“Give thanks to God”

Summary of sermon by Erlo Stegen, 22 February 2015

Matt 8:1-4
1 When He had come down from the mountain, great multitudes followed Him.
2 And behold, a leper came and worshiped Him, saying, “Lord, if You are willing, You can make me clean.”

3 Then Jesus put out His hand and touched him, saying, “I am willing; be cleansed.” Immediately his leprosy was cleansed.

4 And Jesus said to him, “See that you tell no one; but go your way, show yourself to the priest, and offer the gift that Moses commanded, as a testimony to them.”

We read here that this happened when He had come down from the mountain, where He had just preached a sermon, the most powerful sermon ever preached (Matt 5-7). It is also a very difficult passage, e.g. where Jesus said that if you’re married and you look at another woman with lust you have already committed adultery (Matt 5:28). He also said that if you get angry with your brother and you call him a fool or other names, then you deserve hell, because before God you’ve murdered him (Matt 5:22). It would be good to read this again and again because the Lord expects us to live accordingly. He also said that if someone forces you to walk a kilometre with him, then walk two (Matt 5:41). If someone strikes you on the one cheek, turn the other also (Matt 5:39). Read it prayerfully and ask yourself what kind of a life you live.

When he had come down from the mountain great multitudes followed Him. Following here means to follow Him closely in truth, in His footsteps. Do we follow Him closely and do what He says, or are we like those that build their house on the sand (Matt 7:24-29)?

In this crowd there was one who was leprous. Leprosy was a terrible disease and incurable in those days. Such people were excommunicated. It was also very infectious. Other people were not allowed to have any contact with a leper. This leper wasn’t even supposed to be amongst the other people. Some commentators believe that while Jesus was preaching he was listening from a distance, and was so moved by what he heard that he made every effort to get to Jesus to be helped. He didn’t care what the people would say or think of him, but only knew that he had to get to Jesus to be helped. This man was just like Zacchaeus who, though an important man, didn’t care what the crowd would think of him, but climbed in the tree to see Jesus (Luke 19:1-10).

When this leper had found Jesus he fell at His feet, worshipping Him, not concerned about his clothing or what the other people would say. And he prayed to Him, “Lord, if you are willing, you can make me clean”. We also see that he was seeking God’s will. He knew Jesus had the power to heal him, but he still said, “Lord, if you are willing …”. We cannot force God. We cannot demand from God that since He had healed many people He must heal those we pray for too. We also read in the Bible where Jesus said a certain sickness wasn’t unto death, and He magnified Himself in that (John 11:4). But there is a time when a sickness is unto death and then we must submit to His will.

After this leper’s request, immediately the Lord Jesus stretched out His hand and healed him. It’s amazing that Jesus touched him, for he was an untouchable. Also when Jesus touched him, He didn’t get leprosy, but the leper was healed from his leprosy.

Spiritually leprosy can be compared to sin. Jesus was amongst the sinners. The Sadducees and Pharisees even accused Him of being amongst the sinners. But He never became leprous spiritually because of mingling with the sinners. As Jesus came to this earth He came to us sinners, but even though He came into contact with us, sin didn’t enter Him. It’s different with us, when we are with different types of people, we are influenced by them and their spirit. So this man was unclean but Jesus cleansed him, as He does even today that when we come to Him with our sin He cleanses us with His precious Blood.

Perhaps you’re also amongst people who aren’t on the right track and what they say and do influences you and stick to you like a disease. But Jesus cleanses us. That’s what He came for, to cleanse us from our sin and heal our diseases. He came to save sinners. Even though He was amongst them, ate with them and mingled with them, He was never influenced by their sin.

Jesus said to this man cleansed of his leprosy, “see that you tell no one. Go your way, show yourself to the priest and offer the offer Moses commanded”. Why did Jesus tell him not to tell anyone? One would think that he must announce it to everyone that Jesus had healed him from this terrible disease. There could be different reasons. It may be that someone can go out and testify to everyone but then backslide and bring reproach on God’s Name. But Jesus did say that the one that is ashamed of Me, I will be ashamed of him (Luke 9:26). But Mark gives us the answer in Mark 1:45, “however he went out and began to proclaim it freely, giving an account of it everywhere, so that Jesus was no longer able to go openly into a town, but was outside in the waste land; and they came to Him from every part”. What this man did was wrong, because Jesus had told him specifically not to do it. Don’t forget what Jesus had said to you, even if it is long ago. It’s sad when we who are Christians, who have been helped by the Lord, become a problem to Him. Jesus wanted to work, but He was hindered and obstructed by what this man, whom He had helped, did. We must always carefully listen to what Jesus tells us.

Jesus told this man to go to the priest and show him that he was cleansed and offer what Moses had prescribed. Some people question confession of sin and even say that it’s wrong or not necessary. But the Bible is full of the necessity of confession of sin. There are people, though they read the Bible, don’t see or understand. Some people say that since the Bible says that you must confess your sin one to another, you can just go to anybody. How can just anyone help you? It will be in the end the blind leading the blind and both will fall into the ditch (Luke 6:39). Elijah prayed and for three and a half years it didn’t rain and he prayed again and it rained. The prayer of a righteous man avails much (James 5:16-18). If you go to someone and you confess that you have evil thoughts, and that person tells you that he has the same problem; how can he then help you?

2Chr 16:12 Here king Asa became very sick in his feet but he did not seek the face of the Lord but the physicians, and he died.

It’s not wrong to go to a doctor, but when you’re sick, first go to the Lord and let Him guide you when going to the doctor.

Remember the story of Shadrach, Meschac and Abednego. When they stood before Nebuchadnezzar, because they wouldn’t bow to his image, and he asked them why they didn’t bow down to his image, and threatened them with the fiery furnace. They replied that they could not bow to the image he had made, and that their God is able to deliver them from the burning fiery furnace, but even if He would not, that they would still not bow down or serve his gods (Dan 3:16-18). Nebuchadnezzar became furious, and the expression on his face changed, and he commanded the furnace be heated seven times. They didn’t proclaim in arrogance that they won’t be burned by the fire. They knew God could deliver them, but that it was still His prerogative. For them God’s will was supreme and they only bowed to that. Nebuchadnezzar commanded that his strongest men bind them and throw them into the furnace, and when those men threw them in, they themselves were burned by the heat and died. But God’s three servants landed bound in the midst of the furnace, and when the king looked he saw that there were four people walking loose in the midst of the furnace, God Himself joining Himself to them and protecting them in the fire (Dan 3:23-25).

Coming back to the leper, although he went to the priest as Jesus told him to, he also spread the matter much abroad, contrary to what Jesus told him, not to do it. When God has helped you and saved you, never forget to bring that offering of thanks to Him. If you do not thank God, He will hand you over to sin. In Rom 1 it speaks of homosexual and lesbian relationships. And it says there that God gave them over to that because they did not give thanks to God (Rom 1:21-27). The intellectuals says that a person is born that way. But that is utter nonsense. God made us male and female, a man to marry a woman like Adam married Eve. Never forget to thank God for what He has done for you that you are not given over to such a terrible state.

When Jesus has helped you, never forget to say thank you. And don’t just say and do what you think is to thank Him, but it must be in obedience to God, by His guidance. If the Lord Jesus has helped you, your reaction should be, “Lord what would you have me to do” (Acts 9:6), and then to listen and do accordingly. Jesus also told this man to do it according to Moses’ instruction. There is a certain way to do a right thing. Don’t just do it your own way.