• Tony Birkhead

Messy Grace Week -4

We’re never more clean with God then when we choose to get messy with people!


Why are so many of us afraid to get our hands messy in the lives of others? What is your greatest fear on this matter? Why is this so?

How can you get your hands dirty in the lives of people who are different from you or others who may not know Christ?


Matthew 8:1-17

When Jesus came down from the mountainside, large crowds followed him. 2 A man with leprosy came and knelt before him and said, “Lord, if you are willing, you can make me clean.” 3 Jesus reached out his hand and touched the man. “I am willing,” he said. “Be clean!” Immediately he was cleansed of his leprosy. 4 Then Jesus said to him, “See that you don’t tell anyone. But go, show yourself to the priest and offer the gift Moses commanded, as a testimony to them.” 5 When Jesus had entered Capernaum, a centurion came to him, asking for help. 6 “Lord,” he said, “my servant lies at home paralyzed, suffering terribly.” 7 Jesus said to him, “Shall I come and heal him?” 8 The centurion replied, “Lord, I do not deserve to have you come under my roof. But just say the word, and my servant will be healed. 9 For I myself am a man under authority, with soldiers under me. I tell this one, ‘Go,’ and he goes; and that one, ‘Come,’ and he comes. I say to my servant, ‘Do this,’ and he does it.” 10 When Jesus heard this, he was amazed and said to those following him, “Truly I tell you, I have not found anyone in Israel with such great faith. 11 I say to you that many will come from the east and the west, and will take their places at the feast with Abraham, Isaac and Jacob in the kingdom of heaven. 12 But the subjects of the kingdom will be thrown outside, into the darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.” 13 Then Jesus said to the centurion, “Go! Let it be done just as you believed it would.” And his servant was healed at that moment. 14 When Jesus came into Peter’s house, he saw Peter’s mother-in-law lying in bed with a fever. 15 He touched her hand and the fever left her, and she got up and began to wait on him. 16 When evening came, many who were demon-possessed were brought to him, and he drove out the spirits with a word and healed all the sick. 17 This was to fulfill what was spoken through the prophet Isaiah: “He took up our infirmities and bore our diseases.”


Read Matthew 8:1-4.

What did the leper believe to be true about Jesus (v. 2)?

Based on what you know about leprosy, why is it worth noting that Jesus “reached out his hand and touched the man” (v. 3)? Read Leviticus 13:1-2,45-46 for insight.

What do you think Jesus’ touch meant to the leper? What does Jesus’ kindness toward this leper tell us about His community?

Victims of leprosy in biblical times were outcasts from cities and towns and from interaction with others. It was believed that to touch a leper would make one “unclean.” Yet in this instant, rather than Jesus becoming unclean, the leper became clean. This experience reveals at least two things about Jesus: that He is powerful and gracious. Jesus came for those society had discarded, “The healthy do not need a doctor, but the sick do. I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance” (Luke 5:31-32).

Read Matthew 8:5-9.

How did the centurion’s response in verses 8-9 display his faith? How did it display his humility?

What must the centurion have believed about Jesus to recognize His authority over all things—including diseases and sickness?

Are we ever guilty of bringing our requests before God and instructing Him how to respond? Was this the kind of faith Jesus credited to the centurion? If not, how was his different?

A noun form of the same Greek verb translated in this verse “have believed” is the Greek word “pisteuo.” When someone is said to have believed, we often just mean that the person believes something is true—a mere intellectual acknowledging of the fact. However, when Jesus said to the centurion “you have believed,” He was describing the centurion’s personal trust in Him. The centurion believed Jesus could heal his servant if He chose to. He believed Jesus only needed to speak, and that at His command, the servant would be well. He was right. Believing requires more than knowing the truth. It requires trusting the truth, and ultimately, the Truth Himself.

Read Matthew 8:10-13.

Compare the leper with the centurion in their encounters with Jesus—their problem and social standing, their faith, and Jesus’ response. How were they similar? How were they different?

What do the contrasting reputations—yet similar dilemmas—of the two men indicate about Jesus’ love and compassion for all people?

