Summary: This sermon, part of the Power of Jesus series deals with Jesus healings and miracles. Using Matthew 8:1-17 as text it deals with 3 healings early in Jesus public ministry: the Leper, the centurian's servant, and Peter's mother in law.
CALLING ALL OUTSIDERS
CHCC: January 2, 2011
Years back when I was a Youth Minister in the Houston area, we used to take musicals on the road every year. (In fact, one year our youth group performed here. I had no idea at that time that this would be our church one day!) These musicals always included funny skits.
I remember one about a Sunday School class where a little kid named Mikey always came up with funny comments. When they asked him who Jesus was, he said, “Well, Jesus was a nice man with long hair … and he held lambs a lot.” (picture on screen)
A lot of people think of Jesus like this poem of Charles Wesley: Gentle Jesus Meek and Mild, Look upon this little child … Loving Jesus, gentle lamb, in thy gracious hands I am.
Of course, this is all true of Jesus. Jesus is gentle, meek, and mild … but Jesus is also the Ruler of the Universe … with absolute power over all the elements – weather, disease, even death. The next 13 weeks we’re going to focus on the Power of Jesus. We’ll look at some of the miracles that showed His POWER … and 13 weeks won’t be nearly enough time to cover the subject!
A total of 37 of Jesus’ miracles are recorded in the gospels:
• Matthew: 21 (3 appear only in Matthew)
• Mark: 19 (2 only in Mark)
• Luke: 22 (7 only in Luke)
• John: 8 (6 only in John)
These recorded miracles represent just a small sampling of the hundreds … perhaps thousands … of miracles that Jesus performed during the 3 short years of his earthly ministry. Matthew records 12 different occasions where Jesus performed multiple miracles. Matthew 15:30 is an example: “Great crowds came to him, bringing the lame, the blind, the crippled, the mute, and many others, and laid them at his feet; and he healed them.”
Today we’ll look at 3 miracles that Matthew grouped together in chapter 8 of his Gospel: the healing of a leper, a centurion’s servant, and Peter’s mother-in-law. At first glance this just looks like 3 random miracles out of hundreds that Jesus performed in a few days. But they belong together because the leper, centurion and sick woman had something in common. All 3 were OUTSIDERS in the Jewish culture of that time.
1. The Leper – the despicable
Any leper was seen as MOST despicable of all people. A leper was literally an “untouchable.” People didn’t understand bacteria back then, but they saw from experience that … if you touched a leper, you had a good chance of coming down with the same disgusting, fatal condition. Not only did the disease make him “unclean” (in other words someone you didn’t dare touch.) It made him really unattractive (someone you didn’t WANT to touch.)
Matthew 8:2 says, A man with leprosy came and knelt before Jesus and said, “Lord, if you are willing, you can make me clean.” It took a nerve for a leper to approach Jesus … or to even be out in public. The word used for leprosy literally means “to peal.”
(When I was in India I observed many lepers in the medical clinics and hospitals. I even saw toes and fingers removed by the nurses after they became full of gangrene. It wasn't a pretty sight.)
More than anyone else, lepers were the UNTOUCHABLES in Israel. So what was the first thing Jesus did? Jesus reached out his hand and touched the man. “I am willing,” he said. “Be clean!” Immediately he was cleansed 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.” Matthew 8:3-4
The instructions Jesus gave are very significant. The Law had strict requirements for verification that a leper had been healed. (Leviticus 13&14) Since that Law had been given in Leviticus, no real “leper” had been pronounced as healed … except for a Syrian Official named Naaman who washed 7 times in the Jordan River (2 Kings 5:8-14).
The Prophet Elijah had healed Naaman 700 years before … and many in Israel believed that no one except the Messiah would have the POWER to heal leprosy. (Jesuswalk.com Marshall Cites Strack and Billerbeck, I, 593-596; IV:2, 747-750)
The fact that the leper approached Jesus may indicate that he believed Jesus truly WAS the Messiah. Certainly the fact that Jesus healed him was seen as proof of his identity as the long-awaited Messiah.
It’s significant that one of Jesus’ first miracles was to heal this leper. And near the end of His 3-year-ministry, one of Jesus’ last miracles was to heal TEN lepers. (Luke 17:11-19)