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Author:Rev. Ted Gray
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Congregation:First United Reformed Church
 Oak Lawn, Illinois
Title:Wholehearted Gratitude for Redeeming Love
Text:Matthew 8:1-17 (View)
Occasion:Regular Sunday

Order Of Worship (Liturgy)

(Selections from the 1976 Psalter Hymnal unless otherwise noted):
319 - All Glory Be to Thee, Most High
75 (Red) - Jesus! What a Friend for Sinners
202 - Mindful of Our Human Frailty
384 - How Sweet the Name of Jesus Sounds
* As a matter of courtesy please advise Rev. Ted Gray, if you plan to use this sermon in a worship service.   Thank-you.

Pastor Ted Gray
“Wholehearted Gratitude for Redeeming Love”
Matthew 8:1-17
Three specific acts of healing are mentioned in this passage. The first healing is that of a leper, recorded in verses 2 and 3. None of us can fully grasp the horror of having leprosy back in Biblical times. It was a skin disease, and while some varieties of the disease were not as bad as others, often it was a death sentence. It was usually a terminal disease. No cure was available. Many types of leprosy were highly contagious, thus anyone struck with leprosy was barred from contact with others. Lepers lived outside of the community in a colony with other lepers.
How was it possible that lepers could be so easily identified and kept outside of the city gates? Leprosy was quickly seen because it caused the skin to be white and scaly. Leprosy comes from the Greek word lepos meaning scale. As the disease progressed it caused the skin to bunch up, especially around the eyes and ears. Sometimes the furrows in the face of a leper would become so deep that they would have facial features like a lion.
Meanwhile, as the disease progressed, fingers and toes would drop off of hands and feet or be absorbed by them. Eyebrows and eyelashes would also fall out making it an obvious disease to detect.
But you could also smell a leper. As the skin got scaly, and then later got sores and ulcers, it would emit a terrible, foul-smelling odor. You could not only see that someone had leprosy. You could smell the stench of their leprosy.
Not only could you see and smell a leper, you could also hear that someone had leprosy from the coarseness of their voice. The disease would frequently affect the larynx causing the leper to have a rasping, hoarse voice. And every leper was required to warn others about his or her condition by calling out, in that raspy, hoarse voice: “Unclean! Unclean!”
Now this leper, totally ostracized by other people because of his smell, his looks, his hoarse voice – his terrible disease of leprosy – comes and kneels before Jesus and says, “Lord, if You are willing, You can make me clean” (2).
In response, Jesus does a remarkable thing. He reaches out and touches this leper with His hand. Imagine the shock of the great multitude. Did some expect that Jesus’ hand would now also turn white with leprosy, with this highly contagious disease?
People in that day, deeply conscious that leprosy was not only contagious but also incurable, could not conceive of touching a leper. They were germ conscious, even more than we were through the Corona Virus pandemic. We are all conscious – some of us too conscious, perhaps – of disease and its ability to spread. And yet none of us (at least in North America) have come in contact with a disease as incurable and contagious as leprosy was in Biblical times. Yet, in the first miraculous healing recorded in this passage, Jesus reaches out and touches the leper. Instead of Jesus becoming leprous, the leper is healed! As verse 3 says, “Immediately he was cured of his leprosy.”
The second miraculous healing is that of a Roman centurion’s servant. A number of commentators point out how unusual it was that this Roman centurion would come to Jesus. He was a Gentile, not a Jew; he was a man of accomplishment and military power. Although he had generals over him, he also had authority over others. A centurion, as the name implies, was the commander of one hundred men in the Roman army (though sometimes the numbers were smaller). Generally, such powerful people would not associate with someone like Jesus, especially not a Gentile.
Yet this centurion is obviously a compassionate man, because he comes to Jesus with a great concern. In verse 6 he says, “Lord, my servant lies at home paralyzed and in terrible suffering.” Although he is a commander of one hundred men, and a Roman leader, he acknowledges that Jesus is Lord. In verse 6 he simply states the case: his servant is suffering terribly. He doesn’t initially ask Jesus to heal him; he just states the case.
