Just Say The Word
Key Verse 8:3
“Jesus reached out his hand and touched the man. ‘I am willing,’ he said. ‘Be clean!’ Immediately he was cured of his leprosy.”
Jesus was now done preaching the most beautiful sermon could ever given in history. He had delivered to the world what we know as The Sermon On The Mount. What he taught us through that glorious Sermon was fundamental principles of the Kingdom of Heaven— the laws by which citizens of the kingdom cherish and should live by! Yet when we reflect on those principles and teachings, we cannot but see that they were extreme! Jesus shows us that Christianity isn’t a religion nor a philosophy— it’s a faith! It’s an ideal and a model that this world can never understand nor accept. But for us who embrace Jesus as Lord and Master of the Kingdom, the faith he called us to live by is a paradigm— a way of life. Amazingly however, this wasn’t something new to those who had begin to follow him. It’s not as if his teachings did not exist in the Old Testament! What Jesus did was to simply explain the word of God in the Bible in a new way, a fresh way and a way that even children could understand. Actually Jesus showed us what the Bible and God’s Laws are all about. Jesus opened a window through which we could truly see how much God loved and cared for us, and how we ought to love him and care for him in return as well as love and care for each other. The Bible isn’t a tool to be used for judging and condemning one another, nor for self improvement or religious self advancement, not even for acquiring self righteousness! Then what’s it for?
Here is what the Bible is for! Blessed are those who are humble, who weep for their sins, and repent for them in faith. Blessed are those who are merciful, and those who long for a pure heart. Blessed are those who seek God with all their hearts, who hunger for his word, and whose righteousness is from God. Blessed are those who do not horde up material things for themselves in this perishing world, but who strive to store up treasures in heaven. Blessed are those who do to others what they would others do to them. Blessed are those whose concern is more for their neighbor’s good than for their own, who know to love and serve each other as they labor together for his kingdom. Blessed are those who love God and abide in his will fulfilling his purpose rather than their own in this sinful world. These were some of the teachings Jesus emphasized in his Sermon. And at their core, there was this one glorious teaching that reflected the whole Bible— Love God with all your heart, and love your neighbor as yourself. And it takes faith to rise to that! However, faith without action is nothing. If one has faith but fails to act on it, it’s useless. So Jesus himself demonstrated this truth for us. He showed us how faith expressing itself through love works. (Galatians 5:6) After his Sermon on the Mount, Jesus started demonstrating the heart of the Law in action. And the heart of the Bible is the love of God and his compassion to serve sinners with the love of God— to wash away our sins and to restore us to God’s image and to serving his purpose in our lives.
Read verse 1. “When he came down from the mountainside, large crowds followed him.” We don’t know how long Jesus spent on the mountain teaching his Sermon. Surely he was tired, and needed to rest, but the crowds wouldn’t let him. They followed him everywhere. Why? Probably because they were people who suffered more than one can tell. The majority of them were outcasts who were struggling at the bottom of society just to stay alive, and were in desperate need of help. But there’s another reason also why they followed Jesus. They followed him because they were like sheep without a shepherd. (9:36) Their leaders abandoned them as unimportant people, the scum of society. They saw them as a burden. No one really cared for them. No one really wanted them. They looked so pitiful like those wasted migrants we see in the news fleeing their war torn countries. They had nowhere to go and nothing to do but to stay alive. But for the first time, in Jesus they saw someone who wanted them, someone who cares for their needs. They saw in him the Shepherd they never had. They saw the compassion of God! No wonder they followed him.
These crowds began to press upon Jesus the moment he came down from the mountain. How beautiful and wondrous was this scene. Like children huddling around their parents desperate for some attention. Jesus wanted to help them all one by one, tending to their every need. But something unusual happened, and Jesus had to turn his attention to one man in particular. Who was he? Read verse 2. “A man with leprosy came and knelt before him and said, ‘Lord, if you are willing, you can make me clean.’” Matthew describes him as a man with leprosy. There has never been a disease quite as dreadful as leprosy. It’s a disease much worse than cancer or AIDS. Leprosy made people watch themselves die slowly. It painfully ate away at the body until every part rotted and fell off piece by piece. As soon as symptoms of the disease appeared, a leper was banished to a leper colony far from society, where they were kept in seclusion, away from those who loved them and whom they loved. More so, they were regarded as cursed by God. Imagine their loneliness and the extent of their sadness! Imagine their physical anguish! Picture their mental and emotional inner torment, What a strange fate they had! What we’re saying is that this leper was suffering more than we can imagine. But his story tells us something else. It tells us something about what the human soul is like. Unlike the leper, a man’s or woman’s body may be beautiful and healthy on the outside. But the truth is that all people’s souls are ravaged by the leprosy of the soul— which is sin. Sin destroys people on the inside— eats at their hearts and souls— until they are falling apart mentally, emotionally a little bit at a time. Every human being knows the devastation and anguish caused by leprosy of the soul. The problem is that most people aren’t willing to admit their own leprosy. Most aren’t willing to come to the Lord with it as this leper did! In the long run they are no more than proud and obnoxious lepers at heart, bitter at life, and taking it out on others.
