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Lepers, Leaders and In-Laws

More Than Ink / Pastor Jim Catlin & Dorothy Catlin
The Truth Network Radio
April 29, 2023 1:00 pm

Lepers, Leaders and In-Laws

More Than Ink / Pastor Jim Catlin & Dorothy Catlin

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April 29, 2023 1:00 pm

Lepers, Leaders and In-Laws by A Production of Main Street Church of Brigham City

Running to Win
Erwin Lutzer

You pick up your Bible and wonder, is there more here than meets the eye?

Is there anything here for me? I mean, it's just words printed on paper, right? Well, it may look like just print on a page, but it's more than ink. Join us for the next half hour as we explore God's Word together, as we learn how to explore it on our own, as we ask God to meet us there in its pages.

Welcome to More Than Ink. So everybody knows that Jesus healed people, right? Right, yeah. If you've read the Bible at all, you know Jesus healed people with diseases. But do we realize that the people who saw it happen were shocked by who and how he did it? We seldom remember that. Well, let's remind ourselves today as we look in Matthew on More Than Ink. Good morning, this is Jim.

And I'm Dorothy. And you have found more than ink. What does more than ink mean? Well, it means that it's not just the print on the page.

It means that the words on the page communicate something beyond simply the verbs and the nouns and the parts of the sentence. And case in point, we are not reading this passage in Matthew for the first time, either of us, and yet we come back to it and there's fresh stuff there every time. That tells me there's something more here than meets the eye if you can come back to it repeatedly and be blessed by new insights from the Holy Spirit. Well especially when we're reading the words of Jesus. Oh, absolutely.

We hear his voice and the Spirit kind of enlivens the sound of his voice to us when we read it afresh. Yeah. And today, as we're going into Chapter 8 of Matthew, we're going to meet up with some of my favorite people in the New Testament. These are familiar stories. Really familiar. Yeah.

And so it's just great. And even if there is not profoundly new insight, I just love revisiting my friends you will see in Chapter 8. Now if you recall, we just finished the Sermon on the Mount. That was Chapters 5, 6, and 7. But just before Sermon on the Mount, Matthew gave us kind of a sweeping statement in Chapter 423. He says that he went throughout all Galilee, teaching in the synagogues, proclaiming the Gospel of the Kingdom, and healing every disease and every affliction among the people. And then he launched into the Sermon on the Mount where he didn't find out any specifics.

Well today, we find out the specifics of this healing. And that's what's going to happen as we come into Chapter 8. Well, and we probably should remember too that at the end of Chapter 7, we're told that the people were amazed at his teaching because of the authority with which he spoke. And just before that, he had said, you know, your response to my words, building on them or ignoring them, is the evidence of whether you're wise or foolish in the things of God.

So you know, he had made, that's a pretty audacious statement. My words. Yeah, my words. My words are going to determine whether you're wise or foolish. Yes.

Yeah. So you know, he's making some bold claims. And in the demonstration of his authority and power right now with these healings, he's going to demonstrate where he's come from. Well, let's get into it. If you're joining with us, we're in Chapter 8, verse 1.

Okay, do it. So when he 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.

And Jesus said to him, see that you say nothing to anyone, but go show yourself to the priest and offer the gift that Moses commanded for a proof to them. Okay, so we cleanse leper. I think I think this is the first time we've come across a leper in Matthew's Gospel.

I can't remember. It is the first time specifically a leper. We don't know that there weren't other lepers among those who came to be healed before. But this is a really interesting one.

Yeah, it's fascinating. And if you know anything about the, you know, the cultural restraints on lepers, God knew they were contagious. And so God told them, you know, you got to stay separated from lepers. You couldn't touch them, couldn't touch anything they touched.

Yeah, they contaminated everything. I mean, they were just one step short of being dead in terms of making people unclean. So you had to be really careful. And as I recall, I think it was that you had to be at least six feet away from a leper unless you were downwind. And if you're downwind from a leper, it had to be like 150 feet.

So you really had to be distanced. So that's exactly what you'd see during the first century. You'd see lepers distanced from the crowds and warning the crowds that they had leprosy. But here we have a close contact with Jesus. And that's probably the most astounding, strange thing about this story as we jump into it. Well, and we're told here that there were great crowds surrounding him or following him.

But this leper comes. He comes and throws himself onto his knees before Jesus, right? This body posture of reverence and recognition. Yeah, it looks like worship, in fact. It kind of does. Yeah, I think it is. I think it is because he says, Lord, which is, that's a high phrase.

