Summary: We must not separate Jesus’ life or teachings from His miraculous works. They are intertwined together to give us the message Jesus was sent to bring. The miracles serve to validate Jesus as the Messiah of God & to authenticate His claims & teachings.
MATTHEW 8: 1-4
THE CLEANSING TOUCH OF JESUS
We must not separate Jesus’ humble life, or His authoritative teachings from His miraculous works. They are intertwined together to give us the message Jesus was sent to bring. The miracles serve to validate Jesus as the Messiah of God and to authenticate His claims and teachings.
The collection of Jesus’ teachings which we call the Sermon on the Mount is followed by a collection of Jesus’ miracles. Matthew places Jesus’ words first and His works second. After the authoritative sermon came the authenticating miracles that told one and all to believe His words. Chapters 8 & 9 can be divided into three groups of three types of diseases. The first triplet is three bodily healing; leprosy, palsy, and fever.
The capacity to give one’s attention to a sufferer is a rare and difficult thing, almost a miracle itself. Nearly all who think they have this capacity find when the opportunity comes that they do not possess it. Warmth of heart, impulsiveness, and pity are not enough. Jesus had the capacity not only to care for the suffering, but to heal their suffering (CIM).
I. JESUS’ LARGE FOLLOWING, 8:1.
II. JESUS’ WILLING MINISTRY, 8:2-3.
III. JESUS’ UPHOLDING THE LAW, 8:4.
In verse 1 a curious crowd follows Jesus down the mountain wanting to see and hear more from this amazing man. “When Jesus came down from the mountain, large crowds followed Him.
The mountain is the one Jesus climbed to teach the Sermon on the Mount. Large crowds were following Him (4:23-25) because of His teaching & healing ministry. The authority of His ministry has just been demonstrated by His teaching and He continues to reveal His authority by His taking charge over diseases. Jesus had a huge following til He turned His face like flint toward the cross & ask the people to partake of His death & life symbolized by eating His body & drinking His blood (John 6:52-58, 66-69).
With a multitude at Jesus’ side, He would not be easily reached. There was one kind of person however that the crowd would recoil from making way for this person to easily reach Jesus. Verse two discloses just such a person.
II. JESUS’ WILLING MINISTRY, 8:2-3.
The first healing Matthew records beginning in verse 2 is one of the untouchable. “And behold, a leper came to Him, and bowed down to Him, saying, ‘Lord, if You are willing, You can make me clean”
Leprosy, like AIDS today, was a terrifying disease because there was no known cure. This horrible disease appears to have been common among the Egyptians and Israelites. Some forms of the diseases call leprosy in Jesus day were contagious. The laws of Israel required ostracization including dwelling outside the city (Lev. 13:45-46). Lepers were also to be treated as unclean and quarantined (Num. 5:1-4). For a rabbi to interact much less touch a leper would be unusual in the extreme.
Leprosy began as a small spot below the surface of the skin. The hair within it turned white. The flesh would become raw with unsightly sores & scales of white color. It would sometimes spread to consume the whole body. Lepers were considered defiled and unclean and were required to shout “unclean, unclean” to keep others away. In that day anyone who came in contact with a leper became ritually unclean (Lev, 13-14) and was risking contracting and dying of the disease. Lepers were outcasts.
This leper approached Jesus and bowed down in an attitude of respect, of worship (Mark 1:40–44; Luke 5:12–14). He came because of faith in Jesus’ ability to heal him. [Those expecting Jesus to heal them today would do well to prostate themselves in worship of Jesus also.] The word bow down (proskuneo) is literally prostrated himself to the ground. This man so marked with stigma must have seen or sensed something humble and caring in Jesus even to dare approach Him.
The leper’s asking Jesus if He was willing indicates that he had faith in Jesus’ power and ability but was uncertain of His desire to get involved with one such as him. Jesus’ desire to get involved with those who humbly come to Him and call out to Him for help is here again demonstrated, just as it has been in each of our lives.
The leper’s language expresses what is often felt by people asking for spiritual blessings. Men more easily believe in miraculous power than in miraculous love.
“Lord, if You are willing, You can make me clean”. These are the words of prayer. He believed and wanted help enough to seek Jesus out and plead for it. In faith, in longing, in humility, and in submissiveness he lays the response and responsibility before Jesus. He called the healing a cleansing because the disease made him defiled before man. He asks if he is too defiled for God?