Great faith

“Lord, I am not worthy for You to come under my roof, but just say the word, and my servant will be healed.” Matthew viii:4 NAU.

Here’s another instance of Jesus finding great faith in a person who was apparently ‘far’ from the commonwealth of Israel. In his attempt to spur the Jews to believe in their Messiah and to show them how God’s salvation wouldn’t be limited to just one ethnic group, Matthew carefully documents this incident involving a Gentile – a Roman centurion.

When Jesus entered his hometown, Capernaum, a centurion approached Him with a rather strange request, “Lord, my servant is lying paralyzed at home, fearfully tormented.” Why should, after all, an army official bother to get help for a slave unless he cared for human lives? Jesus honored his request and said, “I will come and heal him.” What more could a Jewish rabbi offer than a personal visit to the house of a Gentile army officer who served an occupying force? Even after the resurrection and ascension of Jesus, Peter thought he was performing an extraordinary act of obedience to God by visiting Cornelius’ house (Acts x:28).

The centurion, however, said, “Lord, I am not worthy …”  This man’s humility and his recognition of Jesus’ greatness is admirable. He did not considerable himself worthy to have the ‘Jewish’ Messiah in his house. But he went a step further and declared his faith in the Messiah’s ability to transcend space. There was no need for Jesus to go all the way to his house — “… just say a word, and my servant will be healed.” He went on to illustrate his point by citing an example from his own professional life. He believed that Jesus had authority over every disease just as an army officer had authority over his subordinates. One word from Jesus! That’s all it takes to heal his servant’s paralysis.

Jesus marveled at the faith of this man. “Truly I say to you, I have not found such great faith with anyone in Israel.” And then He declared a “mystery” that was hidden from all until then: The Gentiles will be admitted to God’s family; Jews who reject the Messiah will be excluded from that commonwealth. “I say to you that many will come from east and west, and recline at the table with Abraham, Isaac and Jacob in the kingdom of heaven; but the sons of the kingdom will be cast out into the outer darkness; in that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth” (v 10, 11). Praise God for His inclusive Kingdom that welcomes all who believe in the Messiah! The early church had great difficulty stomaching this notion of “one table” for Jewish and Gentile Christians. And many Christians today find it difficult to believe that Jews who reject the Messiah are out of God’s kingdom.

Jesus then said to the centurion, “Go; it shall be done for you as you have believed.” And the servant was healed that very moment. It’s interesting to see that God’s action on our behalf matches our belief -‘as you have believed.’ Is it any wonder that we don’t receive much from God? When we limit God in our thinking, we limit his power in our lives. But, on the other hand, if we believe what He says about Himself, and have the boldness to act upon that faith, God will surely honour our faith.

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