Power over Sickness and Death

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Matthew 9:18-26 (Two miracles)

INTRODUCTION: We are continuing in our series on Ten Miracles of Jesus from Matthew 8-9. One of the things we’ve learned through this series is that through these various miracles Jesus demonstrated his power and authority over various areas of life. In the first three miracles we saw Jesus’ power to make clean, his ability to heal from a distance, and his willingness to carry our diseases. In the second three miracles we saw Jesus’ power over nature, Satan and sin. Now in today’s passage we see Jesus’ power over sickness and death. (Read Matthew 9:18-26 and pray.)

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Two of the greatest obstacles to human happiness and flourishing are the twin problems of sickness and death. Can you imagine what life would be like without any sickness or death? What would it be like never to be sick again? Or even better, for your loved ones never to be sick again? And what if death were removed from the equation? It would be a different world, wouldn’t it?

The Bible teaches us that sickness and death are both a result of sin. God created the world good, but sin brought sickness and death into the world. God warned Adam that if he disobeyed he would die. The wages of sin is death, and all sickness is just a form of dying.

So much sorrow and suffering occur every day in this world simply because of sickness and death. And so what good news it is to know and proclaim that Jesus has power over sickness and death. Jesus began his ministry by proclaiming the kingdom of God is near. His mission was to show the rule of God over every area of life, especially those areas affected by the fall. And so, in today’s passage Jesus shows his power over these two terrible results of the fall – sickness and death.

Today’s passage actually records two miracles of Jesus. The first miracle involves the ruler’s daughter, and the second miracle involves the woman with bleeding. The two miracles also give us the opportunity to see different people’s attitude towards Jesus and his response to them. Through it all we see the importance of faith in Christ and Jesus’ ultimate power over sickness and death.

I. The ruler’s daughter (18-19)

So, let’s begin with the ruler’s daughter. Look at verses 18-19 where the ruler comes to Jesus with a very specific request.

While he was saying this, a ruler came and knelt before him and said, “My daughter has just died. But come and put your hand on her, and she will live.” 19 Jesus got up and went with him, and so did his disciples.” (Matthew 9:18-19)

   A. The ruler’s request – respectful and believing
      – Hebrews 11:6

The first thing I want you to notice in these verses is the attitude of the ruler. As the ruler approaches Jesus with his request, he is both respectful and believing. He kneels before Jesus, not necessarily an act of worship in those days, but certainly a posture of reverence and respect.

And then he is also full of faith. His daughter has just died. But he believes that Jesus can make her live again. “Come and put your hand on her, and she will live.” He believes that Jesus can raise his daughter with just the touch of his hand. Jesus has healed some very sick people up to this point, but he has not yet raised anyone from the dead. And so, this request is one that demonstrates great faith in the person and power of Jesus.

The ruler is both respectful and believing towards Jesus. The Bible teaches us that these are two attitudes we should always have in approaching God – respect for his person and faith in his power. Hebrews 11:6 tells us: “And without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him.” (Hebrews 11:6) We must come before God with both reverence and faith.

   B. Jesus’ response – cooperative and willing
      – Matthew 7:7-8

And what is Jesus’ response to the ruler’s request? Jesus’ response is both cooperative and willing. He doesn’t deny the ruler’s request. He doesn’t offer to heal from a distance as he did with the centurion’s servant. The ruler made a very specific request. He asked Jesus to come and put his hand on his daughter. The ruler made a specific request, and Jesus responds to his specific request. Jesus got up and went with him, and so did his disciples.

The Bible makes it clear that when it comes to prayer, God wants you to ask. He encourages you to ask. He invites you to ask. Earlier in the gospel of Matthew in the Sermon on the Mount Jesus said the following: “Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. 8 For everyone who asks receives; he who seeks finds; and to him who knocks, the door will be opened.” (Matthew 7:7-8)

God wants you to ask, and when you approach God with reverence and in faith, God hears your prayers, and he will answer.

II. The woman with bleeding (20-22)

Now before we find out what happens with the ruler’s daughter, Matthew tells us about a second miracle that took place on the way to the ruler’s house. On the way Jesus meets the woman with bleeding. Look at verses 20-22 with me.

Just then a woman who had been subject to bleeding for twelve years came up behind him and touched the edge of his cloak. 21 She said to herself, “If I only touch his cloak, I will be healed.” 22 Jesus turned and saw her. “Take heart, daughter,” he said, “your faith has healed you.” And the woman was healed from that moment. (Matthew 9:20-22)

   A. The woman’s approach – secretive and believing
      – Hebrews 4:15-16

Now I want you to notice that this woman’s approach is different than the ruler’s. Whereas the ruler walked right up to Jesus with his request, she sneaks up behind Jesus and just touches the edge of his cloak. She says to herself, “If I only touch the edge of his cloak, I will be healed.” The ruler’s request was both respectful and believing. The woman’s approach is both secretive and believing.

Why was the woman so timid and secretive in her approach? There could be any number of reasons. She was a woman, and Jesus was a man. Perhaps she saw Jesus was in a hurry and didn’t want to bother him. She didn’t know if he would take the time to stop for her. Her bleeding rendered her unclean, and perhaps he would not want to touch someone who was unclean. Whatever the reason, she was secretive in her approach and did not have the confidence to approach Jesus directly.

But as soon as she touched him, Jesus knew. The other gospels tell us that he physically felt the healing power leave his body. There were a lot of other people pressing against Jesus in the crowd that day, but only the woman touched him with intent to be healed. She may not have had confidence, but she did have faith. And it was this touch of faith that allowed the healing power to pass from Jesus’ body into hers. It is not proximity to Jesus that matters but faith in Jesus, not simply touching him but being touched by him in response to your faith.

So, the woman had faith but lacked confidence. She was afraid to approach Jesus directly. Praise God we do not need to be afraid when we approach Jesus today. The book of Hebrews tells us:
“For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are – yet was without sin. 16 Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.” (Hebrews 4:15-16)

Jesus is not a God who is far off and removed. Rather Jesus entered into human experience, and he experienced the same things you and I do. Jesus understands what you go through every day, and therefore you can approach him with confidence so that you may receive mercy and find grace to help you in your time of need.

   B. Jesus’ response – compassionate and reassuring
      – Psalm 103:13-14; Matthew 12:20

The woman’s approach was secretive and believing. Jesus’ response is both compassionate and reassuring. He doesn’t reprimand her for sneaking up behind him. He doesn’t rebuke her for her timid approach. Instead he tells her, “Take heart, daughter, your faith has healed you.” He has compassion on her, and he reassures in her weakness. And Matthew tells us the woman was healed from that moment.

You see, although we must approach God with faith and we should approach God with confidence, when you are lacking confidence, God doesn’t hold it against you. Psalm 103 tells us: “As a father has compassion on his children, so the Lord has compassion on those who fear him; for he knows how we are formed, he remembers that we are dust.” (Psalm 103:13-14) God knows our weakness and frailty, and he does not despise us for our weakness but has compassion on us.

Later in the gospel of Matthew, in Matthew 12:20, Matthew says this about Jesus: “A bruised reed he will not break, and a smoldering wick he will not snuff out.” (Matthew 12:20) Matthew is quoting a prophecy about Jesus from Isaiah 42:3. And the prophecy has to do with Jesus’ response to things that are fragile or weak. A bruised reed is a hollow reed from the marshlands that is already bent and near breaking. A smoldering wick is a flame that is on its way out. The slightest breath or touch will extinguish it.

You and I are the bruised reed and the smoldering wick in our weakness. And yet Jesus does not hold our weakness against us. When you are at your breaking point, when you feel like you are about to be snuffed out, he lovingly comes alongside you and restores you. He has compassion for you and reassures you with his word.

This miracle shows Jesus’ kindness and compassion towards you but also his power over sickness. The woman’s bleeding was a long-term problem that no doctors had been able to heal. But her bleeding was healed with just a touch of Jesus’ cloak. She didn’t have a lot of confidence, but she had faith, and Jesus healed her.

III. The dead girl raised (23-26)

Now we return to the miracle with the ruler’s daughter. Look at verses 23-26:

When Jesus entered the ruler’s house and saw the flute players and the noisy crowd, 24 he said, “Go away. The girl is not dead but asleep.” But they laughed at him. 25 After the crowd had been put outside, he went in and took the girl by the hand, and she got up. 26 News of this spread through all that region. (Matthew 9:23-26)

   A. The crowd’s attitude – disrespectful and disbelieving
      – James 1:6-7

Jesus arrives at the ruler’s house and meets the group of mourners there. He tells them to go away, that the girl is not dead but asleep. But they laugh at him. The crowd’s attitude towards Jesus is the exact opposite of the ruler’s. The ruler was respectful and believing. The crowd is disrespectful and disbelieving.

