Matthew 8:1-17 (NIV)
1 When he came down from the mountainside, large crowds followed him.
2 A man with leprosy came and knelt before him and said, “Lord, if you are willing, you can make me clean.”
3 Jesus reached out his hand and touched the man. “I am willing,” he said. “Be clean!” Immediately he was cured of his leprosy.
4 Then Jesus said to him, “See that you don’t tell anyone. But go, show yourself to the priest and offer the gift Moses commanded, as a testimony to them.”
5 When Jesus had entered Capernaum, a centurion came to him, asking for help.
6 “Lord,” he said, “my servant lies at home paralyzed and in terrible suffering.”
7 Jesus said to him, “I will go and heal him.”
8 The centurion replied, “Lord, I do not deserve to have you come under my roof. But just say the word, and my servant will be healed.
9 For I myself am a man under authority, with soldiers under me. I tell this one, ‘Go,’ and he goes; and that one, ‘Come,’ and he comes. I say to my servant, ‘Do this,’ and he does it.”
10 When Jesus heard this, he was astonished and said to those following him, “I tell you the truth, I have not found anyone in Israel with such great faith.
11 I say to you that many will come from the east and the west, and will take their places at the feast with Abraham, Isaac and Jacob in the kingdom of heaven.
12 But the subjects of the kingdom will be thrown outside, into the darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.”
13 Then Jesus said to the centurion, “Go! It will be done just as you believed it would.” And his servant was healed at that very hour.
14 When Jesus came into Peter’s house, he saw Peter’s mother-in-law lying in bed with a fever.
15 He touched her hand and the fever left her, and she got up and began to wait on him.
16 When evening came, many who were demon-possessed were brought to him, and he drove out the spirits with a word and healed all the sick.
17 This was to fulfill what was spoken through the prophet Isaiah: “He took up our infirmities and carried our diseases.”
Leprosy in Jesus’ time was the most feared disease. It was actually a group of diseases for which there was no known cure. Some were contagious, some were not. Some cleared up by themselves. Others killed you.
If you came down with one, the priests would remove you from your home, take you well outside the city and put you in an area with other lepers. You either got well on your own or you died.
If you got well, you had to go to a priest and be declared healed. Then you had to make the proper sacrifices to God through the priests.
Jesus came across a leper and the first thing the leper did was worship Jesus. The leper humbly asked Jesus to heal him. Specifically, the leper said “if you will” which acknowledged that he knew he was dependent upon the will of Jesus in order to be healed.
The leper had faith and knew that Jesus could heal him.
The leper asked to be “cleaned” by Jesus. Jesus cleaned people both physically and spiritually.
When approached by the leper, what did Jesus do? He broke all the taboos and actually touched the leper! Jesus was not the least bit afraid of becoming infected and His touch completely healed him.
Next, Jesus told the leper to talk to no one and go directly to the priest to be declared healed. Jesus had several reasons for this.
First, the law, God’s law given to Moses required the priests to declare the person clean and then follow a ritual designed like a quarantine followed by sacrifices to make sure he was really cured. Even Jesus, the Son of God, makes sure He and everyone else obeys God’s laws first before anything else.
Second, in order for the leper to join society again, a priest had to certify that he was cured. The testimony of the priest was necessary for the former leper to go back to his home and rejoin the community.
And third, don’t forget the sacrifice to God for thanks. Even though Jesus Himself healed the leper, Jesus wanted to make sure the now-cured leper offered the appropriate sacrifices to God.
Now in Mark’s gospel, it is reported that on his way to see the priest which was about 40 miles away and he was walking, the cured leper told everyone he ran across of the miracle.
Jesus now comes across a centurion, a Roman officer that is in charge of 100 men. He probably grew up as a pagan and worshiped the Roman Gods. After all, that was the Roman upbringing at the time.
The centurion was evidently a very caring man, as he sought out Jesus, for his servant was stricken with a painful palsy with severe life-threatening muscle cramps.
Roman soldiers were hated by the Jews because the Romans oppressed the Jews, so it took some fortitude for the centurion to even approach Jesus.
Jesus must have been impressed that a Gentile Roman soldier and pagan would humbly ask Him to heal his servant. On top of this, the centurion did not feel worthy enough to have Jesus come into his home.
The centurion explained to Jesus that he was used to giving orders and telling his soldiers ad servants what to do and expecting them to follow his orders. He asked Jesus just to say the word and heal the servant.
Jesus was very moved by the centurion’s faith. Here is a pagan Gentile who on top of everything is a Roman army officer! Jesus knew that the centurion knew without a doubt that he was hated by the Jews. Yet, he had enough faith in what he had heard about Jesus to seek him out to heal his servant by the Word alone!
In fact, the centurion had more faith that anyone Jesus had met so far. In verse 10 Jesus said “When Jesus heard this, he was astonished and said to those following him, “I tell you the truth, I have not found anyone in Israel with such great faith.” A much-hated Roman army officer showed more faith than anyone else! That is amazing.
Jesus tells the centurion that many other people such as himself will come and join the prophets who also understood that the gospel was for everyone. Jesus also said that many of the new generation who were starting to ignore some of the Old Testament and others that thought the old testament was for the Jews only would not be joining the prophets in heaven and they would be weeping and there would be gnashing of teeth.
