Morning. David Sorn. Lead Pastor here at Renovation Church.
IN my experience, people love boxes.
Except for moving boxes.
One of the worst things in the world, is packing your moving boxes.
In 2011, I moved for the 4th time in 7 years, and my goal is to not move again until it’s into the nursing home or into the ground….slash heaven.
But you know what we really love about boxes
Putting things in them.
Like…ideas, concepts, or even people…
But why? Why do we like to put people in a box? And say, “See, this is exactly who they are and what they’re like”
It’s because boxes allow the world to look pretty black and white.
A Box has got 6 sides, some definitive corners, and a set amount of space.
I know EXACTLY what I’m dealing with.
And sometimes it is okay to do that. Especially with some smaller, simpler things.
But other things aren’t so small and so simple…
Like Jesus for instance.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying we can’t know Him, or define who he is or what we believe in (we absolutely can)
There’s just one problem: for most of us…when we define Jesus…our box is too small.
God doesn’t fit in a very small box.
But we’d like him to sometimes.
He’s easier to define that way.
And I wonder this morning, if Jesus, in your mind, is in a smaller box than he should be.
We are continuing “The Kingdom” series today on the book of Matthew.
Matthew is 1 of 4 books in the Bible about the life of this “often hard to fit in a small box” Jesus
So far we’ve mostly been studying the early life of Jesus, but now Jesus is fully into his 3 years of public ministry.
We covered up through chapter 4 last week.
Today, we’re going to skip a larger section in Matthew (although I encourage you to read it at home)
And we’re going to skip all of chapters 5-7…which is Jesus’ famous sermon on the mount
And we’re skipping it, because I actually taught 19 weeks on it back in 2010.
So, we’re going to jump ahead to Matthew 8.
Matthew, who was one of Jesus’ disciples often mentions that Jesus’ ministry was in Word and Deed.
He spoke (like he does in giving the great sermon of all time…(which is what our Sermon on the Mount message series was first title….until people kept thinking that’s what I was calling my message each time…so we changed it J
But Jesus can deliver an incredible message, and then right after that…heal somebody.
And you see all of that in the Gospels…the stories about Jesus.
And today…you’re going to see a little action!
Both Matthew 8 and 9 are mostly just a ton of miracle stories
So, we’re going to take a look at 3 of Jesus’ miracles today.
And I want to look at 4 boxes that Jesus sometimes gets put in…
4 boxes that you might need to let him out of in your mind.
4 ways we sometimes try and SHRINK Jesus
“And each miracle we look at is an example of Jesus busting out of a common box in that day…as well as in ours
So let’s take a look at our passage for today
Let’s start with the first miracle
(Matthew 8:1-4) – NIV
When Jesus came down from the mountainside, large crowds followed him.2 A man with leprosy came and knelt before him and said, “Lord, if you are willing, you can make me clean.” 3 Jesus reached out his hand and touched the man. “I am willing,” he said. “Be clean!” Immediately he was cleansed of his leprosy.4 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.”
So, Jesus comes down from the mountainside (where he just gave the “sermon on the _____”), and a leper walks up to him.
You might think, “Huh, interesting, but no big deal”
Except this is almost unprecedented.
But before I explain why, let’s look a little bit at what leprosy was
I debated about showing you pictures, but I decided not to.
It’s not pretty to look at. That’s all you need to know from a visual standpoint J
It’s a contagious disease that often starts with red, open sores that become porous…
The discomfort of the open sores is so painful, that you can’t bathe
It’s also attacking the nervous system, which leads to degeneration of tissues in organs and eventually limbs…
Limbs can become deformed…and even fall off.
And if that’s not bad enough, in those days, especially in the Jewish culture, everybody thought lepers were cursed by God
And they were separated (partly for medical quarantine reasons) into leper colonies, outside the city.
Which is why it’s so shocking that one of them took the risk to come into town to see Jesus.
These people were considered such outsiders that they literally were required to shout “unclean! Unclean!” as they walked.
Think about that!
I mean, imagine you have a 13 year old son, and he gets leprosy,
You’re probably never going to see him again…at least close up
He’d be quarantined.
He couldn’t see his friends anymore, the cute girl he was crushing on (he’d never date…never marry), he couldn’t go to the market, have a meal with friends, he couldn’t even see his parents anymore.
His life was pretty much over.
These people were so ostracized and so feared that it’s said that some townspeople even carried rocks in their pocket in case a leper came near them.
