Matthew 8:1-4; Jesus Heals a Leper

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.

Except…

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:

  1. At the moment Jesus touched him, the leper was clean, so Jesus did not touch a leper.
  2. 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.

Matthew 7:24-29; Hearers and Doers

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.

Matthew 7:21-23; Not Everyone

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.

Matthew 7:15-20; Fruit

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?

Or—

  • 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.

Matthew 7:13-14; Two Paths

It’s still about the kingdom. You get the sense Jesus is winding down his sermon and giving some illustrations.

The invitation to enter the kingdom is a little bit discouraging. Most people are taking the wide road, the easy road, but it doesn’t lead to the kingdom. The wide road doesn’t deliver.

The narrow road is the road to life. But it is an arduous journey, a difficult hike. Jesus has already talked about the attitudes and actions that are required in the kingdom. The path he has laid out is not easy. It isn’t intuitive. Most people will miss it because they are not willing.

Even church people.

One wonders how many members in our churches today assume that they are saved when in fact they treat Jesus’ teachings lightly—people who give no thought to their temper, their mental chastity, their integrity and so forth during the week (compare 5:21–48), then pretend to be religious or even spiritually gifted in church. Do we have the courage to communicate Jesus’ message as clearly as he meant it to be conveyed, to warn ourselves and others that it is possible for people to assume they are saved and yet be damned? Some texts in the Bible provide assurance to suffering Christians that the kingdom is theirs; this text challenges “cultural Christians,” those following only Christian tradition rather than Christ himself, to realize that they need conversion.

Craig S. Keener, Matthew, vol. 1, The IVP New Testament Commentary Series (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1997), Mt 7:13.

Matthew 7:12; The Golden Rule

Way back in 5:17, Jesus mentioned the law and the prophets and said he was not going to abolish them, but fulfill them. Then he spoke about murder/anger, adultery/lust, divorce, oaths, retaliation, and love for enemies. He went on to discuss attitudes when giving, praying, and fasting. Then the focus shifts to keeping God and his kingdom as the main focus and trusting him.

Now it is as if this discourse about law and prophets is summed up with the golden rule.

It’s a rather humanist approach, isn’t it? Treat people like you’d want to be treated.

But it really isn’t far different from the teaching that we are to love our enemies. Act toward others in the right way. Don’t mistreat people. Don’t disrespect people.

The law and the prophets.

Matthew 7:7-11; Ask, Seek, and Knock

It is good to ask for good things from our Father. (There has been plenty of warning to not be material-oriented, so don’t even go there.) Our focus is to be on God’s kingdom, so I imagine good prayers would also focus on God’s kingdom. Of course, we are instructed to pray for our daily material needs as well.

It is good to seek for good things. Seek the kingdom of God. You will find it.

Go ahead, knock on the door and ask for admission to the kingdom. You are welcomed in.

God is a good Father, even better than the best earthly father. As good as we treat our kids, he does even better. We can trust him. He doesn’t play tricks on us.

Matthew 7:6; Holy Things

This is a challenging saying in its context. We use it all the time (out of context) to the point that casting pearls before swine is a cliché for us. It may have been a cliché for Jesus as well. Not sure about that.

On the surface, I’d be inclined to say that 7:6 tempers 7:1. That is, don’t judge, but also don’t go off the deep end and be indiscriminate either, or you will end up with pigs and dogs as your audience. There may be an element of that interpretation.

This verse also may be serving as a transition to more teaching about prayer coming up. The bit about giving children stones and snakes when they want bread and fish seems a bit parallel. I need to think about that some more.

Either way, I can say that we need to be careful and discriminate about how we use the holy things of God. We have a treasure of heaven in our midst and focusing on God is the most important thing. It’s easy to be distracted.

Matthew 6:25-34; Worry

Ticklish one here. I have seen people in tears following a sermon on worry because they think they have failed God by worrying about something. Preachers need to be careful about how they handle passages like this one.

So far in the Sermon on the Mount there has been a considerable amount of rhetorical exaggeration. I assume there is some of that here as well. Obviously we cannot go through life without even thinking about where our food comes from, what we will wear.

At the same time, these concerns can rise to the level of obsession. New houses are built with huge walk-in closets to accommodate our obsessions.

Jesus is really saying for us to live out his model prayer. Trust God for the daily bread. Ask him for help to stay out and get out of hot water.

And most importantly, Jesus is saying that we need to keep our priorities straight. The kingdom of God, ushered in by Jesus himself, is here and is coming and we should make that our first priority. And we need to live like Jesus is teaching in this sermon.

I am convicted here. I spend some time each day looking at photos of food, mostly burgers, on Instagram and Reddit. I watch videos on YouTube about grilling and smoking. I plan my weekend grill recipes. Maybe I spend too much time thinking about food. I don’t eat very much at this stage of life, but I still think about food a lot.

Not so much on the clothes. We all have our own vices.

Lord, help us put to the kingdom first and to live like followers of Jesus.

Matthew 6:24; Two Masters

Treasure in heaven. Healthy eyes. Now choosing between God and Mammon.

Mammon is an Aramaic term for money and possessions. Here it is personalized as if it were an alternative god, an idol. Which it truly is.

Mammon is a sneaky God. You have to live and you have to get stuff. Before you know it your mind is absorbed in Mammon and not focused on God.

You can fool yourself that things aren’t that important to you, but if you observe yourself for a while you will see where your loyalties lie. Hobbies, family, social interaction, food — all good things. But not as important as God. And you can’t have it both ways.

Choose God.