20 February 2009

How Does God View the Less Privileged, Part 2 – He Honors Them With Accountability

Matthew 8:1-4 NIV
When Jesus came down from the mountainside, large crowds followed him. A man with leprosy came and (worshipped Him or) knelt before him and said, "Lord, if you are willing, you can make me clean." Jesus reached out his hand and touched the man. "I am willing," he said, "Be clean!" Immediately he was cured of his leprosy. Then Jesus said to him, "See that you don't tell anyone. But go, show yourself to the priest and offer the gift Moses commanded, as a testimony to them."

Some might suggest that this leper’s motive was healing not worship. He did indicate very honestly that he wanted to be healed. But there are a few reasons why this definitely was not his primary motive.

One, There was no guarantee that he would be healed.

Jesus can heal anyone and had healed many but there is nothing in the Bible which indicates He will or does heal everyone. There were many lepers in Israel. If healing was guaranteed, why didn’t they all show up?

The Apostle Paul needed to be healed of an eye disease and prayed for it several times. The answer to his prayer: it was the express will of God that he not be healed.

Two, There was actually a level of danger associated with worshipping Jesus.

There were many people who followed Jesus but they were very careful to stay hidden in the crowd. They were curious about Jesus not committed to Him. They did nothing to stand out. From the early stages of Jesus public ministry He was perceived as a trouble maker and people were generally wary of getting too close personally. Only the very resolved would do so.

In His home town, Nazareth, the people had attempted to throw Him over a cliff after He made His first public claim to being the fulfillment of Old testament prophecy. The religious leaders hated Jesus from the very beginning and their violent intentions became more apparent as His public ministry developed. They eventually threatened any person who recognized Him publicly. One blind man, healed by Jesus, was publicly interrogated and reprimanded for being healed of his blindness (John 9).

Jesus’ family were afraid of Him and for Him. They questioned what He was doing and on one occasion tried to interfere. They felt the pressure of His public ridicule.

Because of this, many people were willing to be entertained by Jesus but were hesitant to actually worship Him. Recognizing Jesus was dangerous and being healed by Him was no less dangerous.

This leper hoped to be healed but his actions indicate he was determined to worship, even in the face of danger, and this is what set him apart from thousands of others who were ministered to physically by Jesus. Of all the people Jesus healed there is very little in the Bible to indicate they believed in or worshipped Jesus before or after they were healed.

Third, this man never demanded a healing.

The Leper said, “if you are willing you can make me clean.” This statement was acknowledging both God’s power and God’s will. He knew Jesus had the power to heal him but he made no demands.

God never uses His power to manipulate our will and we should never use our need to manipulate His. This Leper understood that the best relationships could never be forced. He wanted to be healed but it was not a condition of his worship. He wanted God with or without the healing.


Jesus did two things in response to this man.

One, He touched him.

Touching can be a very superficial form of interaction. To touch someone does not necessarily mean you are interested in them but to touch a leper was a dangerous thing to do and was, therefore, very affirming for the leper.

It was rare that any leper was ever touched and when it happened it was never an expression of affection or concern. It always meant rejection. Lepers were avoided and when someone did touch one it was either accidental or intended to drive them away. But not this time.

This touch was an expression of acceptance. Jesus didn’t have to touch anyone to perform a healing. In some cases He didn’t even know or see the person who was healed. In this case He did what was unnecessary (touch) in a very public setting (everyone had to be watching) to make an important point. Jesus accepted this man’s worship and his person. His touch was equal to an embrace.

It wasn’t easy for this man to acknowledge Jesus publicly. It wasn't expected that Jesus would allow him to get close much less touch him but those are the conditions under which a real connection with Jesus can be made. Everything about this encounter was extreme. Later in Matthew’s Gospel Jesus is quoted as saying:
Whosoever therefore shall confess me before men, him will I confess also before my Father which is in heaven. Mt 10:32

This leper moved from the realm of non-worship into the company of those who stood out in their worship of God and Jesus honored him for it. The crowd did nothing to encourage or stop his worship. They were neither for it nor against it, as a whole. There were some who were interested in Jesus and many who were not. I think it is safe to say their attitude was generally more negative than positive. The equivocation of the crowd, however, could not stop this man from worshipping.

And the truth? Jesus cannot ignore genuine worship. The believing heart cannot withhold it and Jesus cannot ignore it, in public or in private.

When Jesus touched this man He was making a statement about Himself and the leper. It was the most convincing and even dramatic way to express acceptance. Lepers were untouchables. It was only under the most extreme circumstances that anyone even got close enough to touch one. Jesus not only allowed this man to intrude upon His personal space, but, in order to prove his healing, He reached out and touched him. Jesus was also declaring His ability to save. If He could heal a body of a most dreaded disease miraculously, not medically, then He also had the power to save a soul.

Jesus was not insecure about this man or his disease and He honored him in the same way He had been honored by him.

A second thing Jesus did was encourage him to be accountable.

There was nothing radical in the advice Jesus gave this man.

Jesus had just healed him but instead of making a noisy scene about it, He told the man to keep his mouth shut. “Don’t tell anyone. Instead go to the locally recognized authorities (the priests), submit yourself to the normal procedures followed when anyone was healed of leprosy and have them verify the healing.” The cure was instant but the verification process took time.

Leprosy was a serious public health hazard and needed to be handled in a responsible way even when it was healed miraculously. No short cuts were allowed. Jesus did not expect this man to be reintroduced into society without going through the normal procedures. Jesus did miraculous things but never at the expense of the mundane.

Jesus was not suggesting he keep this thing a secret. That would have been impossible. Jesus was saying don’t become a braggart, or obnoxious or arrogant or boisterous because you have been healed. Healings, properly accepted, make you humble not haughty and he really wouldn’t need to tell anyone anyway. How can you hide a healing of this nature? All the people who knew him before he contracted leprosy would also know he was healed and would be inquisitive as to how this came about.

The crowds also could verify this healing. They were there when it happened. They saw it with their own eyes. Some probably did not like the fact that Jesus healed the man but they couldn’t lie about it. Even the priest whose job it was to pronounce him clean would more than likely have a few questions.

The truth is, when Jesus really touches your life you won’t need to tell anyone. The touch of Jesus changes you, makes you more responsible and enables you to be held accountable even when you are labeled as underprivileged. Responsibility and accountability are self-evident and within every person’s reach. Jesus expects these things of us and as far as we know this leper demonstrated it.

Jesus was not telling this man to be quiet or secretive. He was telling this man the best way to make a noise. He also wasn’t allowing this man to be helpless. He gave him new opportunities and expected him to be accountable.


1. What is it in your life that indicates you truly worship Jesus?

2. What changes in your life would cause others to ask you about your faith?

3. Has your life been touched by Jesus and if not before, why not now?

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