READ: Psalm 126, Zechariah 5, Matthew 8, 1 Timothy 3
AUTHORITY TO ABSORB
Jesus was delighted with a Roman soldier. Now consider that this is like a West Bank Palestinian thinking the world of an Israeli soldier. Very few in the scriptural record gave Jesus as much joy as a foreign military leader. What delighted Him was the centurion’s humble understanding of authority. First, the centurion understood he was not worthy. We have lost propriety in our beseeching of heaven, approaching the throne more to demand than to plea. Is not disappointment with God often an expression of hubris? God did not do what we wanted and now our feelings are hurt. The centurion demanded no rights and simply said to Jesus: “You can do this if you want to. I am at your mercy and I wait for your command.” Jesus delights to heal those who understand and reverence Him so.
In Matthew 8 Jesus heals a leper, servant, mother-in-law, and demon possessed in quick succession. That’s not necessarily a cultural who’s who of the over-appreciated. Matthew points out that Jesus did this because He has authority to heal. Importantly Matthew tells us how Jesus heals: “He Himself took our infirmities and bore our sicknesses” (Matt. 8:17). Jesus heals by absorption. He swallows our sins and sicknesses. They end with and in Him. Jesus has the authority to be the end of sickness. In the natural world sin and sickness pass from human to human. Child abusers tend to have been abused themselves. Viruses are passed from hand to hand or from mouth to mouth. Hurts are passed from generation to generation. Racism, hatred, bias, and anger are passed through familial, relational, and cultural hands from grandfathers to fathers to sons. Jesus stands as the great absorber of sin and sickness. Evil is passed down the line until it is swallowed, destroyed, contained by Him.
As we interact and live as broken people in a broken world, Jesus wants to give us some of His absorption authority. Jesus wants us to be the terminal station for some of what is wrong in the world. When gossip passes down the line and reaches us, we become the gossip swallower, the great black hole into which gossip descends never to see the light again. When injustice passes via ignorant minds and hands through society to us, we swallow it, absorb the cost, and all that we pass on is justice and mercy, truth and love. When colleagues hurl hurts at one another, up at leaders and down at followers, until unfair darts strike us too, we absorb and swallow them, and from our mouth originates blessing and affirmation. God invites us into the great privilege of being a swallower–the last in line for sin and sickness. This is not without shame or cost or crosses, and neither is it without provision. God grants us the right and power to put an end to what is wrong if we are willing to pay the cost of absorbing it with and for Him.