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The Miracles of the Kingdom, Part 1: Jesus Heals and Casts out Spirits: According to Scripture

Series: Matthew

Sermon by J. Ligon Duncan on Oct 19, 1997

Matthew 8:1-17

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Having spoken the words of life in the Sermon on the Mount, the Lord Jesus now demonstrates His power by the performance of miracles, signs which attest to who He is, signs which prove the truth of His teaching, signs which prove the claims that He is, indeed, the Christ.  And so, by words and deeds, He is shown the Messiah.  The passage which we’re going to look at today in Matthew 8:1-17, divides into three parts, and you can see it set apart geographically.  If you look at v. 1, you’ll see these words: “When Jesus came down from the mountain.”  That begins the section which addresses Jesus’ healing of the leper.  Then, if you’ll look down to v. 5, you’ll see the second section of this passage.  It begins with the words, “When Jesus entered Capernaum.”  That sections deals with His healing the servant of the centurion.  And then, in vv 14-17, if you look at v. 14 you see the phrase, “When Jesus came into Peter’s home,” that is the third section of this passage.  In that section, Peter’s mother-in-law is healed, and there are various others healed of illnesses and even those who have demons, have the demons cast out.  So, let us hear the word of God, beginning in Matthew 8 verse 1: 

(Matthew 8:1-17) 

Our Father, we ask that You would open our eyes to behold wonderful truths from Your word, that You would write it on our heart, that we might respond to it rightly.  We pray, O Lord, that we would not only set our faith on the One who is our Savior, but that we would reflect His compassion, and we ask these things through Jesus Christ, our Lord, Amen. 

As  we view Jesus in this passage, healing a leper and then a paralytic and then a woman with a fever, and casting out demons, and healing various other diseases, we see His power.  Matthew has laid before us, in chapters 5-7, a picture of His teaching.  He’s given us the Lord Jesus’ words of life.  Now, back-to-back with the Lord Jesus’ words, beginning here in chapter 8 through chapter 9, he’s going to give us example after example of the Lord Jesus’ power, deeds of power, so that the Lord Jesus’ words and deeds are laid side by side.  To indicate to us that the Lord Jesus does not just make great claims, He does not just simply set forth great teaching, but He has the power to forgive sins, to heal diseases.   He is, indeed, the Great Teacher from God, He is the Son of God, He is the Savior of Sinners, He is the Messiah for which the people of God had been waiting.  He is the Hope of the World.  Matthew makes that point, by saying these things side by side, and I’d like to look at this passage with you, and in particular point out three things that we see in these stories of the Lord Jesus’ healing.           

I.     All who trust in the Lord Jesus will be healed from the affliction of sin.
   
The first, you will find in vv 1-4.  In that passage, the Lord Jesus manifests His compassionate power in the healing of a man with leprosy, and we learn from that passage the truth that all who trust in Jesus will be healed from the affliction of sin.  All who trust in Jesus will be healed from the affliction of sin.  This leper came before the Lord, we are told, in v. 2, and he bowed down before Him, and he said, “Lord, You can heal me, if You want to.”  This is an amazing thing.  Leprosy was a dread disease in Jesus’ time.  In the ancient world, leprosy was thought to be the judgment of God against an individual.  It was thought to be highly contagious. It was contagious, it  probably wasn’t as contagious as they thought it was, and because it was feared, not only as a judgment of God, but something that you could catch, lepers were ostracized, they were kept apart from the rest of society.  Leprosy was not only thought to be a judgment of God, it was not only something that brought you social ostracism,. In addition, leprosy was thought to be incurable.  There was certainly nothing the physicians of those days could do to cure leprosy.  If you were going to be cured of leprosy, that was in God’s hands.  Even in the Law of Moses, the Law of Moses doesn’t give rules about what to do in every sickness, but for leprosy, if you had leprosy you were to show yourself to a priest.  There was nothing the physicians could do for you.  The priest could diagnose you, but only God could heal you.  The priest could pronounce you healed by the Law, but only God could heal a leper.  It was a dread thing.  Further than this, not only was there the social ostracism, there was the fact that a leper was considered unclean.  If you had leprosy, you couldn’t come in with the people of God to worship in the temple.  You were separated, you were cast out, you were kept away because of this dread thing. 

