This passage marks the beginning of the second major section of Matthew’s Gospel account (Chapters 8-10). In this section, Matthew has arranged three sets of three healing stories, and has separated those three sets with a teaching about what it means to follow Jesus. Each of the healing stories contains rich layers of meaning that show us more facets of Jesus’s identity, character, and mission. As we consider these stories, we’re supposed to be learning more about who Jesus is, what He came to do, and what it means to follow Him.
In this first healing story, Jesus is approached by a man with Leprosy. In view of ritual purity laws, lepers were regarded as unclean people who were not permitted to enter Jewish holy places. Their uncleanness was also thought to be “ritually contagious” in that it would also make anyone who touched them unclean. Consequently, lepers were severely stigmatized and marginalized—they had no hope of restoring themselves to health or community. But instead of moving away from the unclean man as would have been expected, Jesus moves toward him and touches him. Instead of becoming impure, Jesus’s purity is transferred to the man, and He is cleansed. In this response, we see Jesus’ compassion toward the hurting, His power to heal, and His desire to restore people to the merciful presence of God and His people.
In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus gives instructions for a flourishing life under the reign of God. As famous as this sermon may be, many will hear the teachings of Jesus—or even admire the words of Jesus— without putting them into practice. This message has been the same since the Garden of Eden. Human beings will only experience flourishing life when they trust and obey the Word of the Lord.
In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus is giving instructions for a flourishing life in God’s Kingdom; a beautiful vision for a life of love toward God and others. But we have all turned from His vision in various ways, and this is why Jesus has come. He was not merely a brilliant rabbi—He came to save humanity from our destructive plight and to establish a new Kingdom with a new people who follow His way of life. In this final section of the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus gives His followers three severe warnings: the two roads, the wolves, and the two houses. These warnings are aimed at steering people away from destruction and toward the eternal life of the Kingdom.
Although the way of life that Jesus offers is beautiful, it is a challenging way to take because it is at odds with the sinful desires of our hearts and the lifestyle of the crowds who reject the wisdom of Jesus and continue toward destruction (the other “road”).
For those who desire to follow the way of Jesus, He warns that there will be “wolves”—false teachers who may act like and talk like they are leaders sent from God, but are ultimately leading people away from God and toward destruction. You may not always be able to spot these wolves by their public activity, but you can spot them by their character and the fruit of their lives. Does their life show evidence of a genuine relationship with Jesus?
Next week we’ll start Matthew Part III (where we’ll be all Spring). This week will be our last week of a related series, Matthew: The Gospel of the Kingdom, where we’re spending three weeks zooming out to get the big picture again.
Before we start Matthew Part 3 (where we’ll be all Spring), we’re spending three weeks zooming out to get the big picture again. This is week one of “Matthew: The Gospel of the Kingdom.” During this message, we’ll also here an announcement about Park Church Downtown.
This Spring, Grace City Church, which meets at the Asterisk Building downtown, will merge into our church family, and Park Church will become one church with two congregations. Listen to a conversation between Gary McQuinn and Ryan Gannett as they seek to answer some anticipated FAQs, or visit parkchurch.org/downtown to read these questions and others in long-form or to submit your own question.