Summary: When you seek God for mercy and grace, he is willing -- freely willing -- to give you mercy and grace. Christ doesn’t need to be urged or begged; he hears us before we can even speak it! Christ doesn’t need to be paid or flattered; he heals freely. Rea
I’ve been reading through the Sermon on the Mount in the gospel according to Matthew over the past few days. It begins in Matthew 5, when Jesus goes up on the mountain. He sists down with his disciples and begins to teach.
If you go through and read what Jesus says, it probably won’t take you very long to see that he wasn’t a wimpy teacher. In fact, the scriptures say that the crowds were astonished at his teaching and that he taught with authority. Even though he was so strict, they diligently followed him and were loath to leave -- meaning they just didn’t want to get up and go. How often we rush out of our churches the minute the teaching ends on Sunday, sometimes not even waiting until the service is over! Yet, these people were drawn by the stern teachings of Jesus.
As I dig into the scriptures, one thing I’m learning is that Christ manifests himself -- reveals himself -- to us through his Word. And those who know Jesus -- those to whom he reveals himself -- can’t help but to want to know him more. Those who know him deeply hunger to know him even more.
Oh, that I would never be pleased with knowing him tomorrow how I know him today, but to be of the few that cleave to him.
And now, we get to what I really want to talk about in Matthew 8:1-3 where we have an account of Christ cleansing a leper, which is recorded as the first of Jesus’ miracles. And that is important to recognize, because leprosy to Jews was a mark of God’s displeasure (Miriam, Gehazi, Uzziah all had leprosy as a result of a particular sin). So by healing a leper, Christ proves that he has come to turn away the wrath of God.
It’s also important, because the leprosy we see in scripture is different than the leprosy we know today. It was supposed to be supernatural and come immediately from the hand of God and be removed immediately by his hand. So doctors wouldn’t even try to cure anyone found with leprosy. If you had leprosy, you were turned over to the priests who would determine if you were clean or unclean, and only God could remove the disease from your body. Even the king of Israel says in 2 Kings 5:7, "Am I God?"
Christ proves himself to be God by healing many from leprosy, and also giving his disciples the authority to do the same. So Matthew, when he writes his gospel, includes this as proof that Jesus is the Messiah.
Now, the laws regarding leprosy come from Leviticus 13 & 14. The priest was to declare whether the person was clean or unclean depending on how severe the leprosy was. But making the lepers clean was reserved for Christ, who is the High Priest. Romans 8:3 says that he came to do what the law could not do. The law can only reveal sin; it can’t forgive the sinner. But Christ takes away our sin. He cleanses us from it and makes us perfect through sanctification -- meaning he completes to perfection what he starts when we are born again.
So, that’s the background we’re dealing with, and so we ask, "How do we take this apply it to living in the now?"
Let’s look at this first from a physical perspective -- the physical healing. Maybe you’re fighting a disease or sickness in your body. There are some things you can learn from these three verses about how God heals the sick. Look at how the leper came to Christ. He knew that Christ had the power to heal him and so he came and he worshipped him. He says, "Lord, if you will it, if you desire it, you can make me clean."
I can’t tell you whether God is going to heal you or not, because I’m not him. But I can tell you that he has the ability, he has the power to do it. He has all power to do anything, and so he can heal your body. But we can’t know if he will heal us until he does, and in that time, we can be sure of his wisdom and his mercy saying, "You will be done, Lord."
But our bodies are temporary. We have them for the time that we walk the earth, and then they will be returned to the earth. On that day, we will be left with our soul. So let’s look at what this passage has for us in the way of eternal life.
Sin is the leprosy of the soul. It shuts us out from communion with God. We must be cleansed from this leprosy, and this should be our passion. Oh, to be rid of the leprosy in me! But we have a great Physician who can make us clean if he desires it. And so we come to him the way the leper came to Christ.