When He (Jesus) came down from the mountain, great crowds followed Him. And Behold, a leper came to Him and knelt before Him saying "Lord if you will you can make me clean." And Jesus stretched out His hand and touched him saying "I will. Be clean." and immediately his leprosy was cleansed. - Matthew 8:1-3
Leprosy is a contagious disease that affects the skin, mucous membranes, and nerves, causing discoloration and lumps on the skin and can, in severe cases, lead to disfigurement and deformities. In the Bible, lepers were the outcasts of society and considered worthless. Lepers were exiled from the city and forced to live outside of the city gates. They were considered unwanted, unloved, and unclean. Under the Old Testament Levitical laws, touching a leper made you ceremonially unclean.
In the New Testament we read many accounts of Jesus healing people and He often chose different ways to heal them. For many, like the Centurion's servant a few verses after this story, Jesus merely speaks a word and heals him. We see Him healing many others by speaking. Jesus didn't have to touch this man in order to heal him, but yet He chose to do it this way. Here we have in this passage one of the lowest outcasts of the world touched by God.
What do you think meant more to this leper - that he was healed or that Jesus touched him? I'm certain he was rejoicing over being healed, but I believe there is something more happening here. Jesus connected with this man on a deeply personal level. He was willing to touch this man, a man that no one else would dare touch. The other religious leaders would have cast him out, perhaps even stone him just for entering into their presence. Not Jesus.
By touching this man, He put Himself on the same level as the leper. He was willing to be made unclean with him. We cannot miss the significance of this. He connected with this man's deepest point of shame.
I see a couple of things from this. First and foremost I see this is as an example for us? the church?of both the goodness and of the grace of Jesus. I also see something in regard to how the Pharisees and religious leaders responded. The religious people were always angry with Jesus. He did the things that they weren't willing to do. Jesus was accused and persecuted for touching the untouchables. The Pharisees called Him demonic. They even sought to kill Him after He brought Lazarus back to life (see John 11).
What did it look like for Jesus? Just a handful of the accusations included:
I am learning that when you are willing to go where the religious refuse to go and be with the people they refuse to be with you too will be criticized, ridiculed, and even persecuted. They may even accuse you of not even being a Christian. They'll argue that a "real" Christian wouldn't associate with "those" kinds of people. They'll say that you've compromised. Crucifixion is illegal in our world today but that will not stop some from crucifying you emotionally and spiritually.
We live in a broken world among sinful people, people who need to see the Gospel, people who are hurting who need to be touched. It leads me to consider how I would respond. Am I willing to touch others at the deepest level of their shame? Am I willing to go where the religious wouldn't dare to go?
There is a very important lesson we can learn from this leper. This passage said great crowds followed Jesus, but this man, this outcast, came to Him. He managed to get beyond the city walls, and when he came to Him, fell at His feet and worshiped Him. In all of his shame, this leper desperately fell before the feet of Jesus.
Stay out of the way of people who are desperate for Jesus. You won't be able to stop them.
Every problem, every need in your life is God creating a vacuum in your life that only He can fill. He's trying to connect you with His provision. As we've learned, God always creates the supply before He creates the need. So if you've got a need God already has the solution.
For example, which came first, air or lungs to breathe the air? Air. The provision was made before the need.
What came first, food or the stomach to eat the food? Food. Before God created man, He created all the things he would need to survive. God was establishing precedence. He always creates the provision before He allows the need to arise. The need is His way connecting you with what He's already created to supply the need.
Which came first, the first Adam or the last Adam? Be careful with those words. Who is the last Adam? Jesus. Who came first, Adam or Jesus? Jesus. What was Adam's great need after he ate out of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil? A Savior---already slain from the foundation of the world! This is the way God works.
If you have to see in order to believe, you're sunk. That's not the way God works. But that's what the children of Israel were doing. They could only believe what they could see after God had done it. Therefore God puts the reality of something you cannot see into your heart so that you might believe Him, so that when He does it He is glorified and your faith is strengthened and the kingdom is advanced.
To read, watch, or listen to more from the sermon Enjoying God's Best, click here.
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The answers to these questions and more can be found in the free January/February RTM Magazine.
For Luis Aponte, the Gospel is everything. Watch as this Campus Outreach resource staff member describes the Gospel he stakes his life on.
The power of sin's appeal is that it promises better gods. Now, Satan knows he cannot lead us where he wants to take us, if he stated it like that. Therefore, it is most unlikely that the devil will approach the Christian and say, "Hey, I want to introduce you to a better god than Jesus." Yet, whether he says that or not, the temptation is just that: a promise of someone or something that will care, help, and provide for you better than the Lord Jesus Christ.
Idolatry then is the essence of all temptation. And you can know if something is an idol to you if that something or someone is not caring, helping, and providing for you as you expected. What takes place in your heart when that happens? Is there pain, anger, resentment, turmoil, and loss of joy? If so, then more than likely you have discovered an idol.
An example would be a husband and wife who were experiencing strife. Let's suppose for our illustration that a wife's world is totally out of kilter on the inside; she has no sense of balance, peace, or joy because her husband is not doing for her what she expects. We can rightly deduce that her husband is an idol, even though she may not have feelings for him. She may no longer love him because of the way he treats her, but I insist nonetheless, her spouse is an idol. How is this possible? Well, it's possible because she places her internal well-being, peace, and joy upon her husband. Her life revolves upon his approval of her, his affection for her, and his treatment of her. This is idolatry because we should only look to Christ Jesus for the internal balance of our world.
Let me briefly explain internal balance. Internal balance is inner harmony, steadiness, and tranquility. It does not mean your outer-world, meaning circumstances, cannot be imbalanced, unsteady, and turbulent; however, internal balance does mean that in spite of that turbulence and trouble you maintain your spiritual equilibrium. An example of this is Jesus fast asleep in a boat on the sea when a dangerous storm was raging. You may argue and suggest that Jesus was at perfectly peaceful was because He was peacefully asleep. If that is the reason, then why did the Lord rebuke the disciples, who were awake, for being internally out of whack? Jesus could sleep because He was properly and internally centered in His Father by faith.
Adversity will expose whether or not a Christian is building any part of his or her life on an idol. If you are experiencing any kind of discomfort, it will prove if you are worshipping Christ or an idol. Problems detect whether or not your life is built solidly on the Rock.
Salvation then must not only deliver me from sin's penalty but also from its power, this appeal to worship other gods, "to exchange the truth of God for a lie, and worship and server the creature rather than the Creator." If I am to experience ongoing tranquility, then I must continually put my trust in the truth about God, who He is and what He has promised me. Faith in God is the key to combat the ever-pressing temptation to turn to something or someone who may seem to care, help, and provide better than Jesus.
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