Miracle Healings Were Always Meant To Point To Something Deeper.

George Wright
Aug 23, 2020    39m
By carefully examining the story of a man with leprosy who was healed by Jesus, and the instructions that were given to him afterward, we begin to discover the deeper spiritual meaning behind the miracle healings performed by Jesus. Video recorded at Columbia, South Carolina.

messageRegarding Grammar:

This is a transcription of the sermon. People speak differently than they write, and there are common colloquialisms in this transcript that sound good when spoken, and look like bad grammar when written.

George Wright: 00:00 What an incredible gift it is to hear from the Barnwells, sharing this testimony of God at work. And not only sharing the testimony of God's healing and God's provision in the midst of their prayers, but hearing the testimony of God's faithfulness in the midst of so much uncertainty. And then to see and hear their faith on display, trusting God, regardless of the outcome. What a gift, what a gift.

George Wright: 00:28 Today, we're continuing in a series that we're calling, This Is My Story. And we're not only hearing some stories from folks in the life of the church, but we're looking at stories of miraculous encounters with Jesus and Luke chapter 5 in the Bible. And so I'm going to encourage you grab a Bible now, and turn to Luke chapter 5 with me as we step into a miraculous story of healing. And we see what God has to say specifically to us, through this encounter with Jesus, that absolutely changes everything. I want to invite you to stand with me if you're willing and able, stand with me as we read this opening scripture, just so we all can be reminded that the Word of God is our authority, it is the foundation we stand upon. If you're joining us online, you may want to stand as well. Wherever you are, just that we all can be reminded that when we gathered together in the name of Jesus, as the people of God, we are standing on the foundation of what God says is right and good and true, every time we turn to the Holy scripture.

George Wright: 01:34 So look at what it says in Luke chapter 5, beginning in verse 12. It says, "While he was in one of the cities, there came a man full of leprosy. And when he saw Jesus, he fell on his face and begged him, “Lord, if you will, you can make me clean.” And Jesus stretched out his hand and touched him, saying, “I will; be clean.” And immediately the leprosy left him. And he charged him to tell no one, but “go and show yourself to the priest, and make an offering for your cleansing, as Moses commanded, for a proof to them.” But now even more the report about him went abroad, and great crowds gathered to hear him and to be healed of their infirmities." This is the miraculous healing power of Jesus on display.

George Wright: 02:34 And I want to say this before we pray, we're about to pray and then sit down and get into this message. But before we pray, I believe that there are some of you here today, some that are joining us online, this is a divine appointment for you. You need to hear exactly what God wants to say to you today, as it relates to healing and as it relates to what it means to be clean in the sight of God. So with that in mind, would you pray with me now that God would speak to us all as only he can, and that this time would be for his glory in our lives. Let's pray together. Father, as we stand before you at the reading of your word, and as we consider what the scripture reveals to us this morning, it is my prayer that you would have your way among us. As we gather in this room, as we gather online, as we gather really in many different places today, I pray in the power of your spirit, that you would speak into all of our stories. There is so much fighting for our attention right now, so much distracting us from hearing your voice. And I pray in this moment, this divine moment that you have set apart for us to come before you, I pray that we would hear your voice, that you would speak what we need to hear, and that our hearts would be open to receive what you say. So we ask you to use this time in a powerful way. In the name of Jesus' we pray. Amen. Amen. You may be seated. Thank you for standing.

George Wright: 04:20 As we consider this story in Luke 5, this story of a man who has been struck with leprosy, this horrible disease. This is a disease that, that really is pretty foreign to us today, I mean, we hear of it from time to time. There are still people in the world that have leprosy, but for the most part, this is a disease that we certainly don't have to think about on a typical basis. And certainly you may be familiar with some of what takes place when someone has leprosy, the loss of sensation, the loss of the nerves working properly, that then leads to all kinds of ailments and physical deformities, and all kinds of injuries that take place when someone can't feel to touch, and then the deformity that happens there often leads to a very difficult way of living as a result of the physical struggle of leprosy. You may have heard some of that before, but leprosy in biblical times, specifically leprosy, as we step into this story and see this man come before Jesus was, was so much worse than just the physical disease or the physical pain that someone might endure. You see with leprosy, at the time of this story with Jesus, there was a true relational stigma, there all relationships would be stripped out of the life of one who was called a leper, they became a total outcast. They were forced to live outside the city walls, and it was believed that leprosy was contagious, and so no one wanted to go around them, no one certainly wanted to touch them. And it was ordered by law, that if you were a leper and you saw someone walking towards you, you had to hold up your hands, if you were physically able, and yell unclean, unclean. And you think of how demoralizing that is, to never be allowed to be around another individual, other than another leper. Think of how lonely that was, the isolation of leprosy, the relational loss.

