“He Himself took our infirmities and carried away our diseases.” Matthew viii:17.
During His Galilean outreach, Jesus healed “all who were ill” and cast out evil spirits “with a word” (v 16). Those whom he touched (v 15) and those who touched him (ix:21) were healed. Matthew, the evangelist, explains these wonderful events as a fulfillment of an ancient prophecy: ‘This was to fulfill what was spoken through Isaiah the prophet: “He Himself took our infirmities and carried away our diseases.”‘
This prediction is found in the fourth verse of chapter fifty three of Isaiah. In most modern translations of the Bible, this verse gives us the impression that the Messiah took away our “griefs” (sic) and “sorrows.” Although St. Matthew cited this verse in his gospel to include “infirmities” and “diseases,” many modern translators (except the New Revised Standard Version and Young’s Literal Translation) are reluctant to render the literal meaning of those words. This is quite interesting!
Why would anyone wish to hide the literal meaning of these words in Matthew’s Gospel although the verse brings the hope of healing to the sick among us? This is a deliberate suppression of truth by people who do not wish to ‘taint’ the message of the cross with a promise of physical healing. They say that the Messiah’s sufferings were just for our “transgressions” and “iniquities.” Even a plain statement such as verse five – “by his wounds we are healed” (NIV) – is misinterpreted to mean “spiritual healing.” Thankfully, St. Matthew’s use of Isaiah 53:4 in the context of physical healing blows the lid off this conspiracy.
So, what is the good news that the crucified Messiah brings to us? Jesus has “borne our infirmities!” He has “carried our diseases!” And, “by His stripes we are healed.” (The word “stripes” certainly is a reference to the passion of Christ.) Significantly, He was “wounded for our transgressions and bruised for our iniquities!” The sufferings of Jesus during His passion was for our healing and for our forgiveness.
Jesus’ sufferings, obviously, do not prevent sickness. (Does His atoning death prevent anyone from sinning?). The New Testament encourages Christians to pray for the sick, after confessing each other’s sins (James v). That itself suggests that Christians will fall ill like anyone else. However, those who are sick and are in pain need to know that Jesus bore their infirmities and diseases with a purpose. We should encourage the sick to seek forgiveness and healing. Praying for the sick, expecting healing, does not violate the sovereignty of God because the very act of prayer affirms God’s sovereignty. Prayer is not a command. It’s a plea. When we pray, we pray in humility, submitting to God’s will.
If you do not doubt the efficacy of Jesus’ death to bring you forgiveness of sins, you should not doubt the efficacy of Jesus’ sufferings (prior to and during crucifixion) to bring us healing. Just as He took away our sins, He has “carried away our diseases.” Just as we claim forgiveness through the shed blood of Jesus, we can claim healing through the stripes of Jesus. Even though the woman who touched Jesus’ garment to get deliverance from her hemorrhage did not understand the theology of her actions, she did the right thing. She believed that God could heal her and that God would heal her. She reached out in faith and claimed her healing. Will you reach out in faith?