Matthew 8:1-17 (New English Translation)
Cleansing a Leper
8 After he came down from the mountain, large crowds followed him. 2 And a leper approached, and bowed low before him, saying, “Lord, if you are willing, you can make me clean.” 3 He stretched out his hand and touched him saying, “I am willing. Be clean!” Immediately his leprosy was cleansed. 4 Then Jesus said to him, “See that you do not speak to anyone, but go, show yourself to a priest, and bring the offering that Moses commanded, as a testimony to them.”
5 When he entered Capernaum, a centurion came to him asking for help: 6 “Lord, my servant is lying at home paralyzed, in terrible anguish.” 7 Jesus said to him, “I will come and heal him.” 8 But the centurion replied, “Lord, I am not worthy to have you come under my roof. Instead, just say the word and my servant will be healed. 9 For I too am a man under authority, with soldiers under me. I say to this one, ‘Go’ and he goes, and to another ‘Come’ and he comes, and to my slave ‘Do this’ and he does it.” 10 When Jesus heard this he was amazed and said to those who followed him, “I tell you the truth, I have not found such faith in anyone in Israel! 11 I tell you, many will come from the east and west to share the banquet with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob in the kingdom of heaven, 12 but the sons of the kingdom will be thrown out into the outer darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.” 13 Then Jesus said to the centurion, “Go; just as you believed, it will be done for you.” And the servant was healed at that hour.
Healings at Peter’s House
14 Now when Jesus entered Peter’s house, he saw his mother-in-law lying down, sick with a fever. 15 He touched her hand, and the fever left her. Then she got up and began to serve them. 16 When it was evening, many demon-possessed people were brought to him. He drove out the spirits with a word, and healed all who were sick. 17 In this way what was spoken by Isaiah the prophet was fulfilled:
“He took our weaknesses and carried our diseases.”
Matthew was using the gospel of Mark as one of his source books, while sharing a common strand of tradition with Luke’s gospel. We can see the special insights of Matthew in the way he alters and adds to his sources.
He follows Mark in his story of the leper, but omits Mark’s radical depiction of Jesus as “moved to anger” by the man’s condition. He keeps however the depiction of Jesus touching the leper with his hand-a gesture of compassion and solidarity. Mark adds that the healed man disobeyed Jesus and testified to his healing power. Matthew omits this disobedience perhaps out of respect to Jesus.
Then Matthew inserts a story he shares with Luke into the flow of healing stories he is getting from Mark. Why? Because it shows the nature of Jesus’ healing authority. He is not a supernatural being walking the earth but a human being with a derived authority which in his case comes from God, just as the centurion’s comes from Caesar. The nature of this authority is further defined in the quotation from Isaiah chapter 53, placed after the story of Peter’s mother in law by Matthew. The authority of God, which is given to Jesus works by taking on and carrying, the human burden of illness.
Matthew thought Jesus’ compassion took the illness into his own life in such a way that his resources and that of the sick person could jointly conquer the disease. Perhaps we may find it hard to imagine precisely what this meant for a kind of healing in which no scientific means were used. But it is perfectly clear when a society determines that anyone’s illness is the business of everybody and sets up a health service that puts the resources of all at the disposal of each patient. The quotation from Isaiah could be adapted to describe the NHS in the U,K. With this in mind one might say that the Tea Party have brought the USA to a halt in opposition to a Christ-like type of healthcare. I don’t imagine they’d agree with this analysis, but I’m not sure they could refute it.