I mean, when you had the Hebrew Old Testament where you'd have Yahweh, Jehovah God, it was translated into this Greek word Lord. So it's Lord, if you will, you can make me clean. Now that's a fascinating phrase. If you will, you can make me clean. If you will, you can. You can. Right, you can because I know you have the power to do it.

So he understood that. But are you willing? Yeah, yeah. Are you willing?

Are you willing? I know you can. So even just that proclamation of knowing that Jesus is capable is saying a lot about who he knows Jesus to be. And one of the fun things you can do as we go through these passages is look at some of the parallel passages in the other Gospels.

Right. And I did that too. When I went over to Mark, Mark says something really wonderful. He says he was moved with compassion. Yeah, and that's just a lovely thing.

Moved with compassion. Well, I would say it's more than just fun to compare the parallel accounts. It's actually essential to our understanding because these are eyewitness accounts and they include different details in the different Gospels.

So that's a really important study tool when you're looking at the narratives, especially the narratives in the Gospels, because we have these parallel accounts that give us different insights. Mark's passage actually says he wasn't just a leper. He was full of leprosy. He was really desperate.

Yeah. And isolated, no recourse. He was stuck. So he comes to Jesus, kneels before him, taking kind of a worshipful position and says, you can, but will you make me clean? And so not being compelled to, but he does.

Jesus stretches out his hand and touches him. What a great extra, because this man hasn't been touched for the entirety of his disease. Right. Possibly years.

Yeah, it could be a long time. But isn't it interesting that it says Jesus stretches out his hand. He makes a movement toward this man. And that word touched is such an interesting word. This is not just a glancing brush. This is like a, it literally means to fasten on to. Jesus grabbed him. It's very purposeful. He stretched forth and grabbed him.

So he closed the final distance. In fact, for the leper, it would be presumptive to get too close, but he gets close enough and Jesus finishes and says, I've got it from here and stretches out his hand and really lays hold of him. It's great.

It's just great. And in doing so, immediately his leprosy was cleansed. So a lot of people would say, wouldn't Jesus have leprosy if he touched the man? Well, not if he was cleansed before he touched him. Oh, well I hadn't thought of that. Yeah.

Yeah. But even still, if that hadn't happened, it wouldn't matter. Well, no, because Jesus, you know, all the holiness laws in the Old Testament were don't touch anything unclean and lepers actually had to go around crying out unclean and clean so people would stay away. But Jesus being the clean one and the one through whom our cleansing comes, reached out first and grasped him.

I was just captured by this picture. It says, and immediately his leprosy was cleansed. We don't read either in the Old or the New Testament about leprosy being healed, we read about it being cleansed.

Yes, yes, yes. And there's a very elaborate ceremony attached to the cleansing of a leper, the ceremonial cleansing. That's what Jesus is referring to. He says, now don't say anything to anybody, but go show yourself to the priest and offer the gift that Moses prescribed as a, the ESV says as a proof to them, but the word is literally a testimony to let it be known, to speak the truth to the priest who would have to administer this very elaborate ceremony. Now I would encourage you to go and read it. It's in Leviticus 14. The most interesting part of it is in verses two to seven and it involves a live, two live birds, one of which is slaughtered and the living, the one that remains living is dipped in the blood of the dead one and then set free. Now there's a lot more to it than that. There's a lot of symbolism.

Oh, and Jesus says, you know, this is a testimony for the priests. Now I have read, I haven't checked it out any further that there is, there's no recorded evidence of this ceremony ever having had to be performed. It was probably extremely rare. Very rare.

Now there's all kinds of instructions about how to go and determine if someone's leprosy is continuing or, or getting better. Right, right. But, but I've never come across an account where they actually had to do this. But this is the, this is the manner in which this guy can reenter society. Right. I mean, he's going to get the stamp of approval from the priests and the priest will say, yep, he can come back. He's cleansed.

How did this happen? Well, this Jesus guy, but he's cleansed. Right. That's how it's going to be a testimony. He's going to say to them, you know, somebody, this man, the Lord touched me and I was cleansed.

Now what do you make of the fact that he doesn't want to, doesn't want him to tell anybody? Well, you know, that's interesting cause it comes out in, in Mark and Luke's account that he did go and tell people. And as a result, the crowds became so dense that Jesus was prevented from just going about freely. So it limited Jesus' ability to move around freely. It was kind of a, it caused a premature popularity that made ministry difficult. Yeah.

