20. A Leper, a Gentile, and a Little Old Lady (Matthew 8:1-17)Related Media
1 After he came down from the mountain, large crowds followed him. 2 And a leper approached, and bowed low before him, saying, “Lord, if you are willing, you can make me clean.” 3 He stretched out his hand and touched him saying, “I am willing. Be clean!” Immediately his leprosy was cleansed. 4 Then Jesus said to him, “See that you do not speak to anyone, but go, show yourself to a priest, and bring the offering that Moses commanded, as a testimony to them.”203
5 When he entered Capernaum, a centurion came to him asking for help: 6 “Lord, my servant is lying at home paralyzed, in terrible anguish.” 7 Jesus 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. Instead, just say the word and my servant will be healed. 9 For I too am a man under authority, with soldiers under me. I say to this one, ‘Go’ and he goes, and to another ‘Come’ and he comes, and to my slave ‘Do this’ and he does it.” 10 When Jesus heard this he was amazed and said to those who followed him, “I tell you the truth, I have not found such faith in anyone in Israel! 11 I tell you, many will come from the east and west to share the banquet with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob in the kingdom of heaven, 12 but the sons of the kingdom will be thrown out into the outer darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.” 13 Then Jesus said to the centurion, “Go; just as you believed, it will be done for you.” And the servant was healed at that hour.204
14 Now when Jesus entered Peter’s house, he saw his mother-in-law lying down, sick with a fever. 15 He touched her hand, and the fever left her. Then she got up and began to serve them. 16 When it was evening, many demon-possessed people were brought to him. He drove out the spirits with a word, and healed all who were sick. 17 In this way what was spoken by Isaiah the prophet was fulfilled: “He took our weaknesses, and carried our diseases”205 (Matthew 8:1-17, NET Bible).206
The first words of Matthew 8 link the miracles that follow with Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount:
After he came down from the mountain, large crowds followed him (Matthew 8:1).
Matthew must therefore desire his readers to see a connection between the Sermon on the Mount in chapters 5-7 and the miracles that follow in chapter 8. Let’s begin by reviewing what we’ve seen in Matthew up to this point.
In chapters 1 and 2, Matthew gives us a record of matters which relate to the birth of the Lord Jesus. This account of His birth was designed to show the reader how Jesus was the promised Messiah. He was the seed of Abraham (1:1) and of David (1:5-6). Thus, He was born in the Messianic line. Four times in these two chapters Matthew indicates that these events fulfilled Old Testament prophecies.207 Already we see indications of Gentile involvement in the genealogy of our Lord (1:3, 5), and in the Magi (2:1-12), who come to worship the “King of the Jews.” And so we also see uneasiness on the part of the Jews in Jerusalem (2:3) and Herod’s lethal opposition.
In chapter 3, we are introduced to John the Baptist, whose appearance fulfills Isaiah 40:3 (Matthew 3:3). John preached that the kingdom of God was at hand and called upon men to repent of their sins in preparation for the coming of the Lord. At the same time, he rebuked the Pharisees and Sadducees who came because their presence was hypocritical. They were challenged to “produce fruit that proved their repentance” (3:8). The Messiah’s coming was near. While John baptized with water, the Messiah would “baptize” with fire (3:11-12). Jesus then came to John for baptism. After addressing John’s reluctance, Jesus was baptized, at which time the Father and the Spirit testified to the fact that Jesus was the Beloved Son, the Messiah (3:13-17).
In chapter 4, Jesus successfully resisted Satan’s temptations in the wilderness (4:1-11). After John’s arrest, Jesus left Nazareth and moved to Capernaum, thus fulfilling the prophecy of Isaiah 9:1 (4:15-16). Here, Jesus called at least four of His disciples: Peter, Andrew, James, and John (4:18-20). Jesus then began preaching, teaching, and healing, attracting large crowds:
23 Jesus went throughout all of Galilee, teaching in their synagogues, preaching the gospel of the kingdom, and healing all kinds of disease and sickness among the people. 24 So a report about him spread throughout Syria. People brought to him all who suffered with various illnesses and afflictions, those who had seizures, paralytics, and those possessed by demons, and he healed them. 25 And large crowds followed him from Galilee, the Decapolis, Jerusalem, Judea, and beyond the Jordan River (Matthew 4:23-25).
