Jean’s Gospel: Living From the Mouth of God
“When he came down from the mountain, great crowds followed him. And behold, a leper came to him and knelt before him, saying, ‘Lord, if you will, you can make me clean.’ And Jesus stretched out his hand and touched him, saying, ‘I will; be clean.’ And immediately his leprosy was cleansed. 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.’
When he had entered Capernaum, a centurion came forward to him, appealing to him, ‘Lord, my servant is lying paralyzed at home, suffering terribly.’ And he said to him, ‘I will come and heal him.’ But the centurion replied, ‘Lord, I am not worthy to have you come under my roof, but only say the word, and my servant will be healed. For I too am a man under authority, with soldiers under me. And I say to one, “Go,” and he goes, and to another, “Come,” and he comes, and to my servant, “Do this,” and he does it.’ When Jesus heard this, he marveled and said to those who followed him, ‘Truly, I tell you, with no one in Israel have I found such faith. I tell you, many will come from east and west and recline at table with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob in the kingdom of heaven, while the sons of the kingdom will be thrown into the outer darkness. In that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.’ And to the centurion Jesus said, ‘Go; let it be done for you as you have believed.’ And the servant was healed at that very moment.” (Matt 8:1-13)
Luther once said that the record of Jesus’ miracles proves the divine inspiration of the authors because they recorded His miracles in such a modest and reverent fashion; ordinary witnesses, on the other hand, would have conveyed Jesus’ miracles in a more spectacular and illustrious fashion. But that is not the way Jesus operated – “See that you say nothing to anyone”. Matthew refers to Jesus’ miracles simply as “deeds” (Matt 11:2, meaning “works”). The miraculous nature of Jesus’ deeds is always incidental and subordinate to the revelation of who Christ is and how He acts for us in our need.
From Chapter 8:1 through 9:34, Matthew provides us with a unit of ten miracles. The number ten in the Bible symbolizes completeness. By selecting ten miracles, Matthew is telling us that He has given us a rounded and comprehensive account of Jesus’ deeds. This comprehensive account reveals the authority and character of Jesus as our compassionate, servant Savior. The healings give us a counterpart to the first beatitude of the Sermon on the Mount: “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” (Matt 5:3)
“He sent out his word and healed them, and delivered them from their destruction.” (Ps 107:20)
Jesus does not seek attention or fame with His deeds. He does not use them to demonstrate power over the laws of nature, or authority for its own sake, or to attract followers. Jesus exercises His power and authority out of compassion for the agony of men and women whom He happens to encounter. His deeds reveal not only Jesus’ love for us but also His motives and character. Jesus does not reject the empty outstretched hands of faith no matter whose. In His deeds Jesus enacted and confirmed what He said in His earlier rebuke of the devil: “Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.” (Matt 4:4) Jesus is the mouth of God whose words bestow forgiveness, life and salvation!
“Now it is evident that no one is justified before God by the law, for ‘The righteous shall live by faith.’ ” (Gal 3:11)
Our text begins with Jesus’ encounter with a leper. Under the Law, lepers were unclean and excluded from the people of God. Lepers were required to live away from the consecrated people of God. The Law could judge and condemn, but was powerless to sanctify the leper. Jesus, on the other hand, had the authority and the almighty “I will” to accomplish what the Law could not. With a word, “be clean”, Jesus healed the leper and restored him to the people of God. The leper lived by the word that came from the mouth of God.
The centurion, as a Gentile, also was excluded by the Law from the people of God. But, like the leper, the centurion also had faith in the authority of Jesus’ word – “only say the word, and my servant will be healed.” With a word, “let it be done for you as you have believed,” Jesus healed the paralysis of the centurion’s servant. But alongside the physical healing, Jesus revealed His authority over the keys to His kingdom: “Truly, I tell you, with no one in Israel have I found such faith. I tell you, many will come from east and west and recline at table with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob in the kingdom of heaven”. Jesus’ word is new wine, which must be poured into new wine skins.
“Heal me, O Lord, and I shall be healed; save me, and I shall be saved, for you are my praise.” (Jer 17:14)
Jesus demonstrates that the kingdom of heaven is open to all who receive His word by faith alone, like an empty wine skin receives new wine. Nothing else, neither works nor obedience, may be mingled with faith in Christ. “For Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to everyone who believes.” (Rom 10:4) Both the leper and the centurion knew perfectly well they could not establish their own righteousness before Jesus. They had to come to Christ as beggars. Jesus places His gifts into empty hands only.
Many people are repulsed by the thought of begging. Begging denotes abject poverty and dependency. If that is what you think man’s condition is in relation to God, then you are on the right track. However, if our Savior is the Son of God, who offers forgiveness, life and salvation through His ministry of Word and Sacrament to empty hands of faith, then I strongly suggest we by all means go to where His grace is served, as beggars with open ears and outstretched hands, joining ourselves to the blessed poor in spirit – “for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” (Matt 5:3). Amen.
“If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give good things to those who ask him!” (Matt 7:11) Amen.
In the Lutheran Divine Service liturgy, the first prayer of the gathered church is called the Kyrie (O Lord):
Lord, have mercy upon us.
Christ, have mercy upon us.
Lord have mercy upon us.
In the Kyrie we come before the King of mercy with the prayer of blind Bartimaeus, whom Jesus healed. (Mark 10:46-52) We approach our merciful Savior and King as citizens of heaven, seeking His mercy for our salvation, the peace of the whole world, the well-being of His church, our worship, and our everlasting defense.