Free from Sickness
There is a strange doctrine being preached today that has been drawn from a quotation of Isaiah 53 in Matthew’s Gospel. The portion is: “And when the evening was come, they brought to him many possessed by demons, and he cast out the spirits with a word, and healed all that were ill; so that that should be fulfilled which was spoken through Esaias the prophet, saying, Himself took our infirmities and bore our diseases” (Matt. 8: 16, 17). From this the erroneous interpretation is made that the Lord bore in His life the sicknesses that He took from others, and that as a consequence, none of his people, even now, should become ill.
In the first place, when he healed others, the Lord certainly did not become sick or infirm Himself—He did not bear sicknesses in that sense. If He healed a man with a withered arm, no corresponding effect followed on Himself. His holy body was ever free from any of those afflictions that our flesh is subject to because of our fallen condition. The Lord experienced sinless infirmities such as hunger, thirst and weariness because, as a real man, He had taken on the restrictions and limitations of a body. However, he did not partake of anything that was the consequence of sin. He experienced everything that ordinary men and women do, for He was tried in all things like as we are—but with one important qualification: sin apart (see Heb. 4: 15).
Why then does Matthew write that He took “our infirmities and bore our diseases”? It could not be by merely sympathizing with the sufferers. When He encountered the sorrowful consequences of sin—demon possession, disease, pain, deformities, tears and much more—then He removed them. However, He who had the power and authority on earth (see Mark 2:10) to remove the effects of sin, in so doing also made Himself responsible for sin itself. He could not remove one single twinge of pain without, in due course, bearing the sin that caused the pain. And just as the feeblest groan, or a single teardrop is a testimony to the presence of sin, so His hushing of the groan and the drying of the tear is, in the same way, a testimony to how He would deal with sin once and for all. As the Lord said elsewhere, “which is easier, to say, Thy sins are forgiven thee; or to say, Rise up and walk?” (Luke 5: 23). Yes, as Matthew tells us, the Lord did remove the infirmities of those who came to Him in His earthly pathway in order that the prophecy of Isaiah might be fulfilled. However, what He bore in His spirit then, was only possible because of what He was to bear “in his body on the tree” (1 Pet. 2: 24).So if the cause has been removed, why has not the effect ceased for those who, in repentance and faith, have availed themselves of the work of Christ at Calvary? Why do Christians still suffer sickness, disease and death? Because the Lord is rejected here in the scene in which we are. Thus as regards the place in which He grew up, it says that “he did not there many works of power, because of their unbelief” (Matt. 13: 58). If the Lord were to take up His rights on the earth now, then those that are to reign with Him over the earth must necessarily exchange corruptiblity for incorruptibility (see 1 Cor. 15: 53)—but there would be no Gospel! Thus while the Lord’s redemptive work is absolutely perfect and finished, its application to our bodies remains yet to be accomplished. Sin is still present in those bodies, for we told to “put to death the deeds of the body” (Rom. 8: 13), and sickness still troubles us (see Phil. 2: 26, 27; 1 Tim. 5: 23; 2 Tim. 4: 20; James 5: 14, 15). We are still “awaiting adoption” (that is, God owning and revealing us publicly as His adopted sons), that is, “the revelation of the sons of God”, which necessitates “the redemption of our body” (Rom. 8: 19, 23). The Lord Jesus is still rejected, and the Spirit of God is still here on earth, and the blessing of God therefore does not consist in the physical healing of those bodies still under the power of death (see v10), but in being blessed with “every spiritual blessing in the heavenlies in Christ” (Eph. 1: 3).