Matthew 8:1-17 Part 2

Because there are a number of people here this morning who weren’t here last Lord’s Day would be sufficient reason to review – in order that there be some continuity to the preaching of God’s Word, and, therefore, more understanding.  But, as we’ve noted before, the reviews have been especially helpful to those of us who heard the sermon (or sermons) before.

And, of course, the reason is so obvious it’s hardly worth mentioning – and that is that we’ve just got short memories.  And thirty or forty minutes isn’t much time within the course of a one hundred sixty-eight hour week!  One short period of time out of a whole work-week to hear the Word preached!

So, because of those limitations, it’s necessary that we attempt to get the benefits of continuity.  And, as we begin to review from last week, one of those benefits (of continuity that is) is that we get a sense of history!  And as we now begin to work with the mighty deeds of our Lord Jesus Christ, we have to fight to retain that historical perspective and not slide into that flat atomistic perspective so prevalent in today’s preaching and teaching.  Especially when the preacher jumps around from subject to subject from Sunday to Sunday – panic preaching usually – the Lord’s people get no sense of history.  I’ve always liked to describe it as a flattened perspective, because it’s simply one-dimensional!  And the sense of it is that what’s being said and done in the Bible isn’t really supposed to have a context, necessarily, but is supposed to give us a “kernel of truth,” or a moral.

I didn’t really mean to spend so much time on this subject, but having the miracles of Jesus before us automatically brings up the whole subject relating to the modern-day practice of demythologizing.  That is – to basically slough off the context, or whatever history is there, find that kernel of truth, and, then, use stories and illustrations and personal references and allegory in order to get that so-called “truth” across!

And you can see that “learning that little piece of wisdom” is the goal of the minister and the system!  And that “little piece of wisdom” is learned in a kind of a vacuum, because it could be taught in any period of time and in any setting!  And you want to know what?  It usually could be taught by any other religion!  Most of today’s sermons could be delivered in a synagogue or a mosque.  If you took out the beginning where Jesus’ Name is mentioned as window-dressing, or left off the invitation at the end!

Because the little “morals” are the same ones taught by Mohammed and in Orthodox Judaism!  Or a number of others….

Well, we could go on with that… but the point is that we have to retain the history.  These mighty deeds of Jesus aren’t mythology, neither are they mystical occurrences.  The second point from last week – and I don’t want to preach last Sunday’s sermon all over again, so I’ll move through these kind of fast – the second point is that the mighty deeds related in Scripture are simply God working in a different way from the way in which He normally works.  In other words, God hasn’t broken into the flow of history to act in miracles, and He hasn’t altered the non-existent laws of physics in order to do these things!

God causes all things to happen the way they do, not laws of physics.  And when there is a particular purpose, He can cause them to happen another way!

But “modernists,” let us call them, ridicule the miraculous deeds related in God’s Word.  And they do so from the enlightened scientific intellectualism which is so prevalent in today’s “advanced” society.  In other words we have advanced so far in our understanding of things that we now know too much about physics to believe in the miracles in a spiritual book that’s two thousand years old!

But God is a God of Sovereign control over what-so-ever comes to pass.  And Jesus Christ, the express image of God the Father, and the Second Person of the Triune God, demonstrated total control over the basic elements of His Own creation.  The universe doesn’t run because of physical law – it runs because God causes it to do so, in all of its details.

Thirdly we saw last Lord’s Day that compassion was not the prime motivation for Jesus’ miracles of healing!  Although Jesus did experience pain and sorrow and pity for people in depravity and sickness and death, His primary motive for the miracles was to bring glory to God the Father.  And it was the Father’s will to exhibit His Son to the people, and that His Son demonstrate Sovereign control over all things – and that every molecule of nature did what it was commanded to do!  His miracles were an exhibition to all men that He was God With Us, and that He did have Divine authority to do what He said He was going to do.

And, then, the fourth point that was made last time is that we should not be making hard and fast distinctions in our own minds about things which Scriptures don’t distinguish.  For example, as far as Jesus’ miracles are concerned, there are no distinctions between spiritual and physical creation!  Jesus demonstrated control over the angels as well as over diseased bodies!

And, yet, there are those among us who would want to make those distinctions, saying that although it seems as if Jesus might have total sovereign control over physical things, He certainly doesn’t over spiritual things, because there’s still this battle going on between two opposing forces in the spiritual world!

