Word from Scotland
by Sandy Shaw
In Matthew Chapter 8 , Jesus comes from these slopes, not far from Capernaum, where he has been teaching the Sermon on the Mount, and a man approaches Jesus. We are told that he is full of leprosy – covered with leprosy – Luke 5 .
Think of the pain - isolation - ostracism - lumps - twisted distorted limbs - lack of physical feelings – which this leper would experience. The man is desperate, and Jesus loves desperation. Does that sound cruel? No - because Jesus can do something with it. Mild interest has its limitations.
He fell at Jesus feet - how undignified! He has been begging, having had to cry out "Unclean".
Leprosy can be taken as a sign of sin, but not many see themselves to be covered with leprosy - covered with sin.
We have to come to know and recognise that our sin is so dire. People think that their condition is not as serious as the Bible paints.
Leprosy at that time was regarded as a consequence of sin, and sin separates man from God, and sin separates man from man. Leprosy disfigures, and so does sin.
Leprosy is not easy to diagnose at first - that too is similar to sin, which can work away silently and secretly in a man’s life.
Leprosy can paralyse and remove feeling and sensitivity and so does sin.
Leprosy graphically describes human sinfulness and its consequences.
This needy man comes with that word “if” - but he approaches Jesus with an open fervent sincere request. Jesus did not overlook the prayer from this pained body. "You know my need - heal my pain." This man was sure that Jesus could heal him.
Jesus touched what was not supposed to be touched. Jesus could not overlook such an impassioned plea. When necessary Jesus would sweep aside religious regulations, as they would only hinder any real help being given.
Jesus touched him. Jesus healed him just like that.
People would not believe that this man had been so covered with the ravages of leprosy – “ransomed, healed, restored, forgiven”.
Why was he not to tell? Was it because of the depth of the work done in him? A deep work had taken place. Jesus does not want more crowds coming for the wrong reason - people might just appear for healing, important though that was in a day of sore severe sickness and pain. Jesus did not desire easy popularity.
Jesus looked for a degree of faith – a degree of believing in Him. Jesus could have healed bodies, but he had come to save people from their sins.
In Acts Chapter 6 at verse 4 , we read of how the Church of Jesus Christ was not to become a mere humanitarian agency.
The bodily needs of the people must be secondary.
These apostles were not going to become social workers – prayer and the word would be the priority.
Healthy bodies are one thing, but spiritual strength is something else.
Verse 3 - I am willing – be thou clean. What a thrill must have gone through that leper’s heart. He was touched and healed. He was to go to the priests and testify. He was to go and witness, just as we have to witness when our sin is healed – removed – forgiven – and people may reject our witness – but one day these people who reject our testimony and witness will have to stand before the great white throne.
News of this healing soon got around. Crowds came! What did Jesus do?
Dr Luke tells us he withdrew to pray – Chapter 5 . Jesus Christ did not want to be just a healer, although this had been a period of tremendous success. He decides to be alone with His Father, to prepare for the next stage in his ministry.
Prayerful seasons are essential – hard, but necessary.
Might that just be the word of inspiration and motivation that you need this coming week?
We come to Mathew Chapter 8 verse 5 - Jesus now enters Capernaum.
Much of the ministry of Jesus has been spontaneous, as those in need met him, or came to him, or he would be walking along the road. Jesus was not limited to certain times and places and settings, but he was available all the time when he was in public. In Capernaum, a Centurion's servant is lying sick, and this servant is highly thought of by his master.
It was most unusual to care for, or be concerned about, a slave who was far below you. The Roman Army Officer would be quite powerful, with position and influence and authority. He would be a man of strong character - an R.S.M of a man - with leadership qualities and be reasonably wealthy. He would be able to afford as many slaves and servants as he needed.
However, there was a crisis in his home. This personal servant is about to die. He asks some elders of the Jews to go and find Jesus. He wants Jesus to come and heal his servant. Consider what he is doing - a military man - with a sick servant - asking Jewish elders to go and get Jesus Christ. When a crisis arises, it is good to turn to Jesus. A crisis brings a strong man to find and invite Jesus Christ.
They found Jesus and pleaded with him, to go to the house of this Gentile - to the home of an officer of the occupying army in their land. Jesus did not refuse to hear them. He did not argue with them, or reason with them, or suggest that this man better mend his ways and sort out this and that.
The Roman Centurion had shown a love for Israel - he had built a synagogue - showing his love in a tangible way - he had been generous.
God always sees generosity and rewards it in some way.
The Centurion has a degree of faith in Jesus, and he does something about it. His position in life did not prevent him from seeking Jesus publicly and openly. There is quite a complexity of compassion in this passage – and there is an amazing respect for each other all-round.
Why is there so much grace in this passage? This follows teaching – and I had never seen that before.
The Centurion had only heard of Jesus. We never know what may happen ‘second hand’. Do you think someone may have been praying for this man’s heart to be prised open?
Jesus agrees to go. When Jesus is nearing the Centurion’s house, he sends friends to say to Jesus, “Don't trouble yourself - don't waste your time coming the whole way - you are a busy man, and I don't deserve you to come under my roof. I am not worthy. Just say a word and my servant will be healed.” This is amazing humility and understanding.
Some people do feel unworthy. He was a man of authority and under authority. When I give an order, it is to be obeyed immediately. He knew what it was to obey commands, as well as give commands.
He recognises Jesus Christ is man under authority, and with authority.
Authority comes from participating in authority and submitting to authority. He could see that Jesus was in perfect submission to the Father - and so had perfect authority. He believed that Jesus could say to this disease "Quick march", and it would have to go - leave - move out - disappear.
He so believed in the power of the Word of God. The miracle begins when he places himself under the authority of Jesus Christ - who had perfect love - perfect submission - perfect power - perfect authority.
Many today have very little sense of authority, and find it hard to recognise authority, and to submit to authority is even harder.
This Roman Centurion understood the nature of authority. His heart was open.
Jesus marvelled. He was surprised, and Jesus admired such faith. The only other place where it is recorded that Jesus was surprised was when he visited his home town of Nazareth and could do no powerful work there. He marvelled because of their unbelief.
This man, called Jesus, has a potential which I cannot explain, but I recognise it. He is different from every other man. The servant is healed. The word means WHOLE.
What you do with your problem is far more important than what your problem does to you.
Invite him – call upon him – speak to Jesus – time and time again.
“Thy touch has still its ancient power – no word from Thee can fruitless fall”
May we experience that touch of Jesus, and may we treasure every fruitful word we read and hear. Loving heavenly Father, we thank you for the riches of Your grace – that reassuring blessing and peace. Nowhere else in this troubled world can it be found – except in Thee. Amen”
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Alexander 'Sandy' Shaw is pastor of Nairn Christian Fellowship in Nairn, Scotland. Nairn is 17 miles east of Inverness - on the Moray Firth Coast - not far from the Loch Ness Monster!
Gifted as a Biblical teacher, Sandy is firmly committed to making sure that his teachings are firmly grounded in the Word.
Sandy has a weekly radio talk which can be heard via the Internet on Saturday at 11:40am, New Orleans time, at wsho.com.
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