Make Me Clean! | Matthew 8:1-4 | Jesus, The Embodiment Of God’s Presence | Jesus, The Embodiment Of God’s Presence
Make Me Clean! | Matthew 8:1-4 | Jesus, The Embodiment Of God’s Presence
Matthew 8:1-4 1When Jesus came down from the mountainside, large crowds followed him. 2A man with leprosy came and knelt before him and said, “Lord, if you are willing, you can make me clean.” 3Jesus reached out his hand and touched the man. “I am willing,” he said. “Be clean!” Immediately he was cleansed of his leprosy. 4Then 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 Matthew 5-7, Jesus is on the mountain delivering his sermon on the mount. In Matthew 8, Jesus is coming down from the Mountain after the sermon then Jesus is entering the small villages and by lanes for his ministry and there are large crowds around Jesus and the first story mentioned to us is a leper who comes to Jesus to be made clean.
Our definition of leprosy is the extreme sickness of leprosy. In the Bible, leprosy has a much broader scope. This man has a skin condition of some kind.
Desperate situation: Socially marginalized (Lev. 13)
Perfect trust in Jesus. He believes Jesus is able.
See how he approaches Jesus and said, “Lord, if you are willing, you can make me clean.” Not Lord if you are able, but Lord if you are willing. Most of us come to Jesus in our problems and ask Jesus, “Will you do something?” But that is now how this man come to Jesus. His question is not whether Jesus is capable of dealing with his sickness. He is asking that he, “Lord if you are willing, you can make me clean.”
What is this man asking for? He is convinced that Jesus can help him. How does he know that? He has already heard about Jesus’ healing capacity before the sermon on the mount in Matthew 4. Somehow, he is convinced that Jesus can heal him. But he is not convinced whether Jesus would do something like cleansing and heal a leper. He knows that Jesus is powerful, but he does not know Jesus’ character. He does not know yet if Jesus is compassionate or good.
Humility: Choice belongs to Jesus.
He comes to Jesus in humility.
Matthew 8:3 Jesus reached out his hand and touched the man. “I am willing,” he said. “Be clean!” Immediately he was cleansed of his leprosy.
You can see Jesus’ hand extending and touching because Matthew wants to focus on Jesus touching this man. Jesus said, “I am willing to touch you and I am willing to make you clean.”
That is the story here.
Jesus wanted to heal him.
He touches the untouchable. and
He does not seek his own honor.
Honors the law of Moses.
What do you conclude about Jesus from this incident?
Is Jesus good or bad? Jesus is good.
Is Jesus compassionate or inconsiderate? Compassionate
Matthew highlights the fact that Jesus touched him. He has not been embraced for a long time. He has not felt the human touch for a long time. What happens to human beings when we are deprived of human touch for a long time? It is difficult.
What did the man ask Jesus? Make me clean. Uncleanness is the problem of all men. Man became unclean because of sin.
1 John 1:9
If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify (KJV cleanse) us from all unrighteousness.
God created man and woman and put them in a perfect garden. Then sin came into the garden when Adam and Eve disobeyed God. Then we see a spiral consequence of sin in Genesis 1-11. Murder, incest, rebellion, wickedness multiplied in the land.
Then God called Abraham and promised to bless him, make him a great nation, and bless the nations of the earth through Abraham. Abraham’s grandson, Jacob was called Israel. Jacob and his children went and settled in Egypt. They ended up in slavery. God used Moses to deliver Israel from Pharoah. They crossed the Rea Sea and God took them to Mt. Sinai and He made a covenant with these people.
God asked Moses to make a tent, the tabernacle, a place of worship among the people of Israel. He could come and dwell in their midst but God’s presence was over the tabernacle. The tabernacle was the vehicle through which God manifested His presence among Israel between Mount Sinai also, the construction of Solomon’s temple.
When God came and resided among them, God said, “I am holy, so you are to approach me in holiness.”
I am the Lord your God; consecrate yourselves and be holy, because I am holy. Do not make yourselves unclean by any creature that moves along the ground. I am the Lord, who brought you up out of Egypt to be your God; therefore be holy, because I am holy.
The repeated word here is “holy.”
We are going to look at holiness, cleanness, and uncleanness from the book of Leviticus.
God is holy and God wants his people to be holy.
When it comes to us, we think that to be holy is to be morally good, or holiness is good morality. Morality is one part of holiness but it is not the main part.
