Summary: This sermon begins a series of 5 sermons looking at people who encountered Christ personally and how their lives were changed. This sermon finds meaning in biblical healings for our modern life.

Bibliography: Wesley’s Covenant Prayer, David Hoke on authority

This evening we begin a new sermon series about biblical people who encountered Christ and how their lives were affected by the encounter.

Over the next five weeks we will be looking at people from all walks of life that met with Christ, personally. Some of them had lengthy conversations with Jesus, others met with him briefly. Some of them were religious leaders and officials; others were the poorest of poor people. Some were members of the faith community, others were non-believers.

Of all of these people, it doesn’t take long to figure out that the ones whose lives were changed dramatically were those who experienced some form of healing at Jesus hands.

This week and next week,

We’ll take a look at these individuals in particular. We begin this evening with the story of two men, a leper and a Roman soldier.

We begin tonight in 8th chapter of Matthew’s record of Jesus’ life. By the way, did you know that Matthew told more stories about the miracles performed by Jesus of healing than the other three gospel writers? I think that’s an interesting fact and we have to ask ourselves, why did Matthew do that? Why did he favor stories of healing? Why did he feel they were important? Maybe we can discover an answer to that question as explore our Bible lesson this evening

Matthew 8:1-13

Jesus has been preaching on the mountainside. His teaching so impressed the people because he spoke as one who had authority. He was a commanding figure.

And it wasn’t just words or the way he carried himself.

Matthew goes on to relate to us two of the miracles Jesus performed that relate to this issue of authority.

As Jesus came down the mountainside, a huge crowd followed him. From somewhere outside the crowd rushed in a man who had no business being there, because this man was a leper and lepers were unclean people who were suppose to stay separated from the rest of society.

It wasn’t just the way everyone felt that way about such people. It was the law.

Now this man didn’t necessarily have the same kind of leprosy we are familiar with. Those called lepers could have had any one of many types of skin diseases. The thing was, it was a visible disease that indicated God’s displeasure with you and so it ostracized you from society.

We live in a society that separates religion and government boundaries. Not so for Jesus day. We picture our government as being rule based – whether the rules make sense or not – and uncaring about our personal problems. But we feel like the church operates differently, separately, even in the opposite manner of the government.

But in Jesus day, the government and the church were one and the same. It had to do with the understanding that if you were a bad person then bad things happened to you. So those where visibly effected, like a skin disorder would show, but not be right with God.

But it wasn’t just lack of religious support, friendship, or removal of civic privileges. Such a person couldn’t interact with any part of society. They weren’t allowed to worship God at all, because the only real and true place that could happen was at the temple and they weren’t allowed there. But they also couldn’t get a job, which meant no income. No one would hire them. They were also void of any social status whatsoever. They had no connections with any kind of family. They basically didn’t exist. They were throwaways, expendable from the world. Essentially they were deprived of all life. This man’s leprosy was physically, socially, and spiritually a living death. What this man experiences as the hands of Jesus is a resurrection from living death. He is restored to life within the community.

Now can’t you just see it? Here comes Jesus, walking down the hillside with masses of people crowding in around him. They’re all clambering to touch him, and talk with him. I can just see him smiling and continuing to try to make his way down the hill with the disciples surrounding him like bodyguards to a celebrity – trying to hold the people back. All of a sudden, out of nowhere, comes this guy off to the side from the farthest edge of the crowd. Before the disciples can stop him, he drops to his knees right in front of Jesus and brings this precession to a halt.

Immediately I can picture two things happening. First of all, the crowd disperses. He might as well have been carrying a bomb, or contaminated with Anthrax. No one wanted what this guy had, and so they all run away.

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