penalty of our sins to the cross. He is the bearer of our infirmities, and with his cleansing blood, those in Christ have a new hope and a new purpose. Do you have this hope today? Have your affections and devotion turned to God or do they remain focused on temporary matters? Do you look forward to the day when sin and death and it’s effects will be forever removed? Has the Holy Spirit shown you the effects of sin and drawn you to God through Jesus Christ? I pray that God will so enlighten your heart and draw you to the hope of Christ.