This set the stage for our Lord’s Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5-7), in which the essence of our Lord’s teaching (the gospel) was set out. Essentially, Jesus articulates the relationship of His message and ministry to the Old Testament Law. On the one hand, Jesus corrects the misinterpretations of the law that were current in His day – errors held and promoted by the Jewish religious leaders. They focused on external obedience; Jesus focused on the heart. They taught that it was wrong to murder; Jesus taught that it was wrong to think of your neighbor as worthless, or to allow broken relationships to go unreconciled (5:21-26). They taught that it was wrong to commit the act of adultery; Jesus taught that it was wrong to think adulterous thoughts (5:27-30).
Judaism had turned the Old Testament law into a system of works. Jesus taught that no one could be saved by living up to the requirements of the law, even the scribes and Pharisees, the most devoutly religious Jews:
“For I tell you, unless your righteousness goes beyond that of the experts in the law and the Pharisees, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 5:20).
These shocking words informed the crowds that many of those who assumed they were going to heaven (so to speak) weren’t going to be there. What was even more shocking was who Jesus said would be there: the poor in spirit, the mourners, the gentle, the merciful, the persecuted (5:1-16). True religion was not a matter of good works, but of faith, not a matter of externals, but of the heart. True religion was not something that the religious leaders could dole out or withhold. It was all about Jesus. Thus, Jesus had to warn people about the “broad way” that leads to destruction (7:13-14) and about false prophets (7:15-23).
At the conclusion of His sermon, Jesus emphasized that true faith is not merely a matter of words, but of actions (7:24-27). It is not those who merely hear who are saved, but those who heed the gospel. Actions must follow profession. Words must be verified in our works.208 The final words of chapter 7 describe the sense of authority which the crowds sensed in Jesus, in contrast to their religious leaders:
28 When Jesus finished saying these things, the crowds were amazed by his teaching, 29 because he taught them like one who had authority, not like their experts in the law (Matthew 7:28-29).
I believe that the verses which follow in Matthew 8 serve to undergird the authority of our Lord. His words are validated by His works. Jesus speaks with authority in the Sermon on the Mount, and then He proceeds to perform many acts of healing and deliverance, often by just a word. If Jesus claimed to be the Messiah by His teaching in the Sermon on the Mount, He validates that claim by His miraculous deeds in chapter 8.
The Leper209 Healed
1 After he came down from the mountain, large crowds followed him. 2 And a leper approached, and bowed low before him, saying, “Lord, if you are willing, you can make me clean.” 3 He stretched out his hand and touched him saying, “I am willing. Be clean!” Immediately his leprosy was cleansed. 4 Then Jesus said to him, “See that you do not speak to anyone, but go, show yourself to a priest, and bring the offering that Moses commanded, as a testimony to them.” (Matthew 8:1-4)
Verse 1 seems to indicate to the reader that what follows is tied to what has just happened on the Sermon on the Mount. Jesus came down from the mountain, and from His teaching, and great crowds were following Him. They must have witnessed many of the healings that Jesus performed in the days that immediately followed His teaching on the mountain.
The first healing described in Matthew is that of a man who was hopelessly infirmed. Matthew tells us that this man was a leper (verse 2). Luke tells us he was “full of leprosy.”210 Scholars tell us that the “leprosy” of that day was not the same as the “leprosy” of our time. In my opinion, it was worse. I’ll spare you the grim details of just what this ailment must have been like.211 Leprosy was considered a curse. Miriam was stricken with leprosy for her rebellion against Moses (Numbers 12:9-15). So, too, Elisha’s servant, Gehazi, was stricken for his greed (2 Kings 5:20-27). David’s curse on Joab’s descendants included leprosy (2 Samuel 3:29). King Uzziah was stricken with leprosy because he presumptuously offered incense in the temple (2 Chronicles 26:16-21). Leprosy was about as bad as it could get. It was incurable and apparently deadly, the equivalent of modern day cancer, except that leprosy was much more evident, and ugly.
