Saturday, December 31, 2011

Things you will not have to worry about in 2012:

1. The Bible will still have the answers.
2. Prayer will still work.
3. The Holy Spirit will still move.
4. God will still inhabit the praises of His people.
5. There will still be God-anointed preaching.
6. There will still singing of praise.
7. God will still pour out blessings upon His people.
8. There will still be room at the cross.
9. Jesus will still love you.
10. Jesus will still save the lost.

Friday, December 16, 2011

Bible Magazine

BIBLE MAGAZINE was emailed. If you want a free e-mail copy send us your e-mail address to    In this issue is the continuing study of the Sermon on the Mount, Israel's Signs, and the Worship of God.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Healing the Polluted Leper

A study of Matthew 8:1-4

James R. Gray

“When He had come down from the mountain, great multitudes followed Him” (8:1).  This is a transitional statement showing Jesus turning from teaching to healing. He now leaves the didactic mountain for the plain of dynamic action. He moves from His words to His works. On this plain we see a slice-of-life from Jesus ministry. In Matthew 8 and 9 are recorded half of the miracles found in Matthew.[1] Great multitudes continue to follow Him at the end of the Sermon on the Mount, as they had before the sermon (4:25). Jesus was experiencing great popularity. Now the people who listened to him were going to observe the Messiah King in action. He will display His Messianic power and compassion openly.

“And behold, a leper came and worshiped Him, saying, “Lord, if You are willing, You can make me clean” (8:2). Matthew typically used the phrase kai idou (and behold) to mark the beginning of a new section.[2] Hagner says that it is a flag word in Matthew indicating an extraordinary event is about to happen.[3] The scene changes from the multitude to the man. The man was a leper. Leprosy was a horrifying and terrifying progressive disease. It began with nodules which developed into ulcers, which gave off a foul discharge. It would develop into disfigurement and desensitize the body, and eventually losing fingers, toes, and limbs. Not only was physical trauma involved, but also social isolation. They were barred from Jerusalem, and every city that had walls (Lev. 13:46). Contact with a leper was the second greatest defilement, being surpassed only by contact with a dead body. In fact, they were considered dead men walking (Num. 12:12). They had to warn people of their condition (Lev. 13:45). Any building that a leper entered was considered unclean. No one could come within 4 cubits (approx. 6 feet) of a leper, and if the wind was blowing toward from a leper, you could come no closer than 10 cubits (15 feet). People would throw things at lepers to keep them away. Barclays says, “There never has been any disease which so separated a man from his fellow-men as leprosy did.”[4] Leprosy knows no borders, race, occupation, nor climate. Little wonder leprosy is a picture of sin. Sin separates and isolates us from God without regard to person. Hagner comments:

"There is a sense in which leprosy is an archetypal fruit of the original fall of humanity. It leaves its victims in a most pitiable state: ostracized, helpless, hopeless, despairing. The cursed leper, like fallen humanity, has no options until he encounters the Messianic King who will make all things new. . . . As Jesus reached out to the leper, God in Jesus has reached out to all victims of sin.”[5]

As Jesus came off the mountain, and while traveling to the city, this leper came to him. It is in spite of Lev. 13:46. The leper came seeking the Lord in a threefold manner:

·         With reverence—“worshiped Him.” The Greek word is proskunein, meaning to kneel down before, do reverence to, or homage to. The “word is never used of anything but worship of the gods.”[6] This is Matthew’s first reference to Jesus being worshiped during his public ministry; the very first time was by the Magi.

·         With humility—“Lord, if You are willing.” The leper does not claim healing. He recognized Jesus authority and His sovereignty and his own position in relationship to it. He does not “name it and claim it.” Rather, he comes in humility making his request known to God. There is no presumption on the Lepers part. “It is the humble heart which is conscious of nothing but its need which finds its way to Christ.”[7]

·         With confidence—“You can make me clean.” His confidence is not in God’s willingness, but in His ability. He has confident faith that Jesus was able to do what he asked. Pentecost points out that in actuality the healing did not depend upon Jesus’ willingness, “rather on the suppliant’s faith.”[8] He believed Jesus could perform a cure if He would—that’s faith. Maybe we would see more of the power of God in our life if we came to Him in worship, humility, and confidence.

The response of Jesus is threefold:

·         The healing touch—“Jesus stretched out His hand and touched him” (8:3). Jesus had no fear. Jesus could have cured the leper by commanding the cure; rather he touched Him (a picture of identification). Touching a leper was a no-no (Lev. 5:3, 13:45-46). However, the touch did not make Him unclean, rather it made the unclean clean. It did so immediately. Jesus by this touch demonstrates His sympathy and cleansing power. This is the first record of cleansing in the earthly ministry of Christ. Jesus came to save sinners, and this event is a visible demonstration of His primary purpose in coming since leprosy is a type of sin. As Ryrie states:

”The act of touching the defiled man, which normally would also have defiled the one who touched him, illustrates the deep mystery involved in the Savior’s identifying Himself with sin. Who can fathom all that may be involved in the fact that He was made sin for us (2 Cor 5:21)? And yet this touching of the leper may illustrate something of that mystery.”[9]

·         Declares His intent—“I am willing; be cleansed” (8:3). The action of Jesus is confirmed by the Word of Jesus. He willed to act. God’s not willing that any perish. If the Leper is willing to come, the Saviour is willing to touch Him. His touch and the cure are immediate. Notice there is a repetition of word “cleanse” in this event. It is a Matthean literary device of emphasis.

