The Outcast, the Alien, and the Sick

1 When he came down from the mountain, great crowds followed him. And behold, a leper came to him and knelt before him, saying, “Lord, if you will, you can make me clean.” And Jesus stretched out his hand and touched him, saying, “I will; be clean.” And immediately his leprosy was cleansed. And Jesus said to him, “See that you say nothing to anyone, but go, show yourself to the priest and offer the gift that Moses commanded, for a proof to them.”

When he had entered Capernaum, a centurion came forward to him, appealing to him, “Lord, my servant is lying paralyzed at home, suffering terribly.” And he said to him, “I will come and heal him.” But the centurion replied, “Lord, I am not worthy to have you come under my roof, but only say the word, and my servant will be healed. For I too am a man under authority, with soldiers under me. And I say to one, ‘Go,’ and he goes, and to another, ‘Come,’ and he comes, and to my servant, ‘Do this,’ and he does it.” 10 When Jesus heard this, he marveled and said to those who followed him, “Truly, I tell you, with no one in Israel have I found such faith. 11 I tell you, many will come from east and west and recline at table with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob in the kingdom of heaven, 12 while the sons of the kingdom will be thrown into the outer darkness. In that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.” 13 And to the centurion Jesus said, “Go; let it be done for you as you have believed.” And the servant was healed at that very moment.

14 And when Jesus entered Peter’s house, he saw his mother-in-law lying sick with a fever. 15 He touched her hand, and the fever left her, and she rose and began to serve him. 16 That evening they brought to him many who were oppressed by demons, and he cast out the spirits with a word and healed all who were sick. 17 This was to fulfill what was spoken by the prophet Isaiah: “He took our illnesses and bore our diseases.” – Matthew 8:1-17 ESV

Jesus followed up His words with action. Once He had delivered His message, He didn’t seek a quiet place to rest and enjoy some alone-time. He immediately began to do what God had sent Him to do.

“The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, for he has anointed me to bring Good News to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim that captives will be released, that the blind will see, that the oppressed will be set free, and that the time of the Lord’s favor has come.” – Luke 4:18-19 NLT

Jesus was a man on a mission. He knew His time on earth was limited, and all His time and energy were focused on fulfilling His Father’s will. And it did not take long before Jesus’ empathy for the down-and-out, and the down-trodden began to reveal itself. Matthew records three distinctively different encounters between Jesus and a person in need. The first was a leper. The second was a Roman Centurion. And the third was the mother-in-law of one of His own disciples.

The leper, who was most likely a Jew, was a social outcast and a pariah. Because of his disease, he was required by law to announce himself by the words, “Unclean, unclean!” He was to be avoided and shunned at all costs. He was even refused access to the Temple grounds, making it impossible for him to receive atonement for his sins. And in the Jewish mindset, his disease was viewed as a curse from God, the outcome of some heinous sin in his life.

The second man Jesus encounters was a Roman Centurion, and most likely a Gentile. He was an officer in the Roman army with responsibility for 100 battle-hardened soldiers. To the Jews, he would have been a painful and daily reminder of the oppressive regime that had occupied Israel and forced its people into subjugation. He would have been despised and seen as an oppressor whose presence in their land was unwanted and unappreciated.

The final individual was the mother-in-law of Peter, one of the Lord’s recently recruited disciples. Because it is safe to assume that Peter’s wife was a Jew, we can conclude that his mother-in-law would be as well. And all we know from the text is that she had come down with a fever that had left her bedridden. She was helpless and in need of healing.

Three very different individuals whose circumstances could not have been more disparate: A Jewish man with a disfiguring and life-threatening disease, a Roman Centurion with an ailing servant, and a Jewish woman with a fever. And yet, each of them has an encounter with Jesus Christ, the Son of God, and the Messiah of the Jewish people.

It’s important to remember that Matthew wrote his gospel with the goal of proving Jesus’ claim to be the King of the Jews and their long-awaited Messiah. In His just-completed sermon on the mount, Jesus had discussed the nature of life in His Kingdom. Now, Matthew reveals three encounters that provide proof of Jesus’ power and His rightful claim to be the heir to the throne of David.

Back in chapter four, Matthew provided a summary of Jesus’ earthly ministry.

And he went throughout all Galilee, teaching in their synagogues and proclaiming the gospel of the kingdom and healing every disease and every affliction among the people. – Matthew 4:23 ESV

Now, in chapter eight, we see the healing aspect of that ministry displayed in three separate scenes. Matthew does not allow himself to be restricted by the chronology behind these events. Instead, he arranges them in such a way that they create a comprehensive picture of who Jesus was and what He came to do. Matthew seems to be much more interested in developing a theme than in trying to provide a reliable timeline of events. These three encounters are grouped together for a reason and provide us with a somewhat 3-dimensional image of the Savior.