Jesus replies: “I will go and heal him” (7).  At that point, the centurion makes a statement that astonishes Jesus. “The centurion replied, ‘Lord, I do not deserve to have You come under my roof. But just say the word, and my servant will be healed. For I myself am a man under authority, with soldiers under me. I tell this one, ‘Go,’ and he goes; and that one, ‘Come,’ and he comes. I say to my servant, ‘Do this,’ and he does it” (8, 9).
Verse 10 describes how Jesus was astonished, for even the Jewish people, who had heard the Old Testament prophecies and the promises of the Messiah’s coming to earth, did not believe in Him with the faith of this Gentile, this Roman centurion. Consequently, in verse 13 Jesus said to the centurion, “‘Go! It will be done just as you believed it would.’ And his servant was healed at that very hour.”
The third miraculous healing described in these verses is the healing of Peter’s mother-in-law. She was sick in bed with a fever, and when Jesus saw her verse 15 tells us, “He touched her hand and the fever left her, and she got up and began to wait on Him.”
Jesus not only has the power to heal, but His healing is instantaneous. Doctors, surgeons, and other medical professionals can do amazing things today, showing us the truth of Psalm 139:14 that the human body is fearfully and wonderfully made, and also the truth of Genesis 1:26 that we are created in the image of God.
But even with all the amazing things that are done in the medical field today, nothing is as amazing as the way Jesus healed these people so that they were instantaneously better: That was true for the leper in verse 3. That was true for the centurion’s servant, as recorded in verse 13.  And it was true for Peter’s mother-in-law (v. 15).
We have been praying for a man in our church who had knee replacement surgery three weeks ago. We thank God for the successful surgery and for the progress that man is making. But can you imagine someone in our congregation seeing this man three weeks after surgery and asking, “Was the surgery an instantaneous solution?  Were you healed immediately? Did you walk out of the hospital, jump in your car and drive home?” Of course not! Weeks and months are needed for the healing of the body, even with all our advanced medical care.
Not so with Jesus. He touches and instantly the healing takes place, He speaks the word, and across the miles, that very moment, the healing takes place. Fully. Completely. Perfectly.
The Compassion of Christ
These truly remarkable healings show us something of the compassion of Jesus. Verse 1 describes how Jesus was coming down from the mountainside where He had preached His longest recorded sermon. I can only imagine how hot it was, and how thirsty Jesus was. Jesus, as a truly human person, was undoubtedly exhausted. Preaching looks easy; but anyone who has done it knows that it is extremely hard.          
Our church in Oak Lawn doesn’t have air conditioning. On hot, humid days preaching from an elevated position in a sweltering sanctuary is challenging, especially to guest pastors who are aren’t used to the heat. I remember one seminarian in particular as he preached on a hot Sunday evening. He had an excellent message that we all appreciated, but I could also appreciate that he stopped repeatedly for drinks of water. And sitting in the pew, near a fan on a brutally hot Sunday evening, I knew full well what he was experiencing. But how hot was Jesus, preaching in the arid region of the Mideast to a vast crowd?
And now as He comes off the hillside this multitude of people keep following Him. They are not giving Him space. In fact, they are coming to Him with their needs. He has already healed many people. Back in Matthew 4:24-25 we read the background to the Sermon on the Mount. Matthew writes: “News about Him spread all over Syria, and people brought to Him all who were ill with various diseases, those suffering severe pain, the demon-possessed, those having seizures, and the paralyzed, and He healed them. Large crowds from Galilee, the Decapolis, Jerusalem, Judea and the region across the Jordan followed Him.”
And then Matthew 5:1-2 describes the setting of the Sermon: “Now when He saw the crowds, He went up on a mountainside and sat down. His disciples came to Him, and He began to teach them.” Visualize the schedule Jesus kept: He had been healing before the sermon, then He preached an eloquent and lengthy sermon, carefully teaching His disciples and also the multitude who had gathered with them. Now as He comes down the mountainside, the people continue to make requests of Him. And in that situation of stress, pressure and non-stop work, Jesus shows His great compassion.
