Jesus heals a leper Mt. 8:1 - 4
Topic: Sunday AM Passage: Matthew 8:1–8:4
1When Jesus came down from the mountain, large crowds followed Him. 2And a leper came to Him and bowed down before Him, and said, “Lord, if You are willing, You can make me clean.” 3Jesus stretched out His hand and touched him, saying, “I am willing; be cleansed.” And immediately his leprosy was cleansed. 4And Jesus said to him, “See that you tell no one; but go, show yourself to the priest and present the offering that Moses commanded, as a testimony to them.”
They say a picture is worth a thousand words. Most of my pictures aren't worth anything, but still, we're gonna go with it. A picture is worth a thousand words.
We're talking about the value of an illustration. Those aha moments when you've been trying to understand something and suddenly, you see a picture and it all becomes clear.
If the sermon on the mount is the 1000 words, this first event that Matthew records for us after the manifesto, is the picture. You have all the elements that Jesus was trying to teach in His manifesto, right here in this little 75 word picture.
I hope I can paint it for you this morning.
We really need to begin our thoughts where we ended 2 Sundays ago. (Thank you Ted for your excellent encouragement last week) So look with me, if you will at Ch. 7 Vss 28,29
Mt. 7:28 - 29 When Jesus had finished these words, the crowds were amazed at His teaching; 29for He was teaching them as one having authority, and not as their scribes.
The people were amazed because He talks with authority.
Lots of people talk big. Windbags. They've got nothing to back it up. It's just a lot of noise. Blowhards. All talk, No do.
Jesus mentions that very thing as He winds up His manifesto. Don't be hearers only. Be doers. Don't be sayers. Be doers.
The world has been an endless procession of people making big claims. People who are going to be the next messiah. Israel had non stop claimants. Big talkers.
Even so, the people were amazed at how Jesus talked. With the authority of God himself. He was different, for sure. But, is it just a higher level of speak?
He talks with the authority of Heaven. What's He got to back it up.
In Matthew 8, we're going to launch into the doing that backs up the speak. Before we're finished with just this chapter, we're going to witness Jesus cleanse a leper, save the centurions slave from a distance, cure Peter's mother-in-laws high fever instantly, cast out demons, calm the wind and the waves by commanding them, cast demons out of a demoniac at Garesa, and send a herd of pigs over a cliff into the sea of Galilee.
But before we look at this first miracle, I want to talk about the purpose of miracles in the Bible.
There were 3 great eras of miracles in the Bible. They are always scarce. Not that many. And Jesus did more by a magnitude than any of the other instances.
God does miracles when He is introducing something new. They are uncommon. Saved for those special times when God is launching something new in His plan of redemption.
So, looking at the old testament, we have Moses doing miracles as God delivers and sets apart His people Israel from the nations. The giving of the law. Attested to by miracles.
Then after the Judges, God sets up the office of the prophets. He will speak to His wayward people through His prophets and there is a period of miracles. Elijah, Elisha. Not many. They are scarce. But God establishes a voice in Israel. Revelation through His prophets. Attested to by miracles.
And then they cease for like a thousand years.
Then when Jesus begins His ministry, there is a period of miracles that is unprecedented in all of history since the creation itself!
The Kingdom of God has arrived in Satan's world. And Jesus doesn't make any bones about it. If you're not going to believe because of what I say, believe because of what I do.
"I have testimony weightier than that of John. For the works that the Father has given me to finish--the very works that I am doing--testify that the Father has sent me.
But if I do them, even though you do not believe me, believe the works, that you may know and understand that the Father is in me, and I in the Father."
Jn 14:11"Believe Me that I am in the Father and the Father is in Me; otherwise believe because of the works themselves.
The miracles are foundational to what Jesus is saying. The Messiah is here. The authority to reign of God is here! The NEW has come. The OLD is passing away.
Then ultimately He ascends into heaven, and the apostles establish the church, completely seperated from Judaism. The good news is for everybody. The nations will be glad.
This is a radical departure from old judaism, and the miracles establish the apostles who are building the church, as sent and ordained by God. Jesus, attested to by miracles.
The church, built on the foundation of the apostles, attested to by miracles. The old covenant is set aside. A new era has come. Miracles are the attestation.
So, Jesus, Kingdom of God offered, apostolic era, church established, canon of scripture written and collated, and the era of miracles is over. They ceased.
Their job was to prove that this radical departure from Judaism was from God, and when that was finished, and the scriptures were in place, they ceased.
