There is a little verse tucked into Matthew that recently took on new meaning for me. Matthew 8:17 says, “That it might be fulfilled which was spoken by Esaias the prophet, saying, Himself took our infirmities, and bare our sicknesses” (KJV). The background of this verse is that Jesus was healing all who were brought to Him and was delivering people from demonic oppression.
In the verse above, “took” (ἔλαβεν) regards the transference, the assumption; “bare” (ἐβάστασεν) points to the oppressiveness of what He did. This means that when He brought healing, it was at great personal cost and expense. He took the weight and the oppressiveness of it. The physical healings, not to mention the healings of the souls of men, were a tremendous weight and oppressive burden to carry. This is a possible explanation for his “sigh” before healing the blind man (Mark 7:34) and his being “deeply moved in his spirit and greatly troubled” before raising Lazarus from the dead (John 11:33 ESV). He knew the personal toll and cost of such transactions.
But since He was the Son of God, why was it so hard? Even though He was divine, He had “emptied Himself” or “stripped Himself [of all privileges and rightful dignity]…in that He became like men…” So in this sense He did not perform healings as a direct result of His divinity, but because He as a man was following His Father and had the power of the Holy Spirit upon Him. Because He was a man, bringing healing for soul and body came at great personal cost and expense. In this way He was also our true example.
The healing Jesus brought came through personal travail and prayer. Luke 5:16 mentions how He often (see NASU) went into the wilderness and prayed. The very next verse mentions how the power of the Lord was present for healing. Mark 5:30 states that when the woman “secretly” touched Jesus’ clothes and was healed, power departed from Him in a way so tangible that He realized it. Just as we experience physical and emotional exhaustion when being used by the Lord to minister to others, so Jesus our example endured a depletion of power when He did the works of His Father. In order to sustain Himself and His usefulness, He had to spend much time with His Father to “fill up” again.
We as His body are to be doing His works (John 14:12). These works will also come at great personal sacrifice and cost. This helps bring clarity to Colossians 1:24 which says, “Now I rejoice in my sufferings for your sake, and in my flesh I am filling up what is lacking in Christ's afflictions for the sake of his body, that is, the church,” and to Galatians 4:19 where it compares the personal cost Paul experienced to see the Messiah formed in others as the “anguish of childbirth” (ESV)!
Let us be willing to suffer with Jesus for the well-being of others. Let us be able to say for another, as Jesus did, “I have prayed for you” (Luke 22:31,32) – in this way “bearing” the infirmities of another so that he or she can be restored to true health.