Healing Fulfilling Prophecy: Matthew 8:1-17 (Sermon)


Around 1943, the army sent my grandfather to Egypt for World War II. I recall him telling me that he was taking a photo of the Sphinx on its paw. 

He backed up and fell, breaking his ankle. He went to the infirmary, where they put a cast on it. That night, he attended a prayer meeting. The group decided to anoint him with oil based on James chapter 5. It states: 

Is anyone among you suffering? Let him pray. Is anyone cheerful? Let him sing praise. Is anyone among you sick? Let him call for the elders of the church, and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord. And the prayer of faith will save the one who is sick, and the Lord will raise him up. (James 5:13–15, ESV)

One man in the group, towering over my grandfather, banged his head with the oil container, causing him to bleed. Decades later, my grandpa was still upset at this clumsiness. However, as they prayed, another feeling swept over him. He felt God healing him. The next day, he went to the medical staff and asked them to remove the cast. They protested because they had just put it on. Finally, they gave in but said they would not put another one on if he changed his mind. When they took a new x-ray, they discovered the break had disappeared. That is a healing story from my family. 


Twenty years later, my wife’s grandfather, a father of six, was playing with his little ones. One of them walked on his back. He felt a pain and a lump. The pain was so bad that he went to the hospital. The lump was cancerous. The prognosis was not good. He called his children to his bedside and said he had six weeks to live. Everyone began to pray. They prayed and prayed and prayed. He called the elders of the church to anoint him with oil and pray. Two came. As they anointed and prayed, he felt a fire in his abdomen. He knew God had answered their prayers. The doctors examined him. God had shrunk his cancer in half. There was no explanation for that. Over the following months, it vanished entirely, never to return. The doctors recorded on his chart, “Healed by an act of God.” 


Recently, I heard about a little girl from Laporte with what the doctors thought was brain cancer. She was rushed to the hospital, tested, and then rushed to another hospital and tested again. People all over were praying. And last week, they found no cancer. From the reports I heard, it appears God healed her. 


Do you have a story of healing? God moves in mysterious ways. Sometimes, he chooses to suspend the laws of nature and do the incredible. Other times, God uses modern medicine and the body’s resilience to bring about natural healing. And then there are times God doesn’t heal. 


Do you long for healing? Maybe you are not sick. Do you want God to heal someone? Perhaps you don’t know someone who is ill. Possibly, deep down, at your lowest points, you desire God to break into your world and help you in another way?  


In the Bible, we see that our hope is in the person and work of Jesus. The text for this morning is from Matthew chapter 8, verses 1 through 17. I will have F.N., A.S., and K. come up here now and read for us. Please, stand with me, if you can, in honor of God’s Word.


When he came down from the mountain, great crowds followed him. And behold, a leper came to him and knelt before him, saying, “Lord, if you will, you can make me clean.” And Jesus stretched out his hand and touched him, saying, “I will; be clean.” And immediately his leprosy was cleansed. And Jesus said to him, “See that you say nothing to anyone, but go, show yourself to the priest and offer the gift that Moses commanded, for a proof to them.” 

Reader 2

When he had entered Capernaum, a centurion came forward to him, appealing to him, “Lord, my servant is lying paralyzed at home, suffering terribly.” And he said to him, “I will come and heal him.” But the centurion replied, “Lord, I am not worthy to have you come under my roof, but only say the word, and my servant will be healed. For I too am a man under authority, with soldiers under me. And I say to one, ‘Go,’ and he goes, and to another, ‘Come,’ and he comes, and to my servant, ‘Do this,’ and he does it.” When Jesus heard this, he marveled and said to those who followed him, “Truly, I tell you, with no one in Israel have I found such faith. I tell you, many will come from east and west and recline at table with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob in the kingdom of heaven, while the sons of the kingdom will be thrown into the outer darkness. In that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.” And to the centurion Jesus said, “Go; let it be done for you as you have believed.” And the servant was healed at that very moment. 

Reader 3

And when Jesus entered Peter’s house, he saw his mother-in-law lying sick with a fever. He touched her hand, and the fever left her, and she rose and began to serve him. That evening they brought to him many who were oppressed by demons, and he cast out the spirits with a word and healed all who were sick. 