Leprosy was a kind of living death, with many sweeping implications. One was declared a leper after tests were performed (Leviticus 13). Once declared a leper by the priest, the leper was cut off from contact with society. He had to display marks of mourning, as if for the dead (thus, to touch him would defile one). He had to tear his clothes, uncover his head, and cover his lips. When someone drew near, he must call out, “Unclean! Unclean!” He had to remain outside the camp (Leviticus 13:45-46). Naturally, the leper could have no access to the temple, or even to Jerusalem. Leprosy was, indeed, a living death. It could not get any worse.
I have to smile a bit as I read Matthew’s account of the healing of the leper. It seems that while Jesus was in one of the Galilean towns, this leper worked up the courage to approach Him, seeking to be healed. This was far from typical. The man should have kept at a distance. I can almost see the crowd melting away as the leper approached Jesus. Who was going to lay a hand on him to stop him? The people must have stood back, curious to see what would happen next.
The leper prostrated himself before Jesus and said, “Lord, if you are willing, you can make me clean” (8:2). This man had it right. He was right to call Jesus “Lord.” He was right that Jesus was able to make him clean. He was right that the only question was whether or not He was willing to do so. As others have observed, this leper sees that Jesus has authority in Himself. Jesus does not need to pray for the leper; He can heal him.
We are hardly surprised to read our Lord’s response, “I am willing. Be clean!” (verse 2) Can you imagine the gasps which went up from the crowd as Jesus stretched forth His hand? Matthew makes it clear that Jesus purposed to touch this man, a man who may not have felt the touch of a human hand for many years. How wonderfully strange that He who could heal with merely a word chose to heal this man with a word, and a touch!
Jesus then instructed the man not to advertise what He had just done for him, but rather to go to the priest. Tucked away in the Old Testament Book of Leviticus was a chapter (14) that set down the process by which the priest could declare a cured leper clean. All those years this “sleeper text” lay untouched, unused. But this day the priest who is on duty will have a most unique opportunity, the opportunity to see a man who has been healed of leprosy, and who has been cured by One named Jesus. The former leper was to go to the priest so that he could testify to the fact that he had been healed and was therefore clean. The priest was to validate this miracle and give serious thought to what this meant.
5 When he entered Capernaum, a centurion came to him asking for help: 6 “Lord, my servant is lying at home paralyzed, in terrible anguish.” 7 Jesus 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. Instead, just say the word and my servant will be healed. 9 For I too am a man under authority, with soldiers under me. I say to this one, ‘Go’ and he goes, and to another ‘Come’ and he comes, and to my slave ‘Do this’ and he does it.” 10 When Jesus heard this he was amazed and said to those who followed him, “I tell you the truth, I have not found such faith in anyone in Israel! 11 I tell you, many will come from the east and west to share the banquet with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob in the kingdom of heaven, 12 but the sons of the kingdom will be thrown out into the outer darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.” 13 Then Jesus said to the centurion, “Go; just as you believed, it will be done for you.” And the servant was healed at that hour (Matthew 8:5-13).212
This healing is described in considerably greater detail than is the healing of the leper (nine verses, as opposed to three). It must therefore be important. Let us first note that the central figure (other than our Lord) is a centurion. These men were soldiers, commanders of 100 men. They were there in Israel to maintain the peace. Centurions are always looked upon favorably in the New Testament.213 What is most important to observe here is that the centurion was a Gentile.214 I am reasonably convinced that the centurion’s servant (literally “boy”) was a Jew. After all, who would we expect to be a servant to this Gentile, in Israel? I would not at all be surprised if this servant was the means by which the centurion came to embrace Judaism. Besides this, Jesus must have come up often in the briefings that this centurion must have held for his men. Their job was to maintain security in this occupied land. Any potential trouble maker would surely be kept under careful scrutiny. Luke informs us that this slave was “highly regarded” by the centurion (Luke 7:2). We can see the centurion’s regard by his extraordinary efforts to procure a healing for his servant, and thus an end to his excruciating pain (Matthew 8:6).
Let us take note of the fact that the centurion is not asking for anything for himself. He is deeply moved by the suffering of his servant. It may be that this Gentile believed Jesus had come only to bless His people, the Jews. Since he was not seeking anything personally, but was only asking for Jesus to heal his (Jewish) servant, he seems to be confident that Jesus might grant his petition. Once more we find that Jesus is willing to help. The centurion’s words have barely been uttered when Jesus responds, “I will come and heal him” (8:7).
