Two weeks ago, we closed out the Sermon on the Mount as recorded for us in the Gospel According to Matthew. Last week we paused our study through Matthew to look at Christ’s forgiveness as we moved into Easter Weekend. Today, we are going pick up where we left off beginning in Matthew chapter 8. As we work through the Gospel of Matthew, we are going to also look at the Laws and the Prophets mentioned by Matthew as he records what Jesus said and did to fulfill them. The best way to study the Old Testament is through the lens of the New Testament.
After the Sermon on the Mount
Jesus has closed out the Sermon on the Mount and starts to move down the mountain, being followed by crowds. If you will recall back in Matthew 4 Jesus began His preaching ministry in Galilee. Matthew 4:23 (ESV), “And [Jesus] went throughout all Galilee, teaching in their synagogues and proclaiming the gospel of the kingdom and healing every disease and every affliction among the people.”
Matthew 8:1-4 (ESV) | Jesus Cleanses a Leper
1 When he came down from the mountain, great crowds followed him. 2 And behold, a leper came to him and knelt before him, saying, “Lord, if you will, you can make me clean.” 3 And Jesus stretched out his hand and touched him, saying, “I will; be clean.” And immediately his leprosy was cleansed. 4 And Jesus said to him, “See that you say nothing to anyone, but go, show yourself to the priest and offer the gift that Moses commanded, for a proof to them.”
Let’s look at what it was that Jesus told the healed leper to do. What is the gift that Moses commanded?
Leviticus 14:1-32 (ESV) | Laws for Cleansing Lepers
1 The Lord spoke to Moses, saying, 2 “This shall be the law of the leprous person for the day of his cleansing. He shall be brought to the priest, 3 and the priest shall go out of the camp, and the priest shall look. Then, if the case of leprous disease is healed in the leprous person, 4 the priest shall command them to take for him who is to be cleansed two live clean birds and cedarwood and scarlet yarn and hyssop. 5 And the priest shall command them to kill one of the birds in an earthenware vessel over fresh water. 6 He shall take the live bird with the cedarwood and the scarlet yarn and the hyssop, and dip them and the live bird in the blood of the bird that was killed over the fresh water. 7 And he shall sprinkle it seven times on him who is to be cleansed of the leprous disease. Then he shall pronounce him clean and shall let the living bird go into the open field. 8 And he who is to be cleansed shall wash his clothes and shave off all his hair and bathe himself in water, and he shall be clean. And after that he may come into the camp, but live outside his tent seven days. 9 And on the seventh day he shall shave off all his hair from his head, his beard, and his eyebrows. He shall shave off all his hair, and then he shall wash his clothes and bathe his body in water, and he shall be clean.
10 “And on the eighth day he shall take two male lambs without blemish, and one ewe lamb a year old without blemish, and a grain offering of three tenths of an ephah of fine flour mixed with oil, and one log of oil. 11 And the priest who cleanses him shall set the man who is to be cleansed and these things before the Lord, at the entrance of the tent of meeting. 12 And the priest shall take one of the male lambs and offer it for a guilt offering, along with the log of oil, and wave them for a wave offering before the Lord. 13 And he shall kill the lamb in the place where they kill the sin offering and the burnt offering, in the place of the sanctuary. For the guilt offering, like the sin offering, belongs to the priest; it is most holy. 14 The priest shall take some of the blood of the guilt offering, and the priest shall put it on the lobe of the right ear of him who is to be cleansed and on the thumb of his right hand and on the big toe of his right foot. 15 Then the priest shall take some of the log of oil and pour it into the palm of his own left hand 16 and dip his right finger in the oil that is in his left hand and sprinkle some oil with his finger seven times before the Lord. 17 And some of the oil that remains in his hand the priest shall put on the lobe of the right ear of him who is to be cleansed and on the thumb of his right hand and on the big toe of his right foot, on top of the blood of the guilt offering. 18 And the rest of the oil that is in the priest’s hand he shall put on the head of him who is to be cleansed. Then the priest shall make atonement for him before the Lord. 19 The priest shall offer the sin offering, to make atonement for him who is to be cleansed from his uncleanness. And afterward he shall kill the burnt offering. 20 And the priest shall offer the burnt offering and the grain offering on the altar. Thus the priest shall make atonement for him, and he shall be clean.
