Tithes and Offerings
The Willingness of Jesus
Matthew 8:1-4 (Pastor Brian)
The Man With Leprosy
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.”
This is the first personal miracle that’s recorded in Matthew (also recorded in Mark and Luke). It shows how important this was to God that it was recorded in the three synoptic gospels.
Mark: “The man was covered in leprosy.” (There are different stages)
It was regarded as “living death” – losing nerve sensation, fingers falling off, toes falling off, stop blinking (become blind) – it’s a degenerative disease. Thankfully today, there are cures although many people still contract it. Now it is controllable – you can’t back up what’s already happened, but it can be controlled.
This disease is often a picture of sin in our lives. It starts small, but increases, increases, increases, and eventually brings death.
Luke knew that this person was in the last stages of leprosy (covered with leprosy).
Jesus had just taught the Sermon on the Mount (Beatitudes “Blessed are the meek, the merciful, the pure in heart, …”). He’d been teaching up there, coming down and the multitudes followed him. One of the gospel writers wrote, “Behold, a man with leprosy came to him and worshiped him saying, ‘If you are willing, make me clean.'”
This must have been surprising – this guy should have been socially distanced from the crowd. He was not supposed to have been in that environment, near other people. He should have been in isolation (quarantine), desperation, adoration (later).
This wasn’t the only person who came to Jesus who wasn’t supposed to. Remember the woman who was bleeding for 12 years? Ceremonially unclean, but she pressed into Jesus, and touched him garment. “Your faith has made you well.”
This is now the masculine version of that story. The man pressed in and said, “If you are willing, make me clean.”
It was forbidden to even touch lepers, it was like touching a dead person. Yet, he said, “I am willing.”
But this is not the only instance where he was “willing” – sometimes, he did miracles even from a distance. But to show compassion to the leper, he reached out and touched him. And “immediately” the leprosy left him.
This also is a kind of new birth – being born again. “I’m no longer a slave to fear; I am a child of God.” (How do you know?)
Paul “We are also his offspring, his children” (God as Creator). We are all born and exist because God exists and gives life. But there’s a spiritual death that’s attached to that. There’s a need to be “born again” – “born from above.”
To do so, we need to recognize our sin nature, and receive a new birth.
That song, “I’m no longer a slave to fear” reminds me of John Wesley. He was brought up religiously, went to the US, taught people, tried to do good to lots of people, was on his way back from America and the ship was in trouble. He was very fearful.
He noticed Moravians – they were praying, they weren’t concerned with death / destruction. He was amazed that they were so calm. As he spoke to them, he realized he was lacking. He needed Christ and the new birth.
He changed, his heart was “strangely warmed” and was experiencing the “new birth.” It was changing him and would change his ministry. Have you experienced this new birth? Are you a child of God?
Jesus challenged the religious leader, Nicodemus, and said, “It is necessary to be born from above” (by the spirit of God).
The picture of the leper is the picture of us before we encounter Christ. John Wesley experienced that and changed history in England (during the French Revolution). It is said that due to the preaching of Charles and John Wesley to be “born again” that there was not so much destruction in England during that period as there was in France.
This leper now was in isolation, and therefore (on the point of death) in desperation. He came to Jesus and called him “Lord (Yhwh)” for the first time. He knew that Jesus had the power, but…was he willing?
“If you are willing, you can make me clean.”
For Jesus to touch the man, that would have made Jesus ceremonially unclean – but he wasn’t an ordinary man – and he wanted to show his willingness to cleanse him, so he touched him.
“Go, show yourself to the priest and offer the sacrifice that Moses commanded.”
In Mark, he didn’t obey this command, but rather went around and told everyone of his healing.
He went and told when Jesus had told him not to. But WE do the opposite. Jesus says, “Go and tell” but we don’t.
So we should be ready to let our light shine and go and tell.
Leprosy was a terrible disease. In the OT, Naman was a great general, had great victories, had such wonderful things going for him, but “was a leper.” He sent to the Israeli king who said, “How can I do this thing?” So then he sent a servant to Elisha the prophet.
He expected Elisha to come out and pray and lay hands on him, but he didn’t. He said, “Go and bathe in the (dirty) river 7 times” (via messenger).
Naman was upset! What? But his servant said, “if he’d told you to do something hard, you’d have done it without question, so why question something so easy?” He “ate humble pie” and went and did it.
Now, in church, it’s not enough to just observe and show the outward signs of “religion.” Have you truly acknowledged your leprosy? Have you humbled yourself? Have you experienced the new birth?
Miram – sister of Moses – on the way out of Jesus, she (and her brother Aaron) spoke out against their brother (also upset about his marriage to an outsider). God came to them in the Tabernacle and honored him. “With Moses I speak face-to-face.” When the cloud went up, Miram had leprosy on her. Aaron cried out “Pray that this will be taken away!” Moses did and it was healed. It is said of Moses he was the most humble person on earth (generally).
The leper is on his way to see the priest and the problem was that the priest had to get out his manual to see what to do (he didn’t know offhand because cleansing from leprosy was so rare – maybe he checked Leviticus 14).
