16 December 2007

Matthew 11:2-11

"Jesus answered them, 'Go and tell John what you hear and see: the blind receive their sight, the lame walk, the lepers are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, and the poor have good news brought to them'". (v.4-5)


Today's reading reflects a huge curiosity about who Jesus - this new prophet, teacher, healer - really was. What was he up to? Could he really be the long-expected Messiah? Or, more likely, just another in the long line of holy people who'd been interesting, but never quite come up to expectations?

John the Baptist, in prison by this stage, sent some of his disciples to find out more. Jesus didn't attempt to explain or justify his position in personal terms. He pointed the questioners towards what they could "hear and see" for themselves - life-changing experiences for the blind, the lame, the lepers and the deaf.

In Jesus' time, impairments such as blindness, lameness and deafness, as well as what we now understand to be specific infections like leprosy, were all mysterious, incurable problems.

In the Old Testament miraculous healings were a sign of the presence and activity of God. (For example, Jesus uses Isaiah's prophecy about 'recovery of sight to the blind' (Luke 4:21, quotingIsaiah 61:1-2) to announce the coming of the Messiah.)

It was not surprising, then, that witnessing lives being transformed be Jesus' miracles made a huge impression on people around him.

To Ponder

Miracles can be viewed literally as healing of specific medical conditions. But they can also have a symbolic dimension such as opening the eyes of those blind to God's presence or the ears of those deaf to God's word. In both senses, who are the blind, the lame, the lepers or the deaf around us today?

Following on, in what ways might we need to be healed?

In what ways do our modern scientific understandings of health, disease and medicine sometimes dilute our perceptions of Jesus healing people today?

Bible notes author

The Revd Peter Byass

Peter is a Methodist minister who spends a large part of his time working on the global health scene, from his working base as professor of Global Health at the University of Umeå (in Sweden) and on frequent field visits. Until recently he also chaired the Methodist Relief and Development Fund (MRDF).