Strangers in a Strange Land

When a stranger resides with you in your land, you shall not do him wrong. The stranger who resides with you shall be to you as the native among you, and you shall love him as yourself; for you were aliens in the land of Egypt: I am the LORD your God.

Matthew 8:1-13

“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 He had come down from the mountain, great multitudes followed Him.” Jesus has concluded his mountainous monologue. Whether or not Matthew chronicles chronologically is a matter up for debate. Personally, I don’t think it matters but he does write, when he came down from the mountain multitudes followed. Therefore I believe that while not completely chronological, these events did indeed happen after the mountainous monologue. (See Luke 5, and Mark 4)

Have you ever read the book of Leviticus? Do you remember the daunting task to purify one with leprosy? Context is King but we simply don’t have the time to cover all of the context. It’s found in Leviticus 14:1-32. That is correct, 32 verses of instruction concerning leprosy. I love the picture Matthew paints here. 3 simple, short sentences that speak volumes to Jesus as the true Israel. My summation: “Lord, I have leprosy, if you’re willing you can cleanse me.” “I’m​ willing, be cleansed.” Immediately he was cleansed. Do you see it? He wasn’t cleansed after breakfast or after lunch, he didn’t have to show himself to the priests repeatedly or offer up scarlet thread or wash his vessels and clothes prior but was immediately​ cleansed by Jesus and his willingness. However, consider the context; Jesus did instruct him to go make an offering required by Moses. Most likely two turtledoves and a Lamb, because I assume he was poor, Matthew doesn’t say. Nevertheless, he was instructed to tell no one but to show himself to the priests, having already been healed. The reason? For a testimony to the priests.

“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.'” Consider our opening, Levitical quote; “When a stranger resides with you in your land, you shall not do him wrong. The stranger who resides with you shall be to you as the native among you, and you shall love him as yourself; for you were aliens in the land of Egypt: I am the LORD your God.” Would they consider a Roman Centurion a stranger residing with them? On the contrary, he would be seen as representative of the oppressive invaders. Far from a stranger, he would be seen as an enemy. And yet in the mountainous monologue Jesus says to love one’s enemies. Jesus is not only fulfilling the Levitical Law but also the mountainous monologue. This commander of a hundred troops, represents everything that Israel was against at the time and yet Jesus has compassion on him and is willing to go with him to his home and heal his servant.

We also must see the kindness of the centurion. He, for the sake of his servant, sought out the savior, so that he could heal his servant. He did not seek Jesus for himself as the leper had. But he sought Jesus for someone else. Notice: he didn’t even consider himself worthy for Jesus to enter his home. “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.'”

The centurion understood the authority of Jesus. We understand this by his statement concerning his own authority. The centurion is not boasting about his own authority but submitting to the authority of Jesus by comparison. It’s a juxtaposition, wherein the centurion highlights the authority of Jesus by describing his lesser authority to that of Jesus. Jesus can heal from a distance because the centurion doesn’t feel worthy to host Jesus in his home. The context confirms:

‘Now when Jesus heard this, He marveled…” Yes, he literally marveled. Keep considering; “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.'” Reading this do we still think Jesus has two distinct people with two distinct plans?

The book of Leviticus instructed and Isaiah prophesied; “Also the foreigners who join themselves to the LORD, To minister to Him, and to love the name of the LORD, To be His servants, every one who keeps from profaning the sabbath, And holds fast My covenant; Even those I will bring to My holy mountain, And make them joyful in My house of prayer. Their burnt offerings and their sacrifices will be acceptable on My altar; For My house will be called a house of prayer for all the peoples. Yet others I will gather to them, to those already gathered. All you beasts of the field, All you beasts in the forest, Come to eat. His watchmen are blind, All of them know nothing. All of them are dumb dogs unable to bark, Dreamers lying down, who love to slumber; And the dogs are greedy, they are not satisfied. And they are shepherds who have no understanding; They have all turned to their own way, Each one to his unjust gain, to the last one.” Jesus personifies the Law and the prophets, not to mention the mountainous monologue. Is this centurion the literal fulfillment of Isaiah 56? No, but we see Jesus doing exactly that to which the Law and prophets allude. Again, they are a shadow to the substance of Jesus Christ. However, we also see the utter and complete failure of Israel. As Jesus said to the multitudes concerning Israel, “many shall come from east and west, (gentiles or  foreigners) and recline at the table with Abraham, and Isaac, and Jacob, in the kingdom of heaven; but the sons of the kingdom (Blood descendents) shall be cast out into the outer darkness; in that place there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth.” As he also said in Isaiah 56, “they are shepherds who have no understanding; They have all turned to their own way, Each one to his unjust gain, to the last one.” I am always ragging on Israel, aren’t I? I have a reason.

1 Corinthians 10:6; “Now these things happened as examples for us, so that we would not crave evil things as they also craved.” Despite what tradition has taught you, we are Israel. Not the true Israel, that is Jesus, but we are a type of Israel and an extension of Israel. (See my missives on Revelation for clarification and Ephesians 2:14, et al.) Actually, if one so desires, they will see the “church” in Isaiah 56. Here’s a hint, “church” is a bad translation. Gathering would be much closer to the original. Unfortunately,  we’re stuck with the word, “church.” How about this; Israel Jr.? Moving on:

“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.” “Go” is a fairly common word in Matthew. The only other author to use it more frequently is John, by a long-shot. However, no other writer in the New Testament comes close. As we will see, Lord willing, the context of Matthew concludes with; “And Jesus came up and spoke to them, saying, ‘All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” Matthew presents Jesus as the true Israel and demonstrates a shift from a “come and see religion” to a “go and tell” way of life.

We’re not there yet, as we see in the context. The leper was not to say a word but to show the priests. And the centurion was to continue on his way. But both of their lives had been changed forever based upon the willingness of Christ. Jesus is doing all that Israel was supposed to do but got caught up in their traditions and teachings.

And the great mirror of Israel is placed before us. Are we the leper and centurion or are we the scribes and Pharisees? Hymns or praise songs? Suit and tie or tight, ripped jeans and a cotton t-shirt? Pews or chairs? What was required of the centurion?

Unfortunately for us, the fact that we are a type of Israel looms large. We argue and debate over things of which the Bible is silent. Yet we believe traditions of which the Bible clearly condemns, such as racism. The blood line was for the Messiah. Leviticus makes it crystal clear that the gentile has every right that the Jew has. All nations, tribes, tongues and people have the privilege to be called sons of the living God. (See Romans 9). It’s never been about the blood-line but about belief. “And Abraham believed God and it was reckoned to him as righteousness.” Jesus was the promise made to Abraham.

When a stranger resides with you in your land, you shall not do him wrong. The stranger who resides with you shall be to you as the native among you, and you shall love him as yourself; for you were aliens in the land of Egypt: I am the LORD your God.

 

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s