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Perceptions of Jesus & The True Person of Christ.


Perceptions of Jesus and The True Person of Christ.
Text. Matthew 8:1-4

Some critics of the Gospels, (from within so called Christendom) would like you to think that the Sermon on the Mount is not a unitary block of teaching, but Matthew’s attempt to summarise the teaching ministry of Jesus into a single block. I don’t buy it. I don’t know how long the sermon lasted, hours, or days, or what breaks were taken between aspects of it, or the number of people who were listening, but I do know that it has a geo-historical beginning and end.

Matthew 5:1. And seeing the multitudes, He went up on a mountain, and when He was seated His disciples came to Him.

This is exactly what you would expect from a Jewish teacher. He would teach seated, and when he was ready to teach, his disciples would sit around him to listen and learn. There is a distinct historical factuality surrounding this. Now read…

Matthew 8:1. When he was come down from the mountain, great multitudes followed him.

The sermon has ended, and he has risen and walked down a mountain, and a large number of people are following him, so the ‘disciples’ who were listening to the lecture on the mountain we now learn, are not just the twelve apostles, they are an enormous crowd of people. Again the sermon has a merged historical conclusion. There is a beginning and an end, and I’m inclined to speculate that this major teaching conventicle lasted for quite a few days, and that as the Master taught, the word spread, and more and more people came to listen.

This little passage then, becomes like a coda, a persuavive conclusion to the Sermon on the Mount, in the way that the story of the two builders was a practical conclusion, a challenge to hear and obey. This passage expands on the point made in 7:28-29, that Jesus’ teaching was greatly different from that of the lawyers, for it carried with it the authority of God. JC Ryle writes, ‘It was fitting that the greatest sermon ever preached should be immediately followed by mighty proofs that the preacher was the Son of God. Those who heard the SoM would be obliged to confess that as none spake such words as this man, so also none did such works.’ Let’s see what that means…

1 The Popular Jesus? When he was come down from the mountain, great multitudes followed him.
Note the popularity of Jesus. But which Jesus? There is no doubt that a ‘Jesus’ could be very popular indeed.   So many people make themselves a ‘Jesus’ that fits their own ideas and philosophies. A gay affirming Jesus, an ecumenical Jesus, a feminised Jesus. A Rob Bell Jesus?

Jesus warned that ‘if the world has hated me, it will hate you also’ (John 15:18). And the world did hate Jesus. The world crucified Jesus. And the world will hate his people, teaching and church. The nice, watered down, Jesus that Bell teaches is one that will of course be loved in our culture – because it is just a reflection of us…not the reflection of the glory of God.

Which Jesus Jesus were the multitudes following that day? Was it the great teacher, was it the political leader, was it the physician… or was it the Saviour, who would die on the cross for sinners, and who would demand that his followers would also take up their cross, and lay down their own lives for him. Where were all these followers when he hung on the cross?

Personally, what Jesus am I following? The Jesus of the false prosperity teachers, who wants me to be rich? The Jesus of the ‘attractional church’ who wants to give me a purpose driven life, and who only exists to make things better for me? Or the Jesus of the Bible, the Son of God, the Saviour, the King of Kings, the soon to return Judge of all.
It is incumbent upon all of us to have a correct, Biblical understanding of the Person of Christ. Christology. Let’s go a step further…

2 The Personal Plea. And, behold, there came a leper and worshipped him, saying, Lord, if thou wilt, thou canst make me clean.
Here, into the narrative comes a man who not only knew who Jesus really was, but who knew who and what he (himself) was also.  A leper. This man had a great need. A very great need indeed. Basically his need fell into two issues…

  • He was an outcast from society. This was because of the stigma of leprosy. Think if it’s effects. Its symptoms. The keeper would notice a small white spot on his skin. It would grow, and become sore and itchy. In its later stages he would lose extremities because of blood deprivation. Fingers and toes would simply die and fall off. The skin around the face and eyes were particularly affected, as the skin thickened and the face became ugly. The eyebrows and lashes would fall out. The smell was awful. The leper stank of rotten flesh. Leprosy affected every sense. You could see the disease, smell the disease, taste it in your mouth, feel the roughness of the skin, hear the voice of the leper, for throat and nasal passages thickened too, and the voice became little more than a hoarse rasp. The leper was utterly repulsive, when a Jew saw a leper in the distance he would turn round and run.
  • He was an outcast from the synagogue. This was the most serious aspect of his illness, for the leper wasn’t allowed to attend the temple or the synagogue. He was forbidden. Lev 13:45 And the leper in whom the plague is, his clothes shall be rent, and his head bare, and he shall put a covering upon his upper lip, and shall cry, Unclean, unclean. 46All the days wherein the plague shall be in him he shall be defiled; he is unclean: he shall dwell alone; without the camp shall his habitation be.

