When Jesus came down from the mountainside, large crowds followed him. 2 A man with leprosy came and knelt before him and said, “Lord, if you are willing, you can make me clean.”
3 Jesus reached out his hand and touched the man. “I am willing,” he said. “Be clean!” Immediately he was cleansed of his leprosy. 4 Then Jesus said to him, “See that you don’t tell anyone. But go, show yourself to the priest and offer the gift Moses commanded, as a testimony to them.” – Matthew 8:1-4
As you may remember, before Jesus went up the mountain and started teaching the Sermon on the Mount, He was being followed by huge crowds. And He healed every kind of disease and sickness they had. News about him was quickly spreading over the entire region.
So it’s no surprise that this man with leprosy wanted to reach out to Jesus when the sermon was over. If I were him, I would have been anxiously awaiting the end of the sermon, wondering if I was going to be able to approach Jesus, and if He would be willing to take the time to listen to me and heal me.
I’m not sure I would have heard one word of the sermon, because I would have been strategizing my location and anticipating Jesus’ descent and silently practicing what I was going to say to Him when and if I got His attention.
But that wasn’t the case with this man.
This man was listening to the sermon. At least that’s what I believe, based on what He said to Jesus.
Have you ever gotten yourself into a pickle and begged God to help you get out of it? But what you really wanted Him to do was rescue you from this particular situation—not necessarily take away the desire that resulted in you being in the pickle in the first place?
Let me see if I can explain myself. Say, for instance, you have a bad week at work and you do some emotional retail therapy over the weekend. But now you need money to pay your credit card bill. You ask God to bring you the needed money. But you don’t ask Him to deal with the issue that’s causing you to use shopping as a salve for the emotional wound that’s causing you pain.
Here’s another example. Your doctor runs some tests to see if you’re pre-diabetic. You beg God to let the test results show that you are not on the verge of Type 2 Diabetes. But you don’t go so far as to ask Him to heal you of the issue deep inside that’s causing you to medicate with doughnuts and sodas.
There’s a difference between asking Jesus to take care of a surface problem and asking Him to heal the heart issue that’s causing the surface problem.
Taking care of the surface problem is like treating the symptoms of a horrible disease but never dealing with the disease itself.
And that, in my opinion, was the main focus of the Sermon on the Mount.
Jesus shared with His audience the difference in religion—which is sin-focused and deals with the surface problems, the symptoms—and the good news of the kingdom that He is proclaiming—which is heart-focused and deals with the core issues, curing the disease of our sin condition, not just treating the symptoms.
The reason I think this man with leprosy was paying attention to Jesus’ sermon is because of the words he used—as stated in the Amplified Bible (1987 edition).
The man prostrates himself, worships Jesus, and says, “Lord if you are willing, You are able to cleanse me by curing me.”
In other words, he wasn’t just asking Jesus to make his skin look good so he would be accepted by society again. So he could go back home. So he could get his job back and provide for his family. So he could go to Temple again and socialize with his peers. This man was asking Jesus to cure his disease at the core. To make him whole again. To remove any remnant of the disease in his body so he wouldn’t have to deal with the symptoms ever again.
And that’s what Jesus did.
And that’s what Jesus did on the cross three years later.
That’s what He has provided for you and me.
But sometimes we’re more interested in being rescued from our current situation. We just want to be made socially acceptable. We just want to look good to our peers. And we want it done now! We’re not really interested in going through the process of changing the way we see ourselves. Of making what Jesus did for us on the cross a reality in our day-to-day life. And venturing out into living the whole, cleansed life He provides for us.
No, we’ll just take a quick outpatient, drive-thru, in-and-out procedure to fix our current problem, thank you very much. Then we’ll be on our way.
That’s not what Jesus offers us. That’s not what He died for. There’s so much more available.
He is offering us LIFE. Life abundant! Eternal life—which means abundant life beginning now that never ends—not life by-and-by when we die.
The man with leprosy heard what Jesus was offering and decided that’s what he wanted.
How about you? Is that what you want?
What do you want Jesus to do for you today?