Hebrew scholars say the Hebrew word for holiness is “Qadosh.” Quadosh is the opposite of unclean.
God said, “Don’t be unclean but be holy or Qadosh.”
The basic meaning of Qadosh is to be unique, one of a kind.
So, to be holy is to be one of a kind, to be unique, so that you are set apart for a specific purpose.
So, in the Bible God is holy and the people around him are to be holy. The tabernacle was the holiest place where none could go because God’s presence was there. On the day of Atonement, the high priest could go to the holiest place or the holy of holies to burn incense and to sprinkle sacrificial animal blood to expiate his own sins and those of the people of Israel. So God was holy and God’s people to be clean or holy.
How do you understand this concept today?
How many of you have gone to hospitals? In hospitals, there is a special place called the operation theater. This place is quite unique. The OT is a special room/room in the hospitals where some of you have never been to because if someone has to go there, it is only for a certain purpose and for a certain amount of time. The OT is set apart, it is unique.
What is an OT set apart or unique for? What happens in that room? Surgery right. What is the purpose of surgery? That room is set apart for people who have a broken bone or life-threatening illness by which they cannot function properly. So, the purpose of that room is to save lives and improving people’s quality of life. That is the only reason that room exists and that is the only reason patients are taken into that room.
Who can go into the OT? Patients, other than the patient there are surgeons, doctors, nurses, and OT assistants. They are also set apart for this special work. What kind of process they have to undergo before walking into this OT room? They have this schooling process of years in a school of becoming set apart, then they are sterilized, sanitized, then you put on special clothes and gloves and then go to the OT room.
What is happening? These are real rituals that are all about this OT room that this is a unique, sanitized space that is dedicated to saving lives and improving the quality of people’s life. That is what this space is for. So there are all kinds of things that are out there that can contaminate the OT, the special place. No one gets into this place with a dirty muddy shoe or a runny nose.
In the Bible, God’s holiness is like this.
|HOLY QUADOSH LIFE||UNCLEAN DEATH|
God’s holiness is connected to the fact that God is unique, holy, one of a kind, and the author and creator of all life. All that is good, just, beautiful, and pure comes from him. So, when God takes personal residence among people, they too are to be holy and reflect that in their own lives. Therefore, there is this distinction or separation between anything that is marked by the opposite of that that can contaminate it or defile it.
In the old testament, there is actually a very clear list of ways that you become unclean according to the law.
The Lord said to Moses, “Command the Israelites to send away from the camp anyone who has a defiling skin disease or a discharge of any kind, or who is ceremonially unclean because of a dead body. Send away male and female alike; send them outside the camp so they will not defile their camp, where I dwell among them.” The Israelites did so; they sent them outside the camp. They did just as the Lord had instructed Moses.
Remember this is an ancient culture, and a different mindset. We can never think of these laws in today’s thinking. So, when you read your Bible, you need to get into the ancient culture and practice of Israel and walk with them through the pages of the Bible.
We are close to these cultures because we live in a postmodern world.
There is something about these three things: Skin disease, bodily discharge, and coming in contact with a dead body that make you unclean.
We do not want a surgeon who is having a covid, to walk into the OT and do surgery on us. In the same way, these three things mark you with a status that prevents you from coming into the holy space.
God is life and God represents all that is living
God is life and God represents all that is living. Death and decay were not in the plan of God. This is the consequence of sin and uncleanness. So God does not associate with anything unclean or unholy or dead. A dead body, bodily discharge, and skin disease have a resemblance to death and decay and God said, “This has to be away from me.” I am holy.
This is a whole cultural symbol system. God has taken residence in their midst, God is holy, God is life and so people are going to honor and recognize the holiness and the goodness of God’s presence by keeping away anything that would contaminate or defile it.
In the Bible, becoming unclean is not wrong
If you bury your loved one and become unclean, it is not wrong. Becoming unclean is a natural part of the cycle of life in human life. That is not what is wrong, it is temporary. After your cleaning time and rituals, you are clean again.
But when it gets to a person with skin disease it is different. If that disease goes on, he cannot get to God. So, what was wrong was not being unclean, but what was wrong was to walk into the holy place when you are in an unclean state. Because symbolically, you are bringing death into the presence of the author of life. So, this is what is safeguarded here by sending the lepers outside of the camp.
This is the culture of the Israelites, this was their way of honoring God, the author of life.
