Posts tagged ‘Religious Leaders’

Cleansing and Telling

Credit: Christ Healing the Leper (1534) / Wikimedia

As Matthew 8 opens, a leper comes to Jesus, desperate for healing from his chronic, and ultimately terminal, ailment:

When Jesus came down from the mountainside, large crowds followed Him. A man with leprosy came and knelt before Jesus and said, “Lord, if You are willing, You can make me clean.” Jesus reached out His hand and touched the man. “I am willing,” He said. “Be clean!” Immediately he was cleansed of his leprosy. 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.” (Matthew 8:1-4)

Jesus’ words to this man upon his healing are puzzling: “See to it that you don’t tell anyone” (Matthew 8:4). What? Why? The story opens with “large crowds” (Matthew 8:1) following Jesus. It’s not as if this healing was done in secret, so it’s not as if this man could have kept this healing a secret. Why would this leper not tell anyone about a healing that everyone had just seen?

The key comes not in who Jesus tells this man not to tell, but in who Jesus tells this man to tell: “Go, show yourself to the priest and offer the gift Moses commanded, as a testimony to them” (Matthew 8:4). The priests were the ones responsible, according to Leviticus 14, for ceremonially cleansing someone who had been cured of a skin disease. The process involved an examination, the sprinkling of blood, a guilt offering, and a sin offering. Jesus instructs the leper to go to the priest and go through the rigmarole of the cleansing ritual, but not so that he may be cleansed. For he already has been. Jesus has already ordered the leper’s skin to “be clean” (Matthew 8:3)! Instead, the leper is to do this “as a testimony to them” (Matthew 8:4) – a testimony that the One who can fully cleanse the unclean has come. Sadly, we know that the priests – along with many other Jewish religious leaders – did not receive this man’s testimony, but instead were offended by Jesus and “plotted how they might kill Jesus” (Matthew 12:14).

Who Jesus tells this leper to tell and not tell can be instructive for us, for we can all be tempted to talk about our faith in Jesus only with the crowds – with people who are predisposed to be impressed with our message. But sometimes, Jesus invites us instead to turn our attention to the skeptical and even the hostile and share our faith with them “as a testimony to them” (Matthew 8:4). This is difficult and frightening. But it is also very needed. For even the skeptical and hostile need cleansing – cleansing from guilt, shame, and sin. Who is Jesus inviting you to share your faith with today? You can’t coerce someone else’s faith. But you can share your own.

Remember, Jesus did not just come for the people who were friendly to Him. He came for everyone – even His enemies. May we share the message of that One with everyone.

July 18, 2022 at 5:15 am Leave a comment

ABC Extra – Rejoice! Don’t Rage


Anger does strange things to people.

A couple of years ago, a country song came out called, “I Pray for You.”  In this song, the artist recounts a recent breakup with his girlfriend.  It was tough, but even with all the pain and heartache she caused him, he says he still prays for her.  And, according to the song, this is what he prays:

I pray your brakes go out runnin’ down a hill,
I pray a flower pot falls from a window sill
And knocks you in the head like I’d like to.
I pray your birthday comes and nobody calls,
I pray you’re flyin’ high when your engine stalls,
I pray all your dreams never come true.
Just know wherever you are, honey, I pray for you.[1]

Do these lyrics strike anyone else as wholly inappropriate?  Whenever I would hear this song on one of our local country stations, I always had to change the station.  The bitterness and resentment which comes seething from this song was just too much for me.

No matter how unfortunate the lyrics to this song might be, they do give us a window into the havoc anger can reek in a person’s heart and soul.  Anger does strange things to people.

In our text from this past weekend, we read about the anger the religious leaders directed against the apostles: “They were furious and wanted to put them to death” (Acts 5:33).  As I mentioned in ABC, the Greek word for “furious” is diaprio, which means “to saw in half.”  The religious leaders are so angry with the apostles, they want to lay them on the sawmill and cut them in two.  This is the stuff of which horror movies are made!  In Luke 6, the religious leaders become angry with Jesus because He has the audacity to teach it is lawful to do good deeds on the Sabbath, even though the Sabbath calls for rest:  “They were furious and began to discuss with one another what they might to do to Jesus” (Luke 6:11).  In this instance, the Greek word for “fury” is anoia, from the word nous, meaning “mind,” fronted by an alpha privative negating the nous which follows it.  Thus, to be anoia means “to lose one’s mind.”  The religious leaders are so filled with fury, Luke says they can’t think straight!  They have lost their minds!

Yes, anger does strange things to people.  This is why the apostle Paul calls us to put off anger in Ephesians 4:  “‘In your anger do not sin’: Do not let the sun go down while you are still angry, and do not give the devil a foothold” (Ephesians 4:26-27).  We should not allow anger to rule and pervert us the way it does ancient religious leaders and modern country stars.

So how do we break the vice anger can so quickly get on us?  In ABC, I spoke of alternate responses to anger.  Rather than getting angry, we can love, we can steadfastly resist evil while not bludgeoning evildoers, we can be patient, and we can even rejoice.  Perhaps it is this final alternate response that is most mystifying.  Rejoicing in the face of evil that should rightly make us angry hardly sounds reasonable or desirable.  And yet, this is precisely what Scripture urges: “Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance” (James 1:2-3).  We ought to respond to trials – even those brought forth from evil circumstances – with rejoicing.  But do not overlook why we are to rejoice in these trials:  “the testing…develops perseverance.”  In other words, it is not the evil trials themselves in which we rejoice, but that which the trials produce in us, namely, perseverance.  Finally, then, we rejoice not in evil, but through evil.  For God works through evil things to bring about His great good for us and for others.

Finally, rejoicing is a much more powerful tool against evil than is anger.  Anger simply decries the inequity of wickedness.  Rejoicing, conversely, puts wickedness on notice:  Wickedness can be laughed at because wickedness will not win!  It has been conquered by Christ on the cross, it is used by Christ to develop perseverance in us, and it will be utterly destroyed at Christ’s return on Last Day.  Wickedness does not stand a chance.

So what enrages you?  What angers you?  Because Jesus wins, take some time to rejoice today.  After all, His victory is worth your joy.

Want to learn more? Go to
www.ConcordiaLutheranChurch.com
and check out audio and video from Pastor Tucker’s
message or Pastor Zach’s ABC!


[1]I Pray for You,” Jaron and the Long Road To Love (Big Machine Records, 2010).

September 26, 2011 at 5:15 am Leave a comment


Follow Zach

Enter your email address to subscribe to Pastor Zach's blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.

Join 2,137 other followers

%d bloggers like this: