During the school holiday break, we’re reliving some posts from 2014 which look at Matthew chapters 8 & 9. New material will resume on Wednesday.
At the end of last week, in our study of Matthew 8 & 9, we saw that the miracle stories in these chapters were intended to make a particular point. By arranging them together in this fashion, Matthew was telling us that Jesus was performing the actions of the Messiah, as envisioned by the prophet Isaiah 700 years prior: sight to the blind, mobility to the crippled, cleansing for lepers, and even the dead raised! It was the kingdom of God coming in action. (Just as the Sermon on the Mount we looked at a couple of months ago was the kingdom of God coming in words.)
But still, you’ve got to admit, the world didn’t change all that much, did it? Evil still exists, long after Jesus has been and gone. There’s still suffering and deformity and disease and death. And even those people healed by Jesus – they all eventually died. What happened to this restoration of all things? Was that it?
Some fulfilment that turned out to be after seven centuries of waiting. He runs a bit of a clinic for three years, dares us all to believe in the ‘audacity of hope’, and then he’s gone. Even Barack Obama made it to a second term. Just. What’s going on? Is he the Little Messiah That Couldn’t?
Well as it turned out, those healing stories we looked at – they were just a hint of what’s to come. The preview of coming attractions. The downpayment, not the full amount. For the complete ‘restoration of all things’ promised by Isaiah – it still lies in our future. Jesus came to show us just a glimpse of this world he wanted to bring about. To whet our appetite. To give us a window on the future.
And he then went and made this future possible. He made it possible by dying for the sin of humanity. Paying the penalty for our sin, so that we could be right with God. And he was raised to life again, to defeat death itself. Not just running around healing a few sick people one at a time. But dealing with all of our sin and all of its consequences, once and for all.
Jesus didn’t just heal sick people for a few years, and then leave us to it. Carry on his work, patching up the wounded. Running leprosy clinics. Comforting the dying. No! He died so that ultimately, we wouldn’t have to. He rose again so that we could be healed not merely in this life, but for all eternity. His earthly ministry was simply a glimpse, a window – on a restored world that is only possible through his death and resurrection. That’s our source of hope. Despite our suffering, despite our sin, Jesus has given us hope.
Because one day, Jesus will return, to make this restored world a reality. John Dickson in his book, A Spectator’s Guide to Jesus, puts it this way:
‘Jesus’ deeds are portrayed in our texts as a sign within history of the restoration of all things at the end of history. Jesus’ power over sickness, evil & nature itself are a preview, you might say, of God’s coming kingdom… As the second last chapter of the NT envisions: ‘God will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away’ (Rev 21:4). But what is merely promised in prophecy and vision here in the book of Revelation… was temporarily experienced within history… in the ministry of Jesus: evil was overthrown, frail bodies restored, nature itself was put right. The ‘kingdom of God’ had in miniature come upon them.’
And for the last 2000 years, followers of Jesus have held their breath in hope. Waiting, longing, for the ultimate fulfilment of God’s promise.
So today, how do we live in our post-9/11 world? How do we live with the fear that at any time global terrorism could be brought home to us? How do we live with the results of 9/11 – armed conflict, increased racial tensions, a US economy burdened by military spending that threatens to bring the rest of the world down with it?
And how do we live in response to a society that’s rotting from the inside? Exploitation. Abuse. Domestic violence. Alcoholism. Youth suicide. And everything else that makes our world such a hopeless place.
Or what about physical suffering? People who 2000 years after Jesus came still are blind or deaf or crippled or have cancer or mental illness or any one of countless other diseases. How do we respond to all of this? Do we just stand around like a noisy crowd or a bunch of flute players helping people mourn?
No. We trust Jesus. It seems trite to say, and often quite difficult to do. But we trust Jesus. It’s what the faithful followers of God in Isaiah’s day did. It’s what the people in those healing stories did. They trusted Jesus.
Firstly, trust him with the big picture. This canvas of hope we’ve painted tonight, stretching back almost 3,000 years. God has a plan to restore all things, in the midst of this broken world. We got a glimpse of it in the life of Jesus. And the promise of even more through his death and resurrection. Even though it might not look like it, trust Jesus that he’s got this world under control.
And it’s not just the big picture. Trust him, too, with the little picture. Your life. It’s important to him, just like the life of each person he healed while on earth. Trust him with your struggles. Your fears. Your illness. Your grief. And trust him with that which is most important: your eternity. His death in your place. His life for yours. Even though it might to the outsider seem as silly as grabbing a cloak, trusting that you’ll stop bleeding. Trust Jesus.
Why? Why should we trust him? On what basis?
Well that’s what last week’s look at Matthew 9 was all about. This isn’t blind faith; this isn’t baseless trust; a leap in the dark. That’s what the world thinks faith is all about. That faith requires you to ignore reason, close your eyes and ‘just believe’. That Christians are the same kind of gullible fools who get ripped off by Nigerian email scams or smooth-talking con-men and end up as an object of national pity on current affairs programmes. People equate following Jesus with blind, baseless trust.
But we’ve been given a firm basis on which to trust:
A promise, long ago, through the prophet Isaiah.
Some evidence – a downpayment of what Jesus can deliver, as he went about healing people and restoring them to life. A window on the future.
And we’ve been given an iron clad guarantee in the form of an empty tomb. Resurrection from the dead that proves beyond doubt who Jesus is, and that he has the power to deliver.
Trust Jesus. Knowing that unlike any American president, yes he can.
To think about
What is the basis of your trust in Jesus?
How do you communicate this to those who don’t know him?