Jesus and the crowd (Matthew 8:14-17)

In the incident with Peter’s mother-in-law, we see the compassion and competency of Jesus. But Matthew does not want to leave the story there, wonderful though it is. So he mentions in roughly the same amount of words that Jesus showed the same compassion and competency for a large number of people. It is obvious from Matthew’s description that no trouble was too difficult for Jesus to deal with.

We should observe the location of this large display of grace. It happened outside Peter’s house, or even inside it. I suppose we see in this reality a couple of lessons. One is that when Jesus rescues us from a trouble he expects us to make our assets available for his service. The other is that we have no idea what Jesus can do with our assets.

One detail mentioned by Luke but which is not so clear in Matthew’s account is that Jesus dealt with each of the crowd individually – he laid hands on each. We know that Jesus could have healed all of them simultaneously, but he chose to help each of them individually.

Matthew’s description of the work of Jesus is twofold. He says that Jesus dealt with two different problems. One was demon oppression and the other was physical illness. What is demon oppression? It must refer to attacks by the devil’s kingdom on people and I suppose this could show itself in a variety of ways. In whatever ways it showed itself here, Jesus was able to deal with it and reveal that he was more powerful than the devil. The other problem was physical illness and Jesus was able to cure all the sufferers, which is a reminder that he is the re-creator of people.

Matthew mentions that this activity of Jesus was a fulfilment of prophecy. The text is from Isaiah 53:4, which says that the Servant has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows. Matthew has translated the Hebrew and therefore we can see what the verse means. The griefs and the sorrows arise from devilish influences, illnesses and diseases. It is not difficult for us to see how such sufferings would be very sorrowful for those afflicted by them.

What does Matthew mean by this? Does he only mean that some people would be cured by Jesus at one time in their lives? There is no suggestion that those healed by him would never be ill again. Therefore, I would say that we should regard those healings as signs pointing to what Jesus would ultimately do. He came to destroy the works of the devil, which he did at the cross and will yet do when all of the devil’s influences will be removed from the earth.

The intention of Jesus was not only to remove the consequences of sin, but also to deal with the cause of sufferings, which ultimately is sin. So we could regard his miracles as signs pointing to what will happen to people after Jesus pays the penalty for their sin. At some stage, those who trust in him will be restored physically and spiritually and be delivered from the grip of the devil. Ultimately this will happen at the future resurrection and renewal of all things.

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