Thursday, June 6, 2013

Matthew 8:1-4

1 When He had come down from the mountain, great multitudes followed Him. 2 And behold, a leper came and worshiped Him, saying, “Lord, if You are willing, You can make me clean.” 3 Then Jesus put out His hand and touched him, saying, “I am willing; be cleansed.” Immediately his leprosy was cleansed. 4 And Jesus said to him, “See that you tell no one; but go your way, show yourself to the priest, and offer the gift that Moses commanded, as a testimony to them.”
Notice that Jesus after giving the sermon on the mount has a leper approach Him first. Not a scribe, not a Pharisee, not even a teacher of the Law, but a leper; an unclean person; a person with neither religious or societal pretenses. Quite literally a social outcast; viewed as a person at the very bottom of society, and one whom it was unlawful for any God fearing Jew to approach much less touch, and so this man carried more social stigma's then we can possibly fathom. Nonetheless it is this man whose uncleanness that was so readily apparent to everyone around him, yet it will be he who is the first man to approach Jesus, after Jesus' Sermon on the Mount, too ask the King of all Holiness too make him clean. And so one can imagine that the crowds quickly parted from him as he moved towards Jesus, so as not too touch, or be touched by him. Now notice the leper does two things when He reaches Jesus. First is that he worships Him. And so he is first and foremost reverent towards Jesus. Unlike the scribes and Pharisees who were often subtly, and not so subtly, antagonistic towards Jesus' Person. Coming to Him with many loaded questions, to try to expose a fault with Jesus' Person or His "theology", so as too dismiss Him before all the people. Nor does he assume upon Jesus, as if Jesus is somehow bound to do this for him. Instead in a spirit of contriteness and faith the unclean leper first and foremost worships Jesus. And that is always the right move when one comes before God too acknowledge and glorify Jesus' Person as being whom He says He is. For that is what true faith in God does. And having worshiped Jesus, the leper says: “Lord, if You are willing, You can make me clean.” in essence he epitomizes the very attitude which justified in His Sermon on the Mount, when He said: "Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the Kingdom of God." Matt 5:3
And so with the Leper's humble request, Jesus, think of it for a moment, with great multitudes of people looking on reaches out His hand and touches the leper saying: “I am willing; be cleansed.”
And so in that tender moment, Jesus not only heals the leprous man, but quite deliberately demonstrates God's healing hand which has come to touch and heal all of believing humanity! And so in that moment we see all that God In Christ has come to do; to touch and heal the brokenness in us all. Now one can only imagine the compassion in Jesus' eyes as He looked into the lepers starving eyes, who likely had'nt had a close personal connection with anyone in years. And so it is easy to see the leper's mesmerized stare, as Jesus undettered by the crowd's now shocked faces, reaches out and touches him. And so in that moment when Jesus' hand reaches out and touches him, the cursed affliction, and all the social stigma attached with it is gone. For as with the remitting of our sins, and the saving of our souls, so too the leprosy is immediately cleansed (vs.3). And so that imagery and act of God in Christ reaching out to the lowest of men, publicly, and touching him publicly, to cleanse him of his leprosy (or in our cases our sins) should not be lost on any of us. For that is why Jesus came, not to preach and teach and heal in a "corner". As if only in certain places, and in certain contexts, and with certain people it is appropriate to do so. No Jesus came to publicly preach, teach and evangelize everywhere and to everyone, as He deemed it appropriate to do so, so that He might heal and restore us all who believe in Him here and now, to a right and secure place with Himself in the Kingdom of God.
And so as the Gospel so clearly portrays, Jesus is not ashamed of sinners, nor of "unclean" people (consider Acts 10:15), either publicly or privately, before or after He "touches" them. For His concern for all is genuine.
In fact in the Gospel (and in my own experience) what is also readily apparent is that anyone whom Jesus has truly "touched" will not be ashamed of Him (consider Mark 8:36-9:1). For I'll be ashamed of my own sins, and my own less then Christ-like behavior when I fail to live as I should. Same with this world and all it's shameful lusts, pursuits and values, I'll be ashamed of it and all the evil justified within it. But I am not, nor will I be ashamed of My Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Neither of His Glorious Person nor His Glorious Words. For He by His Person and by His Word has both justified me, as well Jesus is sanctifying me by His Holy Spirit through it. And so I'm thoroughly honored to belong to Him, and be called by Him, to be His public witness and servant, to both the clean and the "unclean," and so to both the "righteous" and sinner alike.
Now in regards to Jesus' publicly touching the leper to heal him. I imagine only the "religious" folk (then and now) would to get their "noses out of joint", when Jesus deliberately crosses whatever barriers that exist to people's reconciliation with God, both then and now (consider Matt 9:9-13). For being led by the Spirit of God means that there will be times when the "letter of the law" falls short of the surpassing glory of Christ and the liberty He purchased for us all at Calvary (2 Cor. 3:5-6, 17). And so Jesus having healed the leper now has a specific purpose for him to fulfill. As Jesus says to him in verse four: “See that you tell no one; but go your way, show yourself to the priest, and offer the gift that Moses commanded, as a testimony to them.”
That Jesus says to him “See that you tell no one" is not saying to him to keep his faith a secret. For his healing had happened publicly. And so all who had known and saw him before his healing would've immediately recognized the change in him. Therefore Jesus' not wanting him to tell anyone at that time, was as we see in Marks Gospel account not wanting to be overwhelmed by people because of it. For Jesus had a specific purpose for him to fulfill and that was to be Jesus' witness of having healed him to the priests who were ministering at the Temple in Jerusalem. And so Jesus tells the now healed leper to tell no one what has happened, but go and show himself to them and take the offering that Moses commanded for a leper having been cleansed by God, and present himself to them with it (see Lev 14 for the offerings statutes and requirements). Now in Mark's parallel passage it seems the man in his joy and exuberance, having go out of that location, begins to tell the matter everywhere and to everyone (Mark 1:45). And so as happens, the matter quickly spreads everywhere. And soon Jesus is swamped by so many people so as not to be able to enter the city openly anymore. And so Jesus was outside of it, in deserted places, and still they came too Him from every direction.  

And that is a constant not only in the Gospel but also throughout history, that where Jesus is in presence and at work, there soul hungry people want to be. For there is no other who can heal us, or restore us back to God. And that is what we who have had our fill of this world want most desperately; consciously or unconsciously; the peace and serenity and wholeness of person that no other person or thing can ultimately bring in us. If you have never experienced the life and love of Jesus Christ inside you I urge you today be reconciled to God. "For He made Him who knew no sin to be sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him." 2 Cor 5:21

By a simple prayer of faith then, believing that Jesus was crucified to cleanse you of all your sins, and then rose from the dead to bring His life and Spirit within you, you can remission of all your sins and everlasting life. Simply pray something like this: Dear Lord Jesus I know that I am a sinner and that I sinned against You, therefore I need your forgiveness. Therefore I humbly ask that You in all Your grace and goodness come into my soul and life and be my Lord and Savior and make me whole and clean again, I pray this in Your name Lord Jesus, amen.  

Scripture Citations
The New King James Version. Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 1982

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