Summary: You may feel like you don’t deserve God’s love. You may have walked away from Him or have areas of your life that you don’t want Him to see. Today’s study should be a huge encouragement to you to seek out the One who is willing to touch you just the way y
“Talk is cheap” the old saying goes. Jesus has spent a lot of time talking about the truth—that we as humans are helpless to have the character of God on our own. He has presented a simple yet hugely significant choice—the way of life or the way of destruction. It’s not an easy way (to our flesh) but it is the only way to survive in God’s renovated creation. But “so what” you say. Men have made bold claims throughout history. Without some proof Jesus is just another blow-hard.
Well if it’s proof you want, then it’s proof you shall receive. In Chapter 8 Jesus demonstrates his total sovereignty over all aspects of the creation—both visible and invisible, and just what He is looking for as far as those that will get the life He offers.
Remember, Matthew is presenting to us Jesus the King and Jesus the Messiah, or Rescuer. First, comes a man who is helplessly held by a disease the causes separation—and is a quintessential analog to sin—who comes to Jesus and throws himself on His mercy. Then we see a Gentile, and a Roman officer at that, put himself under Jesus’ authority. Jesus further shows His command over the human condition by going after a sick person to heal them—then demonstrates that many Jews will be unwilling to follow this King. Finally Jesus shows He is king of creation both what we can see and what we cannot.
What we also see in this chapter is about control. We humans hate to be controlled, but in reality unless we let Jesus control us we have nothing in Him. So we see a series of people approach and interact with Jesus in terms of who’s in charge.
1 – 4
Leprosy was a generic label for a whole range of skin diseases, in addition to what we call Hansen’s disease. It’s caused by the bacterium Mycobacterium leprae. Up until the not too distant past, those afflicted with leprosy were ostracized from society. The Law of Moses goes into great depth about how to determine if someone has leprosy and what to do with them (Leviticus 13-14). There is a specific ritual a person was supposed to go through after a cleansing from leprosy but no record of that happening (except for 2 Kings 2, Naamon the Syrian who was not a Jew)—mainly because leprosy is a chronic condition that does not go away on its own.
Leprosy is a great picture in the Bible for sin. Sin, like leprosy, is chronic and infectious. We get it but cannot get rid of it, but we can spread it to others. Sin, like leprosy comes in a mild form and a more serious form. Some people are not overtly sinful, but they still have the sin bacteria. The disease affects the nerves—deadening them to feeling, just as our conscience’s are “seared” (1 Timothy 4:2) so that are not aware of our sin and its real affects.
A leprous person was not allowed to participate in the spiritual or community life of Israel, just as “your sins have separated you from your God” (Isaiah 59:2).
So this guy comes to Jesus and says “if you will, you can make me clean.” Jesus says “I will. Be clean.” The same thing He says to anyone who is tainted with the sin bacteria who comes and asks: Isa 1:18 "Come now, let us reason together, says the Lord: though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow” because:
Isa 53:5 he was wounded for our transgressions; he was crushed for our iniquities; upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace, and with his stripes we are healed. (Matthew quotes from verse 4 down a little further).
And notice this: “immediately” he was healed. There was no gift the man could bring, no sacrifice he could make, no great work he could accomplish. All it took was reliance on the source of healing. Then Jesus tells him to follow what the Law said, which was essentially to have the priest kill one bird and let one go free. Jesus died so that we could be set free from sin. By the way, it was against the Law for Jesus to touch the leper, but Jesus is the only one when He touches sin, makes it clean by becoming sin for us (2 Corinthians 5:21).
5 – 13
There are a bunch of interesting things about this story. First note that this man was a Roman soldier. Besides tax gatherers there was no group hated more in Israel. They represented the oppressive Roman regime that had taken away their national freedom. Roman centurions were often the sons of Roman senators or prominent citizens who began their military career having authority over 100 soldiers. They were known for their cruelty, control, and ridicule. Capernaum was not under Roman rule yet (not until 44AD) but was a headquarters of many Roman soldiers.