But, as I said, Jesus makes no such distinction!  Just as He has instantaneous control over the ravages of sin and death in human bodies, He also made it very clear that He has all authority over all creatures in the so-called “spirit” world!  So as far as creation is concerned, there are no differences between the visible world and the invisible one.  It was all created by this One without Whom nothing was made that was made, and it all responds to His authority and does what it is commanded to do.

Now – it is the Father’s will, as recorded in John chapter six, that every single one who sees the Son and faiths in Him shall have eternal life!  And He has given all of creation to His Son as His Kingdom.  And, in order to cleanse it from iniquity, He died for it and was raised again unto life.  And in doing so He definitively terminated any pretenders to His authority.  And He is now the Prophet – the Word of God made flesh; He is great High Priest of the Covenant; and He is the Warrior King, pictured on that great white horse, with the Sword coming from His mouth – which is the Word of God, the instrument by which all of His enemies are defeated in history!

And the miracles of Jesus, here at the beginning of His ministry, up near the Sea of Galilee, are the initial indications of His authority – His control over every aspect of His creation – His rule over all that His Father has given Him.  And all will redound to the Father when it is finished, when all is clean, when sin and death are disposed of in the lake of fire – along with Satan himself – and every sin and every product of sin has been done away with.

Now, as we saw in chapter four verse twenty-three, Jesus was going about in Galilee preaching the Gospel of the Kingdom and healing all kinds of sickness and disease.  And the very first day Matthew records this sermon – the Sermon on the Mount.  That is beginning with verse one of chapter five.  Then, after completing the greatest instructional event in all of history, Jesus then comes down from the mount, and goes back to healing the sick and doing other great and mighty deeds.  Those deeds are recorded in chapters eight and nine.  And then Matthew closes out nine with the same words as are found in chapter four, verse twenty-three:  “And Jesus was preaching the Gospel of the Kingdom and healing all kinds of sickness and disease.”  So this five chapters is a recording of three days at the beginning of Jesus’ ministry – a period of historical events, recorded word for word and event for event by Matthew, an eye-witness of it all.

And having spent almost a year in the Sermon on the Mount, we are now ready again to look carefully into the miracles of our Lord.  We began last week by reading about the leper and making some comments about him.  Here it is again – listen closely: 


“After His coming down from the mountain, large crowds pressed after Him; and, lo, a leper approached, paying homage to Him saying, ‘Lord, if You are willing You are able to pronounce me clean!’  And, stretching out His hand He touched him saying, ‘I Am willing, you are cleansed.’  And instantly his leprosy was cleansed.”  “And Jesus was saying to him ‘see that you speak to no one, but go and show yourself to the priest and present the gift prescribed by Moses in testimony to them.’”


As we saw last Sunday, it was a very unusual thing for a leper to be seen in public, because they were banned from society!  They were not to have contact with others, but were to be isolated – may I say it – “separated” from the rest of society, which was the covenant people.  And, as Leviticus fourteen tells us, there was a very complicated procedure that every unclean person had to go through, upon becoming clean again, in order to be permitted back into the covenant people!

And it was for the priest to examine each one claiming to be clean, over and over again for one week, receiving from him specific animals and birds for sacrificial offerings.  And it was only the priest who could finally pronounce an unclean person clean.  And if one was ceremonially unclean, then there was to be no contact with others until he was pronounced legally clean!

So Jesus would not allow for this leper to talk to anybody until he received that legal pronouncement by the priest.  It was the Law.  And Jesus came to confirm every jot and tittle of the Law – not to abrogate it! (Matthew chapter five, verses seventeen and eighteen)

I used the word “separation” a minute ago for a purpose, because the word has a great deal more to say than just to describe the isolation of a leper.  You see, the separation of the unclean people from the holy nation of God signifies the separation of God’s people from the uncleanness of pagan idolatry, unbelief and unclean behavior!  In the Old Testament they’re called laws of separation – an example being the Jews being separated from Gentiles, or animals with sores on them being separated out from the sacrificial animals.  And many others.  And in every case, in order to be allowed to be a part of the covenant community, they had to be pronounced clean by the priest!

