24 October 2019Matthew 14:34-36
When they had crossed over, they came to land at Gennesaret. After the people of that place recognized him, they sent word throughout the region and brought all who were sick to him, and begged him that they might touch even the fringe of his cloak; and all who touched it were healed. (vs. 34-36)
Psalm: Psalm 86:1-13
Today’s passage about Jesus’ experience at Gennesaret brings Matthew 14 to a close. Again, the text refers to the miraculous work of the Messiah, whom the disciples in the previous verse (14:33) worship saying, “Truly, you are the Son of God.” Some commentators interpret “Son of God” as a title, describing the King of the last days who is endowed with divine power to command all forces of heaven and earth and who has the power to save his people.
Thus far in the chapter, Jesus has proven he has the power to provide for the physical needs of those who gathered on the hillside to listen to him. He feeds the masses with loaves and fishes. Jesus the Messiah then proves his power over the forces of nature by walking on water, and empowering Peter to do so. Hunger and stormy seas are no match for the divine power of the Messiah. What about other powers that disrupt or destroy human life?
At Gennesaret, the people come from all over the region with their sick loved ones. They believe Jesus’ power to heal them is so great that all they need to do is touch the hem of his cloak. It isn’t necessary for Jesus to interact with them personally. As the text says, “. . . and all who touched [his cloak] were healed". This is not the only time in the Gospels where Jesus’ healing power is so great that a person believes simply touching his garment will bring healing. In Mark 5:25-34, a woman who had suffered from bleeding for twelve years is part of a large crowd pressing around Jesus. She reaches out and touches his cloak "because she thought, ‘If I just touch his clothes, I will be healed.’ Immediately her bleeding stopped and she felt in her body that she was freed from her suffering” (Mark 5:27-29). Perhaps Matthew is incorporating a less specific reference from the same source as Mark’s story. It is significant that the people believe so strongly in Jesus that they believe just touching his clothing will bring an end to their suffering.
Jesus, the Messiah, has the power to save people even from the ravages of diseases and injuries that disrupt their lives. Matthew is clearly pointing out that the divine power within Jesus can save people from all that destroys meaningful human existence. At the same time, Matthew is setting up a contrast between the faceless believers who crowd around Jesus with faith in his healing power, and the religious people in the next chapter who consistently question, criticise, and doubt him. Perhaps Matthew’s own community needed reassurance that if they persevered in their faith, despite the rejection of their families and the condemnation of their neighbours, Jesus the Messiah would also rescue them.
- What do healing stories teach us about God’s true intentions for human life? What do they tell us about the nature of God’s ultimate reign?
- Matthew focuses on the role of Jesus as Messiah, the rescuer and saviour. How might people describe Jesus today?