Teaching Sermons For Pastors and Laymen

August 25, 2005

Lessons from the Outsiders

Matthew 8:1-8:17  

 

Magicians and power-lifters sure are fun to watch.

 

They can do some pretty cool stuff, like cutting people in two and ripping apart phone books.

 

Neither of which can do much for you in the world, but they are still cool things to see.

We watch the magician and ask, “How did he do that?”

We watch the strong man and say, “There’s just no way!”

Jesus is not like a magician who uses smoke and mirrors or sleight of hand.

 

He is the living God who creates out of nothing through the sheer power of His will.

 

He is not a steroid induced athlete that is able to do things to open the eyes and amaze everyone in the stands.

Today, we are going to take a look at the power of Jesus.

 

We will wonder at His miracles.

 

We will cringe at the raw power in His words.

 

We will bow before His mighty hand that fed 5,000 and cleansed the temple.

 


In the October 1993 issue of Life magazine, a photo shot by Scott Threlkeld shows three teenage boys who have jumped from a thirty-foot-high cypress branch toward a dark Louisiana pond.

 

Threlkeld evidently climbed the tree and shot from above the shirtless, soaring young men, for in the picture we look down on the boys and the pond.

 

There is something inspiring in the picture.

The lanky boy on the right shows the least confidence, jumping feet first, knees bent and legs spread, arms flapping like a bird preparing to make a crash landing.

 

The middle boy dives head first, arms spread stiffly straight and perpendicular, like the wings of a small aircraft.

 

His head is slightly ducked and to the right.

 

He is no doubt in a hurry to reach the water.

 

The third boy also dives head first, but he isn’t in a hurry.

 

He is floating.

 

His head is up.

 

His body is in a relaxed arch, both knees slightly bent, legs slightly apart.

 

His arms are nonchalantly straight, hanging from his shoulders in an upside-down V.

 

Poised and self-assured, he knows exactly where he is.

 


No matter what their sense or style is, each of these three boys did a challenging thing: They took a scary leap.

 

Granted, high dives in country backwaters aren’t always wise, but sometimes to follow God we must take a similar leap of faith.

When we do, like the three outsiders in our text this morning we will learn some pretty valuable lessons about the Lord and His Kingdom.

Listen to what God has to say in Matthew 8:1-17.

 

1 When He had come down from the mountain, great multitudes followed Him.
2 And behold, a leper came and worshiped Him, saying, “Lord, if You are willing, You can make me clean.”
3 Then Jesus put out His hand and touched him, saying, “I am willing; be cleansed.” Immediately his leprosy was cleansed.
4 And Jesus said to him, “See that you tell no one; but go your way, show yourself to the priest, and offer the gift that Moses commanded, as a testimony to them.”
5 Now when Jesus had entered Capernaum, a centurion came to Him, pleading with Him,
6 saying, “Lord, my servant is lying at home paralyzed, dreadfully tormented.”
7 And Jesus said to him, “I will come and heal him.”
8 The centurion answered and said, “Lord, I am not worthy that You should come under my roof. But only speak a word, and my servant will be healed.
9 For I also am a man under authority, having soldiers under me. And I say to this one, ‘Go,’ and he goes; and to another, ‘Come,’ and he comes; and to my servant, ‘Do this,’ and he does it.”
10 When Jesus heard it, He marveled, and said to those who followed, “Assuredly, I say to you, I have not found such great faith, not even in Israel!
11 And I say to you that many will come from east and west, and sit down with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob in the kingdom of heaven.
12 But the sons of the kingdom will be cast out into outer darkness. There will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.”
13 Then Jesus said to the centurion, “Go your way; and as you have believed, so let it be done for you.” And his servant was healed that same hour.
14 Now when Jesus had come into Peter’s house, He saw his wife’s mother lying sick with a fever.
15 So He touched her hand, and the fever left her. And she arose and served them.
16 When evening had come, they brought to Him many who were demon-possessed. And He cast out the spirits with a word, and healed all who were sick,
17 that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by Isaiah the prophet, saying: “He Himself took our infirmities And bore our sicknesses.”

