The Amazing Power of Jesus
Jesus' Power Over Disease, Part 1
Matthew 8:1-4
 
For the next few weeks I want us to take a look at a series of events in the life of Christ that begin in chapter 8 of Matthew.  In this section, we have recorded for us a series of nine miracles performed by Jesus Christ that serve as examples of the power of Jesus Christ.
 
And they serve the purpose of offering Jesus’ credentials as the Messiah.  They are the signs that point to His deity, for only God can do the things that he does.
 
The sad part is that even after witnessing the miracles that He did, the Jews conclude in chapter 12 that Jesus is of the devil.  That means this is a critical time in the earthly ministry of Jesus because even though Christ does everything possible to prove His deity, they conclude exactly the opposite.
 
So what happens?  Beginning in chapter 13, He turns from the Jews toward the establishment of a Gentile church. This is a monumental section of Scripture.
 
There is an interesting design to this section of Scripture.  As I mentioned, there are nine miracles listed, but they are arranged in three sets of three with each section followed by a response and it is all designed to demonstrate the deity of Jesus Christ.  Miracles were simply God’s way of proving the claims of Christ.
 
 
These are the credentials of the King. This is the proof that He is divine. And keep in mind when these miracles occur. 
 
Chapters 5-7 are the Sermon on the Mount.  And in it, Jesus just blisters the Jewish religious leaders.  He has told them, in effect, that their teaching is wrong, and their living is wrong. Their attitude is wrong, everything they stand for, believe in, and hope for is wrong; and He never bothered to quote any rabbis or any of their well-known sources.
 
He says things like, "You have heard it said, but I say. You have heard it said, but I say." And over and over and over, He kept saying that, and when He was all finished, the people were astonished at His teaching.
 
Matthew 7:29
 
How did the scribes teach? They quoted other rabbis. Jesus just said it.
 
So the natural response to what was happening was, "Who is this saying these things? By what authority does He speak? Why should we hear this? Why should we listen to this? Why should we believe this? What gives Him the right to say these things and to affirm that they are true?"
 
And chapters 8 and 9 are the answer to that question. Here’s what gives Him the right. He is God. And that’s what Matthew is recording for us in these chapters.  He is showing beyond a shadow of doubt that Jesus is God, and how do you know He's God? Because only God can do what He does. 
 
Now, as I said, there are three sets of three that are recorded.  I want to begin our look at the first three with some general thoughts about them. 
 
The first three are the healing of one with leprosy; the healing of one who is paralyzed, and Peter’s mother-in-law who is sick with a fever. 
 
There are several things to keep in mind about these first three:
 
First, they begin at the lowest level of human need and that is a physical problem.  Most of the time we start there believing it is our most important need, but there is a whole lot more to life than just the physical.  However, Jesus is interested in and sympathetic to the physical also. 
 
And I don’t know about you, but I’m really glad the miracles of Jesus didn’t just deal with spiritual things, but that they touched man at the physical level of need as well.  In fact, these miracles reach to the depths of human disease.
 
Now later on, in the second set of miracles, He deals more with the spiritual; and in the third set of miracles, He touches on the ultimate enemy of man, death itself, as He raises the dead. But in this point, He's dealing with physical problems, and that is a reminder that God is sympathetic toward us. 
 
The second thing I notice is that in all three instances, Jesus responds to an appeal. 
 
That means not only is Jesus sympathetic, but He is also compassionate. 
In the first one, the leper says to Him, "If You will, You can make me clean." In the second, the friends of the centurion say, "The servant is in the house, sick of paralysis," and He says, "I'll come." In the third, according to what Luke adds in the parallel passage, the friends of the family of Peter say to Jesus, "You know, his mother-in-law is sick, and sure would be wonderful if you could go over there and take care of her." And in all three cases, He responds to the appeal of the heart of people.
 
The third thing to note in these three miracles is, in every case, He acts on His own will. He is sympathetic; He is compassionate, but He is also sovereign
 
In each case, He acts on His own volition. "I will be thou clean. I will come down and heal him. He reached His hand and touched her, and the fever left."
 