The leper was the disease-riddled outcast who had no place within the faith community of Israel because of what was believed to be his obvious sin. He was unwanted. He was considered untouchable and unredeemable by every other Jew. Yet, he called out to Jesus, “Lord, if you will, you can make me clean” (Matthew 8:2 ESV). At this point, it is interesting to consider the words of Jesus when He was confronted by the self-righteous Pharisees because of His association with tax-collectors and sinners. He simply stated: “Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick” (Matthew 9:12 ESV).

This leper had no problem acknowledging his need. He was sick and in need of cleansing – both physically and spiritually. His disease had left him ceremonially impure and incapable of receiving atonement for his sins. He desperately longed to be clean and whole again. And he saw in Jesus a source of hope and help. So, he called out in faith, and “Jesus stretched out his hand and touched him” (Matthew 8:3 ESV). Don’t miss the significance of that statement. Jesus touched him. In doing so, Jesus defiled himself. He became impure and took on the disqualifying nature of that man’s condition. An audible gasp must have leaped from the throats of all those who witnessed this scene. And yet, Matthew states that the man’s leprosy was immediately cleansed. He was made whole – in an instance. Jesus could have spoken a word and the man would have received the healing he desired. But Jesus went out of His way to touch him. He associated with an outcast. He showed love and mercy to undesirable and undeserving.

In the case of the Centurion, Jesus met a man who was just as despised by the Jews, but for different reasons. He was an outsider or alien. He had no place in Israel. He was the enemy and a pagan oppressor of the Jewish people whose very presence made their lives a living hell. Yet, this man approached Jesus with dignity and respect, pleading that He come to the aid of his ailing servant.

The leper had said, “if you will, you can make me clean,” and Jesus had responded, “I will.” The Centurion made no request, but simply stated the need, and Jesus responded, “I will come and heal him” (Matthew 8:7 ESV). Jesus was just as willing to heal the servant of a Roman soldier than He was to cleanse the disease of a Jewish leper.

And when the Centurion heard the words of Jesus, he was blown away, declaring that he saw no need for Jesus to go out of His way or trouble Himself. Embarrassed to think of Jesus visiting his humble home, he declared, “only say the word, and my servant will be healed” (Matthew 8:8 ESV). This Gentile soldier expressed faith that Jesus could simply speak a word and his servant would be healed. And Jesus, blown away by this foreigner’s faith, stated, “Truly, I tell you, with no one in Israel have I found such faith” (Matthew 8:10 ESV). And Matthew matter-of-factly reports, “the servant was healed at that very moment” (Matthew 8:13 ESV).

Then, Matthew records the healing of Peter’s mother-in-law. It is a simple recounting of what appears to be a much-less perilous problem. She had a fever. But there was no indication that her life was in danger. And in this case, Matthew tells us that Jesus saw, He touched, and she was healed. No request for healing was made. No faith was exhibited. Jesus simply saw a need, and graciously provided a solution.

An outcast, an alien, and a sick woman. Three different individuals with three different needs and three distinctively different backgrounds. But all sharing a common trait. They were helpless to do anything about their condition. They each had a need they could not meet: A devastating skin disease, a desperately ill servant, and a demobilizing fever. And Jesus, the King, provided healing and help.

And it didn’t stop there. These three were just the beginning of many more who would find their way to the feet of Jesus in the hopes of finding a solution to their problems. And Matthew records that Jesus “cast out the spirits with a word and healed all who were sick. This was to fulfill what was spoken by the prophet Isaiah: “He took our illnesses and bore our diseases” (Matthew 8:16-17 ESV).

Matthew is telegraphing a message regarding Jesus’ real intentions. The physical healings He performed were a visible sign of the spiritual renovation He had come to bring to a fallen world. The leper, the servant, and the mother-in-law each received healing from their diseases, but the day would come when each of them would experience another disease or illness, and eventually, each would succumb to the inevitability of death. When Jesus later said, “I came that they may have life and have it abundantly” (John 10:10 ESV), He was speaking of far more than a life free from disease, sickness, or pain. He was talking about eternal life that begins with a saving relationship with Him, a lifelong process of Spirit-empowered sanctification, and that ends with the believer’s ultimate glorification.

The primary ailment plaguing mankind that Jesus came to deal with is the penalty of sin. With His death on the cross, Jesus conquered both sin and the grave. He paid the penalty for the sins of mankind, offering His sinless life as the sacrificial substitute for sinful men and women. As the prophet Isaiah so beautifully stated:

But he was pierced for our transgressions; he was crushed for our iniquities; upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace, and with his wounds we are healed. – Isaiah 53:5 ESV

English Standard Version (ESV)
The Holy Bible, English Standard Version. ESV® Permanent Text Edition® (2016). Copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers.

