Jesus came off the mountain followed by crowds of people. After this preaching session, Matthew relates various healings, starting with this leper.
First century Jews were extremely squeamish about lepers. They pushed the clean/unclean rules to and beyond the limit. Jesus actually touched the leper to heal him, which normally would have caused Jesus to be ritually unclean.
When Jesus touched him, the leper wasn’t a leper anymore. He was clean, not unclean.
I can think of this in two possible ways:
- At the moment Jesus touched him, the leper was clean, so Jesus did not touch a leper.
- Or, as would be typical of Jesus, he set aside the letter of the law to do a greater good.
Either way, the leper must have been shocked to be touched. But he had already expressed a bold and desperate faith in Jesus. He had bowed to him and Jesus apparently accepted such honor. He accepted that Jesus’ will was in play, just as we must always accept that God’s will is in play.
Jesus told the ex-leper to go to the local priest and follow the law as a testimony. I’m not sure how the leper offering was handled outside of Jerusalem, but I’m sure there were provisions. Jesus would begin to be known by the authorities.
Bottom line: Jesus touched the untouchable to heal him.
The gospel is the announcement that God’s kingdom has come in the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus of Nazareth, the Lord and Messiah, in fulfillment of Israel’s Scriptures. The gospel evokes faith, repentance, and discipleship; its accompanying effects include salvation and the gift of the Holy Spirit.Michael Bird, Evangelical Theology, 2013
That sounds about right to me. The gospel is about Jesus, not about the benefits of his life, death, and resurrection. The gospel is the story, the announcement.
If we get anything like gospel in church today, it’s more about a system of salvation. Thus, it is more about us than about Jesus.
Let’s allow the horse to pull the cart.
It feels like it has been a long haul through the Sermon on the Mount. I guess it has been less than a month, actually. But the teaching of Jesus is so critical to get. We’ll continue reading Matthew as a handbook of discipleship.
As the Sermon comes to a close, the people who heard it were impressed with the authority with which Jesus taught. He didn’t leave the Torah behind, but he went in new directions, some of them startling. Wouldn’t it have been a thrill to hear Jesus preach in person?
To finish the Sermon, Jesus reminds his disciples that more is involved than listening, nodding the head, and saying, “Amen”. The Sermon is to be put into practice. To hear and not do is the height of foolishness. Better to have never heard.
To do is to walk the narrow road. It isn’t an easy walk and it is often lonely. But it is the only wise choice.
I intend to continue building on the teaching of Jesus.
The magisterial Reformers linked the christological foundations of the church with its gospel message, since it was the preaching of the gospel that mediated the saving presence of Jesus Christ.Michael Bird, Evangelical Theology, 2013
This is why preaching is at the center of the protestant worship service. But I never hear the gospel in the sermon; I hear advice about marriage, or managing stress, or being a better leader. Purely a therapeutic experience. Where is the gospel?
I discovered music in the summer of 1966. https://music.apple.com/us/playlist/pop-hits-1966/pl.b7bb6177c0134f6a84cd9ca5f82991be
This is deadly serious stuff today. No joke.
Remember we don’t judge—God does the judging. Jesus himself is the judge in this passage.
Remember that the path to the kingdom is narrow and arduous. Remember that there are people along the way who will give you bad directions and advice about the path.
Now look at this passage. In this passage, the kingdom is seen as in the future. There will come a day when followers of Jesus will enter the kingdom and others will not.
Note that you cannot tell who will be in and who will be out by what they say, and to some extent even by what they do. They may say that Jesus is their Lord—and this is the first instance in Matthew where Jesus is addressed as such—but that may not be the truth. They may even appear to be doing great things for Jesus. Building great churches and organizations, feeding the hungry, preaching, baptizing. But way down underneath they are not obeying Jesus.
That is what matters. Not what you say. Not even what you do, except in obedience to Jesus.
It is unpopular today in some church quarters to talk about what we do. Jesus didn’t have any qualms about it.
“… only the one who does the will of my Father in heaven…” will enter the kingdom of heaven.
Chew on that a while.
There have always been false prophets and they continue to flourish today.
Let’s equate prophets with preachers. Same job, different name.
Not all preachers are who they seem to be. They are in disguise. Their message is false. They seem to be humble servants of God, but they are “ravenous wolves”. Their agenda is not what you think. They are out for themselves.
Their disguises are good. They accumulate followers like nobody’s business. They seem to be productive and popular. They seem to be respectable.
They are, in fact, just the opposite.
You have to look at what they produce. Compare what Jesus produced to what these preachers produce. The product of all preachers should be compared to what Jesus produced. Compare the preaching to this sermon.
Jesus preached about the kingdom. Jesus provided a pretty strict instruction about ethics in everyday life. Jesus preached about interior formation.
What is your preacher producing? Is your preacher leading people on the narrow road?
- is your preacher building an organization that makes the preacher look like a great leader?
- is your preacher becoming wealthy on the gifts of the people?
- is your preacher selling an improved life situation and material benefits?
- is your preacher softening the message of Jesus?
- is your preacher selling cheap grace so people have no idea of the arduous path of discipleship required to follow Jesus?
- is your preacher tired of the job and not really doing it any more, but too set to move on?
- is your preacher producing disciples to the preacher rather than to Jesus?
- is your preacher pointing to the preacher rather than to Jesus?
Check the fruit. Compare the fruit to Matthew 5-7. Get away from the false preacher. You don’t want to be anywhere near when the bad tree is cut down and burned up.