Meet the Kneeling Leper

Matthew 8:1-4, The Message

“Jesus came down the mountain with the cheers of the crowd still ringing in his ears. Then a leper appeared and dropped to his knees before Jesus, praying, “Master, if you want to, you can heal my body.”

“Jesus reached out and touched him, saying, “I want to. Be clean.” Then and there, all signs of the leprosy were gone. Jesus said, “Don’t talk about this all over town. Just quietly present your healed body to the priest, along with the appropriate expressions of thanks to God. Your cleansed and grateful life, not your words, will bear witness to what I have done.”

Look at Jesus, and listen closely to His heart. “I want to. Be clean.” He’s encountering a diseased man while listening to the crowds who are chanting His name. He’s the hero, a celebrity, the people adore Him. Who could handle the adulation? Certainly not me, I would soak up the praises and revel in my triumphal moment.

I would short-circuit.

But remember, the end of the previous verses explains exactly what’s happening. Matthew 7:28-29 explains their excitement–

When Jesus concluded his address, the crowd burst into applause. They had never heard teaching like this. It was apparent that he was living everything he was saying—quite a contrast to their religion teachers! This was the best teaching they had ever heard.

It was a wild scene, we can’t forget this. But it’s funny, Jesus through all this sees and hears this leper. He doesn’t respond to the crowd but to the diseased man. The text tells us that the leperous man was on his knees and he was “praying.” His pleas were directed at Jesus.

The crowds responded wholeheartedly to the marvelous teaching of Jesus, and that was awesome. We really shouldn’t minimize that. However, in the Gospels, the “crowd” is pretty much a bad term, or at least a neutral one.

I suppose that Jesus seems to ignore the multitude’s adulation and instead focuses on the leper. I’m not sure if I could do that. It’s nice when people flatter me. It feels so good, it feeds my ego–but the needs of others become secondary. There’s something in me that adores being in the limelight. I feel triumphant!

Jesus reacts, not to the adoration of the crowd but to the man. He sees the need of a single person.

That’s really remarkable.

Okay, so what does this really mean? Scripture tells me that Jesus stands in heaven and makes intercession for me. He focuses on just me, I’m the center of His care–but I also know that attention is also on you, and others, and yet I’m assured that He sees me and each of His sheep. This should be a comfort. He concentrates and ministers to the person.

Jesus loves you, and He loves me.

“So he told them this parable: “What man among you, who has a hundred sheep and loses one of them, does not leave the ninety-nine in the open field and go after the lost one until he finds it? When he has found it, he joyfully puts it on his shoulders, and coming home, he calls his friends and neighbors together, saying to them, ‘Rejoice with me, because I have found my lost sheep!’”

Luke 15:3-6

The Sword Meets the Ear of Malchus

Luke 22:49-51, CSB

“When those around Him saw what was going to happen, they asked, “Lord, should we strike with the sword?” 50 Then one of them struck the high priest’s servant and cut off his right ear.

51 But Jesus responded, “No more of this!” And touching his ear, he healed him.

How should we proceed with this? Perhaps we should start with the garden of Gethsemane. The setting explains a lot. Jesus is praying alone and He asks His Father for the strength to make it to His cross. It’s said that at that He sweated out what was like drops of blood.

The usual way of praying for a Jewish man was standing, but here we read that Jesus was on His knees. We also read that an angel showed up–it says that this angel came with strengthening power. The Greek word for “strengthen” can mean to invigorate. I believe Jesus’ prayer was answered (but not the way He wanted).

Jesus now had the strength to stand up and face the terror of the cross.

Judas led the mob that came to arrest Jesus. There was the kiss of betrayal and I suppose that the torchlight wasn’t really enough to identify Jesus outright. Judas’ kiss goes into the history books as the ultimate act of a traitor. It’s probably the most wicked kiss ever given to another.

