Monday, March 09, 2009
Matthew 8:1-15 Faith Trusts The Lord
When he came down from the mountain, great crowds followed him.2 And behold, a leper came to him and knelt before him, saying, "Lord, if you will, you can make me clean."3 And Jesus stretched out his hand and touched him, saying, "I will; be clean." And immediately his leprosy was cleansed.4 And Jesus said to him, "See that you say nothing to anyone, but go, show yourself to the priest and offer the gift that Moses commanded, for a proof to them."
5 When he entered Capernaum, a centurion came forward to him, appealing to him,6 "Lord, my servant is lying paralyzed at home, suffering terribly."7 And he said to him, "I will come and heal him."8 But the centurion replied, "Lord, I am not worthy to have you come under my roof, but only say the word, and my servant will be healed.9 For I too am a man under authority, with soldiers under me. And I say to one, 'Go,' and he goes, and to another, 'Come,' and he comes, and to my servant, 'Do this,' and he does it."10 When Jesus heard this, he marveled and said to those who followed him, "Truly, I tell you, with no one in Israel have I found such faith.11 I tell you, many will come from east and west and recline at table with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob in the kingdom of heaven,12 while the sons of the kingdom will be thrown into the outer darkness. In that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth."13 And to the centurion Jesus said, "Go; let it be done for you as you have believed." And the servant was healed at that very moment.
We have been introduced to the person of the King (Matt. 1—4) and the principles of the King (Matt. 5—7); and now we are ready for the power of the King. After all, if a king does not have the power to accomplish anything, what good are his credentials or his principles? In chapters 8 and 9, Matthew reported ten miracles. They are not given in chronological order, since Matthew followed his own approach grouping messages or events.
But why did our Lord perform miracles Certainly He wanted to meet human need God is concerned about the temporal well being of His creatures as well as their eternal happiness. It is wrong to separate ministry to the body and ministry to the soul, since we must minister to the whole person.
Certainly our Lord’s miracles were additional credentials to prove His claim as the Messiah of Israel. “The Jews require a sign” (1 Cot 1:22). While miracles of themselves are no proof that a man has been sent by God (even. Satan can perform miracles [2 Thes. 2:9]) they do add weight to his claim, especially if His character and conduct are godly. In the case of Jesus Christ, His miracles also fulfilled Old Testament prophecies (see Isa. 29:18-19 35:4-6). Matthew 8:17 refers us to Isaiah
53:4. These same “signs and wonders” would be the credentials of His followers in their ministries (Matt. 10:8; Heb. 2:1-4).
Along with His compassion and credentials there was a third reason for miracles: His concern to reveal saving truth to people. The miracles were “sermons in action.” Even Nicodemus was impressed with them (John 3:1-2). It is worth noting that five of these miracles were performed at Capernaum, and yet the city rejected Him (Matt. 11:21-23) Even the rejection by the nation of Israel fulfilled Old Testament prophecy (see John 12:37-41). Like the judgments against Egypt in Moses’ day, the miracles of the Lord were judgments in Israel; for the people had to face facts and make decisions. The religious leaders decided that Jesus was working for Satan (Matt. 9:31-34; 12:24).
One thing is certain: Jesus did not perform miracles to “get a crowd.” He usually avoided the crowd. Time after time, Jesus instructed those whom He had healed not to talk too much (Matt. 8:4, 18; 9:30; Luke 8:56). He die not want people trusting Him simply on the basis of spectacular deeds (see John 4:46-54).
The collection of Jesus’ sayings, the Sermon on the Mount, is followed by a similar collection of Jesus’ doings, the miracles. Matthew masses together nine or ten miracles which are divided into three groups of three each, each group of three separated by three sections that are about discipleship. These three little breaks in the miracles are like three landings in a flight of stairs. (ch. 8:18-22; 9:9-17, 35-38).
The first triplet comprises miracles of bodily healing, and shows Jesus as the great physician, curing leprosy, paralysis, and fever. They are to outcast people; a leper, a gentile and a woman.
There was a Jewish prayer that said “I give thanks that I am a man and nt a woman, a Jew and not a gentile, a free man and not a slave.”
The cure of the leper comes first, apparently not from chronological reasons, but because leprosy had been made by the Old Testament legislation the symbol of sin.
