For Bible Study Nerds

For Bible Study Nerds

Matthew 8:1-4; The Man with Leprosy (Cultural Commentary)

posted by Mike Nappa

The simple fact is that Jesus broke the law when he healed the man with leprosy identified in Matthew 8:2-4.

Jewish law in the time of Jesus regarded leprosy as a grave offense. Upon diagnosis by the priest, the leper’s clothes were burned. The leper’s home was razed. He or she was immediately homeless, forced to live outside the community, outside the city limits. Moreover, the leper was required by law to dress like a mourner and to yell “Unclean! Unclean!” whenever any non-leper came near to him or her. Worst of all, the leper was considered reprobate, a lost cause and totally abandoned by God.

In short, no Israelite was to have anything at all to do with any leper—and this was by God’s command (see Leviticus 13). In spite of that, Jesus broke this law in several ways.

First, Jesus welcomed the leper into his presence—a serious no-no at the time. Second, Jesus allowed the leper to walk in and among the large crowd of people that surrounded him when he came down from the mountain after delivering his Sermon on the Mount. That endangered everyone there, both from the physical contagion of leprosy and from the infectious ceremonial uncleanness that it threatened to others. Finally, and worst of all, Jesus “reached out his hand and touched the man” (Matthew 8:3). According to Mosaic law, by touching the leper Jesus himself was instantly made ceremonially unclean too.

Yet…in breaking the law, Jesus fulfilled it completely, both the intent of the law (protecting the community from physical illness and spiritual infection) and its application (declaring the man to be “clean,” or free from leprosy). In that single breathtaking gesture, he demonstrated also that he himself superseded the law and all possible forms of uncleanness, instantly banishing the incurable disease and fully restoring the former leper to right standing with God and humanity alike.

It was a stunning miracle, both illegal and obedient, confusing and joyful. It reminds us anew that Jesus is not tame—and we are all the better for it.

 

Works Cited:

[ILJ, 187-88]

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Matthew 8:1-4; The Man with Leprosy (Factual Info)

posted by Mike Nappa

A few awful facts about leprosy in New Testament times:

  • The term used for leprosy in the New Testament was a general reference to seemingly-incurable skin infections. It could have included the formal affliction, which we now call Hansen’s Disease, or any other “acute skin disease characterized by inflammation.”
  • By Mosaic law, priests—not doctors— were charged with diagnosing leprosy in people (Leviticus 13:2), and sometimes they tried to treat the disease with “different kinds of baths, ointments, and poultices made of herbs and oils.”
  • The process for diagnosing leprosy went something like this: 1) A person with serious skin infections such as tissue-crusts on the skin, severe rashes, or “whitish-red swollen” spots would go to a Temple priest to be examined. 2) The priest would look to see if the infection had penetrated the skin, or if hair in the affected area had turned white. If so, he would declare the person “unclean” with leprosy. If not, a seven-day quarantine was instituted, with a new examination for leprosy schedule for afterward (Leviticus 13:2-8).
  • Being diagnosed with leprosy was a death sentence, physically, socially, economically, and spiritually. A leper was considered physically unclean—and contagious—as well as spiritually unclean. That meant a leper was completely shunned from normal activities of community life and banned from inclusion in worship in the Temple or any synagogue. The leper couldn’t hold a job, couldn’t live in a home with non-lepers (including his or her own family), couldn’t shop in a market, couldn’t own property, couldn’t touch or hug or hold hands, nothing. The leper’s only option was begging for scraps, isolation, and waiting to physically deteriorate and die.

This was the awful situation of the man who came to Jesus, begging to be healed. We do not know how many years he had endured this horrible disease, but we can be sure of one thing: It must have taken great courage—and great faith—for this unnamed leper to brave the antagonistic crowds surrounding Jesus and to ask for his miracle.

 

Works Cited:

[JHT, 161; ILJ, 185-188]

 

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About: For Bible Study Nerds™

About: Mike Nappa

Copyright © 2014 to present by Nappaland Communications Inc. All Rights Reserved.

Matthew 7:24-29; The Wise and Foolish Builders (Inductive Studies)

posted by Mike Nappa

In exposition of Matthew 7:28-29, George Buttrick has commented, “People listened to Jesus, and then said: ‘That is what I have always known deep down, even though I have no words to say it.’” This, Buttrick explains, is something of what Matthew means when he says that Christ “taught as one who had authority” (verse 29).

Of course, that’s true and (as Buttrick also points out) starkly contrasts Jesus’ teaching style with that of the scribes or teachers of the law. They rarely came up with new teachings, instead devoting themselves almost exclusively to repeating theologies of precedent, basing all their teachings on some other respected rabbi’s previous ideas. Still, with this brief statement in 7:28-29, Matthew seems to be doing more than simply saying people were impressed by Jesus teaching. Looking at this gospel as a whole it becomes clear that Matthew intended this to be a bridge between the conclusion of Christ’s Sermon on the Mount and a thesis statement for Matthew’s upcoming argument-by-example that Jesus held all the authority of God in human flesh.

