Matthew 8: 5-13 — All of Us Are Equal in Our Sin, So Why Do We Act Like Some Don’t Deserve Jesus’ Grace?

Posted: November 4, 2015 in Gospel of Matthew

Matthew 8:5-13
The Faith of the Centurion

Have you ever really thought about racial hatred and how incompatible it is with the Christian faith? There are those over the centuries that have used the Christian faith and perverted it to justify racism and many other social injustices. However, real Christianity and racism cannot co-exist. Our faith teaches us that all men are created in the image of God and are thus deserving of God’s grace. No one is excluded. Have you ever thought about how social typecasting is incompatible with the Christian faith? There are simply no one out there is not deserving of the love of Jesus Christ. Prostitutes, homosexuals, murderers, adulterers, people from impoverished backgrounds, people from different cultures, none of them are to be written off. Just because you grow up on the wrong side of the tracks, not an exclusion. Just because you lived the party lifestyle most of your life, not an exclusion. All of us are sinners not deserving anything from God. Just one sin condemns the rich and powerful to hell. Just one sin condemns the poor and wretched to hell. Just one sin condemns the prom queen to hell. Just one sin condemns the ugly duckling to hell. We all are sinners the first time we sin. None of us deserves the grace of Jesus Christ. We are all equal in our sin nature and we are all given freedom from our just and deserved sentence of hell. No matter how high and mighty or how lowly, we are all equal in our need for a Savior. That is the central focus of today’s passage.

Today, we continue on in Matthew Chapter 8, when we encounter the powerful scripture passage known as “The Faith of the Centurion” in Matthew 8:5-13. In this Scripture passage, we see several important messages. First, the Roman soldier did not let anything get in his way when it came to reaching Jesus. Second, there is no one that gets excluded from Jesus’ family just because of who they are or what they have done. Third, we see a military man submitting to the authority of one that is greater than he. This speaks volumes to us as we attempt to follow Jesus. Finally, this passage is so completely a huge exposition on faith. From this passage, we will see that all who have faith in Jesus as the ultimate authority in our lives will open up the floodgates of his healing power in our lives. You will see that complete faith leads to complete blessing. It does not matter who you are or what you look like, all it takes is faith, real faith in Jesus Christ. Let’s look at the passage:

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.
The first thing that we see here is that the Roman officer could have let many obstacles stand between him and Jesus. He could have let pride get in the way. He was a Roman officer after all. He was an officer in the most powerful army in the world at that moment in history. Rather, he showed humility. He could have shown doubt. Jesus after all was a prophet from a people group that the Romans had conquered. How powerful could Jesus be? Rather, he had faith. He could have said these people of Palestine are backward mongrels. In other words, he could have used racial superiority as a reason not to go to Jesus. He could have realized that to the Jews that he was a pagan and that he had no right to approach Jesus. Rather, he was bold. Maybe, he was in the beginning of questioning his own worthless paganism and maybe he was searching for something real to believe in. Maybe he had seen the miracles performed by Jesus. His searching became real when one of his beloved servants became ill. Maybe, just maybe this Jesus thing is real. I will go to him. He was bold and let no obstacle get in his way. There was this established disdain that the Jews had for their Roman occupiers. They hated Romans. This centurion though would not let that stop him. He was going to see this Jesus. What is stopping you from meeting Jesus? Do you feel drawn to Him? But do you feel as though, he will not accept you? Do you feel that your friends might ridicule you for seeking a change in your life? Come to Jesus. He will take you seriously! He wants you to come to Him.