And, then fourthly, in each of these miracles, He touches someone who, in the terms of the understanding of the Pharisees and the Jews, was at the lowest level of human existence.
 
First it’s a leper, the scum of the earth. Second, a Gentile; and third, a woman.
 
And the point is often missed by our culture, but not there.  Jesus puts His emphasis on the humble and the meek and the outcast. He came to those who were needy and knew they were needy. 
 
So let’s take a look at the first one tonight.
 
Matthew 8:1-4
Now there is some background stuff that needs to be clarified to get us into the meat of this story. 
 
First of all, verse 1 references a mountain.   What mountain? It is the mountain where He had been delivering the Sermon on the Mount.  In fact, chapter 8 picks up at where chapter 4 leaves off. 
 
Notice 4:23-25
 
Then we have the Sermon on the Mount in 5-7
 
Then notice 8:2
 
We move from the great multitudes to some individual accounts. 
 
So here He is coming off a mountain near Capernaum and there is a great multitude following Him.  They’ve never heard anyone speak like Him or do miracles of healing and so they come primarily out of curiosity.  They are ready to see something happen and they get it in verse 2
 
Now I find it interesting that we are told “ a leper came”.  Literally, a leper approached. 
 
That is interesting because lepers don't approach and yet, this one did.
 
Leprosy was and is a horrible disease.  My personal conviction is it found its way into the life of the Israelites while they were in Egypt.   The disease has been found in at least one mummy that's been uncovered in Egypt. 
 
 
And it became such a problem that God devoted a lot of space to it in the law.  And you can read about it in Leviticus 13.   To summarize, there was a specific way God designed for dealing with lepers and leprosy.  
 
If anybody contracted leprosy, they were to be brought to the priest.  The priest would inspect them to make sure it was leprosy and if so, the person was to be isolated and observed for seven days.   
 
If there was no change, the isolation continued for another seven days.  If there is no change after two weeks, he was released.  But if it had spread, he was pronounced unclean. 
 
Now once that diagnosis was made, and they went to great pains to make sure they were right in the diagnosis, the clothes he was wearing were destroyed, he had to leave his head uncovered and cover his mouth and spend the rest of his days announcing himself everywhere he went as “unclean” so no one would get near and run the risk of catching the disease. 
 
There were 61 defilements in Judaism. No. 1on the list was touching a dead body.  No. 2 was making contact with a leper.
 
Leprosy was and is a terrible, disease. It is somewhat controlled today, but in those times, the only means of control was this isolation. 
 
Not only were there the outward symptoms of patchiness and discoloration of the skin, it also attacks the nervous system and numbs the extremities. 
People say, "Well, their noses just fall off, and they're fingers fall off." Not really. Part of the problem is, when they lose all their feeling, they literally rub their extremities off.
 
They found in the leprosarium in Carville, Louisiana, in the United States, that when they've studied people who have leprosy, that this is what happened.
 
For example, a man who has leprosy has ill-fitting shoes, and because he can't feel that they're ill-fitting at all, they rub his toes off. And a woman who works with her hands finds that she rubs her fingers off, because she has no sensitivity to what's happening to her hands. And they rub their faces the same way. 
 
In addition, leprosy infects the blood supply and the bones begin to shrivel, and as that happens, they draw the skin and tissue so that they appear to have fingers like claws and feet like claws. 
 
 And then there is that oozing that occurs as the sores drain.  It attacks the eyes and brings blindness. The teeth fall out. It attacks the internal organs so that sterility occurs.
 
And ironically, it's not that painful.  But it is one of the most destructive diseased in the world.  It starts with a little white or pink patch on the brow or the  ear or the nose, the chin or the cheek.
 
Then it begins to spread and becomes these spongy, tumorous swellings all over the face. Then it becomes systemic and moves to the liver and the bone marrow and the lood supply.
 
You lose your feeling, and wear off body parts and blindness occurs. 
 
And because of that this disease was feared and therefore the person who was unfortunate enough to contract it had no hope. 
 
But it was worse than that because in addition to the ugliness and destruction of the disease, lepers were considered ceremonially unclean.
 
Why did God require that?  Because leprosy was the most graphic illustration of sin available to God. Sin may start out small and insignificant.  It may not seem to important, but when it has run its course, it defiles the whole body.
 
