The Words and Works of Jesus

Matthew 4:23 And he went throughout all Galilee, teaching in their synagogues and proclaiming the gospel of the kingdom and healing every disease and every affliction among the people. 24 So his fame spread throughout all Syria, and they brought him all the sick, those afflicted with various diseases and pains, those oppressed by demons, those having seizures, and paralytics, and he healed them. 25 And great crowds followed him from Galilee and the Decapolis, and from Jerusalem and Judea, and from beyond the Jordan.

As we read this passage together, one thing is absolutely clear: Jesus began His ministry with a bang! Once He was baptized by John, was tempted by Satan in the wilderness, then moved back to Galilee, He began doing what He came to do, and He did it in a big and decisive way! In fact, He began to stir up the entire region by His words and His works. Was He the Messiah? Was He for real? Well, you be the judge when you hear about all that He did. He came to make it known who He was and to do a mighty work for the redemption of His people.

In Romans 1:20 Paul makes the point that all people are without excuse regarding the existence and work of God because all creation proves His existence. God’s attributes are seen in creation, and so man is without excuse. But what happens is that, seeing God in creation, man refuses to acknowledge what is clearly seen. Man chooses to suppress what he knows and chooses then to believe a lie that God does not exist. Isn’t that what Romans 1 teaches?

Romans 1:28 And since they did not see fit to acknowledge God

They know He is there, but refuse to acknowledge that He is there. This is not dealing in reality. But really, this is so common today, isn’t it? We have entered into this mindset as a nation that reality is simply what we say reality is, whether it is true reality or not. Like, if a man says, “I am a woman” then all of the sudden he is a woman. Why? Simply because he says so, not based on anything else. So the result is that anyone who speaks anything can claim that what they speak or believe is what is real, when in fact it is not real or true at all.

This is what Paul was speaking about in Romans 1. Someone saying God does not exist even though the reality of creation says He does exist. People, we, can be so determined to believe something that we will dismiss all hard evidence to the contrary.

And since this is true, we as believers don’t need to think, "Well, if I present the facts clearly, then people will believe that Jesus is the Christ and the Savior." It is not the presentation of the facts of the matter that convinces anyone to follow Jesus; it is a work of the Holy Spirit, who changes hearts, who leads people to believe and follow Jesus. Facts are important, and we are to share them, that is a part of what God uses to save people, but facts alone, apart from the working of the Holy Spirit in one's life, do not save.

We can recognize this in our passage this morning. Jesus moved through the region of Galilee with an unmistakable Messianic presence and power. No one could have done what He did. Jesus was making it clear that He had divine power, the power of God in Him, no question about it. We are going to see that, and yet, while many believed, many still refused.

I think we sometimes put so much pressure on ourselves when it comes to evangelism, or even in just sharing the truth with other believers. We think if one does not believe or does not follow biblical teaching, that it is all our fault. We can pressure ourselves in that way. Sure, we need to be well-versed in biblical truth, sure we need to be willing to speak it, sure we need to have the attitude of Paul when he said, "For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes," but ultimately, the work of salvation is of God, and the work of sanctification is also of God.

The fact that so many do not believe is a testimony of the depths of the depravity of the heart of man, who willingly exchange the truth for a lie. And for this to change it will take the power, the might, not of your effort, but of God’s effort. God changes hearts, not you and not me.

What we have in Matthew 4:23-25 is a summary of what we will see in more detail in chapters 5-9. In chapters 5-7 we see His teaching in what we call the sermon on the mount, and in chapters 8-9 we see many of His works.

Matthew 4:23 And he went throughout all Galilee, teaching in their synagogues and proclaiming the gospel of the kingdom

This verse says, “He went throughout” which indicates a continuous action. This does not mean that He went to every village in Galilee, but that he ministered in the whole region. The region spoken of here is only about sixty by thirty miles. Being that small, no one would have had to travel far to see Jesus. It was also a small enough area so that everyone would have heard of Him.

