Saturday, March 13, 2021

Defilement, Distance & Faith

Bobservations Column

By Pastor Bob Lawrenz

Matthew Chapter 8 is a personal favorite in the Gospels. It comes after the studies in contrasts of the Sermon on the Mount, and as though it was a practicum after the “theoretical” teachings of Jesus. Theories need to be tested and proven. Thus, He begins the works here as described in the Prophets: healing the sick, and curing all manner of diseases by His glorious restoration powers, according to the needs. It is a very practical chapter with our Lord meeting the immediate needs of each person identified in the chapter that came His way: a leper, a Roman Centurion, and the Apostle Peter’s Mother-in-Law.

In a variety of ways, this chapter is the answer to the questions raised in our reading today in Second Kings 5 (an excellent chapter!). Consider the young maid in the story of Naaman: carried away captive in a Syrian raid, this young Israeli girl empathized with her new Mistress’ husband, a great Syrian Army Officer, and a leper! “If only he was with our prophet in Samaria, he might be healed,” she told her Mistress. While this unnamed maid is secondary to Naaman’s story, she is the catalyst, the key to his healing.

It reminds me that we don’t have to have name recognition to be used by God to help others, or to point them to faith in Christ, or in any other way to serve the Lord. The maid’s words were almost spoken as an aside to Naaman’s wife. A quiet prompting, and a word-of-knowledge that she shared! Though it was the Prophet Elisha that is accredited for this Syrian’s healing, we know that Elisha was merely doing God’s bidding, and directing the Syrian to blind faith in the King of kings, and Lord of lords. It was the quiet, personal word to an enemy’s wife that began the events in the chapter, resulting in his healing!

Sharing the Gospel includes events like this chapter. Whether it’s a quiet word, or addressing the crowd in a Crusade, hope is shared, and healing can begin in the lives of the broken and sick. Seeing a simple opportunity and acting in obedience to Christ is all that necessary.  Jesus calls us to what’s possible through Him, not to what’s possible through us.

“A word fitly spoken is like apples of gold in pictures of silver.” – Prov. 25:11

Today's Audio Message: 

Matthew 8:1-17 - "Defilement, Distance & Faith"

Chapter Summary

At the closing of chapter 7 in the teaching of the Sermon on the Mount, the scriptures end with people being astonished at Jesus' doctrines because "He taught them as one having authority, and not as the scribes."

Today as we begin chapter 8, we see this same emphasis on Jesus' authority illustrated in both word and deed. God never asks us to believe without proving to us that His Word is truth. Here we see the importance of Jesus’ healing ministry.

The reason the gospels emphasize Jesus’ healing ministry is not just that he is a source of health and well-being for this life, although he definitely is that, and it is not wrong to come to him with our physical needs, we are to come to Him with all of our needs. Our confidence in approaching God is that "if we ask anything according to His will, He hears us."  1 John 5:14.

Sickness and death and bondage to demonic powers are still realities in this world and are the glaring evidence that mankind in his sin and rebellion against God is under God’s curse. When Jesus comes on the scene in the gospels, healing all and delivering from demons and even raising the dead, God is displaying the truth that Jesus is the One who is going to remove that curse and give us new life in Him. This is why the gospels emphasize repeatedly that “all who came to him were healed.” The redemption that Jesus brings is total and complete. The Lord still performs miracles, He can still heal people, but ultimately, our full physical healing awaits us in heaven (Revelation 21).

As we see our Lord's compassion for those who are spiritually and physically sick, we will also see His willingness to go where others cannot, dare not go.

Faith removes all the barriers to God. Those who come to Him by faith, “Lord, if you are willing,” can fully trust that God stands ready to help, to save, to heal, and to restore them.

Jesus is not bound by barriers! He has full authority and full power because of WHO He is.  Jesus goes past all the normal protocols, much like with touching the leper. Because of faith, the leper breached the Levitical Law by approaching Jesus, and Jesus “violates” it by touching the leper and healing him. The purpose of the law was to lead us to Christ, and what a wonderful example this is.

Again Jesus reaches beyond the Jewish people, marveling at the faith of a Roman centurion to heal his servant, and we see God begin to work in the hearts of the Gentiles (Genesis 22:18). He is not limited by distance, He speaks and it is done.

We can see the full power and authority of Christ in His ability to heal, cleanse and restore, and as we finish this chapter in next week, we will also see Jesus' authority over the wind and the sea.

Who is this man that even the winds and the sea obey Him?

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