New Living Translation (NLT)
Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright © 1996, 2004, 2015 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.

The Message (MSG)Copyright © 1993, 1994, 1995, 1996, 2000, 2001, 2002 by Eugene H. Peterson

From Bad to Worse

25 “The Lord will cause you to be defeated before your enemies. You shall go out one way against them and flee seven ways before them. And you shall be a horror to all the kingdoms of the earth. 26 And your dead body shall be food for all birds of the air and for the beasts of the earth, and there shall be no one to frighten them away. 27 The Lord will strike you with the boils of Egypt, and with tumors and scabs and itch, of which you cannot be healed. 28 The Lord will strike you with madness and blindness and confusion of mind, 29 and you shall grope at noonday, as the blind grope in darkness, and you shall not prosper in your ways. And you shall be only oppressed and robbed continually, and there shall be no one to help you. 30 You shall betroth a wife, but another man shall ravish her. You shall build a house, but you shall not dwell in it. You shall plant a vineyard, but you shall not enjoy its fruit. 31 Your ox shall be slaughtered before your eyes, but you shall not eat any of it. Your donkey shall be seized before your face, but shall not be restored to you. Your sheep shall be given to your enemies, but there shall be no one to help you. 32 Your sons and your daughters shall be given to another people, while your eyes look on and fail with longing for them all day long, but you shall be helpless. 33 A nation that you have not known shall eat up the fruit of your ground and of all your labors, and you shall be only oppressed and crushed continually, 34 so that you are driven mad by the sights that your eyes see. 35 The Lord will strike you on the knees and on the legs with grievous boils of which you cannot be healed, from the sole of your foot to the crown of your head.” Deuteronomy 28:25-35 ESV

Let’s face it, bad things happen. Calamity comes to everyone because it is no respecter of persons. And while God had promised that obedience to His law would bring blessings, He had never said that their lives would be trouble-free, disease-resistant, peace-filled, or painless. There would still be plenty of difficulties because they lived in a fallen world. They would still be required to offer sacrifices because they would continue to sin and need atonement.

So, when Moses discusses the curses that will come upon the people of Israel for what appears to be their stubborn and ongoing disobedience to God’s law, he makes sure they understand that this will be difficulties and trials on steroids. These will not be your everyday, run-of-the-mill troubles that are a normal part of everyday life on this planet. No, they will be extreme, and like nothing they have ever experienced before. There will be no relief or escape. They will feature the worst kind of suffering one can image and then take that suffering one step further.

Look closely at how each curse is described. God was going to personally see to it that Israel lost battles against their enemies. That was nothing new for Israel because they had already been defeated at Ai. But Moses describes a demoralizing rout that has the Israelites scattering in seven different directions in an attempt to save their lives. And the failure of the Israelite army will be so catastrophic that it will leave other nations in terror. The fall of Israel at the hands of their enemy will create a sense of fear among the other nations of the region, as they anticipate their own defeat against the same foe. History records that, eventually, Israel was roundly defeated by the Assyrians and Judah fell to the Babylonians. And both of these nations left a wake of destruction in their path, as they ransacked kingdom after kingdom, sending shockwaves of terror among the nations that remained.

And Moses lets the Israelites know that their defeat will be complete, with no one escaping. Their bodies will lie scattered on the ground and become “food for all birds of the air and for the beasts of the earth” (Deuteronomy 28:26 ESV). No burials or memorials and no one to mourn their deaths. In fact, there will be no one left to scare off the carrion or scavenging dogs. This defeat will not only be demoralizing, but it will also be devasting and irreversible.

Next, Moses reveals that the Israelites will suffer from boils and tumors, just like the ones that God brought upon the Egyptians as part of the ten plagues. God will use the very same diseases that forced the Egyptians to release His people from captivity as a form of punishment for their disobedience. And, once again, Moses takes the suffering a step further, stating that there will be no healing from the pain and itching. These diseases will be permanent and untreatable, with no hope of relief or chance of restoration. And, perhaps as a result of the unrelenting agony caused by the boils and tumors, the people of Israel will suffer from madness, loss of sight, and confusion of mind. Their diminished mental capacity and blindness will leave them incapable of living normal lives, which will result in financial ruin. And, as before, Moses takes his message of doom to another level by warning them, “you shall be only oppressed and robbed continually, and there shall be no one to help you” (Deuteronomy 28:29 ESV). Just when they think it can’t get any worse, it will.