Sin is ugly. Sin is incurable. Sin is contaminating. Sin separates and alienates and makes outcasts of men.
 
So every leper not only lived with the stigma of his own disease, but he lived with having to be a walking illustration of sin.
 
One of the rabbis in the Talmud said, "When I see lepers, I throw stones at them lest they come near me."...
 
Another said, "I would not so much as eat an egg that was purchased on a street where a leper had walked."
 
They were hated, despised and feared.  So no wonder when Matthew got ready to write about this even in chapter 8, he begins by saying, “Behold”.
 
Why is the word behold used?
It is Matthew’s way of saying, “You’re never going to believe this, but a leper came”. 
 
Lepers don't approach. That's forbidden. It was unthinkable. You just didn't do that. You went around covered mumbling, "Unclean! Unclean! Unclean!" So no one would come near. This is incredible.
 
So what happened?
 
Verse 3
 
Now that's all it says in this text, but it could be added, "And the whole crowd gasped."
 
Obviously Jesus is new around here because everybody knows you don’t go around touching lepers. 
 
Leviticus 5:3 says you are never permitted to touch the uncleanness of a man. But you know what a leper probably needed more than anything in the whole wide world? Just to be touched by somebody who was clean.
He didn't have to touch him. He could've gotten on a roof and said, "Be clean," and the angels sang and the earth shook and thunder rolled and all that. But instead, He touched him.
 
If you want to see the deity of Christ, then just picture that scene.  When we touch defilement, we get defiled. When He touches defilement, the defilement goes away. When we touch a disease, we get contaminated. When He touches a disease, it gets cleansed.
That's power. I don't know what that scene was like, but I can imagine. Those shriveled up claws instantly becoming beautiful hands.  That putrefying, disgusting skin suddenly as if the skin of a baby. The feet, the face, the limbs, whatever was missing, instantly back where it belonged. 
 
The forehead eaten away; the eyes with their absent brows and lashes; the scaly, bloody skin rubbed off. The nose and throat and eyes destroyed. The fingers and toes like claws and worn off and instantly, he's whole.
 
Then the strangest thing happens in verse 4
 
Verse 4
 
What is the first test when Christ has invaded your life? One little word, starts with O. Obedience.
 
Jesus says, "All right, you've been healed. Now I have two things I want you to do.  
 
First, do what Moses said to do. Keep the law of God."
 
Now Moses, in the Old Testament, recorded that when a leper was cleansed, he had to go to the temple and take two birds. 
 
You had to kill one of them over running water. You also needed some cedar, scarlet, and hyssop. You take them with the living bird, dip it in the blood of the dead bird, and then send the living bird to fly away. It's a picture of resurrection. Then you wash yourself and your clothes, shave yourself.
 
Wait seven days to be reexamined. Then you shave your hair, your head, and your eyebrows. Sacrifices are then made consisting of two male lambs without blemish, one ewe lamb, three-tenths of a measure of fine flour mingled with oil, one other measure of oil.
 
Then you had to touch all the stuff on the tip of your right ear, right thumb, right big toe, mixed with blood; and then came the final examination.  And if the cure was real, you were given a certificate for your wall that said, "Ex-leper lives here."...
 
So that’s what Jesus says to do.  Go take care of all that. That makes sense because Jesus didn’t come to destroy, but fulfill the Law of God. 
 
That part is pretty simple.  But why did He tell him not to tell anybody?" Some people say, "Well, He didn't want to stir up a crowd following Him just as a miracle worker." That’s possible.  Very shortly after this, it became difficult for Him to function because the crowds were so great, He had to get away.
Others say, "Well, it was because Jesus didn't want the people to see Him as a power who could throw off Rome and look at Him as a political leader."
 
Others say, "Because this was the time of His humiliation and he didn't seek exaltation."
 
There may be some truth in all of those, but let me give you another possibility.  If you read the whole verse, I think you find out why He gave this command. 
 
