Jesus went throughout Galilee, teaching in their synagogues, preaching the good news of the kingdom, and healing every disease and sickness among the people. News about him spread all over Syria, and people brought to him all who were ill with various diseases, those suffering severe pain, the demon-possessed, those having seizures, and the paralyzed, and he healed them. (verses 23-24)
This summary statement at the beginning of Jesus’ ministry gives us a preview of all that he will do and accomplish in the succeeding chapters.
Immediately we get three chapters of “preaching” ministry (known to us as the “Sermon on the Mount”), followed by two chapters that recount eight specific miracles, together with an account of multiple healings on the doorstep of Peter’s home in Capernaum. The following chapter (Matthew 10) gives the account of Jesus sending his disciples to do similar ministry, but not before Matthew book-ends chapters five to nine with an almost identical summary statement: “Jesus went through all the towns and villages, teaching in their synagogues, preaching the good news of the kingdom and healing every disease and sickness” (Matthew 9:35). He doesn’t want us to miss the essence of Jesus’ ministry, nor its powerful impact.
The introductory summary here (at the end of chapter four) begins with a sighting of Jesus “teaching” and “preaching.” He speaks “the good news of the kingdom” – the gospel – which was then made tangible by his miracles of healing and release. Preaching was followed by divine action. These two, word and deed, go hand in hand.
As news spread, hope-filled people descended on Jesus, bringing with them those suffering all sorts of afflictions. Matthew gives us a general description (“ill with various diseases”), which could encompass a whole range of severity, but then follows with specific examples (“severe pain,” “demon-possessed,” “seizures,” “paralyzed”) which are obvious, observable, and debilitating. All these, Jesus healed. The kingdom is come.
What am I to make of this? It stretches me, and faith, to such a degree that I am liable to shrink back to something more comfortable, ignoring the implications. For the implications are huge. Jesus will later say, “I tell you the truth, anyone who has faith in me will do what I have been doing. He will do even greater things …” (John 14:12). I know this isn’t carte blanche. Faith means trusting submission to the Lord himself, which implies faithful watching and waiting. But the stretch to faith is undeniable.
Will I allow the tension to propel me into prayerful living, beyond the bounds of life as I’ve known it? Will I trust Jesus’ word so that I might also see his deeds?
Lord, may it be. Please, this week, this day, draw me into tangible expectation of the “good news of the kingdom”. I stand ready, Lord Jesus.
Reflect: Is there a particular situation in your life right now in which the Lord is inviting you to stretch into faith-filled prayer for his kingdom to come?
Photo by Valeria Boltneva: https://www.pexels.com/.../blue-and-orange-light.../