Summary: What kind of faith does it take to turn the head of Jesus? The Roman officer had it and so can we.
Last week we were introduced to Levi who changed his name to Matthew. As you recall Levi meant “joined in harmony” but as a tax collector he was unable to live up to his name. After Jesus made him the offer to become a follower he referred to himself as Matthew, meaning “a gift to God.” Matthew considered himself to be a gift to God for God’s glory and sacrifice.
We also discussed how Jesus had many disciples but choose twelve to be his apostles. Matthew was one chosen to be an Apostle.
After Jesus chooses the twelve He delivered the Sermon on the Mount where He proclaimed the Beatitudes. Afterwards He taught on the principals of salt and light. He taught about the law, about anger, about adultery, about divorce, about vows, and about revenge. He taught about love for your enemies and giving to the needy. He taught about money and possessions and about not condemning others. He taught about effective prayer, about the golden rule, about the narrow gate, about the tree and its fruit, about true followers, and about building on the solid rock.
Jesus delivered a message on Christian living that covered every aspect of that subject. And from there He meets our next character.
This man’s story is told in both the Gospel of Matthew and the Gospel of Luke. As we will see there is a discrepancy between the two Gospels. Matthew’s account has the man coming to Jesus. Luke’s account has him sending others. This point is often used to accuse the Bible of being inaccurate. The fact is one of the two writers recorded the incident wrong. Matthew was an eye witness while Luke was not. Luke’s record of the incident was a verbal exchange between himself and someone else. Today I will blend the two accounts together to give us a more entailed description of the meeting.
Matthew 8:5-7 “When Jesus returned to Capernaum, a Roman officer came and pleaded with him, “Lord, my young servant lies in bed, paralyzed and in terrible pain.”
Jesus said, “I will come and heal him.” We will begin by examining this Roman officer and his young servant a bit more clearly.
The Roman officer was a Gentile, which simply means not a Jew. Jesus once encountered a Gentile woman and referred to her as a dog. So why was He quick to respond to this man’s plea? The Gospel of Luke gives us a hint.
Luke 7:3-5 “When the officer heard about Jesus, he sent some respected Jewish elders to ask him to come and heal his slave. So they earnestly begged Jesus to help the man. “If anyone deserves your help, he does,” they said, “for he loves the Jewish people and even built a synagogue for us.”
In Luke’s account the officer sends others. He’s not being arrogant but rather humble as we shall soon see. This Roman heard about Jesus. He heard of the miracles He had performed. In Luke’s account he confesses to Jesus through others that he is not even worthy to come and meet him.
So he sends those of Jesus’ own race to plead on his behalf. This would have been unheard of, if not for the fact that these two enemies had great affection for each other. The Jews had great affection for this man because he had built a synagogue for them. This would have been similar to a local church. The Roman officer would not have been able to worship at the temple in Jerusalem but could attend services at a synagogue.
The Roman officer had great affection for the Jewish beliefs and the concept of one true God. He admired their devotion to each other and their meticulous devotion to their faith. Perhaps he was becoming a believer. The relationship between this outsider and God’s people is amazing in itself. And his willingness to support the house of God puts us to shame.
According to George Barna, a church statistician, among adults who regularly attend church 37% did not give a dime to a church in the last year. He goes on to say that only 3-5% of the people who do give, tithe their income. The average donation by adults who attend church is $ 17.00 a week.
Let me share a story with you.
One day Pastor Smith got a phone call. Special Agent Jones of the IRS was on the line.
He said, “Is this Pastor Smith.
He replied, “Yes this is he.”
“I’m calling to inquire about a member of your congregation, a Dr. Ship. Do you recognize the name?”
“Yes, he is a member of my congregation. How can I be of service?”
“Well, on last year’s tax return, the doctor claimed that he made a sizable tax-deducible contribution to your church. Is it true?”