We have thousands of documents from the church fathers all the way back to the 2nd century. They all agree that the miracle age ceased. The church established. The scriptures written. The miracles gone.
Let me take the time to show you, in scripture, a story from Jesus mouth, that backs up what I am saying. Because I know I'm going to get some push back on this.
Remember in Luke, the story Jesus tells about the Rich man and Lazarus?
Lk. 16:19 - 31 19“Now there was a rich man, and he habitually dressed in purple and fine linen, joyously living in splendor every day. 20“And a poor man named Lazarus was laid at his gate, covered with sores, 21and longing to be fed with the crumbs which were falling from the rich man’s table; besides, even the dogs were coming and licking his sores. 22“Now the poor man died and was carried away by the angels to Abraham’s bosom; and the rich man also died and was buried. 23“In Hades he lifted up his eyes, being in torment, and saw Abraham far away and Lazarus in his bosom. 24“And he cried out and said, ‘Father Abraham, have mercy on me, and send Lazarus so that he may dip the tip of his finger in water and cool off my tongue, for I am in agony in this flame.’ 25“But Abraham said, ‘Child, remember that during your life you received your good things, and likewise Lazarus bad things; but now he is being comforted here, and you are in agony. 26‘And besides all this, between us and you there is a great chasm fixed, so that those who wish to come over from here to you will not be able, and that none may cross over from there to us.’ 27“And he said, ‘Then I beg you, father, that you send him to my father’s house— 28for I have five brothers—in order that he may warn them, so that they will not also come to this place of torment.’ 29“But Abraham said, ‘They have Moses and the Prophets; let them hear them.’ 30“But he said, ‘No, father Abraham, but if someone goes to them from the dead, they will repent!’ 31“But he said to him, ‘If they do not listen to Moses and the Prophets, they will not be persuaded even if someone rises from the dead.’”
I want you to see the argument there at the last. Dives says, I beg you father Abraham. Do a miracle so my 5 brothers will believe.
‘No, father Abraham, but if someone goes to them from the dead, they will repent!’
And Abraham says, they have Moses and the Prophets.
Remember the 2 groups that were established by miracles? Moses. And the prophets.
There's a connection there. Abraham says if they won't believe Moses and the Prophets, who were ordained by the proof of miracles, they won't believe because of a new miracle. The miracles that established Moses and the Prophets are enough.
Likewise, the miracles that surrounded Jesus claims and the apostles doctrine were enough to establish and ordain the dispensation of the church.
But but but, the world is hardened. They won't believe unless there's miracles!
Someone DID come back from the dead. They have Jesus and the apostles. Ordained through miracles. Let them hear them.
With that introduction then, let's look at this first magnificent miracle that proves that the authority Jesus spoke with on the mountain, was in fact, the real thing.
1When Jesus came down from the mountain, large crowds followed Him. 2And a leper came to Him and bowed down before Him,
Will these people be in heaven? They followed Jesus up the mountain. They listened to His manifesto. Now they follow Him down the mountain.
When does the transaction take place? Large crowds.
We have a phenomenon in the umbrella that calls itself christianity today. Large crowds.
In America, we like the "big box" stores. Sams Club and Costco. Home Depot. Scheels Sporting goods. Mega Churches.
Any city that is large enough to have a Costco probably has some version of the mega christianity that's popular today. Large crowds.
Why were the large crowds there? What was it that they came to see?
Let's face it. We struggle with boredom. We're dying for some kind of a show. Something happening. Anything. We're all stuck to the TV watching what ISIS is going to do next. They've captured our attention.
When I was a kid, we lived next door to a fire truck chaser. If there were sirens howling, us kids would look out the door to see if Phil was going to go chase the fire truck. We'd all jump in his '58 Dodge wagon and off we'd go. Something to do. Something to see.
Most of these folks are going to give Jesus a week of their lives. Some can get away with 2 weeks. Some will follow Him for 3 weeks. Planting is done. Harvest is later. Let's see what Jesus is going to do. Maybe He'll do some miracles. Maybe He'll get in a fight with the Pharisee's. Maybe He'll argue some points with the scribes. What else have we got to do. Watch the paint dry?
Are those folks saved? Does that make them christians. Follow Jesus for a couple of weeks and then go back home and go on about your life.
They're about to see a show. This is what they came for.
Vs. 2a And a leper came to Him and bowed down before Him,
I believe God made sheep because they are the perfect picture of helplessness and need. They can't survive without a shepherd.
Likewise, in the land of illustration, I believe perhaps God allowed leprosy after the fall, to show us a picture of what sin looks like.
