Matthew 8:1-17 Lepers, Gentiles, Women, Everyone

When he came down from the mountain, great crowds followed him. 2 And behold, a leper[a] came to him and knelt before him, saying, “Lord, if you will, you can make me clean.” 3 And Jesus[b] stretched out his hand and touched him, saying, “I will; be clean.” And immediately his leprosy was cleansed. 4 And Jesus said to him,“See that you say nothing to anyone, but go,show yourself to the priest andoffer the gift that Moses commanded,for a proof to them.”

5 When he entered Capernaum, a centurion came forward to him, appealing to him, 6 “Lord, my servant is lying paralysed at home, suffering terribly.” 7 And he said to him, “I will come and heal him.” 8 But the centurion replied, “Lord, I am not worthy to have you come under my roof, but only say the word, and my servant will be healed. 9 For I too am a man under authority, with soldiers under me. And I say to one, ‘Go’, and he goes, and to another, ‘Come’, and he comes, and to my servant,[c] ‘Do this’, and he does it.” 10 When Jesus heard this, he marvelled and said to those who followed him, “Truly, I tell you, with no one in Israel[d] have I found such faith. 11 I tell you, many will come from east and west and recline at table with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob in the kingdom of heaven, 12 while the sons of the kingdom will be thrown into the outer darkness. In that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.” 13 And to the centurion Jesus said, “Go; let it be done for you as you have believed.” And the servant was healed at that very moment.

Jesus Heals Many

14 And when Jesus entered Peter’s house, he saw his mother-in-law lying sick with a fever. 15 He touched her hand, and the fever left her, and she rose and began to serve him. 16 That evening they brought to him many who were oppressed by demons, and he cast out the spirits with a word and healed all who were sick. 17 This was to fulfil what was spoken by the prophet Isaiah: “He took our illnesses and bore our diseases.”

Lepers, Gentiles, Women, Everyone

I have psoriasis.  I have had it from childhood.  I also have a crooked finger because I broke a tendon when I was 13.  I am unclean.  That is, I am ceremonially unclean.  If you touched me in the ancient Jewish system, you would not be able to offer a sacrifice without cleansing yourself.  Unless you were Jesus.  Jesus’ purity washed away the spiritual and physical impurities in others.  He wanted to keep it quiet because people would misunderstand what he was about.  However, he couldn’t help healing people by virtue of who he was.

Some people didn’t want a low-life, itinerant Rabbi from the backwaters healing them, but many more began to seek him out.  Leprosy is a term used in the Bible to describe conditions like psoriasis, ringworm, dermatosis, lupus and other skin conditions that we have cream or shampoo for today.  Hansen’s disease (what we usually call leprosy) was extremely rare.  Most people who had to walk with a bell and cover their face and make sure no-one touched them were people more like you and me than we realise.

Who is this Jesus character?  He cares for the outcasts and he has authority over sicknesses that science would take centuries to treat.  He was unafraid to cross purity boundaries.  He entered into places where people suffered and he made a difference.  Maybe his disciples were grateful enough that they decided they would get out of their comfort zones, but that came later.  For now, at this point in Matthew, even those who knew him realise that they know very little of what he is capable.

Jesus then heals a Roman centurion’s servant and the mother-in-law of a disciple.  Jesus takes on their sickness like a sponge but his purity crushes their impurity.

Questions

  1. Does Jesus go to a leper or does a leper come to him?  Why?
  2. Why does the centurion come to Jesus if he is not Jewish?  Why does Jesus respond as he does?
  3. Who are the subjects who presume they are disciples of the kingdom, but who will be thrown out?
  4. What misconceptions did people have about lepers, gentiles, and women and their role as disciples?
  5. Examine yourself.  Do you think you presume you make a better disciple than crippled people, Arabs, the opposite sex, children, convicts, prostitutes, or used-car dealers?  Would you do what Jesus did and reach out to them to give them the opportunity to become disciples?  Do you?

Going Deeper

What can Protestants learn from the vicarious suffering of Catholic Father Damien who worked with lepers for 16 years before contracting the disease himself?

http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/04615a.htm

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About Plymothian

I teach at Moody Bible Institute in Chicago. My interests include education, biblical studies, and spiritual formation. I have been married to Kelli since 1998 and we have two children, Daryl and Amelia. For recreation I like to run, play soccer, play board games, read and travel.
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3 Responses to Matthew 8:1-17 Lepers, Gentiles, Women, Everyone

  1. Kelli says:

    1. The leper seeks out Jesus and kneels. He doesn’t appear that he actually asks for healing. I don’t know the tone of the original language. But here he simply states what he believes to be fact. “If you will, you can make me clean.”
    2. He has heard of his ability to heal, I pressume. And he believes it. He believes Jesus has the power. Jesus says that he will come and heal the servant. On a side note, I wonder about the relatioship between this Centurion and his servant that the Centurion would be so concerned and would go so far to pursue his healing.
    3. The Pharisees.
    4. I love that this passage includes some unlikely disciples: a leper, a servant, and an older woman. These people would have been “the least of these.” They still would be today.
    5. This is a powerful and convicting question. There are undoubtedly ways in which I need to reach out to people and value people differently. The specific applications that come to mind right now are in the realms of parenting and teaching. Should we adopt again? Parenting is all about discipleship. So what type of child would we be open to adopting? A child who is sick? A child who is older? The other application has to do with my teaching. It’s easy to disciple students who want to learn. The students who shine in the classroom. The gifted ones. But how do I invest my time in growing disciples among the students who are on the fringe?

  2. HeeJin says:

    1.Does Jesus go to a leper or does a leper come to him? Why?
    – The leper came to Jesus for help otherwise, it might have been impossible for him to meet Jesus because there were great crowds following Him.
    2.Why does the centurion come to Jesus if he is not Jewish? Why does Jesus respond as he does?
    -Centurion had a strong faith that Jesus was capable of healing his servant. Jesus favored the faith of the Centurion who completely believed and respected the divine authority of Jesus.
    3.Who are the subjects who presume they are disciples of the kingdom, but who will be thrown out?
    – Those who have nominal faith but never bear the fruits of faith..
    4.What misconceptions did people have about lepers, gentiles, and women and their role as disciples?
    – People with lepers, gentiles, and women are considered inferior so they had to go through extra works to make up their inferiority or even incapable of being disciples.
    5.Examine yourself. Do you think you presume you make a better disciple than crippled people, Arabs, the opposite sex, children, convicts, prostitutes, or used-car dealers? Would you do what Jesus did and reach out to them to give them the opportunity to become disciples? Do you?
    – I hardly think that I am better and will be better than those listed above in terms of cultivating discipleship. Humility, which is fully manifested in Jesus himself is not merely lowering myself with seemingly-humble words, but respecting and finding the value of the others. It would the most difficult virtue to achieve.However, I will strive to reach people with the humility that Jesus had showed.

  3. Jonna Leshock says:

    Peter, I have never really understood what this centurion is saying here:

    “For I too am a man under authority, with soldiers under me. And I say to one, ‘Go’, and he goes, and to another, ‘Come’, and he comes, and to my servant,[c] ‘Do this’, and he does it.” 10 When Jesus heard this, he marvelled and said to those who followed him, “Truly, I tell you, with no one in Israel[d] have I found such faith.”

    How is what the centurion saying showing his faith – that he is in charge of others and they listen to and do whatever he tells them? Maybe I’m reading this wrong? But what is the significance of these statements he makes and why is Jesus so admiring his faith?

    Thanks!

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