This man was bold enough to come into public admitting himself to be a leper, and casting himself before the feet of the Lord Jesus and saying, “Lord, I know You can heal me if You want to.”  And the Lord Jesus’ words are beautiful, and you notice how they correspond exactly to the leper’s words,  ‘Lord, You can heal me if it is Your will.’  Notice the Lord Jesus’ words, “I am willing; be cleansed.”  The Lord Jesus’ power is set forth in this episode. 

In this episode, we see that the Lord Jesus has power over the most dread disease, over the most dread scourge of His day.  He reaches out and He touches this leper.  How long would it have been since this leper had felt human touch, even from his own family, and the Lord Jesus graciously reaches out and He touches this man and He heals him of this disease, thus showing His power over all temporary circumstances and illnesses and diseases which those who believe on Him might contract.  Isn’t it interesting, Moses’ first miracle in Egypt was to cleanse himself from leprosy to show God’s power to Pharaoh.  Jesus’ first miracle, recorded in Matthew, was to cleanse another who had leprosy, and to touch him and yet not to become unclean. 

Do you see how Matthew is showing the superiority of the Lord Jesus even over Moses?  Moses, like the priests, had to offer sacrifices for himself first, and then for the people.  But this Lord Jesus needs no forgiveness of sins, in fact, if you and I had been in Israel and we had touched a leper, we would have been declared ceremoniously unclean.  This Lord Jesus can touch a leper and not be unclean.  That’s the kind of power He has over sin.   That’s the kind of power He has over disease.  This is a testimony to the power of the Lord Jesus.  It’s a testimony to His divinity, it’s a testimony to His claim to be the Savior of the World, and the Messiah of His people. 

Perhaps today, there is a powerful sin in your life, a sin which you have tried to shed over these last years, but you have not been able to shake it.  Perhaps it is a sin in a relationship.  Perhaps it is a sin of the abuse of a substance, alcohol or drugs, and you have tried with all your might and main and you can’t shake it, and you’re at your wits end and you think it’s such a deep sin that even Christ Himself can’t break you free from it.  This leper is here to tell you, “You’re wrong.” The Lord Jesus Christ has power over every circumstance, and if we will but trust in Him, the Lord Jesus will answer our prayers.  We must first, though, admit our spiritual leprosy before Him. 

You see, if this leper had not admitted that he was a leper, he couldn’t have been cured of His leprosy, and we must go and admit that we are spiritual lepers.   We need the forgiveness of sins, we’re sinnersWe deserve judgment.  And we must do this before we’ll ever taste and see of the Lord’s goodness and the forgiveness of sins. 

Have you humbled yourself before Christ like this leper?  Have you admitted that you don’t deserve anything, except punishment from Him, and yet you trust in Him to save you from your sins?  Is that where you are this day?  Then you are happy indeed.  Let me ask you this, my friends, my Christian friends, “Have you emulated Christ’s compassion here?”  I can’t think of another illness in our day and time like leprosy that was incurable and contagious, and was thought of to be the judgment of  God, and brought on social ostracism, unless it’s maybe those who have contracted HIV and then AIDS.  People in polite society don’t want to be around them, and they’re cast off with fear that that the judgment of God is upon them.  Perhaps there’s a suspicion about their own moral character.  Do you have the same kind of compassion for those who are outcast, that your Lord Jesus has?  He saw this leper and He had compassion for him.  He wanted this man to be made whole.  Is that your heart?  Do you have that same kind of love for the unlovely, for the outcast, for the ostracizes?  We should.  If the love of the Lord Jesus is in us, we ought to have that kind of love, that type of practical, caring love, and though we can’t heal with a touch and with a word like Him, we can minister in His name.   