Now come to Isaiah: If you fast-forward 500 years from the time of Moses, you come to the time of a Prophet called Isaiah. Isaiah lived in Jerusalem, in the vicinity of the temple where God’s holy presence had taken residence. He has a vision, wakes up and he is in the temple. He is the very presence of the holy God of Israel. This is his story: Isaiah 6:1-4
In the year that King Uzziah died, I saw the Lord, high and exalted, seated on a throne; and the train of his robe filled the temple. Above him were seraphim, each with six wings: With two wings they covered their faces, with two they covered their feet, and with two they were flying. And they were calling to one another: “Holy, holy, holy is the Lord Almighty; the whole earth is full of his glory.” At the sound of their voices, the doorposts and thresholds shook and the temple was filled with smoke.
They viewed the temple as the connecting point of heaven and earth. These creatures are called seraphim here and cherubim in other parts of the scripture. Don’t think about it as a human-like creature. There is no human-like creatures anywhere in the Bible. Creatures with wings are always presented as in the presence of God and being animal-like. The word seraph means snake. This is a crazy dream. But this is a dream. These animals are the representative images of all creation. Every part of creation giving a voice of praise to the author of all life. So, what are they screaming out:
“Holy, holy, holy is the Lord Almighty; the whole earth is full of his glory.”
How do they define God’s holiness: They say, “The whole earth is full of His glory.” God is the author of all life and beauty and goodness.
Isaiah in the dream is in the presence of God in the holy place. See what is his response? Is he leaping for joy because of the intimacy with God? He is absolutely terrified. Isaiah 6:5-7
“Woe to me!” I cried. “I am ruined! For I am a man of unclean lips, and I live among a people of unclean lips, and my eyes have seen the King, the Lord Almighty.”
He is not literally unclean in terms of a dead body or skin disease or body fluids, but he uses this term now as an image of his own moral corruption. He says my uncleanness is much deeper than my body, it is my mind and my mouth and my words and my thought. I am a man with unclean lips and I live in a culture that speaks and lives in a world of selfishness, sin and idolatry, and death. That is who I am and that is who my people are. So here I am in the presence of God, unclean. This is not supposed to happen. You need to be ritually pure before you even think about going in and Isaiah is like this is the worst thing that has happened to him.
Look what happens next:
“Woe to me!” I cried. “I am ruined! For I am a man of unclean lips, and I live among a people of unclean lips, and my eyes have seen the King, the Lord Almighty.” Then one of the seraphim flew to me with a live coal in his hand, which he had taken with tongs from the altar. With it, he touched my mouth and said, “See, this has touched your lips; your guilt is taken away and your sin atoned for.”
In the temple, there is a table with bread 24/7 and there is a table with coals burning incense 24/7. So, one of these creatures comes and gets one of these coals and is coming at him and Isaiah says the creature touched his mouth.
This is not a pleasant scene. If you go to someone’s house for a barbeque and this happens, this is a terrible thing. But what happens is just oppositive of what is expected. Instead of incinerating him or burning him, it cleanses him. It purified him. “See, this has touched your lips; your guilt is taken away and your sin is atoned for.”
So, somehow Isaiah thought that he is defiled and contaminated, he is operating with a mindset of uncleanness that is contagious, and that contaminates God. But what Isaiah is experiencing here is just the opposite. It is not his uncleanness that is defiling the presence of God, what happens is just the opposite. What is happening is God’s holiness, the sacred holy coal is not defiled by touching Isaiah’s unclean lips, rather it is God’s holiness that becomes contagious. God’s holiness transforms him and his sin is burned away.
This theme develops throughout the book of Isaiah. We can understand from Isaiah that God’s purpose was never to keep the unclean away from him as a permanent situation because God’s purpose was not to isolate us from the presence of God.
Listen, what God spoke in Numbers 5 is a profound truth, that you and I are broken and really unclean because of our sins, marked by death. We are never able to go to the holy presence of God. God is the author of all life. But the story does not end there. The story is moving towards God’s holiness actually becoming contagious and infecting the world with his own holiness and power to cleanse and transform it. That is what the story of the Bible is telling us.
