Dr. John B. MacDonald
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Have you ever met a leper?

I haven’t. You probably haven’t either.

So, how is this relevant to you and me?

Let me show you.

Three things about leprosy

First, in the Bible, leprosy is broader than what is now called Hansen’s Disease. It describes a host of skin disorders, and is often translated as “infectious skin disease.”

Second, lepers are ‘unclean’ and isolated from society (Leviticus 13-14). They were the living dead (Numbers 12:12; Job 18:13).

Third, the only incidents of ‘leprosy’ being cured involved the direct intervention of God. Two examples in the OT are the healing of Miriam, the sister of Moses, (Numbers 12:9-15) and Naaman, the Syrian general (2 Kings 5:1-14). In the NT Jesus heals several lepers (Mark 1:1:40-45; Luke 17:11-19).

A leper meets Jesus

The second major section of Matthew begins with nine miracle scenes (8:2-9:38). The first of these is the healing of a leper (8:2-4):

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 cured 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.”

Let’s apply the J.P.E.G. approach, introduced in the previous post, for better insight to this text. 

J.P.E.G.

“J” draws us to watch and listen to Jesus in this encounter with a leper.

The leper asks if Jesus is willing to making him clean. Somehow, he knows Jesus is able.

Jesus’ initial response is an intentional compassionate touch. How long had it been since the leper had felt the touch of another human?

Jesus then expresses his willingness to cleanse him, and follows with the imperative, “be clean!” How did the leper understand this command?

What do you learn of Jesus from this encounter?

 

“P” focuses on Jesus’ purpose for his disciples.

This second section of Matthew beings with the words “When Jesus had finished … (7:28). This whole section (7:28-10:42) is about the developing character of the disciples being expressed, exteriorized, manifested outwardly in action.

“P” invites the reader to take the perspective of the disciples – what are they seeing, thinking, saying, and doing.

How are the disciples responding to what they are seeing and hearing?

  • What do they think of the leper's presumption that Jesus can cure his leprosy? What does he know that they don't?
  • How do the disciples interpret Jesus’ touch of the leper? Do they shudder at the sight?
  • How surprised are they to see the man healed instantly?
  • What are they thinking when Jesus directs the healed man not to tell anyone what has happened, but to show himself to the priest according to Leviticus 14?

Now, stand as one of the disciples – put yourself in that moment with them.

 

“E” refers to any explicit quotation of the OT.

There is no “E” in this scene, but there is a quotation of Isaiah 53:4 in Matthew 8:17. How are we to understand Isaiah’s prophecy in this context?

We’ll deal with this in the next post.

 

“G” aligns us with the genealogy (1:1-17). We observe Jesus living a life parallel to Israel's history. He lives in a way that pleases the Father.

Through Matthew 2-4, Jesus’ life parallels Israel’s ‘story’ from the slaughter of male infants (Exodus 1), through the exodus out of Egypt to the banks of the Jordan.

In Matthew 5-7 (the Sermon on the Mount), Jesus restates the true righteousness expressed by those in the Kingdom. This resembles Moses’ restatement of the law in Deuteronomy 6-25.

On this basis, we expect Matthew 8-9 to trace the same-kind-of-things as the conquest in the book of Joshua. Possessing the “land” involves defeating the “enemies.” These enemies are not people, they include diseases, disobedience, chaotic storms, demon-possession, and death.

How do the activities of Jesus parallel those of Joshua?  

 

These elements of J.P.E.G. are expanded in the book Listening Well to Matthew. To download your FREE copy of this book, click here to opt in

Putting it together

Listening to Jesus in Matthew 10, we soon realize that the disciples are being commissioned to do the same-kind-of-things as Jesus has been doing. Does this not include you as well?

Where does J.P.E.G. lead us?

The four lines of inquiry (J.P.E.G.) intersect and define an area of biblically-valid possibilities. Perhaps we do not heal lepers, but we engage in doing the same-kind-of-things. What might our area of possibilities be?

  • What do I do when an “unclean” person encounters me and says, “John, if you are willing …” Maybe it’s a leper; probably not. Could the “leper” be a homeless person, an HIV-infected person, or someone else that I want isolated from my life?
  • How do you express your developing inner character as a follower of Jesus? Your character cannot remain private or hidden. How is it manifested in words and actions as you become more-and-more like Jesus?
  • And, don't tell anyone. Once you’ve done what Jesus wants, are you content that it’s not mentioned by anyone?

What questions do you have? What can you add? 

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