Sunday, June 23, 2013

The Cross and Healing

Matthew explains that Jesus’ healings are a fulfillment of Isaiah’s prophecy—“He Himself took our infirmities. And bore our sicknesses’” (Isa 53:4; Matt. 8:17)—which describes a messiah whose suffering results in the physical healing of God’s people.

We often we think that Christ’s death on the cross relates to forgiveness only. But it involves more than that. Although the Apostle Peter applies Isaiah 53:4 to sins (1 Peter 2:24), Matthew links it to sickness. As a result of these two interpretations, a controversy exists over the extent of the crucifixion’s benefits.  The best explanation is that Christ’s death secures salvation for the whole person, i.e., forgiveness for the soul and healing for the body.

This conclusion leads three further considerations. First, while we are “eternally” forgiven of sins, we still commit sins in the present age. Likewise, while Christ eternally secured the redemption of our bodies, we still get sick in the present age. In the interim between “already” and “not yet” aspects of the kingdom, forgiveness and healing are available to us as a foretaste of the age to come.

Second, Matthew clearly links Jesus’ healings to his suffering on the cross (Matt 8:17); yet, all the healings recorded in Matthew’s Gospel take place PRIOR to his death. This leaves us with a dilemma: How did Jesus heal in advance of the cross? The same way he forgave sin prior to the cross. The crucifixion’s benefits extended into the past as well as into the future.

Third, Matthew writes his Gospel many years after the recorded events take place. Therefore, Matt 8:17 is his theological explanation of the healings after prolonged reflection. Most of his readers (living somewhere between AD 66‒85) never met Jesus or witnessed his healings. Therefore, the Gospel of Matthew informs them of the events and explains their meaning.

According to Matthew, Jesus miracles were signs that God’s eternal kingdom had broken into time. It did not arrive in its fullness, but it began to manifest itself. When the ultimate kingdom comes, everything will be restored to perfection. Until then, we must be satisfied with a little “taste” of heaven on earth.

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