one. Now that should get your
attention. When you are at the grocery
store and see the little sign that indicates you can get two of an item for the
price of one, it makes you think. If it
is something that you need or will use, you may grab a couple of them, because
after all, who can pass up a two for one?
morning, our Gospel lesson offers a two for one – and you don’t even have to
scan your shopper’s card. We have in our
Gospel lesson, not one, but two miracles that Jesus performed. While the grocery store may do this all the
time, it is very unusual in Matthew’s Gospel.
In both miracles we see that Jesus Christ is the Messiah who brings
God’s reign that defeats illness and death.
And in both, we see how faith trusts in the Lord.
begins with the phrase, “While he
was saying these things to them.”
Jesus has just been questioned by the disciples of John the Baptist
about why, unlike them and the Pharisees, the disciples of Jesus don’t
fast. Jesus answered by saying they
don’t fast right now because Jesus is with them. Our Lord explains this further by saying that
in him, something new has arrived. He
says, “Neither is new wine
put into old wineskins. If it is, the skins burst and the wine is spilled
and the skins are destroyed. But new wine is put into fresh wineskins, and so
both are preserved.”
declared that in his person, something new was present. He was the promised
Messiah – the descendant of King David.
But he was more than just a man. Conceived
by the Holy Spirit and born of the virgin Mary, he was the Son of God in this
world. As true God and true man, he had
come to bring God’s kingdom – his reign – into this fallen world. In our text, we see two examples of
this. Yet we will find that these
miracles point us to a deeper truth about how our Lord has accomplished this
for us all.
We learn that a ruler came and knelt before him, saying, “My daughter has
just died, but come and lay your hand on her, and she will live.” The man’s daughter had died. But he believed
that Jesus could heal even this – that he could return her to life by touching
her. It’s important to recognize that
what he was asking Jesus to do went against the Old Testament law. To touch a dead body brought ritual uncleanness.
But in Jesus, something new was present, and no doubt the man had heard of how
Jesus touched people and healed them – even people like lepers who also brought
uncleanness to all who came into contact with them.
Jesus and his disciples followed the
father to his daughter. But there was another person in the crowd who believed
that merely touching Jesus could bring healing.
Like the dead girl, she too was unclean according to the Old Testament
law. We learn that a women who had been
suffering from a discharge of blood for twelve years, had come to Jesus. She came up behind him and touched the
fringe of his garment for she thought, “If I only touch his garment, I will be
The uterine bleeding made the woman
unclean. Perhaps for this reason she came
up from behind Jesus and only touched his garment. But our Lord knew what she
had done – and he knew her faith. He
turned and said, “Take heart, daughter; your faith has made you well,” and
instantly the woman was healed. She had come to Jesus in faith, and that
faith received the blessing of healing.
The healing of the woman had paused
the journey, but it had not changed the destination. Matthew tells us that when Jesus came to the
ruler’s house, he saw the flute players and the crowd making a commotion. This was a typical scene of mourning in first
century Palestine. The commotion
probably involved both family and friends, and also professional mourners who
provided appropriate wailing and funeral dirges.
When Jesus saw this, he said, “Go
away, for the girl is not dead but sleeping.” The crowd laughed
at Jesus. It was absurd. It was ludicrous. The girl had most certainly
died. And she was dead.
They laughed at Jesus, and the world still laughs at those who
believe in Jesus. The world laughs at
you for being here this morning. The
world mocks you because you believe that Jesus is the way – the only way
– to eternal life. The world scorns you because you believe Jesus’ word – the
word delivered through his apostles – that declares the truth in world that
believes there is no such thing as the truth.
The question is how we respond to this. Do we remain silent so as not to draw the
world’s attention? Does the world’s
attitude make it easier to do something else on Sunday morning? Does the world’s laughter and rejection wear
on us in a way that lessens our committment to Christ and living according to
Jesus’ response to the laughter was to put them all outside. He
kicked them out. And then he did what he
had come there to do. Matthew reports, “he went in and took her by the
hand, and the girl arose.” Jesus touched
the girl’s dead body because in Jesus something new was present – something
that fulfilled the Law of Moses, and yet was not limited by it. And in doing so
he returned the girl to life. Her death
had been nothing more than a brief sleep, because Jesus had brought God’s
saving reign to her.
This morning we get two for one. We have two
miracles in one text. Both of them
involve individuals who were unclean.
Both include individuals who are identified as “daughter.” Both are about healing what sin does to
bodies as it produces illness and death.
On the one hand, these are clear
examples of Jesus’ power. Jesus is the
Son of God – the Messiah sent by the Father who brings his end time reign. He is present to turn back the forces of
Satan and sin – to reverse what they have done to the world. In his person the kingdom God – the reign of
God – entered into our world.
