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Compassion Beyond The Law

Opening question : share something about someone who serves your household. Matthew 8:1-4
1 When he 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 cured 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."

In this lesson, we will study out the lives of two men - a leper and a Roman centurion, both not accepted by the Jewish society of Jesus's times.

The Leper

Leprosy was the most hideous disease of those times.

Leviticus 13 talks about the process of being unclean.

Early practices - for all human purposes the man who had leprosy was considered dead. In fact during the mid-centuries in Europe, the church would conduct a funeral service for a man found with leprosy while he was still alive. He would be thrown out of the society.

A leper was a dead man walking - how society rejected such a person.

Do we care?

And Jesus stretched out his hand and touched the leper...

Three common things - confidence, humility and reverence.

1. True wisdom - There remain two things in the incident which show that, while Jesus would defy law and risk any infection to help, he was not senselessly reckless, nor did he forget the demands of true wisdom.

2. Volatile Palestine - he had to educate men's minds who thought he was a King who would start a revolution with force and violence. He had to enable people to see that his master was with God of Love and not force of arms.

3. Jesus imposed silence upon those he helped to stop men from using him to make their own dreams come true, instead of waiting on the dream of God.

4. Leviticus 14 talks about the cleansing process to be declared clean. Allowed this man to go through the process. There is guidance and wisdom here. Didn't teach to neglect the treatment that was available in those days.

5. A miracle does not come by lazy waiting upon God to do it all; it comes from the cooperation of the faith - filled effort of man with the unlimited grace of God.

The Centurion - A good man's plea

Matthew 8:5-13
5 When Jesus had entered Capernaum, a centurion came to him, asking for help.
6 "Lord," he said, "my servant lies at home paralyzed and in terrible suffering."
7 Jesus said to him, "I will go and heal him."
8 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.
9 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."
10 When Jesus heard this, he was astonished and said to those following him, "I tell you the truth, I have not found anyone in Israel with such great faith.
11 I say to you that many will come from the east and the west, and will take their places at the feast with Abraham, Isaac and Jacob in the kingdom of heaven.
12 But the subjects of the kingdom will be thrown outside, into the darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth."
13 Then 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.

Interesting to note that all centurions mentioned in the Bible were mentioned with honor - 7 of them.

This was a reverse of Roman attitude of a master.


A slave was no better than just a 'thing'.

The Greek philosopher Aristotle said : "for master and slave have nothing in common; a slave is a living tool , just as a tool is an inanimate slave".

Varro, a Roman writer - divided instruments of agriculture into the articulate, the inarticulate and the mute. The only difference between a slave, a beast and a cart was that the slave could speak.

Cato, a Roman writer while giving advice to a man taking over a farm said: "look over the livestock and hold a sale. Sell your oil if the price is satisfactory and sell the surplus of your wine and grain, Sell worn out. Oxen, blemished cattle, blemished sheep, wool, hides, an old wagon, old tools, an old slave, a sick slave and whatever else is superfluous".

These were the philosophies and teachings of those times and the Roman centurion grew up hearing and practicing these teachings. But it is quite clear that this centurion was an extraordinary man, for he loved his slave. It may well be that it was totally unusual and unexpected gentleness and love which was so moved Jesus when the centurion first came to him. Love always covers a multitude of sins; the man who cares for man is always near to Jesus Christ's heart.

In Isaiah 60:12 in Jewish texts the coming of the messiah connected with a banquet and the complete annihilation of the Gentiles cause they were a proud nation who believed that there were the chosen ones.

Isaiah 60:12
For the nation or kingdom that will not serve you will perish; it will be utterly ruined.

But with Jesus around, Israel had to learn that the passport to God's presence was not the membership of any nation; it is faith. Jesus taught that the only aristocracy in God's Kingdom is the aristocracy of faith. Jesus Christ is not the possession of one race but the possession of every man in every race in whose heart there is faith.

Jesus has the power to annihilate distances of heart, mind and soul.

If human minds can get to this length of calculating distances of the planets and the galaxies, how much more the mind of Jesus healing a slave of a centurion from a distance.