II.     Jesus is the one and only Savior of the world.
    There’s a second thing we learn in this passage, and we learn it in vv 5-13.  In that passage the Lord Jesus manifests His sovereign power in healing with only a word, the centurion’s servant, and in that passage we learn that Jesus is the one and only Savior of the world.  In the story of the centurion’s servant, we see that He’s the Savior of Jews and of Gentiles, He’s the Savior of the World.  This is a great passage.  This centurion, a Roman officer in an occupying army in Palestine, in the land of Israel, comes to the Lord Jesus.  Now I wouldn’t imagine that Romans would have interacted very often politely with Jewish peasants.  I imagine that there would have been an air of superiority, when Romans officers dealt with Jewish peasants.  But this Roman officer humbly comes to the Lord Jesus and says, ‘Lord, Sir, I have a servant who is deathly ill.  He’s suffering not simply from paralysis, but he’s wracked with pain.  Some sort of palsy, and there’s nothing I can do for him.  But Sir, would You heal him?’ 

I don’t know whether that centurion had heard the Lord Jesus preach.  I don’t know whether that centurion had seen the Lord Jesus’ miracles.  I don’t know whether that centurion had just heard about the Lord Jesus’ preaching and His miracles, but I know this:  that centurion knew that the Lord Jesus could heal his servant, and I want you to notice that the Lord Jesus answers his request more kindly, more graciously than he asks it.  The centurion says, ‘Lord, would You heal my servant?’  And the Lord Jesus says, “I will come and heal him.”  I will come to your house, Gentile, and I will heal.  And immediately the centurion says, ‘Lord, I am not worthy for You to come to my house.’  Isn’t it amazing how the Lord answers our prayers more graciously than we ask them?  That centurion wanted healing for his servant, and the Lord Jesus says, ‘I will come in and fellowship with you in your house and I’ll heal your servant.’  Immediately the centurion in his humility is overwhelmed by what the Lord has said to him, and he says, “Lord I am not worthy for You to come under my roof. But I am a man under authority, and I know You can give the word, and You can heal my servant.”  That Roman centurion knew what it was to have delegated authority from Rome.  He knew that having the authority from Rome meant that he could say to men, “You do this, or you do that.  You go there, or you come here.”  He understood the chain of command.  He had people who worked for him, and he knew somehow, that the Lord Jesus had authority from heaven, and that He could say, by the power of heaven, “Go, come, and be healed, and be forgiven,”  and  you would be forgiven.  And so he said, “Lord, I know all You need to do is give the word, and my servant will be healed.” 

We’re told something quite amazing in this passage.  We’re told the Lord Jesus marveled at this man.  He marveled at him, and He turned to the ones who were following Him, and He said, “I haven’t found faith like this amongst My own people.  Amongst the children of Israel who have the Law and the Prophets, who heard from Moses and from Isaiah, and who were given the testimony of the rabbis over the ages, I haven’t found any amongst My own people who believe like this.”  And He turns to that man, and He says an amazing thing.  He says, “I’m going to do just as you have believed.”  Isn’t it interesting, He doesn’t say, “I’m going to do just as you requested,” but rather,  “I’m going to do just as you have believed. As you have had faith in Me, your servant is healed.”  And with a word, Jesus heals that servant.  Just as God spoke the world into being, by the word of His power, the Lord Jesus speaks this man into health, having never seen him, having never gone into his house. 

Christ has concern for all kinds of people, isn’t that made clear in this passage?  Even the enemies of His own blood relatives, the enemies of His people.  Romans, and we can think of some names they might have been called by the people, whose land they occupied, Romans, Gentiles, dirty, unbelieving, barbaric Gentiles.  But the Lord Jesus cares about them, even this centurion.  He wants to save them, He wants them to be healed, He wants them to have faith in Him. 

