I'm sure we can imagine that a number of reactions were present that day when Jesus spoke those words. The hope for a Messiah had a lengthy history in the Jewish mind, beginning with the promise to Eve in Gen. 3:15, on through the calling of Abraham in Gen. 12:1-3, and through the lineage of Judah (Gen. 49:8-12). The identity and work of the Messiah took further shape and purpose in the words of the prophets, and while Matthew’s Gospel may not include that momentous day recorded by Luke in his, Matthew underscores Jesus’ fulfillment of Isaiah’s prophecy (Is. 61:1-2) by recording a lengthy description of Jesus’ healing ministry in the Galilee region (Mt. 8:1-9:35) and continues to make note of this aspect of the Messiah throughout the remainder of his Gospel (Mt. 12:9-14; 15:21-28; 17:14-20). Matthew will often write, “This happened in order to fulfill what was spoken by the prophet,” (Mt, 2;15, 23; 4:14; 8:17; 12:17) but in these chapters he demonstrates to us that it did.
There are 30 specific prophecies concerning the first advent of the Messiah. Some of these prophecies include: that He would be born of a virgin (Is. 7:14), that He would be a descendant of Jesse (Is. 11:1-2), that He would be born in Bethlehem (Mi. 5:2), and that He would be God's Son (Ps. 2:7). When Jesus stood before the congregation in the synagogue that day, He claimed that He fulfilled these prophecies. But the fulfillment of Isaiah’s words concerning the healing ministry of the Messiah was perhaps the place where Jesus made the most impact during the initial days of His earthly ministry. From a man with leprosy, the sickness of Peter’s mother-in-law, demoniacs whose oppressors were cast into a herd of pigs, to the healing of a paralytic, the revival of a synagogue ruler’s daughter, the healing of a hemorrhaging woman, and the restoration of sight and voice to the blind and mute, Matthew proves time and again, Jesus was indeed, The Messiah.
Responses to this revelation were as varied as the healings Jesus performed. Some were eager to experience healing for themselves (Mt. 8:16-17). Some were amazed by His authority (8:27, 33). But others, doubted and criticized the miracles because their own power and authority were threatened by Jesus (9:3, 34). Jesus continued His ministry in spite of this (9:35) and demonstrated great compassion toward the crowds because He saw them as “sheep without a shepherd” (9:36). He then informed His disciples there was a large task set before them- a harvest that was plentiful, but a workforce that was few (v. 37). “Ask the Lord to send out workers,” Jesus compels His disciples. He is asking the same of you and me.
There are many roads to healing today. I have experienced both the advantages of modern medicine and the miracle of prayer as a survivor of one of the worst cases of Covid 19 in my county. And I can tell you this with no hesitation or doubt, Jesus the Messiah still heals today. Sometimes it is a physical ailment that He touches and cures, but at other times, He heals sorrow and heartbreak through workers like you and I, who speak love and compassion into the world of a lost and lonely sheep. Jesus is calling for workers and He is asking you to go into the field. Are you ready to respond with the words, “Here I am. Send me,”? (Is. 6:8; Mt. 9:38; Jn. 21:15-17)
Ann H. LeFevre, M. Div.
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