Summary: God's nature dictates that he transform our lives from brokenness to strength. We see this illustrated in three stories from Matthew 8
“A man who carries a cat by the tail learns something he can learn in no other way” Mark Twain
I heard the story of a missionary in California’s early days who gave a bible to a native Chief. Three weeks later the Chief came back and handed the Bible back to the missionary. He said “take it back”. The missionary was confused and thought the chief didn’t understand. “You don’t understand” he said “it is a gift. I want you to have it”. “Take it back”, said the chief, “it kicks me”.
The passage we study today will hurt you if you’re willing to grab it by the tail. It will kick you if you draw it close. But it will bring you life if you learn to live as it teaches.
Read Together Matthew 8:1-17
Before we discuss these extraordinary events in the ministry of Jesus, I’d like to read another passage from the Old Testament . . . one which Jesus Himself quoted to describe His ministry (also in Capernaum).
Isaiah 61 The Spirit of the Sovereign Lord is on me, because the Lord has anointed me to preach good news to the poor. He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim freedom for the captives and release from darkness for the prisoners, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor and the day of vengeance of our God, to comfort all who mourn, and provide for those who grieve in Zion—to bestow on them a crown of beauty instead of ashes, the oil of gladness instead of mourning, and a garment of praise instead of a spirit of despair. They will be called oaks of righteousness, a planting of the Lord for the display of his splendor.
This is the reason for Jesus’ coming—to bring beauty from ashes.
After studying the Sermon on the Mount we may all be discouraged and dismayed at the various ways we all fall short of the glory of the Kingdom of God. We may feel unloving, unrighteous, unclean, unhealthy. Now we see in Matthew 8 the Solution to these problems.
When he came down from the mountainside, large crowds followed him. A man with leprosy came and knelt before him and said, “Lord, if you are willing, you can make me clean.”
Jesus reached out his hand and touched the man. “I am willing,” he said. “Be clean!” Immediately he was cured of his leprosy. Then Jesus said to him, “See that you don’t tell anyone. But go, show yourself to the priest and offer the gift Moses commanded, as a testimony to them.”
The nature of Leprosy:
It starts small
It is a type of sin in the Bible—with all of these elements.
The worm in the apple-There is nothing I enjoy eating more than a good, fresh Indian mango in season. But I have been baffled how sometimes when I cut into a fresh mango, with no apparent faults, I find within it a trail and at the end of that trail, a worm. I have sometimes wondered how a worm could get in there without making a hole on the outside. This week I came across an explanation-concerning apples. Apparently, there are moths who lay their eggs on apple and mango seeds. When the egg hatches the worm is already inside the growing fruit. Great strategy. Sin is like this. You can look at a person and they seem to have few faults from the outside, but inside there is a worm consuming them. That worm is sin. It was there before they were born. It grows and feeds on the victim from the inside. The problem is, all of us start our lives with this infestation. Only God can provide the required pesticide. We can see in such images an illustration of the nature of leprosy, and through leprosy, the nature of sin.
The cleansed leper was to bring two doves. One would be killed and the blood allowed to flow into fresh water. The second would be dipped in the blood and water, then set free.
Then the home, also, was to be cleansed, accompanied by a sin offering, a consecration offering, and a thanksgiving offering. Along with the sin offering the priest was to take oil and anoint the healed persons right ear, thumb and great toe.
The dove and other animals killed indicated the sacrifice necessary for cleansing from sin and impurity and, even, illness. The dove set free represented the former leper. He was now free from uncleanness. The oil, as a symbol of the Holy Spirit, was God’s anointing for service to Him, an ear to hear the voice of God, the hand to do the work of God, the feet to go where God sends. As we come to God with our sins, He wants to anoint us again for His word, His work, and for obedience to His will.