When the leper comes to Him, He doesn’t say, “I was healing before the Sermon. You should have sought Me out then.” He doesn’t say to His disciples, “Keep the crowd away; I need a break.  Let them know tomorrow is my day off!”
Not at all. Instead, in great compassion Jesus reaches out and touches the leper, healing him. He speaks the word to heal the centurion’s servant, and He touches Peter’s mother-in-law to bring healing to her. In addition to that, verse 16 says: “When evening came, many who were demon-possessed were brought to Him, and He drove out the spirits with a word and healed all the sick.” 
Admittedly there was travel time. Verse 1, 5 and 14 all begin with the word “when.” All these healings were not done in the same day. But the schedule was unrelenting and all the “when’s” certainly became woven together into a tightly packed calendar of events.
What all this teaches us is that Jesus is truly compassionate. He is not only compassionate in the setting of Matthew 8, He is truly compassionate towards us as well. He is not too tired, too busy or too important to disregard, or to be irritated at, our requests. Whatever our ailments – whether physical pain, deprivation, relationship storms, clouds of uncertainty, temptations and sins which war against our soul – we can take whatever problems are in our lives to Jesus. He will meet us where we are and bring His peace, comfort and guidance into our lives. In the words of 1 Peter 5:7 we are to “Cast all your anxiety on Him because He cares for you.”
We also have full confidence in bringing all the various struggles and problems of life to our heavenly Father through the name of Jesus, for Hebrews 4:15-16 assures: “...We do not have a High Priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but we have One who has been tempted in every way, just as we are —yet was without sin. Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.”
Power Over Sin
This passage also teaches us the power Jesus has over all things, including sin. The healing of disease, of course, is indicative of the power of Jesus to heal us from the terminal disease of sin.  These healings are done to show us that those who are dead in their sins and trespasses are raised to life – healed with an everlasting healing – through saving faith in Jesus.
Perhaps you noticed that the last verse of this passage is a quote from Isaiah 53. Isaiah 53 is one of the clearest descriptions in the Old Testament of the redeeming work of Jesus Christ. It describes how His life was a life of sorrow and suffering. It describes how he was stricken by God and afflicted by him. Why? Isaiah 53:5 tells us, “He was pierced for our transgressions, He was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was upon Him, and by His wounds we are healed.”  
In each case of healing, in this chapter and in the other Scriptures, we are emphatically taught the power of Jesus to not only heal, but to cleanse us from sin, to give us eternal life through faith in Him. That truth is written between the lines in this chapter, but in chapter 9 it is spelled out clearly for us.
In the opening verses of that chapter, as Jesus heals a paralytic, He says to him, “...Son, your sins are forgiven.”  The teachers of the law are furious, thinking Him to be a great blasphemer, for who but God can forgive sins? And then Jesus says to them: “Which is easier: to say, ‘Your sins are forgiven,’ or to say, ‘Get up and walk’?  But so that you may know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins…’ Then He said to the paralytic, ‘Get up, take your mat and go home.’  And the man got up and went home.” (Matthew 9:5-7) 
We are all infected with a terminal disease. Apart from Christ we are already spiritually dead from the disease of sin. But He is able to heal, indeed, to raise us from spiritual death to newness of life that is truly life, through saving faith in Him.
That is a third truth that this passage teaches: It teaches the necessity of God’s gift of saving faith in Christ alone. Did you notice the faith of the leper?  The leper didn’t say: “Lord, if You are able to, make me clean.”  Instead, with the confidence of true faith he says in verse 2: “Lord, if You are willing, You can make me clean.” 
Likewise, the centurion certainly had saving faith, for verse 10 tells us Jesus was astonished by the level of his faith. And in verse 13 Jesus says to the centurion, “Go! It will be done, just as you believed it would.”
In order for healing – healing not just from physical ailments recorded here in Matthew 8 – but healing from sin, for forgiveness and the gift of eternal life, we must have faith in Jesus Christ and Him alone. Apart from saving faith in Him there is no salvation. Justification by faith is a key teaching of Scripture; in the words of the Reformers, the Biblical teaching that we are justified by faith in Jesus is “the hinge on which our salvation turns.”  We are justified – saved from our sin – by grace alone, through faith alone, in Christ alone.