Jesus then gets to Peter’s house and heals Peter’s mother-in-law of a fever by His touch. She immediately gets up and starts waiting on Him and His followers.
Later that evening, the word of Jesus’ presence had spread and all manner of people came for healing. We can imagine that everyone who knew someone who needed healing and found out the Jesus was in the area just gathered up their ill friends and brought them to Peter’s house.
Jesus had to be tired after all of the energy drain from preaching and healing all day. Remember, he had been on the mount all day delivering His Sermon. Even so, he continued to heal people and cast out devils well into the evening.
Jesus was showing His kindness. He was also showing, sort of like the Blues Brothers, that He was on a Mission from God!
The miracles also were foretold by Isaiah:
Isaiah 53:4-6 (NIV)
4 Surely he took up our infirmities and carried our sorrows, yet we considered him stricken by God, smitten by him, and afflicted.
5 But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was upon him, and by his wounds we are healed.
6 We all, like sheep, have gone astray, each of us has turned to his own way; and the LORD has laid on him the iniquity of us all.
Jesus took away peoples sins and diseases and put them all on himself.
So, what do these miracles teach us?
Dependency Upon God’s Will
God will grant our wishes if it is the Father’s Will. Remember the leper? He asked Jesus to heal him “If thou wilt”
How many people remember Janis Joplin? She was a rock and roll star in the 1960s. She wrote a song asking for a miracle one day. It went like this:
Oh Lord, won’t you buy me a Mercedes Benz?
My Friends all drive Porsches, I must make amends.
Worked hard all my lifetime, no help from my friends.
Oh Lord, won’t you buy me a Mercedes Benz?
The morning after she wrote this song she looked out the window and saw a shiny, sparkling new Mercedes Benz. She woke one of the people who was sleeping on the floor from the previous evening’s party and led him to the window to witness this.
They saw the brand-new, bright red Mercedes out in front of the house. They saw a neighbor approach the car, admire it.
He then unlocked it and drove away.
It was not God’s Will to buy Janis Joplin a Mercedes Benz. And with Janis’ life style of drugs, booze and adulterous sex, we can see why.
We Need Humbleness
The centurion humbly approached Jesus and asked for his servant to be relieved from horrible pain and healed.
There is a famous worship leader named Matt Redman. He is known for many worship song including Blessed Be Your Name, The Heart of Worship, Let Everything That Has Breath, just to name a few.
One evening he refused to come out on stage or even leave his dressing room for over an hour. He was lying face-down on the ground praying. He didn’t feel worthy enough to lead worship.
You see, leading worship is making sure it is all about the Lord, not about a performance or who can sing the worship songs better.
He felt he was prideful and not humble enough to lead. With prayer, he eventually came onto the stage, apologized and then led worship where many people committed for the first time to follow Jesus.
Have Unquestioning Faith
The centurion even told Jesus that he was not worthy to have Jesus come over to his home.
We have an example of unquestioning faith. Moses was leading the Israelites while running from the Egyptians. He came to the Jordan river with the Egyptians in hot pursuit.
He was trapped. God told Moses to just lead the people out into the water and God would take care of the rest and allow them to cross.
There is a spiritual song about that encounter with God that goes like this:
Wade in the water.
Wade in the water children.
Wade in the water.
God’s gonna trouble the water.
God led over a million people into the water and it was getting deeper and deeper. All of a sudden, God troubled the waters and the waters parted. The Israelites crossed the Jordan and then a whole bunch of the Egyptians were swallowed up in the water when they tried to follow. The rest wisely decided to turn back and let the Israelites go.
Moses had unquestioning faith that God would save them. Can you imagine walking into the cold Jordan and getting in deeper and deeper water before God save you? Could you do it?
The Gospel is for Everyone
A societal outcast like the leper was taken out of his house without even given a chance to give a goodby hug to their family. The leper’s family was told where they could leave food each day. They would set out the food, and after they left the leper could then approach and take the food.
Jesus touched lepers and healed them.
The Jews treated Samaritans, Gentiles, pagans, and Romans with disdain and even outright hatred. Jesus treated all of them with respect. Even the slave of a priest who came to capture Jesus and take him away to be tried and eventually crucified was healed by Jesus. Turn to:
Luke 22:50-51 (NASB)
50 And one of them struck the slave of the high priest and cut off his right ear.
51 But Jesus answered and said, “Stop! No more of this.” And He touched his ear and healed him.
Even a mother-in-law of one of His apostles was included.
No one was ignored. The Good News preached by Jesus was truly for everyone.
Always Express Our Gratitude
Peter’s mother-in-law was sick with a fever. When Jesus touched her, the fever left and she immediately began waiting on Jesus and His disciples. Immediately – not when it was convenient or when she felt like it.
We can thank Jesus by worshiping Him!
We can thank Jesus by paying and saying “Thank you.”
Even thank Him for future favor!
Thank Jesus by doing what he wants you to do – serve Him! You see, Jesus has promised us that we have a mansion in His house in heaven. We also have all the rewards that are awaiting us, like everlasting life and a new body when Jesus returns.
The least we can do is serve Him now.
And don’t forget to serve His disciples! Who are His disciples you might ask? We are his disciples and we are the church. So we serve Jesus and the church which also serves Jesus.
Remember our neighbors, which actually includes everyone.
Remember the Great Commission where Jesus tells us to teach the world His word and baptize people in the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit.