"The Social Outcast" - Pastor Mike Larsen
There’s no doubt that Jesus grew up influenced by people that was like him. He studied in the synagogues he loved his Jewish people. But it is no surprise that at the beginning of Jesus’s public ministry, he intentionally went to three marginalized communities.
Matthew Chapter 8 verse 1 says “When he came down from the mountain, great crowds followed him. And behold, a leper came to him and knelt before him, saying, “Lord, if you will, you can make me clean” (Matt. 8:1–2). Leprosy was a skin disease that caused awful physical afflictions. Leprosy was not only a terrible disease, but it was also defiling; anyone who had it was considered ceremonially unclean and cut off from any religious or social services in the community. Those with leprosy were ostracized and not allowed to live in towns or villages. Not only were they required to keep their distance from people, if they happened to approach anyone, they were required to call out “Unclean” (Lev. 13:45). But the leprous man from the Matthew 8 had faith to approach Jesus. Then Jesus stretched out his hand, touched him, and healed him. Imagine being this man. Ostracized from his community and ordered never to be touched again. As an act of grace, Jesus touched him.
He didn’t have to touch him to heal him. Jesus could have simply spoken the healing words, but Jesus wants us to see the grace-filled compassion implied when he stretches out his hand and touches this man who has been declared unclean and cast out of the community. We can learn a lot about Jesus from this encounter. The first principle is Jesus delights in giving grace to everyone who comes to him.
The story of the leprous man is a picture of the gospel. In the Bible, leprosy is always used to describe the terrible and defiling stain and effects of sin that are upon every human. It is our sin that has made us all outsiders. By touching the leper, Jesus demonstrated that he is the one who touches us; he is willing to take our sins upon himself, and he is the one who will become unclean so that we may be healed.
Interestingly enough, after Jesus healed this man, he instructed him to go back to the temple to show himself to the priests and offer the gift that Moses commanded. Basically, what Jesus was doing there was inviting him back into fellowship. The one who was ostracized because of his sin is now clean and graciously welcomed back into the temple. God has supernaturally and strategically placed people in your circle of influence, and in the lives of the people in your churches who need the cleansing grace of our Lord Jesus. To be like Jesus is to delight in giving grace to everyone who is ostracized and outcast because of sin. Be more like Jesus!
HOW TO PRAY:
Pray for people in your neighborhood, place of work, or place of worship who feel ostracized and ashamed to step foot in our church buildings.
Luke 15:1-10 “Now the tax collectors and sinners were all gathering around to hear Jesus. But the Pharisees and the teachers of the law muttered, “This man welcomes sinners and eats with them.” Then Jesus told them this parable: “Suppose one of you has a hundred sheep and loses one of them. Doesn’t he leave the ninety-nine in the open country and go after the lost sheep until he finds it? And when he finds it, he joyfully puts it on his shoulders and goes home. Then he calls his friends and neighbors together and says, ‘Rejoice with me; I have found my lost sheep.’ I tell you that in the same way there will be more rejoicing in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who do not need to repent. “Or suppose a woman has ten silver coins and loses one. Doesn’t she light a lamp, sweep the house and search carefully until she finds it? And when she finds it, she calls her friends and neighbors together and says, ‘Rejoice with me; I have found my lost coin.’ In the same way, I tell you, there is rejoicing in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner who repents.”
About the Author: Mike serves as the Lead Pastor of Encounter Christian Church in Bellflower, CA. Husband to his amazing wife Sheila. Father of Daniel, Steven, and Mikey and grandfather to Cenovia Rae.