At the time of this healing with the centurion, faith in Jesus’ authority had already begun to spread to people outside of Israel, which was perhaps a sign of the nations gathering together according to God’s ultimate plan and purposes. We see further evidence of this in verse 11 as Jesus responds to the centurion with a description of the coming feast to be had in the kingdom of heaven—a foreshadowing of Psalm 96 and the Book of Revelation to a time and place in which there will be no more pain, tears or even death. Throughout the remainder of His ministry, Jesus continues to confront suffering and injustices—often through the miracles of healing. But these are not only a foreshadowing of the coming age. They are also a call for us, as Jesus’ followers and His body—the church—on earth, to view such brokenness with the same sadness, yet hope—desiring for all to experience the restoration and grace we will one day receive fully in Jesus, and pouring out our lives in self-sacrificial service to those around us, bringing His kingdom to earth as we do.

Read Matthew 8:14-17.

Was Jesus only, or even primarily, concerned with people’s physical healing? If not, what else was He aiming to heal and restore?

As followers of Jesus, how can we address emotional and spiritual hurts and needs by first addressing those that are physical? What would be the danger of focusing solely on one without acknowledging the other?

By placing emphasis, not only on physical needs, but on spiritual needs as well, what message do we send to the world about the brevity of our physical lives in comparison to eternity?

These stories remind us that God is always busy in our world—acting, not only to heal and restore our physical selves, but our spiritual selves as well, just as Jesus addressed both people’s physical states and faiths. In the same way, as we work to meet needs, alleviate suffering and pray for divine healing and intervention in our lives, we must remember that our primary responsibility as followers of Jesus Christ is to point them to a relationship with Him—the ultimate and only fulfillment of every need.


What’s keeping you from getting messy?

  • Are you fearful you won’t be clean? John 13:14-15

  • Are you worried what others will think of your choice to get messy? Proverbs 29:25

  • Are you too busy to be bothered by the messy? 2 Corinthians 5:17-20


Pray that God will give you the opportunities this week to step into people’s lives with truth and grace.


Matthew 8:1-17

8:2. What is meant by “leprosy” is difficult to identify. The Greek term can refer to several conditions, ranging from fungal infections to Hansen’s Disease. The OT law required lepers to be isolated from society (Lv 13:45-46). By kneeling before Jesus and addressing Him as Lord (Gk “kurios,” the Greek translation of the Hebrew name Yahweh), the man recognized Jesus as far more than just a man. His confidence in Jesus’ ability to heal his condition hints that his act of worship involved full recognition of Jesus’ deity. After all, only God was capable of healing lepers in the OT (Ex 4:6-7; Num 12:10-16; 2Ki 5:1-15, esp. v. 7). The man’s qualification, “if You are willing,” may indicate that other so-called healers had mistreated or failed him.

8:3. Although Jesus frequently healed by touch (v. 15; 9:20,25), He could heal by command and even at great distance from the sufferer (8:5-13; 9:6). Touching a leper was an expression of boldness and deep compassion since doing so was prohibited by OT law (Lv 5:3).

8:4. By being inspected and declared clean by the priest, the healed man could authenticate the miracle that Jesus performed.

8:5-7. Sometime (Matthew did not tell us exactly when) after the cleansing of the leper, Jesus returned to the city of Capernaum (pronounced, kuh PUHR nay uhm), a center of travel and trade on the northern shore of the Sea of Galilee. News of Jesus’ miracles not only followed Him, but also preceded Him. Jesus had no sooner entered the city than a second petitioner, a Roman centurion (the commander of about a 100 Roman soldiers), came to Him. The officer was likely responsible for the soldiers garrisoned in the city, which Herod Antipas, one of Rome’s Jewish puppet governors, had been charged by the emperor to maintain by law and order.

It would not have been unusual for a Roman officer responsible for keeping the peace to approach a Jewish teacher whose reputation for drawing controversial crowds was well known. However, this Gentile was on an entirely different mission, which would have been every bit as remarkable as a Jewish leper abandoning his isolation to approach Jesus (vv. 1-4). The centurion had not come policing Jesus, but pleading with Him!