It’s like an old-school taser
And yet, in the midst of all that, a man with leprosy takes a huge risk. He leaves his colony, and approaches this teacher that all the crowds were following and says, “Lord, if you are willing, you can make me clean”
And notice what Jesus does here. Did you catch it?
He doesn’t just say, “I am willing…”
He reaches out…and touches the man, and heals him.
This man probably hasn’t been literally touched in years…
But Jesus touches him, heals him, and changes his life.
Jesus touches…one of the untouchables.
A person that the other “religious people” of his day wouldn’t even walk near.
And I wonder sometimes, if in the box we sometimes put Jesus in, we only see Jesus loving people who look and act just like us.
Our first response is usually, “Of course not! I don’t think that!”
Okay, but we can somewhat test our true beliefs by auditing our actions…so…how often do we imitate him here?
How often do we love the people Jesus loved?
The outcast…the outsider…
Do we show them the same love Jesus did?
I mean, this is the kind of stuff where the stories about Jesus in the Bible continue to just blow the socks of cultures everywhere.
It just doesn’t matter to Jesus: prostitute, major sinner, leper, you name it…he’s going to love them.
That doesn’t mean that he doesn’t care how they live or act…or have a plan for them…but he offers his love to them just the same.
And he still does today to the outsider:
To the lepers of today’s world:
To the homeless, the sick, people with disabilities, the foreigner, the poor, the person on welfare
Even to the people that so many churches consider outsiders…
Gay, lesbian, divorcees, adulterers, you name it
Again, doesn’t mean that God doesn’t care about adultery or any of those things…trust me, he’s not in favor of you cheating on your wife.
But if you think that he makes a distinction on WHO he offers love and healing and forgiveness to (if people want it)…you are sorely mistaken.
He’s blown up every single one of those boxes.
And we need to do the same.
I might even ask you…where is it hardest for you to let Jesus out of the box here? Is there a group that’s more unlovable than others for you??
Is there a group of people that you struggle to offer love to?
We’re never going to reflect the heart of Jesus if we only hang out with and love people who look and act just like us.
Some of you, God might even be calling you to eventually quit your job (get a new first), but start pursuing work with “outsiders”
Loving the poor, counseling the hurting, serving the homeless, people with disabilities, going oversees.
We’re big enough now where we oughta see some of our people leaving Renovation for full-time missions work…to the unreached peoples of the world.
And for the rest of us…it just needs to change in how we treat the people around us.
EVERYONE is worthy of love.
EVERYONE is worthy of our time.
Maybe, you invite one of these people that you would never consider inviting to one of our Easter services next week.
Jesus would do it.
Let’s blow up the box.
Let’s take a look at the next miracle:
(Matthew 8:5-13) – NIV
5 When Jesus had entered Capernaum, a centurion came to him, asking for help. 6 “Lord,” he said, “my servant lies at home paralyzed, suffering terribly.” 7 Jesus said to him, “Shall I come and heal him?” 8 The centurion replied, “Lord, I do not deserve to have you come under my roof. But just say the word, and my servant will be healed. 9 For I myself am a man under authority, with soldiers under me. I tell this one, ‘Go,’ and he goes; and that one, ‘Come,’ and he comes. I say to my servant, ‘Do this,’ and he does it.” 10 When Jesus heard this, he was amazed and said to those following him, “Truly I tell you, I have not found anyone in Israel with such great faith. 11 I say to you that many will come from the east and the west, and will take their places at the feast with Abraham, Isaac and Jacob in the kingdom of heaven. 12 But the subjects of the kingdom will be thrown outside, into the darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.” 13 Then Jesus said to the centurion, “Go! Let it be done just as you believed it would.” And his servant was healed at that moment.
So this Roman centurion asks Jesus to heal his paralyzed servant.
A centurion was an officer in the army who oversaw 100 men.
Cent means a 100. 100 years in a century, 100 cents in a dollar, etc.
The centurion says to Jesus, “Listen, I tell people all day long, ‘Just do this,’ and they do it! Get me the remote…and they get it!”
I have authority….but YOU…you JESUS…have even greater authority.
So, if you’re really this messiah, miracle worker, I’m sure you can just ‘say the word,’ and he’ll be healed!
And he says, “I don’t even deserve to have you come under my roof”
But why is he saying that?
It’s more than just a humble statement.
See, he was a Gentile (a non-Jew)…and so was his Servant, and Jews of those days considered it sinful to even go into a home of a non-Jew.
How’s that for loving outsiders?
You can’t even go over to your Gentile friend’s house to watch Sharknado 2 without sinning.
But remember, Jesus, is for outsiders!
He doesn’t care that the centurion is a military guy
And he certainly doesn’t care that the centurion is ethnically not Jewish.