Mark's gospel, he says that, that the leper began to talk freely about it and telling everybody and to spread the news. So, uh, and, and, and it also says that it made it that Jesus no longer could openly enter a town. Right.

So he had to do everything in desolate places after that. So it's not that, well, yeah. And we talk about this a lot, this premature popularity, it's like lighting a three year fuse in a way. If you lit the fuse too early, the popularity would, would incur, you know, the wrath of the leaders.

And then, you know, the, the crucifixion would happen too early on the schedule. So in a way he's sort of holding back what could be the inevitable here. But we, but he certainly knew the clock was ticking. Oh yeah.

Right. And that he only had so much time to walk among his people and proclaim the good news. And you know, he sends him to, to do this thing with the priest as, as specifically an evidence to them. Oh, Messiah is here. The one, the only one who can cleanse leprosy is here.

It's like calling them on the carpet, essentially. The kingdom of heaven is near. Well, let's move on to my friend, the centurion. Do you want to read?

Sure. We're in verse five now. So when he had entered Capernaum, which was his home, by the way, Jesus' home, a centurion came forward to him, appealing to him, Lord, my servant is lying paralyzed at home, suffering terribly. And he said to him, I'll come and heal him. But the centurion replied, Lord, I'm not worthy to have you come under my roof, but only say the word and my servant will be healed.

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 do this and he does it. And when Jesus heard this, he marveled and said to those who followed him, truly, I tell you, with no one in Israel have I found such faith. I tell you, many will come from east and west and recline at table with Abraham, Isaac and Jacob and the kingdom of heaven, while the sons of the kingdom will be thrown into the outer darkness.

In that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth. And to the centurion Jesus says, go, let it be done for you as you've believed. And the servant was healed at that very moment. Wow, I love this story.

Well, you know, I love the fact that these stories are right next to each other. Yes. Because the leper was a Jew, but here we have a Gentile. A total Gentile. And a powerful, an invader Gentile. An enemy. An enemy of the state. An oppressor. Yeah.

An enemy of the Jews, anyway. Yeah, and so he does something that's really pretty remarkable. He demonstrates his faith, his belief in who Jesus is, by saying, look, man, you don't really need to come and make a guest appearance at my house.

Isn't that amazing? Which, by the way, is very considerate on his part, because a Jew does not go into a Gentile house by custom. I don't think it's against the law, but by custom. So he's saying, no, no, no, you don't have to get yourself in hot water. You don't need to come to my house.

You're a man of authority. Well, he says, I'm not worthy for you to come under my roof. Right. And that's what the custom was all about, is Gentiles and Jews.

Gentiles were not worthy to be visited by Jews. So he says, no, you can do this at a distance. All you have to do is say the word. Yeah. And so he's really demonstrating a remarkable understanding of who Jesus is, what his authority is all about, how he has authority, not only over men, but also over disease and at a distance and through a word. I mean, who has that kind of power? Well, clearly, you'd think this guy perhaps had heard Jesus teaching from the Sermon on the Mount. Yeah, he must have.

He would have been. I would think the Jews or the Romans being the peacekeepers, there would have been Roman centurions or Roman soldiers in among that crowd, because anywhere there's a giant crowd gathered, they would have been peacekeepers. But it's fascinating to me that in the first account that we have this grasping touch. But in this account, Jesus is healing at a distance, unseen. He hasn't seen this person. He only is face to face with the one who's asking for the healing on behalf of another. Yeah, yeah.

Isn't that amazing? Jesus heals by touching, but he can also heal simply by speaking it. He sends two messages in doing it. But what is most fascinating, I think, is the fact that we get to this issue about authority. And the centurion knows what authority is about. Right.

His word, he can speak a word to the 100 men that are under him. Right. And they just will do it. It just happens. That's how authority works. Yeah, make it so. So he's elevating Jesus to a position of authority that was really unrecognized at this point in this ministry.

Right. People were just amazed. Now, what do you say when Jesus, he gets to verse 10, he marvels. And he says, wow, I haven't found faith like this anywhere.

And then right after that, he says, amazing. Well, he says, I haven't found it in Israel. In Israel. Yeah. Not just anywhere, but in Israel. Right.

The ones I came to save. That's right. And we're talking to a gentile here and no one in Israel. And then he says, I think, one of the most remarkable things, you know, many will come from the east and west and recline at table with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob in the kingdom of heaven. But the sons of the kingdom, that's the Jews. Right. Many of them will be thrown into outer darkness.