Readers 1, 2, and 3 in Unison 

This was to fulfill what was spoken by the prophet Isaiah: “He took our illnesses and bore our diseases.” (Matthew 8:1–17 ESV)


Let’s pray. Dear Father, help us. We need you. Break into our world by the power of your Spirit. You can do miracles. You can do anything. You have done so much already. Take these minutes and encourage us, equip us, and change us for your glory and our joy. In Jesus’s name, we pray, amen. You may be seated. 


As we return to our series in Matthew, the book calls us to follow the promised king into his kingdom. Jesus was and is the king God promised. But who was he? Well, he was a son of Abraham and a son of David. He was Jewish. He was born miraculously. He came to save his people from their sins. He grew up in obscurity and moved around. His cousin baptized him. God blessed him. The Spirit descended on him. The devil tempted him. Jesus resisted, and the angels ministered to him. He then called followers to himself. He had been teaching about the Law and righteousness. He described the heart of the disciple and the kingdom of God. He demonstrated his authority through what he said. In our passage this morning, he will show his authority by what he will do. At the end of chapter 4, we read that he was teaching and healing everyone. His following was growing. Chapters 5 through 7 show what he taught. Chapters 8 through 9 show what he did. 


In the first book of the Bible, God was with the first man and woman. Everything was perfect. However, that all fell apart when they sinned. God cursed the first man and woman, Adam and Eve. Death entered the world through that curse. Jesus came to reverse the curse and bring life to all who follow him. 


If you are taking notes, the structure and a loose guide for our time is as follows:   

Healing a Leper’s Body (vv. 1–4)

Healing a Soldier’s Servant (vv. 5–13)

Healing a Mother’s Sickness (vv. 14–16)

The Point of It All (v. 17)

Main Idea 

The main idea of these verses was that Jesus was the messianic healer predicted in Isaiah 53. We see that in three stories of healing those on the fringes of society. 

Healing a Leper’s Body (vv. 1–4)

Healing a Leper’s Body (vv. 1–4)

The first healing we read about is that of a leper. Lepers were outcasts. They didn’t choose to be marginalized or to be a minority. They did not choose their leprosy. Leprosy wasn’t a result of sin or foolishness. The blame rested on the Fall in the Garden of Eden in Genesis 3. Adam was to blame. Decay and disease spread from that day onward. Yet, Genesis 3 echoes hope for the leper. The offspring of the woman would bruise the offspring of the serpent. God will make a means for humanity to re-enter fellowship with him. Eventually, he will destroy death and the devil. Jesus would be that means. Genesis goes on to tell us that from Adam’s descendants came Abraham. God chose him to bless all people through his line. From him came Isaac, then Jacob. The next book in the Bible, Exodus, tells us of Moses. He came from those fathers of the faith. Moses was a prophet. God gave him the law to give to the people. The Mosaic Law governed and promoted flourishing. It ordered social distancing and had washing and other rules to prevent the spread of disease well before germ theory. 

Consequently, lepers had to live outside the community as God’s people traveled to the Promised Land. Then, as the people of God settled Israel, lepers would live on the margins of the community. They would have to call out in public as they approached people. Leprosy in the Bible was a general term for skin disease. Here is a picture of what can happen with leprosy. 

Specifically, it is Hansen’s disease. The skin dies. The pain receptors don’t work right, so people burn themselves, cut themselves, and do not know it. Consequently, they can lose fingers and appendages over time. It gets worse and worse. 

In Matthew 8, a leper approached Jesus. What did he do? He bowed to him and called him Lord. Why? Why do you think he did that? He was desperate. He was not like the many who called Jesus Lord in chapter 7. Those people didn’t follow the Lord. But, the leper recognized that Jesus had power. He believed in Jesus. He was humble, poor in spirit, and hungering for a change that only Jesus could offer. He bowed to him and called him Lord. He recognized Jesus’s authority. 

What did Jesus do? He did the unthinkable. What was that? He touched him. He touched the untouchable. The Old Testament teaches if you touch them, you too will be unclean. Would you risk that? Jesus did. As he put his hand on him, he pronounced that the leper was no longer dirty. He was clean, and leprosy left. Just like that, the leper was a leper no longer. Jesus didn’t become unclean because the disease disappeared. This event was the first detailed healing experience in Matthew. 

Everyone knew this leper. People would ask questions. Jesus told him to go directly to the priest and prove he was clean.