It seems that this caught the centurion off guard. He was all too aware of the barrier that that law created between Jews and Gentiles. One need only read the account of what it took to get Peter to the house of Cornelius, also a centurion (Acts 10), to understand the magnitude of this barrier. He did want Jesus to heal his servant, but how could he expect Jesus to defile himself by entering his home? (Little did the centurion know that Jesus had just touched a leper.) This was not a deficiency in the centurion’s faith; it was his humble acceptance of his status as a Gentile.
How different the request of the centurion is from that of the royal official in John 4:46-50. In this case, the official specifically asks Jesus to come to his home to heal his son, who is about to die. The centurion pled with Jesus not to come to his home. There were two reasons for this. First, he was unworthy215 to have Jesus enter his household (Matthew 8:8). Why should he presume to ask Jesus to defile Himself by coming to his home? The second reason is even better: there was no need for Jesus to come to his home. The centurion recognized our Lord’s authority. Our Lord’s authority was so great that He need not come to his home. He need only speak a word and heal Jesus from a distance.
The centurion was himself a man with a measure of authority. When he ordered men under his command to do something, they did it. The authority of Jesus was infinitely greater. Why should He defile Himself by coming to this man’s house when He could heal him from where He stood?
The centurion gets far more than he asks for, and this is a result of his faith, not his authority as a commanding officer in an occupation army. We should remember that this man asked nothing for himself, only for his (Jewish?) servant. And yet he receives two of the finest blessings for which a man could ever hope.
First, the centurion receives the highest praise any man, Jew or Gentile, receives in the Gospels: “I tell you the truth, I have not found such faith in anyone in Israel!” (verse 10) This Gentile’s faith surpasses that of any Jew in Israel, and it receives the commendation of our Lord. Second, this man receives the Lord’s promise of inclusion and fellowship that he would never have imagined. The centurion did not consider himself worthy (qualified) to have Jesus pass through his door. But look what Jesus promises him, in response to his faith:
11 “I tell you, many will come from the east and west to share the banquet with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob in the kingdom of heaven, 12 but the sons of the kingdom will be thrown out into the outer darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth” (Matthew 8:11-12).
More than anything else, it was the Old Testament ceremonial food laws that separated Jews and Gentiles. That is what we see in the case of Peter, both in Acts 10 and in Galatians 2. This man could not conceive of Jesus entering his door, much less sitting at his table. But Jesus tells him that in the kingdom he will be sitting at the table with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. He also says that while many Gentiles will be found at this table, a number of Jews will not be there.
Now that our Lord has died at Calvary, and has risen from the dead and ascended to the Father; now that the New Testament epistles have been written, we can understand how all this would come to pass. First of all, this centurion surely has blessed the offspring of Abraham:
1 Now the Lord said to Abram, “Go out from your country, your relatives, and your father’s household to the land that I will show you. 2 Then I will make you into a great nation, and I will bless you, and I will make your name great, so that you will exemplify divine blessing. 3 I will bless those who bless you, but the one who treats you lightly I must curse, and all the families of the earth will bless one another by your name” (Genesis 12:1-3).
Are we surprised, then, to see that our Lord promises blessings to him?
Most importantly, in the context of Matthew’s account, it is not one’s ethnicity that determines one’s eternal destiny, but his faith. John the Baptist made it clear that many Jews would not enter into the kingdom of heaven, but rather into eternal judgment:
7 But when he saw many Pharisees and Sadducees coming to his baptism, he said to them, “You offspring of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the coming wrath? 8 Therefore produce fruit that proves your repentance, 9 and don’t think you can say to yourselves, ‘We have Abraham as our father.’ For I tell you that God can raise up children for Abraham from these stones! 10 Even now the ax is laid at the root of the trees, and every tree that does not produce good fruit will be cut down and thrown into the fire” (Matthew 3:7-10).
The issue is not one’s racial origins, and not even one’s works, but faith in Jesus as the promised Messiah. This is what makes one a true offspring of Abraham:
13 For the promise to Abraham or to his descendants that he would inherit the world was not fulfilled through the law, but through the righteousness that comes by faith. 14 For if they become heirs by the law, faith is empty and the promise is nullified. 15 For the law brings wrath, because where there is no law there is no transgression either. 16 For this reason it is by faith so that it may be by grace, with the result that the promise may be certain to all the descendants—not only to those who are under the law, but also to those who have the faith of Abraham, who is the father of us all 17 (as it is written, “I have made you the father of many nations”). He is our father in the presence of God whom he believed—the God who makes the dead alive and summons the things that do not yet exist as though they already do (Romans 4:13-17).