What happens next seems to come out of an R–rated movie script. Peter takes up a sword and slashes and connects with a guy named Malchus who was the servant of the high priest. An ear is chopped off and Peter has a bloody sword, but not so fast. Jesus insisted that this is not the way of a true disciple.

Some would suggest that having good swordsmanship is a vital characteristic of a follower of Jesus.

But I don’t think so.

Jesus stops the whole scene to pick up Malchus’ ear and reattach it. Peter is definitely rebuked (notice the exclamation mark in verse 51)! Being a believer means following Jesus to the garden, and then the cross. Often we look at anything that avoids these places. When we’re truly following Him we are commanded to take up our own cross daily.

“When the Church takes sword in hand, it usually shows that it does not know how to wield it, and as often as not has struck the wrong man.”

Maclaren

Malchus plays such a minor role, and yet the ear amputation speaks volumes. We discover that the implications clarify the Lord’s desire for His followers–something that makes it clear that, “His ways are not our ways.”

Even in the garden, facing arrest and torture, Jesus is still reaching out to those around Him. Malchus is Jesus’ last ‘physical’ healing of another–He is kind and merciful, and He shows us how to love our enemies.

Today is Maundy Thursday. Tomorrow the pain of the cross. But He’s in the garden now, and recognizes exactly what is going down. “But this is your hour, and the power of darkness.”

“You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ 44 But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you,”

Matthew 5:43-44

Meet the Deaf and Mute Man

“Some people brought a man who could neither hear nor speak and asked Jesus to lay a healing hand on him. He took the man off by himself, put his fingers in the man’s ears and some spit on the man’s tongue. Then Jesus looked up in prayer, groaned mightily, and commanded, “Ephphatha!—Open up!” And it happened. The man’s hearing was clear and his speech plain—just like that.”

36-37 “Jesus urged them to keep it quiet, but they talked it up all the more, beside themselves with excitement. “He’s done it all and done it well. He gives hearing to the deaf, speech to the speechless.”

Mark 7:34-37, The Message

Jesus enjoyed carrying the good news to distant places. His ministry wasn’t confined. He went to places that orthodox people avoided. Jesus penetrated these places and found a rich mission field. (This should speak volumes to us.)

It was in Decapolis that He met this man. He was deaf and mute, and it seems no doctor could help him. Close friends brought this man to Jesus. They begged Jesus to heal him–perhaps this shows their faith and love. (Again this should speak to us. Do we care for others–or not?)

The Lord led this man away from the crowd (interesting.) It seems Jesus wanted privacy. I think that He wanted to avoid the “carnival” atmosphere that healing would cause. Jesus was God–not a showman. (This dear one should clarify things for us.)

It interests me the approach He took. Jesus’ fingers went into the man’s ears. He spits (!) and touched the man’s tongue with His saliva. (Oh if He could do this to us!) Jesus looked up to heaven and said one word, “Ephphatha!” Which in English means “be opened.”

The man suddenly began to speak!

Everyone who witnessed was amazed. Jesus looked at those and told them not to say a thing about what just happened. (Is this humility or what?) Of course, it interests me that the crowd ignored His command; they couldn’t help but spread the news. They must have figured that Jesus was the Messiah, and this miracle proved it.

But the way He went about this amazes me–why the fingers and obviously why the spit? Perhaps this man, (and his friends) needed to see something more “physical.” Maybe? Could it have communicated something to Jesus’ disciples who were watching? Could it be that this can guide us as we now carry Jesus’ power?

I’m thinking through these things.

One: Jesus does impossible things He extends Himself to the “unorthodox”

Two: He seems to heal in ways we really don’t quite understand.

Three: What Jesus does is not about “showmanship,” He avoids publicity and self-promotion.

And there must be other points. It’s good I think, to roll these thoughts around.

Meet Lazarus

John 11:25, 26; vv. 33-44

 25 Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life.[a] Whoever believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live, 26 and everyone who lives and believes in me shall never die. Do you believe this?” 27 She said to him, “Yes, Lord; I believe that you are the Christ, the Son of God, who is coming into the world.”

