Lenten Guest Post – Day 9 – Juxtaposition

And when He had come down from the mountain, great multitudes followed Him. And behold, a leper came to Him, and bowed down to Him, saying, “Lord, if You are willing, You can make me clean.” And He stretched out His hand and touched him, saying, “I am willing; be cleansed.” And immediately his leprosy was cleansed. And Jesus said to him, “See that you tell no one; but go, show yourself to the priest, and present the offering that Moses commanded, for a testimony to them.” And when He had entered Capernaum, a centurion came to Him, entreating Him, and saying, “Lord, my servant is lying paralyzed at home, suffering great pain.” And He said to him, “I will come and heal him.” But the centurion answered and said, “Lord, I am not worthy for You to come under my roof, but just say the word, and my servant will be healed. “For I, too, am a man under authority, with soldiers under me; and I say to this one, ‘Go!’ and he goes, and to another, ‘Come!’ and he comes, and to my slave, ‘Do this!’ and he does it.” Now when Jesus heard this, He marveled, and said to those who were following, “Truly I say to you, I have not found such great faith with anyone in Israel. And I say to you, that many shall come from east and west, and recline at the table with Abraham, and Isaac, and Jacob, in the kingdom of heaven; but the sons of the kingdom shall be cast out into the outer darkness; in that place there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth.” And Jesus said to the centurion, “Go your way; let it be done to you as you have believed.” And the servant was healed that very hour. And when Jesus had come to Peter’s home, He saw his mother-in-law lying sick in bed with a fever. And He touched her hand, and the fever left her; and she arose, and waited on Him. And 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 ill in order that what was spoken through Isaiah the prophet might be fulfilled, saying, “He Himself took our infirmities, and carried away our diseases.” — Matthew 8:1-17

There are two healing stories in this passage. One is of a leper, and the other a centurion’s servant. Most pastors, in preaching these healing narratives, will not notice a key theological point that is made by such a juxtaposition, which is that no social class is excluded from Christ’s kingdom.

Lepers, of course, were ceremonially unclean, and as such could not participate in the normal festivals of Jewish life and faith. This is why Jesus says to the (now healed) man, “Go, show yourself to the priest.” The now-healed leper was about to re-enter Jewish life. However, more importantly, he had entered into the kingdom of God in Jesus Christ, since the leper displayed an obvious faith in Christ’s healing powers (vs. 2).

Secondly, a centurion came to Jesus. He was the equivalent of a lower-ranking officer in one of today’s armies. Furthermore, this centurion was one of Herod’s officers, probably not a Roman officer. (I owe these insights to I.H. Marshall, in the Dictionary of Jesus and the Gospels). But he would have enjoyed some prestige in society. Certainly he was no outcast, as the leper was.

His faith was so strong that Jesus remarked, “I have not found such faith in Israel” (vs. 10). Then, for our purposes, a striking summary of Gentile inclusion is given in verses 11-12:

I tell you, many will come from east and west and recline at table with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob in the kingdom of heaven, while the sons of the kingdom will be thrown into the outer darkness.

After this miracle of healing, Peter’s mother-in-law, a Jewish woman, received healing from Jesus. Since she is in the presence of the One who opens the way to the Most Holy Place for us, we have here an indication that women will be allowed into the Most Holy Place, by the blood of Jesus.

Outcasts, societally elite, Jewish women, all are welcomed into the kingdom of God in Christ Jesus, when they come to faith in Jesus. Our attitude towards those who are different (class, race, gender) ought to be the same as that of Christ Jesus. We ought to spread the Gospel to all and sundry, loving all and sundry, especially as we remember what our Lord suffered for our sake.

Lane Keister is a PCA pastor in North Dakota and is married with two children. His mind-boggling blogging output can be witnessed at Green Baggins and Green Baggins 2.

About Alastair Roberts

Alastair Roberts (PhD, Durham University) writes in the areas of biblical theology and ethics, but frequently trespasses beyond these bounds. He participates in the weekly Mere Fidelity podcast, blogs at Alastair’s Adversaria, and tweets at @zugzwanged.
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