In Luke's account, Luke being the physician, he says this man was "full of leprosy".
That means he is completely dis-figured. His face has sores in clusters that look like grapes. Oozing sores. His hands and feet are just stubs where normal digits once were. He is bent over.
If we saw him our stomachs would turn over at the shock of it. We would be repulsed. How could anything, once beautiful and whole, get to this state.
But this is us. Spiritually, this poor repulsive wretch is a picture of us, disfigured by sin. Vile, wretched.
The levitical law had instructions for leprosy. There was no cure. It was irreversible and it was contagious. The only control was for lepers to live away from other humans. Leper colonies. They were still in use in my lifetime. For the protection of society, for the sake of health, lepers are seperated.
They weren't allowed to come in contact with other healthy people. Keep a distinct distance.
It was a life sentence. Lose your loved ones. Lose your family, your kids, your wife, your extended family. Lose the ability to function in society. You don't work with others. You don't play with others.
And of course, they were not allowed to worship in the temple. Their religious life was over. Their national life was over.
Not so different from being locked in solitary confinement.
Imagine somehow, moving this to our time, a person who is known to have aids and he has open oozing wounds, and he walks into a crowded building.
That's what happened. Suddenly, as the crowd see's the leper, at first they're shocked he's in their midst, and then they make a wide swath around him. I'm picturing Jesus, the leper, and a 30 to 40 foot swath. They've backed away. Horrified at the repulsive situation playing out in front of them. Repulsed. Gag reflex. This is bad.
Jesus is unmoved by the wretch in front of Him. He is not repulsed. Thank goodness. This man is us. We come to God with our putrifying sin.
2And a leper came to Him and bowed down before Him, and said, “Lord, if You are willing, You can make me clean.”
The leper bows before Jesus in an attitude of submission. The old Kings english says he worshipped Him.
Blessed are the who? The poor in spirit. The folks who are empty of themselves. They've got nothing to offer. They are bankrupt. And they bow down.
Blessed are they that mourn. They come mourning over the sin that has turned them into something that must remain seperated from their God. He can't allow sin in His presence. Just like lepers weren't allowed to mingle in society.
Blessed are the meek. He came and prostrated himself before Jesus. It is the attitude of complete abandonment of self before someone who can take your life away from you, or bless you. Begging for mercy before someone who can lop your head off, or pronounce you restored.
Blessed are they who hunger and thirst for righteousness. His heart was broken over his condition. For years and years. All he can think about is, what if I were whole?
This man shows us the attitude of repentence of a broken sinner before a Holy God. The picture is us. Or not. Maybe we're not the few. Maybe we're the many, standing and watching the Jesus show. Thinking thank goodness I'm not a slobbering leper lying in a heap before Jesus.
The large crowd was watching the show. Not particularly bankrupt. No reason to mourn. Not necessarily meek. Filled by this world. Watching the Jesus show.
This man worshiped. And then it says; and he said, “Lord, if You are willing, You can make me clean.”
This leper has just revealed his theology in those few words.
First there's the absolute faith. Jesus, I believe you have the capability to do something only God can do.
Second there's the submission to the Sovereignty of God. Only God could do what he's asking. God is sovereign and does His pleasure. Of course God can do it. Will He?
“Lord, if You are willing, You can make me clean.”
And then the crowd, who's watching this drama unfold, sucks every bit of oxygen out of the room as they all gasp and hold their breath collectively at what Jesus does next.
3Jesus stretched out His hand
When He did that, I don't know if Jesus can hear our thoughts, but when He did that, if He hears thoughts, He heard 20,000 shocked and awed people say; DON'T TOUCH HIM JESUS!
Don't touch him! You'll become unclean! You'll become infected with his leprosy! Don't touch him!!
3Jesus stretched out His hand and touched him, saying, “I am willing; be cleansed.”
Something happened! Something different than everything known and understood happened that day.
Instead of the disease traveling from the infected person to the clean person, just the opposite happened. Jesus touched him, and he * became * clean!
All the laws of thermodynamic entropy were reversed that day! For all the centuries since the fall, since sin had entered with diseases and death, the lepers touch would spread the disease to the touched.
Just the opposite happened. Jesus touch made the leper clean.
Notice the sequence. This is like the father who runs out to meet the returning prodigal son.
There was no other gesture on earth that could shout the saviours love more than any words, than this touch to a man who for what? 20 years? 40 years? had not felt the loving touch of another human.
Before any words transpire, Jesus touches him. God runs out to meet us, and throws His arms around us when we come like this man came.