George Wright: 06:46 But in addition to the physical hardship, and their relational hardship, and the sense of being ostracized outside of the culture, there was a true spiritual loss as well. For lepers were considered unworthy, and were banned from worshiping at the temple. They were banned of course, from being around other people, but there was a stigma attached to leprosy where many people said this leprosy is a result of some sin in the life of the one who is a leper. And so not only are you feeling this horrible pain, and dealing with this relational loss, but hey, we want you to know Mr. Leper, it's your fault, for God has struck you with this disease because of a sin in your life. And so there was this spiritual loss, so this total issue of shame, it just hung like a cloud over a lepers life.

George Wright: 07:51 So you can imagine, you can imagine the chaos and the crowd, when all of the sudden as Jesus has been teaching, and a lot of people have been gathered, a leper begins to make his way through the crowd. Can you imagine what the crowd must be feeling? You're not allowed to be here? Who you think you are, get away from us. You have a disease, we can't be around you. Get away from the crowd. What are you doing? And yet, as we've just read in the scripture, the reaction of Jesus is totally and completely different than the crowd who looked at this man as unworthy and unclean, and the reaction we see from Jesus is unlike anything this man has experienced since the word leper was attached to his name.

George Wright: 08:47 So look back at the scripture, look back at Luke 5 verses 12 and 13, let's see again, what happens when this man comes in contact with Jesus? It says, "While he was in one of the cities, there came a man full of leprosy. And when he saw Jesus, he fell on his face and begged him, “Lord, if you will, you can make me clean.” And Jesus stretched out his hand and touched him, saying, “I will; be clean.” And immediately the leprosy left him." Now as we step back into this story, as we see this beautiful interaction between Jesus and this man who has been cast aside by everyone else, we must understand that anytime we read one of the miraculous stories of Jesus in the scripture, anytime we see a miracle, or a healing, or anything that Jesus does, that that really defies the norm in his ministry while on earth, we must understand the miraculous performed at the hands of Jesus is always intended to point us to a deeper spiritual reality. For Jesus did not perform miracles just to gather a crowd, or just to put on a show, or just so that his fame might grow even more.

George Wright: 10:09 No, Jesus performed miracles to point to a deeper spiritual reality, to address issues of the heart, and that is what is taking place right here. For what we see here is truly a beautiful picture of the power of the gospel, and here's why this is so incredibly relevant for us today. Because some of you here today in this room, and some of you joining us online right now, you feel totally and completely unworthy because of your story. Some of you have lived in such a way that there's not a question in your mind, it is unclean. And you feel like when you walk into a room for the first time, or perhaps when you walk into church, there are people looking at you as if you have a sign on your neck that says unclean, unclean, unclean. And you know what it means to feel unworthy, you know what it means to feel unlovable, but look at what Jesus does in Luke 5. If you don't see anything else at all today, please don't miss this, Jesus reaches out his hand and touches the one that everyone else has written off. Jesus reaches out his hand and touches the one that everyone else says is unclean and unworthy. Jesus sees a man that desperately needs healing, and he sees a man that is longing for a new story and a new identity, and Jesus who cannot be tainted or corrupted or dirtied by the filth of this world, or the uncleanness of our lives, reaches out and says, be clean.