Next, Moses uses a series of short scenarios to further illustrate the devastating consequences of disobedience to God’s law. He begins with a case of betrothal. A man who experiences the joy of finding a woman to whom he becomes engaged will end up watching another man sleep with her. He will never have the privilege of consummating his own marriage. This most likely describes the grim reality of war. This man will have to watch as his betrothed is raped by an enemy soldier. And as if that was not enough, he and his future wife will never know the joy of living in the house he built for them. They will never enjoy the fruit of the vineyard he planted. And the ox he used to till his fields will be slaughtered and eaten by his enemies. His donkeys and sheep will become plunder, and his children will be taken as slaves. But it will get worse. This man will be left longing for his family but will find no one to help him. His loss will be great, and there will be no relief in sight.

All of these things will come upon the Israelites at the hands of a single nation that will leave them “only oppressed and crushed continually” (Deuteronomy 28:33 ESV). God will use this nation to bring about His judgment upon His own people. But it will be their own fault. Their decision to disobey God’s commands will result in their own destruction. And the books of the prophets of God are filled with calls for the people of Israel to repent and return to Him. God will repeatedly issue His compassionate offer of restitution if His people will only repent of their ways. But they won’t, and all that Moses describes in these verses will take place.

These curses are not a form of hyperbole or exaggeration on Moses’ part. They are prophetic pronouncements concerning God’s judgment. So, when Moses says, “the Lord will strike you on the knees and on the legs with grievous boils of which you cannot be healed, from the sole of your foot to the crown of your head” (Deuteronomy 28:35 ESV), he is not issuing idol threats. He means it. And, as before, this warning of grievous boils will be far worse than they can imagine. They will cover the Israelites from head to foot, and they will not respond to any form of treatment or remedy. Repeated disobedience to God’s commands will bring devastating and debilitating consequences that will leave the people of Israel without hope and devoid of help. And Moses is just getting started.

English Standard Version (ESV) The Holy Bible, English Standard Version. ESV® Permanent Text Edition® (2016). Copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers.

New Living Translation (NLT) Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright © 1996, 2004, 2015 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.

The Message (MSG) Copyright © 1993, 1994, 1995, 1996, 2000, 2001, 2002 by Eugene H. Peterson

War, Famine and Death.

When he opened the second seal, I heard the second living creature say, “Come!” And out came another horse, bright red. Its rider was permitted to take peace from the earth, so that people should slay one another, and he was given a great sword.

When he opened the third seal, I heard the third living creature say, “Come!” And I looked, and behold, a black horse! And its rider had a pair of scales in his hand. And I heard what seemed to be a voice in the midst of the four living creatures, saying, “A quart of wheat for a denarius, and three quarts of barley for a denarius, and do not harm the oil and wine!”

When he opened the fourth seal, I heard the voice of the fourth living creature say, “Come!” And I looked, and behold, a pale horse! And its rider’s name was Death, and Hades followed him. And they were given authority over a fourth of the earth, to kill with sword and with famine and with pestilence and by wild beasts of the earth. Revelation 6:3-8 ESV


As noted with the opening of the first seal, each horse and rider that John sees is summoned by one of the four creatures standing before the throne of God. They call, “Come!” and the horse and riders appear. This strongly suggests that all of the events that these images portend are under the control of God. They are not isolated and arbitrary, but preordained by God Himself. And they are happening in just the way He planned at the exact time of His choosing.

While the first horse was white, symbolizing victory and what would appear to be righteousness, its rider was most likely symbolic of the Antichrist. John indicates the he came conquering and to conquer, but his success will not be based on military might, because he was carrying a bow, but no arrows. So, his ability to conquer will be of a more political nature. He will be a strategist who uses the world political stage to his advantage, climbing the ladder to power and prominence and setting himself up as a major player on the world political scene.

But the second horse is red in color, symbolizing war and the bloodshed that comes as a result. Notice what the text says: “Its rider was permitted to take peace from the earth” (Revelation 6:4 ESV). This is yet another reminder that all of what is being revealed is under the divine prerogative of God. This rider, whoever he is, can do nothing without God’s approval and permission. But God is allowing this rider to bring warfare and death to the world because of the sins of mankind and in keeping with His promise to bring judgment on the world’s rebellion against His authority. But who is this rider? As usual, there has been a great deal of speculation over the centuries as to the identity of this rider. But the immediate text does not provide us with any real clue as to who this rider may be. There are some who speculate that we are once again looking at a manifestation of the Antichrist. Because these seals and the content they reveal are progressive in nature, it would appear that they are exposing the various iterations of the Antichrist, as his true nature and intent becomes more apparent over time. He begins as a world leader who appears to be nothing more than a successful political candidate who makes a name for himself by brokering a period of peace on the earth. In fact, Daniel 9:27 seems to indicate that the Antichrist will make a seven-year treaty with the nation of Israel, which at the midway point, he will break. This seven year period is considered to be the tribulation, the second half of which will be a time of great unrest and destruction. So, the Antichrist will begin as a man of peace and diplomacy, somehow brokering an agreement between the Jews and Muslims to allow for the rebuilding of the temple on the temple mount in Jerusalem. But as Daniel’s account describes, at the midway point of the tribulation, Antichrist will turn his back on the people of Israel and desecrate the temple, setting himself up as the only god to be worshiped.

