(For a sermon on Matthew 8:28-9:8)
I suspect that historians and sociologists will look back at the year 2020 and shake their heads in bewilderment. For 9 months we allowed a virus to dominate us. The economic and social costs of the regulations issued in response to the virus were horrific. Businesses and schools were shut down. Family members couldn’t visit their loved ones in care facilities. Healthy people as well as the sick were isolated and quarantined. People suffering from cancer and other life-threatening diseases were denied the care and treatments they needed. Vast resources were spent to fast-track vaccines for it. The virus even became a major issue in the election campaign that year.
One of the things which was puzzling about all this, is that the virus didn’t seem to be nearly as contagious or as deadly as many other diseases. Yet, our society didn’t take any of these steps against them. I don’t want to minimize the seriousness of the virus. People died of it. Yet, the vast majority of people who become infected recovered quickly and didn’t seem to suffer any lasting effects. Many people, if it weren’t for testing positive, wouldn’t have even known that they had it.
I can’t help but contrast all the fear and anxiety over this virus with the total complacency and indifference most people show toward another virus which is far more serious. There is no vaccine for it; everyone is susceptible. Everyone who is exposed to it, contracts it. Further, there is no man-made cure for it – the mortality rate is 100%. Everyone who contracts it, dies. Not only that, there is no place or locality that is safe from this virus. It is found wherever there are human beings yet, people seem oblivious to it.
What is this virus I’m talking about? It’s the virus of sin. No one escapes it. The Apostle Paul describes it this way, “for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God,” (Romans 3:23 NIV) He goes on to declare, “…the wages of sin is death…” (Romans 6:23 NIV)
If all have sinned and the wages of sin is death, is there no hope for us? Not if we rely on our own resources. The cure for sin is beyond us. For example, Paul writes, “…by observing the law no one will be justified.” (Galatians 2:16 NIV) All of our other efforts are just as futile as trying to be justified by observing the Law – we just aren’t capable of it.
If we can’t cure ourselves, then what is the cure? It’s interesting that when Matthew describes how Jesus cured people of their physical illnesses, he says that this was a fulfillment of a prophecy in the 53rd chapter of Isaiah. “He took up our infirmities and carried our diseases.” (Matthew 8:17, Isaiah 53:4) Yet when you read Isaiah 53, he’s speaking about the Messiah healing spiritual diseases not physical illnesses. What Matthew seems to be saying is that the miracles of healing Jesus performed actually pointed to a much more significant reality. It is Jesus, and Jesus alone, who can heal us from the sickness of sin. Though we are spiritually dead because of our sin, He gives us new spiritual life.
How does Jesus do it? As Isaiah explained, Jesus took the penalty of our sin upon Himself. He took our place and the punishment which was due us. The Apostle Peter puts it this way, “He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, so that we might die to sins and live for righteousness; by his wounds you have been healed.” (1 Peter 2:24 NIV)
Each week we gather to remember what Jesus did for us. The bread reminds us of His broken body. The juice reminds us of His blood which He gave for our healing. For those of us who come to Him in obedient faith, Jesus’ sacrifice is the antidote for sin. In a sense, we can consider the bread and juice we eat each week a booster-shot which renews our immunity to the virus of sin.