So it's a fascinating statement on Jesus' part, not only just giving this guy the accolades for having the understanding of his authority, but also the fact that there really is a heaven and the heaven looks like a banquet. Well, he says that they're going to come from the east and the west. From the east and the west. That is the outside nations. That's the others. Them are gentiles.

And sit right at the table with the patriarchs. Yeah. But you, who have a genetic link and expect to be there, may not be. And the difference between those two people is faith. That's right. Is faith. And this is a theme throughout the entire Bible from beginning to end, that those who come and are in the presence of God, they're in this almost party situation.

It's a wonderful thing of rest with the patriarchs, are there because of faith and for no other reason. And that applies also to the Jews. That's what he's saying here. Well, and the Jews at this time, and many still do, have this sense of entitlement. Yeah.

Right? That he came for us, not for you. But Jesus at the very beginning of his ministry is saying, you know, I came for everyone.

For everyone. And this guy will be seated at the banquet with me, celebrating with me because he believed me. And even as a Jew, if you consider yourself a son of the kingdom, if you consider, there's no guarantee.

I mean, if you do not have faith, you're not getting there. Okay. Well, to be a son of the kingdom, you have to recognize and acknowledge the king.

The king. Yeah. Right.

And Jesus had said at the beginning of his ministry, now repent. Right. The kingdom is here.

Why? Right. Because the king is here. Right.

Do you recognize him? Well, and the king is all about authority. Right. So when people refuse Jesus' position, they're really refusing, well, I'm not going to bow down to you. You don't have authority. You're not the Messiah. I mean, authority is so tied in with this idea of the king and who he is.

If they're not willing to recognize who Jesus is by faith, they're not going to be there. And then he talks about hell in a very straightforward kind of way. Right.

It is a bad deal. It is a place of weeping and gnashing of teeth. That's a regret and a sorrow and an awareness of what one is lacking. And a despair.

I mean, you see it here. This is one of the places I go to a lot when people talk with me about heaven and hell. Because Jesus here, and this passage about the faith of centurion, gives us a really a very bold and in your face description of heaven and hell.

And he doesn't mince any words. Hell is a bad place. It's a bad place.

Well and it has to do also with, where do you expect to find yourself? Right. Right. Because the Jews regarded themselves as sons of the kingdom and they expected to be there. They were entitled to it. The centurion knows he has no entitlement to it.

I'm not worthy of you to come into my house. Look at that humility. And I believe you can do this. And I believe that I can benefit from the Jewish Messiah. It's an amazing thing what he knows about Jesus.

I mean, it's just, it's almost unparalleled. However, there is a woman on the Lebanese coast. Well, yeah, we'll get to her. We'll get to her later. Who is also lauded for her faith. But you know what struck me about these two stories side by side is the first guy is a Jew, but he's just a nobody.

But this guy is a Gentile, but he's a somebody in his own world, right? Jesus gives them both. And now we're going to, you know, turn a corner here when Jesus enters Peter's house and finds his mother-in-law sick.

We'll read this in a second. And she, is she a somebody or nobody? Well, she's a somebody because she's Peter's mother-in-law, but she's a nobody because she's just a woman, right? And Jesus comes into her house. She doesn't come to him.

He comes to her. That's why this collection right here is just so fascinating because if you compare the three gospels, the synoptic gospels we call them, Matthew, Mark, Luke, you'll find that the order of these events is different. Matthew seems to cluster them together based on kind of topic. And here they're clustered together based on healing. Yeah, for a purpose.

Yeah, for healing. And so the contrast is deliberate on Matthew's part. He wants you to notice the differences. But in any case, no matter how they're clustered, they all, they did occur in very short sequence right at the early part of his ministry. That's clear in all the gospels that record them.

Well, let's see this last healing before we finish. So verse 14, when Jesus entered Peter's house, he saw his mother-in-law lying sick with a fever. He touched her hand. That's the same word touched, grasped her hand and fever left her and she rose and began to serve him. 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. This was to fulfill what was spoken by the prophet Isaiah.

He took our illnesses and bore our diseases. Isaiah 53 verse four. You should become very familiar with Isaiah 53. It is just an astonishing description of Jesus the Messiah. Well and it's interesting that later on in Matthew's Gospel, Matthew records that when John the Baptist was in prison, he sent his messengers to Jesus and said, now are you really him?