But it could be that this rider is nothing more than a symbol for war. In His Olivet Discourse, Jesus warned His disciples:

And you will hear of wars and rumors of wars. See that you are not alarmed, for this must take place, but the end is not yet. For nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom, and there will be famines and earthquakes in various places. All these are but the beginning of the birth pains. – Matthew 24:6-8 ESV

This rider signals a time of great civil unrest in the world. The text makes clear that people will slay one another. This may refer to actual wars between nations or riots in the streets. But whatever it means, it is clear that any peace that might have been enjoyed will be gone. This foreshadows a time of unprecedented conflict on the earth. And, as is always the case with war, there will be consequences. As the third seal is opened by Christ, the third creature calls out, “Come!” and yet another horse and rider appears. This time, the horse is black and its rider carries a pair of scales in his hands. Black is the traditional symbol for death and it foreshadows a period of tremendous death and devastation caused by famine. The period of warfare will have an impact of the world’s economy, creating hyper-inflation and a shortage of food. The scales indicate that Antichrist, the political leader who has established himself as the dominant force on the world scene, will have control over the buying and selling of goods. In a world wracked by war, where the necessities of life become scarce, he will dictate the price of goods and manage their availability. John hears a voice crying out, “A quart of wheat for a denarius, and three quarts of barley for a denarius, and do not harm the oil and wine!” (Revelation 6:6 ESV). In the first-Century world in which John lived, a denarius represented a day’s wages for a common laborer. So, according to the voice John hears, it is going to take a full-day’s wage to buy enough wheat for one meal. If the cheaper and lower-cost barley is purchased, you could stretch the value of your denarius a bit further. But the bottom line will be that inflation is going to be huge problem and hunger will become commonplace.

With the opening of the fourth seal, the fourth beast calls out, “Come!” and the final horse and rider appear. This horse is described as being pale in color. A more accurate description of the horse’s color would be pale green. The actual Greek word is chlōros, from which we get our word chlorophyll. It would appear that this horse is the color of a decomposing corpse, and riding on this horse is someone who John describes as having the name, Death. And following close behind this horse and rider is Hades. This anthropomorphic description of the abode of the dead is intended to add a sense of complete and utter destruction to the scene. Death is what brings to an end the life of the material body. Hades is the traditional Hebrew word for the abode of the immaterial part of a person. It was believed to be where the soul goes after death. King David spoke about this very place in one of his psalms.

Therefore my heart is glad, and my whole being rejoices;
    my flesh also dwells secure.
10 For you will not abandon my soul to Sheol,
    or let your holy one see corruption. – Psalm 16:9-10 ESV

This horse and rider are described as the harbingers of death, who “were given authority over a fourth of the earth, to kill with sword and with famine and with pestilence and by wild beasts of the earth” (Revelation 6:8 ESV). As a result of the wars and conflicts taking place on the earth and the resulting famine, death and Hades will be satiated with the sheer number of the deceased. It will be an unprecedented time of global disaster marked by the deaths of a fourth of the world’s population. Hades following death is simply a way of saying that the souls of all those who die as a result of the judgments of God will end up in the afterlife, where they will one day face the final judgment of God. This is what is referred to later in the book of Revelation as the Great White Throne Judgment.

11 Then I saw a great white throne and him who was seated on it. From his presence earth and sky fled away, and no place was found for them. 12 And I saw the dead, great and small, standing before the throne, and books were opened. Then another book was opened, which is the book of life. And the dead were judged by what was written in the books, according to what they had done. 13 And the sea gave up the dead who were in it, Death and Hades gave up the dead who were in them, and they were judged, each one of them, according to what they had done. 14 Then Death and Hades were thrown into the lake of fire. This is the second death, the lake of fire. 15 And if anyone’s name was not found written in the book of life, he was thrown into the lake of fire. – Revelation 20:11-15 ESV