Jesus was teaching in the synagogues. The synagogues represented not only places of teaching for the Jewish people, but it was also the center of their social lives. In addition to teaching, as Jesus would have done there, the synagogue was also a place where children were educated like a public school, it was a place for just fellowship, just getting together in a central place to socialize, and it was even a place to settle legal disputes. One of the greatest fears of the Jewish people would be to be put out of the synagogue. This would be like losing your friends and your place of social interaction. And this is exactly what began to happen when people turned to Jesus and became Christians. To be a Christian then was, in part, to lose your network of friends and sometimes family.

Jesus didn’t go to the synagogue just for social interaction, He went to teach. Teaching was usually that of expounding the Old Testament Scriptures. Someone, a Rabbi, would read a passage and then explain the passage. Teaching in the syngague was about passing on information and getting to the truth, that is what it was supposed to be. It wasn’t like what was happening in the Greek world where it was just popular to banter and disagree and argue with one another. The Greeks were more interested in being skilled at winning verbal contests rather than trying to understand what was true. This can be a danger in debating. Debating can become, simply, winning an argument rather than standing for truth.

Jesus was interested in passing out truth and, at least in the beginning of His ministry, He was able to do this in the synagogues. What was He teaching? He was “proclaiming the gospel of the kingdom." Proclaiming means preaching or to preach. Preaching is to announce, to herald, to cry out. Jesus was announcing, heralding the gospel of the kingdom. Jesus was announcing that the long-awaited Messiah had come, and He had come to establish His kingdom that would be an eternal kingdom.

Gospel means “good news.” The good news of the kingdom is what Jesus was all about. It is interesting how Jesus stuck to His message. The first century was a mess in many ways. Politically there were battles and corruption, socially the communities were evil, and yet Jesus stuck to the most important message of the good news of the kingdom, the gospel. Jesus stuck to His message. What is the good news?

Colossians 1:13 He has delivered us from the domain of darkness and transferred us to the kingdom of his beloved Son, 14 in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.

The good news was Himself! He was the good news, the one standing before the people in Galilee in the synagogues, He was the good news. It is just that for many, He was not the good news they wanted.

It is so easy to get lost in the present of all our worries and concerns that we fail to see the grand picture of salvation in Jesus Christ. They were no different then. Their problems, the ones that were pressing on their hearts, were like many of our problems. They were mad about those who were ruling over them. And if that was their main concern, then for them the good news would have been that they be set free from those ruling over them. That is very short-sighted, that is so very temporary. What if that was all they got? Some perceived temporal freedom, and yet eternal damnation. How is that good news?

Jesus' message was so much greater: "be free from your sin, be free from eternal punishment, know Me, be in fellowship with Me, spend eternity with Me."

For a time, many appeared to be listening and they were amazed. In Luke 4:22 we see this: "And all spoke well of him and marveled at the gracious words that were coming from his mouth. And they said, “Is not this Joseph’s son?”" And in verse 32: "and they were astonished at his teaching, for his word possessed authority." No one had spoken before with such authority! And then along with such authoritative speaking, there were His works. Jesus was not just a man of words, but of works as well that proved His divine nature as the Son of God. “and healing every disease and every affliction among the people.”

Can you imagine this? Matthew names some of these diseases and afflictions in a minute, but this is just awesome and I can’t imagine being there and seeing this. It is no wonder that His fame spread throughout all Syria. There would be some who didn’t care for His message, but who didn’t want to be healed, right? Now here is this man who could heal anyone, of anything!

We know what it is like to have sickness and disease around. Perhaps you are suffering through a physical disease or affliction right now, or maybe someone close to you is suffering. Many of us have had a loved one suffer terribly and die from disease. There is sickness and disease in our world, it is a part of our experience on this earth.

Sometimes disease comes to us as discipline from the Lord, but other times it has nothing to do with anything we have done or have not done. We see God’s hand of discipline in passages like 1 Corinthians 11.

1 Corinthians 11:29 For anyone who eats and drinks without discerning the body eats and drinks judgment on himself. 30 That is why many of you are weak and ill, and some have died.

But this does not mean that all sickness is a result of our sin. We know this from passage like John 9.

John 9:1 As he passed by, he saw a man blind from birth. 2 And his disciples asked him, “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?” 3 Jesus answered, “It was not that this man sinned, or his parents, but that the works of God might be displayed in him.

Why was this man born blind? So that the works of God might be displayed in Him. Or what about Job? Was Job's affliction due to his personal sin? No, it was a testing allowed by God. It was for God’s glory.

