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Worship Message - Conversations With Jesus - #7

Conversations With Jesus - #7

A Leper, a Centurion, Two Blind Men

Conversations. Jesus had many of them during His ministry. Sometimes to call disciples, other times to offer forgiveness, still other times to heal people.

Concerning healing, we have recently discussed conversations in which Jesus healed a woman from a bleeding problem, a girl who had died, a man who was paralyzed, and a man who was demon-possessed. For today, three more conversations related to healing, recorded in chapters 8 and 9 of the Gospel of Matthew. We will start with verse 1 of Matthew 8, which begins with the report that Jesus came down from the mountain.

The mountain was an area beside the Sea of Galilee in which Jesus spoke His Sermon on the Mount, in which He summarized what it means to live a Christian life in action and in attitude. Such as - here are just a few - let the light of Christ shine through you, do not even think immoral thoughts, let your yes be yes and your no be no, which means to mean what you say, do not be anxious about the things of life, lay up treasures in Heaven, do not judge others, build your life on the solid rock of God’s word, and seek first God’s kingdom and His righteousness.

The Sermon on the Mount was and still is a very valuable teaching on how to live in ways - in actions and in attitudes - that are pleasing to the Lord.

Then, when Jesus came down from the mountain, great crowds followed Him. Some had been with Him when He spoke the Sermon on the Mount. Others joined the crowd as He came down from the mountain. Great crowds followed Him.

Suddenly someone in the crowd knelt before Jesus. Verse 2. That someone was a leper.

A leper. Yikes. A leper is someone who suffers from leprosy, which is a horribly debilitating disease that causes deformities in its victims. Deformities of the hands and the feet and some facial features. It also leads to injuries since leprosy can take away sensitivity to pain. The result is often that a person with leprosy does not know when the affected part of the body is burned or cut. The result many times is infections.

Fortunately, there are cures for leprosy now, but it still is - it certainly was back at the time of Matthew 8 - a very dangerous disease, and a highly contagious disease.

Both of which mean that man should not have been in that crowd that day. His physical appearance would have repulsed the others in the crowd. That was a social reason for not being in the crowd. It was also a legal thing. Religious law stated lepers were not allowed anywhere near a healthy person. Some authorities required at least 50 yards - half the length of a football field - between lepers and healthy people. Plus, lepers were required by law to yell out, “unclean, unclean,” if a healthy person appeared to be coming near. That was another legal requirement to try to avoid the spread of the dread disease.

There was to be complete separation between those with leprosy and those who were clean of the disease, but here was a leper, not only in the crowd around Jesus, but doing something that would attract attention to him. The leper went to Jesus. He knelt before Jesus. He said, not “unclean, unclean.” He said, “Lord, if You will, You can make me clean.”

There was nothing wrong with the man asking for healing. It was where he asked, being in the crowd and so close to Jesus, that was unusual and illegal according to religious law.

How did Jesus respond to the leper? Who, by the way, displayed humility. The leper did not demand healing, It was more a request. A prayerful, reverent asking. He knelt before Jesus and said, in essence, “Lord, if You will, if it is not too much to ask, if You can see Yourself clear to help, even though I know I deserve to be sent away, if You will, will You heal me?”

Jesus could have responded by scolding the man. He could have shouted a warning for the others to clear the area as soon as they could. He could have given a lesson on what to do if others happened to have caught the man’s disease. He could have done any or all those things.

Instead, Jesus had compassion on the man. With that compassion, He stretched out His hand and - listen to this - touched the man who had leprosy.

Jesus touched Him.

First of all, that was a very risky thing to do, for His own health and because of what religious law said about the need to stay away from people suffering from leprosy. In fact, touching the man should have caused Jesus to be considered unclean. I am not sure why that did not become an issue, except that Jesus needed to continue His ministry. Maybe He closed the eyes of the others in the crowd to what was happening.

But second, think what a gift it was that Jesus touched the man. That had to have been the first touch from a healthy person for as long as the man had had his disease. How wonderful the touch of Jesus was.

Jesus touched the man. Then, in the first part of His side of the conversation with the leper, He said, “I will. [I will help you]. Be clean.”

Immediately the leprosy was cleansed.

What a wonderful miracle for the man with leprosy. What a miracle that the disease was cured so quickly. After which Jesus gave the man two instructions .