This poor leper was a tragic man. Of course he knew how repulsive he appeared to others. Of course he knew that he had a foul body odor. He knew what it was like to feel hopeless and to be helpless in his situation as leprosy ate him up. More than this, every time he was in the proximity of people, he was supposed to announce his presence by crying out: “Unclean! Unclean!” meaning that he was diseased. How humiliating it must have been to have to expose his shameful disease in public so that others might run away from him. Everyone fled at the sight of him. Cruel people threw stones as if he was a rabid dog. His misery was endless! What would you do! Surely it seemed beyond imagination nor hope to present himself to the Lord Jesus. He would risk being stoned to death. This might be why most people never come to God even when their souls are decaying and tormented with their own dark and sinful thoughts. The devil makes them believe that even God himself cannot stand the sight of them, nor would he receive them. But they couldn’t be further away from the truth! Jesus invites all of us who are burdened by their sin when he tells them: “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.” (11:28-30) This leper surely had the courage to do so.
Read verse 2 again. “A man with leprosy came and knelt before him and said, ‘Lord, if you are willing, you can make me clean.’” He was destined to remain in his condition. He was destined to live apart from God. But there was something different and most unusual about him. Remarkably, he came to Jesus! It means that he overcame all the obstacles in the way! But how? We can look at the way Matthew describes him and discover how. “He came and knelt before him and said, Lord, if you are willing, you can make me clean’”! In other words, he didn’t come as if he was deserving of the Savior’s grace and favor. He came with a humble heart and the humble attitude of an undeserving sinner. He knelt down before him in worship and addressed him as Lord. He also came to Jesus by faith! This is what it means: It means he believed in his heart that Jesus is Lord, the promised Messiah who has the authority to heal. He also believed that while his situation was absolutely hopeless, he had hope in Jesus’ love and compassion. So he came with a humble prayer request. He believed that Jesus loved him and would heal him. This is truly unusual when we consider the years he spent hearing groundless lies such as “God couldn’t love someone like you” or “Your sins are unforgivable” or “You are cursed. So curse God and die.” (Job2:9)
In a moment of faith, he denied any negative| thoughts or ill feelings and came to Jesus by faith for cleansing. He knelt down before God and prayed, “Lord, if you are willing, you can make me clean.” He didn’t doubt Christ’s willingness. His words were only a sincere plea for mercy. We can learn a lot from this leper man. We can learn the kind of faith that believes that “God loves me in spite of my sinful and wretched condition” and that “God is always ready to heal me and make me clean.” Without faith, no one can really come to Jesus. Without of faith no one can be healed nor cleansed from sin!
Read verse 3. “Jesus reached out his hand and touched the man. ‘I am willing,’ he said. ‘Be clean!’ Immediately he was cured of his leprosy.” The Bible is full of instances where the Love of God is almost visible, but some instances are truly undeniable! This scene is one of them! Jesus touched the man’s festering sores! Why did he touch him when he could have simply cured him from a distance? Because Jesus’ touch is a reflection of God’s love for all of us. Our sins are as hideous to God as the leper’s sores are to those who see him. From the spiritual perspective however, we all start out as lepers. But the wonder of it all is that God’s compassion for us is always far greater than all our sins. God is willing to stretch out his hand to touch our deepest, darkest, most shameful sins which stain our souls like a leper’s sores. Who but a loving God would touch us! Sometimes we ourselves are so disgusted with ourselves. We don’t want to touch what hurts inside. So many times we are revolted at other people’s sin sores and turn away. We cannot bear the thought of touching their dirty habits and life problems, stained with selfishness, or immorality or pride— all seemingly incurable kinds of leprosy. But our Lord Jesus is different! With compassion, he touched this leper’s problem. No one wanted to touch him. But Jesus was willing. Praise Jesus who is willing to touch us! Praise Jesus who is willing to heal us!