1. The Leper’s Faith
Leprosy was without a doubt the most dreaded disease of Jesus’ day. Those with leprosy were said to have a “living death”. One expert writes of leprosy, “No other disease reduces a human being for so many years to so hideous a wreck” [Barclay, “The Gospel of Matthew, Volume One”, Page 295]. William Barclay describes leprosy this way: “It might begin with little nodules which go on to ulcerate. The ulcers develop a foul discharge; the eyebrows fall out; the eyes become staring; the vocal cords become ulcerated, and the voice becomes hoarse, and the breath wheezes. The hands and feet always ulcerate. Slowly the sufferer becomes a mass of ulcerated growths… [Sometimes] leprosy might begin with the loss of all sensation in some part of the body; the nerve trunks are affected; the muscles waste away; the tendons contract until the hands are like claws. There follows ulcerations of the hands and feet. Then comes the progressive loss of fingers and toes, until in the end a whole hand or a whole foot may drop off” [Barclay, P293-294]. As bad as the physical suffering was, perhaps worse was the isolation and stigma attached to leprosy. Some people treated them with such disgust that they threw stones at them. The Jewish historian, Josephus tells us that lepers were treated, “as if they were in effect dead men”. The leper was completely banished from human society. Because it was contagious, the law said in Leviticus 13:46 (NKJV) “He shall be unclean. All the days he has the sore he shall be unclean. He is unclean, and he shall dwell alone; his dwelling shall be outside the camp.” When the leper traveled and could possibly come into contact with others, the law said in Leviticus 13:45 (NKJV) “Now the leper on whom the sore is, his clothes shall be torn and his head bare; and he shall cover his mustache, and cry, 'Unclean! Unclean!'” It is interesting that leprosy in the Bible is a picture or a type of sin. At least three times in the Scripture, leprosy was given to a person as a consequence of sin (Moses’ sister Miriam for her rebellion in Numbers 12:10, Gehazi because of his greed and dishonesty in 2 Kings 5:27, and Uzziah the king of Judah when he disregarded God’s law and in pride took the role of a priest in 2 Chronicles 26:19-21). Leprosy pictures the working of sin in a life and the deadness sin causes. The instructions given to the priests regarding leprosy in Leviticus 13 illustrate that sin is deeper than the skin, it defiles, and it is fit only for the fire. Like leprosy, sin affects the whole person; it is loathsome corrupting, alienating and is incurable by man.
In this account, we see a beautiful picture of the gospel. As we read this account we notice that the leper came to Jesus which was forbidden. He had confidence that Jesus would receive him. One of the criticisms of Jesus is seen in Luke 15:2a (NKJV) “And the Pharisees and scribes complained, saying, ‘This Man receives sinners…’” Aren’t you glad that He does? John 6:37 (NKJV) “All that the Father gives Me will come to Me, and the one who comes to Me I will by no means cast out.”
A leper had to keep apart from men and was shunned by them, but this one ventured to mingle with the ‘great multitudes’ that ‘followed’ Jesus, till he reached His side. The leper approached Him with a flicker of long-absent hope in his heart. No doubt he had heard of some of the earlier miracles; and no doubt the crowd recoiled from him so that he could easily reach Jesus. When he got there he worshipped, or, as Luke puts it, ‘fell on his face,’
He did not doubt the Lord’s Ability.
He did doubt the Lord’s Availability. Why should He do this for me?
The leper does cling to the hope that Jesus does will to heal him, but he will not rebel if he is left shut up in his prison-house. Surely in such a blending of trust, yearning, and acceptance of that Will, whatever it involved, there was the germ of discipleship.
Here was a description for you and I of the Lord’s willingness to heal the outcast. Here is a description for you and I of the Lord’s willingness to save the outcast. 1 Tim 1:15 This saying is trustworthy and deserving of full acceptance: “Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners”—and I am the worst of them.
1 Timothy 2:3 This is good, and it pleases God our Savior, 4 who wants everyone to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth. 5 For there is one God and one mediator between God and man, a man, Christ Jesus, 6 who gave Himself—a ransom for all, a testimony at the proper time.
Here is One who is willing to touch your life and mine. He is available to you and I.
John 3:16 For God loved the world in this way: He gave His One and Only Son, so that everyone who believes in Him will not perish but have eternal life.
For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.
He would touch a world in its outcastness and sin.
The Lord’s Compassion is Available
Mark gives the precious addition to the narrative, of a glimpse into the heart of Jesus, when he tells us that, ‘moved with compassion,’ He ‘put forth His hand and touched him.’
No one was allowed to touch a leper because in touching him you would take on his uncleanness. Look at verse 3a (Read). When Jesus touched the leper, He took his defilement and conveyed to the leper His power that resulted in his healing. What an illustration of the gospel! 2 Corinthians 5:21 (HCSB) says “He made the One who did not know sin to be sin for us, so that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.”
