Summary: A sermon about reaching out to the world in the name of Christ.
“Let’s Get This Party Started”
By: Ken Sauer, Pastor of East Ridge United Methodist Church, Chattanooga, TN eastridgeumc.org
“Who’s in charge here?”
The policeman suddenly appeared in the doorway, and everyone stood still.
It had been an awesome party up to that point; a bit raucous, perhaps, but great fun.
Now, one of the neighbors had complained about the noise.
The person whose house the people were in looked sheepish.
“Well, nobody’s in charge exactly,” he said, “but it’s my house.”
“Well,” said the policeman, “I’m in charge now; and I’m telling you this noise must stop right away.”
With that, he left.
And so did everyone else.
The party was over.
The policeman had authority, whether the people liked it or not.
He had the uniform, the police radio, and the law to back him up.
He knew it and the people at the party knew it.
It didn’t take any special insight to see it, or courage to respond.
That was just the way it was.
At the beginning of our Gospel Lesson for tonight we are told that Jesus “came down from the mountainside,” and “large crowds followed him.”
Jesus had just finished preaching His infamous “Sermon on the Mount.”
And it was The Sermon to beat all sermons.
In verses 28 and 29 of Matthew Chapter 7 we are told, “When Jesus had finished saying these things, the crowds were amazed at his teaching, because he taught as one who had authority, and not as their teachers of the law.”
But did Jesus really have authority?
Was Jesus really in charge?
Jesus wasn’t wearing some police uniform.
And, after-all, Jesus isn’t some policeman-like fellow anyway.
So, if Jesus had authority what would that mean; what would that look like?
Tonight’s Gospel Lesson gives us a sneak peak at what Jesus’ authority looks like in practice, on the street!
The first situation Jesus faces when He comes down the mountain and onto the streets is a man with leprosy.
The physical condition of a leper was terrible, but there was something that made it even worse!
The Jewish historian Josephus tells us that lepers were treated “as if they were, in effect, dead [people].”
As soon as leprosy was diagnosed, the leper was absolutely and completely banished from human society.
Leviticus 13:46 tells us that the leper “shall remain unclean as long as he has the disease; he is unclean.
He shall live alone; his dwelling shall be outside the camp.”
Can you imagine?
Can you imagine what it would have felt like to be a leper?
To be totally outcaste, totally rejected—by everyone?
Well, maybe some of us can, at least in some ways.
How about the children who are bullied on the playground and in the lunchroom?
They are made to feel like outcastes, are they not?
Perhaps this is how some of us were treated as children, and maybe some of us still bear some of the scars.
Perhaps we still feel as if we “don’t fit in.”
Maybe our “self-esteem” is not where it should be.
Maybe you feel a bit like a leper tonight.
In the Middle Ages, if anyone came down with leprosy, the priest put on his stole and took his crucifix, and brought the leper into the church.
He then read the burial service over the leper, who for all human purposes was dead.
How do you think that made him or her feel?
Are there any persons who are treated as if they are lepers today?
The homeless, perhaps?
Are there any persons, who we treat as if they were dead?
Are there any persons whom we have totally given up on?
It could be the alcoholic who just keeps skidding back to the bottle.
Maybe it’s the drug addict who continues and continues down that darkest of dark roads.
Jesus isn’t like the policeman at the party, but Jesus does have authority.
Real authority…real power over everything and anything which entangles—even death itself!!!
Jesus’ authority and power provides people with a new life, a way out.
There is no giving up on a person, and that’s because we have Jesus!!!
There is no such thing as a dead man who is still breathing, and that’s only because Jesus is Alive!!!
In Jesus’ day, no one would even think of greeting a leper.
It’s said that one Rabbi wouldn’t even eat an egg bought in a street where a leper had passed by.
Another Rabbi actually boasted that he had thrown stones at lepers in order to keep them away.
Other Rabbis hid from lepers, or ran as fast as they could the other way, at the sight of a leper even in the distance.
They didn’t want to be “unclean.”
There has probably never been a disease that so separated one human being from another the way leprosy did.