“But go your way and show yourself to the priest"
 
Why?
Here's the whole issue. I want you to go down to the temple and go through this whole Mosaic thing. You wait the required time and get the examination and make the sacrifices.  Offer yourself to the priest as a leper who ‘s been cleansed.  And when they're all done, they're going to conclude, 'This leper is cleansed,' and then you may say, 'Would you like to know who did this? Jesus of Nazareth did this,' and then they are trapped in their own conclusions."
 
The priests will confirm that he's clean, and they'll discover it was Jesus and by their own testimony, and their own examination, they will confirm the power of Christ.
 
Now unfortunately, he didn’t obey.  He told everyone everywhere he went.  And so we don’t get to see what would have happened if he had been obedient. 
 
But I don’t want to end there because there is more for us to see in this story.    
This healing provides us a beautiful picture of conversion. 
 
Think about it this way:  Leprosy is a vivid illustration of sin.  Sin is pervasive. Sin is ugly. Sin is loathsome. Sin is communicable. Sin is incurable. Sin makes you an outcast.
 
But the leper came as we saw in verse 2. 
 
Let me point out some things about how he came. 
 
1. He Came with Confidence
 
"Behold, a leper came." I like that. He didn't crawl or sneak around. He just came. 
People like him never showed up in a crowd, but this one did.  He lost all sense of shame. He lost all sense of social stigma. He approached. He didn't even think of it. That's how deep his need was.
 
Josephus tells us that lepers were treated like dead men. But that wasn't going to stop him. He may have been dead in everybody's eyes, but he came. He came because he had a need and he wanted help more than he wanted to save his reputation.
 
He came with confidence. Why? Because he got desperate enough over his leprosy. That's how conversion happens. People don't get saved unless they get desperate over the awfulness of their sin. 
 
Not only did he come with confidence, but
 
2. He Came with Reverence
 
He not only came, but he came and worshipped. We can't say much about his body, but we can say a lot about his soul!
 
There were the Pharisees all decked out in their Saturday-go-to-meeting clothes that were on the inside, in Jesus’ words, full of dead men’s bones. 
 
On the other hand was this leper, the outside vile and wretched and filthy and disgusting.  But on the inside he was beautiful, reverent, and worshiping.
 
And listen to what he says: 
 
“Lord”.  I believe when he said, "Lord," he wasn't using it in the title sense of sir. I believe he knew he was in the presence of God else why would he have worshiped?
 
Here he comes up to Jesus, falls prostrate before Jesus, and says, "Lord." I don't know where he got his information, but there'd been enough going on in his area to know. There had been healings upon healings upon healings. Maybe one of his friends had been healed.
 
And he comes and he worships.  I believe he came because he had a worshiping heart. I believe he was in the presence of God, and he knew it.
 
Listen:  true conversion occurs when desperate people come worshipping God, not seeking things for them self, but seeking God's glory.
 
Third,
 
3. He Came with Humility.
 
He says, "Lord, if You are willing. . .”
 
That's humility. He didn't demand anything...He didn't speak his will as if Christ had to comply. He didn't come and list the reasons why he had to be healed. He didn't come and try to affirm his own worthiness.
 
He didn't bellyache because of the fact that he got this disease and a lot of other folks didn't. He didn't talk about his rights. He didn't even talk about his desires. He didn't even say, "I'd like to be healed."
 
He only said, "If You want to, You could. I'm not telling you what You ought to do, because You're the Lord.  But I know this, if You want to, You can."
 
True converts never believe they are doing `1God a favor. There's no self-will, no self-centeredness, no sense of worth...worthiness, no sense of value, no rights, no claims, no nothing. It's the meek who inherit the Kingdom.
 
And that means
 
4.  He Came with Faith
 
"If You are willing, You can make me clean”.
 
In other words, You have the power. You are able. I know that. I am convinced of that".  Even though, as Luke tells us, he was “full of leprosy”, terminal, long-term, no cure kind of leprosy, You can do it."
 
He came with faith. He believed He could do it, and he received his healing. 
 
And the same is true with salvation.  You can come with confidence, in worship, with humility and faith, and you'll be touched and cleansed when you come on those terms. 
 
And then when you're saved, you know what the Lord says? "Do two things.  Number 1, obey the law of God, And, # 2, let people see the difference Christ made in your life. 
 
Let’s pray.
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