Jesus may not require strength and confidence from us at all times. He bears with us in our weakness. But he does require reverence and faith. James 1 says about prayer: “But when you ask, you must believe and not doubt, because he who doubts is like a wave of the sea, blown and tossed by the wind. That man should not think he will receive anything from the Lord.” (James 1:6-7)

This verse in its context specifically has to do with asking God for wisdom, but the principle applies to all the requests we make to the Lord. Once again, we must come to God believing. If you ask God for something and you don’t believe, you shouldn’t expect to receive it from him.

It’s a good thing that the people in the crowd weren’t the ones asking Jesus to raise this girl from the dead. Their attitude precluded the miracle. They were both disrespectful to Jesus and disbelieving.

   B. Jesus’ response – authoritative and mysterious
      – Matthew 13:10-13

Jesus’ response to the crowd is both authoritative and mysterious. First of all, he takes charge of the situation. He puts them out of the house. He does not let them witness the miracle he is about to perform. But notice also how mysterious he is with them. He doesn’t come right out and tell them that the girl is dead, and he is about to raise her. Instead he speaks with them in terms of the girl sleeping and waking. “The girl is not dead but asleep.”

Now the girl really was dead. But the Bible often uses this language of sleep to indicate that death is a temporary state. We’re used to thinking about death as a final state, but the Bible says when you die as a believer, your body is merely sleeping. And the great thing about sleeping is when you lie down, you get back up again. When Christ returns he will call to our bodies in the grave, and our bodies will rise again.

So why doesn’t Jesus come right out and tell the crowd what he is about to do? Why is he so mysterious with them? Throughout the gospels we learn that Jesus speaks plainly to those who believe, but he speaks in mysteries and parables with those who do not believe. For example, we find this conversation between Jesus and his disciples in Matthew 13:

The disciples came to him and asked, “Why do you speak to the people in parables?” He replied, “The knowledge of the secrets of the kingdom of heaven has been given to you, but not to them. Whoever has will be given more, and he will have an abundance. Whoever does not have, even what he has will be taken from him. This is why I speak to them in parables: ‘Though seeing, they do not see; though hearing, they do not hear or understand.’” (Matthew 13:10-13)

God’s word is plain as day to those who believe. But to those who do not believe, it’s a mystery. The truth is clouded from their minds. Faith leads to understanding, and we must approach God in an attitude of faith if we want to understand his word.

   C. The end result – news of this spread through all that region
      – Matthew 28:18-19

Matthew tells us that Jesus took the dead girl by the hand, and she got up. This miracle shows us Jesus’ power even over death. Jesus did exactly what the ruler asked him to do and exactly what the ruler believed he could do. The ruler told Jesus at the beginning of this passage: “My daughter has died. But come and put your hand on her, and she will live.” (Matthew 9:18) Jesus went in and took the girl by the hand, and she got up.

D.L. Moody had to do a funeral early in his ministry, and so he went through the gospels to see what Jesus said in his funeral messages. What he found was that Jesus never preached a funeral message. In fact, every time Jesus went to a funeral, instead of giving a message, he just raised the person from the dead! I guess that’s a pretty good funeral message in itself.

Well Jesus does the same thing here, and the end result was that the news of this miracle spread through all the region. People went everywhere talking about Jesus’ power over sickness and death. This is a reminder to us that we are also called to spread the news of Jesus’ power and authority. As Jesus told his disciples in Matthew 28: “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations.” (Matthew 28:18-19)

Jesus has all authority in heaven and on earth. He has the power to make clean. He has the power to heal from a distance. He has power over nature, Satan and sin. He has power over sickness and death. And we are to go and make disciples, telling the world of his power and authority to save.

CONCLUSION: These two miracles are intertwined, and together they show us Jesus’ power over sickness and death. Jesus showed his power over sickness by healing people when no one else could. He showed his power over death by raising people from the dead and, ultimately, by rising from the dead himself.

Now that doesn’t mean that we should be running around asking Jesus to raise people from the dead today – even in the New Testament resurrections were rare events – but it does bring us great comfort knowing that Jesus will raise the dead on the last day.

And once again, this all has to do with Jesus bringing the kingdom of God when he came. When you put your faith in Jesus, you become part of his kingdom. God gives us previews of his coming kingdom through various healings even today. One day his kingdom will come in its fullness. When Christ returns, all those belonging to him will be raised from the dead, and “there will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.” (Revelation 21:4)

Jesus has power over sickness and death. So let us come before him with reverence and faith. Let us approach the throne of grace with confidence that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need. Let us not be afraid to pray for healing. Let us trust God’s power and kindness in Christ, and let us look forward in faith to Christ’s return when sickness and death will be no more.

Click here for more messages from the book of Matthew.
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