It troubles me deeply when people say, especially to those suffering, that their sickness is definitely due to their sin, and if they would just repent they would be healed. This is reckless speech. We cannot, nor should we assume that, and we certainly shouldn’t put the weight of that reckless assumption on the shoulders of one who is suffering. Sure, we should examine ourselves and our walk and be willing to repent, but we should never assume the cause of sickness.

We know that Jesus had many to heal, and His healing of these people was used to verify His divine ministry and His divine nature. Here is what Jesus was healing: “and they brought him all the sick, those afflicted with various diseases and pains, those oppressed by demons, those having seizures, and paralytics, and he healed them.”

They brought Him all the sick. These ill were afflicted with various diseases and pains. Diseases were all the many sicknesses and pains were the symptoms. Oppressed by demons, these were illnesses caused by demons. There are several chapters in Matthew where we will see demons being cast out of people, for instance Matthew 9.

Matthew 9:32 As they were going away, behold, a demon-oppressed man who was mute was brought to him. 33 And when the demon had been cast out, the mute man spoke. And the crowds marveled, saying, “Never was anything like this seen in Israel.” 34 But the Pharisees said, “He casts out demons by the prince of demons.”

He also healed those having seizures – those with seizures have a disease of the central nervous system that would cause uncontrollable convulsing. You know, things were much worse back then with many of these disorders. Today there are many things we can control with medicine. Some things today that are completely treatable, back then there was nothing to lessen symptoms. In that sense many diseases or afflictions were much more difficult to deal with and much more debilitating.

He also healed those with paralysis. This would be a wide range of crippling diseases. Jesus was healing all of them! Can you imagine the joy in the streets? Lifelong disease – gone! The joy of parents whose children were healed, the joy of a spouse healed, the gratefulness of lifelong pain removed and the hope of physical normalcy! What an exciting time in Galilee!

These healings were also a picture of the kingdom of God, where in eternity none of these afflictions will exist! One touch of Jesus' hand could take away all pain and all suffering!

You would think that with all this, with all this healing, with all this joy, with so many witnesses, that everyone would fall down and worship not only Jesus but His Father who sent Him. Shouldn’t this outpouring of the Spirit of God be enough to save everyone who was near? It is like this should have sealed the ministry of Jesus and the world should have all, everyone should have given their lives to Him! These miracles proved everything about Jesus’ claims – He was the Messiah, He was the Son of God, and He was worthy of all worship and praise!

We think, many think that if only God would do this miracle or that miracle, then so and so would believe and be saved. Miracles alone do not save. People's hearts are dark. The miracles did play a part in proving who Jesus was, but there were and are plenty who would rather live not believing, not surrendering to His sovereign hand. There are plenty who still insist on being a God unto themselves, their own God, with their own kingdom, ruling their own life rather than trusting in Jesus. Here is the good news:

John 3:16 “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. 17 For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him. 18 Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God.

With such good news, with such evidence of Jesus' position, with such overwhelming proof of who He is and of His ability to save, we still see this:

John 3:19 And this is the judgment: the light has come into the world, and people loved the darkness rather than the light because their works were evil. 20 For everyone who does wicked things hates the light and does not come to the light, lest his works should be exposed.

Jesus came to preach the good news of the Kingdom, to preach the gospel. Jesus' works proved His words and His nature as the Son of the Most High God. His grace was evident in the way He healed, there is overwhelming evidence, and He laid it all out for everyone to see. Some believed, many did not.

What we need to ask is this: where do we stand with Him? Is He your Lord and Savior? Do you read this and believe it, and does this drive you to give yourself to Him in every respect? Or do you shrug it off and turn and go your own way? Is He your God, or are you your god?

John 3:16 “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.

Matthew 4:23 And he went throughout all Galilee, teaching in their synagogues and proclaiming the gospel of the kingdom and healing every disease and every affliction among the people. 24 So his fame spread throughout all Syria, and they brought him all the sick, those afflicted with various diseases and pains, those oppressed by demons, those having seizures, and paralytics, and he healed them. 25 And great crowds followed him from Galilee and the Decapolis, and from Jerusalem and Judea, and from beyond the Jordan.