Matthew 8:1
This incident follows immediately after the sermon on the mount. It is questionable whether any of the great words of that discourse reached the leper, who could only have stood beyond the outermost ring of the crowd. But though at first he was quite shut away from Christ, his opportunity came while our Lord was coming down the hill; then he could claim the beggar's privilege and stand by the wayside. Jesus speaks to multitudes, but he cares for individuals. He is not so taken up with the crowd as to have no time for special needs. Thus the gospel story repeatedly records the transition from public utterance to private kindness. These more private scenes best reveal to us the heart of Jesus. Let us look at the story of the leper, first as it regards the sufferer, and then as it concerns the action of the great Healer.

I. THE BEHAVIOUR OF THE POOR SUFFERER.

1. His condition. A leper. His disease was loathsome, and his state of life pitiable in the extreme. An outcast from society, shunned as an unclean person, regarded as hopelessly afflicted, he was an object of perfect misery. The leper has always been regarded as typical of the sinner in his uncleanness, shame, and misery.

2. His action. He came to Christ. Why? Doubtless be had heard of previous cures (Matthew 4:24:). But the very look of Jesus would be enough to draw him to the feet of the Friend of the miserable. Never had he seen suck sympathy and kindness. We need to know something of Christ to be drawn to him. When we do perceive his grace, we must come to him if we would have his salvation.

3. His reverence. He worshipped. We cannot suppose that he perceived the full Divinity shining through the garb of simple humanity. Yet it may be that he saw more of it than any one else, for it is most revealed in compassion. But if he only bowed as an act of homage to a great one, this showed reverence - a fitting accompaniment of faith in Christ.

4. His words. He begged for cleansing, not for money. He knew his need, and he sought for the one thing most essential. He showed faith in the power of Christ; he only prayed for Christ's willinghood. Both are needed for salvation.

II. THE RESPONSE OF THE GREAT HEARER.

1. His brotherly touch. This is one of those single actions that send a flash of light into the nature of Christ. No one else would defile himself by touching a leper. The sufferer did not expect such an act of condescension, and Jesus had to "stretch forth" his hand to reach him. Here is Christ's unlimited brotherhood. If there is danger of contagion he will not think of it. Christ heals through personal contact, through gracious brotherhood.

2. His consenting words.

(1) The word of grace: "I will." Then the two conditions are fulfilled. The father of the lunatic boy doubted the other condition - the power (Mark 9:22). But both are present with Christ.

(2) The word of power: "Be thou made clean." His language to the leper is typical of his message to the sinner. He saves by cleansing.

3. His perfect healing. There is no delay, there is no slow process. Immediately the cure is complete. Thus Christ is perfectly successful. His works prove his claims. He is able to save unto the uttermost - lepers in body, lepers in soul.

4. His final directions.

(1) Silence. Perhaps from natural modesty. He was not like the Pharisees who trumpeted their alms. He would not let his left hand know what his right hand did.

(2) Obedience to the Law. This was not yet superseded. The leper lived under the Law. The priest would give the man a certificate. The offering would be a sign of gratitude. - W.F.A.







And, behold, there came a leper.
I. THE LEPER'S FAITH.

II. Christ's TREATMENT or THE LEPER.

1. That this disease is a type of moral corruption.

2. God's grace alone can effect a cure.

3. We see the power of prayer.

(W. Wight, M. A.)

I. THE LEPER'S OPPORTUNITY. Let every hearer of the word follow Jesus Christ till he finds Him in secret.

II. THE LEPER'S DEFILIMENT.

1. The disease of leprosy seems to have appeared first in Israel while in the land of Egypt, the earliest notice of it being in the leprous hand of Moses. Sin, like leprosy, is deeply hereditary. It spreads corruption and dissolution through the entire body. It was viewed with the hopelessness of death.

2. The leprosy, selected by God as the special type of sin, #as more than other diseases sent immediately from heaven as the express punishment of sin. Thus with Gehazi.

3. The leper, alone of all the sick, was shut out from the camp of Israel. The sinner excluded from holy fellowship.

4. The leper was appointed to bewail himself as one already dead; he was to become his own mourner (Leviticus 13:45). These were three of the chief symbols of sorrow for the dead. The leprous sinner is dead, while he lives.