21 “But if he is poor and cannot afford so much, then he shall take one male lamb for a guilt offering to be waved, to make atonement for him, and a tenth of an ephah of fine flour mixed with oil for a grain offering, and a log of oil; 22 also two turtledoves or two pigeons, whichever he can afford. The one shall be a sin offering and the other a burnt offering. 23 And on the eighth day he shall bring them for his cleansing to the priest, to the entrance of the tent of meeting, before the Lord. 24 And the priest shall take the lamb of the guilt offering and the log of oil, and the priest shall wave them for a wave offering before the Lord. 25 And he shall kill the lamb of the guilt offering. And the priest shall take some of the blood of the guilt offering and put it on the lobe of the right ear of him who is to be cleansed, and on the thumb of his right hand and on the big toe of his right foot. 26 And the priest shall pour some of the oil into the palm of his own left hand, 27 and shall sprinkle with his right finger some of the oil that is in his left hand seven times before the Lord. 28 And the priest shall put some of the oil that is in his hand on the lobe of the right ear of him who is to be cleansed and on the thumb of his right hand and on the big toe of his right foot, in the place where the blood of the guilt offering was put. 29 And the rest of the oil that is in the priest’s hand he shall put on the head of him who is to be cleansed, to make atonement for him before the Lord. 30 And he shall offer, of the turtledoves or pigeons, whichever he can afford, 31 one for a sin offering and the other for a burnt offering, along with a grain offering. And the priest shall make atonement before the Lord for him who is being cleansed. 32 This is the law for him in whom is a case of leprous disease, who cannot afford the offerings for his cleansing.”
The healing of this leper was no small thing. It’s not like simply having a case of unsightly eczema, this man was ceremonially unclean, unable to engage in worship under the Law of Moses. It is unlikely he could have heard Jesus’s sermon, as He was undoubtedly surrounded by a crowd of Jews. This leper would not have been able to press in or mingle among the crowd. He had to wait for Jesus to be on the move again, so that he could approach the Messiah (though he might not have realized Jesus was the Messiah). Jesus not only healed the man, He did so with a touch of His hand. Matthew doesn’t record how long the man had been a leper, but I know that it doesn’t take long for me to miss a touch of compassion and affection. Yes, Jesus healed his skin, but in touching the man, He undoubtedly touched his heart. Jesus was already being followed by a large crowd, and there was yet much He needed to do so He told the man not to say anything to anyone, but to present himself before the priests as was required of the Law. No doubt this man would present himself before the priests, gather up the required gifts, and begin his 7 day cleansing ritual, culminating in the 8th day sacrifices/cleansing. This wouldn’t always be the case, but for now the Law remains a guardian until the time for Christ to lay down His life as the final sacrifice to make atonement before the Lord for all who are being cleansed.
Matthew 8:5-13 (ESV) | The Faith of a Centurion
5 When he had entered Capernaum, a centurion came forward to him, appealing to him, 6 “Lord, my servant is lying paralyzed at home, suffering terribly.” 7 And he said to him, “I will come and heal him.” 8 But the centurion replied, “Lord, I am not worthy to have you come under my roof, but only say the word, and my servant will be healed. 9 For I too am a man under authority, with soldiers under me. And I say to one, ‘Go,’ and he goes, and to another, ‘Come,’ and he comes, and to my servant, ‘Do this,’ and he does it.” 10 When Jesus heard this, he marveled and said to those who followed him, “Truly, I tell you, with no one in Israel have I found such faith. 11 I tell you, many will come from east and west and recline at table with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob in the kingdom of heaven, 12 while the sons of the kingdom will be thrown into the outer darkness. In that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.”13 And to the centurion Jesus said, “Go; let it be done for you as you have believed.” And the servant was healed at that very moment.
The faith of this Centurion is remarkable. To get a better idea of who this Centurion was and how it might be that he had learned of the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob and of Jesus (thus receiving faith) we might take a look at the account in Luke 7:1-10. Matthew, however isn’t focused on the Centurion. Matthew is focused on the Jewish witnesses, the sons of Abraham. Notice what he records Jesus saying to them, “I tell you, many will come from east and west and recline at table with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob in the kingdom of heaven, while the sons of the kingdom will be thrown into the outer darkness. In that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.” Jesus is prophesying here of the Gentiles being grafted into the Kingdom, while sons of Abraham perish in their sin. This is amazing news… the Good News… the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Christ came first to the Jews, the sons of Abraham, but He came for all of mankind, that through Him all the nations of the earth might be blessed. In Him, we are adopted into the Kingdom, we who were separated from the Promise by birth. Amen.
