(Bible quotations are from the NIV unless otherwise stated)
22nd September 2012
This single sentence comes immediately after Matthew’s account of the Sermon on the Mount (in chapters 5 to 7) and immediately before four healing stories (in Matthew 8v2-17). But why is it there? I think the answer is this:
Matthew wants to make it clear that Jesus didn’t need miracles to draw a crowd. His preaching was enough.
In Matthew’s account of Jesus’s life, the only mention of Jesus performing miracles before the Sermon on the Mount is in:
This passage doesn’t say whether it was the preaching or the miraculous healing that drew the crowd. I suspect both would. But, so far as we know, there were no miracles at the Sermon on the Mount – just preaching of the word of God. And again Matthew tells us that even as he came down from the mountainside, where he had been preaching, large crowds followed him.
It’s wonderful that we sometimes experience God's miraculous power healing our bodies, and it's good to testify about what God has done for us, but it’s not through healing that God chooses to save us - it’s through preaching:
1 Corinthians 1v21b
Some churches have seen a wonderful outpouring of God’s mercy in physical healing, but churches are not hospitals – they’re communities of God’s people, and our primary calling is to make disciples through preaching and baptism:
This emphasis on preaching and discipleship is also in:
Physical healing is wonderful. But it’s a sign that accompanies our main ministry - preaching. Physical healing is much less important than preaching the word of God, as physical health is much less important than a relationship with Jesus. Remember what Peter said when Jesus asked if the disciples were going to abandon Him:
It’s great to have our bodies healed, and our lives put back together, here on earth, but it’s very insignificant compared to inheriting eternal life. As Paul wrote:
2 Corinthians 4v16-18
Jesus often told people not to speak to others about their healing (see, for example, Matthew 8:4 and 9:30). Have you ever wondered why He did this? I think it’s because his healing ministry was far less important than his preaching ministry. And so should ours be. He didn’t want many people coming to Him just for physical healing. He wanted to maximise His opportunity to preach the word of God.
Some in our generation want to reduce the preaching in their churches to little more than a 5 or 10 minute “thought for the day”. We’re told that modern people can’t concentrate for more than a few minutes. That would be a sad reflection on modern society if it were true, but a good sermon can hold our attention, can teach us about God and can do us eternal good.
1 Corinthians 12v28
If you’re a preacher, as I am, then please keep believing that you’re ministry is of vital, eternal significance. We’re called to preach the kingdom of God in a way that brings men and women to believe in His love, His power, and His redeeming sacrifice on the cross. And let’s both pray and work, so that our preaching is interesting, engaging, understandable and – most of all – biblical, and pray that God works to save those who hear it.
And if you're a church member, and your preachers are a bit boring, please pray for them. It really is in your interest to do so.