Jesus: Power and Compassion

Jesus Cleanses a Leper

8 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.” (Matthew 8:1–4)

Today we move in our way through Matthew’s gospel from the sermon on the mount to actually seeing Jesus interact with regular people around Him. We move from His inaugural message to seeing Him in action within His community of people. This was exciting for many of those who were there to actually witness His life and it is exciting for us too as we see this Man Jesus rubbing shoulders with the common people of HIs day. We can learn a lot about a person by what that person does.

For instance, how do you spend your time? The way you spend your time says something about what you value, what you desire, what you love. What are your favorite things to do? If you have spare time, what do you do with it? What is your attitude toward things you don’t like doing, necessary things in life that you may not really like doing? How do you talk with your children after a difficult day, or your spouse or your parents or your friends? All of these things indicate things about us.

We are going to get to see many of these things in Jesus' life. How did He spend His time, with whom did He spend His time? What does Jesus talk about? How did He respond to the poor and humble and what about the proud and arrogant? What can we see about Jesus’s priorities in His life? What does He love and what does He hate? All of these things we will see as we observe His life through this gospel writing. Why is all this important? Because, He is the God-man. He is the creator and sustainer of life. He has all power to bring about His will, He is might and if we belong to Him then our calling is to be like Him. Who is this Jesus that we claim to follow, these are the things we will look at together.

Now before we look more closely at these verses I want to read from Colossians chapter 1. I want to do this to remind us that as we read about Jesus and as we discuss His ministry let’s not forget who He is in relation to the universe. As we see His walk, let’s not forget about HIs true identity as Lord. Let’s not fall into thinking that He was a mere man, like us. He is more than a mere man and we know this to be true. Let me remind you from Colossians 1:15-23

The Preeminence of Christ

15 He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation. 16 For by him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things were created through him and for him. 17 And he is before all things, and in him all things hold together. 18 And he is the head of the body, the church. He is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, that in everything he might be preeminent. 19 For in him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell, 20 and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, making peace by the blood of his cross. 21 And you, who once were alienated and hostile in mind, doing evil deeds, 22 he has now reconciled in his body of flesh by his death, in order to present you holy and blameless and above reproach before him, 23 if indeed you continue in the faith, stable and steadfast, not shifting from the hope of the gospel that you heard, which has been proclaimed in all creation under heaven, and of which I, Paul, became a minister. (Colossians 1:15–23)

It is this Jesus that we will see in Matthew, making HIs walk even more curious and mysterious at times. He chose to enter our world, to meet us, to minister among us and even to suffer and die in our place. He is our Savior, the God of the universe and yet by choice He wrapped Hims elf in human flesh teaching us what it means to love God and glorify Him.

Who is this Jesus?

We ended last week with these words from Matthew 7:28-29:

28 And when Jesus finished these sayings, the crowds were astonished at his teaching, 29 for he was teaching them as one who had authority, and not as their scribes. (Matthew 7:28–29)

The crowds were astonished at His teaching because He was teaching with authority. Now we will see what such authority looked like on the streets.

When He came down off the mount as expected many followed Him. What would He do? Where would He go? It makes sense that many would follow in order to get their questions answered.

And the first person recorded here that approached Him was a leper. A leper was a person who had a terrible communicable skin disease called leprosy. This was the dreaded disease of the day. It was debilitating, contagious and crippling. It was a disease that forced its carrier into a form of isolation. So not only would one suffer terribly physically so but they also suffered emotionally being separated from the ones they loved. A leper became a beggar and an outcast.

My father-in-law’s dad had tuberculosis. At the time he contracted tuberculosis my father-in-law was a small child. In those days if someone had tuberculosis they were sent away to a facility to be isolated from the general population. Once sent away there was little hope of ever recovering and returning to family. I can’t really imagine that. I can’t imagine how his wife would have dealt with her young husband going away, leaving her and their small child to spend the rest of his short days with strangers.

Tammy and I saw some pictures and notes he had written while in this facility, reading those notes made it real, it was very sad. He did die in that facility, my father-in-law never got to know him. The disease was bad enough but the loss associated with isolation from loved ones would be unbearable to many.

This is how a leper would live. In fact in Leviticus 13:45-46 the Leper was commanded to warn others if they were near him. Listen to this and try to imagine the pain:

45 “The leprous person who has the disease shall wear torn clothes and let the hair of his head hang loose, and he shall cover his upper lip and cry out, ‘Unclean, unclean.’ 46 He shall remain unclean as long as he has the disease. He is unclean. He shall live alone. His dwelling shall be outside the camp.(Leviticus 13:45–46)

Can you imagine the pain involved here of rejection and loneliness. Finally, there is someone around and you have to cry out, unclean, unclean in order to warn them of your presence. This man who approached Jesus was a leper.

