Summary: Jesus cares for all without exception! (PowerPoint slides to accompany this talk are available on request - email: firstname.lastname@example.org)
Reading: Matthew chapter 8 verses 5 to 13:
The Canadians tell this story about their American neighbours.
• When NASA first started sending up astronauts,
• They quickly discovered that ballpoint pens would not work in zero gravity.
• To combat the problem,
• NASA scientists spent a decade and $12 billion to develop a pen that writes in zero gravity,
• It also upside down, underwater,
• on almost any surface including glass;
• And at temperatures ranging from below freezing to 300 C.
• The Russians overcame the problem by using a pencil.
The Americans are considered to be the most powerful nation in the world;
• 2,000 years ago that title went to the Romans.
• They ruled the world and had the greatest army on planet earth!
The central character in this story:
• Was a Roman soldier.
• I want to point out 4 things about him.
(1). He was a centurion (vs 6a):
“When Jesus had entered Capernaum, a centurion came to him, asking for help.”
• As soon as you speak the word centurion you here the word century in it,
• A centurion commanded a 'cen-tur-i-a', which was up to a hundred men in his company.
• A centurion was the equivalent of a regimental sergeant-major;
• And the centurions were the backbone of the Roman army.
• Centurions carried out specialised duties:
• For example quelling riots that had broken out in a city.
• They performed various police duties.
• And later in Matthew’s Gospel they would be in charge of the crucifixion.
QUOTE: Polybius, the historian, describes their qualifications.
• “They must be not so much" seekers after danger as men who can command,
• Steady in action, and reliable;
• They ought not to be over anxious to rush into the fight;
• But when hard pressed they must be ready to hold their ground and die at their posts. "
Centurion's had the reputation for being notoriously harsh and merciless men:
• Just as regimental sergeant-major today;
• Are not known as pussy cats (soft walk over);
• Neither were the Roman centurions,
• That's why they were the backbone of this great army.
• Yet strangely in the New Testament the Roman Centurions are always spoken of well;
Quote: F D Gealy,
• Notes that they were probably the most important single position of authority;
• Within the Roman fighting machine because
• ‘The discipline and efficiency as a fighting unit depended on them’
The point I want to make is this:
• This soldier would normally have been self-sufficient.
• His men came to him for answers he need not go to anyone else.
• For him to approach Jesus;
• Meant he had to swallow his pride.
• Because he would have to come to Jesus publicly;
• In front of Jewish onlookers – reputation would be shot!
• He could also be very easily rejected by Jesus;
• He was an enemy soldier occupying the people & land of Jesus!
• In his book, “The Applause of Heaven”,
• Max Lucado tells the sad story of a man he came to know through a friend.
• The man’s name was Anibal.
• Anibal was a tough man.
• Max Lucado said that his tattooed anchor on his forearm symbolized his personality;
• Cast-iron. His broad chest stretched his shirt.
• The slightest movement of his arm bulged his biceps.
• This was no meek man.
• This was a man who was tough in every sense of the word.
• But he was also a man in a prison cell condemned for murder.
• As Max spoke with Anibal, they began to talk about becoming a Christian.
• They talked about guilt, and forgiveness.
Max wrote that,
“The eyes of the murderer softened at the thought that the one who knows him best loves him most. His heart was touched as we discussed heaven, a hope that no executioner could take from him.”
• But as the conversation moved toward the conversion,
• Anibal’s face began to harden.
• Anibal didn’t like the statement;
• That the first step in coming to God is an admission of guilt.
• He was uneasy with words like “I’ve been wrong” and “forgive me.”
• Saying “I’m sorry” was out of character for him.
• He had never backed down before any man, and he wasn’t about to do it now
• Even if the man were God.
• I think this centurion was a bit like that;
• Only he learnt to swallow his pride.
• Good job:
• “God resists the proud but gives grace to the humble”.