 The fourth horse and rider represent the fourth phase of God’s judgment on the world. The first four seals reveal the rise to power of the Antichrist and his subsequent impact on the world. The period of time covered by these four signs is the seven years known as the tribulation. It will be a time marked by war, financial instability, famine, disease, and unprecedented loss of human life. It will be like no other time in human history, when some of the most devastating tragedies ever experienced by mankind will be jam-packed into what is a relatively short period of time. Most of what John has described takes place in the second half of the tribulation, a period known as the Great Tribulation. And, as we will see, one of the groups that will suffer the most during this time is the Jewish people. Because of their association with God and the promises made by God to restore them to a right relationship with Himself, Satan will continue to do everything in his power to destroy the people of God. Because of the rapture, the church will no longer be a factor, freeing up Satan to focus all his attention and energies on the Jews. The prophet Jeremiah predicted what would happen, but he provides a wonderful reminder that God has a purpose behind all the devastation and destruction. He is bringing His judgments against His people for the generations of apostasy and rebellion against Him. But in spite of their disobedience and unfaithfulness, God was going to restore them.

“Thus says the Lord:
We have heard a cry of panic,
    of terror, and no peace.
Ask now, and see,
    can a man bear a child?
Why then do I see every man
    with his hands on his stomach like a woman in labor?
    Why has every face turned pale?
Alas! That day is so great
    there is none like it;
it is a time of distress for Jacob;
    yet he shall be saved out of it. – Jeremiah 30:5-7 ESV

Jesus also spoke of these coming days and assured that the outcome would be a positive one for God’s people.

21 For then there will be great tribulation, such as has not been from the beginning of the world until now, no, and never will be. 22 And if those days had not been cut short, no human being would be saved. But for the sake of the elect those days will be cut short. – Matthew 24:21-22 ESV

As we make our way through the rest of this book, it is essential that we recognize and constantly remind ourselves that God has all of this in His hands. These events are written on the scroll that has been in His possession from before the foundation of the world. The seals are being broken by His Son. And the events unfolding before our eyes are the result of the divine will of God Himself.


English Standard Version (ESV) The Holy Bible, English Standard Version. ESV® Permanent Text Edition® (2016). Copyright © 2001

New Living Translation (NLT) Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright © 1996, 2004, 2015 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.

The Message (MSG)  Copyright © 1993, 1994, 1995, 1996, 2000, 2001, 2002 by Eugene H. Peterson


Leviticus 13-14, Luke 8

Declared Clean.

Leviticus 13-14, Luke 8

The leprous person who has the disease shall wear torn clothes and let the hair of his head hang loose, and he shall cover his upper lip and cry out, “Unclean, unclean.” He shall remain unclean as long as he has the disease. He is unclean. He shall live alone. His dwelling shall be outside the camp. – Leviticus 13:45-46 ESV

These two chapters in Leviticus are a difficult read. They deal with a strange topic that seems totally non-applicable to our modern culture. All the descriptions of and discussions about these diseases of the skin are somewhat disgusting to think about. But the thing we can’t afford to overlook is the emphasis on uncleanliness and cleanness, purity and impurity, acceptance and rejection. This whole section in the book of Leviticus takes the requirements of God to a whole new level. The purity God was looking for went way beyond just the moral dimension. His people were to be pure physically. There was a direct correlation between sin and sickness in the Hebrew mind. These passages are not teaching that these diseases and abnormalities of the skin are the direct result of sin. They are simply using the contagious qualities of these diseases to illustrate the danger of sin among the people of God. A contagious skin disorder, if left unnoticed and unchecked, would quickly spread among the people, bringing death and destruction. Sin can do the same thing. God was teaching His people the serious nature of sin in the midst of the camp. It was to be compared with leprosy. And while the term leprosy most likely does not refer to the modern disease of the same name, it carries the same impact. What we have described in these chapters of Leviticus are a wide range of infectious skin diseases and disorders. And while we could simply characterize them as having nothing to do with our modern context, we must never fail to recognize the spiritual significance the represent.

What does this passage reveal about God?

God cared about His people. He desired that their lives be characterized by blessing, holiness, healing and health. Disease, like sin, was not part of God’s plan for man. It showed up on the scene as a result of the fall. The rebellion of Adam and Eve resulted in a shattering of the perfect environment of Eden. Death and disease showed up as unpleasant companions to sin. Disease was an everyday reality in the world by this time. Illness was a common concern for the people of God, just like it was for all mankind. Knowledge regarding infections and the spread of disease was minimal at best. Man was as ignorant of the dangers of sickness as he was of sin. But God knew that contagious disease could be just as devastating to a community as unchecked sin. So He instituted rules and regulations to control the spread of diseased among His people. Like the moral laws He provided to manage their personal relationships, God provided laws to manage their personal hygiene. Like any of the commandments, if these laws were ignored, the consequences would be devastating. God loved His people enough to provide them with a means for determining the exact nature of a disease and appropriately treating it. Ignorance could be deadly.

