Matthew eight is a picture of different dimensions of faith, and the patchwork of people who encountered Jesus. It is a chapter that could (and should) be studied multiple times a year by anyone fighting to grow in faith. Much like three individual points make a plane, so this chapter has three doors of faith to walk through.
Behind door number one, we find a leper. This flesh-eating disease is foreign to us, but was so very common to the world at that time. Fear surrounded those with leprosy. Lepers had the ability to clear a room, house, or even a street just by showing up. These poor individuals were forced to either live as loners or alongside others who had the disease. They were doomed to a life of wasting away.
We don’t know this leper’s name. We don’t know where he came from, or anything else about him other than 1) he was a leper and 2) he was a man.
Now, consider the scene. Jesus had just concluded his Sermon on the Mount, one of the most lauded days in Jesus’ ministry. Crowds followed him, and clamored for his words. He finished the sermon, and comes down from the mountainside leaving a stunned and amazed audience. As he leaves, crowds follow.
Enter the man with leprosy. Maybe he was at the base of the mountain, hoping to hear just a few words from Jesus. Maybe he heard it all. The fact is, in our world of measuring “responses” after sermons, this guy was the first response. Something he heard from or about Jesus made him believe that there was hope, and hope walked down the mountain to the Leper.
Listen to his words… “Lord, if you are willing, you can make me clean.”
The next five words spoken by Jesus changed a life forever. “I am willing.” (At this point, Jesus touches the untouchable – probably to the audible gasps of the crowd around him). “Be clean!” Then, the unthinkable happens. The man doesn’t just end up feeling better, but “immediately he was cured of his leprosy.” A request asked in faith from the hopeless resulted in immediate healing.
The players behind door number one are worth a second look. The crowd is most likely still in shock from the unorthodox teaching they have just heard on the mount. Many of them probably didn’t notice a leper at the bottom of the mountain, or avoided him. The leper himself is a picture of parts of our life that we usually do not like to share. He is desperate. He is unclean. He has no hope of healing through any known method.
Enter Jesus – hope for the hopeless. Jesus touched the untouchable, and in so doing made water flow again through the long-dried streambed which was the leper’s soul. The leper asked in faith, Jesus was willing, and lives were changed. The leper could have chosen to trudge off to his leprosy support group or even picked-up a “living with Leprosy” brochure. The leper could have done what many of us do – look for help in the wisdom of man. Attend conferences, counselors, read countless self-help books. Anything wrong with these? Certainly not. They are tools, but not a cure. The only cure for the desperate human is to approach God through His son and ask to be made whole. To this day, Jesus provides the same answer he did to the leper – “I am willing.”
As we close door number one, remember that our chance of being made whole lies with a carpenter who was murdered and has been raised from the dead. Remember that when you have consulted all the books, friends, counselors and self-help websites, it all still comes down to faith in the only living God.
Written by Mark Hodges–part 1 of 3. Mark, a PV Elder, is married to Tamara, and they have two children. Mark has a zeal for life and is the friend who will always tell you the truth. Mark’s pet peeve is people who take their shoes off on a plane.
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