Matthew 8:1-17 (CEB): Now when Jesus had come down from the mountain, large crowds followed him. A man with a skin disease came, kneeled before him, and said, “Lord, if you want, you can make me clean.”
Jesus reached out his hand and touched him, saying, “I do want to. Become clean.” Instantly his skin disease was cleansed. Jesus said to him,“Don’t say anything to anyone. Instead, go and show yourself to the priest and offer the gift that Moses commanded. This will be a testimony to them.”
When Jesus went to Capernaum, a centurion approached, pleading with him, “Lord, my servant is flat on his back at home, paralyzed, and his suffering is awful.”
Jesus responded, “I’ll come and heal him.”
But the centurion replied, “Lord, I don’t deserve to have you come under my roof. Just say the word and my servant will be healed. I’m a man under authority, with soldiers under me. I say to one, ‘Go,’ and he goes, and to another, ‘Come,’ and he comes. I say to my servant, ‘Do this,’ and the servant does it.”
When Jesus heard this, he was impressed and said to the people following him, “I say to you with all seriousness that even in Israel I haven’t found faith like this. I say to you that there are many who will come from east and west and sit down to eat with Abraham and Isaac and Jacob in the kingdom of heaven. But the children of the kingdom will be thrown outside into the darkness. People there will be weeping and grinding their teeth.” Jesus said to the centurion, “Go; it will be done for you just as you have believed.” And his servant was healed that very moment.
Jesus went home with Peter and saw Peter’s mother-in-law lying in bed with a fever. He touched her hand, and the fever left her. Then she got up and served them. That evening people brought to Jesus many who were demon-possessed. He threw the spirits out with just a word. He healed everyone who was sick. This happened so that what Isaiah the prophet said would be fulfilled: He is the one who took our illnesses and carried away our diseases.
The first thing that comes to my mind here is that part about Jesus touching the man with a skin disease. In Jewish culture at the time, if one touched something / someone unclean, she would be unclean too (see Leviticus 5). But, as is so typical of Jesus, he broke from traditions and touched the man. But it wasn’t just the deed of touching him that stands out. Jesus had the desire - ‘I do want to’ - and his intention was to restore the man to a rightful place in society. This is seen by his statements to the man about showing himself to the priest. After the priest has inspected the man, then he would be allowed to participate in the community. He would no longer be an outcast.
How often are we willing to go against tradition or society? There are some real issues in our time that really need people to be Jesus in them. The homeless community comes to mind. How many of us are willing to leave our comfort zones and help them? And by that, I don’t just mean helping at a food pantry (although, that is an important thing). No, I’m talking more about going to where they are - to meet them where they’re at. And not to shove Christ down their throats but to be Christ to them. What would it mean to offer to wash their feet? Or set up a ‘tail-gate party’ just for them?
Or what about helping at an AIDS or abortion clinic? Again, not to beat them over the head with a Bible, but to actually practice a life of Love and Grace. Of listening and befriending them. Of actually caring about them as people that have the same needs and wants and desires as ourselves. What kind of impact would that make when people are no longer afraid judgmental Christians? What kind of impact would that have on those communities and us?
This passage is all about restoration and reconciliation. It’s about seeing people as people and healing them. It’s about taking those healed and whole people and restoring them into active service within the community. Of giving them back their dignity. It’s also about humbling ourselves and placing their needs above our own. It’s a very hard thing to do sometimes but that’s what’s expected from us who claim to follow Jesus.
In the Love of the Three in One,
Br Jack+, LC