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Epiphany 3 – Matthew 8:1-13

by pastorjuhl ~ January 22nd, 2011

This week I let mostly George Stöckhardt’s words speak. To God alone the glory!

In the Name of the Father and of the + Son and of the Holy Spirit

It was not enough for Jesus to relieve the sick of their bodily afflictions in today’s Gospel. They should share in the whole of the salvation He had brought to Israel. The leper became a believing disciple and confessor of Jesus. The Lord told him explicitly to bear witness to the priests of the grace he had experienced. How Jesus rejoiced over the faith of the Capernaum centurion! He promised him that he would sit down with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob in the kingdom of heaven.

Although the centurion recognized his unworthiness, he does not doubt that Christ’s goodness would be greater than his sins. The centurion was certain that Christ could help even from a distance; he would not have to see and speak to his sick servant. He desired nothing more than a word from Christ’s mouth; that was sufficient. He believed with unshakable certainty that, since his own word accomplished so much, Christ’s word would do much more. At Christ’s word even sickness, death, and hell would have to flee in a moment. Nothing was impossible for Him.

Do you think nothing is impossible for the Savior-Healer? Medical doctors do the best they can with their God-given skills. Nevertheless, they cannot heal every illness. Some doctors are better than others are. Some have better bedside manner. Others are keen diagnosticians. But some are rude and others seem not to know what they are doing. Perhaps you have thought the same about Jesus. Prayers seemingly go unanswered. Illnesses linger. Death comes to a loved one either expectedly or unexpectedly. Where is the Savior’s healing Hand when you need it?

The Savior’s mercy always is there. In Jesus’ miracles and successful treatments of the sick are sketched the grace and mercy of the Savior, in Whom sinners rejoice and in Whom they enjoy life everlasting. When the Lord walked visibly upon earth, He revealed in the miracles He publicly performed above all else, His divine power and love for mankind. He wanted to win the confidence of His people. Today as He walks among us invisibly through Word and Spirit, the Lord works greater, spiritual miracles in our souls. Today also, He attends to the bodily needs. Nevertheless, all His activity serves the finest, highest purpose of aiding our souls. He is the true Physician, the Physician of body and soul.

The leper was right when he said: Lord, if You are willing, You can make me clean. The centurion was right when he said to Him: Only speak a Word, and my servant will be healed. He healed with but a Word, laying His hand upon the leper and from a distance curing the palsied servant. The centurion had peered into the invisible world. When he said: I also am a man under authority, having soldiers under me. And I say to this one, “Go,” and he goes; and to another “Come,” and he comes; and to my servant, “Do this,” and he does it, he urged Jesus by such words to utilize His greater authority and might. The centurion saw in spirit the Son of Man, Who was standing before him in His otherworldly might and glory surrounded by His heavenly servants and the heavenly host.

Jesus, the Physician, the King and Lord in the kingdom of heaven, is a Lord and God who delivers from death. He is able to turn all suffering and woe, all hardship and distress of this body of death, into true, everlasting, incorruptible life. He lets nothing perish and corrupt; not even this mortal frame. When death and devil have carried out their final work on man, Jesus will still have the last, the very last word to say: “You who are dead will rise and live in eternity!”

We see also in today’s Gospel the image of the Son of God and the Son of Man Who humbles Himself to poor, helpless men and takes their distress upon His shoulders. He took our sin and transgression upon Himself and has permitted this venom to take its toll of Him. The Savior took all the pain and bitterness that sin caused, Jesus drank the bitter cup, borne the curse and died for sinners. A Physician has been given us who Himself is the Life, Christ, who has died and won salvation for us. His holy, precious blood is now the drug that makes sin harmless, is oil and balm for the wounded conscience. Even though He died, He lives in eternity.

He lives, sends His Word, and through the Gospel offers sinners the righteousness that avails before God. He sends His messengers here and there, and the servants of Christ absolve sinners. The voice of absolution, the voice of the Gospel, is Christ’s voice. He speaks only a word: Be cleansed! – and behold, by this word we are cleansed and justified. What’s more, He puts His Word of Absolution in your mouth under the Body and Blood of Christ. You leave His altar cleansed from all sin and fortified for the journey in this life toward the life to come.

Although we still feel sin and have not laid aside sinful flesh, we are pure, just, holy and without offense in God’s sight. Through His Holy Spirit, through His Gospel, Jesus, our Physician and Savior, cleanses and purifies us more and more from innate leprosy, from inherent indolence and hardness of heart. He heals the depraved creature. Through death, the Old Adam is buried forever. In eternity, we shall then recover completely and be again restored to original innocence and blessedness and will sit down in the kingdom of heaven with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, with all the elect.

Jesus does not act like a persistent doctor who knocks on every door, forces His help on people and steals their hearts. Unnoticed in the sound of the Gospel He lays His Hand upon our hearts and opens them so that we call out: “Lord, have mercy upon me!” When you call, you are already helped. Blessed are all who believe and trust in this Physician of Israel!

In the Name of the Father and of the + Son and of the Holy Spirit

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