One Monday several years ago a preacher friend of mine asked me if I was having a “Blue Monday.” I had never heard that particular expression before and wondered if perhaps, unbeknownst to me, I was not being my normal cheery self! After putting a big (and quick) smile on my face, I asked him what he meant by the particular phrase “Blue Monday.” He said he thought all preachers were familiar with the term and went on to inform me that “Blue Monday”, as it applies to ministry, referred to the valley of letdown and mundaneness that a preacher can experience on Monday after the mountaintop of being used by God to deliver His Word to His people on Sunday. We’ve been in a series on the Gospel of Matthew during Sunday Morning Services for the past several weeks and just finished going through the Sermon on the Mount (chapters 5 through 7). Immediately after the recounting of the greatest sermon ever preached from the greatest Preacher who ever lived, the eighth chapter of Matthew’s gospel begins with the words, “when Jesus came down from the mountain.” Far from having a letdown and reentering the world of the mundane, our Lord performs a series of miracles that tell us about the character of God.
He Was Willing (Matt. 8:1-4)…Leprosy was a dreaded disease in both Old Testament and New Testament times. Typically the first indications of the ailment were breakouts of irregular white splotches on the skin. A person who suspected they had contracted the disease would turn themselves in, or perhaps be turned in by others, to undergo a series of inspections by the priests to see if indeed it was leprosy or not. Upon determining that someone was infected, the individual would be forced to separate from society at large, quarantined even from their own families due to the highly contagious contagion. As the leprosy progressed the afflicted would eventually lose feeling in their extremities, such as their fingers and toes, then their hands and feet. Many lepers lost their lives due to simple cuts. The disease left them so numb that they could bleed out before they even knew that they were injured. It’s hard to say which was worse, the physical punishment that pummeled the leper or the mental and emotional toil dished out by the dreaded disease.
When Jesus came down from the mountain He is met by a leper. The man wasn’t supposed to be out in public. But when you’re in his condition, there’s a part of you that wants to follow the rules, yet another part that figures you’ve got nothing to lose. The leper doesn’t come to Jesus blaming God for his malady. He doesn’t come to Christ pleading the case that he deserves to be healed because he’s a really good person, or at least he’s a better person than a lot of people who don’t have the disease. The leper falls down and worships before Jesus with the simple declaration, “Lord, if you are willing, You can make me clean.” The man may have the lost the health of his body, lost any wealth he had in his bank account, and even lost the comfort of relationships with friends and family; but he did have something far more valuable and eternal than all that he had lost, a revelation of the Lordship of Christ, the omnipotence of God, and the sovereignty of His will. Jesus tenderly stretches out His hand and touches the leper, a practice expressly prohibited because of the ease with which the pernicious plague could be passed. However, rather than Jesus becoming detrimentally infected, the leper became gloriously affected by the healing power of the Lord’s touch as well as His declarative words, “I am willing; be cleansed!” He then instructed the leper, or better said the former leper, to go and show himself to the priest as commanded in the Old Testament (Lev. 14:4-7). An inspection would be done and a ceremony performed serving as a glorious depiction of the gospel, given by Moses some 1500 years before Christ, where one bird is killed while another is alive and allowed to go free! “When Jesus came down from the mountain”, He showed He was willing!
He Was Authoritative (Matt. 8:5-13)…The next scene in the eighth chapter of Matthew’s gospel finds a centurion coming to engage in conversation with Christ. A centurion was a prominent Roman military official in charge of 100 soldiers. He was a man who had paid his dues, learned his lessons, achieved great success, and now commanded great influence and authority. Not all powerful people have tender hearts, but apparently this centurion possessed this rare combination of attributes. The leader had a servant, a cherished servant, a young man who was laying paralyzed back at home. If the centurion could have fought someone to gain the servant’s healing, he would have taken up arms. If the centurion could have paid someone for the servant’s healing, he would have written the check. If the centurion could have commanded someone to bring the servant’s healing, he would have decreed the order. But, alas, no matter how much authority one may have in this life, every man sooner or later ultimately discovers that there is a limit to the domain of his power. So, the Roman centurion comes to Christ and tells the Lord of the fearfully tormented condition of his servant. The centurion did not come asking for a higher position for himself, for greater riches for him to personally enjoy, or for any blessing for himself at all for that matter, but rather for a blessing to be extended to another. Jesus compassionately responds by immediately saying that He will go and heal the youth.
Surprisingly, the centurion does not take the Lord up on His offer as extended, but rather replies that he is unworthy for Jesus to come under his roof. The centurion did not come trying to wield his authority in an attempt to command Christ, but rather with an attitude of humility to One who was of infinitely higher rank. The military commander continues, “Just say the word, and my servant will be healed. For I also am a man under authority, with soldiers under me; and I say to this one, ‘Go!’ and he goes, and to another ‘Come!’ and he comes, and to my slave, ‘Do this!’ and he does it.” The centurion knew his power and authority weren’t enough to heal his cherished servant, but Christ’s power and authority were more than up to the task. Verse 13 gives the conclusion of the matter, “Jesus said to the centurion, “Go; it shall be done for you as you have believed.” And the servant was healed that very moment.” “When Jesus came down from the mountain”, He showed He was authoritative!