This centurion, who sought the Lord’s mercy toward his servant, came to Him on the basis of faith, and it is this faith which not only healed the servant, but saved the centurion. Most of those who read this sermon will be Gentiles. This passage (buttressed by later New Testament revelation) tells us how Gentiles (and Jews) can – indeed must – be saved. Are these not the sweetest words we could ever hear? What a wonderful Savior!
14 Now when Jesus entered Peter’s house, he saw his mother-in-law lying down, sick with a fever. 15 He touched her hand, and the fever left her. Then she got up and began to serve them. 16 When it was evening, many demon-possessed people were brought to him. He drove out the spirits with a word, and healed all who were sick. 17 In this way what was spoken by Isaiah the prophet was fulfilled: “He took our weaknesses, and carried our diseases” (Matthew 8:1-17).
What does Peter’s mother-in-law have to do with the previous two miracles? What is the point of telling us that she was healed? Well in this account, she was healed without saying a word, without asking for anything. The parallel accounts in Mark and Luke both indicate that others petitioned Jesus to heal her.216 This is, of course, another kind of malady. This was not a mere “headache.” The text literally reads that she was “thrown”217 in bed with a fever.
What the healing of Peter’s mother-in-law contributes is the additional evidence that Jesus has the power to heal any malady, instantly. This time He touches the infirmed as He heals them. And what makes this miracle even more miraculous is that this woman instantly gets to her feet and begins to serve the entire group (Jesus, His disciples, and whoever else was in the home).218
My inclination is to see that the healing of Peter’s mother-in-law is important for another reason, one that Matthew does emphasize in this paragraph. Word of this woman’s healing quickly spread, so that by supper time there was a large crowd gathered at the door of Peter’s home. In response, Jesus “served them” by healing all who were ill (Matthew 8:16). Even the demons were cast out “with a word” (8:16).
Matthew once again takes up the fulfillment theme. These things were done in fulfillment of Old Testament prophecy:
16 When it was evening, many demon-possessed people were brought to him. He drove out the spirits with a word, and healed all who were sick. 17 In this way what was spoken by Isaiah the prophet was fulfilled: “He took our weaknesses, and carried our diseases” (Matthew 8:16-17).
This citation is from Isaiah 53:4 and is part of a larger prophecy. Allow me to cite a little larger portion of the context:
4 But he lifted up our illnesses,
he carried our pain;
even though we thought he was being punished,
attacked by God, and afflicted for something he had done.
5 He was wounded because of our rebellious deeds,
crushed because of our sins;
he endured punishment that made us well;
because of his wounds we have been healed.
6 All of us had wandered off like sheep;
each of us had strayed off on his own path,
but the Lord caused the sin of all of us to attack him (Isaiah 53:4-6).
Isaiah links sickness with sin, and well he should. He prophesies that when the Messiah comes He will heal men of their diseases, as well as of their sins. Is it any wonder, then, that when Jesus comes to the earth and identifies Himself as the Messiah He should heal men of the whole range of maladies? Jesus makes it clear to us that His ability to forgive sins is closely linked with His ability to heal sickness:
2 Just then some people brought to him a paralytic lying on a stretcher. When Jesus saw their faith, he said to the paralytic, “Have courage, son! Your sins are forgiven.” 3 Then some of the experts in the law said to themselves, “This man is blaspheming!” 4 When Jesus saw their reaction he said, “Why do you respond with evil in your hearts? 5 Which is easier, to say, ‘Your sins are forgiven’ or to say, ‘Stand up and walk’? 6 But so that you may know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins”—then he said to the paralytic— “Stand up, take your stretcher, and go home.” 7 And he stood up and went home (Matthew 9:2-7).
