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