Today we’re starting a new devotional series, looking at the miracles of Jesus, via Matthew’s gospel. He’s on a mission to reveal the authority of Jesus. First he demonstrates that Jesus is the Son of God through his Sermon of the Mount, which left the crowds amazed. Then he moves from Jesus’ words to his actions, detailing in quick-fire succession miracle after miracle after miracle. Through these mind-blowing acts, Jesus takes authority over nature, sickness, sin, and demons, while pouring out his love and compassion on his people whom he calls “sheep without a shepherd” (Matthew 9:36). If the people were amazed at his teaching, imagine their reaction after witnessing sight restored or a leper cured.
Matthew’s account is concise; he leaves out details in the stories that other gospel writers fill in. With this brevity Matthew hammers home his message about the Son of God on earth who is ushering in God’s kingdom.
Jesus’ miracles tend to fall into three categories: those controlling nature, those eradicating sickness (and even death), and those casting out demons. But contrary to the expectations of the disciples, the teachers of the law, or his Jewish readers, Jesus extends his healing grace to the disaffected and outcast – even to the Gentiles. He stuns them with his words and his works and makes them wonder, ‘Who is this man?’
As I read through Matthew’s account of Jesus’ miracles, I was struck more than once by Jesus’ compassion. When he sees the suffering of the people, he immediately brings peace of body and soul. He then reinforces this with his call to peace, one he still issues: “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest” (Matthew 11:28).
Yes, Jesus works miracles today. Physical healings are spectacular, but emotional healings can also be life-altering, bringing freedom, joy and fulfillment. Do we have the faith to believe that Jesus can and will work in our own hearts and lives? I pray we will encounter the stories of Jesus’ miracles with an attitude of expectancy, reverence and gratitude.
When Jesus came down from the mountainside, large crowds followed him. A man with leprosy came and knelt before him and said, “Lord, if you are willing, you can make me clean.” Jesus reached out his hand and touched the man. “I am willing,” he said. “Be clean!” Immediately he was cleansed of his leprosy. Then Jesus said to him, “See that you don’t tell anyone. But go, show yourself to the priest and offer the gift Moses commanded, as a testimony to them.” Matthew 8:1–4
The crowds were amazed by Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount, and now as he comes down the mountain, they will be bowled over by his works. This first miracle that Matthew recounts brings restoration to one who suffered from leprosy or another skin disease. In Jewish law, those so afflicted would be called “unclean” and would be banished from others to prevent further spreading of the disease. But the leprosy would continue to spread within the sufferers’ bodies, affecting limbs that would eventually fall off, until finally they would die.
So although the other miracles are called healings, this one is called a cleansing, for only Jesus could make the sufferer clean. Perhaps Matthew chose to recount this miracle first to show the Jewish people that Jesus is the fulfilment of the law (Mark and Luke first tell of Jesus driving out a demon in a man in Capernaum). After healing the man, Jesus tells him to show himself to the priest and offer the prescribed gift. By this he is signalling that one greater than Moses has come; he is ushering in a new order.
We could push this healing aside as not affecting us, but the spread of leprosy in a body is similar to the spread of sin in our lives. If we do not present ourselves to Jesus for cleansing, our sin will spread, separating us from each other and from God. Only Jesus can bring the cleansing that releases us into wholeness and makes us clean.
Prayer: Lord Jesus Christ, show me where sin may be lodging, that I may be cleansed by your healing hand.