March forward from Isaiah 700 years and then come to Matthew where you have Jesus of Nazareth who at his birth is given the name, Immanuel, God with us. God’s very holy, pure, powerful presence right here in body, as human in the person of Jesus. Here is Jesus coming off in the hillside, into the villages of Galilee and Matthew tells us the story of this unclean man with this skin disease. also, we do not know how long he had had this uncleanness. He is unclean, cannot go to the temple, he cannot go to Jerusalem, he is cut off from the community, he is considered unclean.
Jesus is the very embodiment of God’s holy presence
Jesus is the very embodiment of God’s holy presence. He is asking Jesus to make him clean. Jesus stretches his hand and touches the man but according to Leviticus, Jesus is supposed to be unclean, however, thank God Leviticus is not the end of the story because what actually happens is that Isaiah’s vision becomes reality. Jesus is the embodiment of God’s power, purity, and holiness. It is Jesus’ holiness that is contagious and it eradicates his uncleanness and makes him holy.
This is radicle teaching. If you had grown up in this worldview of clean and unclean, this is a radicle thing because Jesus comes and people’s uncleanness, sin, and corruption are not threatening to him. He comes with this power and authority and presence. He comes in the sermon on the mount as speaking for God and then Jesus comes after the sermon on the Mount as the actual presence of God, moving towards people who are unclean, people whose bodies are defiled and on the way to death, making holy people who are suffering from unclean lips. Jesus is not intimidated, He moves right towards it. He extends his hand and says, “Not only I am able to give you teaching regarding the Kingdom, but this is also what I came to do. I am willing. This is my purpose. Be clean.”
See what Jesus tells the man:
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 the priest’s worldview, God’s holiness is limited to the temple, so you protect it from being defiled. But Jesus has come and he comes where He is moving the holiness of God from the temple. Now he is embodying the spread and the contagiousness of God’s holiness coming out into the world through him. This holiness is purifying and cleansing and making holy unclean people drowning in death and sin.
So, Jesus says, “Go tell the priests and let your testimony to them that there is something new that has come in Jesus.”
This is extremely powerful. This is the Jesus that we worship.
If you are a disciple of Jesus and you have just really blown it in some way then think of a time where you acted against your conscience, you acted against the teachings of Jesus, and you just below it big time. Now think about what goes on in your mind after you fail morally or ethically or spiritually. Many people at such times think, “God is ashamed of me.” Some people end up avoiding Jesus because they think that they are not good enough to be near Jesus. So, people end up avoiding prayer, avoiding reading the scripture, you avoid other Christians, you avoid church gatherings, and even avoid the Holy Communion. Because you think I cannot go near him.
You need to understand that Jesus disagrees with you on this point. This is not the story of the Gospel of the mission of Jesus. God is not threatened or intimated by your sin because A holy God will not tolerate sin in his presence. This is true but there is more to it. This is true but if it remains just there, it is dangerous towards your whole view of God. God tolerates man but when God moves close to man, man is moved to confess it, name it and renounce it. This is what happened to Isaiah. God moved towards a sinful Isaiah, and Isaiah is confessing his sin and naming it in the process God cleanses Isaiah. Isaiah is transformed by that encounter of God’s holiness.
Here, in Matthew 8, the man with a skin disease is transformed by Jesus’ holiness however, this does not mean that man has the license to do whatever you want to do, no. We are accountable for our actions before God. But God is never going to leave you alone. God is going to burn you clean. He is going to transform your uncleanness into holiness. That is good news for you and me. We live in a culture with uncleanness, evil, death, and corruption and Jesus comes and just transforms us with His holiness.
Some of you listening to me feel that God has nothing to do with you because of your failure. The good news of Jesus from this incident is that you are wrong. See the character of Jesus This man doubted the character of Jesus.
A man with leprosy came and knelt before him and said, “Lord, if you are willing, you can make me clean.”
This man did not doubt the ability of Jesus to heal and restore him but he doubted the character of Jesus to retore an unclean person like him. Jesus says, “You are wrong.” He stretches his hand and touches this man and the man walks away transformed.
Therefore, this means there is hope for people like us and a world in a mess to be made clean. So, whatever your failure, whatever you are thinking about yourself is not threatening to Jesus. Would you come near him today? Come with bold confidence knowing that Jesus has both the power and the desire to burn you clean through his holy presence.
Take Away Points
God Is Holy And We Must Approach God In Holiness.
Jesus Is Able To Intervene In Your Situation.
We Need To Approach God With Humility.
Jesus Is Able To Cleanse Us And Make Us Clean.
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