Read verse 4. “Then Jesus said to him, ‘See that you don’t tell anyone. But go, show yourself to the priest and offer the gift Moses commanded, as a testimony to them.” There’s a good reason why Jesus gave explicit instructions to a man who should have been shouting out his healing instead. This is something we really have to understand because many don’t. Even though he was cured from his outward wounds, Jesus wanted to make sure that his inner wounds were also healed. Think about it! For years he suffered with his leprosy; he lived in such sorrow and torment which created so many wounds in his heart. As an outcast, he lived in anger and bitterness against God and life and everyone around him. He needed inner healing. And that comes from showing gratitude and giving praise for what God had done for him. He needed to go back to the society he was banished from, and start a new life. But not just any ordinary life! He now needed to live like someone touched and blessed by the grace of God. He needed to live as a witness to Jesus’ love and grace in his own life. He needed to live out the same faith that brought him to Christ in the first place. He needed to pray with the same humility and passion he did when he knelt down before the Lord to ask him for mercy. And his inner wounds would all heal. All bitterness and sorrow would flee. “Go home to your family and tell them how much the Lord has done for you, and how he has had mercy on you.” Jesus had told another man (Mark 5:19). There is no cure more powerful in healing our inner wounds than the grace of God and daily living and reflecting on that grace, always expressing our gratitude for his love. When we do, whatever wounds we have in our hearts melts away at the knowledge of his great mercy to us. That’s why Jesus sent him back to be a witness. He would witness to Jesus’ grace. It’s what we also must do.
There’s another story of another healing. Look at verse 5. “When Jesus had entered Capernaum, a centurion came to him, asking for help.” A centurion was the core of the Roman army. This centurion was one of the few among the Roman legions who made spiritual history, and for good reason. In those days a slave had no human rights. The owner treated the slave as he wished, because he was a piece of property. But this centurion was different from all others. High ranking soldiers disposed of their slaves when they were sick and of no use to them any longer. But this one was grieved when his slave became ill. He considered him precious and valuable. He was really a shepherd at heart. He didn’t see his slave as property, but as a fellow human, endowed with all the privileges of a human life. He respected his slave’s life as if he were his family. This centurion wasn’t just a soldier, but a shepherd as well— a shepherd who cared about the life of every person in his care, especially those who were helpless and defenseless like his slave. We can say therefore, that he was a man after God’s own heart because he loved others as himself, and wanted nothing more than to save this life. But he was a centurion— a dignified Roman soldier who should have cared to preserve his pride and honor. But his love for another’s life was far greater than his own pride and honor.
But the centurion’s real greatness comes from another totally different place. His greatness comes from his own heart’s humility and his amazing faith in the God and Savior of the Jews— who were nothing more than a conquered people and third class citizens of Rome! Think of the humility it took to ask Jesus a favor! Consider how he answered Jesus when Jesus said: “I will go and heal him.” Read his reply in verse 8. “The centurion replied, ‘Lord, I do not deserve to have you come under my roof. But just say the word, and my servant will be healed.’” It’s amazing that this dignified soldier considered himself unworthy of Jesus, the man of God. Look at his attitude! It shames us all! Now consider his faith. His faith was not only that believed in Jesus, and that he believed that Jesus could heal his servant, but his faith was in Jesus’ word itself! He had faith in the word of Jesus. He believed that Jesus’ words had the power to heal. He believed that it was enough for Jesus to simply say the word and the sickness would obey and depart. This is amazing considering that the power he’s talking about must be far beyond and greater than any earthly power! It seems he had insight into the spiritual world. Just as a king’s word is so powerful in the world that it can make or break people, so also this centurion believed that in the spiritual world, Jesus’ word has the power and authority to heal a man’s body and soul. This is no ordinary faith. It is a faith based on the word of God and on the power of that word. For this reason, Jesus was amazed at him and commended his faith. (10-12) “Then Jesus said to the centurion, ‘Go! It will be done just as you believed it would.’ And his servant was healed at that very hour.” (13)
I believe that you and I need to grow and mature in this kind of faith as we study and teach the Bible. We need to grow in compassion as well— grow in a shepherd heart for a suffering soul. We need to grow in faith— especially the faith that believes in the power of Jesus’ word to heal us and to heal those whom we love and pray for as we serve them with the word of God. The truth is that we have absolutely no power to change even one bad habit in our lives or in the lives of others. But our comfort is that Jesus’ words in the Bible are powerful enough to heal our suffering and theirs and bring healing to heart, body and soul. We need to believe this from our hearts. We need to believe, “Lord, just say the word and we will be healed.” Look at verses 14-17. Finally, Jesus went to Peter’s home and healed Peter’s mother-in law’s fever. (15) When evening came, Jesus healed many people who were suffering from evil spirits, and healed their sicknesses. (16) Why did Jesus perform so many healings? Because Jesus came with God’s mission to heal us especially from our sin-sickness. The cure for sin-sickness is Jesus himself, and he himself holds the cure! It came to us through his love by the blood he shed on the cross. The cure is also in the power of his word which he gives us to bandage our wounds and restore God’s image in our lives. Jesus came to heal us as Isaiah says: “He took up our infirmities and carried our diseases.” (Isa.53:4) Praise Jesus!