Matthew records nine miracles in chapters 8-10. We first looked at these accounts largely as stories showing Jesus’ authority over sickness, just as chapters 5-7 focused on His authority as a teacher. But as we have progressed through these accounts, we have begun to see that they concern much more than physical healing.
For one thing, the calming of the wind and waves on the Sea of Galilee showed Jesus’ astonishing authority over nature. The next story showed His authority over demons, which is much more a spiritual than a physical matter. Most suggestive of all was the link between the forgiveness of sins and the healing of the paralyzed man in chapter 9. Matthew selected these specific stories to show that Jesus came not so much to heal us of our physical diseases but to cure us of our sin, our far more serious malady, and to set us on the path of useful service for Him.
This insight gives us a helpful clue for interpreting everything else in chapters 8–10. The first three healing stories were not given particularly weighty meanings. The emphasis seemed to be mostly on the faith possessed by those who were healed, particularly the faith of the centurion who believed that Jesus could heal his servant even from a distance. But now we can see that even these first narratives held additional meaning. Matthew revealed what he was actually writing about when he quoted Isaiah 53.4: “He took up our infirmities and carried our diseases.”
Critics have claimed that Matthew misused this text since it is about the Messiah bearing sin rather than about healing diseases and that Matthew has been recording healing stories. But Matthew knew what Isaiah 53 is about as well as anyone. When he quotes Isaiah, he is saying that what is really disclosed in these healing stories is Jesus’ ability to take away our sin and restore us to spiritual health.
Understanding this underlying meaning also explains the parenthetical material and why it was placed where it was. The first had to do with discipleship, with those who said they wanted to follow Jesus but who were concerned about other things and therefore did not follow. They did not follow Jesus for healing, so they remained in their sins. The second passage concerned the calling of Matthew himself and Jesus’ statement that He had come not to call the righteous but sinners. Like the paralytic in the preceding story, Matthew was healed, but he was healed of sin. Moreover, when Matthew was healed, he showed it immediately by seeking to introduce his many friends to the Savior.
Significantly, chapters 8–10 end with Jesus commissioning the disciples to the task of world evangelism, which is a way of saying that this is the work to which true discipleship leads. If we have left everything to follow Jesus, as the disciples did, and if we have been truly received by Jesus and have been forgiven our sin, as Matthew was, then we will tell others about Jesus. We will not be content until the entire world has been told that Jesus is the King of Kings and the Savior.
Now that we have the overall framework for these chapters, we are ready to look at the three final healings. The first involves the raising of the dead daughter of a synagogue ruler and the healing of the bleeding woman that is joined to it (9.18-26). These stories are also told in Mark and Luke, but Matthew’s account is the most condensed version. Matthew tells the incidents in nine verses, whereas Mark uses twenty-three verses (5.21–43) and Luke uses seventeen (8.40–56).
Matthew says that while Jesus was teaching about fasting a ruler asked Him to come and raise his daughter from the dead. In the Gospels, “ruler” almost always means a ruler of the synagogue, but in any case, Mark makes this clear in his account, where we also learn that this man’s name is Jairus (Mark 5.22). Mark says that at the time the ruler first approached Jesus, his daughter had not yet died but that she died before Jesus reached her: “While Jesus was still speaking, some men came from the house of Jairus, the synagogue ruler. ‘Your daughter is dead,’ they said. ‘Why bother the teacher anymore?’”
Earlier in this series of miracles, when we were studying the healing of the Roman centurion’s servant, we remarked on the extraordinary faith of the centurion. He believed that Jesus could heal his servant even without coming to his house. The faith of the synagogue ruler is also striking. True, he asked Jesus to “come and put your hand on her,” which falls short of the centurion’s perception, but at some point in the story, later if not at the beginning, knowing that his daughter had died he still trusted Jesus.
What made Jairus appeal to a man most of his peers rejected? No doubt, it was utter desperation! His daughter was dying or was already dead, and he had nowhere else to turn. Desperation may not have been the best of motives, but it drove him to Jesus and that was all that really mattered. It has been the case for many people. They may not have come to Jesus for any other reason but that something in their lives made them desperate. So they came to Jesus and discovered that He did not scorn them for their inadequate or poor motives but met their needs instead.
We commend Jairus as an example. If you have a need that no one else is able to meet, turn to Jesus. Above all, turn to Him if you feel the burden of your sin and seek forgiveness. There is no one who can forgive sin and free you from sin’s burden but Jesus Christ.