Don’t take lightly Verse 3b (Read). Here was this hideous looking man with ulcers covering his body, possibly missing toes and fingers, wrapped with bandages and now he is completely healed!
That touch had deep meaning, but it was not done for the sake of a meaning. It was the spontaneous expression of love. The leper had almost forgotten what the touch of a hand felt like. He had lived, ever since his disease was manifest, apart from others, had perhaps lost the embraces of wife and children. The Lord completely cleared away the last film of the cloud of doubt as to the will of Jesus. It answered the ‘if’ by something that spoke louder than any word. For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.
He would touch a world that is lost just out of pure compassion.
2. The Gentile’s Faith
The second miracle of the healing of the centurion’s servant is the second of the great series which Matthew gives us. It is not accidental that both these miracles point out our Lord’s compassion to outcasts from Israel. They both contribute to the great purpose of Matthew’s Gospel, the bringing out of the nature of the kingdom and the glory of the King.
A centurion was an officer in the Roman occupying army. A centurion commanded up to a hundred men and these centurions were considered the backbone of the Roman army. The word translated “servant” in verse 6 means a young child. This child suffered some kind of painful paralysis that may be what we know as muscular dystrophy or polio. The kindness of this centurion stands out since a suffering child of a slave in that culture would normally rouse no compassion. The centurion manifests a great faith in confessing that Jesus did not have to come to the centurion’s house. He had the authority to just speak and the boy would be healed
Faith Trusts The Lord’s Ability.
Perhaps it was because he didn't want to trouble Jesus, or allow the Lord to become ceremonially unclean by entering the home of a Gentile, but he said, "Lord, I am not worthy that You should come under my roof." Like the leper before him, he showed great reverence and humility.
Notice that both times the centurion addressed Jesus, in vv. 6 & 8, he called him "Lord." That was not mere courtesy. The title "Lord" refers to one who is a ruler or a master. This man recognized Jesus as Son of God.
Knowing and understanding something of the unlimited authority of Jesus, he said, "Speak a word, and my servant will be healed." He recognized that the power of Jesus was not limited by time and space. He knew Jesus could heal and he believed Jesus could heal anywhere at any time.
The basis for his belief is in v.9, He said, "I also am a man under authority, having soldiers under me. And I say to this one 'Go,' and he goes and to another 'Come,' and he comes and to my servant 'Do this,' and he does it."
As a man "under authority" he could cause his soldiers and his slaves do whatever he wanted simply by giving them orders.
He reasoned that Jesus was "Lord" and had far greater authority than he. If he with limited authority could speak an order and his will would be done, how much more could Jesus do with one word!
Faith Trusts The Lord’s Availability.
He is omniscient God in a human body, Jesus knew all men's hearts, but in His humanity, he "marveled." He said to the Jews around Him, "I have not found such great faith, not even in Israel." Many Jews believed in His power, but not like this Gentile centurion.
Jesus went on to teach that the centurion would not be alone in His faith. He said "many will come from east and west" referring to the Gentile nations. They will "sit down with Abraham, Isaac and Jacob in the kingdom of heaven." He also said that many of the "sons of the kingdom," the Jews would be "cast into outer darkness" where there is "weeping and gnashing of teeth."
Salvation is not about being a son of Abraham, but about believing in Jesus Christ. Rom.4:3 says, "Abraham believed God, and it was accounted to him for righteousness."
Jesus looked to the centurion with a smile on His face and a gleam in his eye and said, "Go your way; and as you have believed so let it be done for you." Matthew adds that the servant was "healed that same hour."
3. The Woman’s Faith. 14 Now when Jesus had come into Peter's house, He saw his wife's mother lying sick with a fever.15 So He touched her hand, and the fever left her. And she arose and served them.
Peter’s mother-in-law was healed of a fever. Just as an aside, did you know that Peter was married? Later on in the story of the New Testament, we discover that, as Peter went about preaching, he took along his "believing wife" (1 Corinthian 9:5). Obviously, you can't have a "mother-in-law" without also having had a "wife"! I can't help but think that it would have taken a remarkable woman of God to be the wife of Peter! And it must have also taken a remarkable woman to be his mother-in-law too!