George Wright: 12:21 Some of you, that is exactly what you need to hear today, because see, here's the reality about the gospel. I love this statement, we'll put this on the screen. The only thing that you need to get the gospel is need. The only thing that you need to get the gospel is need. This man with leprosy represents anyone who is aware of the need in their life for a savior. And he cries out to Jesus in humility, in desperation, he cries out to Jesus and Jesus says, be clean. What a beautiful picture of why Jesus came.

George Wright: 13:15 And what we see in the posture of this leprous man is actually what Jesus talks about in one of his most famous sermons recorded in the scripture, we call it The Sermon on the Mount. You can turn to Matthew chapter 5 to see this, Matthew 5, 6, and 7 records for us, The Sermon on the Mount. And at the very beginning of this very famous sermon of Jesus, look at what he says in what we call the beatitudes. "Blessed are the poor in spirit, Jesus says, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. And blessed are those who mourn for they shall be comforted." What is this all about? Well, to be poor in spirit, is to recognize your spiritual condition apart from Christ. It's to recognize that apart from Jesus, there is nothing you can do to save yourself. And so you position yourself in a posture before God that says, I need help, I can't do this on my own. I am begging as a beggar who is poor, would come saying, I need help, I'm begging for you to intervene on my behalf. And certainly this is what we see in this man with leprosy. And as a result, he is invited into the kingdom of God, for blessed are the poor in spirit, theirs is the kingdom of heaven. And those who mourn, as Jesus talks about morning here in The Sermon on the Mount, those who mourn are those who are aware of their condition in their sin. They mourn over the condition of their heart, they mourn over the reality that they can't get everything right, they can't do everything exactly the way it should be done. And as a result, they recognize they are totally hopeless, even Helpless on their own. And yet, those who mourn Jesus says, are comforted by the grace of God, as they acknowledge their need for the savior and embrace the gift that only he can provide. This is the good news of the gospel. This is what is being offered to those who recognize their need for the savior, the hope of the salvation that comes through Christ alone. You can be clean, please don't miss this, you can be clean in the sight of God by crying out to Jesus.

George Wright: 15:53 But then in verse 14 the story gets a little more interesting, as this miracle has been performed, this man has been cured on the spot of this horrific disease of leprosy. Look at what Jesus says to the man next, very interesting to see this. It says, "He charged him to tell no one." Now, certainly we all understand in the social media culture that we live in today, that hey, if you want to boost your viewership, if you want to boost your followers, if you want to be a social media phenomenon, if you want to explode and go viral, man, you got to have something incredible to show, right? So Jesus, this is your moment, this is an opportunity for you to go viral. Let everyone hear about the miracle, let everyone hear the story of life change, let everyone know what's going on, and your fame, and your popularity will grow like crazy. But Jesus says, no, don't tell anyone. You see, Jesus understands the heart. And listen to this, this is so important for us to hear in the church. Jesus understood that if the show was what attracted people to come and see, then the only way they would stay is if they continue to be entertained. Jesus knew if they're coming for a show, they're only going to stay as long as they're entertained. But when the show stops, when they don't get what they want, when the magic ends so to speak, they're going to be gone. And Jesus cares about the heart. He's not performing to put on the show to grow this large crowd. No, he cares about the heart, he wants to deal with the things that matter most.

George Wright: 18:04 Now I've just got to stop for a second. I want to see if y'all are still with me. I want to change the subject just for a moment. Can y'alll come back in and just lean in for a second. Do y'all think we're going to have college football or not? I mean, I've been thinking about this a lot. I mean, seriously, are we going to play games? Students, are we going to have a college football season? Are we? Because, I mean, you know, there's a lot of conversation around it. And Lord, please, we're praying that there will be a college football season, especially in the SEC. If you have to let the ACC play to, that's fine. But please, please, in the SEC, Lord, we need the college football season. If we do have a college football season, are there going to be fans? Do you know what I mean? There's all these questions, and I know we've got a plan and you know, several thousand are allowed to come. Nobody knows who those are, I guess they're the ones that are the elect. And those who have not been chosen, they don't get to come. Right? But so we're trying to figure all this out. Here's what I know, this is important. This is important, here's what I know, if we don't play the game, there won't be any fans in the stadium. I'm confident of that. If we don't have college football, there won't be any fans in the stadium, right? Here's why, because the fans show up to be entertained. And when the games over the fans don't stay, they leave, they go back to their life. Same thing with a concert, you go to a concert to be entertained, when the concert's over, you don't hang around and just live in the concert hall or the venue. No, you leave and you go your back to your life.