Now, this leper came right up to Jesus. The Scripture says, he knelt before Him and said, “Lord, if you will, you can make me clean.”

What would this man, Jesus do?

3 And Jesus stretched out his hand and touched him, saying, “I will; be clean.” This outcast made His appeal to the Lord Jesus Christ and we read that in a very purposeful way Jesus stretched out His hand and touched him. (Matthew 8:3)

You don’t touch lepers, after all they are unclean and their disease is contagious. You shun lepers you don’t touch them. And yet Jesus stretched out His hand and touched him.

In this act we see a tremendous thing. We see power and authority meet with compassion.

If Jesus had only compassion and no power and authority then he may have become a leper to on this day. If Jesus had only power and authority but no compassion, He never would have stretched out His hand to this poor man.

Jesus had authority over this disease, He had power to heal and He had compassion to cause Him to act.

We miss out and even fall into error when we fail to see Jesus for who He truly is. If we see Him only in the sense of having all power then we may tremble in fear and never approach him. If we see him as only compassionate then we may fail to show how holy reverence and high respect. We see both on this day, the leper experienced both.

Jesus willed to heal him and what Jesus wills comes to pass. The man was instantly healed.

And immediately his leprosy was cleansed

Do you know that this actually happened? A real man, with a real terrible disease, a real Jesus with real power and real compassion. This man’s life was changed and all because Jesus entered into His crumbling world.

Can you imagine the impact here. Jesus teaching and now this, the beginning of many miracles of healing and saving.

Now notice what Jesus says to this man after he heals him.

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.” (Matthew 8:4)

Jesus commands silence in a case where you would expect otherwise. This guy would be so overjoyed it is hard to see that he could keep silent. And yet Jesus tells him to say nothing.

Not only would the man want to speak up to many but you would think that Jesus would want him too. Now, just to be careful with the text, Jesus did tell him to go to the priest and to follow the command of Moses to show himself clean to the priests. It would be know that Jesus healed him, at least to the priests. It could be that Jesus didn’t want the man to be so distracted by telling everyone that he did not do the proper thing by following the Mosaic law.

But the other thing is that Jesus seemed to be keeping a bit of a low profile as least as much as possible at this early point in his ministry. Perhaps because His time had not yet come to be arrested and crucified. It would be impossible to keep all his miracles secret but it would take time for the pharisees to reach a boiling point of jealousy to then concoct and even plan to have him arrested and killed.

Now what can we take from this account?

First, the reaching out by Jesus to this diseased man is indicative of what He does with us today.

Jesus enters into the sphere of our lives. HE does this when He saves us. None of us were searching for Him and found our salvation in Him until He first reached out to us. We love Him, why? Because He first loved us. This love is reaching into our realm of living, revealing Himself to us, showing us truth, giving us faith so we can respond to Him. He woos us, changes our desires, brings us to Himself, and by faith we respond to His call.

Thank the Lord that Jesus reached out to this man and thank the Lord Jesus has reached out to us, all of us who are His children.

Secondly, I am thankful that Jesus made time to awaken me. I am thankful for this. Think of all that demands on Jesus life as he walked on this earth. Think of all the important things he had to do, conversation he needed to have, teaching that needed doing, and he still had to rest and eat and just function as a human. With so much going on he chose not to ignore this poor man who was suffering. And so it is with us. He purposefully, intentionally, took the time to reach out and touch you and me.

This is a tremendous thought. Why Lord Jesus would you reach out to me? This is a legitimate thought.

Also, Jesus is legitimately compassionate with people. Most of the miracles that Jesus performed they had practical impacts on real people’s lives. Jesus did not do frivolous miracles to show off or to simply gain attention. He healed the sick, He provided needed food, He calmed a roaring and dangerous sea. He freed people from demons. His miracles were full of compassion for people.

He was aware of the many needs around Him just as he is today. Our greatest need is salvation from our sins, becoming a child of God instead of an enemy of God. If you call out to Him, He will not leave you in your lost state, He will save you. He will have compassion on the humble who will call out to Him.

This man’s faith was not an act of strength. His faith was in a sense an act of weakness and humility. Faith is trusting in another instead of oneself. Faith is knowing that Jesus is powerful and that we are not. Faith is a desperate act of letting go of our pride and believing in the power and might and compassion of Jesus.

Faith is the spirit of the beatitudes that we looked at from Matthew 5, humble faith is found in them:

2 And he opened his mouth and taught them, saying: 3 “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. 4 “Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted. 5 “Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth. 6 “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied. 7 “Blessed are the merciful, for they shall receive mercy. 8 “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God. 9 “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God. 10 “Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. 11 “Blessed are you when others revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. 12 Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you. (Matthew 5:2–12)

Jesus reaches out and Jesus saves. Will you trust in Him?

8 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.” (Matthew 8:1–4)