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News for Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Sunday School Lesson — Bible Studies for Life
April 27: Hope Found
By Alec Cort
senior pastor, Bethel, Greenbrier

Focal Passage: Matthew 8:1-13

One would think that with all the social media today that loneliness would dissipate and yet sadness, depression, and even suicide are still among us. The advent of Facebook has not prevented people from feeling hopeless and disconnected. No amount of texting can heal the hurts of the past. Many turn to consumerism but are sad to find that hope cannot be found in the accumulation of possessions.

In Matthew 8:1-4 large crowds were drawn to Jesus’ teaching and miracles. A leper approached Jesus believing that Jesus could heal him. In first century Palestine lepers were ostracized from society. To even come within 10 feet of one was considered dangerous. Most lived in isolation. If they did approach people they had to loudly announce their coming and watch as everyone made sure to keep their distance. Lepers were not spoken to. They were considered the dregs, refuse, and outcasts.

Are there any socially unacceptable among us today? Does society warmly embrace those with HIV, cancer, mutilated veterans, mental retardation, or other conditions that affect the way they look, act, or even smell? What about weird or eccentric people? How quick are we to befriend those who are so different that most others shrink away from them? Families with handicapped children are often left out of the social spectrum due to the inconvenience their child poses to the activities. Some churches will refer families to other churches that are “more equipped” to minister to their specific needs.

Years ago as a student Pastor I helped out with a children’s Vacation Bible School class. There was a boy in the class with special needs who required one on one attention. I remember being frustrated because of the constant distractions he would cause. What was I to do? I was responsible to teach all of the children. My sin was looking at him as an inconvenience instead of seeing an opportunity to show God’s love.

My assistant was a former student who became my teacher. I watched as she patiently and compassionately worked with this young man, no matter the difficulty, for the entire week. I nearly wept when he hugged me at week’s end and said, “Thank you. This was the greatest time of my life.”

My former student followed Jesus’ example. He touched the leper and showed him compassion when no one else would. As believers we should seek out those in need and offer them hope by noticing them, loving them, and helping them to the best of our ability.

In Matthew 8:5-9 the fact that the Roman Centurion addressed Jesus as Lord shows that he recognized something about Jesus most Romans did not. This man believed that just as he had command over his troops, Jesus could command healing from afar. Feeling unworthy to have Jesus in his home he asked Jesus to “just say the word” and his sick servant would be healed. His faith is reminiscent of James 1:6 because he asked without doubting. Jesus loves faith and humility. In Matthew 8:10-13 we read that Jesus was amazed by the centurion’s faith and immediately answered his request.

What if the Centurion never asked? We have not because we ask not (James 4:2-3). Jesus pointed out that “religious” people don’t ask. We can go to church every time the door is open, sing in the choir, teach a Sunday School class, participate in every program but if we lack compassion for those in need what good is it? If we don’t practice our faith by bringing them to Jesus what have we accomplished? May we humble ourselves, have mercy on the downtrodden (Micah 6:8).

Hope returns to the hopeless when He uses our compassion and faith to meet them at the point of their need. 

— Cort is senior pastor of Bethel Baptist Church, Greenbrier.

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