Prepared by Dr. John E. Marshall
Matt. 8:3b “. . .saying, I will;. . .”
Jesus did not appeal to a higher authority, but spoke as One who commanded directly. Other Bible healers ascribed their power to Another. Even one as great as Peter, at the healing of the lame man, acted “in the name of Jesus” (AC 4:6). To Aeneas, paralyzed and bedridden for eight years, Peter said, “Jesus Christ heals you; arise, and make your bed” (AC 9:34 NAS). Only Jesus could say, “I will.”
His voice contained “the fiat of Omnipotence” (Thomas). When kings say, “I will,” whole nations tremble. When Jesus says, “I will,” hell has to flee, despair is conquered, disease is healed, sin is forgiven, and the world is flooded with mercy.
Matt. 8:3c “. . .be thou clean.”
Notice again, the word is “clean,” not “well.” In this physical healing, spiritual truth is being pictured and emphasized. A given physical illness does not necessarily result from a particular sin, but all ailments exist due to the presence of sin in our world. Had sin never entered our realm, sickness would never occur.
By showing power over physical disease, Jesus revealed His ability to exert authority over any spiritual causes behind it. Since Jesus came to overcome sin, He had to give evidence of being able to overcome the results of sin. How else could Jesus prove the kingdom of power had come unless He displayed works of power?
The word “clean” reminds us not to miss the spiritual lesson contained in this physical healing. Jesus came to doctor people’s spirits, which are harder to heal than bodies. This healing of a leper is much less a miracle than the saving of a soul.
When Jesus healed this leper, He reached across a gulf. He reached across a much wider gulf when He left Heaven for you and me. He took hold of a world of spiritual lepers when He donned flesh and thereby took hold on our nature. Never lose sight of the awesome condescension that has taken place in our salvation.
A Christian lady in Sweden opened a home for diseased children no one else would take in. Among them was a three-year-old boy whose skin was covered with sores. Always crying and whining, he spewed anger on everyone. The lady desperately tried to love him, but his looks and actions caused her disgust to show through occasionally. One afternoon she was trying to contain him, and while holding him, fell asleep. In a dream she saw Jesus tenderly looking at her and saying, “If I can love and bear with you, who are so full of sin, surely you ought, for My sake, to love that guiltless child, who suffers for the sin of his parents.” She awoke with a start, and looked down into the eyes of the boy, who had also just awakened, and was staring at her. Feeling a new compassion for him, she bent her face to his, and kissed his forehead as tenderly as she had ever kissed any of the children. The boy, for the first time, instead of crying, smiled. Thus began the healing of a bitter heart. The lad began awakening to a new and happier life (told by Calthrop, in Bib. Ill.).
Remember the depth from which Christ retrieved us. Remaining mindful of our spiritual leprosy helps make it easier for us to touch spiritual lepers around us.
Matt. 8:3d “And immediately his leprosy was cleansed.”
Sores disappeared instantly. The sudden cure astounded. “Nature works gradually, but the God of nature works immediately; he speaks, it is done” (Henry).
Even Jesus’ bitterest enemies could not deny His healings. The only argument they could muster against Him was to accuse Him of performing miracles by the power of Satan (MT 12:24). Their sole claim against Him was that He was evil.
We reject their slander. Jesus came in the holy power and name of the Most High God. He came not from the Abyss, but from the very throne of Heaven itself.
He was, is, and evermore shall be, God of very God, as He demonstrated in this miracle. Everyone else in the crowd dreaded not only catching the disease of leprosy, but also feared ceremonial uncleanness. Sin’s pollution and defilement, however, could not enter Jesus. In Him, influence flowed the other way. A fountain of purity flowing from within Him pushed back any impurity nearby.
Jesus touches sin and makes it flee. He still heals the effects of sin. Leprosy and other sicknesses were rampant in His day. The world seemed its sickest when its Physician was nearest. Our culture is also full of sickness. Sin’s ravages are everywhere, and the Healer again is near, ready to heal. Loving us more than we love our own selves, Jesus’ desire to heal is stronger than our desire to be healed.
Jesus was and is able to love freely and quickly because His heart was and is pure. It “laid on itself every man’s sorrow because it carried no burden of its own sin” (Maclaren). Imagine how much more time we could devote to helping others if we were less obsessed with selfishness, and had fewer sins of our own to deal with.
Jesus gave priority to making room in His heart for others, including lepers. Nobody, nobody, nobody else pitied lepers, for they were deemed accursed of God. If convinced our God does not love someone, why should we love that person?
Fortunately, we Christians know our God loves every human being in the whole world. We even know how He feels about lepers. In this incident our God revealed His feelings once and for all time. Christ came not so much to reveal God’s power as to reveal God’s desire to use that power for us. This truth has been fuelling Christian compassion ever since. Followers of Jesus feel compelled to go everywhere telling and showing everyone of God’s desire to help each individual.
In South Africa, there used to be a leper colony surrounded by a high wall, its one gate heavily guarded. To enter meant never to exit. Dr. Halbeck, a Church of England missionary, once stood atop a nearby hill, and looking down into the compound, saw two men sowing peas. One had no hands, the other no feet. He with no hands was carrying on his back him with no feet. The latter carried a bag of seed and at regular intervals dropped a pea which the other man pressed into the ground with his foot. Two Moravian missionaries heard this story, and driven by the love of Christ, entered the colony, never to leave again. Robert Murray McCheyne said of these two missionaries, “May we not blush, and be ashamed before God, that we, redeemed with the same blood, and taught by the same spirit should yet be so unlike these men in vehement, heart-consuming love to Jesus and the souls of men.”
Ours is a kind, gentle, loving Savior to be proud of. Before Christ came, the world was cold and inhospitable. As historians can best determine, antiquity holds no trace of any organized charitable effort. Disinterested benevolence did not exist.
Christians won the day by providing a haven where people could flee Rome’s harshness. Jesus made this world friendlier. Due to Him we have child labor laws, orphanages, old folks homes, hospitals, Florence Nightingale, Red Cross, YMCA, Salvation Army, St. Francis, St. Patrick, Mother Teresa, Billy Graham, Santa Claus.
The secularists want to mimic our high ethic, but not surrender to our Savior. This cannot be, for Christianity is possible only when Christ is present, empowering a person from within. Christianity, its teachings, and its compassion are moot without Christ at the helm. As the “New York Observer” reported in the last century, atheism makes a great outcry about its philanthropy, but religion does the work.