He Was Inclusive (Matt. 8:5-13)…Had Jesus went to the Roman centurion’s house; the tradition of the religious leaders would have considered Him to be unclean. This was not the teaching of Scriptures, but only a man-made tradition. Unfortunately, however, the Jewish religious leaders had come to hold their traditions in higher regard than Scripture, and certainly in higher regard than the need of a Gentile servant boy. Many times Jesus healed on the Sabbath and the religious hierarchy of Judea raised their energies to accuse Him of mutiny to the rabbinical traditions rather than to laud Him for miracles to the sick. What misplaced priorities! What misinterpretation of Scripture! What arrogance!
How sad that the Roman centurion had a better take on Scripture, a higher humility, a deeper compassion, and most importantly a more accurate view and greater faith in Jesus Christ the Messiah than did the supposed religious elite! The Lord commended the Gentile leader declaring that He had not found such a great faith in all of Israel! Way back in Genesis 12:1-3 God promised that all of the nations of the world would be blessed through the lineage of Abraham. Christ of course was the ultimate fulfillment of that promise. The Jewish religious leaders of Jesus’ day by and large missed these truths and thought of themselves as the exclusive club of God’s people; Gentiles were seen as dogs! Christ sets the record straight when He responds to the faith of the centurion by saying, “I say to you that many will come from east and west, and recline at the table with Abraham, Isaac and Jacob in the kingdom of heaven; but the sons of the kingdom will be cast into the outer darkness; in that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth (Matt. 8:11-12).” “When Jesus came down from the mountain”, He showed He was inclusive! (*IMPORTANT NOTE: by the use of the word “inclusive”, I do not mean to imply “inclusive” as popular culture would define it. They tend to view “inclusive” as everything goes, there is no right or wrong, we make no judgments about anything, and everybody is going to Heaven. All of these pop-culture views are of course anti-biblical and false. When I use the word “inclusive”, I mean that Jesus came for all who would believe in Him and that He will not cast aside any who come to Him (John 3:16; John 6:37)).
He Was Grounded (Matt. 8:14-17)…Now we look at the last portion of Matthew 8 that we will consider here. Jesus comes to the house of Peter and finds the disciple’s mother-in-law sick in bed with a terrible fever. The Lord touches her hand, the fever flees, and the woman of God gets up and begins to wait on Jesus. This healing in one woman’s life led to a multitude of miracles in the lives of others. At evening time the people of the town brought the demon-possessed and ill to Jesus; and He healed them and set them free! Matthew 8:17 follows a pattern found in the gospel as a whole when it declares that, “this (the healing of the multitudes) was to fulfill what was spoken through Isaiah the prophet (Isa. 53:4): “He Himself took our infirmities and carried away our diseases.” Far from having a ministry based upon the latest greatest popular fad, the life and work of Christ were grounded in the prophecies of Scripture since the first promise of redemption issued forth in Genesis 3:15. “When Jesus came down from the mountain”, He showed He was grounded!
When Jesus Came Down From The Mountain…We’ve looked at some scenes from the eighth chapter of Matthew, “when Jesus came down from the Mountain” after giving the most famous sermon of all time (the Sermon on the Mount). However, as great as that was, there was a greater moment “when Jesus came down from the mountain.” The Alpha and Omega, the Beginning and the End, the King of kings, the Lord of lords, the one and only Son of God, the Second Person of the Trinity, the Seed of Abraham, the Root of Jesse, the Son of David, became flesh and dwelt among us! He went about doing good and healing all who were oppressed of the devil. Yet, this Greatest One Who did the greatest things, rather than be accepted, was rejected by His own and ended up crucified upon a cruel wooden cross on a skull-shaped Mount called Calvary. His critics mocked and chastised Him even while He was dying, saying that if He would use His power to bring Himself down from that cross, down from that mountain, then they would believe in Him. But Jesus did not bring Himself down; He suffered and He died. Christ’s body had to be taken down from that cross, down from that mountain, by the hands of others, those of Joseph of Arimathea and Nicodemus. The power of that Sermon on the Mount years ago now seemed gone, the power of the miracles that followed seemed gone, the hope of a Messiah seemed gone. However what in the eyes of the world, in the mind of Satan, in the wisdom of this world, and in the schemes of the hypocritical religious leaders looked like the ultimate let-down, the ultimate defeat, would prove to be the greatest victory! For through the blood of that cross and the moments on that mountain, through the vindication of the resurrection and the moments after He came down from that mountain, salvation was purchased for all who would believe, peace being made between sinners who would come to faith and the God against whom they had so terribly sinned. Indeed, “when Jesus came down from the mountain” He was willing to save (having laid down His life on His own accord—John 10:18), authoritative to save (for He alone is the way, the truth, and the life; the only way to the Father—John 14:6); inclusive in His offer of salvation (all who would believe in Him, whether Jew or Greek, could be saved—John 3:16; Rom. 1:16-17); and the salvation that He offered was grounded in the Word of God (Gen. 3:15; Gen. 12:1-3; Isaiah 53)! Thanks be to God for all that occurred, “when Jesus came down from the mountain!”