Now, since everything in the Old Testament is, more or less, a foreshadowing of realities in the new, the laws of separation for ancient Israel are still in effect in the Church of Jesus Christ, and it is a critical issue for all of us to understand that separation from pagan idolatry, unbelief and unclean practices not only becomes us as members of the body of Christ, but it is required of us!  We are not justified in order that we can remain unclean and to participate in unclean things!  God forbid!

We are justified in order that we might end our separation from the body!  We are justified in order that we might no longer be isolated from the covenant people, so that we may be part of the holy, separated people of God!

You see, we have this tendency today to look at the body of Christ as that-which-is-isolated from society!  When that’s the exact opposite of the truth!  Having been pronounced clean and the being a member of the promised, covenanted body of Christ is not isolation!  It is the reality of belonging, of sonship, of family, of covenant.  All of this belongs to us in Jesus Christ!  All else is isolation!  All else is separation!  We’re not the ones on the outside!

Those on the outside looking in with disdain and mockery are separated out from us and are unclean.  Those who worship other gods are separated out from us and are unclean.  Those who are pretenders – preaching some other gospel, but holding not to this Gospel, Paul says, are separated out from us and unclean.  And those who are participating in wanton behavior which is abominable to God are separated out from us and unclean!  They are the ones with leprosy and rotting flesh!

And how many of us, having been set free from isolation would want to again be isolated?  How many of us, having received entrance into the Truth of God’s family would then want to be separated from it again?  And I’m wondering whether this leper having received by grace the cleansing from deadly illness, would want the uncleanness of that rotting to return?  And whether he would want to be isolated again from the body of believers?

Nobody!  No one who has been pronounced clean and allowed entrance into the Covenant community – the Kingdom – wants to be isolated again!  They want to avoid it like the plague that it is!  And let no one be confused about this fact – that separation from the body of Christ is the very definition of death and rotting darkness and chaos and dissipation.

And when this leper came up to Jesus and prostrated himself before Him, the words that he spoke, recorded infallibly by the eyewitness Matthew, indicate that he now recognized who this Jesus was!  Look at it!  “Lord, if You are willing You are able to pronounce me clean.”!!!  Notice that the leper did not say, “If you are willing You can heal me,” but – “If you are willing You are able to pronounce me clean.”

People, there is only one place where the pronouncement of “clean” can be made – and that’s in the temple by the priest!  The priest, by Law, was the only one able to legally do that!

And yet the leper comes to Jesus and asks Him to pronounce him clean!  Now, you might say that this man has maybe followed Jesus around all day and had seen Him healing the sick – and that’s fine!  I don’t doubt that that’s the case!  But look at his words.  You are able; You have the power, to pronounce me clean!  Say the word, just say it, and I shall then rest in a state of cleanness.  The implications are that he not only would be made whole, but he would also be legally clean and, therefore, received into the covenant family – the people of God!

People, somehow this man knew, by the grace of God, that Jesus was the fullness of the Old Testament Priesthood!  Somehow he knew – his eyes were opened by God – that this Jesus was the High Priest prophesied by the entire Old Testament Ceremonial system!  And somehow he knew that this man – this Jesus – was the Son of God, and that He would make the entire Levitical priesthood obsolete, for He was the One foreshadowed by it all!

He was the great Prophet, yes; and He was the Warrior King, yes.  But this man knew Him as his Royal High Priest – the mediator – the One mediator between man and God who, according to the writer to the Hebrews, renders any priesthood unnecessary; for He is not only the offerer, but He is the One offered – And – and listen to this – AND He is the One Who comes with the sacrifice!  The leper.  He took the leper’s sin, to become the offerer.

So He is Man, the One Who comes with the sacrifices; He is the Mediator, the One who makes the offering; and He is the Lamb, the One Who is offered; and, lastly, He is God - the One to Whom the Offering is made.  So there is only One Royal High Priest – the One Who is both man and God.  The only One Who can mediate and the only One Who can pronounce clean – God man.

His authority and power extends even to the obsolescence of the Priesthood of men for He is able, said the leper, to pronounce a man clean.  He is able to overcome the ravages of sin and incorporate a man into the community of God – to make him a member – a son; to adopt him into the family of promise.  And thereby Jesus brings glory to the Father, for the Father’s Will is that every one who sees the Son and faiths in Him should have eternal life.