Faith of Jesus Daily Devotional - Day 31
Matthew:8:1-4 The Man With Leprosy
Previous Context: devotion:Matthew:7:24-29 The Wise and Foolish Builders
Yesterday's devotion ended with Matthew's observation that the Sermon on the Mount crowd dispersed back down the hill stunned at the authority with which Jesus had delivered His teachings, being unlike the authority/teachings of the scribes. Here we see an authority of a different kind: the authority of healing. Just as astounding nonetheless.
What is God doing?
Recall that we had mentioned back at the devotion:Matthew:3:13-16 "The Baptism of Jesus" and subsequent leading of the Spirit out into the wilderness for devotion:Matthew:4:1-11 "The Temptation of Jesus" was about Jesus voluntarily/actively submitting Himself to the immediate direction of God the Father. What Jesus heard from the Father to say He said, what He saw from the Father to do He did. The temptation was all about Satan's attempt to get Jesus to out step what He saw from the Father in order to do what He knew Himself to be capable of by His own resource and determination. Since then the Sermon on the Mount and everything to follow leading up to the Cross is all about that obedience Jesus has committed Himself to towards the Father.
On the Father's part, everything is about one thing and one thing only: establishing HIS son Jesus to be the very fulfillment of HIS messianic promise to Adam and Eve and all generations that follow. For all this time then to now it has been about nothing else but that. With Jesus living in the flesh now the establishment of this is being conducted by a series of physical and very noteworthy confirmations that follow Jesus' obediences, in this case the healing of a leprous man.
What is man doing?
I would like to depart slightly from our typical inquiry and ask why in God's creation there would be such a thing as leprosy. It likely is not that the man has done anything in particular to come down with the disease other than perhaps been too close to someone with this highly contagious disease. It is a very tough question to answer with any certainty, but I think that it will help us to understand better what man is doing in reaction to it.
Surely disease was not evident in the garden before the fall and it would not have presented itself had man not chosen to disobey God and eat from the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil. Man was told surely the day that he ate thereof he would die. My feeling is that on that very day man did die, however God in HIS mercy and attempt to redeem man out of it did not allow that process of death to occur all at once; had He allowed it there would have been no chance/time at redemption. What we are seeing in the meantime is the not all at once process of death, disease is living proof that we have come under the process of death. Having eaten of the Tree of Good and Evil, good and evil have become our common experience, good in the sense not all of God's general mercy has been removed, good in the sense that God yet is working non stop towards our salvation from this, evil though in the sense that we are having to face the reality of the impending sentence, evil in the sense that these stark and increasing evidences afflict us along the way.
Man of course refuses to see these things this way. Part of us wants to say that God left this creation incomplete. A part of us even wants to go as far as to say it is God's will that we learn to overcome this incompleteness and add the finishing parts of it by our intellect and determination. Another part of us wants to say that the diseased man must have done something to deserve this (else his parents), that he is being punished by God for this having been done. You can see that there are many ways that we can respond to the evidence of disease, but each of these various ways are are corrupted from the better truth that leads us to the understanding of God's fullest mercy and salvation.
Man had eaten the fruit and now he was set to suffer the consequences of doing so; the consequences could not be removed. So what did God then do? Remember? HE took man away from the Tree of Life and guarded it from man coming back to it on his own. Again it is my belief, not empirical fact, that God did not then create disease, but that the eternal processes that kept the balance of things from collapsing were suddenly withheld in judgment. Only mercy keeps the remaining imbalance from all at once completely decaying.
What does this passage tell us about the about the commands and faith of Jesus that saints are to keep/guard?
The leprous man here did not have to know or believe any of this in order to be healed. He had been pointed to by the Father to Jesus for healing and Jesus obeyed. On the man's part his faith was little more than suspecting that Jesus might be able to make him clean; it was a chance that unfolded right in front of him at one moment's notice. Remember though that the man (healed of leprosy as he is) is still under sentence of death and to be cleansed of that he is going to have to believe on Jesus in a whole different way.
As sensitive Christian souls, we hate to see anyone suffer (that empathy is not exclusive to Christians either). If we could we would heal any and everyone regardless of their beliefs just so they would not have to suffer. Perhaps our rationale would be if we made a show of God's miraculous power then as a consequence the healed person would then rightly believe in our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Our rationale however should be no different than Jesus' at this time, to obey the Father. If there is ever and arrow pointing to a person and a command from above to heal then it is best for us to do so. If there is not that arrow or command then most certainly we are to love and minister to that person without personal judgment for such a general command has been longstanding. And remember that in it all that the most important thing is not hiding ourselves nor them from the evidences of our mutual sentence and experience of this present good/evil, but to allow ourselves/them the greater appreciation of God's merciful offer of ultimate salvation.
Next: devotion:Matthew:8:5-13 The Faith of the Centurion