In Leviticus 14, we read about what happens when a person is cleansed from leprosy. It doesn’t say HOW he is cleansed, but if a person HAD leprosy, they were to be isolated outside the camp (so as not to be contagious). If, while outside, he saw that the leprosy had gone, he would have to tell the priest, who would have to go out to examine him. Now, the ordinances / rituals to consider him clean in the eyes of God / people involved some symbolism in the sacrifices:
- Two living birds were taken,
- one killed in a clay pot over running water (living water – taken from a stream – not from a well),
- this bird was sacrificed over the pot, the blood going into the water.
- The other bird was dipped into the blood of the dead bird,
- with cedar wood, scarlet yarn, and hyssop
Hyssop was a herb used to paint blood of the lamb on the posts in Egypt during the Exodus – remember the last plague was death of the first born – and this causes the Pharaoh to release the Israelites – this also is a picture of God’s judgment and mercy,
Hyssop was also used at the cross. He said 7 statements, one of which, “I thirst.” They put sour wine on a clump of hyssop and he drank of it
Also David – in his Psalm of Penitence after committing adultery and murder (he paid for it), acknowledging his sin. The prophet said his sin was forgiven, but that the sword would never pass from his house. He wrote, “Cleanse me with hyssop and I’ll be white as snow.”
- Cedar wood
- Scarlet yarn
- Live bird
Dipped into the blood of the killed bird.
This is a picture of Jesus. He died, and shed his blood. The second bird, dipped, and released.
- Dead bird = Jesus’ death
- Live bird = Jesus’ resurrection
This is a good picture of the foreshadowing of the coming of Christ – that those who believe in him would be declared righteous before a holy God.
Leprosy: The priest would go out, inspect, declare him clean, perform the sacrifice, the person would come back but stay outside his tent for 7 days. On the 8th day, lamb sacrifice:
Guilt offering, to the Lord
Then, the priest (usually did the same when set apart for ministry), applied blood from the lamb to the earlobe (hear the word of God), the thumb (do the will of God), and the big toe (go, work for the will of God).
There was also a drop of oil, that would be smeared over the blood on the three locations. This is symbolic of the Holy Spirit.
- Cleansed by the blood,
- Filled / led by the Spirit
These things are very symbolic of Jesus and his ministry. The disciples walked with Jesus, were cleansed by him, but also told to wait for the coming of the Holy Spirit after he rose again.
Even after Jesus’ Resurrection, they didn’t quite have the whole picture. They thought that Israel would be restored as a great kingdom, but Jesus told them to wait for Pentecost. The Holy Spirit came, filled them, and they were emboldened to speak the Word – they had yet been slaves to fear, but the Holy Spirit gave them courage and power.
Peter, denied Christ 3 times in fear, yet after receiving the Holy Spirit, he preached in the public square and thousands came to Christ in one day.
Sometimes getting “born again” isn’t easy.
Philip Yancy became friends with Dr. Paul Brand who did tremendous things in finding healing for leprosy. He was able to recover parts of the body that had been destroyed. Yancy spent about 10 years with him and was amazed.
In India, the lowest of the low castes were those with leprosy. But these were the people that he ministered to. Yancy said once, “Pain is a gift” because lepers lose their sense of pain. Much of their trouble comes from doing dangerous things and not feeling it (fire, nails, knives, etc).
“Pain is a gift” – if you feel hurt, you know to avoid it or fix it. But a leper can’t feel the pain. This increases the problem, the hurt, etc.
In the spiritual realm too, there is an application. “When the HS comes, he’ll convict the world of sin, righteousness, judgment.”
CS Lewis also wrote that during the process of his coming to Christ, he was probably the most reluctant person in England. There was a wrestling “Will I really receive Christ? Am I really in need of forgiveness?” There can be pain in spiritual things and the new birth, it’s not easy, but it’s important to recognize our own leprosy “I need to get cleansed” and not let it back into our lives.
If you die in your sins, that’ll be a lot more pain that the pain you’re currently experiencing or the pain of acknowledging Christ as Savior. Receive that pain as a gift. Become a part of the family of God.
The priest, later, after the man was cleansed would speak of his healing, and the man would become a child of God.
Once we acknowledge that Jesus takes our sins away, this is a gift. Have you received this gift? Are you appreciating it?
Keep on keeping on – appreciate it, we need constant reminders.
Some Christian leaders are now abandoning their faith – why? There’s a need for continuance. “Make your calling sure; persevere.”
Remember the 10 lepers who were healed? They weren’t as daring as this one. They stood far off and cried out to him. Jesus said to show themselves to the priest – and on the way they were cured. ONE came back and praised and thanked him, “Where are the other nine?” (He was a Samaritan – despised). “Go, your faith has saved you.”
Remember to be thankful for what God has done for you.
“Once you were dead in your trespasses and sins, but now you are alive in the Lord.”
During Jesus’ ministry, lepers were looked down on. Even rabbis would throw stones at lepers and not even walk down the street where one was.
Yet, Jesus was willing to put his hand out and touch the leper and heal him. He’s willing to touch and heal us.