1 February 2023 Anno Domini, the Anglican Orthodox Communion Worldwide
“And it came to pass, when Jesus had ended these sayings, the people were astonished at his doctrine: 29 For he taught them as one having authority, and not as the scribes.” (Gospel of St. Matthew 7:28-29; all scripture quoted is from the King James Version)
Having just delivered the most powerful sermon ever preached upon the face of the earth, our Lord descends the slopes of the mountain to face the mundane lives of those who follow. The authority of His preaching was born out by the truth and impact of His words. The people marveled at such gracious teaching the likes of which they had never heard from scribe nor priest. His Words conveyed true authority and not that presumed by the scribes who preached, not with divine authority, but by the traditions of men – much like many today. There are occasions when beautiful words are preached from the pulpit, but lack the power of authority. The very words of Christ were their own authority and this was evident from their impact on the hearts of the multitudes. His words were testimonies of love and truth. But the divine words spoken by God have more than convincing beauty – they have the power to create and to change. “In the beginning, God created (by the power of His Word) the Heavens and the Earth . . . .” This was an outward and visible sign of the authority of His Word. But the Sermon on the Mount was intended to create something that was inward and invisible – a new Heart. Though the multitudes marveled at His Words, they would soon receive outward and visible proof of His divine Power to heal. Words lack power unless there is a means of touching the hearts, and hurts, of believers.
The woman taken with an issue of blood who expended all her living on doctors and whose malady only grew worse, came to Christ with a heart of faith. If the Master would not touch her, then she would touch the Master. She did so by cleaving to the hem of His garment and was healed. That touch is different from any other. It was done in faith of the outcome.
We see in the Gospel text for the 4th Sunday after Epiphany (Matthew 8:1-4) a leper, swathed in rags to absorb the filth from his rotting flesh. He came in violation of the Law of Moses to Jesus. He was forbidden to approach any who were not lepers, but He came with courage to Christ. “When he was come down from the mountain, great multitudes followed him. And, behold, there came a leper and worshipped him, saying, Lord, if thou wilt, thou canst make me clean.” (Matthew 8:1-2) He came to Jesus on the grounds of GRACE and not the impediments of the Law. There was no question in the leper’s mind that Jesus could heal him – he only stated the fact that if Jesus so willed, He could heal him. He asked nothing, only stated a fact. Christ never turns His back on a suppliant who comes with faith. He beheld the poor creature kneeling before him – his deformed posture, his face disfigured by erupting sores, his hands twisted and knotted, and his feet wrapped in filthy rags. The odor of his rotting flesh was putrid and nearly unbearable to endure. As is always the case with sinners and the afflicted, Jesus took great pity for the man and His heart was filled with compassion.
So many others would have maintained a great distance from this leper. They would not even have dreamed of touching him. He had been alienated from his own family, neighbors, synagogue, and society at large. No man had dared touch him since it was known that he was a leper. No one loved him except the One who now stood before Him and before whom he kneeled. But how did our dear Lord react? “And Jesus put forth his hand, and touched him.” Just this one act proved our Lord to be possessed of a love and compassion that surpassed all others, but that was not all that the Lord did. Jesus said: “I will; be thou clean.” – And immediately his leprosy was cleansed.” There was not a slow improvement, but immediately his leprosy was healed. We should heed the example of the leper and pray all things, not according to OUR will, but HIS!
Would you have touched such a one whose running sores could convey the disease to you? But Jesus is not YOU, not ME. All of our Lord’s actions were seasoned with love and compassion. He touched the man, and that touch brought the proof of his faith in His Maker’s ability to heal.
Jesus then tells the man something that is hard to fathom: “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.” This leper has been exiled from home and family for the years of his suffering. He has been disowned by society at large. There was none to embrace him in love. He has not been seen by family since the days of his contracting leprosy. How can he return to home and neighbors without telling all that see him what great thing has happened in his body and in his heart? The fact is, he cannot remain silent about so great a healing. I believe Jesus is making a point to us in this counsel to the leper. If our Lord has granted so great a salvation to us by His grace, how can we keep silent and tell no man!