George Wright: 19:34 Y'all please hear this, that's the way many people look at the church, that's the way many people look at Jesus. I'll come check it out, as long as I'm getting what I want, as long as I'm being entertained, as long as I don't have to change anything about my life, I'll be cool with that. But as soon as the show is over, as soon as I don't get what I want, as soon as I'm not entertained anymore, as soon as this asks something from me, I'm outta here. I want to share a quote with you from a book called, 'Not A Fan' written by pastor Kyle Idleman, let's look at this quote, this is really fascinating. He says, "My concern is that many of our churches in America have gone from being sanctuaries to becoming stadiums. And every week all the fans come to the stadium where they cheer for Jesus but have no interest in truly following him." He writes, "The biggest threat to the church today is fans who call themselves Christians but aren't actually interested in following Christ. They want to be close enough to Jesus to get all the benefits, but not so close that it requires anything from them." And yet, what is Jesus say to those who want to follow him? You must deny yourself, you must take up your cross and follow me. For, if you follow Jesus, you're going to get a whole new story. It's going to be a better story. It's going to be a more beautiful story. It's going to be a story of grace and mercy and forgiveness, but it's going to be a story that is completely different than the story you had without Christ. It's going to change your life. And if Jesus was just interested in fans, his entire ministry would have been one big magic show, but Jesus is looking for those who are willing to follow him in faith with their lives.

George Wright: 21:46 So Jesus says to this, man, look, go and don't tell anyone what's happened because I'm not just looking for a big old crowd. No, I'm looking for people who recognize their need for a savior, recognize they are hopeless without the savior, and they are willing to follow the savior with their life. And if you do, it will be the greatest gift you've ever received, but it will ask something of you. It will ask something of you, not so that you can earn it, it's not because you have to prove your worth. No, if you receive the gift of salvation, it will ask you to begin to change. To follow Jesus is to take up your cross, to deny yourself, to say, I want your glory not mine.

George Wright: 22:37 But then look back to the scripture, it's fascinating the way this unfolds. Jesus begins to point back to the old covenant and says, he charged him, Luke 5:14, "He charged him to tell no one, but “go and show yourself to the priest, and make an offering for your cleansing, as Moses commanded, for a proof to them.” Now, what is this all about? This seems really strange. Jesus heals this man and says, okay, now go to the temple, show yourself to the priest, do what Moses commanded. What is that all about? And why does there need to be proof at all? Why does there need to be a stamp of approval from the priest? The man's been healed, Jesus, you did the miracle. What is this all about? Well, here, Jesus is pointing back to the old covenant, he's pointing back to the Levitical laws of cleansing that we see in the old Testament, in the Book of Leviticus. Now I just want to say to you, if you want to see some wild stuff, read the Book of Leviticus, it's unbelievable what's in there. I mean really some very strange stuff, some very crazy stuff, even in what the people are required to do to make payment or atonement for their sins. Here's the point of the Book of Leviticus, if it shows us anything at all, it shows us how desperate we are for the grace of God. Because if you think you can earn your way to God through works, just read Leviticus and you'll recognize, pardon my southern here. There just, ain't no way. There ain't no way, you cannot earn your way to God. Leviticus makes it clear, because all the ritual, and all that you'd have to go through to pay for, to cleanse every single sin, that's what Leviticus is pointing us to. It's showing the people of God, look, you cannot earn your way to God. You must have a savior who invites you to receive something that you could never deserve on your own.