What does this passage reveal about man?

What should jump out at us in this passage is the devastating nature of these various skin diseases and disorders. Once the people understood their potential for spreading sickness among themselves, they were naturally prone to separate themselves from those who suffered from the diseases. Those who were sick were quickly ostracized. They were shunned and isolated from the rest of the camp. Like sin, sickness had devastating consequences of fellowship and acceptance. Imagine what it would have been like to be diagnosed with one of these diseases. Your world was rocked. You were required to wear torn clothes and walk around with unkempt hair – visual billboards of your condition – and cry out for all to hear, “Unclean, unclean!” You were forced to declare your sorry state to the world. Everyone would give you wide berth, shunning contact with you for fear of contracting whatever it was you had. On top of that, you were required to live in absolute isolation, outside the camp, alone. What an incredible picture of the devastating impact of sin on the life of an individual. You were unclean, impure, unacceptable. You were an outcast, unwanted and unable to do anything about your condition. But God provided a means to be restored. He commissioned His priests to act as mediators, providing a personal touch in these individual’s greatest times of need. They offered atonement, cleansing, and a way to be restored to fellowship with God and His people. These diseased individuals could not heal themselves. They could change their condition. They were completely dependent on the help of the priest and the healing of God. Their cleansing was completely outside of their control. Think of the parallels to our former condition as sinners prior to coming to Christ. Paul reminds us, “even though we were dead because of our sins, he gave us life when he raised Christ from the dead. (It is only by God’s grace that you have been saved!)” (Ephesians 2:25 NLT). He told the believers in Colossae the same thing: “You were dead because of your sins and because your sinful nature was not yet cut away. Then God made you alive with Christ, for he forgave all our sins” (Colossians 2:13 NLT). It was Jesus who said, “Healthy people don’t need a doctor – sick people do. I have come to call not those who think they are righteous, but those who know they are sinners” (Mark 2:17 NLT).

It’s interesting to note that when Jesus was ministering here on Earth, He regularly healed those who were sick. Not only that, He was willing to touch those who would have been considered unclean and impure. In chapter eight of the book of Luke, we have the story of the woman with the discharge of blood. Her illness would have classified her as unclean, and yet the text emphasizes multiple times that she touched Jesus. “She came up behind him and touched the fringe of his garment” (Luke 8:44 ESV). Jesus immediately responded, “Who was it that touched me?” (Luke 8:45 ESV). Again, He declared out loud, for all the crowd to hear Him, “Someone touched me, for I perceive that power has gone out from me” (Luke 8:46 ESV). The woman, mortified, fell at Jesus feet and “declared in the presence of all the people why she had touched him” (Luke 8:47 ESV). In essence, she declared her guilt. She had knowingly contaminated another person with her uncleanness. But rather than scold her, Jesus said, “Daughter, your faith has made you well; go in peace” (Luke 8:48 ESV). Later in this same chapter, we read of Jesus knowingly touching the body of a young girl who had just died. To do so would have made him ceremonially unclean. And yet, Luke makes it clear that Jesus willingly took that risk. “But taking her by the hand he called, saying, ‘Child, arise'” (Luke 8:54 ESV).

Earlier in this same book, Luke records the words of Jesus as He read from the scroll of Isaiah in the synagogue. “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim liberty to the captives and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty those who are oppressed, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor” (Luke 4:17-18 ESV). Jesus came to heal the spiritually captive, blind, sick, and oppressed. He came to bring release from the deadly disease of sin. He came to stop the spread of sin’s contagion and put an end to its inevitable outcome of death.

How would I apply what I’ve read to my own life?

Paul reminds me to, “remember that you were at that time separated from Christ, alienated from the commonwealth of Israel and strangers to the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world. But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ” (Ephesians 2:12-13 ESV). I was once like one of those poor individuals who found themselves outside the camp, alone, and separated from God and His people. My sin sickness made me unacceptable to God and unable to come into His presence. But God sent His priest, His Son, into my life to provide the cleansing I could never have found on my own. I have been declared clean and pure, sinless and whole. What an incredible feeling it must have been for a formerly unclean person to be declared clean and acceptable again. What joy they must have felt. What gratefulness they must have expressed to God. I should feel that same way. I have been healed and made whole by God.

Father, thank You for providing my healing. I am no longer barred from Your presence because of the sickness of my sin. Your Son has provided my healing and restored me to a right relationship with You. And I can’t express my gratitude often enough. Amen

Ken Miller
Grow Pastor & Minister to Men

Day 61 – Matthew 15:29-31; Mark 7:31-37

He Healed Them All!