We’re looking here at three stories: a leper, a centurion, and a woman.

 

They are all so different, yet they belong together since none of them belong.

 

They are outsiders, all of them.

 

It should not be surprising for us to find them lumped together here in Matthew’s book.

Matthew knows what it is like to be rejected.

 

Matthew also knows what it is like to follow Jesus and be used by God.

 

He tells their stories not because the raw details are so interesting, but for another reason.

 

 

There are lessons that we can learn from these outsiders that are important for us in the church today.

What are those lessons that we can learn?

Let’s take a look again at these three people.

1. The Leper!


Why was the leper considered to be an outsider?

It was because of this disease he had.

 

The word “leper” literally means “to peal”.

 

Leprosy is a disease that also migrated to leather, pottery, and even walls.

 

It was highly contagious!

It caused reddish white sores to pop up all over the body that would fester and spread.

 

It would often eat away at the limbs of the people who had it.

A leper was considered to be a human scab.

 

They were to live in colonies outside of the city.

 

They were to announce their coming whenever they entered the presence of people, who did not have the disease.

You can imagine what it must have been like for this man.

 

He was shunned from his church!

 

He was forced to leave his family!

 

He had no dignity!

 

He had no self-respect!

Under these circumstances, it is amazing that the leper even approached Jesus.

 

No other rabbi would have shown interest at all in this man, but Jesus did.

This fellow knowing that there was no other way went to the very one who could make a difference.

What lessons can we learn from leper?

I want to point out two things.

 

First, just like the leper, we need to courageously approach Jesus!


You see, just like the leper we have all been cursed with a horrible disease.

 

That disease is sin.

Sin doesn’t cause us to have sores all over our bodies.

 

However, it does cause us to carry around wounds in our:
- Conscience
- Emotions

Sin gives us the feeling of being beaten down.

You know what is unfortunate in all of this is the fact that there are Christian people who act much the same way the Pharisees did.

 

We take a look around us and we see the lives that are marred by sin, and instead of helping those lives we comment to one another about:


- The broken marriages


- The ignored kids


- The scars of alcohol and drug abuse

And what do we do?

 

We turn our backs.

 

We figure if someone is not able to make it in this country, then it is their own fault.

However, Jesus didn’t look at people that way.

 

We see people the way they are right now, with all of their bad habits and sinful characteristics.

 

Jesus saw people for what they could be.

Secondly, just like the leper, Jesus is the only person who can make us clean!


Leprosy of that day was much like aids is in our day.

 

There really was no cure for it.

 

The people figured if someone could be healed of leprosy, then God’s hand must have been on them.

The only place in which the leper could have been healed was in the presence of Jesus.

The Bible tells us that there is no other name under heaven by which men can be saved.

 

It is only in Jesus Christ that we have the hope of being cleansed from sin.

For all of those people who have been beaten down by the life long effects of sin, the leper challenges us to courageously approach Jesus.

 

He is the one who can make a difference.

Listen to what Hebrews 4:16 says.

 
Therefore, since we have a great high priest who has gone through the heavens, Jesus the son of God, let us hold firmly to the faith we profess. For 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.

2. The Centurion


The centurion was an outsider because he was a Gentile.

 

Worse than that, he was a commanding officer in the occupying army of the Romans.

One would think that this man was a hated man by all who knew him.

 

However, this was not the case.

 

He was loved by the Jewish people.

 

Why?

 

Because he helped them build their synagogue.

However, that was only in the town in which he lived.

 

There were people here that were following Jesus just to trap Him.

 

So there were people in the crowds of people who didn’t know anything at all about this centurion or what he had done for the synagogue in their area.

What was the centurion’s problem?

 

He had a servant that he deeply cared about that was ill to the point of death.

Over in the book of Luke we are told that the elders came to Jesus on behalf of this man and his servant.

 

Jesus was willing to help, and as a matter of fact He was willing to go into the house of this Roman Centurion to heal the servant.

