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Sțckhardt on Epiphany 3 РMatthew 8:1-13

by pastorjuhl ~ January 18th, 2011

It was simply not enough for [Jesus] to relieve the sick, concerning whom our text is speaking, of their bodily afflictions. 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. And 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.

In Jesus’ miracles and successful treatments of the sick are, at the same time, 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 the Lord: “Lord, if You are willing, You can make me clean.” He was not lacking in power. The centurion was right when he said to Him: “Only speak a Word, and my servant will be healed.” With but a word He healed, 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: “For 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,” when he urged Jesus by such words to utilize His greater authority and might, he thus in spirit saw the Son of Man, who was standing before him, in his other-worldly 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 also a Lord and God who delivers from death, who is able to and will turn all suffering and woe, all hardship and distress of this body of death into life, true life, 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 and it is: You who are dead will rise and live in eternity!

We see also in our 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. And so He also took our sin and transgression upon Himself and has permitted this venom to take its toll of Him, took all the pain and bitterness that sin caused, has Himself drunk the bitter cup and 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. And His holy, precious blood is now the drug that makes sin harmless, is oil and balm for the wounded conscience. He lives, even though He died, lives in eternity.

He lives and 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. And 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. And although we still feel sin and have not laid aside sinful flesh, yet are we pure and just, holy and without offense in God’s sight. And 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, and through death the Old Adam is buried forever. And 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.

In this Physician Jesus we find salvation and life. He is able to heal us and will also heal us. He is not lacking in power and ability, in ways and means to help us, nor in desire and willingness. How He is disposed towards the sick, distressed, He says Himself in the words He spoke to the leper: “I am willing; be cleansed!” – and to the centurion: “I will come and heal him.” He has sincere compassion for the weak and the distressed and just for poor sinners.

Today still, every day we hear the Gospel of Jesus Christ, the Son of God, the Son of Man, the Savior of all men. And behold, the Word sometimes here, sometimes there falls into the heart of one who is ill and distressed, into the heart of a sinner, and gives him courage to pray to Jesus and awakens confidence in this Man. Jesus does not act like a persistent doctor impetuously knocking on every door and forcing His help on people and stealing their hearts. Softly, gently, 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!” And who thus calls is already helped. Jesus is there with His help, His salvation and answers the prayer that He Himself has awakened and in a marvelous way helps the needy.

Blessed are all who believe and trust in this Physician of Israel! Amen.

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