Jesus said, “See that you say nothing to anyone.” I think the reason for that instruction was to keep the enthusiasm surrounding Jesus, which was already building, under control so the crowds would not try to crown Him king, which would have interfered with His ministry.

Jesus then said, “Go, show yourself to the priest, and offer the gift that Moses commanded as a sacrifice” - an outward display of thanks to God for healing.

Both those things are what anyone cured of leprosy was supposed to do. That is what Jesus instructed that healed man to do. Do that, Jesus added, “as proof to the people you are healed.”

Doing the reporting to the priest and offering the gift religious law required when healing took place were necessary so the man would be allowed to be with healthy people again.

What a wonderful miracle. Then, after that healing, Jesus entered the nearby city of Capernaum. As He entered, someone else approached Him, this one a centurion, who started a conversation with Jesus by beseeching Him.

By the way, centurions were the backbone of the Roman army, which was organized into legions, each with 6000 soldiers. Each legion was divided into 60 centuries, each with 100 soldiers. Hence the word “centuries.” In charge of each century was a centurion, each of whom had long service in the Roman military, which translates into a lot of experience. Centurions were battle-tested. They were in charge of discipline. To help with that, they set an example for the soldiers under their authority.

Centurions were the mainstay of the Roman army. It was a centurion who approached Jesus. It was a centurion who beseeched - who urgently and fervently talked to - Jesus, saying, “Lord…” Lord. The centurion obviously knew who Jesus was, not just by name, but that He was from God. That He is God. “Lord,” the centurion said, “my servant is lying paralyzed at home, in terrible distress.”

That statement is amazing because servants - slaves - were considered little more than tools or property. For many owners, there might have been a concern if a servant was sick and might die because then another one would have to be purchased and trained. But the mood in this conversation is something different. This centurion cared for his servant. This centurion was grieving that another human was suffering. This centurion wanted to do everything he could to save his servant.

One thing the centurion could do was go to Jesus. Which he did. And think how strange that was. The centurion was a Gentile and Jesus was a Jew. There was little communication between Gentiles and Jews. Especially Roman army Gentiles and Jews. Yet that centurion went to Jesus.

Jesus would, in a moment, continue the conversation, but did we notice? The centurion did not ask Jesus for anything. He simply shared with Jesus what the problem was - that his servant was paralyzed and in distress. The centurion could have demanded Jesus do something. I guess he had the worldly authority to do so. But he did not. He simply shared the problem with Jesus.

Despite the lack of a request, Jesus knew the centurion wanted Him to do something. So Jesus said to him, “I will come and heal your servant.”

“Wait, the centurion said. “No, Lord, do not come.” Listen to what the centurion added. “I am not worthy to have You under my roof.” That was another display of humility. “Do not come to my house. I am not worthy of that. Instead, only say the word, right here, and my servant will be healed.”

The centurion explained his knowledge of the power of a spoken order. He said he was a man under authority. He knew that when his superiors spoke, he was expected to obey without question and immediately. And he had soldiers under him. If he told one soldier to go, that soldier went. If he told another to come, that soldier came. If he told to a slave to do something, that is what the slave did.

The centurion knew the power of orders, even when orders are given from a distance. He wanted Jesus’ help, but all he expected was Jesus ordering the healing from where He was.

When Jesus heard the centurion, He marveled, and said to those who followed Him, “Truly, I say to you, not even in Israel have I found such faith.”

Jesus then proclaimed that anyone with faith - including people like the centurion, who was a Gentile - would be rewarded with Heaven.

He then concluded this conversation by telling the centurion, “Go, be it done for you as you have believed.”

At that very moment, the servant was healed. It could not have been until the centurion arrived home that he knew about the healing, but when he did arrive home, he found the servant up and walking, no longer in distress. When the centurion asked to find out when the healing had taken place, he learned health had returned at the very moment Jesus had given the order for healing.

What wonderful miracles early in Matthew 8. Jesus healed a leper by touching him. Later He healed a paralyzed servant from a distance. What power Jesus displayed, both near and far.

There are other healings described in this portion of the Gospel of Matthew, but for another conversation, let’s move on to chapter 9, starting with verse 27.