Each of these miracles is a wonder in and of itself, and worthy of our attention. But Matthew has seemingly set aside a chronological scheme for one that is more thematic.219 I believe the key to understanding this passage is found in its relationship to the Sermon on the Mount. In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus was defining His relationship to the law. The law could not save men, but could only condemn (Matthew 5:20). He did not come to abolish the law, but to fulfill it (5:17-19). Jesus had great authority, even the authority to correct contemporary errors in the interpretation and application of the law. The people realized this (Matthew 7:28-29). Matthew 8:1-17 dramatically demonstrates some of the major themes Jesus taught in the Sermon on the Mount.
In particular, our text underscores the relationship of Jesus to the law. The law was unable to save, just as it was unable to heal. The law could define sickness and health, but it could not produce health. It could only condemn (declare unclean) the illness. Jesus, on the other hand, was able to heal sickness, just as He was able to forgive sins. This was His authority as the Son of God and His calling as Messiah. And yet He did not come to do away with the law, but to fulfill it.
Matthew first introduces us to the leper, a man whose condition alienated him from others and from access to God. He was always “outside the camp,” so to speak. What can the law do for him? It can only condemn him, and if by some miracle of God he should be healed, it can pronounce him clean. But the law cannot heal a leper. Jesus could heal the leper, and He did.
This is like our sin. The law can define sin and expose it, but it cannot remove it. The law declares what righteousness looks like, but it does not provide the means to become righteous. The law declares us all to be sinners, but the law cannot do anything to save us from our sins (Romans 3:9-20). Only Jesus can remove the filth of our spiritual uncleanness.
Jesus sent the leper to the priest, in obedience to the law (Leviticus 14). He also did so as a witness to the priests. Let them recognize that this leper was cleansed, and that Jesus did it. Let them ponder who Jesus must be, because of this miracle. Let them see, as Matthew indicates in verse 17, that Jesus is not seeking to abolish the law, but to fulfill it, as Messiah. He alone can heal a leper and make him clean. He alone can cleanse a sinner from his sins and assure him of eternal life.
The story of the centurion gets the most emphasis. Being a Gentile, the centurion does not wish to subject Jesus to any defilement by entering his home. In addition, the centurion recognizes the authority of the Lord Jesus. Jesus had such authority that He need not come to his house. He could heal his servant from a distance. And so the man urges Jesus not to come. Jesus is delighted with this man’s faith. Does this centurion think that he has no part in the blessings of God for Israel? Does he see a wall of separation? It is a wall that the law has raised. Jesus informs him that he will be seated at the table with the patriarchs in the kingdom of heaven, while many Jews will be thrown out. The law provided no solution to the barrier between Jews and Gentiles, but Jesus removed this barrier, in fulfillment of the promises contained in the law and the prophets. The law separated Jews and Gentiles; Christ brought the two together as one new man.
11 Therefore remember that formerly you, the Gentiles in the flesh—who are called “uncircumcision” by the so-called “circumcision” that is performed on the body by human hands— 12 that you were at that time without the Messiah, alienated from the citizenship of Israel and strangers to the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world. 13 But now in Christ Jesus you who used to be far away have been brought near by the blood of Christ. 14 For he is our peace, the one who made both groups into one and who destroyed the middle wall of partition, the hostility, 15 when he nullified in his flesh the law of commandments in decrees. He did this to create in himself one new man out of two, thus making peace, 16 and to reconcile them both in one body to God through the cross, by which the hostility has been killed. 17 And he came and preached peace to you who were far off and peace to those who were near, 18 so that through him we both have access in one Spirit to the Father. 19 So then you are no longer foreigners and noncitizens, but you are fellow citizens with the saints and members of God’s household, 20 because you have been built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus himself as the cornerstone. 21 In him the whole building, being joined together, grows into a holy temple in the Lord, 22 in whom you also are being built together into a dwelling place of God in the Spirit (Ephesians 2:11-22).
Christ removes the barriers between God and man and also the barriers that separate men. Jews and Gentiles can enter into God’s blessings (including fellowship with each other) by faith in Jesus as the promised Messiah. Jews and Gentiles become one in Christ. It is only Jesus who can do such an amazing thing. The law cannot do it. The law was never intended to do it. The law was given to reveal our sins, and to point us to Jesus. He has come. He has demonstrated that He is the Son of God, the promised Messiah. He died on the cross of Calvary for our sins. He was buried, was raised from the dead, and now sits at the right hand of God. He must either be our Savior or our Judge. Which will it be?