Jesus Weeps

When Jesus saw her weeping, and the Jews who had come with her also weeping, he was deeply moved[b] in his spirit and greatly troubled. 34 And he said, “Where have you laid him?” They said to him, “Lord, come and see.” 35 Jesus wept. 36 So the Jews said, “See how he loved him!” 37 

Jesus Raises Lazarus

38 Then Jesus, deeply moved again, came to the tomb. It was a cave, and a stone lay against it. 39 Jesus said, “Take away the stone.” Martha, the sister of the dead man, said to him, “Lord, by this time there will be an odor, for he has been dead four days.” 40 Jesus said to her, “Did I not tell you that if you believed you would see the glory of God?” 

 So they took away the stone. And Jesus lifted up his eyes and said, “Father, I thank you that you have heard me. 42 I knew that you always hear me, but I said this on account of the people standing around, that they may believe that you sent me.” 43 When he had said these things, he cried out with a loud voice, “Lazarus, come out.” 44 The man who had died came out, his hands and feet bound with linen strips, and his face wrapped with a cloth.

Jesus said to them, “Unbind him, and let him go.”

My name is Lazarus and I was a special “friend” of Jesus. We liked being with each other, and my sisters Mary and Martha also enjoyed fellowshipping with Him. Whenever He passed through Bethany, Jesus always had an open invitation to visit.

What’s it like to be dead? Many ask me this, and I suppose they want to understand, and I don’t blame them. To me, it seemed like a very deep sleep–but I didn’t dream. Those who look for any special insight, will not find it from me. And yet, I am His witness. He has incredible power over death.

I heard Him call my name.

It pierced through everything with an authority I’d never heard before. I had been laid in my tomb for 4 days and my physical body had begun to putrify. When they rolled the stone away the terrible smell of death lay heavy in the air.

I was tightly bound in cotton wraps and sticky spices had been applied to my body. Mary and Martha had objected to Jesus’ attempt. As I looked back I realize that their actions were justified. After all, who can give life when one is very much dead. And not only dead but well on the way on to decay. The smell wafted from my tomb.

I had heard His shout, and it was then death was reversed.

My heart and brain began to work again. When I came to I found that I was lying on a stone table and tightly wrapped in the clothes of the dead. I managed to sit up, and I shuffled toward the light that had entered the tomb by the stone that covered the door.

When Jesus saw me I believe that He was laughing. He gave the command to the shocked bystanders, He commanded them to unwrap me. I suppose that then I realized I was now in the land of the living. I can’t explain what had happened, But my grave clothes were unwrapped.

There were many that day that became believers.

Many had attested that I was most certainly dead, after all, they had attended my funeral. Some had observed that I had been slathered in the sticky ointment–fragrant spices. And a few were witnesses to see the stone rolled in place.

So many believed in Jesus’ power of resurrection that day–they were completely amazed and simply reacted to what Jesus had just done for me.

There were some who simply didn’t (or wouldn’t) believe.

There were the Pharisees and the Sadducees who wanted me dead hoping to nullify my witness and my resurrection from the dead.

Their hatred of Jesus’ ministry was only strengthened. My own resurrection proved His authority and power over even death. I was a walking and breathing miracle that they refused to accept. It got so bad that the religious leaders wanted to kill me because so many believed in my resurrection. I was a living witness to many.

Yes, I know that I’ll die again. But even now, in my second death, I’m not afraid anymore.

I had become an embarrassment to them, a constant reminder that Jesus had defeated death.

He alone can believe in immortality who feels the resurrection in him already.

Frederick W. Robertson

But some of them went away to the Pharisees and told them the things Jesus did. Then the chief priests and the Pharisees gathered a council and said, “What shall we do? For this Man works many signs. If we let Him alone like this, everyone will believe in Him, and the Romans will come and take away both our place and nation.”

John 11:53-54

Art: blogspot.com. Scripture: Christian Standard Bible, Holman Publishers; The Message, Eugene Peterson