The reach of love

Great job with the discussion! It has been enjoyable to read.

Chapter 8 consists of a variety of characters! It begins with a leper, a Roman soldier who had great faith, and Peter’s mother-in-law. Jesus then calms a storm…you know...like you do. And finally heals two men who are demon possessed by wiping out a bunch of pigs, and actually has people beg him to go away. So needless to say…I might need some help with this blog ☺

Let’s start with the leper. Lepers will be popping up in the gospels and it is important to understand the physical and social consequences of their condition.
Two kinds of leprosy: The first is on top of the skin:
“It might begin with little nodules on the skin, which go on to ulcerate and boil. The ulcers develop a foul discharge; the vocal chords become ulcerated, the voice becomes hoarse, and the breath wheezes. The hands and feet always ulcerate. Slowly the sufferer becomes a mass of ulcerated growths. The average course of that kind of leprosy is nine years and it ends in mental decay, coma and death.
The second kind of leprosy is in the nerves.
Leprosy might begin with the loss of all sensation in some part of the body; the nerve trunks are affected; the muscles atrophy; the tendons contract until the hands are like claws. Without feeling in the extremities, it would not be hard to lose fingers or toes due to injury. This type of leprosy could take 20 years to kill a person. It is a kind of terrible progressive death in which a person dies by inches.”
(The Gospel of Matthew, Barclay 295)

The physical condition of leprosy is absolutely terrible and painful, a horrible disease! But there is something that made it worse. Lepers were cut off from their family and friends. They were banished from human society. Wherever they went, they were required by the Law to shout, “Unclean! Unclean!” (Leviticus 13:45) Josephus tells us lepers were treated “as if they were, in effect, already dead.” For a Jew in the time of Jesus, there were 61 different contacts which could defile. Lepers were number two on that list. Lepers were the walking dead.
Remember, Matthew was written to a Jewish audience and they knew the rules “no contact with lepers”. Imagine a young Jewish boy in the 1st Century A.D. reading this story for the first time, and this sentence pops up:

“And Jesus reached out his hand and touched the leper.”


  1. I am so grateful we are reading and discussing the New Testament together. Many times I give up trying to even understand what I am reading in the Bible because of what seem to me the many paradoxes or inconsistencies...like in Matthew 7:6,"Don"t waste what is holy on people who are unholy. Don't throw your pearls to pigs! They will trample the pearls, then turn and attack you." Yet in Matthew 8:3, Jesus clearly reaches out and touches the leper. As I read this now, perhaps the discernment comes as we love others with no strings attached, we are called to speak and invite, and then embrace those lost but willing or seeking God's truth to transform their lives. As for me, I'll keep praying to understand God's word and ask for His grace and patience in the meantime.

  2. The description of leprosy is gross, but what a picture that paints--not only were those people dealing with horrible pain and suffering physically, but think of the emotional pain that came with being ostracized. And Jesus reached out to Him because He sees beyond the physical, beyond to any pain.

    Our discussion on the way to school today led us to talk about Jesus' healing in the beginning of the chapter and how God does still heals people today. My kids seemed a little surprised by this so I shared that I have known people and of people who have been told things like "we can't explain how the tumor disappeared" and "you shouldn't be alive today--we don't know why you are". I think that for them and many of us, praying for someone and God making them feel better has fallen into a different category than a "miraculous healing of God". And while those stories of the Bible were big events, I was reminded today that God is always at work in our lives just as He was in the lives of the leper, the Roman soldier, and so on. Have I become complacent to God's blessings and miracles? May I acknowledge and praise God in a way that I (and my children) will see His hand in everything!

  3. If you have a chance read Leviticus 14:1-32. It lists what the priest is going to have to go through once this leper shows up. Leprosy healing was rare in the OT (Naaman and Miriam) so the priest probably had to spend some time digging through the law to find out what he was supposed to do. The first 7 verses in that chapter show some neat parallels to the redemptive work of Christ and the rest of it describes a pretty long, drawn out procedure that takes over a week. Only God can dish out this kind of justice.

  4. This chapter spends a lot of effort showing contrasts in "faith". Faith where it should have been found was found wanting. Faith where it should not have been found, was found clearly and Jesus spent time to point that out to us. The Centurion vs the Church of Israel was and remains for the church a contradiction.
    I have to ask myself, how sure is my faith in my Christian walk.

  5. Hi Julie, I'll piggyback on your comment. The demon possessed men were considered unclean as well. The were Gentiles and also lived in a cemetery. (Three strikes) A note in my Life Application Bible says we are not to "turn our backs on people who are 'unclean' or repulsive to us or who violate our moral standards and religious beliefs.... every human individual is a unique creation of God, needing to be touched by His love." I think you were right on with you observation.