George Wright: 24:45 But in Leviticus 14, specifically, you can read this later. This really is incredible to consider, the entire chapter almost in its entirety, 32 verses of Leviticus 14, talks about what must take place if a leper is miraculously healed, for the leper to be considered clean. Think about this, this is in the Bible, for a leper to be considered clean, if they are miraculously healed, there's an entire process that they have to walk through according to Leviticus 14. And stay with me here, I know when we step into the old covenant, when we step into Leviticus specifically, it can kind of be like, what is this all about? But there is beautiful, beautiful symbolism here in what Leviticus 14 lays out. For it tells the one who has been healed of leprosy, that they must go show themself to the priest. They must meet with the priest outside of the camp or outside of the city walls, so to not potentially contaminate anyone else inside the city or inside the people of God. And when they meet with the priest, they're supposed to come to the priests with two live birds, one of the birds would be killed. The priest would kill the bird, he would then dip the live bird in the blood of the dead bird. Take about this, I mean, this is a little crazy, right? What is this all about? Dips the live bird into the blood from the dead bird, and then looks at the one who's been healed of leprosy and is to sprinkle the blood of the dead bird seven times on the leper. Has this gotten weird enough yet? And after the blood of that bird has been sprinkled on the leper, the leper who has been healed can be called clean and can return to his family.

George Wright: 26:49 Well, certainly if you know anything at all about scripture, and if you know anything at all about what Jesus came to do, you can recognize this is a picture of what Christ ultimately would do to pay for sin. That through the blood of Christ at the cross, his blood covers our sin, it calls us clean, it makes us new, and it invites us into a better story because of what Christ has done. We are a new creation in Christ, the scripture says. But that's not all, as you continue to read through Leviticus 14, you'll see that the after the blood has been sprinkled on this leper who has been healed and they are called clean, they then are invited to go back to their family and to celebrate for seven days. To have a week long party, that they have been clean, that they are new. And at the end of seven days, listen to this, stay with me because this is absolutely incredible as we think about the scripture. At the end of seven days after this one who has been healed of leprosy has been celebrating and partying with their family, the miraculous gift they have received to be cleansed of leprosy. They are to shave all the head of their hair, or all the hair off their head, let me say that. They're to shave their eyebrows. Is this getting exciting or what? No hair on their head, no eyebrows, shave all of their facial hair and anywhere else there might be hair, to be completely shaved bald. Why? So they could step back before their family, and step back before the people of God, as one, listen to this, who has been born again.

George Wright: 28:55 Have you heard that term before? Where's that term show up? Flip over in your Bible to John chapter 3, look at this interaction between Jesus and one of the religious leaders Nicodemus, and look at what Jesus says to Nicodemus in John chapter 3 verse 3, "Jesus answered him, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God.” Nicodemus said to him, “How can a man be born when he is old? Can he enter a second time into his mother’s womb and be born?” Jesus answered, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God." You must be born again. And Nicodemus, Nicodemus, you actually understand this because you have a background in the law. And you know what it says in Leviticus 14, about one who has been leprous, one who has been unclean, one who has been unworthy. If they are healed, they must go through this process to show they have been born again, they have been given a new identity and they are ready to live a new story because of what God alone can do. This is so beautiful, for Jesus looks at this man who was leprous and says, go show yourself to the priest, go through the process of what Moses commanded in the law and the old covenant. Why? So that you can be a picture of one who has been born again, because remember everything that Jesus does in the physical realm of his ministry points to the spiritual need underneath the surface that is most important. You must be born again, like a leper who has been miraculously healed and called clean. You must be born again, like one who understands there is no possible way that you can save yourself. You must be born again, like one who recognizes apart from the power of Jesus and his saving grace, I am totally and completely helpless. You must be born again.

George Wright: 31:33 And church, please hear me, if you are a follower of Jesus, and you have been born again. You have been given a new identity, you have been invited into a new story, so live like it. Live like it. Our lives should look different than the world around us, our reactions to global pandemics should be different than the world around us, the way we navigate the challenges of today should be different than the world around us. Not because we're any better, not because we're any more amazing, but because we have been given a new story. A story of new life, a story of new identity, a story of new birth, a story that is so much greater than anything that this world could offer. So if you have experienced the gift of salvation through Jesus Christ, live like it. Live like this new birth is your reality.

