Audio Lesson by David Daniel
Scripture: Matthew 8:1-4
Lesson Goal: To better understand Jesus’ words of authority and His teaching of authority.
Introduction: Jesus has completed the greatest sermon ever spoken, “The Sermon on the Mount.” His words spoke deep into the hearts of His listeners who heard the same words, but whose responses and reactions were as diverse as the listeners themselves. Some responded in belief, others rejected; some were indignant, but all were amazed by the authority of the words Jesus spoke.
In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus turned the religious beliefs and practices of popular Judaism, especially those of the scribes and Pharisees, topsy-turvy. He had told them, in effect, that their teaching was wrong, their living was wrong, and their attitudes were wrong. Virtually everything they believed in, stood for, and hoped in was unbiblical and ungodly. The Lord overturned their entire religious system and exposed them as religious hypocrites and spiritual phonies (MacArthur).
As Jesus came down from the mount, the crowds and multitudes continued to follow after Him. Again, their reasons for following were numerous. Some were merely curious; some were miracle seekers; others were on a fault-finding mission; some were no doubt following in genuine belief of His words, while some just wanted to hear more.
What are some reasons people follow Jesus today?
What are some reasons people come to (attend) church?
“And behold, a leper came and worshipped Him…” (This actually took place before the Sermon on the Mount.) For us to gain a better and more complete understanding of these verses, we must first discuss the dreaded disease of leprosy. The physical effects of leprosy were very treacherous. The word lepros means “scaly,” which makes reference to one of the first visible signs of the disease. There were various kinds of leprosy, but the most severe form was the most feared and dreaded disease of Jesus’ day. Leprosy was viewed as both contagious and unclean. L.S. Huizenga offers these words concerning leprosy:
The disease, which today we call leprosy, generally begins with pain in certain areas of the body. Numbness follows. Soon the skin in such spots loses its original color. It gets to be thick, glossy, and scaly. As the sickness progresses, the thickened spots become dirty sores and ulcers due to poor blood supply. The skin, especially around the eyes and ears, begins to bunch, with deep furrows between the swellings, so that the face of the afflicted individual begins to resemble that of a lion. Fingers drop off or are absorbed; toes are affected similarly. Eyebrows and eyelashes drop out. By this time one can see the person in this pitiable condition is a leper. By a touch of a finger, one can also feel it. One can even smell it, for the leper emits a very unpleasant odor. Moreover, in view of the fact that the disease-producing agent frequently attacks the larynx, the leper’s voice acquires a grating quality. His throat becomes hoarse, and you can now not only see, feel, and smell the leper, but you can hear the rasping voice. And if you stay with him for some time, you can even imagine a peculiar taste in your mouth probably due to the odor.
In the ancient world, everyone was terrified of leprosy because it was a threat to life itself, but it also rendered anyone who came in contact with it unclean. Lepers were ostracized from family, friends, community and even religion. They were simply the outcast of the outcast. They were often joined by those “of their own kind” to share in the sufferings, anguish, and tumult of the disease. The leper was obligated to stay away from people and must readily warn anyone of his coming or approach. The cry of “unclean” was truly the cry of the leper. There was no area of a leper’s life that was not destroyed. Economically, they survived as beggars; politically, they were unheard; socially, they were unaccepted; medically, they were incurable; psychologically, they were undone; and religiously, they were unclean.
But on this day, after Jesus descended from the mount, He is approached by the unapproachable.
“worshipped Him”—Greek, proskuneo, meaning “to fall on one’s face, to prostrate oneself.” It is this word that is most often translated “worship” in the New Testament. We see that he approaches Jesus with honor, respect and reverence. Also, in the manner in which he approaches Jesus, we are able to see his faith. His posture of worship exemplifies his faith, but his faith is made known through the words he spoke to Jesus.
How is your faith made known to others?
What do you think was the reaction of the crowd as they saw the leper approaching Jesus?
“Lord, if You are willing, You can make me clean.” As the leper approached Jesus, he referenced him as “Lord.” The word “Lord” may carry the meaning of “sir.” But it can also carry the meaning of the “acknowledgement of deity.”
What do you think the leper meant when he called Jesus “Lord”?
How does the leper express his reverence to Jesus?
Please explain this popular cliché as it relates to the leper: “You can’t judge a book by its cover.”
In contrast to the leper, how does the same cliché relate to the Pharisees who were part of the multitude following Jesus?
“if You are willing…” The “if” in the leper’s statement to Jesus does not distract from his faith; in actuality, it enhances it. The leper has absolutely no doubt in Jesus’ authority and ability to heal him. It is simply a matter of Jesus’ willingness to heal him. The leper does not, in any way, question Jesus’ power or ability to heal. Again, it is just a matter of the willingness of Jesus to heal him.
(V3) “Then Jesus put out his hand and touched him, saying, ‘I am willing; be cleansed.’”
Jesus did the unthinkable, unimaginable; He touched the man. As the crowd looked on, the outcome was inevitable. There could be no other result than Jesus becoming unclean Himself. But once again, to their amazement and astonishment, the incomprehensible happens. Instead of the clean being made unclean, the unclean is made clean.
How do you believe the crowd reacted as Jesus reached forth to touch the leper?
How do you think the leper felt when Jesus reached out His hand toward him?
What do you think was the leper’s response when he heard Jesus say, “I am willing”?
In your journey of life, have you ever experienced the “I am willing” of Jesus Christ? Please prayerfully explain.
How has Jesus touched your life?
(V4) Throughout the Gospel, we find on occasion Jesus instructing individuals not to tell or spread the word of a miracle that has been done. As we read the Scriptures (Gospels), we find difficulty with the why of these instructions. But as stated in the Holman New Testament Commentary, we must understand that:
This was to keep Jesus’ public notoriety within bounds until the time was right for his public conflict with the Jewish leaders. He did not intend to hide from the crowds, but His focus was on the training of His disciples. He needed to guard enough time before His arrest and death to see them through to the necessary level of maturity.
Even though the leper was told to tell no one, he could not conceal the evidence of his cleansed life.
The facts involved in showing himself to the priest and offering the gift that Moses commanded is quite detailed. Please read Leviticus 14:1-32.
“All this ritual was implied in the Lord’s word to the leper in Matthew 8:4: ‘Go your way, show yourself to the priest, and offer the gift Moses commanded, as a testimony to them.’ What a testimony it was of a man cleansed to live as Jesus lived—to live the kind of life indicated in the Sermon on the Mount” (Phillips).
Remember, Jesus touches the untouchable!