Matthew 15:29-31; Mark 7:31-37

“A vast crowd brought to him people who were lame, blind, crippled, those who couldn’t speak, and many others. They laid them before Jesus, and he healed them all.’” – Matthew 15:30 NLT

There are so many recorded incidents of Jesus healing people in the Bible that they can easily become almost non-events to us. We just expect Jesus to heal people. At least we expect Jesus to heal people in the Bible. We’re not quite so confident when it comes to real life. But when it comes to reading the Scriptures we have gotten so used to the stories about blind people receiving their sight, lame people suddenly being able to walk, and mute people gaining back the ability to speak, that they no longer shock or surprise us. But in Jesus’ day, these miracles were anything but expected, and the people had not become complacent about them. When Jesus showed up, the sick and needy showed up as well. And Jesus rarely, if ever, disappointed. Matthew records an occasion where Jesus, having returned to the shore of Galilee from the region of Tyre and Sidon, sits down on a nearby hillside and suddenly finds Himself surrounded by a crowd. They had brought with them all kinds of people with all kinds of needs, and they laid them all at the feet of Jesus. Imagine the scene. People unable to walk, crippled by disease, birth defects or injury, are hobbling or laying at the feet of Jesus. Some are on mats, some are on crutches, but all are in need. They can’t work or make a living. Some are probably in great pain. Next to them are the blind. These people live in a constant world of darkness, unable to see the faces of their own family members or enjoy the beauty of the world around them. There are probably young and old alike. Some have been born blind, while others have lost their sight due to injury, disease, illness or just old age. But each of them suffers the same fate: A life marked by certain poverty, constant darkness and little hope. Mixed in with these two groups were the mute. For whatever reason, these people found themselves unable to speak, trapped in a world where their thoughts, ideas and emotions had to be communicated through hand motions or scribbled notes. They were incapable of expressing words of love, affirmation, encouragement, joy, or praise. They couldn’t sing, shout, whisper, laugh or tell another living soul what they were thinking, feeling, or needing.

What a sad scenario. It reminds me of a scene from the recent movie, Lincoln, where President Lincoln tours a makeshift hospital filled with Union soldiers who have been injured in battle during the Civil War. Many have had their limbs amputated. Others have been permanently blinded by the fragments of exploding bombs. None will ever be the same again. Many will not live to see old age. And all the president can do is walk among them, issuing words of thanks and encouragement. How helpless. How hopeless. How frustrating.

But Jesus did not face those same limitations. He could do so much more, and He did. He healed them all. Matthew does not tell us how Jesus did it. He could have made His way among them, touching each one and speaking to them individually. Or He could have simply healed the entire group in one single, magnificent moment. I tend to believe that is what He did. And Matthew tells us that the crowd was amazed. They were blown away! And we would have been too. Suddenly there were people who had never walked before, running and jumping, shouting and screaming for joy. There were blind people covering their eyes from the blinding light of the sun, then slowly taking in the sights around them. They were grabbing the faces of spouses, children, family members and friends, perhaps seeing them for the first time in their lives. Their were tears being shed, sounds of laughter and shouts of joy. But the loudest group was probably those who had once been unable to speak. Suddenly, they are able to shout, scream, sing, and praise God. And I’m sure they did. Most of them probably shouted themselves hoarse!.

What a scene! I think it’s safe to say that none of us have ever experienced anything like it. But the truth is, every time we get together with a group of other believers, that is just the kind of experience we should have. Each of us who have received salvation through Jesus Christ have been healed of the greatest disease plaguing mankind – sin. We have been taken from death to life. We have been set free from slavery to sin. It reminds me of the lyrics from that great old hymn, Amazing Grace. “Amazing Grace, how sweet the sound, that saved a wretch like me. I once was lost but now am found, was blind but now I see.” Our salvation is no less amazing than what happened on that hillside that day. In fact, it is more amazing. Those peoples’ conditions, while improved physically, remained the same spiritually. While they praised the name of the God of Israel for what had happened, there is no indication that they believed in Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior. They received physical healing, but not spiritual healing. They were still condemned because of their sin and lost without a Savior. But for those of us who are recipients of the amazing grace of God through placing our faith in Jesus Christ as our Savior, we have much to shout about. Our lives should be marked by joy, singing, excitement, excitement, anticipation and grateful appreciation.

Jesus, You have healed my life and made me whole. You have taken away my sin and replaced it with Your righteousness. I was once dead, but You have made me alive and well. I was once helpless and hopeless, but You have given me eternal life and a life free from condemnation and the fear of death. Thank You! Thank You! Thank You!. Amen.

Ken Miller

Grow Pastor & Minister to Men