Wednesday, January 09, 2019

Devotional: The Power of the New King, Matthew 8:1-17

Outline of Matthew 8.1-17

Chapter 8 begins a section recording Jesus' miracles. Matthew continues his portrayal of Jesus as the “greater than Moses” as he has him coming down from the mountain after giving the new Torah.  But, unlike Moses who was powerless to deal with the people’s sins (the golden calf) and diseases, Jesus is able to cure disease with a touch or word. Unlike Moses who brought in a kingdom that extended only to Israel, Jesus’ kingdom includes and benefits everyone, Jew and Gentile. The miracles are an indication of Jesus' identity as creator and Messiah and that the promised kingdom has arrived, though not in its full and final expression. Matthew portrays Jesus' healings as a sign that the atonement of the kingdom predicted by Isaiah has arrived and sin and its effects (death, disease) are dealt with. Jesus provides access to God for the leper and prefigures the mission to the Gentiles in healing the centurion's servant. The kingdom of heaven has broken out on earth. Though it will not be fully expressed until Jesus’ return, we should still expect similar events, as the disciples saw and did, to happen as we minister in the power of the Spirit.

In Matthew 8:1-17, Jesus healed a leper, a centurion’s servant, Peter’s mother-in-law and many others to show the Jews and Gentiles that he was the fulfillment of Isaiah’s servant prophecy and that a new kingdom and new covenant had arrived. The healing of the leper (8:1-4) was a witness, to the nation’s leadership, that the new age and a new king had come. The old covenant dealt with leprosy by quarantining lepers from society so that they would not infect others with the disease. It made provision for them by providing a procedure by which they could be pronounced clean and be restored to their families and lives. Jesus, the new king, touches the untouchable and, instead of being infected, removes the infection. The barriers are removed and God is now with his people and is willing to heal and restore them. Jesus, always obedient to Torah, then commissions the leper to report to the priests as a witness to who he is. Jesus continues to say to you, “I am willing” to restore what has been destroyed in your life and return you whole into relationships which have been broken. if you will come and kneel before him.

The next miracle, the healing of the centurion’s servant (8:5-13) is quite surprising in a Gospel showing that Jesus is the king of the Jews and fulfills the Old Testament covenants.But Matthew wants us to see right up front that Jesus is meeting the original purpose of God’s setting apart the Jewish nation: the extension of his kingdom, blessing, and promises to the whole world. This was not the conquering Messiah the nation was expecting. Instead Jesus responds to an “enemy” who was in need and conquers him in the best possible way: by making him a friend. This humble Gentile soldier typifies the many kingdom outsiders who will respond to Jesus, as predicted in the Old Testament. Jesus heals a Roman with just a word, and from a distance, to show that his authority and power extend beyond the artificial boundaries we place on him and will restore and bless anyone who comes to him. It reminds us to believe God for miracles of healing and life restoration that go beyond what we think is rational or possible. It reminds us of our desperate need for Christ’s word and touch and to humbly come before him with our needs. He is willing and compassionate and will give us what is best for us.

The next paragraph (8:14-17) recounts the healing of Peter’s mother-in-law and provides a summary of Jesus’ healing mission. Jesus’ has authority and power to defeat the spiritual forces of darkness and heal the effects of sin. His touch heals this woman and makes her able to serve and minister to him and to those around her. The great servant prophecy of Isaiah 53 promised that the Servant’s life and death would provide complete reconciliation and intimate relationship with God and all the blessings that would bring. These blessings were clearly seen in the physical healings of Jesus’ day and should be seen as we do ministry in the power of the Spirit. We still await the full healing that will come with the new heaven and new earth but we should expect to see the evidence of the kingdom breaking out around us as we submit, trust and serve King Jesus. Like the Roman centurion we need to be willing to “go” in faith when Jesus “only says the word.”  

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