How great is his need! Is it any wonder that in the Bible the leper is a type of the sinner, for we have the same symptoms. We too are repugnant before God, for our sin has affected all of our parts, just as the lepers symptoms affect all our senses, so everything within us up is corrupted by sin, and obnoxious in the sight of God. And we are outcasts, for we are separated from God because of our sin.

1 He worshipped him. He drew near to Christ and he worshipped. That’s strange. A leper wouldn’t draw near to anyone! Yet this man came right up to Jesus, close enough to be within arm reach. And he worshipped. How? The account in Luke tells us that he bowed down and worshipped him. Luke 5:12 And it came to pass, when he was in a certain city, behold a man full of leprosy: who seeing Jesus fell on his face, and besought him, saying, Lord, if thou wilt, thou canst make me clean. The word implies that he prostrated himself, fell to his face in the dirt in an act of humility before the Lord. Yet see that in his worship, he makes a doctrinal, credal statement. He acknowledged Jesus’

  • Lordship.
  • Sovereignty over providence
  • Omnipotence.

2 He prayed in a personal manner. He brought his deepest needs to Jesus! Lord, if thou wilt, thou canst make me clean. And why would he not. Don’t we have a Saviour who cares deeply for us, who is touched with the feelings of our infirmities? What would have need the reaction of one of the Scribes, the great teachers of the law, had such a man come to them? Now remember that in the Bible, a leper is symbolic of the sinner.

3. The Touch that Pardons. And Jesus put forth his hand, and touched him, saying, I will; be thou clean. And immediately his leprosy was cleansed.
Jesus touches the untouchable. He still does! He touched the untouchable when his grace and mercy reached me, and you too if you are ransomed by his grace and love.

  • Speaks to the outcast.
  • Declares the will of God. saying, I will;
  • Speaks life-changing words. be thou clean
  • Performs a great miracle. Note the immediacy. Right away the man is cleansed. No waiting, no period of time, – now remember that the man was fully leprous, (Luke 5:12 And it came to pass, when he was in a certain city, behold a man full of leprosy) – yet immediately his condition was changed. he was cleansed, all the white, sore, pus-excreting skin was gone, all the ugliness of the lepers face, all the toes and fingers all the hoarseness of the voice. The repulsive sight was gone, the disgusting smell was gone, the grating voice was gone, the bad taste was gone, the rough furrowed skin was smooth… It was a MIRACLE!

What a miracle, yet there is a far greater miracle wrought by Jesus, every time he cleanses a filthy sinner from their sins.

4. The Obedient Practice. And Jesus saith unto him, See thou tell no man; but go thy way, shew thyself to the priest, and offer the gift that Moses commanded, for a testimony unto them. (4 And Jesus said to him, “See that you tell no one [about this]; but go, show yourself to the priest [for inspection] and present the offering that Moses commanded, as a testimony (evidence) to them [of your healing] (Amp)
Christian conversion, like the cleansing of the leper, leads to a life of obedience. Obedience to the law of God. The law, which we could not keep for salvation, now becomes our standard of behaviour, it becomes what we aspire to, as believers, seeking to live to please God in all our ways. The leper was to do what was taught in the OT law, to go to the priest as Leviticus, that book which teaches about the holiness of God shows us, and he was to present himself for ceremonial declaration of cleansing and sanctification, and re-admittance within God’s covenant people. He would go to the temple, and he would make a sacrifice.
You are set free from disease and sin – now go and live according to the Word of God.

I wonder why the hurry? Why the insistence that he tell no-one? Was it because the priests were so viciously against Christ that they would have refused to declare the man cleansed if they knew he had been involved? Was it because he didn’t want his messiahship to become a political issue? Whatever the reason for haste, the man’s actions in response let the Lord down as we so often do… Mark 1:45 But he went out, and began to publish it much, and to blaze abroad the matter, insomuch that Jesus could no more openly enter into the city, but was without in desert places: and they came to him from every quarter.

So now we see both of the human aspects of Christ’s ministry. His authoritative teaching, backed up by his divine power and ability.  His compassion for those in need – his love that would take him to the cross.

From → Bible Study, Matthew

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