Summary: A sermon about Jesus healing, restoring and saving.
“The Living Death”
By: Ken Sauer, PAstor Of East Ridge United Methodist Church, Chattanooga, TN www.eastridgeumc.com
“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 this morning 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?
Today’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?
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.
Are there any persons who are treated as if they are lepers today?
Are there any persons, who we treat as if they were dead?
Are there any persons whom we have totally given up on?
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.
And yet, it was a leper whom Jesus touched when He came down from the mountainside.
To a Jew in the time of Jesus, there could be no more amazing sentence in the New Testament than the simple statement, “Jesus reached out his hand and touched the man.”
Can you imagine the gasps from the crowd?
Can you imagine the shudder going through the onlookers as Jesus reaches out and touches this poor man?
But can you also feel the thrill of warmth and of life that came over the leper himself?
Nobody had touched him for a long time, perhaps many years.
No one had even given him the time of day, for that matter!
In the eyes of the people, he was a dead man.
We don’t know why the leper felt compelled to come and kneel before Jesus calling Him “Lord,” and saying to Him with confidence, “if you are willing, you can make me clean.”
We must remember that before the Sermon on the Mount began, we were told that “Jesus went throughout Galilee, teaching in their synagogues, preaching the good news of the kingdom, and healing every disease and sickness among the people…”