THE FIRST CASE—THE LEPER
The first case concerns a leper who came to the Lord Jesus asking to be cleansed (8:1-4). It is very significant that this case is mentioned first. No doubt Matthew deliberately recorded it first. According to Leviticus 13 and 14, it was quite difficult for a leper to be cleansed. But in Matthew 8 it was very easy: the leper simply came, asked the Lord Jesus to cleanse him, and He did it. What does this signify? It signifies that all who would participate in the kingdom are lepers. You must realize that you are a leper. We are all lepers. But hallelujah! the Lord Jesus can build up His kingdom with cleansed lepers! The Lord Jesus can establish the kingdom of the heavens with and among cleansed lepers. In other words, He can change lepers into heavenly citizens.
Don’t you have the sense within that you are a leper? Don’t think that all the people who enter into the kingdom of the heavens are marvelous. No! They are lepers. You need to realize that unless you are a leper you have no share in the kingdom of the heavens. The kingdom of the heavens does not call saints; it calls lepers. This realization will truly humble us. We all must humble ourselves and say, "Lord Jesus, by my natural birth I am not worthy of Your kingdom. By nature I am an unclean leper."
No one except the Lord Jesus can cleanse the lepers. We are all lepers, but we have been cleansed by His blood and by His life. According to Leviticus 14, the cleansing of leprosy required the blood of a bird and water. The blood represents the blood of the Lord Jesus, and the water represents His life. We are cleansed by His blood and by His life. First Corinthians 6:9-11 says that the unclean people—in a sense we may call them lepers—have no inheritance in the kingdom. However, we should remember the "but." "But ye are washed, but ye are sanctified, but ye are justified." Today, by the Lord’s redemption we are no longer lepers; we are citizens of the heavenly kingdom. The first case recorded by Matthew indicates that the citizens of the kingdom of the heavens are lepers who have been cleansed.
THE SECOND CASE—THE CENTURION
Now we come to the second case, also not found in the Gospel of John. This is the case of a Roman centurion, a Gentile, whose servant was sick (8:5-13). The centurion asked the Lord Jesus to come and heal his servant. When the Lord Jesus indicated His willingness to come, the centurion said, "Lord, I am not fit that You should enter under my roof; but only speak a word, and my servant boy shall be healed. For I also am a man under authority, having under myself soldiers; 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" (8:8-9). This is very meaningful. It indicates the centurion recognized that the Lord Jesus had real authority over heaven and earth. This case regarding authority is found in Matthew because it illustrates the kingdom. The kingdom is the authority of the Lord Jesus. At the end of Matthew, the Lord Jesus said, "All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. Go therefore and disciple all the nations" (Matt. 28:18-19). When we go out to preach the gospel, we must go with the authority of the Lord Jesus. All authority is in His hands.
The case of the centurion illustrates faith. The people in the kingdom must be people of faith. What is faith? It is difficult to define faith. Although there is a definition of faith in Hebrews 11:1, we may read it several times and still not understand what faith is. Stated simply, faith is the realization of what the Lord Jesus is. Whenever you realize the Lord Jesus in a certain way, spontaneously you have faith as a result of that realization. The centurion said that there was no need for the Lord Jesus to come to his house, because he realized that He was the highest authority. All authority was in His hand. If He would say the word, everything would be well. This is faith. This is an illustration of realizing what the Lord Jesus is.
(The Kingdom, Chapter 21, by Witness Lee)