Yet one could ask: So what? What does that mean for me? After all, I don’t have Jesus here to heal my
cancer. I don’t have Jesus here to cure
my COPD, or my diabetes, or whatever other physical ailment brings hardship to
But what Mattew tells us about Jesus’
miracles in the previous chapter shows us that these miracles are part of
something even bigger. They are part of
something, that frankly appears to be the opposite of mighty healing and
raising the dead. And yet, they are part of something has crucial meaning for
every single one of us.
In chapter eight, Jesus heals Peter’s
mother-in-law who was suffering from a fever. Then Matthew tells us: “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.
was to fulfill what was spoken by the prophet Isaiah: ‘He took our
illnesses and bore our diseases.’”
The words from Isaiah that Matthew
quotes are from Isaiah chapter 53. This
is the chapter that describes the suffering Servant. The apostle connects Jesus’ healing ministry
with his work to bring the forgiveness of sins.
Sin is, of course, the source of all illness and death. Jesus’ miracles show that he is the Servant
of the Lord who has come to take our illnesses and bear our diseases. Each
miracle is part of this saving work of Christ.
But because Jesus is the suffering
Servant, each miracle points forward to the ultimate miracle by which Christ
has done this – his death on the cross. Jesus is the One of whom Isaiah wrote: “But
he was wounded for our transgressions; he was crushed for our iniquities; upon
him was the chastisement that brought us peace, and with his stripes we
are healed. All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned--every
one--to his own way; and the LORD has laid on him the iniquity of us all.”
Jesus Christ accomplished the great
work of taking away our sin by dying on the cross. There he bore our sin and received God’s
judgment against it in our place. That
is how he took our illnesses and bore our diseases. The cross did not look mighty. It did not look powerful. Instead, it looked
like weakness and utter failure.
But on Easter, God raised Jesus from
the dead. And in the resurrection of Jesus we now understand what the cross was
really all about. Through the cross
Jesus has taken away all our sins, and through his resurrection he has defeated
death. In his resurrection he has conquered every physical disease and
affliction – he has overcome everything caused by sin.
Through the work of the Holy Spirt in
baptism, you have been joined to the death and resurrection of Christ. His
death has become your death by which your sins are forgiven. His resurrection
is already at work in you now because the Spirit in you is the One who raised
Jesus. Because you have been baptized into the death of the risen Lord, and
been made a new creation in Christ, you will certainly also share in his
resurrection on the Last Day.
Does this mean you will be cured of
your cancer, diabetes, or whatever else ails you? No, not necessarily? Does it mean that you
will escape death? Unless our Lord
returns first, the answer to that one is absolutely no. But it does mean that already now you are a
saint - you are holy in God’s eyes because of what Jesus Christ has done for
you. You are forgiven because Jesus has
taken away all of your sins. You are God’s dearly loved child.
It means that when it comes to your
relationship to God, death cannot take anything away. In fact, as we heard last Sunday when we
observed All Saints’ Day, it means being with God in the absence of pain,
sickness, and tears. It means something better
than what we now know. In Christ the
defeated enemy death has become the gateway to freedom from this fallen world.
It means that for our bodily life,
death is no more threatening than a nap.
People go to sleep, and they wake up.
You die and your body is buried.
But the Lord Jesus will raise it up on the Last Day, and like waking up
from a nap your body will be transformed and restored for you to live as the
person God intended - as body and soul – forever.
We know this is true – we have the
assurance that is true – because we have faith in Jesus Christ. This gift of
the Spirit is a way of knowing that moves us beyond the limitations of fallen
reason. It is a way of knowing that
moves us beyond the spiritual blindness caused by our fallen nature.
In our text, the father came to Jesus
in faith. His daughter had died, but
contrary everything we normally experience, he believed that Jesus’ touch could
raise his daughter. The women approached Jesus with the certainty that if she
only touched the edge of his clothing, she would be healed. And so our Lord
said to her, ““Take heart, daughter; your faith has made you well.”
The way of salvation is the way of
faith in the crucified and risen Lord. This faith trusts that because of Jesus
we are forgiven and justified – we are ready to be with God. This faith trusts that God’s love for us in
Christ is true no matter what we are experiencing. We know it is, because Jesus rose from the
dead. This faith trusts that death is no
more threatening than sleep. To die is to be with Christ, and the Lord will
raise our body on the Last Day so that we will live a bodily existence in the
new creation. By faith we have salvation now, and by faith we look with joyful
expectation to the end of the not yet when our Lord returns in glory.