When evening came, many who were demon-possessed were brought to him, and he drove out the spirits with a word and healed all the sick. This was to fulfill what was spoken through the prophet Isaiah: “He took up our infirmities and bore our diseases.” Matthew 8:16–17
The amount of need and suffering in the world, both in Jesus’ day and our own, can hardly be overstated. The Savior not only healed all kinds of diseases, but also the demon-possessed. People came to him who were out of control and who caused their relatives an incredible amount of pain, since an alien spirit within them made them furious, raging, screaming, or unmanageable.
If this was the case then, just think how many so-called mentally ill and insane there are today. Yet hardly anyone dares to call them possessed. Still, one cannot help thinking of Jesus’ time, when many possessed came to him. There are thousands of people among us today who are sick in the same way.
Yet we read how Jesus ruled over the spirits that oppressed people. He drove them out by his word. All this, Matthew quotes from Isaiah, was to fulfill what was spoken by the prophet, “He took up our infirmities and bore our diseases.”
The passage in Isaiah says literally: “Surely he took up our pain and bore our suffering” (Isa. 53:4). Isaiah speaks more of a freeing from sin, rather than from sickness and disease; yet it is significant that Matthew speaks also of disease, that the Lord’s Servant wants to bear all our griefs. Jesus took away disease and sickness and in this way bore our infirmities. It is as if Jesus had made the diseases of the sick his own, representing the sick before his Father, who had given him the power to heal.
Something similar happens whenever we intercede for one another – we take the sickness of others on ourselves as though we were praying for ourselves. Intercession to God is genuine only when we feel very deeply for each other and share in each other’s pain; that is, when we have real compassion.
Our vocation is to represent Jesus, who was full of mercy. Everything we do must be done in his name and by his Spirit. “Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ” (Gal. 6:2). But we must be on guard, for whatever we do in our own strength, including intercession, has no value.
Ah, may the time come when we will fully have what Jesus promised and sealed with his blood: the power of God for salvation that heals all wounds, including those of the body. This is promised to all those who seek him.
Johann Christoph Blumhardt