Let Hope in – Hope Found
Small Group, MBC, June 15, 2014
WHEN HAVE YOU LOST SOMETHING IMPORTANT TO YOU? Did you ever lose hope?
Common items to lose – keys, phone, wallet, remote. Why do we look frantically to find these? They all have value – some more than others. Our hope is that we WILL find them. WHAT DOES HOPE LOOK LIKE?
We all need hope, but yet, we are all without hope – but through Jesus, He forgives us of our past, removes our sins and gives us a new hope: a new abundant, eternal life. We are never beyond or outside of His redeeming hands.
We need to share this hope with all the broken people around us – today. Not some distant future of going to heaven when we die, we need to meet people with this hope and show them how to live today. We need to show defeated believers and nonbelievers that they can have hope in Jesus for today. Thoreau said that most people live lives of quiet desperation – filling their needs with pharmaceutical remedies, religious practices, lifestyle changes or a calendar filled with busyness (IS THIS A SIN?). It doesn’t fill the need that God created in each of us. Let’s look today at how Jesus can fill those deepest needs.
READ Matthew 8:1-4
Skin disease was a big deal in Jesus’ time. It could include more than just leprosy – anyone with dry skin or even peeling skin from sunburn could be of concern to others. In Bible times, leprosy began with specks, bumps or patches on the skin and gradually spread to cause sores and swellings. The disease debilitated the body, causing affected areas to ooze infectious fluids, become disfigured and eventually slough off. Old Testament law required anyone with this disease to live in isolation from society:
READ Leviticus 13:45-46
In an effort to keep the disease from spreading, a leper had to keep a distance of at least six feet, and with a strong wind, the distance could stretch to 150 feet. He had to warn anyone coming near to keep away by screaming out repeatedly, “Unclean, Unclean!”
HAVE YOU EVER FELT LIKE A LEPER? COULD SIN IN OUR LIFE MAKES US FEEL LIKE A LEPER?
When the leprous man saw Jesus, he confidently came up and knelt before Him. Prostrating himself before Jesus and calling Him “Lord” showed respect and acknowledged Him as God’s messianic agent without necessarily confessing belief that Jesus was God. The man assumed Jesus could cure his disease and declared “Lord if You are willing, You can make me clean.” This indicated both humility and faith. Likely, the man’s faith had grown from having seen or heard of Jesus’ other miracles.
No disease struck more fear in the hearts of people in the ancient world than leprosy. WHAT ABOUT TODAY – disease that causes this? The quarantine requirements imposed on lepers and the wretched nature of the disease’s effects forced them to live as untouchables trapped in hopeless misery. Yet, Jesus reached out His hand and touched him (WOULD YOU?) Jesus actions were shocking to his disciples and to those watching. CAN YOU HEAR THEM GASP?
COULD JESUS HAVE CURED THE MAN JUST BY SAYING SO? Sure
SO WHY DID HE TOUCH THE MAN?
Touching the man would have been viewed as violating the law:
READ Leviticus 5:3
Jesus was willing and did heal him – but more importantly, He met a another need – acceptance. WHAT ARE WE DOING TO MEET THAT NEED AROUND US? ARE WE WILLING? – Lesson #1 Jesus IS willing!