He loves him just the same.
So he says, “I’ll come over!”
And all the religious Jews were like “GASP!”
And we see, eventually, that he didn’t even need to come, but notice he was totally willing.
He doesn’t care that he’s an outsider.
You can’t put him in that box!
In all of these miracle stories, Matthew has Jesus focusing on people that were on the outskirts of Jewish society and culture.
In the first miracle, Jesus cleanses the physically unclean, and here, he heals, what would have been the ethnic outcast.
Because unlike the people of his day, Jesus made no distinction between races.
He loves every race just the same: Black, white, Asian, it doesn’t matter.
There is no racial supremacy anywhere.
Jesus obliterates that box over and over…and any Christian leaders who’ve tried to say otherwise in history and have tried to narrow down Jesus to some sort of racial box…must not have actually read the Bible. J
But we know this, right? Of course we know this. Most of you have grown up in the post civil-rights era. You KNOW it…
But we do we reflect it? Do you look like Jesus here?
Are you friends with people of different races?
Martin Luther King said years ago, “That the most segregated hour in America, is when people go to church”
But that just shouldn’t be.
That’s not the model that Jesus sets for us.
Or the NT church, which is quite diverse.
Now, studies show (and this makes sense), that it would be unreasonable for a church in a city like this one to be comprised of 50% whites when the city of Blaine is 84% white.
But wouldn’t it be great if we at least reflected what this city was?
And honestly, we’ve made great strides in that area…but there’s work to do…and we oughta shoot for it
Because we want to be a church that reflects the love of Christ to all people, no matter what you’ve done AND no matter what you look like.
Speaking of that…there’s one more miracle, let’s take a look at it.
(Matthew 8:14-17) – NIV
14 When Jesus came into Peter’s house, he saw Peter’s mother-in-law lying in bed with a fever. 15 He touched her hand and the fever left her, and she got up and began to wait on him. 16 When evening came, many who were demon-possessed were brought to him, and he drove out the spirits with a word and healed all the sick. 17 This was to fulfill what was spoken through the prophet Isaiah: “He took up our infirmities and bore our diseases.”
And in Jesus’ last miracle in this section, he heals Peter’s mother-in-law.
I’m sure there’s a great mother-in-law joke in there somewhere, but I happen to really like mine, so I’ll leave it out. J
One quick church leadership note.
I know a ton of you grew up Catholic…I went to a Catholic school…and even if you’re not Catholic, you probably know that priests can’t get married.
But, here we have Peter, (the first Pope…according to Catholics), who’s obviously married.
1 Corinthians 9 says he’s married too
So, Jesus walks into Peter’s house, which is kind of their base of operations during this time, and Peter’s mother-in-law is really sick…
Luke says she has a high fever…
Which most scholars believe that was actually their way of saying she had something like Malaria
So, it’s not like she has a temp of 101, and isn’t that mad because at least she can stay home from work and watch the LOTR marathon on TNT.
She’s deathly ill.
And yet, Jesus heals her too.
And she responds in thankfulness by getting up and serving him a meal. Probably a Capernaium Butterburger or something. J
But notice Matthew’s theme again.
First Jesus cleanses the physically unclean, and then he heals the ethnic outcast, and now he restores the culturally marginalized.
The gender that didn’t count for much in those days. Couldn’t even testify in a court of law.
Because to Jesus…EVERYONE is equally worthy of love.
Now, that doesn’t mean men and women are the same.
Of course they have different roles and different gifts.
I’m never going to be able to “mother” as well as my wife
I think I’d do all right J, but I can’t come at parenting from that angle like she can.
And I never will be able to.
But we’re both equally loved. It doesn’t matter what our gender is.
You simply can’t put Jesus in a box here
Again, I know a lot of you know this stuff…but it doesn’t mean you live any of these things.
There might be 90% of us that aren’t intellectually shocked by this content, but only 20% of us that are doing anything about it.
That are out there serving the outcasts, sharing the Gospel with outsiders.
And to KNOW it, and not do anything about it, is to not really KNOW it.
I think too often we can sit in church, and go, “I know this already (pat back)…so we shut down and let ourselves off the hook”
But whether you’ve been made aware of the information previously or not, is irrelevant.
What are you doing about it?
If that’s who Jesus is, and that’s who WE ARE SUPPOSED TO BE, than how are you loving outsiders?
Let me blow up one more box before we’re done.
Now, Matthew does want us to see that you can’t put Jesus in a box (like he just loves THESE type of people)
But he also wants you to see that Jesus HEALED people.
