Matthew 8

Read Matthew 8.

Here in the first half of Matthew 8 we have several stories about Jesus healing people. Each of these stories serves a purpose, but the one that always gets me thinking is the story of the centurion’s servant in verses 5-13. 

The first thing that stands out about this story is the man’s humility. A centurion is a Roman soldier who is in charge of 100 other Roman soldiers. That is a very powerful man. He was certainly feared and, probably, deeply respected by everyone who met him or knew him. Of all the people Jesus was willing to visit at home, he was by far the most prestigious.

Despite all of that, the centurion didn’t want Jesus to come to his home because, he said, “I do not deserve to have you come under my roof” (v. 8). He sized up Jesus and had great respect and maybe even some fear of him.

The next impressive thing about this centurion is his faith. That’s what impressed Jesus (v. 10). Consider why Jesus said that he had the greatest faith: Not only does the Centurion believe that Jesus can heal his servant, but he believes that Jesus can do it remotely “But just say the word, and my servant will be healed” he told Jesus in verse 8.

What’s even more interesting, to me, is the centurion’s reason for believing that Jesus can heal remotely. He told us that reason in verse 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.”

That’s it! That was all he said!

So what was his point?

His point was that he understood where Jesus ranked in the spiritual hierarchy.

A centurion does not accomplish things by showing up anywhere there is an issue. No, a centurion gets things done through the soldiers that report to him. If he wants something done, a centurion DOESN’T do it himself; he orders one of his soldiers to do it. That’s the only efficient and effective way to lead 100 people.

What the Centurion was implying was that Jesus was so powerful and so high-ranking spiritually that he can issue orders and stuff will get done.

Did the centurion think that angels would do it? Who knows and it doesn’t matter. What he knew is that Christ can accomplish anything he wants merely by issuing orders. He didn’t even need to know the servant’s name, or his GPS coordinates, or anything. He has the power just to speak and it will happen.

Jesus found his faith amazing. “Truly I tell you, I have not found anyone in Israel with such great faith” he said in verse 10.

What was so great about his faith?

In order for Jesus to heal someone remotely without knowing who the person is or where he resides, Jesus must be God. He must know all things to know who the sick servant is and where he is. He must have God’s authority to be able to accomplish things by issuing commands. Since all creation is under his authority, Jesus can use his authority to accomplish anything he wants.

What amazed Jesus was the centurion’s recognition of who Jesus was and the centurion’s faith in Jesus, not that he believed Jesus could heal. Tons of people believed Jesus could heal, but they were so focused on getting better that the missed what his healing power revealed about Jesus. 

Christ remarked on the implications of this in verses 11-12. This Gentile had greater faith than any of Christ’s other followers. He had greater faith than any of the 12 apostles. He had greater faith than Jesus’ closest friends, Peter, James, and John.

To Christ, he was an example of what was to come. The “many [who] will come from the east and the west” are Gentiles, just like this Roman soldier was. Jesus said that these Gentiles will feast with “Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob in the kingdom of heaven” (verse 11).

But many Jewish people who knew Messiah was coming, who were waiting for his kingdom, who saw Christ’s miracles and heard his words “will be thrown outside, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.” Why? Because they failed to recognize and believe that in that human body named Jesus resided the almighty God.

Have you put your faith in the powerful lordship of Jesus Christ? Do you believe that he can and will do whatever you ask for in faith if it is also God’s will?

Do you ask him in faith to give you what you want and need in his will?

Matthew 8

Today we reading Matthew 8.

After teaching his disciples the difficult ethics of his kingdom to emphasize our need for true spiritual rebirth, Jesus went on a tear, healing people in rapid succession. He healed man who who had leprosy just after coming down the mountain (8:1-4), the servant of a centurion (vv. 5-13), Peter’s mother-in-law (vv. 14-15), and a gaggle of demon-possessed people and others who were ill (vv. 14-16). Matthew told us in verse 17 that Jesus did all this to fulfill what Isaiah prophesied about Messiah in Isaiah 53:4.

In response to Jesus’ teaching and power display, men began offering to follow him. One of them was a prestigious “teacher of the law” (vv. 18-19) who volunteered to go with Jesus everywhere. Jesus told him to get ready for an unsettled life. Every wildlife creature may have its own home, but not Jesus. He owned nothing but the clothes on his back. He found a place for himself and his disciples to sleep every night, but it was a different place every night and none of them ever felt like home (v. 20).

Another would-be disciple wanted to follow Jesus but on his own terms. When he asked to bury his father, there is no indication that his father is dead, dying, or sick. The passage suggests that he is promising to follow Christ later, when he is out from under his father’s authority. Jesus’ answer was, “‘Follow me, and let the dead bury their own dead.’” Both the man’s wish to wait and Christ’s use of the word “dead” suggests that this man’s father was an unbeliever. The man wanted to honor his father first and receive his father’s approval, then follow Jesus when his father’s approval was no longer an issue.

Both of these men were invited by Christ to take risks for the gospel. Christ described discipleship as a chaotic living situation (at best) instead of stable home life and a situation where one must do what God commands even when it costs you the approval of the person whose approval you want the most. This is living by faith. It is counting on God to take care of you and reward you instead of finding those things by the usual human ways. Jesus demonstrated his ability to be trusted, however, by demonstrating his power over nature (vv. 23-27) and over the supernatural world (vv. 28-34). So the “risk” of no home and family disownership was really no risk at all because all things are subject to the power of Jesus, so he can be trusted to take care of you.

Are you struggling with the cost of discipleship? Are you tempted to hide your faith in Christ around friends of colleagues who think that our faith is backward, unscientific, and bigoted? Do you encourage your children to live by faith–go to a Christian college and enter Christian ministry or to find a safer, more conventional career that will provide a stable life. The cost of discipleship is unequally distributed. God calls some disciples to literally lay down their lives for Jesus; others he calls to risk their professional reputation or their economic prosperity and stability. The cost of following Jesus may be higher or lower for you than it is for me but it will cost each of us something.

Do you trust Jesus enough to take the risk?