The next thing you notice here is that Jesus is saying that the Jews did not have the franchise on God. They were His chosen people because they were to take the message to the world and it was through them that the Messiah would come. However, the Jews had made it into something exclusionary. In Jesus’ day and the Jewish culture of which he was a part, people were excluded from the mainstream society and the power associated with it if they were judged to have sinned and were permanently excluded from that day forward. And, certainly, Jews felt a sense of pride over the fact that God had made them his chosen people. To the Jews, this pride led to prejudice against anyone who was not Jewish. This, of course, was not God’s intent for making them his chosen people. Leave it to us humans to pervert what God had intended! The most hated of first century non-Jews of course were the Romans who had controlled all of Palestine for many decades by the time Jesus’ ministry was in full swing. In this passage, Jesus is radically swinging the gates open to all; not just the Jews. Throwing open the gates of salvation to all. By associating with those who were unsavory in Judaism of the day, Jesus was saying that all are welcome at his Father’s table. He was saying that Roman soldiers were welcome to salvation, just as the Jew. He was saying that small children were welcome. Prostitutes were welcome, people of other races and religions were welcome. Jesus was saying through his ministry, all have fallen short of deserving heaven, even the most pious. No one has done enough good to deserve heaven no matter your station in life. All fall short of the glory of God. We all need a Savior. No one has done anything bad enough that does not get forgiven when we come to God humbly beseeching him for his grace. For it is only through grace that we gain access to Heaven. Jesus is saying this is true for all – not just the pious Jew. For us today, that means that no matter who you are, where you live, what the color of your skin is, who you hang out with, it is never too late to come to Jesus and beg Him for His grace to be extended to you. He will give His grace to those who seek Him in faith as the Son of God, the Risen Lord.

The next thing that jumps out is how some of the concepts of military command are necessary as part of our relationship to Jesus. In this Scripture passage, when the centurion says, ““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,” he speaks of the key elements of an efficient military. First, when he says he does not deserve to have Jesus under his roof, he is recognizing Jesus as a higher authority and to have Jesus come into house would mean that he is in some way equal to Jesus. Thus, he is submitting himself to Jesus’ authority as all military personnel must submit to their leaders. If the rank and file soldiers do not do this, chaos would ensue and military goals would not be accomplished. Same with our walk with Jesus, if we do not submit totally to his rule over our lives, and do what we want, we miss the goal of having the joys of eternal life. Second, because of the submission to authority within the military, the centurion tells us that there is faith by leaders that their commands will be carried out because those who submit to authority trust their leadership. They believe in the common goals and feel that their leaders would not purposely lead them to harm. Same with us and Jesus, his teachings should be followed knowing that Jesus, the ultimate leader, will lead us to our goal and keep us from harm.

This passage of Scripture also is a great display of faith. The centurion says to Jesus, “Just say the word and my servant will be healed.” This is such great faith. No greater faith does any of Jesus’ own people have. The centurion has so much faith in Jesus’ power that he believes that by Jesus’ word alone it will happen. He has the trust in Jesus just as our young children have faith in their parents. When our kids were little, if we said it, it must be true. The centurion’s faith, a child’s faith in his parents, are the kind of faith that we should have in God’s Word. The centurion shows faith not only by acknowledging his own unworthiness but also by recognizing that Jesus’ power is so great that this request is small to Him. The centurion reasons, however, from what he knows: he himself can issue commands and receive obedience because he is under authority, that is, backed by the full authority of the Roman Empire, which he represents to his troops. In the same way, the authority of Israel’s God backs Jesus, and a mere command from his lips banishes powers in subjection under him, such as sickness.

Do we have such faith to recognize the greatness of God’s power? Those who are submitted to Jesus’ will may act on it today, recognizing that the authority he provides to carry out his work is his and not our own.

Do we do it God’s way? Do we believe that we should love all, including our enemies, because that was what Jesus did? Do we do this because we recognize Jesus’ supreme authority over our lives and totally submit to his instruction? Do we have child-like faith that following his teachings will lead us to eternal life? Or do we just love those who are like us? Do we just love those who can help us out? Do we want to rule our own lives and fuss at everyone else because things don’t go our way? Do we believe Jesus just so far?

Which way do you want it? My way? Your way? How has that worked so far? Jesus, you are my Lord, help me to begin or continue the process of lessening my own desires and increasing your control of my life until that day when I allow you to run my entire life….all of it. Let’s hope for the day when we filter everything we do against Jesus’ teachings. That’s the way, I want it!

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