One day, as Jesus was on the move to another opportunity to preach, two blind men followed Him, crying aloud, “Have mercy on us, Son of David.”

Notice that, like the centurion, the blind men did not directly ask for healing. The centurion had simply told Jesus the problem. Here the blind men simply asked for mercy. They probably assumed Jesus would know that their idea of mercy was being healed of blindness, but they asked for mercy.

Apparently Jesus did not answer the blind men when they first cried out. One commentary suggests that might have been because Jesus wanted to be sure they were sincere and earnest.

Other times Jesus asked those who went to Him for healing, “What do you want Me to do for you?” It should have been obvious what those people wanted, and it was obvious to Jesus. But He wanted them to be sure what they wanted, knowing their lives would be changed once they were healed. No longer could any of the others - no longer could these two blind men - beg. If they were healed, they would have to get a job. And think of this. For the blind men, they would have to learn how to do so many things, including recognizing people some other way than by their voices.

Jesus gave the two blind men a chance to think about what they wanted. Apparently they were serious about wanting the mercy of healing because when Jesus entered a house, the blind men were still following Him.

They went to Him. Jesus said to them, “Do you believe that I am able to do this?” With that question, He asked if they had faith.

They answered, “Yes, Lord.” He then touched the men’s eyes. This is another example of Jesus touching who was being healed. This was not illegal to do, as it had been with the leper in today’s first conversation, but He touched the men’s eyes. He then said, “According to your faith be it done to you.”

Immediately - as soon as Jesus touched them and spoke to them - the eyes of the men were opened. What a miracle that was, which they were instructed to not tell anyone about. Jesus sternly charged them, “See that no one knows about this.”

I think the reason for that instruction is the same that was mentioned earlier. Jesus did not want to increase the excitement around Him. However, the two men who now could see chose to not obey what Jesus had said. They went away and spread His fame through all that district.

Again, there are other healings recorded in this part of Matthew. Those healed include a woman with a fever and others who were sick with unmentioned illnesses. Jesus healed many, many people from all sorts of diseases.

But from today’s conversations, what can we learn? Of what can we be reminded?

How about this? Jesus is willing to work with all people, including outcasts.

As mentioned, the leper should not have been anywhere near Jesus, but he was. When he was near, he did ask Jesus for help. And Jesus helped.

Maybe not because of a disease, but do you ever feel like an outcast? For whatever reason? Know that you - that we - can go to Jesus. Know He will help you, just like He helped the leper in today’s first conversation.

How about this? The centurion in today’s second conversation cared so much for his servant, he was willing to go to Jesus for help. Think of the humility that took on the part of the centurion, including admitting that as powerful and as important as he was, there were things he could not do.

Do you know someone with a need? Maybe not a physical need. Maybe some other problem. Will you ask Jesus to help that person? Know He will help, just like He did for the centurion’s servant.

And how about this? Will you keep asking Jesus for help, like the two blind men did?

And when He helps you, will you tell others what the Lord has done for you?

Go to Jesus with your own need. Go to Jesus on behalf of others. Keep asking Jesus for the help that is needed. Do not be afraid to do any of those things. And may we remember, always, to let others know just how good and wonderful and powerful Jesus is.

Today’s closing hymn is closely related to the third part of today’s message. The part about telling others what the Lord has done, which of course includes knowing two of the things He has done for us - giving us the privilege of praying for others and being thankful He is willing to work with all people - including us. It is Tell What He’s Done For You, verses 1, 3, and 4.

"Have you found rest and peace within,

Rolled far away your load of sin,

Stepped from the old life to the new?

Tell what the Lord has done for you.

O tell what He’s done for you,

Of His love so strong and true;

O tell what He’s done, what He’s done for you;

Others may need Him, too.

Have you been saved His love to show,

Who by your side each day shall go?

Looking to Him to help you through,

Tell what the Lord has done for you.

O tell what He’s done for you,

Of His love so strong and true;

O tell what He’s done, what He’s done for you;

Others may need Him, too.

Have you a joy that ne’er shall fail

E’en when you walk through death’s dark vale,

Some One whose power great things can do?

Tell what the Lord has done for you.

O tell what He’s done for you,

Of His love so strong and true;

O tell what He’s done, what He’s done for you;

Others may need Him, too."

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