“See that you say nothing to anyone, but go, show yourself to the priest and offer the gift that Moses commanded, for a proof to them” (Matthew 5:4). 

That was the first story of healing. 


Healing a Leper’s Body (vv. 1–4)

Healing a Soldier’s Servant (vv. 5–13)

In the second story, we read about a healing, not of a skin disease, but of a paralysis. A Roman centurion met Jesus. We learn from other accounts the Roman helped build the synagogue in Capernaum [Luke 7]. He feared the God of the Jews. He came to Jesus because his slave had become lame. He wanted help. He believed in Jesus’s power. He, like the leper before, called him Lord. And what did Jesus say in return? He said he would go and do the healing. The Roman centurion didn’t feel worthy of that kind of attention. Instead, he asked Jesus to pronounce the healing. That would suffice. What did Jesus do then? Look at verse 10. 

“When Jesus heard this, he marveled” (Matthew 8:10, ESV). 

Last week, we talked about the people being astonished at Jesus. Here Jesus was astonished at a person. Why? Look back at verse 10.  

“Truly, I tell you, with no one in Israel have I found such faith” (Matthew 8:10, ESV).  

Jesus saw this non-Jewish person’s conviction. The Roman was a forerunner and an example for the children of God: the chosen. Look at verse 11. 

I tell you, many will come from east and west and recline at table with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob in the kingdom of heaven, while the sons of the kingdom will be thrown into the outer darkness. In that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth. (Matthew 8:11–12, ESV)

Jesus predicted that people from all corners of the planet would come to a table of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. Who were those people? They were those from many nations who would come to the feast of the kingdom of heaven. Jesus was connecting the faith of this Gentile to a destiny that often was reserved for those who had genetic ties to Judaism. Jesus’s message echoed the promise God gave Abraham in Genesis chapter 12 to bless all peoples. One day there will be a grand wedding feast of the Lamb of God, Jesus, with the Bride, the church, and people from every language, tribe, and nation praising the one true God of the universe. 

But the host will only welcome some. He will throw others into outer darkness. They will be excluded and barred from such pleasure. Their reality will be one of gnashing teeth and weeping. A gritting, grinding, and chattering of pain and agony. Those bounced from this eternal festivity would include those “sons of the kingdom.” Jesus was confronting the fact that some of God’s chosen people by birth would not follow and believe. Simply because a person has a heritage of spirituality in their family doesn’t mean they get a pass into heaven. God holds each person accountable for what he or she does with their faith. God is not looking for a pedigree, a race, or a certain level of maturity. Everyone falls short of God’s ideal and moral code. God is looking for humble, hungry followers who trust his mercy, not their merit. This Roman centurion was an example for all.  


Healing a Leper’s Body (vv. 1–4)

Healing a Soldier’s Servant (vv. 5–13)

Healing a Mother’s Sickness (vv. 14–16)

After that is the third story, Jesus went to Peter’s mother-in-law. She was sick. Like the leper and lame, she experienced the fallout from the curse of Genesis 3. Only Jesus could unravel the knot of pain and suffering experienced. He had authority over death and could break down the walls that separated them from God, others, and health. With a touch and a word, he healed. Bam! She was good to go. More came to Jesus, and he healed them too. Jesus was a miracle worker. He did what the heart longs for when it is desperate for hope. Verse 16 echoed chapter 4. 

And he went throughout all Galilee, teaching in their synagogues and proclaiming the gospel of the kingdom and healing every disease and every affliction among the people. So his fame spread throughout all Syria, and they brought him all the sick, those afflicted with various diseases and pains, those oppressed by demons, those having seizures, and paralytics, and he healed them. And great crowds followed him from Galilee and the Decapolis, and from Jerusalem and Judea, and from beyond the Jordan. (Matthew 4:23–25, ESV)

Jesus was and is astonishing. 

Healing a Leper’s Body (vv. 1–4)

Healing a Soldier’s Servant (vv. 5–13)

Healing a Mother’s Sickness (vv. 14–16)

The Point of It All (v. 17)

Matthew comments, 

“This was to fulfill what was spoken by the prophet Isaiah: “He took our illnesses and bore our diseases” (Matthew 8:1–17, ESV).

This was a paraphrase of sorrows and afflictions in Isaiah 53:4. It parallels the following verse in Isaiah 53:5: 

But he was pierced for our transgressions; 

      he was crushed for our iniquities; 

          upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace, 

      and with his wounds we are healed. (Isaiah 53:5, ESV) 

With his wounds we are healed. Has Jesus healed your wounds? He can. 


