Notes from a sermon preached at Magdalen Road Church, Oxford.
Sunday 25 April 2010 – Peter Comont – Unstoppable Reversals (Matthew 8:1-16)
Today, society is a hostile place for Christianity. And yet, it was into this kind of society that Christianity was born. Hostility is a place where true Christianity flourishes.
Matthew 8-9 contains accounts of three miracles about Jesus’ authority, each followed by a section on discipleship.
8:1-4: unstoppable cleansing.
It’s hard to comprehend the contempt with which the leper would have been regarded. Which makes the following choice of language all the more striking: “And behold, a leper came and knelt before Jesus, saying ‘Lord…’”.
The leper comes with an irreversible condition.
Nobody would touch a leper for fear of being contaminated; uncleanness spreads. And yet when people come to Jesus, they catch his cleanness. Imagine a dirty, oily hand being cleaned by the touch of a clean hand; this just doesn’t happen.
8:5-13: unstoppable inclusion.
The centurion is an insider in society, but a religious outsider. Centurions typically looked down on Jews. “You are a centurion, and you want this itinerant Jewish peasant to come and heal your servant?!”
This proud centurion, perhaps the equivalent of a disciple of Richard Dawkins, a Muslim Imam, a parliamentary candidate… “I want to know about this Jesus.”
Leper: “I need your touch…” – the physical touch of Jesus is important.
Centurion: “Just say the word…!” – the faith we must exercise in this age.
8:14-17: unstoppable forgiveness.
These miracles are pictures of the fundamental thing that Jesus is doing, taking the punishment of our sins on his shoulders, bringing us freedom.
We belong to an unstoppable Jesus. He is still doing this today. It feels like the Christians are powerless, and yet in every generation, even now, Jesus is at work and will work powerfully.
Will you come and express the centurion’s faith?