1. When Jesus finished His sermon and came down from the mountain, the mass audience that had become so captivated by His message (and as a result were so enamored by Him) started following along after Him in great throngs as He moved.
2. And as He descended, a leper came up to Him and just fell down before Him, prostrate on the ground, and began to worship Him. And he said, “Lord, if You are willing, I believe that You are able to cleanse me of this horrible disease.”
3. And Jesus immediately reached out His hand and fearlessly touched the untouchable, saying, “I am able, and I am willing…and I call you clean!” And instantly, as Jesus said these words, the man’s leprosy disappeared and his body became completely whole.
4. And Jesus said to him, “Look, don’t go around telling everyone you see about this, because it will bring you more unwanted attention and publicity than you can imagine. Just go and show yourself to the priest and present the offering that Moses commanded for a testimony, and as validating evidence to the people who will inevitably find out about it on their own.”
5. As Jesus went into Capernaum, a high-ranking Roman officer who was a centurion (one who was responsible for a century of men in the Roman army) came right up to Him and very politely but directly asked for His help,
6. Saying, “Master, I have a servant who is lying at my house paralyzed and in intense, physical pain.”
7. And Jesus said to him, “No problem. I’d be more than happy to come with you right now and restore him to health.”
8. But the centurion replied to Him, “Sir, I really don’t feel right about asking you to come under my roof because I don’t worship your God…I worship the many gods of Rome…and it would be unseemly of me to invite you into a home that you might consider pagan or unworthy. I don’t want to dishonor you like that. But I believe that if you will just speak the word, my servant will be cured.”
9. “See, I, like you, am a man who has authority because I am submitted to authority. I have men who are over me, and I also have approximately one hundred soldiers who are completely under my command. I know that I explicitly follow the orders of my superiors, and if I just say to any one of those hundred men under me, “Go!”, he goes…no questions asked...no hesitation…no modification of the order whatsoever. I never have to second guess the command, or do any follow up on him, because I am confident that my directives will be carried out precisely as I gave them. To another of my men I may say, “Come!”, and when I speak, he drops what he is doing and comes immediately. And when I say, “Do this” to one of my servants, you can be sure that he follows my orders and does it. The continuity of this command system is the strength of our military power and, in the same way, I see that you have authority over the words of life. Words are your servants because you are submitted to the creative word of a Higher Authority. If you tell one of your words to do something, that word will absolutely do it because of your obedience to the commands given you by the One You call “Father.” The point is, I believe that if you command one of your servant-words to take your healing power to my man-servant, it will follow your orders and do exactly what you tell it to do!”
10. When Jesus heard this, He said, “Well, that’s just marvelous! Seriously, I am literally marveling at what you just said! I mean, since I have been in this dimension, I haven’t heard anyone in all of Israel say anything that even comes close to your expressed insight and understanding!” Then He turned to those who were following Him and said, “I want you all to know that I haven’t found faith like the faith of this polytheistic idol-worshipper anywhere in this whole nation!
11. “And I tell you that in the very near future, many more like him will come from eastern lands, as well as from the west…literally from everywhere in the world…and will sit down at the table of covenant with Abraham, Isaac and Jacob in the kingdom that comes from heaven.
12. “Meanwhile, the original heirs to the kingdom will be driven deeper into the dark blindness of their elitist, nationalistic religion, where they will weep and grind their teeth in anger at the obvious fact that my covenant is not exclusive, or limited to the people of this belief-system, or of this geographical region.”
13. Then to the centurion Jesus said, “Go…there’s nothing more to say. You have exactly that for which you have believed.” And, sure enough, the servant was fully restored to health at the very instant the healing-word was dispatched.
14. Later, when Jesus went into Peter's house, He saw his mother-in-law lying ill with a fever.
15. So He touched her hand, and instantly the fever left her. She immediately got up and began waiting on Him as her guest.
16. When evening came, they brought to Him many who seemed to be under the power or influence of demons, and He expelled any and all such rebel spirits with a simple, authoritative word, and restored to health all who were sick.
17. And by doing this He fulfilled what was spoken by the prophet Isaiah who said, “He Himself personally took our weaknesses and infirmities and bore away all our diseases.”
18. Now Jesus, when He saw that the great throngs around Him were growing unwieldy, gave orders to cross to the other side of the lake.
19. And as He was about to get into the boat, a religious scholar rushed up to Him and said, “Master, I want to follow You wherever You go.”
20. And Jesus replied to him, “Are you sure about that? You see, foxes have holes in which to live and the birds of the air have their nests, but the Son of Man has no permanent place to lay His head. The urgency of my message keeps me constantly on the move, and rarely allows me to rest. And it forces those who want to keep up with me to have to rough it most of the time because of our vagabond lifestyle.”
21. Another of the disciples standing nearby said to Him, “Lord, my father is old and sick and probably very near death. I need to stay with him until he goes, and once I have buried him and have gotten everything in my house back in order, I’ll catch up with the rest of you.”
22. But Jesus said to him, “If you really are a disciple of mine, you’ll just follow Me in the now and deal with whatever you need to deal with when the time comes…your schedule and plans will be built around life, and not around death.”
23. Then He got into the boat and His disciples accompanied Him.
24. And He immediately fell into a deep sleep once the vessel was launched and, almost as immediately, there arose a violent storm on the sea-like lake. The boat was nearly being submerged by the huge waves, but Jesus was completely undisturbed by what was happening around Him.
25. So they frantically woke Him up and said, “Lord, You’ve got to get up and do something about this storm or we’re all going to die in it!”
26. And, rubbing the sleep from His eyes, He said to them, “Why are you men of the sea so hysterical because of a typical, natural storm? And, more importantly, why is your faith so small?” Then He got up and matter-of-factly told the winds and the waves to settle down, and suddenly the atmosphere became silently still, and the surface of the water became perfectly placid. Then He lay back down and went to sleep.
27. And the men just stood there looking at each other, stunned and bewildered, and said “What kind of Man is this? What kind of authority does He have? Not only do demons and diseases obey Him…even the winds follow His orders, and the sea does what He tells her to do!
28. And when He arrived at the other side in the country of the Gadarenes, two insane men under the control of rebel spirits came out of the tombs to meet Him. They were so fierce and savage that they terrorized anyone who tried to pass that way.
29. And they screamed at Him, “What have You to do with us, Jesus, Son of God? Have You come to torment us before the appointed time when every knee will bow, and every tongue will confess Your Lordship?
30. Now at some distance from where they were, a herd of pigs was grazing.
31. And the demonic rebels begged Him, saying, “If You tell us to leave the bodies of these men, we’ll have to do what You say, but will you at least not make us leave this local area? Command us to take up residence in the bodies of those pigs over there, and we’ll go where you tell us to go.”
32. And He said to them, “Get out of these men right now!” So they came out and went into the pigs and, when they did, the whole herd rushed down the steep bank into the sea and died in the water.
33. The shocked herdsmen immediately fled, went into the town, and reported everything they had seen, including what had happened to the men under the power of the demons.
34. And then the whole town got together and sent a representative group out to meet Jesus and, as soon as they saw Him, they begged Him to depart from their locality.
(The painting at the top is St. Matthew and the Angel by Caravaggio)