Why would a representative of Rome’s occupying army come urgently begging a controversial citizen of a small and troublesome nation for help? The mystery was clarified as soon as the centurion spoke. He approached Jesus with remarkable respect, submissively calling Him Lord. Then he spoke of his great concern for a servant whom he had left lying at his home paralyzed and in terrible agony. Most of the Jewish crowd who watched the amazing sight of a centurion turning to Jesus would not only have questioned his right, but also the sincerity of his confession. Jesus, just as He did with the leper, affirmed His willingness to help. He immediately answered, “I will come and heal him.”

8:8. Likely those following Him (v. 10) did not anticipate the centurion’s response to Jesus’ statement. The man said, “I am not worthy to have You come under my roof,” an amazing attitude for a Roman commander. His statement possibly showed a sense of personal unworthiness to host the Lord in his home. Or perhaps the centurion simply was recognizing the ritual uncleanness that would occur if Jesus entered a Gentile’s house. There is, however, no need to guess just how far the centurion’s faith had come as he turned to Jesus for help. He stated his conviction that if Jesus would only say the word, his servant would be cured. Astonishing. Remarkable. How great was his faith in Jesus!

8:9. The centurion based his belief in Jesus’ authority on his own position of power in the military. He knew his power was the result of his commission in the army of Rome. He was under authority. He was not surprised, therefore, that when he issued an order, whether to soldiers under his command or to a slave under his control, that they obeyed. His command was the same as if the emperor had spoken. Just as the centurion commanded others and they obeyed his orders, he also believed Jesus could command his servant’s illness to be cured on the spot and it would happen. It was enough for him to believe that Jesus, like himself, was under authority; but that unlike him, Jesus was under God’s authority for ministry. When Jesus spoke the word, the centurion had no doubt the servant’s paralysis would be gone in an instant.

8:10. Upon hearing the centurion’s unconditional trust (“only say the word” v. 8) Jesus was amazed. He literally marveled at the centurion’s faith. He marveled because no one else in Israel had faith in Him as did this Gentile soldier. A sermon preached can be very effective, but seeing one lived is powerful indeed. Pointing to the centurion’s faith, Jesus emphasized (the meaning of “I assure you”) to the Jewish crowd that He had “not found anyone in Israel with so great a faith!”

8:11-12. The Bible pictures the ultimate and eternal victory of God as a great heavenly feast or banquet (see Matt. 22:1-14; Luke 14:15-16; Rev. 19:9), which God will share with His family. Unfortunately, the Jews of Jesus’ day were convinced that this honor was a national one belonging to Israel alone. Just as He had previously said, Jesus’ emphatic (“I tell you”) told them that God’s banquet is not limited by geographic, ethnic, cultural, racial, or national constraints. He said, “many will come from east and west, and recline at the table.” In light of His commendation of the centurion’s faith, Jesus indicated that Gentiles (from east and west) along with believing Jews will come in faith to Jesus and enjoy fellowship as part of God’s kingdom.

This participation in God’s kingdom is only through faith. Some of the Jews would not be included in the blessings of the kingdom because of their unbelief and rejection of Jesus. Jesus specifically warned the Jews that they could not depend on their national heritage as sons of the kingdom. This phrase was a common self-identifying idiom for the Jews’ belief that they were part of God’s covenant by birth. Apart from exercising the same kind of individual faith in Him they had just seen in the centurion, Jesus warned that they would not enter the kingdom of heaven. Rather, they would experience outer darkness of weeping and gnashing of teeth. Jesus’ message was clear. Salvation is not a matter of a birthright but a right-birth. It is being “born again” (John 3:7).

8:13. Almost as an afterthought, Jesus turned to the centurion and directed him to go because his servant was cured that very moment. He had believed Jesus was the answer to the servant’s need, and Jesus rewarded the centurion’s faith in Him. The amazing faith, which had shamed an entire nation (v. 10), but brought joy to Jesus, now propelled a joyful soldier home to celebrate the healing with his family. Praise God from whom all blessings flow!

