Matins Devotion: October 4, 2023
In this morning’s gospel, we have this series of healing miracles set before us. First a leper breaks protocol and busts through a crowd of people so that he can kneel before Jesus and ask for healing. And Jesus does it. He stretches out his hand and heals him. Then we have this gentile centurion with a sick servant. This centurion is full of so much faith that it even amazes Jesus. Jesus sends the centurion home with the promise that his servant will be healed. And, of course, we have Peter’s mother-in-law who is suffering from a terrible fever. Jesus doesn’t even wait for Peter to ask him—it is his mother-in-law after all. Jesus just reaches down and touches her hand and heals her so completely that the next second she’s in the kitchen making dinner. Before the night’s over, the word has spread. People from all around start showing up. Sick people. Demon possessed people. And Jesus turns none of them away. He heals them all. He sends them away whole.
Now, there’s certainly a way in which we can read through a passage like this and get it wrong. Especially when we’re in the midst of dealing with sickness ourselves. And what I mean is that we can start to read this passage as a kind of recipe for getting our miracle.
“Well, you know, I’ve been praying for Jesus to heal me—but maybe he hasn’t healed me yet because I don’t have enough faith. Maybe if I could be like the centurion—if I could believe hard enough—then maybe I could amaze Jesus with my faith and he would answer my prayer.”
Or, “Well maybe my prayers aren’t bold enough. Maybe if I could be bold like this leper—spend twice the time praying, start a prayer chain, name it and claim it—then maybe then Jesus would say ‘yes’ to my prayer—maybe then he would heal me.”
Or, “Well maybe I can bargain with Jesus. Maybe I can promise him that if he heals me, then I’ll serve him even more. Yes, I’m sure that’s what he’s waiting on. I just need to promise that I won’t waste my life if he gives me back my health.”
You see, the problem with all of these false understandings is that they turn Jesus’ miracles into a law. They get us asking what we need to do in order to get Jesus to give us our healing—our miracle. Instead, we need to see Jesus’ healing miracles for what they truly are. Promises. Note what Matthew says at the very end of our passage, “This was to fulfill what was spoken by the prophet Isaiah: “He took our illnesses and bore our diseases.” What was Jesus doing through these miracles for the leper and so many others? He was showing you what he’s done for you. He has taken your illnesses and borne your diseases and carried them to the cross. There on the cross he suffered your suffering. He shook with your agony. He withered with your pain. He died. But then he rose. He took all of your sickness upon himself so he could heal you by his death and restore you to wholeness in his resurrection. Because now his life, his wholeness, his resurrection has become yours. “If we have been united with him in a death like his, we shall certainly be united with him in a resurrection like his.” (Rom. 6:5) Every miraculous healing that Jesus ever did is your miracle. Because they all point to what he did for you. They all point to a cross. They all point to an empty tomb.
Now, can we pray for healing in this life? Absolutely. In fact, we will pray for those who are sick among us in just a few minutes. But what if the illness lingers? What if the sickness remains? What then? Well, in all this, we trust in the mercy of God and we wait for the day when our Lord will appear and grant us that long-awaited miracle that he has promised us.