In a context of confusion and flashy journalism, rigour becomes a precious value.
A closer look at Matthew 8:1-4.
Jesus’ healing of the leper in Mathew 8:1-4 has always been an astounding passage of Scripture.
Over the years it has spoken to me time and time again. But something new hit home with me today that I hadn’t noticed before. If you’ve got a spare moment or two I’d like to share it with you.
The kind of things that had caught my attention in previous readings of these verses were, first and foremost, the bare truth that Jesus physically healed a leper. That fact –in and of itself- is breathtaking.
Jesus of Nazareth healed real life people. It wasn’t a metaphorical or a symbolical healing. “Oh, you know, the story is a mere myth that means Jesus touched the old leper’s heart! Blessed be God!” No, sir! Jesus healed the leper’s body. It was a bodily healing. That’s right. A sweaty, pus-plagued and leprous body!
A second thing that struck me was how Matthew stresses that Jesus actually ‘touched’ the leper. That’s right, he physically touched him. Wow! Not a bit of wonder this episode was recorded in the Gospels. Who on earth would ever dream of touching a leper?
Back in those days having leprosy was a modern day death sentence. In fact, it was so dangerous and contagious that a whole house was to be declared ‘unclean’ if a leper came into contact with it.
That’s why they were isolated and sent off to leper communities on the outskirts of town. It was one of those diseases that just jumped from one person to another. Some people in our days would have bother touching HIV-infected folk; but Jesus wouldn’t. He touched the outcasts. Amazing stuff!
The third thing that made my brain noodles buzz with joy is to see Jesus’ power on display. Anyone can touch a terminally sick person with compassion. We’ve all done so. We’ve watched loved ones and friends die in hospitals whilst looking on powerlessly.
But Jesus was the Christ, the Anointed One of God. Not only did He desire the leper to be cleansed, but He had power to do so: “Be thou clean!” At His divine command, the leprosy dissolved into nothingness.
Nothing –not even terminal illnesses- can resist the power of the Jesus’ words. In some way, this is a foreshadowing of what we will experience in our resurrected bodies. Restored to health! Full of vitality! Fresh and ready to die no more!
So what is it I learned today?
It was the part where He said: “See thou tell no man” (v. 4). Or as we’d say back home in Ireland, “Keep your gob shut!” Jesus commanded the man not to say a word about the healing.
Why is that surprising?
Well, put a contemporary celebrity evangelist in Jesus’ place. He’s just delivered a man afflicted by a hellish infirmity. What would happen next? Why, the evangelist would say to the man, “Go call the New York Times and Forbes Magazine! Go get CNN and Fox News! And tell the whole Christian world –Pentecostals, Baptists and even the Catholics and the liberals- that I healed you! Yes, sir! I am anointed!”
The next step would be to write a book upon Seven Steps on How to Heal the Sick and then spend the following decade flying around the world in his private jet giving healing conferences raking in millions of dollars in the process.
Not so, with Jesus, my dear reader. Not so. He merely speaks thus: “Show yourself to the priest and offer the gift that Moses commanded for a testimony unto them” (v.4).
In the midst of the high pitched emotionalism and sensationalism surrounding His act of healing, Jesus pointed the leper to Scripture. “Do what Moses said!” Fascinating!
He kept things in focus. What matters is the Word of God. Signs and wonders are great, you bet your bottom dollar they are, but the foundation of everything must be the revelation of God.
That’s all for now, folks! I’m off to do some cleaning. But sshhh! See thou tell no man!
I wonder what I’ll learn the next time I read Matthew 8… Any thoughts?