·         His Command—“And Jesus said to him, “See that you tell no one; but go, show yourself to the priest and present the offering that Moses commanded, as a testimony to them” (8:4). This command is important. First, it upholds the Law of Moses. Jesus was made under the Law in order to fulfill the law. Jesus is shown to be faithful to the stipulations of the Law. The Law demanded that a Leper appear before a priest to confirm the cure (Lev. 14). Ryrie describes the cleansing process:

“…the ritual of cleansing was as follows: two clean living birds, a cedar rod, scarlet, and hyssop were taken; one bird was then killed in an earthen vessel over running water; the hyssop was then tied to the rod with the scarlet band and it and the living bird were dipped in the blood of the dead bird; next the blood on the rod was sprinkled over the leper seven times, and the living bird was loosed. At this point the leper was pronounced clean, but more was still required of him. He had to wash his clothes, shave, bathe, stay away from his house for seven days, repeat the ablutions and shaving, and finally on the eighth day offer at the temple a sin offering, a trespass offering, a meal offering, and a burnt offering. It is evident that the law was very detailed about this procedure, and doubtless, because it had seldom if ever been used, there would have been a lot of scratching of priestly heads had the leper obeyed the Lord and gone to them. Instead, he chose to disobey and publish his miracle abroad so that it actually hindered his benefactor’s ministry.”[10]

Second, it was to be a testimony to the priest of the Savior’s power. Thus the command entails a reference for the Law, and a revelation to the priest. Remember, the priest denied whom He was, i.e., His person. By having the Leper go through the Old Testament process, the priest could not deny (although they could reject) Jesus’ healing power. By sending them to the priest, Jesus “was generating an investigation of His person and his claim.”[11] Some have pointed out that the pronoun
autoi[12] may be a dative of disadvantage, thus the testimony of the leper acted as an indictment against them.

Third, the command to tell no man, but go to the priest, has troubled many a Bible student. However, the answer seems to be twofold:  (1) It would have been no good for the man to go about testifying to a healing without the confirmation of the priest. Confirmation was most urgent. This idea is brought out by some of the freer translations, “Don’t stop to talk to anyone” (Living Bible). Without confirmation, he still would have been considered unclean, thereby nullifying his testimony. (2) There is an element of secrecy in Jesus’ early ministry of not disclosing things before His time had come (9:30; 12:16; 16:20; 17:9). This may have been due to the expectancy of the nation regarding the Messiah. He had not come to be a military leader to lead a revolt against Rome, as they expected. He may not have wanted to get the crowd stirred up.

In conclusion, Baker makes a keen and important observation: “Modern drugs have been found which will arrest the disease of leprosy, but these drugs have no ability to cure the patient of the effects of the disease. If fingers or toes or other parts of the body have been sloughed off, the drug cannot restore these members. The victim is still a pitiable creature. When Jesus healed the leper he was completely restored…The same principle works in God’s salvation of his deformities and scars: When He saves a person He does not merely patch up the old man, He creates a new man (cf. Col. 3:2-10).”[13]

[1]  France, MATTHEW, 300.
[2]  Some translations do not translate the word idou  because there is no exact English equivalent, but since it has a key use in Matthew, we feel that ord should be an  attempted to translate it.
[3]  Hagner, MATTHEW, 1:198.
[4]  Barclay, MATTHEW, 302.
[5]  Hagner, 1:200.
[6] Barclay, 303.
[7]  IBID, 302.
[8]  Pentecost, WORDS AND WORKS OF JESUS, 150.
[9]  Charles Ryrie, “The Cleansing of the Leper,” BIB-SAC, July 1956, 265.
[10]  IBID, 265.
[11]  Pentecost, 151.
[12]  NET BIBLE footnote on Matthew 8:4.
[13]  Baker, THE GOSPELS, 66.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Preaching that is needed

Years ago, when I was pastor of the old First Baptist Church in Charleston, South Carolina, I preached the commencement sermon once and conducted chapel several times at the Citadel, the military college. The Commandant was General Summerall, once Chief of Staff, a fine old soldier. I remember that he turned to me after one of the services and said simply, \“You get under these boys’ skins.\” I have wished many times since to be the kind of preacher who would always do just that. Too much preaching nowadays pats the back and tickles the ear but does not get under the skin. There is no conviction and therefore no conversion. I am thinking not only of the ministry of reproof and rebuke but also of the message of inspiration, of encouragement, of comfort. People go out of church at noon with the depths unstirred, the heart untouched, the conscience unpricked. Of course, it is dangerous preaching at times. When Stephen preached, the people were cut to the heart and he died for it. He got under the skin. Paul was good at getting under the skin and world gave him no plaques or dinners in his honor. And the Greatest of all got under so many skins that the crowds crucified Him. He set the example and His gospel does no good until it gets under the skin. --Vance Havner