III. THE LEPER'S PRAYER.

1. He was convinced of Christ's ability to heal him. This the chief element of saving faith.

2. There is an appeal to the compassionate will of Jesus.

IV. THE LEPER'S CLEANSING.

1. Jesus is moved with compassion, touches, and cleanses.

2. The thanksgiving is seasonable and acceptable in one case; the gratitude, unwise and not obedient in the other. The case of the ten lepers.

(A. Moody Stuart.)

I. THE INDIVIDUAL REFERRED TO — "a leper." No condition more awful and distressing. Striking representation of sin. Leprosy was generally hereditary; small in its first appearance, deep-seated and inveterate in its nature, universal in its prevalence, loathsome in its appearance, excluded from society, incurable by human power, and generally produced a most awful death.

II. His ADDRESS TO THE REDEEMER. It was an address of humble respect, associated with faith, affecting appeal to his misery and Christ's goodness.

III. THE CONDUCT OF THE SAVIOUR. Responded to his appeal; His word was omnific and conveyed His healing power; He put forth His hand to testify to his cleanness; He sent him to the priest that his recovery might be duly attested; He was to present a gift unto the Lord. See how you are to obtain healing and purity. See the way in which Christ will receive you.

1. Bless God for health of body.

2. Especially be anxious for health of soul.

3. Praise God for the means of spiritual health and felicity.

4. Come and be healed.

(J. Barnis, LL. D.)

I. His lamentable condition.

II. His appropriate prayer.

III. His complete restoration.

IV. His instant dismissal.

(J. T. Woodhouse.)

It was a touch

(1)of purity;

(2)of sympathy;

(3)of power.

(G. Shrewsbury.)

"Blessed are the merciful," so our Lord had said; now the act follows the word.

I. How truly HUMBLE and lowly was Jesus. Free from ostentation He walked among men. Christ can heal the leprosy of pride.

II. Though lowly, the Saviour was NOT FEARFUL. With all our pride, how many things we fear. We fear labour, difficulty. Let us learn from Christ what courage is. He can cleanse from the leprosy of fear.

III. IMPURITY IS ANOTHER FORM OF LEPROSY.

IV. INDOLENCE, TOO, IS A LEPROSY. Christ's is an active Spirit, by feeling the influence of which we shall be healed of sloth.

V. SELFISHNESS IS LEPROSY.

VI. We shall see in DISCONTENT an irritating leprosy, eating into our mind's health and our soul's peace. These are instances of our moral disease. The Saviour's band can heal.

(F. W. P. Greenwood, D. D.)

Notice in Christ's touch of the sick.

I. His FIXING AND CONFIRMING FAITH IN HIMSELF THE HEALER. It is in condescension to human weakness that He lays His hands on sick folk; we believe in little that we cannot see. Naaman said, "Behold, I thought," etc. Pain and sickness are sensible; we look for equally sensible tokens of the energy of the Restorer. Thus we are touched into attention.

II. His ANSWER TO OUR CRAVING FOR SYMPATHY. Had Jesus held aloof from the diseased they would never have trusted Him. His touch was healing; some touches irritate. In the Incarnation Christ touches us in sympathy. It is a comfort to be touched by Christ.

III. THE SYMBOL OF HIS BEARING OUR INFIRMITIES AND CARRYING OUR SINS. He touched our nature in all its pollution. He is not ashamed to call us brethren.

(A. Mackennal, B. A.)