And maybe that’s where Jesus is in a box for you.
Like Jesus is awesome, and really smart, and he loves you a lot, and you’re going to see him in heaven, but Jesus HEALING people is a little outside of the box that you’d like to fit Jesus in.
So for instance, if you know someone with cancer, could Jesus heal them?
If you know someone who’s paralyzed, could Jesus heal them?
If you were blind, could Jesus heal you?
If you were depressed, could Jesus heal you of it?
And here’s surprisingly, where a lot of us nowadays, put this Jesus from Matthew Chapter 8 in a box.
We say, “I like Jesus, but c’mon, he’s not going to heal my mother of cancer or have my deaf friend just start hearing”
Now, theologically, we are an evangelical church.
Which means we put a lot of stress on the Bible being true, Jesus was God, Jesus being the only way to salvation (through faith), etc.
Charismatic churches also believe ALL of those things, but put an even greater emphasis on the Holy Spirit and the miraculous.
One could say, sometimes there is an over emphasis…but THERE IS an emphasis.
And as evangelicals, we tend to theologically, or mentally, believe these miracles can happen…but when pressed…not really.
We’re kind of bad at this area of Scripture.
We trap Jesus in a smaller box here.
Now, this is a bit more of an intellectual church (we tend to attract people who like to think), so reason through it with me:
If this is NOT who Jesus is….if healing is somehow outside of his box…if he’s not capable of healing you or your friend who’s sick….then, you’d have to, by logic, believe one of the following:
The Bible is lying about Jesus here (ouch, not a good option)
Or, that Jesus used to be able to do miracles, but God chooses not to today (that’s called cessationism…that these gifts CEASED…after Biblical times)
Okay…but then why do we have good record of them in the 2nd and 3rd centuries?
And what’s a miracle? Is the fact that someone like me, who used to persecute Christians, is now a pastor…is that not a miracle? Where do you draw the line?
And if God doesn’t do miracles today, does that mean He’s not willing to break into our lives?
Should we tell a mother who’s little baby might not make it, not to pray for a miracle? God doesn’t do that anymore?
Is God not capable?
He’s more than capable!
He’s certainly big enough!
But sometimes, I think we’ve got him trapped in a smaller box
I think at least part of the reason for that is because of all the fakers
The people waving “healing rags” on TV, and asking you to send in $200 to 1-800-I’m just scamming you to get Rich” (I think that was too many letters)
But just because people falsely imitate something, doesn’t mean what they’re trying to imitate isn’t real.
So, I just want to encourage you to increase your faith today.
Let Jesus out of the box.
There is NOTHING that God can’t do.
Are you sick? He can heal you.
Are you single? He can bring you a spouse.
Are you depressed? He can bring you joy.
There’s nothing he can’t do.
Now, it doesn’t mean that he will…but you have got to believe that he can!
That’s the difference.
I mean, imagine if the leper was back in the leper colony, and someone says, “Hey, that miracle worker, the supposed messiah Jesus is coming to town today”
And what if he thought to himself, “I’d love for him to heal me, but what are the chances of that?
What if he never went?!?
And I ask the same thing to you: What about all the things you’ve never asked for?
And the leper asks it brilliantly. Look at it:
(Matthew 8:2) – NIV
.2 A man with leprosy came and knelt before him and said, “Lord, if you are willing, you can make me clean.”
It’s not, “If you can?”
Of course He can!
It’s, if you are willing. If it’s in your will
But I think, for whatever reason (maybe it’s we’re distracted by the fakers, maybe we need more faith, maybe we’re afraid it won’t be in his will, maybe Jesus is in too small of a box), for whatever reason:
We don’t even get to the point where we ask.
Where we believe He can.
But listen, church, HE CAN.
He IS able.
He can do all things.
And the biggest mistake we can make is to not pray.
ASK HIM! Believe Him.
Maybe it’s not in his will.
Paul didn’t get healed when he asked.
Read it in 1 Cor 12.
But he asked.
And tons of other times in the Bible, people do ask…and God does work a miracle.
But let’s not put God in such a small box that we don’t ask.
Ask and expect great things! Believe He can do it!
I read a story a few months ago about a prayer meeting that happened a number of years ago in Kansas during a severe drought.
A group of Christians came together because they were going to get on their knees and beg God for the miracle of rain.
Yet, only one girl brought an umbrella.
Bring an umbrella.
You never know.
Copyright: David Sorn
Renovation Church in Blaine, MN
You may use this material all you like! We only ask that you do not charge a fee and that you quote the source and not say it is your own.