Summary: The God whom we worship is the God of all creation, the King of kings and Lord of Lords. In this we can take hope that God answer our prayers, move in our lives and establish God’s will.
Matthew 8:5-13 “Creation Under God’s Authority”
Wouldn’t it be wonderful if all of our prayers were answered immediately, specifically, and completely? No more aspirin. If we got sick, all we’d need to do was to pray for healing. When money got tight, all we’d need to do would be to ask for a celestial loan. Arguments and broken relationships would be a thing of the past. All we would need to do was to offer a word of prayer and the other person would immediately see things our way. Talk about heaven on earth!
The story of the Centurion and his servant, when taken at face value, appears to convey this message. A non-church person approaches Jesus and makes a request. Jesus immediately answers, and even does so from a distance. The lesson seems simple enough—pray and God will answer. The problem is that it doesn’t jive with everyday reality. We do pray, but our prayers aren’t always answered immediately nor in the way that we requested.
We must go a little deeper into the story, if we are to understand the message that it is attempting to communicate to us.
GOD ABOVE ALL
The Centurion is probably a “god fearer.” These were people who accepted the beliefs of Judaism, but didn’t officially become Jews. As a Roman soldier, it would not have been possible for the man to publicly deny the official state religion. We do know that the soldier was sincere in his faith. Other gospels have Jews listing his benevolent acts to Jesus in an effort to convince Jesus to come to his aid.
As a soldier, the man understood authority. He had people below him who did his will, and he had people above him whose will he did.
The man realized who Jesus was. Jesus was the God of creation and was over all. Jesus was not some tribal deity who was only interested in the narrow interests of the group from whom he was God. Nor was Jesus one of the lesser deities like Apollo or Venus who were lords of only one specific area of life. The Centurion knew that Jesus was King of kings and Lord of lords.
We confess this truth in the Apostles’ Creed when we say, “I believe in God the Father Almighty, maker of heaven and earth. We understand and place our faith in the truth that there is no god, authority, or power in the entire universe that is greater than the God whom we worship.
A LOVING GOD
We not only learn that God is the God of all creation—God of gods, and Lord of lords—from the story, we also learn that God is a loving God.
There is a common saying that goes, “Power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely.” We look at people like Hitler, Stalin and we know that this saying it true.
This saying, however, is not true of God. Though God is all-powerful and above all gods, God is a loving God.
Jesus responds to the soldier’s request, immediately. Jesus responds in love. Jesus is even sensitive to the inferiority that the man feels and makes known in his request for Jesus not to come to his home. To enter into his home would make Jesus unclean, and the man saw himself to be a gentile—a person who was outside the family of God.
The Centurion’s faith is commendable. He understood who Jesus was, and that miracles transcend time and space. He was capable of resting in the love and power of Jesus. Still, the real focus is on Jesus’ authority and love.
INDIRECT ANSWERS TO PRAYER
The story of the centurion and his servant boldly proclaims God’s power and love to us. God not only responds to our needs because of God’s love for us, but God also uses God’s power in a loving way.
We know what it is like to use our power and force someone to do something against his or her will. Our will is done, but usually at the cost of a relationship. God moves in our lives and in the world always respecting relationships and seeking to draw people into a closer relationship with him. God uses God’s power to invite, nudge and encourage rather than to force, push, or demand.
An indirect use of power means that answers come slower and usually in a roundabout manner. Answers to still come, though. God still moves in a powerful and in a loving manner.
Heaven on earth is not having God answer all of our prayers immediately, specifically and powerfully. In fact, if this were to happen, our world might be turned into a living hell.
Living in the Kingdom of God, however, does mean that we walk and have a relationship with a powerful and loving God who hears our prayers and answers them, while at the same time always invites us into a closer relationship with him, a deeper commitment, and more faithful service. Amen