Think of the stink that this would have caused.

 

I can just hear those holier-than-thou Pharisees say something like this: “Some Messiah, huh, He is not going to rid Israel of the Romans, look He is helping them.”

Listen again to what the Roman centurion said:


"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."


The response of Jesus was astonishment at such great faith.

 

There are only two times in the Word of God in which it says that Jesus was astonished at something.

 

Here at the faith of the centurion and in Mark 6:5 at the lack of faith within His hometown.

The centurion had faith that Jesus was the very person who could help him out.

 

So he laid aside the cultural divide!

 

He laid aside the spiritual divide!

 

He laid aside the pride that could divide!

 

And He approached Jesus, the one who could make a difference.

What lesson do we have in the centurion?

It is that faith is more than believing.

First, faith is about asking and receiving!

The Centurion asked and He received.

Over in Matthew 21:22, Jesus says these very inspiring words.

If you believe, you will receive whatever you ask for in prayer.

Now, I don’t want you to think that I am standing up here this morning telling you that if a prayer is not answered it must mean that you don’t have enough faith.


However, I do think that there are times in which we pray not believing what we have prayed for is going to happen.

If we are praying for something that we believe to be in God’s will, then we just need to trust Him.

Secondly, there is Saving Faith!


How many times have you heard the expression “Saving Faith”?

These are words that we hear when someone is talking about being made right with the Lord.

The Bible tells us that we are saved by faith.

 
Ephesians 2:8-9 says, “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.”

Does that mean that all we have to do is to believe?

No!

 

The demons believe!

 

Satan believes!

Faith must be shown by our obedience to what God’s Word says.

The Centurion, no doubt, believed that Jesus was the person he needed to see in order to have his servant healed.

 

However, do you think that the servant would have been healed even if the centurion had not come to see Jesus?

We too can believe what the Bible says is true.

We can believe that Jesus is the Christ the Son of the Living God.

 

However, we must also be obedient to what the Bible says our faith should cause us to do.

- Repent


- Confess


- Be Baptized


- Live A Faithful Life Of Obedience

When our faith moves us to obedience then it becomes a saving faith.

Thirdly, Jesus is pleased with faith!


The Bible tells us in Hebrews 11:6.


”And without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him.”

To all of those people who are looking for something or someone to believe in, the Roman Centurion tells us to place our faith in Jesus Christ.

3. Peter’s Mother-In-Law

Now, this is one where you might be asking, “Why is she considered to be an outsider?”

Why?

 

Because she is a woman!

 

I know in our politically correct society that this is a very unpopular thing to say.

 

And I agree that it is senseless to look down on anyone for anything, especially for the gender that the creator decided that they were going to be formed in.

However, the truth of the matter is that women in the Middle Eastern Cultures of this time were looked down upon as second class citizens.

- They were not allowed to speak in public to other men, unless their husbands were with them.


- They were not allowed to worship in the same area of the synagogue as the men were.

They were mistreated and un-respected.

We don’t know for sure how Jesus knew she was sick.

 

Probably, Peter asked Jesus to help her, and He did.

What happens after that contains our lesson.

She got up and she served Him.

I hope you see the pattern I am trying to communicate!

Like the leper, we are all plagued with the horrible disease of sin.

 

We all need to courageously approach the throne of grace.

Like the centurion, we have to place our faith in the only person who can save us from that plague; and in obedience to God’s Word give our lives to Him.

Like Peter’s Mother-In-Law, once we have become obedient unto salvation, we must serve Him.

You see, Christianity is not a give and take relationship.

 

In a give and take relationship, you wait for someone to give something and you take it.

 

You give something and they take it.

No! Christianity is a receive and give relationship.
We receive:
- Forgiveness
- Hope
- Purpose
- Family
- Heaven

We give:
- Our lives  

How well do you serve?

The leper took a courageous step to the Lord!


The centurion took a leap of faith!


Peter’s Mother-In-Law made a step to serve!

 

Amen!

 

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