George Wright: 32:46 And if you're here today, and you've never experienced this gift of salvation, you've never experienced what it means to be born again, to be given a new story and a new identity. And if you're here today, and you feel like everywhere you go, there's a sign around your neck that says, unclean, please hear this. Jesus is inviting you into something greater. He's inviting you to be forgiven of your sin. He's inviting you into a new story all together. He wants to give you a new life in light of what he has done. Will you look to Jesus? Will you trust him with your story? And will you begin to say in faith, I want my story to now be lived for your glory because of the gift that you have given.

George Wright: 33:50 I want to pray for us as we close, and then we're going to respond in a song of worship before we leave here today. But I want you to know, as we pray, I'm just asking that you would pray with me in a very specific way. And so as we just now bow our heads and close our eyes and enter into a time of prayer, I just want to give a couple of prompting suggestions for some folks, potentially that recognize that you need to lay something before the Lord today. So just bow your head, close your eyes, let's pray together. And perhaps the Lord is speaking to you in this moment, perhaps the Lord will speak to you as you pray. And if that's the case, would you just, just pray with me? All right, so let's go before the Lord right now.

George Wright: 34:33 Father, I'm so grateful, so grateful for the beautiful gift of the gospel that says you can be clean because of what Christ has done. And so Lord, I specifically want to pray right now for those who are followers of Jesus Christ, and they may join in with this prayer as well. Lord, I pray that you would give us the faith, and the vision, to live in accordance with the new story that you've given us through Jesus. It's so easy to go with the flow of the world around us, it's so easy to get caught up in the noise of the world around us. It's so easy, Lord, to just live like the world. I pray, Lord God, that you would give us eyes to see what you invited us into if we are a follower of Christ, and would you give us the faith to live like the gift of salvation truly is our reality. So that may mean we need to lay something down right now. Lord, give us the faith to lay it down, whatever it may be. That may mean we need to tell somebody about something we have been walking through, and we need some help. Lord, give us the faith to do that, to tell someone. That may mean we need to change the input of where we receive our information all together, because we've been so distracted in these recent weeks and months. Lord, would you give us the faith to step out and live like the gift of salvation truly defines our story.

George Wright: 36:35 And Lord, for those who are joining us who have never experienced the gift of salvation, for those who are joining us that recognize there is a very real need in their heart and in their soul that has never been satisfied, it has never been dealt with in a personal way. I pray that today would be the day that they would trust in Jesus. That they would say, Jesus, I'm ready to follow. I don't want to just be one of those people that shows up from time to time, no, I'm ready for a new story. I'm ready to follow you, so I'm asking you to forgive me of my sin, I'm asking you to give me the gift of salvation, and use my story for your glory.

George Wright: 37:28 And Father, finally, I want to pray for those who really are like the crowd that was gathered around Jesus, when the man with leprosy came walking up. This is something that plagues the church, it plagues religious culture. So many, like the crowd when the leper came walking up, that look with judgments, that look with criticism, that look with condemnation at those who don't live like us, look like us, act like us, or speak like us. And so Lord, I pray right now in this moment that it would be a moment of repentance for some, that recognize they have been judgmental of that person over there, or critical of that crowd over there, or angry with those people who don't agree with them. Lord, whatever the case may be, I pray that this would be a moment, a sacred moment of repentance. Where they would lay that before you and say, Jesus, please forgive that sin, I'm ready to move forward in a way that honors Christ, and so I'm laying this down. How thankful we are that you meet us in our need, that you see what's going on behind the scenes, that you in your grace and your mercy invite us into something greater. I pray, Lord God, that we would live in response to what you have done, live out of this incredible gift of the gospel that has been made available to us through Jesus Christ. We love you, we are grateful for what you are doing. Give us the faith to follow as you lead. It's in Christ' name I pray. Amen.

George Wright: 39:28 Hey, why don't you stand with us as we close our service with the final song, and just let this be an ongoing act of worship, as you respond to what you've seen and heard from the Word of God here this morning,

Recorded in Columbia, South Carolina.
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Shandon Baptist Church
5250 Forest Drive
Columbia, South Carolina 29206