And then he says the words that have already taken place anyways. “I am willing; be cleansed.”
And immediately his leprosy was cleansed.
Now if you read the commentaries, you'll laugh at the theologians who are all more learned and smart than we are.
There's a big discussion about whether Jesus broke the levitical law by touching the leper. And some will say, yes, but he was made clean before the touch touched.
They miss the whole point. Jesus is Lord, even over the Sabbath. And He is Lord over disease. And He is Lord over sin.
Let's talk about this. Because we've got people who claim to be able to do miracles today.
This miracle was immediate. Already done, I think, before the words hit the ground.
It was creative. Like in the beginning God created the heavens and the earth kind of creative.
The destroyed flesh, vile and repugnant, oozing and foul with stench and disease was instantly restored to normal flesh. Beautiful, normal, healthy flesh, that we all take for granted.
The bent spine was made straight and strong. The nubs where fingers used to be, were made into fingers again. Toes. Beautiful toes with toenails and strength. Muscles that had long gone to sleep and died, were restored.
Billions of cells, damaged with no hope of repair, were instantly replaced with perfect ones. Spoken into existence by the same voice that created the universe. They weren't there. Then they were.
All of that happened with 2 words. be cleansed
We talked at the beginning about the purpose of miracles. You may be thinking, why am I making such a big issue about miracles.
Here's my thinking, and we'll say a bit more in 2 weeks.
If what we're experiencing for the last 50 years, actually 100 years plus if you count the beginnings of modern miracles in 1901 Los Angeles, The Azusa Street Revival, if these modern miracles are not coming from God, what's going on?
And if what we affirmed earlier is true, that God saves miracles for attesting to special dispensations, what are these miracles affirming? A new gospel? A new Messiah? New revelation that is different from the canon of scripture?
Of course, you've already figured out that I think the miracles are false, but I would not discount the experiential nature. Something's going on. What?
I believe the church is setting the world up for Anti-Christ. How ironic is that?
Anti-Christ is going to fool the entire earth into believing his doctrines by, guess what?? Miracles. Miracles.
And I think the careless affectless church has been paving the way for Anti-Christ to succeed now, for 100 plus years. With all the miracles and signs and healings and everything else that falls outside of sound doctrine.
I would caution, strongly, those who are susceptible to 20th century miracles. There's no biblical reason for them, and anti-christ is going to use identical phenomena and even better than what we've seen, to fool everyone into following him. This is a frightening truth. Hear it.
The miracles that Jesus did are in a whole other world than the so-called miracles that are going on today.
OK, back to Jesus, and the Leper.
Matthew, in an incredible economy of words has shown us the sermon on the mount. The attitude of the many, who don't need Jesus, but follow Him to watch the show, and the attitude of the few. The ones who come broken, beggerly, sorrowful over sin, wanting with all their hearts, to be restored.
The leper is the picture of the few. The crowd is the picture of the many.
Vs. 4 And Jesus said to him, “See that you tell no one; but go, show yourself to the priest and present the offering that Moses commanded, as a testimony to them.”
This is an odd command to us. See that you tell no one.
What was that all about. We'll see it over and over, and I'll develop it more on another occasion. We're getting long on time this morning. But, for the record, Jesus doesn't need another thousand added to the many. He's looking for the few.
Then he completes one more piece of the sermon on the mount. but go, show yourself to the priest and present the offering that Moses commanded, as a testimony to them.”
Not one jot or tittle. The law is intact. Go and complete the levitical commandments. I'm pretty sure there was no line of people to stand in to get this done. Like, God put that in the law, so that 2000 years later, this one guy can stand before the priest, and complete it.
Notice too, that already, already, just a few weeks into the ministry, there is "them". The seperation has already happened. There's Jesus, and there's them. Not on the same page. Seperate entities.
Jesus says, go and complete the law, as a testimony of 2 things. Something marvelous has come. Someone who can command an incurable disease to be replaced with wholeness is here. The Kingdom of God is in your midst. And the Kingdom of God is respectful of the Word of God. Go show the priest. They need to see it.
So, my question this morning is this. Which group are you in? The many, or the few.
Have you come to Jesus, bankrupt, broken over your sin, prostrate, worshipping His sovereignty, asking to be made whole? Or are you just an interested onlooker.
More in The Gospel of Matthew
March 26, 2017The Authority and Commission of Jesus Mt. 28:16 - 20
March 19, 2017Jesus IS Alive! The Tomb is Empty Mt. 28: 1 - 15
March 12, 2017The Burial of Jesus Mt. 27:55 - 66 pt. 2