What if he hasn’t? What if you remain sick after praying? What if God doesn’t heal you after the elders anoint you with oil and they pray? What did Isaiah mean? “With his wounds we are healed?” What was Matthew getting at when he said, “He took our illnesses and bore our diseases?”


On January 4th, 2013 my grandfather died, and on July 2nd, 2014 Katie’s grandfather died. The leper died, the lame man died, and Peter’s mother-in-law died. Why did Jesus bother to heal if we all will die? Jesus was and is the Messiah. He was and is more than a man. The people longed for help and hope. They had a yearning for rescue from the hardness of life, from the death and decay introduced in the Garden of Eden. Jesus’s healing is a foreshadowing, a taste, a peek into heaven. The thin veil that separates us from the heavenly dimension is pulled back in those supernatural moments. We see that Jesus came to bring his kingdom by his healing and the fulfilling of prophecy. Heal shows his heart of care and his divine power. It arrests our attention and calls for our affection.  

Perhaps, God hasn’t ever healed you of a sickness. Maybe, that is only because you don’t know about it. Maybe God’s invisible hand has saved you from countless disasters you know nothing about. 

Regardless of your list of past answered prayers, if you have turned from your sin and trusted in Jesus as your Messiah, the Bible promises that God will heal you on the day of resurrection. He has already healed you and me of our sin problem on a cosmic level. He forgives sin instantly and counts us as righteous at the point we put our faith in him. Soon we will experience a glorified existence. What will that reality be like? The last book in the Bible tells us.  

Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and the sea was no more. And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God. He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.” (Revelation 21:1–4, ESV)

In the meantime, it is good to pray for healing, anoint with oil, and believe in God’s ability to work today. However, God doesn’t promise to do our bidding all the time. 

Jesus gave his life to reverse the effects of the deadly curse and free us from our sins. We have a new spiritual life now and a future physical eternal existence before us. Through faith, we can have abundant life with new bodies impervious to disease and decay. One day, 

There will be no more allergies or arthritis, 

There will be no more bacterial infections or blindness,

There will be no more cataracts or cancer, 

There will be no more diabetes or disease, 

There will be no more earaches or epilepsy, 

There will be no more fibromyalgia or flu,

There will be no more gallstones or glaucoma,

There will be more heart attacks or headaches, 

There will be more no indigestion or insomnia, 

There will be no more joint pain or jaundice, 

There will be no more kidney stones or knee pain,

There will be no more Lyme disease or lead poisoning, 

There will be no more measles or multiple sclerosis, 

There will be no more neuropathy or norovirus, 

There will be no more obesity or osteoporosis, 

There will be no more quadriplegia or any other illness.

Brothers and sisters, we aren’t there yet. But we are one day closer. 

The apostle Paul suffered poor eyesight and imminent martyrdom. He had a thorn in his side that he prayed God would remove it multiple times. God didn’t. Instead, he said. 

“My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness” (2 Corinthians 12:9, ESV).

He won’t always heal. But he is always good. He cares for you. His plans are the best. And when he does heal, we get a free glimpse of heaven in the answered prayers until that resurrection day. The day we meet him is fast approaching. The Bible says: 

We shall not all sleep, [referring to death] but we shall all be changed, in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised imperishable, and we shall be changed. For this perishable body must put on the imperishable, and this mortal body must put on immortality. When the perishable puts on the imperishable, and the mortal puts on immortality, then shall come to pass the saying that is written: 

                  “Death is swallowed up in victory.” 

            “O death, where is your victory? 

      O death, where is your sting?” 

The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ. Therefore, my beloved brothers, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that in the Lord your labor is not in vain. 

(1 Corinthians 15:51–58, ESV)

God will do what he promised. Jesus is our great healer. He died to give us life. Our transformation is at hand. God is faithful. So let us go to him in expectation. Put your hope in him in all your petitions. Visitors, put your hope in Jesus like the leper. Youth, put your hope in Jesus like the soldier. Church, put your hope in Jesus like the mother. Jesus is the Rock we can trust. He has more power than any other. 

I bet we will have lunch today, but it won’t compare to the buffet that Jesus offers all who truly trust in him. So, believe again in him. 


Let’s pray.

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