OUR LORD’S UNUSUAL FRIENDS

TEXT

Matthew 8:1-17

Jesus came down the mountain with the cheers of the crowd still ringing in his ears.  Then a leper appeared and went to his knees before Jesus, praying, “Master, if you want to, you can heal my body.”

Jesus reached out and touched him, saying, “I want to.  Be clean.”  Then and there, all signs of the leprosy were gone.  Jesus said, “Don’t talk about this all over town.  Just quietly present your healed body to the priest, along with the appropriate expressions of thanks to God.  Your cleansed and grateful life, not your words, will bear witness to what I have done.”

As Jesus entered the village of Capernaum, a Roman captain came up in a panic and said, “Master, my servant is sick.  He can’t walk.  He’s in terrible pain.”

Jesus said, “I’ll come and heal him.”

“Oh, no,” said the captain.  “I don’t want to put you to all that trouble.  Just give the order and my servant will be fine.  I’m a man who takes orders and gives orders.  I tell one soldier, “Go,’ and he goes; to another, “Come,’ and he comes; to my slave, “Do this,’ and he does it.”

Taken aback, Jesus said, “I’ve yet to come across this kind of simple trust in Israel, the very people who are supposed to know all about God and how he works.  This man is the vanguard of many outsiders who will soon be coming from all directions—streaming in from the east, pouring in from the west, sitting down at God’s kingdom banquet alongside Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.  Then those who grew up ‘in the faith’ but had no faith will find themselves out in the cold, outsiders to grace and wondering what happened.”

Then Jesus turned to the captain and said, “Go. What you believed could happen has happened.” At that moment his servant became well.

By this time they were in front of Peter’s house.  On entering, Jesus found Peter’s mother-in-law sick in bed, burning up with fever.  He touched her hand and the fever was gone. No sooner was she up on her feet than she was fixing dinner for him.

That evening a lot of demon-afflicted people were brought to him.  He relieved the inwardly tormented.  He cured the bodily ill.  He fulfilled Isaiah’s well-known sermon:

He took our illnesses,

He carried our diseases.

The Message

COMMENT

Our Lord Jesus had unusual friends.  A leper, scorned by society, dangerous to be around, receives the thrilling words “I want to” and a precious human touch.  A centurion—Roman, Gentile, unclean oppressor—is commended for a better trust.  A fisherman’s mother-in-law is set free from fever.  Everyone could come near him; everyone could find healing from him.  He was no respecter of persons.  He welcomed all to receive his grace.

READ

Do not confine your conversation to genteel and elegant people.  I should like this as well as you do.  But I cannot discover a precedent for it in the life of our Lord, or any of his Apostles.  My dear friend, let you and I walk as he walked…I want you to converse more, abundantly more, with the poorest of the people, who, if they have not taste, have souls, which you may forward on their way to heaven.  And they have (many of them) faith, and the love of God in a larger measure than any persons I know.  Creep in among these, in spite of dirt, and a hundred disgusting circumstances; and thus put off the gentlewoman.

—John Wesley, Letter to ‘A Member of the Society,’ Feb. 7, 1776

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