Reading Time: 7 Minutes
As we begin a new series of blog posts, I am trying a new format for a few days to see how it works out. If you have any comments about the format, I am interested in hearing from you.
The goal of the new series is to take an in-depth look at the way Jesus lived his life in the Gospel of Matthew with the idea that we will grow in living the Jesus-kind-of-life.
Today’s Bible Passage
Matthew 8.1-4 – When he came down from the mountain, great crowds followed him. 2 And behold, a leper came to him and knelt before him, saying, “Lord, if you will, you can make me clean.”
3 And Jesus stretched out his hand and touched him, saying, “I will; be clean.” And immediately his leprosy was cleansed.
4 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.”
Leprosy was the most dreaded disease in ancient times. It was a skin condition for which there was no known cure. Because of the belief that leprosy was contagious, lepers lived away from society and were truly “untouchable.”
When Jesus began his ministry he declared, “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel” (Mark 1.15). The leper responded in a positive way to Jesus’ message about the kingdom.
He changed his mind about the status of his leprosy. Remember, to repent literally means to “change your mind.” He responded to the fact that the reach of God’s effective power was at hand and available. That is what Jesus meant when he spoke about the kingdom of God.
His belief in the good news of God’s power led him to come to Jesus and say, “Lord, if you will, you can make me clean” (verse 2).
Jesus healed him and sent him to the priest for a confirmation of his healing. Before the man could re-enter society, he needed the priest’s acknowledgement of his healing. Assuming this healing took place in Galilee, the man would make a trip to the temple in Jerusalem for this to take place.
If you and I were in a park, drinking a cup of coffee at a range of six feet for safety purposes, I may ask you to try out my approach to this passage.
(1) I am not a leper, even though I have some skin problems. I do have parts of my inside condition that I want Jesus to heal. As I read this passage, I also talk to Jesus about what I am reading and tell him what I want cleansed and made whole.
(2) The leper had to change his mind about the future of his condition. He had to believe that Jesus could and would cleanse him. Here is the way I talked to Jesus about my situation.
— Do I believe that only you can make me clean, or is there some kind of self-effort that will accomplish what is needed?
— What is your will? Do you want to make me clean as proof of your love and power?
— What is the extent of your power to make me clean? Will you release your power and make me clean and whole?
(3) The leper’s faith was displayed by coming to Jesus, falling on his face before Jesus, and asking Jesus to help him. My faith is shown by following the example of the leper.
(4) I think the best prayer for addressing our inside condition is Psalm 51. It is the prayer of King David, after he committed adultery with Bathsheba and had her husband murdered to cover up the sin.
I frequently pray Psalm 51 to confess my sins to God. If we were in the park, I would read a little of the Psalm and tell you what I say to God. I hope to duplicate that here.
1 Have mercy on me, O God,
according to your steadfast love;
according to your abundant mercy
blot out my transgressions.
2 Wash me thoroughly from my iniquity,
and cleanse me from my sin!
Dear Father, I want more than just having my sins blotted out. I want total transformation, just as your healing completely changed the leper’s life.
3 For I know my transgressions,
and my sin is ever before me.
4 Against you, you only, have I sinned
and done what is evil in your sight,
so that you may be justified in your words
and blameless in your judgment.
Father, I am aware of my sin, when I feel guilty about it. I am also aware of my sin when I am tempted to follow my own self-will. I desire to be free from the obsession to always have my own way.
5 Behold, I was brought forth in iniquity,
and in sin did my mother conceive me.
6 Behold, you delight in truth in the inward being,
and you teach me wisdom in the secret heart.
Father, you care about my inside condition. You want me to be true on the inside and you desire to fill my secret heart with wisdom. Please do this work in me.
7 Purge me with hyssop, and I shall be clean;
wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow.
8 Let me hear joy and gladness;
let the bones that you have broken rejoice.
9 Hide your face from my sins,
and blot out all my iniquities.
10 Create in me a clean heart, O God,
and renew a right spirit within me.
Father, I desire to be washed free from all guilt. Even more, I desire a clean heart that is just as clean as the leper’s skin after you healed him. Please put a “right spirit” in my inner self.
11 Cast me not away from your presence,
and take not your Holy Spirit from me.
12 Restore to me the joy of your salvation,
and uphold me with a willing spirit.
Father, I pray for great joy in living in your presence. May you be the joy of my life. Please give me an inside condition that always wants to follow you and rejoice in you.
13 Then I will teach transgressors your ways,
and sinners will return to you.
14 Deliver me from bloodguiltiness, O God,
O God of my salvation,
and my tongue will sing aloud of your righteousness.
15 O Lord, open my lips,
and my mouth will declare your praise.
16 For you will not delight in sacrifice, or I would give it;
you will not be pleased with a burnt offering.
17 The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit;
a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise.
Father, as you cleanse my inner self, please make me pliable to your will. Please break my hard heart and make it one that is pleasing to you.
Please take time to interact with Jesus. First, come to him and express to him any ways that you are like the leper. Then, please take time to pray through Psalm 51 as a way to cleanse and re-fashion your inside condition.
Dear Jesus, we marvel at your love. We come to you in faith like the leper. Please cleanse us inside and out. Thank you.