Perhaps late in the afternoon of that same day, Jesus "had come into Peter's house" in the city of Capernaum. Mark tells us that he came into the house with Peter, Andrew, James and John. Upon entering the house, they found that Peter's wife's mother was "lying sick with a fever." The Greek word that is used to describe her situation (ballo) meant that she was "cast" upon a sick-bed. Her illness forced her into bed-riddenness. And when Luke - who was a doctor - told this story, he pointed out that Peter's mother-in-law was sick with "a high fever" (Luke 4:38). It may be that her situation was, in fact, very grave. The fact that she was lying down and unable to get up suggests that she was very ill. Her "fever" would not be treated by aspirin or antibiotics. In those days such sickness could be life threatening. Jesus went to the woman and "touched her hand" like you might hold the hand of a hospitalized friend. At that very moment, "the fever left her."
Faith Trusts The Lord’s Approachability. The Lord’s Approachability was applied to this woman in a very personal way. We're told that Jesus "saw" her. The word that is used (horao) is not a word that describes a mere passing glance. Instead, this particular word is one that refers to an intense kind of "seeing" - the kind in which one looks carefully at the thing being seen, and in which one thinks carefully about what is looked at.
That's one aspect of Jesus' personal display of approachability isn't it? When one of His beloved ones is in need, He sees it. In fact, He sees it very intently. He sees it in such a way as to know, and deeply understand, and deeply feel the need in a personal and particular way.
Another way His approachability was evident was in the fact that He "touched" her. Mark tells us that He actually "came and took her by the hand and lifted her up" (Mark 1:31). Just prior to this, we were told of how Jesus healed the centurion's servant with a word from a distance. But we also read of how this same Jesus was willing to "touch" the leper who came to Him. And Jesus certainly didn't have to touch Jesus' mother-in-law. But He did. Jesus approachability was evident; He not only "sees" intensely the needs of his loved ones; but He also goes out of His way to "touch" them. He made His "touch" a part of His act of mercy. I believe He shows the same sort of loving, personal care and personal mercy to any of His loved ones who are sick and suffering. I believe He still "touches the hand" of His own in their times of affliction even today.
Jesus’ approachability was evident in the very obvious - but also very wonderful - fact that He healed her. The fever "left" her immediately. He met her need completely! And I can't help but notice that her response to His mercy toward her was for her to get up and minister to Him.
That is a very wonderful view of Jesus' mercy. His mercy is very personal. It's very individual and relational. He intensely observes the needs of His loved ones; He cares about them enough to touch them in a very personal and intimate way; and He does for them what is needed - completely.
Wouldn't you agree that you and I should be encouraged by this to turn to Jesus often for His personal mercy toward us? We should make it our regular practice to "come boldly to the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need" (Heb. 4:16). He is glad to be merciful to us in a very personal way.
In the first two miracles, Jesus showed compassion to an outcast leper and an outcast gentile and slave. Here He does a miracle with for a woman. Physical health, race, social status or gender made no difference to Jesus. This was undoubtedly a serious illness and Jesus immediately healed her and she began to serve Him.
My dear friend, nothing binds a man to Christ but trust. Nothing opens the doors of His Kingdom, either here on earth or yonder, but reliance upon Him. And although you were steeped to the eye-brows in religious privileges, and high in place in His church, it would avail nothing. The Kingdom of Christ is a Kingdom into which faith, and faith only, admits a man.
When Handel wrote the "Hallelujah Chorus," his health and his fortunes had reached the lowest possible ebb. His right side had become paralyzed, and all his money was gone. He was heavily in debt and threatened with imprisonment. He was tempted to give up the fight. The odds seemed entirely too great. And it was then he composed his greatest work--Messiah. Could we not say of Handel that the Spirit entered into him and set him upon his feet?-- Peter Marshall, Sr., "Who Can Take It?,"
God's ears are open to the afflicted, the outcasts, the humble .. it is the proud heart that cannot find God or His graces.
Longfellow could take a worthless piece of paper, write a poem on it, and instantly make it worth thousands of dollars -- and it's called genius. Rockefeller could sign his name to a piece of paper and make it worth millions of dollars -- and it's called riches. A mechanic can take material worth only five dollars and make it worth five hundred -- and it's called skill. An artist can take a fifty-cent piece of canvas, paint a picture on it, and make it worth thousands of dollars -- and it's called art. Jesus can take a worthless, sinful life, wash it in His blood, put His Spirit in it, and make it valuable to God -- and that's called salvation.
Faith Trusts in the Lord’s Ability
Faith Trusts in the Lord’s Availability
Faith Trusts The Lord’s Approachability.
Do you trust the Lord's Ability?
Do you trust the Lord's Availability?
Do you trust the Lord's Approachability