Who could turn from His offer of salvation? Only those who wish to try to get to heaven on their own merits, only those who loathe grace. What a beautiful Savior He is! He is willing to save. He only requires us to trust Him for this salvation. It is true that God alone can turn our hearts to Himself, but it is just as true that God never turns away one who comes to Him in repentance and faith, seeking mercy in salvation:
“Everyone whom the Father gives me will come to me, and the one who comes to me I will never send away” (John 6:37).
As a church, we have committed ourselves to prayer, seeking the glory of God in the salvation of men. What an encouragement our text should be to those who desire to pray. Jesus is willing. He is willing to glorify Himself in the salvation of men. He is willing to hear and to answer the prayers of His children. Why, then, do we not ask?
Does He seem far away? Do we think that distance somehow hinders God from answering our prayers? Let us call to mind the faith of the centurion, who believed Jesus could heal from afar, because He is One with authority. Let us press on in our prayers, knowing that our Savior is both willing and able to grants our requests that He glorify Himself in us.
202 Copyright 2004 by Community Bible Chapel, 418 E. Main Street, Richardson, TX 75081. This is the edited manuscript of Lesson 36 in the Studies in the Gospel of Matthew series prepared by Robert L. Deffinbaugh on May 16, 2004.
203 See also Mark 1:40-45; Luke 5:12-14.
204 See also Luke 7:1-10.
205 See also Mark 1:29-34; Luke 4:38-41.
206 Unless otherwise indicated, all Scripture quotations are from the NET Bible. The NEW ENGLISH TRANSLATION, also known as THE NET BIBLE, is a completely new translation of the Bible, not a revision or an update of a previous English version. It was completed by more than twenty biblical scholars who worked directly from the best currently available Hebrew, Aramaic, and Greek texts. The translation project originally started as an attempt to provide an electronic version of a modern translation for electronic distribution over the Internet and on CD (compact disk). Anyone anywhere in the world with an Internet connection will be able to use and print out the NET Bible without cost for personal study. In addition, anyone who wants to share the Bible with others can print unlimited copies and give them away free to others. It is available on the Internet at: www.netbible.org.
207 See Matthew 1:22-23; 2:15; 2:17-18; 2:23.
208 It is not our works that save, but they do show that our faith is living and real (James 2:14-26).
209 Matthew informs us that when Jesus sent out the 12, they were to “cleanse the lepers” (10:8). When John the Baptist had his doubts about Jesus, our Lord told John’s disciples to remind John that, among other things, Jesus healed lepers (Matthew 11:5). In Matthew 26:6 Jesus ate in the home of “Simon the leper.”
210 The NET Bible reads, “covered with leprosy.”
211 If you wish more detail, see William Hendriksen, The Gospel of Matthew (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Baker Book House, 1973), p. 388.
212 One can certainly take note of the discrepancies between Matthew’s account of the healing of the centurion’s servant and that found in Luke 7:1-10. I believe there are reasonable explanations for any apparent discrepancies, but this does not fall within the scope of this message.
213 See Matthew 8:5, 8, 13; 27:54; Mark 15:39, 44f; Luke 7:6; 23:47; Acts 10:1, 22; 22:25f; 24:23; 27:1, 6, 11, 31, 43.
214 Fredrick Bruner thinks that he was most likely a Syrian. See Fredrick Dale Bruner, The Christbook: A Historical/Theological Commentary (Waco, Texas, Word Books, 1987), vol. 1, p. 302.
215 I find it interesting that the NASB renders, “I am not qualified for You to come under my roof.” This aptly conveys the centurion’s reticence, because he was a Gentile, and Jesus was a Jew. It is not just a matter of personal worthiness, though that, too, is a factor.
216 It is possible that Peter’s mother-in-law was not favorably inclined toward Jesus. After all, he took Peter away from his fishing trade and his family. She could have felt that her daughter (and family) were neglected, and all because of Jesus.
217 See the marginal note in the NASB at Matthew 8:14.
218 Matthew says that she began to serve Him (8:15). In Mark 1:31, we are told she began to serve “them.” There is no contradiction here. Since Jesus is the One who healed her, the woman’s focus is on Jesus. She does this for “them” because of “Him.”
219 Notice that the other Gospels don’t keep this same order of events.
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