In Matthew 7:21-23, Jesus said, “Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father in heaven. 22 Many will say to Me in that day, ‘Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in Your name, cast out demons in Your name, and done many wonders in Your name?’ 23 And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness!’” (NKJV)
People often want to know and do God’s will in their lives but they fail to understand that obedience to God’s commandments is His will for their lives. Everything we plan to get involved in should be evaluated through the net of God’s commandments first. If we’ll be tempted or expected to disobey God, we shouldn’t follow that path for our life.
Right before Jesus made this statement in Matthew 7, Jesus said we would know false prophets by their fruits. Basically, a good tree produces good fruit and a bad tree bears bad fruit. Those who bring forth bad fruit will be cut down and thrown into the fire. Jesus was teaching that those who don’t live according to the law of God (those who practice lawlessness) are bearing bad fruit. Good fruit is obedience to God’s commands; it’s not necessarily prophesying in the name of the Lord, casting out demons, doing wonders in His name, etc. It’s simply obedience.
In Matthew 8, Jesus healed and cleansed a man with leprosy. This is not really Hanson’s Disease which is caused by Mycobacterium leprae.[i] What is translated as leprosy in the Bible is tzara’at; it is a discoloration of the skin[ii] and is believed by the Jews to be a result of slander or other sins. It is not caused by bacteria as many have been led to believe. After all, a person could be totally covered with tzara’at and be clean (Lev. 13:13).
Only God can heal a person of tzara’at. Once a leper (metzora) was healed, he had to present himself to the priest in order to be cleansed via the purification ritual for those healed of tzara’at (Lev. 14:1-32). What’s interesting to note here in Matthew 8 is the fact Jesus “cleansed” the metzora. The Greek word for cleanse is katharizo while the Greek word for heal is iaomai. Katharizo is the Greek word used in Matthew 8:3. Even though Jesus had healed and cleansed him of tzara’at, Jesus told him to present himself to the priest to offer the ritual of purification as commanded in the law as a testimony of what Jesus had done for him. In other words, Jesus told him to let his obedience to the law be his testimony to the people! Prior to this man’s cleansing, he was ritually and spiritually unclean. Slander demonstrated the condition of his heart because out of the mouth, the heart speaks. Remember, Jesus said that what comes out of the mouth defiles a man (Matt. 15:18). This metzora was a picture of the living walking dead. This is the condition of all unbelievers.
As Matthew 8 continues, a Roman officer came to Jesus and requested healing for his servant. He said he was unfit to have Jesus come to his home. He told Jesus to give the command and his servant would be healed by the authority and word of Christ. This man had amazing trust in Jesus! Before Jesus told him to go for he had healed his servant at that very moment, Jesus said that many will come from the east and west to take their places at the feast in the Kingdom of Heaven with the patriarchs but they’ll be thrown outside in the dark where people will wail and grind/gnash their teeth.
We need to ask ourselves why this statement is placed here in this passage. For some people, it doesn’t make sense. I think it is a bookend that goes back to what Jesus had said before He came back down from the mountain in Matthew 7.
As mentioned before, non-believers are a snapshot of those who are spiritually dead. They are ritually unclean. Only Jesus can heal and cleanse people of such a condition. They must come to Jesus like the Roman soldier who sought healing for his servant. They must say, “I’m unworthy for you to come into my house (heart)” even though they know they desperately need healing, cleansing, and forgiveness for their sins. They must trust that Jesus has the ability and authority to do this simply by His word. When Jesus returns to earth, His people will be gathered from the four corners of the earth and brought to Jerusalem (Isaiah 11:12; Ps. 107:1-3; Jer. 3:17). Those who trusted Jesus are the true sons of Abraham (Gal. 3:7); only they will be welcome at the marriage supper of the Lamb. Those who practice lawlessness and assume they have the right to come to this table by merit of their birth or the nice things they’ve done will have to stay outside the camp where the lepers—those who are ritually and spiritually dead must be. Their place will be one of darkness. Their place is the lake of fire where there will be weeping and grinding of teeth (Matt. 13:42, 50; Matt. 22:13).