Summary: Meet 5 people or groups who approached Jesus in many different ways. Jesus reaction tells a lot about how we should and should not approach Jesus when we are in need, in grief, in sin, or in control.
How do you approach Jesus? Here are some possibilities:
Burn with anger
Shrug your shoulders in indifference
Look the other way
Run the other way
Stand off at a distance
Look down your nose
Run into His arms
Run up to Him and demand
One thing’s for sure - we all approach Him sometime in our lives. For those of us who know Him personally it should be often. When Jesus comes into a life there is a reaction. Jesus isn’t neutral and He demands of us a decision - reject or accept, bow or run, believe or disbelieve. Paul in Romans 11 talks about "persisting in unbelief." Unbelief is not the absence of a decision, it is a decision in itself - and it must be persisted in, despite strong evidence to the contrary. At some point or another, Jesus enters our lives and we must make that decision. Today we see how 5 people or groups react to Jesus - and learn lessons about how we should react as well.
Verses 1 - 10
Centurions get a bad rap. Yes, they were sometimes brutal - but it is interesting that we read several stories in the New Testament about the faith and generosity of Centurions.
In addition to this story, we see the centurion who oversaw the crucifixion of Jesus and how he exclaimed "Truly this was the Son of God". Later in Acts it is Cornelius in Caesarea who is so devoted to God that He sends Peter to him to be baptized with the Holy Spirit.
In Matthew’s gospel it is the centurion himself who comes to Jesus. Likely Luke has it a bit more accurately. For this type of person, dealing with the person’s representatives was just like dealing with them - so saying it either way was okay.
This is totally out of character for the typical Roman/Jewish relationship. Rocky at best - here this man loves God and the Jewish people so much that he actually funded a synagogue and probably worshiped there.
The man surely knew that a Jewish person could not enter a Gentile home - so he has second thoughts and sends his friends out to meet Jesus. But here is where the faith comes in so strongly. The man recognized the authority of Jesus - even though many of those who should have known rejected Him.
I really don’t know if there is a stronger example of faith and understanding of who Jesus is - prior to the resurrection - than this man. I don’t even think the disciples had this kind of faith - but that’s just my opinion.
Verses 11 - 17
Here is an example of Jesus healing someone, raising them from the dead even, without being asked. Likely this woman was a widow, already having lost her husband. Then she loses her only son and is past child bearing age. In that culture she was in danger unless a family member took her in. A single woman could not easily earn money.
Verses 18 - 23
This reveals John’s human side. He had baptized Jesus, had seen heaven open and the Spirit descend like a dove on Him - perhaps he wondered why Jesus brought healing but not judgment, teaching about the kingdom without bringing it in. You know - even if you have an important part in God’s kingdom, it is still only a part. John was curious, and Jesus answered - but it’s important that we don’t demand of God to understand what every little detail is about - just do your part and let God bring about the big picture in His time. John may have, like many Jews, misunderstood the difference between the 1st and 2nd comings of Jesus.
Verses 24 - 35
So, what were you expecting? A reed was a commonplace plant growing by the banks of the Jordan. Calling someone a "reed" meant a person who was of no consequence - easily swayed or dismissed. John was also not a "beautiful person" that should have been in the places of power. He dressed in camel skin and spoke with authority a message of repentance. He was a prophet.
As a prophet, his message should have been taken seriously. It was by some, but not others. He wasn’t a sideshow or a curiosity but ushered in the age of the Messiah. Jesus gives him the greatest place among those born of humans. But even that pales in comparison with those born of the spiritual rebirth Jesus will offer and usher people into His kingdom.
The tax collectors who had heard John, and had been baptized by him to be ready for the Messiah were now ready to receive His message. An evil person who prepares his heart will receive salvation - but note those who had not prepared - the lawyers and Pharisees rejected John’s baptism of preparation and then rejected Jesus.