A good Christian lady living in Sweden opened a home for crippled and diseased children — children whom nobody really cared about but herself — and received about twenty of them into it. Amongst them was a little boy of three years old, who was a more frightful and disagreeable object than you ever saw, or are ever likely perhaps to see in your life. He resembled skeleton. His poor skin was so covered with blotches and sores that he could not be dressed. He was always crying and whining, always peevish, and the poor little fellow gave more trouble almost than all the others put together. The good lady did her best for him; she was as kind as possible — washed him, fed him, nursed him; but the child was so repulsive in his look and ways, that she could not bring herself to like him, and her disgust, I suppose, occasionally appeared in her face. One day she was sitting on the verandah-steps with the child in her arms. The sun was shining warm, the scent of the autumn honeysuckles, the chirping of the birds, the buzzing of the insects, lulled her into a sort of sleep; and in a half-waking, half-dreaming state, she thought of herself as having changed places with the child, and lying there, only more foul, more disagreeable than he was. Over her she saw the Lord Jesus bending, looking intently and lovingly into her face, and yet with a sort of expression of gentle rebuke in it, as if He meant to say, "If I can love and bear with you, who are so full of sin, surely you ought, for My sake, to love that guiltless child, who suffers for the sin of his parents." She woke up with a start, and looked in the boy's face. He had waked up too, and she expected to hear him begin to cry; but be looked at her — poor little mite! — very quietly and earnestly for a long time, and then she — sorry for her past disgust, and feeling a new compassion for him, and a new interest in him — bent her face to his, and kissed his forehead as tenderly as she had ever kissed any of her own babes. With a startled look in his eyes, and a flush in his cheeks, the boy, instead of crying, gave her back a smile so sweet, that she had never seen one like it before: nor will, she thinks, till it will light up his angel features some day on their meeting in heaven. From that day forth a perfect change came over the child. Young as he was, he had hitherto read the feelings of dislike and disgust in the faces of all who approached him, and that had embittered his little heart; but the touch of human love, swept all the peevishness and ill-nature away, and woke him up to a new and happier life.

(G. Calthrop, M. A.)

(ver. 4): — Why was this reserve insisted on? What would have led the restored leper to act at variance with Christ's command? Two motives — a desire of bearing personal witness to the miraculous power of his Benefactor: or a wish to draw the eyes of men on the favour he had received. Both these we can conceive our Lord. would be likely to prohibit — the one, because it was needless; the other, because it was exposed to harm.

1. The first of these objects was prohibited for reasons of our Lord's showing. He did not wish to be the idol of strong excitement.

2. It was not His purpose to take men's minds, as it were, by force. He would lay no compulsion on faith.

3. Then there was also the fact itself, clear and patent to the observation of all men. Then see, on the other hand, how the injunction of our Lord seems to have borne on the personal case of the leper himself. "Go show thyself to the priest." As if our Lord had said, "Be not occupied with thine own self, make no display of what I have clone, let not that distract thee from what thou oughtest to do, thy duty is more than words, more than even magnifying thy blessings." Thus our Lord prohibited words that He might enjoin actions. The full heart can seldom find adequate vent in words; deeds do not fail us. This is a comfort to the poor.

(J. Puckle. M. A.)

(ver. 4): — Why did Jesus give this charge?

I. It may be observed that though our Saviour's injunctions of silence and secresy were frequent, they were BY NO MEANS CONSTANT. Many of His miracles were wrought in public. Jews expected a temporal Messiah. He wished to prevent popular rebellion. Fear did not suggest the injunction; but it was the course of courage, benevolence, and wisdom. He guarded Himself against the imputation of political intentions and of turbulence.

II. Our Lord desired To AVOID ALL IDLE AND UNPROFITABLE EXCITEMENTS. A love of display formed no part of His character. Quiet faith was the grace He loved to see. He desired obedience rather than profession. Is all need for caution gone? A due regard to circumstances and consequences no proof of a timid spirit.

(F. W. P. Greenwood, D. D.)

(ver. 1-13): —

I. WHAT IT SEES IN CHRIST.

1. Both of these ,applicants assigned to Him the character of a Great Healer. Saving faith sees in Christ the attributes of a great Physician.

2. They both saw in Christ a superhuman Power. Saving faith never thinks meanly of Christ.

3. They both saw in Christ a most encouraging beneficence. True faith sees in Christ a Rewarder of them that seek Him.

II. WHAT ARE THE AFFECTIONS WITH WHICH IT MOVES TOWARD HIM.

1. It despairs of help in any one but Christ.

2. True faith is also attended with feeling of great unworthiness.

3. True faith is attended with earnest and practical interest in others.

III. THE MANNER IN WHICH THE SAVIOUR MET THE FAITH OF THESE MEN.

1. He graciously entertained their applications.

2. He mercifully granted their requests.

3. He introduced them into another empire. They were to sit down with Abraham, etc.

(J A. Seiss, D. D.)

