About one-tenth of all the verses in the four Gospels tell us something about Jesus’ healing ministry. That’s significant! Those many records of Jesus’ healings all demonstrate His divinity. No historical figure has ever come close to Him when it comes to miracles. He claimed to be God, and He proved He was.
Yet the healing stories serve another purpose as well. They reveal God’s will regarding healing and encourage those who are in need of healing to look to Him. This point cannot be disputed due to the fact that Jesus often told those whom He healed, “Your faith has healed you.” Clearly, had they not had faith they would not have been healed—even though it was obviously His will for them to be healed, made evident by the fact that He did heal them! Faith is obviously the key that opens the healing door.
Most every Christian believes, like the leper we read about today, that Jesus can heal them. He said, “Lord, if You are willing, You can make me clean” (8:2). But like the leper, they don’t know if Jesus wants to heal them. They hope He does, but they aren’t sure. And that is their problem, because Jesus never told anyone, “Your hope has healed you.” Hope is not the same as faith. Scripture says that “Faith is the assurance of things hoped for” (Heb. 11:1). Notice what Jesus said to the leper to change his hope to faith: “I am willing; be cleansed.” (8:3). To be healed, we need to change our hope to faith.
The Gentile centurion, a Roman commander, certainly demonstrated faith in Jesus (8:10, 13), and as a result, his servant was healed. Incidentally, the Greek word translated servant in 8:6 (pais) literally means “boy,” indicating that the centurion was his legal guardian, or perhaps his father. This is important to understand, as we can find no example in the four Gospels of Jesus healing an adult solely in response to another adult’s faith. We do, however, find several examples, like this one, of children being healed by Jesus in response to his or her parent’s faith. Jesus most often told the sick, “Your faith has healed you.” We can, like the men who brought their paralyzed friend to Jesus, encourage the sick to look to Jesus, and we can join our faith with theirs. But our faith can’t overpower their unbelief. Healing, like salvation, must be appropriated by each person’s own faith.
Matthew indicated that when Jesus healed “all who were ill” (8:16) in Capernaum, it fulfilled Isaiah’s messianic prophecy, “He Himself took our infirmities, and carried away our diseases” (8:17). But surely the healings of the people of Capernaum that one evening were not the complete fulfillment of Isaiah’s prophecy. Isaiah declared just one verse later in the very same prophecy that the Messiah would be “pierced through for our transgressions,” and “crushed for our iniquities” (Is. 53:5). Those words have obvious universal application. The “our” of Isaiah 53:5 is no different than the “our” in Isaiah 53:4. Just as Jesus carried our sins in His body on the cross (1 Pet. 2:24), so He also “took our infirmities, and carried away our diseases.” That is good news, and faith-building news! And when Jesus healed the people of Capernaum, it was proof to Matthew’s Jewish readership that Jesus was obviously the promised Messiah of Isaiah 53, as evidenced by His incredible healing ministry there (and elsewhere).
To those who expressed their intentions to follow Him, Jesus conveyed that there would be hardship and a demand for devotion. I think it is unlikely, however, that the man who requested to bury his father first was saying that his father had just died. Jesus would have wanted him to honor his parents, and a funeral would not have caused him much delay. More likely, the man was indicating that he didn’t want to miss being near his father during his final years. But Jesus said to everyone, “He who loves father or mother more than Me is not worthy of Me” (Matt. 10:37). Only God has the right to expect such allegiance. Only God deserves it.