Our faith is not of ourselves, but is a gift from God to His people. “For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith, and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God – not by works, so that no one can boast” (Eph. 2:8-9).
Our Response of Wholehearted Gratitude
How are we to respond to such grace – the gift of faith and everlasting life, the healing not just of the body, but life for the soul?
First, we need to examine ourselves to make sure that our faith is not in our works, not in our self-righteousness, but in Christ alone. That is the essence of the Sermon on the Mount, the essence of the gospel, and a purpose of the law, to show us our need for Christ and to drive us, by God’s grace through the Holy Spirit’s conviction and regeneration, to saving faith in Jesus Christ alone.
Saving faith is always accompanied by genuine sorrow for sin. As we see the magnitude of our sin we must confess our sin, striving to turn from it and trusting that Christ has paid the penalty for it. Jesus Christ paid the penalty for our sin, and He bore the curse of our sin through His sacrificial death. Together, repentance and faith equal true conversion.
And then, if by God’s grace we have saving faith in Jesus, what heartfelt gratitude we should have! Heartfelt gratitude that Jesus is the suffering servant prophesied by Isaiah who “took up our infirmities and carried our diseases.” What heartfelt gratitude we should have that He left the glory of heaven for our sake. How our hearts and lives should overflow with gratitude as we consider that He lived a life of humiliation and suffering for us, being tempted in every way as we are, yet without sin. He who knew no sin became sin for us, so that through saving faith in Him, His righteous and perfect obedience is credited to us so that we are presented before our triune God spotless and without blame. What gratitude we should have! How thankful we should be for our salvation, for God’s gracious work in our lives and His gift of saving faith in Him!
How do we show our gratitude? Not only by lips that praise His name, but lives that are living sacrifices. As Romans 12:1 puts it, “… in view of God’s mercy offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God – this is your spiritual worship.”
Part of wholehearted gratitude for God’s mercy includes doing the good works God has ordained for us to do. Wholehearted gratitude is action, not just words. In the words of 1 John 3:18, “Let us not love with words or tongue but with actions and in truth.”
It may seem unusual that people who have been redeemed by the Creator of the Cosmos – the eternal, almighty, omniscient God who came to this earth in human flesh to redeem His people from their sin – would not show gratitude to their Redeemer. But unfortunately, ingratitude is deeply ingrained in the fallen human heart. So often we verbally accept the gift of salvation without expressing true gratitude to the Giver.
Consider, how in Luke 17, we read that Jesus healed ten lepers at one time. Do you remember how many of those lepers returned to thank Jesus for the transformation in their lives? One returned thanks, and he was a Samaritan. Luke 17:17-18 “Jesus asked, “Were not all ten cleansed? Where are the other nine?  Was no one found to return and give praise to God except this foreigner?”
If by grace you have experienced the cleansing power of Jesus Christ, through saving faith in Him, then live that life of praise and thankful obedience, this week, and always!  Amen.
bulletin outline:
“He took up our infirmities and carried our diseases” - Matthew 8:17b
                  “Wholehearted Gratitude for Redeeming Love”
                                             Matthew 8:1-17
I.  Among the many healings Jesus performed, three specific acts of
     healing are mentioned in this passage:
     1) A leper is healed by the touch of Jesus (1-4)
     2) A servant is healed by the word of Jesus (5-13)
     3) Peter’s mother-in-law (along with many others) are healed in
         order to fulfill prophecy (14-17)
II. The healings show:
     1) The compassion of Jesus (3, 7, 14-15; Hebrews 4:15-16)
     2) The power of Jesus over all things, including sin (3, 13b, 16; 9:1-7)
     3) The necessity of God’s gift of saving faith (2, 13; Eph. 2:8-9)
III. Our response: Saving faith in Jesus with heartfelt gratitude that He redeemed us
       from our sin and “took up our infirmities and carried our diseases” (17; Isa. 53:4) 


* As a matter of courtesy please advise Rev. Ted Gray, if you plan to use this sermon in a worship service.   Thank-you.
(c) Copyright 2012, Rev. Ted Gray

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