I. THE LEPER.

1. He comes.

2. He worships.

3. He pleads.

II. THE HEALER

1. He puts forth His hand.

2. He touched him.

3. He spoke.

(1)It is the voice of love;

(2)of authority;

(3)of power.

(Dr. Bonar.)In the leper two things are remarkable — the weakness of his body; the virtues of his mind.

I. THE WEARINESS OF HIS BODY. Weakness proceeds from wickedness. The weakness of his body brought him to the Physician of his soul. He felt his misery great; but hoped Christ's mercy was greater.

II. THE VIRTUES OF HIS MIND.

1. Faith.

2. Adoration.

3. Wisdom in selecting place, not on Mount, but in valley; time, not interrupting His sermon.

4. Patience. Content to stay God's leisure.

5. Confession.

III. NOW LOOK AT THE PHYSICIAN.

1. His mercy.

2. His might.

(1)Christ touched the leper, which was forbidden by Moses. Hence He was greater than Moses.

(2)Moral duties superior to ceremonial observances.

(3)This intimates that Christ was very man in touching, but more than a man in healing with a touch.

(4)To demonstrate that Himself and none other cured him.

(5)Christ's humility in touching a leper.

1. The leper was commanded to tell no man. We must temper zeal with knowledge and obedience.

2. It was needless to tell it since his whole body, made clean, was a tongue to tell it.

3. It was absurd that he should boast he was clean, before he was so judged.

(J. Bogs, D. D.)

I. THE CHARACTERISTICS OF LEPROSY AS SET FORTE IN SCRIPTURE. Loathsome — helpless — hopeless.

1. The position of this leper was one of shame and disgrace. He inspired repugnance in those around him. Sin is a disgrace. It ought to fill with shame.

2. Other maladies healed by Christ invited sympathy and help and society. The leper was reminded by everything that he was alone in the world. Each one of us alone before God.

II. HIS FAITH.

1. There was a thorough consciousness of his own misery and a perfect conviction of his own helplessness. But he knew it was not too bad for Christ to deal with successfully.

2. The concentrated force which resides in the leper's petition. His entire resignation; he is willing to leave the matter in the hands of Christ.

3. What a Divine concentration there is in the answer — "I will; be thou clean." What a majestic utterance. Christ accepts the recognition of His power. The main point of the answer is, not His power, but His will.

(Dean Howson, D. D.)

Each one of us is alone before God. However great may be the human crowd in which we live, however closely we may be connected with one another by affection, by interest, by duty, each soul is solitary in its relation to God. Just as in those great American forests, which stretch in vast succession over mountain and plain — whatever be the interlacing of the foliage — whatever be the beauty which comes from the blending of sunlight and shade — whatever havoc may be done on a great and extensive scale by storm and tempest — each tree, rising from its own root, with its one stem, and with the outgrowth of its own branches, is a solitary tree. So is the human soul, with the outgrowth of its own words and deeds, a solitary soul. No other human soul can share its responsibility.

(Dean Howson, D. D.)

I have seen a fair and well-built house, lifting its head proudly above its neighbours, and having a goodly outside presence. And I have looked within, and found that the dry rot had eaten away rafter and beam, and that the house was ready to fall to ruin. During the Crimean War, our ships suffered far more from the dry rot within their timbers, than from the outside attacks of shot and shell. How many lives there are like that grand house, or those stately ships! Outside they are fair to look upon, men envy their wealth, or position, or good fortune, and all the while the foul leprosy is within, eating away the moral nature, making that life a ruin.

(Wilmot Buxton.)

Is it the leprosy of an impure life, or a selfish nature, or a cruel tongue, or a proud, rebellious spirit? Whatever it be, once more, are you willing to be made clean? Before you can find pardon, you must see your sin and hate it.

(Wilmot Buxton.)

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