Are you the guy? And Jesus says, now go and tell John, the blind see, the lame walk, lepers are cleansed and blessed is the one who keeps from stumbling over me. Hello. Yeah. That's the Messiah. So this whole idea of Jesus just walking into the fulfillment of the prophecy of what the sent one would do.

Yeah, yeah. I like too in Mark's Gospel it says that this healing episode here starting at Peter's house was such a big deal. Mark says the whole city gathered at his door.

The whole city. So it was a mob scene. I mean it was really something else. And yet here we are healing the mother-in-law, healing Peter's wife. Hey, Peter's married. Hey, Peter was married. Hey, there was a wife somewhere.

Not to put too sharp a point on it, but as the supposed first pope in the Catholic Church, you know, popes can't be married, but Peter was. That's just a little tangent kind of thing. But he heals her and he does it, you mentioned again with a lovely variation again, he touches her hand. It just, you know, what a great thing. He does not have to do this and the fever left her.

It's lovely. I was just struck by the fact that he came to her. She could not have come to him. She couldn't be out and about with the crowds, but he came to her and touches her in this powerful healing way. Unlike the leper who came to Jesus, unlike the centurion who came to Jesus, here she is, she's kind of knocked out with a fever. She can't come, he comes to him. So just one more thing about this word touching, it also has this parallel, this connected meaning of to kindle, like to blow a coal into flame when Jesus touched these ones who believed it and livened them with a fire in connection with him.

I think maybe we'll revisit that in the coming weeks. And a couple of other differences from the other gospels which really touched me. It says in Luke that when this crowd, the whole city comes in, you would think he would just do a mass healing, like everyone raise your hand, say I believe who you are, you would be healed. But it says that he laid his hands on every single one of them.

Every single one of them. So even though there was just a mass response, his response to them wasn't in mass, it was individual. And that's what Jesus does with us. He cast out the spirits with the word, so that would apply. That would mean he had eyeball to eyeball with those people who were demon possessed and said to them, be gone. And we're going to get into one of those passages next week. And a difference from the passage coming up is the fact that in one of the other gospels it says that when he cast the demons out, in this situation in Peter's house, he would not allow the demons to speak because it says they knew who he was.

And remember with the leper, he's trying to say don't broadcast it too much, we can't get the word out too fast. So he told the demons here, don't say anything. Isn't it ironic how the demons recognized him? I know who you are, you're the Holy One of God. Now this shows up over and over and over again in the Gospel of Mark. I know who you are, you're the Holy One, but his own people didn't recognize him.

And we'll see that contrast next time too, it's really interesting. So gosh, we are at the end of our time, we're halfway through Matthew 8 and we're seeing Jesus going around, in this case a cluster of healings with people really unexpected to be beneficiaries. We have a leper who's an outcast from society, a centurion who's an enemy captain in charge of oppressing them, and then a mother-in-law, a mother-in-law who has really low status in the culture, who doesn't even take the initiative, and Jesus comes to her.

Great contrast in how he does it and where he does it. This is all in line with us understanding not only the authority and the power of Jesus as the Son of God, but also his heart for us. He wants us to be whole, and that's what we're seeing right here. In every circumstance he wants us to be whole, both spiritually and physically. And that actually is the message of Isaiah 53. He wants us to be whole, but it's going to cost his own life. And so he comes and takes our diseases, takes upon himself the wounds that we deserve.

Exactly. So this is just the beginning of the mighty prophecies of the coming of the Messiah who would bring wholeness and health and life abundant to those who are with him. And so what a great start this is. Well next time we're going to come back and we're going to continue on in chapter 8. And as we get into chapter 8 we see another wonderful cluster of contrasts when we look at people who are following him and what it's going to cost to follow him, guys who don't know who he is when they're getting ready to die in a boat, and also some of the most famous demon possessed guys in the New Testament.

It's a great contrast. So join us next time as we come back and we'll look at the rest of Matthew 8. Glad you're with us as we whirl through the Gospel of Matthew. I'm Jim.

And I'm Dorothy. And this is More Than Ink. There are many more episodes of this broadcast to be found at our website, And while you are there, take a moment to drop us a note. Remember the Bible is God's love letter to you.

Pick it up and read it for yourself and you will discover that the words printed there are indeed more than ink. That was pretty good. Okay. All right. I'd go for that. Thank you. This has been a production of Main Street Church of Rhythm City.
Whisper: medium.en / 2023-04-29 14:18:46 / 2023-04-29 14:30:47 / 12

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