Today’s Reading: Matthew 8:1-17
Key Verse: “Jesus reached out his hand and touched the man. “I am willing,” he said. “Be clean!” Immediately he was cleansed of his leprosy.” Matthew 8:3
We’re looking today at three stories: a leper, a centurion, and a woman. They are all so different, yet they belong together since none of them belong. They are outsiders, all of them. It should not be surprising for us to find them grouped together here in Matthew’s book. Matthew knows what it is like to be rejected, remember he was a tax collector. Matthew also knows what it is like to follow Jesus and be used by God.
It’s also important to note that the first people Matthew lists as being healed by Jesus were outcasts in Jewish society. Remember that Matthew was primarily writing to a Jewish audience, but right away he makes it clear that the gospel is not just for a select few.
Joseph Damien was a missionary in the nineteenth century who served as minister to people with leprosy on the island of Molokai, Hawaii. Those suffering grew to love him and revered the sacrificial life he lived out before them. One morning before Joseph was to lead them in their daily worship; he was pouring some hot water into a cup when the water swirled out and fell onto his bare foot. It took him a moment to realise that he had not felt any sensation. Gripped by the sudden fear of what this could mean, he poured more hot water on the same spot. He had no feeling whatsoever.
Damien immediately knew what had happened. As he walked tearfully to deliver his sermon, no one at first noticed the difference in his opening line. He typically began each sermon with, “My fellow believers.” But that morning he started with, “My fellow lepers.” (From Leadership, Spring ’97; from Ravi Zacharias in Deliver Us From Evil.)
Damien, like Jesus in our Scripture today, knew that ministering with compassion meant it would become necessary to touch others in their unclean condition. What Jesus did for this man is typical of what He has done for all of us. He came into this world to cleanse us from all our sin. Jesus was showing that no one is too far gone to be touched by His grace.
Unfortunately, sometimes inside the church, we can act much the same way the Pharisees did. We don’t want to touch the outsiders. We take a look around us, and we see the lives that are marred by sin, and instead of helping those lives we comment to one another about: the broken marriages, the trouble kids and the victims of alcohol and drug abuse. What do we do? We often turn our backs. We figure if someone is not able to make it, then it is their own fault or someone else’s problem.
Jesus didn’t look at people that way. Jesus sees them the same way He saw us; Sinners in need of a Saviour. Let try to love others the way Jesus loves us and show them the compassion that we have been shown.