Large crowds followed Jesus as he came down the mountainside. Suddenly, a man with leprosy approached him and knelt before him. “Lord,” the man said, “if you are willing, you can heal me and make me clean.”
Jesus reached out and touched him. “I am willing,” he said.“Be healed!” And instantly the leprosy disappeared. Then Jesus said to him,“Don’t tell anyone about this. Instead, go to the priest and let him examine you. Take along the offering required in the law of Moses for those who have been healed of leprosy. This will be a public testimony that you have been cleansed.”
When Jesus returned to Capernaum, a Roman officer came and pleaded with him, “Lord, my young servant lies in bed, paralyzed and in terrible pain.”
Jesus said, “I will come and heal him.”
But the officer said, “Lord, I am not worthy to have you come into my home. Just say the word from where you are, and my servant will be healed. I know this because I am under the authority of my superior officers, and I have authority over my soldiers. I only need to say, ‘Go,’ and they go, or ‘Come,’ and they come. And if I say to my slaves, ‘Do this,’ they do it.”
When Jesus heard this, he was amazed. Turning to those who were following him, he said, “I tell you the truth, I haven’t seen faith like this in all Israel! And I tell you this, that many Gentiles will come from all over the world—from east and west—and sit down with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob at the feast in the Kingdom of Heaven. But many Israelites—those for whom the Kingdom was prepared—will be thrown into outer darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.”
Then Jesus said to the Roman officer, “Go back home. Because you believed, it has happened.” And the young servant was healed that same hour.
When Jesus arrived at Peter’s house, Peter’s mother-in-law was sick in bed with a high fever. But when Jesus touched her hand, the fever left her. Then she got up and prepared a meal for him.
That evening many demon-possessed people were brought to Jesus. He cast out the evil spirits with a simple command, and he healed all the sick. This fulfilled the word of the Lord through the prophet Isaiah, who said,
“He took our sicknesses
and removed our diseases.”
Matthew 8:1-17, 28-34-NLT
Jesus was a very busy boy on this day, wasn’t he?
As I read through this particular series of healing miracles, I picture Jesus at the heart and center of them all, much like the rose window in the photograph above the scripture finds its center in that beautiful 8-sided star.
The center, the thing that holds it together, upon which all the additional beauty builds. Jesus. I can so easily be distracted by the gingerbread – the details of the healings themselves. The leper coming out of nowhere, the soldier with his no-nonsense approach to getting a few more years of work out of his servant, the mother-in-law of his close friend, the crowds that just.kept.coming.
Yeah, I can go there fast.
But I wonder if maybe Matthew, and those who selected this passage for our Advent reading — I wonder if they’re asking us to do something a little simpler: look at Jesus.
Jesus, the steady center amid the swirling need. Jesus, the one who welcomes all. Jesus, the one who outspokenly applauds the faith of an enemy and warns those who share his faith tradition. Jesus, who lovingly helps an older woman get up and do what she loves to do. Jesus, who makes himself available to any and all who will come.
Oh, Lord. I can get so distracted! As the busyness builds over these days, will you kindly help me to come back to center? To keep my focus on you?