More often than we expect, we find ourselves in the same situation as the leper and centurion. We need help we cannot find through resources, such as religious institutions, government organizations, or family, friends, and acquaintances. In what seems nearly too good to be true, we are reassured by the same promises of God that brought hope to these two men so long ago. Jesus not only enters our darkness, but rejoices when we turn to Him with our deepest needs. The good news is that He reaches out with a helping and healing touch that is best for our lives and God’s kingdom . We can trust Him to meet our needs in a way consistent with His great love for us and His infinite understanding of all the events of our lives. Why not accept His love right now? What do you have to lose but your need?

8:14-15. Peter was married (see 1 Cor. 9:5). This speaks of the normalcy of marriage among the Jews. The rabbis said that marriage was an obligation because of the command in Gen. 2:24.

8:16. The end of the Sabbath had come (see Mark 1:32) and the Jews who were taught that healing was not allowed on the Sabbath were now coming to Peter’s front door. The Sabbath began at twilight on Friday and ended at twilight on Saturday. This follows the order of the days of creation in Genesis 1:5, 8, 13, 19, 23, 31. The phrase “many who were demon-possessed … healed all who were ill” indicates that there was always a distinction made between demon possession and physical disease in the New Testament. Sometimes demons cause physical problems, but certainly not always. Physical ailments, injuries, and diseases do not necessarily have spiritual causes.

8:17. This is a quote from Isaiah 53:4, but not from the Masoretic Text (Hebrew) or the Septuagint (Greek translation). This is the only place in the New Testament this verse is quoted. This is used by many modern groups to affirm that physical healing is inherent in the Atonement. God is a supernatural God who acts in the lives of people for good. There is not enough Scriptural evidence based on this verse to affirm that all diseases on all occasions are out of the will of God and will be cured if we just respond with enough faith or prayer (see 2 Cor. 12:8-10; 2 Tim. 4:20). Psalm 103:3b is also often quoted in connection with this subject. There is a Hebrew poetic parallel relationship between 103:3a and 3b. They both refer to spiritual forgiveness. In the Old Testament, physical ailments were used as a symbol for spiritual problems (Isa. 1:5–6).



The QT Guide is designed to help you MOVE with God through Bible Reading, reflection and prayer. It can be completed in about 9 minutes.

UPWARD: 1⁄2 Minute Preparing Your Heart:Invest the first 30 seconds preparing your heart. You might pray, “Lord, cleanse my heart so You can speak to me through the Scriptures. Make my mind alert, my soul active, and my heart responsive. Surround me with Your presence during this time.

FORWARD: 4 Minutes Listening To God:Take the next four minutes to read the Bible. Your greatest need is to hear a word from God. Allow the Word to strike fire in your heart. Meet the Author!

INWARD: 2 1/2 Minutes Talking To God (Prayer):After God has spoken through His Book, then speak to Him in prayer.

OUTWARD: 2 Minutes Preparing your Action:Ask yourself this question: How can I take today’s Quiet Time and put it into action throughout my day?


The heart of man plans his way, but the Lord establishes his steps.

Proverbs 16:9

“The shortest distance between two points is a straight line”. We all learned this in geometry. The problem is, we often try to apply this geometric principle to our lives. We make our lists, set our goals, map out the path to get there and off we go, praying for God’s assistance in getting us there. Everything’s fine as long as it all goes according to plan.

But the truth is, we don’t live in some 2 dimensional, theoretical plane that adheres to these geometric laws. Life is messy. We live in a world of all kinds of forces. Relationships, finances, health issues, fears, desires, sin, injustice, and all kinds of things pulling us in different directions. So what happens when our straight line from point A to point B is acted upon by all of these other forces? Our lines get crooked, and we don’t like crooked lines.

When our lines get crooked we get upset, disappointed, mad, frustrated, we play the “what if” or “if only” game. We have regrets, we give up, or we get depressed. Sometimes, we feel guilty and feel like we’ve let God down because after all, God draws these neat and tidy little straight lines from point A to point B, right?

