Sermons

Summary: Miracle of Faith, Pt. 2

NOT UNDER MY ROOF (MATTHEW 8:5-13)

An ancient legend told of a monk who found a precious stone - a precious jewel, in fact, and then quietly kept it in his bag. A short time later, however, he met a traveler, who said he was hungry and asked the monk if he would share some of the provisions. When the monk opened his bag, the traveler saw the precious stone and, on an impulse, asked the monk if he could have it. Amazingly, without much thought, the monk gave the traveler the stone.

The traveler departed quickly, overjoyed with his new possession. However, a few days later, he came searching for the monk again. The monk was, of course, curious to see the traveler again. He wondered at what might have happened to the precious jewel, and yet frowned at what else the traveler would want.

Surprisingly, the traveler returned the stone to the monk and asked for something else. The monk gasped, shook his head in disbelief and asked, “What else do I have that you would possibly be interested to have?” Finally the traveler said, “Please give me that which enabled to you to give me this precious stone!” (Adapted from James W. Moore, Some Things Are Too Good Not to Be True, Dimensions, 1994, p. 101)

The gospels commend a selfless centurion whose great faith in God brought recognition from Jesus, healing to his servant and comparison with the Jews. This passage is controversial among scholars, baffling to readers and attacked by critics because Matthew reports that the centurion met Jesus, whereas Luke 7:1-10 claims that the two delegations the centurion sent did. The two possible ways to harmonize these two passages are to accept the possibility that either the delegates’ words were as good as the centurion’s words – linguistically, culturally, and technically, or that Jesus still proceeded to the centurion’s house after the crowd had left.

What help is faith to a Gentile? How is a person’s faith great in the eyes of God? Why is faith no respecter of persons? How does a Gentile come to God?

Faith Transcend Suffering; It Affects Master or Servant

5 When Jesus had entered Capernaum, a centurion came to him, asking for help. 6 “Lord,” he said, “my servant lies at home paralyzed and in terrible suffering.” (Matt 8:5-6)

It was related that once when the Duke of Wellington took communion at his parish church, a very poor old man went up to the opposite aisle, and knelt down close by the side of the Duke upon reaching the Communion table. Immediately, confusion, conversation and commotion ensued, interrupting and dashing the silence of the church and the solemnity of the occasion. Someone came and touched the poor man on the shoulder and whispered to him to move farther away or to rise and wait until the Duke had received the bread and the wine.

But the keen eye and the quick ear of the Duke caught the meaning of the touch and the whisper. He clasped the old man’s hand and held him to prevent his rising; and in a reverential but distinct undertone, the Duke said, “Do not move; we are equal here before God.” (Adapted from Pulpit Helps 3/91)

The centurion was a thoughtful, caring and kind man. He was not your typical master, owner or taskmaster. He was first and foremost a brother, a friend and a caregiver to the servant. The slave-owner did not stand aloof, stand back or stand around doing nothing when his servant was in pain, in sickness and in need. Though he and his servant were from different worlds and lived separate lives, class, rank or wealth did not define their relationship. No culture gap, social barrier or class distinction separated the two.

The centurion had a heart of gold, a heart of compassion and a heart of flesh and blood when his servant was in pain and suffering. Although not a doctor or a psychologist, he knew of his servant’s sickness, its symptoms and severity, and sympathized with the loneliness, sadness and fear that he was going through. “Lord,” the centurion said, “my servant lies at home paralyzed and in terrible suffering.” (Matt 8:6) In a sense the servant’s “terrible suffering” was worse than the standard “torture” the demons experienced before Jesus (Matt 8:29, Mark 5:7, Luke 8:28) and the disciples’ being “buffeted” by the waves (Matt 14:24) – the words are identical in Greek except that the servant’s suffering was described as “terrible” – grievously or excessively in meaning. He cared for a slave who could be easily replaced, who was effectively useless and who would drain and deplete his resources.

The centurion needed no group petition, eloquent persuasion or outside pressure to convince him to seek Jesus’ help. He changed roles with the servant, attended to the servant for a change and pleaded as if his very life was at stake, even seeking Jewish elders, asking personal friends and sending more delegations if he had to.

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