Do we have that same attitude towards our enemies?  Do we have that same attitude toward those who are against us, those who oppress us?   Do we want to see them brought to faith, and do we trust I the power and the authority of Christ like this centurion?  Do we understand Christ’s power and authority like this centurion understood Christ’s power and authority?  Do we really believe the Lord Jesus can speak, and it can be done?  Do we trust Him like that?  Have we trusted Him like that for faith, and have we shown the kind of humility before Him, that this important centurion showed?  He’s an important man, and the Lord Jesus, by the standards of the world was not an important man.  Now we know it to be the other way around, they didn’t, yet this centurion is humble before the Lord Jesus.  Do we humble ourselves before Him?   

III.       Jesus is the long-awaited Messiah, the Savior of His people
    There’s a third thing we learn in this passage, and we learn it in vv 14-17.  Here, Jesus is shown to be the Messiah, the Christ, the Son of God, the Savior of sinners, by His fulfillment of the Old Testament prophecies of Isaiah.  We learn from this that Jesus is the long-awaited Messiah, the Savior of His people.  Here, the Lord Jesus comes into the home of Peter, and He heals Peter’s mother-in-law of a fever.  This would have been a common illness.  It wasn’t nearly as dramatic a sickness as the leper or the paralytic had, it wasn’t as dramatic a healing, but the Lord Jesus reaches and touches her wrist just like a physician who might be going to take her pulse or feel her temperature, but instead of just checking her temperature or her pulse, the Lord Jesus heals her by touching her.  And immediately she gets up and begins serving the house, serving the Lord Jesus, even though she had been down with a fever.  It reminds us that there is nothing that is too small to take to the Lord.  The Lord cares for us in all of our mundane affairs, even a fever, and the Lord heals Peter’s mother-in-law. 

But He also shows His sovereign power by exorcising the demons of those who were brought to Him, who were possessed.  He shows that He’s more powerful than the spiritual forces of darkness, and all of that, Matthew tells us, is to prove that Jesus is the one who fulfills Isaiah 53:4, because Isaiah says, of the Suffering Servant who will come to save His people from their sins, he says, “He Himself took our infirmities and carried away our diseases.”  Matthew is saying, ‘Look my friend, this is the Messiah for whom we have been looking.  This is the Messiah of God, this is the Savior of Israel, but not only of Israel, but of all those who trust in Him.  Lepers, no disease is too great for Him; centurion’s servants, even Gentiles this Man loves and saves; a mother-in-law with a fever, no illness too small; those possessed by demons, those beyond the help of human aid; He saves and spares.  There’s no temporal care too small, there’s no temporal care too large for the Lord Jesus to answer.  

The Bible testifies to the Lord Jesus from cover to cover, and there may be many today who prop themselves up as ministers and Bible scholars who say that, “This Lord Jesus is not the Son of God and the Savior of sinners, He’s not the divine Son of the Living God,” but this Bible from cover to cover testifies that He is Jesus the Christ, the Messiah, the Son of God, and He is the only One who can save us from our sins. 

Young people, if you ever have any one try to teach you otherwise, you just know that the word of God says that this Jesus Christ is the divine and human, perfect Son of God who is the Savior of our sins.  Have you trusted in Him?  Have you exercised the kind of faith that these people exercised in these stories?  They trusted in His person, they trusted in His power, they trusted in His promises, and He healed them of all their afflictions.  For everyone wracked with sin, trust in Him, and you will find him the Great Physician.  Let’s look to Him in prayer. 

Our Lord and our God, we would have faith in Jesus, for He is the only hope of the world.  We praise You for Him, and we ask that You would honor Him in our lives, we ask it through Jesus Christ, our Lord, Amen. 

Now may the Lord of Peace, Himself, continually grant you peace in every circumstance.  May the Lord be with you, Amen.

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