Well, if God’s will is this straight line from point A to point B, what about Joseph? He became the most powerful man in Egypt only behind Pharaoh. But Joseph didn’t chart that course and map that out. He didn’t graduate from Egyptville High School with honors and attend the University of Egypt Law School. Nope, let’s see, he made his brothers mad, got thrown in a pit, was sold into slavery, got a good job, got taken advantage of by a bad woman, got thrown in jail, interpreted a dream, was forgotten, got another good job, became rich and powerful and saved his people. That circuitous route wasn’t Joseph’s plan, but it WAS God’s plan, and it took an entire lifetime.

So, maybe we should stop being disappointed that we haven’t gotten from point A to point B and stop feeling like we’ve let God down. Let’s acknowledge that His ways are not our ways and REST in the fact that, those straight lines… WE DREW THOSE… and GOD DRAWS CROOKED LINES.

Adapted From: http://shortdailydevotions.com


Then he said to his disciples, “The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few; therefore pray earnestly to the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest.”

Matthew 9:37-38

My brother-in-law and sister-in-law are farmers. Currently, they’re right in the middle of harvest. From sun up to sun down, they will be working the fields. They just finished wheat, and soybeans are coming in the next couple of weeks. We won’t see much of them for a while. It would be much easier for them to stay inside. It would be a lot less work to ignore the crop. However, to accomplish their mission, they absolutely must get into the fields and do the work. It means discomfort. It means long days. It means hard work.

To ignore the harvest is to allow the crop to die. And ultimately, ignoring the harvest is to allow their family to die; they depend on it. The harvest is of utmost importance and it would be absolutely ridiculous to ignore the crop they’ve worked so hard to produce. And sadly, this describes many Christians. We pray for salvations. We pray for laborers. We even pray for opportunities to share the Good News. But how often do we ignore the harvest?

How many social groups have we been a part of that have been EXCLUSIVELY Christian by accident? We do so much prep work for our harvest, but when it’s time to do the work do we sit in idle complacency? Recently, my wife and I have started being very intentional about reaching out to people who would never come to church. It’s messy, it’s hard, and it’s not comfortable. We had a crisis recently when someone we were trying to minister to stole jewelry from my wife’s jewelry box. Our Christian friends would never have done that. But our Christian friends don’t need saving anymore (Mark 2:17). God hasn’t called us to idleness when there’s a harvest ready to be yielded. God has called us to get out into the fields and yield the crop that He is preparing.

Adapted From: http://shortdailydevotions.com


Then he poured water into a basin and began to wash the disciples’ feet and to wipe them with the towel that was wrapped around him. He came to Simon Peter, who said to him, “Lord, do you wash my feet?” Jesus answered him, “What I am doing you do not understand now, but afterward you will understand.” Peter said to him, “You shall never wash my feet.” Jesus answered him, “If I do not wash you, you have no share with me.” Simon Peter said to him, “Lord, not my feet only but also my hands and my head!”

John 13:5-9

Jesus knelt down before the twelve bewildered men, took off his shirt, and tied it around his waist. Then he pulled out a servant’s basin and began washing the men’s feet. You see, they were about to eat supper when this happened. And in those days, they didn’t sit on chairs and at tables like most of us do. They reclined on cushions and propped themselves up on an elbow. This meant that messy, sandaled feet were rude and unhygienic. Because of their sandals, people’s feet would be caked with dirt or feces from animals. Usually, washing guests’ feet was a servant’s job. So you can imagine the disciples’ surprise when their Master knelt down to do the work. In fact, this wasn’t simply a surprise, it was actually embarrassing to them.

Think about it like this. Imagine you have a famous guest who’s arrived at your house to eat dinner. This is someone you respect, admire, and want to emulate. The kind of person who you’d give up pretty much anything to spend some time around. When they arrive at your house to eat, however, they ask to use your bathroom. You point them in the right direction. But you soon grow uncomfortable, because ten minutes go by before they finally come out! Unsure, you ask if everything is okay. They reply, “Oh yes, everything is wonderful. But I noticed your toilet was very dirty, so I cleaned it for you.”

