Summary: The willingness of our Lord to reach out and touch the lowest of the low in His grace.
INTRODUCTION/STATEMENT OF THEME: There are two common answers among unbelievers to the Gospel message. One, they often think they are too good for it. They aren’t that bad. They’re certainly not as bad as some, and therefore, God will probably let them slide in on Judgment Day. On the other hand, sometimes they are extremely, acutely aware of their own sin. They are convinced that they have crossed the line, the line which makes them unforgivable. They believe that only Hell awaits them, for surely God in His righteousness would not be able to accept them, as low as they have sunk. So they reject the Gospel, thinking, well, that’s a lovely story, but no holy God would love me in reality. It is this latter attitude I want to address today. Sometimes it even effects believers. For even after we receive Jesus as our Lord, we all sin in many ways every day. Not one of us has ever had a perfect day. But sometimes the believer can be so disappointed with his own sin, his own failure from day to day, that it begins to wear away at his confidence in Christ. He can begin to doubt his position with God (“Surely no real Christian would behave like I do…”) and wonder how a holy and righteous Judge could continue to look upon him in mercy. Or maybe he falls into some especially grievous sin. He yields to some especially wicked temptation. The result is, at the very least, that he has wounded his conscience before God. He is unable to escape the guilty feelings. And when you feel guilty all over, it is very hard to believe you’re forgiven. So, I want to talk about that today. How exactly does the Lord feel about the lowest of the low? How exactly will Jesus relate to those who have fallen into a very deep pit?
It is my high and holy privilege to tell you today that if I have just described you, then stand by. I am about to describe a Savior. I am about to tell you of One who is moved with compassion by your suffering and is able and willing to do something about it. For the Lord Jesus is among us this morning, even now, and He is willing to touch you where you are and make you clean.
Join me now, will you, in Matthew 8:1-4? Hear the Gospel now, the good news of Jesus the Christ, the Son of God.
CONTEXT In Matthew, this incident is placed immediately on the conclusion of the Sermon on the Mount. Mark and Luke have it occurring at different points in Jesus’ ministry. They are in perfect agreement that it happened, which is the important thing, but only Matthew has it here.
1. I think it belongs here. If I’m wrong that’s not a big deal, but I like it where Matthew has it for this reason. Turn back to Exodus 20. This is the giving of the Ten Commandments at Mount Sinai. Now here’s the deal. God demands that we keep His commandments, that much is sure. However, He knows that we won’t. Look now at Exodus 20:24 and look what it requires. After the giving of the Law, God immediately commands the building of an altar for burnt sacrifice. Here is My Law. You’d better well keep it if you know what’s good for you. Now, build an altar, because you won’t keep my Law as you should and that creates a big problem. My wrath will be poured out on lawbreakers. But I love you and have no desire to pour out wrath on you. So build an altar, on which sacrifices for sin may be offered, and My wrath may be turned away. So the pattern here is first, the giving of the Law with strong exhortations to keep it, followed immediately by the remedy for sin in order to avoid the curse of God.
Now back to our text in Matthew. We have chapters 5-7, the Sermon on the Mount. If I had to, I could bring a stack of books waist high filled with commentators who all agree that the Sermon on the Mount is really a restatement, with clarification, of the Law of Moses. It finishes with a very strong exhortation to obey what is said, and a severe warning against disobedience.
And immediately upon concluding His remarks, Jesus is met by a leper. And Jesus takes the opportunity to perform a miracle which powerfully and sweetly illustrates in a vivid fashion the Gospel of His grace. Do you see it’s the same pattern over again? The law, with warnings toward obedience, followed by the avenue of receiving God’s mercy.
2. Understand the Leper’s plight.
-- Describe the social restrictions the law placed upon lepers.