From this point on in Matthew’s narrative, the gospel writer presents overwhelming evidence, time and again, of Jesus’ heavenly authority expressed in human affairs. Consider chapter 8 alone and you’ll see:

  • Christ demonstrates divine authority over a devastating sickness (leprosy) that humanity cannot tame (8:1-4).
  • Christ demonstrates omnipresent authority over time and distance, and over Gentile inclusion in the Jewish Kingdom of God (8:5-13).
  • Christ demonstrates a Creator’s full authority and ownership over the human body, healing Peter’s mother, driving demons out of human bodies, and healing the sick (8:14-17).
  • Christ demonstrates relational authority and divine priority over the life choices of a would-be follower (8:18-22).
  • Christ demonstrates full authority over nature, deflating a storm with just a command (8:23-27).
  • Christ demonstrates absolute, kingly authority over the spiritual realm by subduing and exiling an army of demons (8:28-34).

Thus when Matthew makes the comment that Christ “taught as one who had authority,” the gospel writer puts forth a claim of deity about Jesus—and he’ll support that claim with subsequent testimony intended to prove to his readers that Jesus is indeed the all-powerful,  incarnate Son of God.

 

Works Cited:

[IB7, 335-336]

 

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About: For Bible Study Nerds™

About: Mike Nappa

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Matthew 7:24-29; The Wise and Foolish Builders (Theological Commentary)

posted by Mike Nappa

Ancient Judaic thought identifies three “departments of knowledge.” First is the Law, which “presents the commandments and claims of Jehovah to man.” Next is the Prophets, which “passes judgment on conduct in the light of God’s revealed will.” Third is Wisdom, and this is where Jesus camps out in the parable that ends his Sermon on the Mount.

Wisdom, as a department of knowledge, is the aspect of a person’s intelligence that enables him or her to successfully understand and apply the Law and the Prophets and, by extension, live a satisfying, God-pleasing life. As 19th Century theologian John D. Davis explains it, wisdom is a human quality that “seeks by observation, experience, and reflection to know things in their essence as they stand related to man and God. The law and prophesy proceed directly from God…wisdom proceeds from man, and is the product of his own experience and observation.”

In that context, Jesus presented a final challenge in Matthew 7:24-27 for his hearers to “observe, experience, and reflect” on his teaching in the same way a home builder would choose and prepare a foundation for a house. The wise hearer, he suggests, will make Christ’s teaching the moral, spiritual, and intellectual foundation for guiding his or her priorities, relationships, thoughts, and actions. In doing this, that person will more successfully understand and apply the Law and the Prophets, will begin to “know things in their essence”—and he or she and will reap the reward of a stable, satisfying, God-pleasing life, even in the face of potential disaster.

The one who chooses anything other than Christ as a moral and spiritual foundation? Well, that person is destined for a foolishly spectacular collapse.

 

Works Cited:

[DOB, 821]

 

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About: For Bible Study Nerds™

About: Mike Nappa

Copyright © 2014 to present by Nappaland Communications Inc. All Rights Reserved.

Previous Posts

Matthew 8:1-4; The Man with Leprosy (Cultural Commentary)
The simple fact is that Jesus broke the law when he healed the man with leprosy identified in Matthew 8:2-4. Jewish law in the time of Jesus regarded leprosy as a grave offense. Upon diagnosis by the priest, the leper’s clothes were burned. The leper’s home was razed. He or she was immediatel

posted 12:00:53pm Dec. 17, 2014 | read full post »

Matthew 8:1-4; The Man with Leprosy (Factual Info)
A few awful facts about leprosy in New Testament times: The term used for leprosy in the New Testament was a general reference to seemingly-incurable skin infections. It could have included the formal affliction, which we now call Hansen’s Disease, or any other “acute skin disease characteri

posted 12:00:52pm Dec. 15, 2014 | read full post »

Matthew 7:24-29; The Wise and Foolish Builders (Inductive Studies)
In exposition of Matthew 7:28-29, George Buttrick has commented, “People listened to Jesus, and then said: ‘That is what I have always known deep down, even though I have no words to say it.’” This, Buttrick explains, is something of what Matthew means when he says that Christ “taught as o

posted 12:00:39pm Dec. 12, 2014 | read full post »

Matthew 7:24-29; The Wise and Foolish Builders (Theological Commentary)
Ancient Judaic thought identifies three “departments of knowledge.” First is the Law, which “presents the commandments and claims of Jehovah to man.” Next is the Prophets, which “passes judgment on conduct in the light of God’s revealed will.” Third is Wisdom, and this is where Jesus c

posted 12:00:37pm Dec. 10, 2014 | read full post »

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