Wouldn’t you be horrified and embarrassed? Obviously you didn’t invite them over for dinner to clean your toilet—you invited them over to honor and learn from them. This is exactly what Peter felt when Jesus knelt to wash his feet. So when Peter told Jesus, “You shall never wash my feet,” it’s easy to understand why. In fact, it sounds noble and even socially proper. However, Jesus’s reply should reframe all of our minds. He says to Peter, “If I do not wash you, you have no share with me.” Jesus shows us that we should be needy, not noble. None of us can come to Jesus believing we don’t need washed. We come to Jesus not because we are worthy, but because of our desperation.

Adapted From: http://shortdailydevotions.org


Then I heard the voice of the Lord saying, “Whom shall I send? And who will go for us?” And I said, “Here am I. Send me!”

Isaiah 6:8

I think it’s fairly obvious that the society we live in is very self-centered, and this same characteristic can be present in a church. Whenever a local body of believers develops an inward focus, its fruitfulness in ministry begins to decrease, and each member’s Christian walk is hindered. Many believers want their church to be cozy and comfortable. They come to listen to a nice sermon, fellowship with friends, and have their needs met. But God never intended for the gathering of His people to be like a country club; He calls us to join an army that will bring the gospel into enemy territory.

An effective church—one that poses a real threat to the enemy—is a body of discipled people who have been taught the truth of Scripture, helped to mature spiritually, and trained for service. But all this is accomplished for the purpose of going out into the world, not for becoming a self-contained sanctuary of Christian comfort.

The urgency of the Lord’s command and the desperate condition of humanity should motivate us to leave the safety of our Christian fellowships and deliver the message of salvation through Jesus. To avoid this responsibility is to miss the Father’s plan for your life and the opportunity to help build His kingdom.

None of us want to waste time or energy on trivial things and thereby miss the exciting fulfillment of God’s will. He has called us, not to a life of comfortable tradition, but to an adventure of obedience. Answer His call—you’ll help fill His kingdom with people from every tribe and nation.

Adapted From: http://intouch.org


While He was still speaking, someone came from the ruler of the synagogue's house, saying to him, "Your daughter is dead. Do not trouble the Teacher." But when Jesus heard it, He answered him, saying, "Do not be afraid; only believe, and she will be made well.

Luke 8:49-50

Have you ever experienced a time when everything was going well, and suddenly the bottom dropped out? Maybe it was a tragedy, such as the death of a loved one, the loss of your career, or bad news from your doctor.

If so, then you will find yourself in the touching story of how Jesus dealt with a man named Jairus. Everything was going wonderfully in his life—until his beloved twelve-year-old daughter grew very ill. No doubt he had called in the finest physicians, but she grew more and more ill. There was nothing he could do.

We don’t know whether Jairus was a believer in Jesus. The Bible doesn’t say. Being the head of the synagogue, he would have been a man of faith, a religious man. He had probably heard about Jesus and believed that he could save his daughter’s life. So he found the Lord and begged Him to go and lay hands on her. He had faith in Jesus and placed his complete trust upon Him.

Jairus’s faith was dramatic, especially when the story shifts, and it is revealed that his daughter had died. Still, Jairus believed the Lord could intervene. At this particular time in the ministry of the Lord, He had not raised anyone from the dead. He had healed people, but there had not been any resurrections. I love what Jesus said to Jairus at this point: “Do not be afraid; only believe, and she will be made well” (Luke 8:50 NKJV).

Jairus reached out to Christ and found what he needed from Him. His little girl was raised from the dead. It is a glorious story, and it serves as a simple reminder that everyone needs the Lord. Some people don’t think they do. But in reality, everyone desperately needs Him.of us. The answer is not within; the problem is within. So when we give in to temptation, we have ourselves to thank.

Adapted From: http://harvest.org


One of the best ways to fight temptation and grow in your daily walk with Jesus is to memorize His Word. Begin to commit His words to your memory this week.

Memorizing may be as simple as repeating the passage aloud 10 times each day or writing it 5 times each day. It may be that you place a 3x5 card on your mirror to remind you each day. Whatever it takes you won’t be let down with His Word in your mind and heart. Consider this…

Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, God making his appeal through us. We implore you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God.

2 Corinthians 5:20

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