Sunday, November 19, 2023

Sermon for the Twenty-fourth Sunday after Trinity - Mt 9:18-26


Trinity 24

                                                                                      Mt 9:18-26



          In our Gospel lesson this morning, Jesus is approached by two people who have a very different social status.  We learn that a ruler came to Jesus.  From Mark and Luke we understand that this man was a ruler of the synagogue.  He was a respected leader in his community and a person of significance.

          On the other hand, a woman came to Jesus.  We learn that she had suffered from a discharge of blood for twelve years.  This condition made her ritually unclean.  Anyone who touched her would become unclean, and then would have to go through the process of removing the uncleanness.  Her affliction meant that she was a social outcast. 

          Yet while these individuals have a very different social status, they are united in two ways. First, they both have afflictions for which they desperately need help. And second, they both have faith in Jesus Christ.  Both have heard about the Lord Jesus and come in the faith that Jesus can help them.

          Our text this morning is found in the section of Matthew’s Gospel that encompasses chapters 8 and 9.  Here Matthew shows us that Jesus carried out powerful deeds of healing.  Chapters 5 through 7 have just presented the Sermon on the Mount.  The reader learns that Jesus was active in word – in preaching.  Now Matthew presents Jesus as powerful in miracles.  The section contains ten miracles as Jesus heals and casts out demons. Our Gospel lesson is actually a two for one because it contains two miracles that are intertwined with each other.

          We learn that a ruler came in and knelt before Jesus, saying, “My daughter has just died, but come and lay your hand on her, and she will live.”  The man had experienced a terrible tragedy.  His daughter had just died. However, Jesus was in the area so he approached Jesus in humility as he knelt before him. His request was simple.  He said that if Jesus would come and lay his hand on the girl, then she would live.  The man was confident that Jesus’ power could overcome death itself.  He believed that Jesus’ touch could restore life.  Death was present, but because of Jesus there was hope. And so the man came to Jesus in faith.

          Jesus rose and followed the man.  But there was someone else who had come in faith.  She believed that Jesus could heal her. The woman with the flow of blood had come because Jesus was present.  In humility, she didn’t even try to speak to Jesus.  Instead, she came up behind him and touched the fringe of his garment.  She had such great faith in Jesus’ power that she said to herself, “If I only touch his garment, I will be made well.”

          Our Lord knew what she had done.  He turned to her and said, “Take heart, daughter; your faith has made you well.” And instantly the woman was healed.  The woman had approached Jesus in faith – trust in his power to heal.  And she received deliverance from her affliction.

          After healing the woman, Jesus continued on with the ruler to his house.  There he saw the flute players and the crowd making a commotion.  This was a scene of mourning after a death as it was done Palestine.  But Jesus had not come to mourn.  He said, “Go away, for the girl is not dead but sleeping.”  The people laughed at Jesus because the girl had most certainly died.

          However, when the mourners had been put outside, Jesus did as the father had asked.  He touched her as he took the girl by the hand and raised her from the dead.  Jesus’ touch overcame death and restored the girl to life. 

          In our text, Jesus says to the woman, “Take heart, daughter; your faith has made you well.” This is an entirely correct translation.  However, the notable thing is that the Greek word that Jesus uses is actually “saved.”  Literally, our Lord says, “your faith has saved you.”  This word encourages us to recognize that Jesus’ healing miracle is part of something bigger.  Jesus brings physical healing, but this is only one part of something even greater.

          In the previous chapter we read, 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. This was to fulfill what was spoken by the prophet Isaiah: ‘He took our illnesses and bore our diseases.’” 

          These words are from Isaiah chapter 53.  Matthew teaches us that Jesus’ healing ministry is part of his greater work to remove sin.  In that chapter Isaiah says about the suffering Servant, “Surely he has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows; yet we esteemed him stricken, smitten by God, and afflicted. 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.”

