What Matthew Saw

1 Who has believed our message and to whom has the arm of the Lord been revealed? 2 He grew up before him like a tender shoot, and like a root out of dry ground. He had no beauty or majesty to attract us to him, nothing in his appearance that we should desire him. 3 He was despised and rejected by mankind, a man of suffering, and familiar with pain. Like one from whom people hide their faces he was despised, and we held him in low esteem. 4 Surely he took up our pain and bore our suffering, yet we considered him punished by God, stricken by him, and afflicted. 5 But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was on him, and by his wounds we are healed. 6 We all, like sheep, have gone astray, each of us has turned to our own way; and the Lord has laid on him the iniquity of us all. (Isaiah 53:1-6)
16 When evening came, many who were demon-possessed were brought to him, and he drove out the spirits with a word and healed all who were ill. 17 This was to fulfil what was spoken through the prophet Isaiah: ‘He took up our infirmities and bore our diseases.’  (Matthew 8:16-17
If ‘X’ marks the spot where treasure is buried, then every Christian should put a large ‘X’ in their Bible next to Matthew 8:17. It is the verse which explains how Jesus snatched authority away from Satan, and which gives us certain faith to press home his Kingdom victory. It explains what Peter meant when he told a lame beggar at the entrance to the Temple that supernatural healing is “what we have” through the Gospel.

Jesus wielded unsurpassed authority. That’s the constant cry of praise as Jesus heals sickness and drives out demons in Matthew 8-9. Matthew tells us that Jesus drove out demons “with a word” and healed all who were sick – then Matthew explains how he was able to do so. He quotes from Isaiah 53 and the Messianic prophecy that “He took up our infirmities and carried our diseases.” This is the ground where our treasure is buried, so let’s roll up our sleeves and go digging together.

Matthew tells us that Jesus healed people because he is King. The primary reason he was able to drive out sickness, Satan, demons and death was not that he was God (although he was), or that he had God’s power (although he did). It was because he possessed a legal authority which simply could not be resisted. That’s why Matthew quotes here from one of the most famous Messianic prophecies in the Old Testament and firmly links Jesus’ healing ministry to his Kingly authority. Jesus did the same when he told his enemies that “if I drive out demons by the Spirit of God, then the kingdom of God has come upon you,” and when he quietened John the Baptist’s doubts that he might not truly be the coming King by pointing out that “the blind receive sight, the lame walk, those who have leprosy are cured, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, and the good news is preached to the poor.”  (Matthew 11:5 & 12:28) We need to understand that healing and deliverance are not just acts of divine compassion, but the natural consequence of the fact that Jesus is King and Satan is not. They are not just proof of the Gospel of the Kingdom. They are part of the Gospel itself.

Next, Matthew tells us that Jesus gained this authority through his death on the cross. Isaiah 53 is probably the clearest Old Testament prophecy about the atoning death of Jesus, and Matthew quotes it for a reason. He wants us to grasp that healing is not just the fruit of God’s character and his desire to save, but is something that has been won through a definitive legal transaction. Sickness was an aspect of God’s just curse upon sin (Deuteronomy 28:21-22&59-61, Romans 5:12), but our standing changed when Jesus “became a curse” for us on the cross and died with the victory-cry “It is finished!” on his lips (John 19:30, Galatians 3:13). When the man Jesus died at Calvary, he undid the God-given authority which Satan stole from Adam in the Garden of Eden. He disarmed him, and stripped him of every weapon which could resist the advance of God’s Kingdom. We see his demons in Matthew 8:29-31, literally grovelling on their knees before King Jesus. Because of the Gospel, they know that they are doomed.
Finally, Matthew tells us that Jesus dealt with the curse of sickness on the cross in the same way that he dealt with our sin. This was much more obvious to his original Jewish readers than it is to us, because they were familiar with the Old Testament in Hebrew and Greek, but if we slow down and dig deeper we can see what they saw:

“He was despised and rejected by men; a man of pains (mak’ob), and acquainted with sickness (holiy); he was despised like one from whom men hide their faces, and we esteemed him not. Surely he has carried (nasa’) our sicknesses (holiy) and borne (sabal) our pains (mak’ob) … He will bear (sabal) their iniquities … He carried (nasa’) the sin of many.”
Can you see now why Matthew chose Isaiah 53 out of all the chapters of the Old Testament to give an explanation for Jesus’ healing ministry? It’s a passage which uses two Hebrew words – mak’ob and holiy – which almost always refer to physical, rather than spiritual, pain and sickness. In case we miss this point, Matthew discards his usual practice of quoting from the Greek Septuagint because that translation spiritualised the passage to mean “he bears our sins and is pained for us.” Instead, he goes back to the Hebrew Old Testament and re-translates it more accurately as “he took our sicknesses and carried our diseases.” Jewish readers who went back to the passage in Isaiah would also notice that the words nasa’ and sabal (which both mean “to carry”), are used to refer to the way that he carried both our sin and our sickness. Neither Matthew nor Isaiah want us to make a distinction between the way Jesus bore our sin and the way bore our sickness. Jesus was able to heal sickness and drive out demons because he was about to die on the cross to carry both our sins and the curse which lay on mankind through sin. Jesus is our Saviour, both from sin and from sickness, because he can justly free us from the curse of human sin.

Some people object to this link between Jesus’ healing ministry and his cross because he ministered this way before his crucifixion. This ignores the teaching of Revelation 13:8 that Jesus was “slain from the creation of the world.” He could both heal through the cross before he went to Calvary in the same way that he could forgive through the cross in Matthew 9:2. This – yes, this! – is what Peter was referring to when he told the lame beggar in Acts 3 that “what we have” would be enough to heal him.

If we ignore what Matthew 8:17 teaches us about the link between Jesus’ cross and his authority over sickness and demons, then we are left trusting only in God’s compassionate character for such miracles today. This gives us reason to hope for success against these symptoms of Satan’s rule, but no sure ground for genuine faith that Christ has given us authority to command such miracles in his Name. However, if we grasp that these things come through Jesus’ death and resurrection, and that he has received all power and authority as a definitive legal mandate through his own blood, then we have confidence to rebuke sickness like Jesus, dispense healing like Jesus, and expel demons like Jesus. It is only when we grasp the scope of Jesus’ victory at Calvary that we are able to insist that Satan flee and that he take his vile work with him.

The Devil does not want you to understand Matthew 8:17. He is like an out-gunned general who frightens his enemy into calling off their attack by the clever use of mock gun-emplacements. We need to unearth this treasure and to let its beauty draw our gaze. It helps us to see him as he really is – a toothless foe relying on guile alone to hold onto his crumbling kingdom. Satan trembles at the thought that you might see him as he truly is through the message which is buried in Matthew 8:17. Settle in your heart that his kingdom has no authority left before the Kingdom of Jesus Christ, and then you can push forward in the spiritual battle and plunder his usurped territory for the Kingdom of God. That’s what it means for us to act on “what we have” through Jesus Christ.
1)   Today’s devotion has been longer than usual because we really want you to grasp “what you have” in some detail. Try to summarise the message of today’s devotion in a simple, memorable phrase. Write it down and celebrate before God that it is true.

2)   What have you learned that was new today?

3)   What are you going to do about it?
Father God, I confess that what Matthew teaches us in Matthew 8:17 is absolutely mind-blowing. We have authority over the devil and over sickness because we have been commissioned to go out into the world in Jesus’ name. Please help us to grasp, deep down, that what Matthew teaches us is true. And also, please help us to do more than talk about it, Lord. Help us to go out and minister healing to people in Jesus’ name. Amen.
Today’s Everyday Devotions were brought to you by Phil Moore, who leads our team of whole-church elders.

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