In the Apostle Paul’s letter to the Romans, he addresses an over-reach he sees in the Gentile churches thinking they’ve completely supplanted the Jews or the sons of the kingdom. He makes it clear that such is only a temporary state, Romans 11:25 (ESV) “Lest you be wise in your own sight, I do not want you to be unaware of this mystery, brothers: a partial hardening has come upon Israel, until the fullness of the Gentiles has come in.”
Matthew 8:14-17 (ESV) | Jesus Heals Many
14 And when Jesus entered Peter’s house, he saw his mother-in-law lying sick with a fever. 15 He touched her hand, and the fever left her, and she rose and began to serve him. 16 That evening they brought to him many who were oppressed by demons, and he cast out the spirits with a word and healed all who were sick.17 This was to fulfill what was spoken by the prophet Isaiah: “He took our illnesses and bore our diseases.”
Every commentary and cross-reference I’ve consulted points to Isaiah 53:4. This is interesting because we see interpretation going on rather than direct translation/quotation.
Isaiah 53 (ESV)
1 Who has believed what he has heard from us?
And to whom has the arm of the Lord been revealed?
2 For he grew up before him like a young plant,
and like a root out of dry ground;
he had no form or majesty that we should look at him,
and no beauty that we should desire him.
3 He was despised and rejected by men;
a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief;
and as one from whom men hide their faces
he was despised, and we esteemed him not.
4 Surely he has borne our griefs
and carried our sorrows;
yet we esteemed him stricken,
smitten by God, and afflicted.
5 But he was pierced for our transgressions;
he was crushed for our iniquities;
upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace,
and with his wounds we are healed.
6 All we like sheep have gone astray;
we have turned—every one—to his own way;
and the Lord has laid on him
the iniquity of us all.
7. He was oppressed, and he was afflicted,
yet he opened not his mouth;
like a lamb that is led to the slaughter,
and like a sheep that before its shearers is silent,
so he opened not his mouth.
8 By oppression and judgment he was taken away;
and as for his generation, who considered
that he was cut off out of the land of the living,
stricken for the transgression of my people?
9 And they made his grave with the wicked
and with a rich man in his death,
although he had done no violence,
and there was no deceit in his mouth.
10 Yet it was the will of the Lord to crush him;
he has put him to grief;
when his soul makes an offering for guilt,
he shall see his offspring; he shall prolong his days;
the will of the Lord shall prosper in his hand.
11 Out of the anguish of his soul he shall see and be satisfied;
by his knowledge shall the righteous one, my servant,
make many to be accounted righteous,
and he shall bear their iniquities.
12 Therefore I will divide him a portion with the many,
and he shall divide the spoil with the strong,
because he poured out his soul to death
and was numbered with the transgressors;
yet he bore the sin of many,
and makes intercession for the transgressors.
Matthew isn’t only talking about the healing of Peter’s Mother-in-Law, or the others healed in that house. As we saw in the account of the leper’s healing, Jesus touched the leprous man to heal him and then told him to observe the Law of Moses in presenting himself to the priests. The man’s leprosy wasn’t just about being sick, it was about being unclean. Matthew’s audience isn’t like our secular society that creates a false barrier between sickness and sinfulness. The Jews understood that our griefs, sorrows, sickness, and disease are all the result of sin. Matthew, in his Holy Spirit inspired interpretation of the prophecy of Isaiah concerning Jesus, is moving toward the fullness of the Gospel and its eternal fulfillment of the Law and the Prophets in that He will take away our sin at the Cross. We’ll see in Chapter 9 Jesus saying point-blank, “For which is easier, to say, ‘Your sins are forgiven,’ or to say, ‘Rise and walk’?” (Matt 9:5 ESV). The two are connected in that all forms of death in this life are the result of sin. Sadly, many a false teacher misrepresents this Truth as the lie that all who are saved will never be sick. The bible doesn’t promise us that for this life. In this life we will have struggle, for His Glory. Our total and complete healing, freedom from our bodies of corruption, come at the Resurrection.
13 May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that by the power of the Holy Spirit you may abound in hope.
Amen. In Christ Jesus,