          Jesus Christ was Immanuel.  He was God with us.  He was God with us in order to provide the answer to sin.  Sin is the root cause of all that is wrong in the world.  It is the source of the strife and jealousy in our life.  It is the source of pain and sickness that we experience.  Ultimately, it is the source of death that afflicts all people.

          God sent forth his Son into the world to provide the answer to sin.  Conceived by the Holy Spirit and born of the virgin Mary, Jesus Christ had come to offer himself in our place.  At his baptism Jesus was designated as the Servant of the Lord.  Though he had no sin he submitted to a baptism of repentance because he was taking our place.  He took on the role of the suffering Servant who would be crushed for our iniquities.

          Jesus’ baptism set him on the course that led to the cross.  There he received the judgment against sin that we deserved.  He cried out, “My God, my God, why have your forsaken me” as he received the judgment of God that should have been ours.  Jesus Christ suffered and died in our place in order to give us the forgiveness of all our sins.

          Dead and buried in the tomb, it looked like that was the end.  The One who had raised the dead had been defeated by death.  But on the third day God raised Jesus from the dead.  Jesus rose from the dead on Easter.  He appeared to Peter and the twelve.  He appeared to more than five hundred people at one time.  He appeared to James and all the apostles.  Finally, he appeared to Paul.  He demonstrated in unmistakable ways that he was alive as he ate and drank his followers, and as he taught them during the course of forty days.

          In his resurrection Jesus has conquered death itself.  He has given us salvation that encompasses body and soul.  The miracles in the Gospels show us this.  They show Jesus bringing the reign of God that overcomes sin in all of the ways that it afflicts people.

          The ruler and the woman came to Jesus in faith.  They trusted and believed that he was able to provide healing and rescue from death.  This faith in the Lord is the same way that we come to Jesus.  We come believing and trusting in Jesus Christ as the One who gives forgiveness and rescues from death.

          We don’t always trust as we should.  When faced with sickness and suffering we are tempted to doubt.  When we experience hardships and difficulties our faith can waiver.  We are tempted to question whether God really does love and care for us.

          When we experience this, we need to look again to the cross and resurrection of Jesus Christ.  In the cross we have received the forgiveness of all our sin.  In the resurrection of Jesus we find the guarantee of God’s love and care for us. There we have God’s great “Yes!” that overcomes all that would lead us to doubt. The crucified and risen Lord calls us to believe and trust in him because he has already won the victory for us.

          He has won the victory for us, and that shapes the way we look at the present.  In our text we see Jesus heal the woman and raise the girl from the dead.  We live with physical ailments and face the threat of death.  We pray for healing and for deliverance. We ask knowing that according to his will God does grant these things. At other times his answer is that his grace is sufficient for us as he sustains us in the midst of suffering. 

But the guarantee that we have in Jesus is that we will receive complete healing and deliverance from death.  In Jesus’ resurrection we see the final fulfillment of his healing ministry.  Jesus Christ has risen with a body that is perfect and will never die again.  This is the existence that awaits us when our Lord returns in glory and raises us from the dead.  We will be rescued from all that sin has caused as we live with our Lord forever.

In our Gospel lesson the ruler asks Jesus to touch his daughter, and the woman seeks to touch Jesus’ clothing.  To sustain us in faith, our Lord continues to touch us.  This he does in the Sacrament of the Altar.  He gives us his true body and true blood into our mouth. 

Through this gift our Lord delivers forgiveness to us.  He applies the saving work of the cross and leaves no doubt that it is for us.  Through this gift our Lord assures us that we will share in the blessings of his resurrection.  We receive the body and blood of the risen Lord into our body.  Our Lord has promised, “Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day.”  Bodies that receive the Sacrament will be raised and transformed to be like Christ when he returns.

 The ruler and the woman approached Jesus in faith.  They believed that Jesus had the power to heal and defeat death.  We come to Jesus with the same faith because he died on the cross for our sins and rose from the dead.  In Jesus we find the comfort of forgiveness and peace with God. And in him we have the guarantee that we will live eternally with bodies like that of our risen Lord.     













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