Did you catch the two commands Jesus gave to the man? 1) Don’t tell anyone & 2) Show yourself to the priest. WHY DID JESUS NOT WANT THE MAN TO ADVERTISE FOR HIM? Maybe He wanted to avoid the instant fame that would come with this miracle or maybe he wanted to make sure the man made it to the priest – since telling others before the priest had ratified his new status would have been pointless as well as contrary to the law (I did not come to do away with the law; but to fulfill it…)
Let’s think about that second command for a moment. Leviticus 14:1-32 goes through all of those rules he would have to do to offer the gift Moses prescribed – travel to Jerusalem, go through ritual and offering covering an eight day period, then trek back to his Galilean area home – a long process. The priest’s pronouncement would testify to everyone that the man had truly recovered and that Jesus did not violate any law – and, more importantly, that a sign of the Messiah’s arrival had come. But Jesus is not done yet…
READ Matthew 8:5-9
The next appeal for miraculous help came from one typically outcast by Jewish society (DOES THAT SOUND LIKE THE LEPER?), a Gentile, a Roman centurion. Likely, Matthew wanted to demonstrate that the disciples abandon ethnic and cultural prejudices. Having to live under Roman occupation, Matthew’s Jewish readers would have inbred hatred for Romans, especially Roman officers who were known to be especially cruel to the Jews. JESUS CAME TO SHOW THAT HE CAME FOR ALL PEOPLE. DO YOU HAVE CERTAIN PEOPLE GROUPS YOU HAVE DIFFICULTY WITH ACCEPTING OR FORGIVING? (Julie and blacks)
This centurion (commander of 100 men) had a reputation in the community…
READ Luke 7:2-5
This same guy came to Jesus, pleading with Him. Doubtless he had heard much about Jesus and possibly heard Him teach on the mountain near his post. He mostly likely heard about His healing powers. What is interesting is the bond the centurion had with his servant. One Jewish historian noted that it was not unusual for servants of Roman soldiers to train and fight with their masters. Maybe this servant was injured in a battle to protect his master recently. We don’t know the background, but we do know that this centurion was willing to disregard Jewish taboos about visiting a Gentile house. COULD JESUS HAVE HEALED HIS SERVANT FROM A DISTANCE? ARE YOU SEEING A THEME DEVELOP HERE? Lesson #2 – Jesus IS able.
Jesus at once said, “I will come and heal him”. Jesus’ response once again startled the crowd (and probably the disciples). The centurion may have been surprised as well – WHAT WAS HE EXPECTING? Maybe he knew the Jewish people well enough to understand how they felt about entering a Gentile’s home, so he simply said, “Lord, I am not worthy of You”. Maybe he felt this on a moral or spiritual level.
HAVE YOU EVER FELT UNWORTHY? Jesus still is willing to heal us and draw us close to Him.
Maybe he believed Jesus could cure from a distance – even though that was not heard of in their time. The difference is that the centurion did know something about order and authority and he did believe Jesus had the authority to heal his servant. WHAT HAPPENED NEXT?
READ Matthew 8:10-13 – Lesson #3 – Jesus IS looking for us to be faithful.
Jesus raised His eyebrow at this guy. Typically, we see people being astonished at what Jesus did or said. This time, it was Jesus who was amazed. This Gentile’s faith put to shame the stagnant piety that blinded so many religious leaders of Israel. Interestingly enough, Matthew chose the verb of discipleship to talk about those “following Jesus” – both the disciples and onlookers and now, those that authentically believed. The centurion represented the beginning of a stream of Gentiles who would join with faithful Israelites to enjoy eternal fellowship with God. (Something later seen with Paul)
Jesus used this as a teaching lesson – the Jews expected a place in Heaven because of their birthright.
IN THE SAME WAY, MANY PEOPLE WHO HAVE BEEN REGULAR CHURCH GOERS WILL NOT HAVE A PLACE AT THAT BANQUET TABLE BECAUSE THEY HAVE NEVER BELIEVED.
Jesus saw that table with great diversity. He pictured the patriarchs sitting down with the Gentiles. Jesus challenged the assumption that the table was for Jews only. WHAT IS THIS TELLING US TODAY?
Jesus told the crowd that faithless Jews would be thrown into outer darkness (something usually only said of the ungodly in Jesus day – and usually reserved for talking about the Gentiles). Matthew gives us a contrast of the brightly illuminated banquet hall with the dark, damp, filthy dungeons or prisons of their times – shut off from the light of the sun, housing prisoners without light, company or comfort spending days and nights weeping from grief and gnashing their teeth from their anger at being in this place.
Jesus then demonstrated that He COULD heal from a distance – with a pronouncement of “Let it be done for you”. When He spoke it – it happened. WHAT ARE YOU NEEDING TODAY THAT ONLY JESUS CAN DO FOR YOU? Asking for His help is often hard to do. Trusting Him is allowing Him to do for us what we cannot do for ourselves.
1. Identify your need(s). Ask for His help
2. Recognize that Jesus is worthy of our trust – more than what we put our trust in ($, people, etc.)
3. Find someone who needs hope – show Jesus’ love through your actions and point to Him
Let Hope in – Hope Found