Today’s Reading: Matthew 8:1-17 (additional reading: Psalm 9:13-20 & Proverbs 3:1-6)
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 lumped together here in Matthew’s book. Matthew knows what it is like to be rejected. 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. Matthew of course was primarily writing to a Jewish audience. 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 realize 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. 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 normally began each sermon with, “My fellow believers.” But this morning he began 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 say, “I WILL” cleanse from sin all who will call upon me by faith and request a cleansing. Jesus is saying that there is no one who is too far gone to be touched by His grace.
Unfortunately there are Christian people who 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 ignored kids and The scars of alcohol and drug abuse. Yet, what do we do? We turn our backs. We figure if someone is not able to make it, then it is their own fault or someone else’s problem.
However, Jesus didn’t look at people that way. Jesus sees them the way He saw us – sinners in need of a Saviour – He great it is that His Grace is larger then ours.