Amazing Faith

Matthew: Christ The Promised King  •  Sermon  •  Submitted   •  Presented   •  26:34
0 ratings

The centurion is celebrated by Jesus for his amazing faith - a faith which grasps that Jesus will save the unworthy.

amazing faith grasps God saves the unworthy
Intro me
Context: teaching as one who has authority
acting as one who has authority
willing and able to cleanse
Page 972 in these blue bibles and Cameron’s reading for us today.
Matthew 8:5–17 NIV
When Jesus had entered Capernaum, a centurion came to him, asking for help. “Lord,” he said, “my servant lies at home paralyzed, suffering terribly.” Jesus said to him, “Shall I come and heal him?” The centurion replied, “Lord, I do not deserve to have you come under my roof. But just say the word, and my servant will be healed. For I myself am a man under authority, with soldiers under me. I tell this one, ‘Go,’ and he goes; and that one, ‘Come,’ and he comes. I say to my servant, ‘Do this,’ and he does it.” When Jesus heard this, he was amazed and said to those following him, “Truly I tell you, I have not found anyone in Israel with such great faith. I say to you that many will come from the east and the west, and will take their places at the feast with Abraham, Isaac and Jacob in the kingdom of heaven. But the subjects of the kingdom will be thrown outside, into the darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.” Then Jesus said to the centurion, “Go! Let it be done just as you believed it would.” And his servant was healed at that moment. When Jesus came into Peter’s house, he saw Peter’s mother-in-law lying in bed with a fever. He touched her hand and the fever left her, and she got up and began to wait on him. When evening came, many who were demon-possessed were brought to him, and he drove out the spirits with a word and healed all the sick. This was to fulfill what was spoken through the prophet Isaiah: “He took up our infirmities and bore our diseases.”
Thanks Cameron.
Jesus only describes two things as amazing in his whole recorded life:
the unbelief of his home town - Mk 6:6
Mark 6:6 (NIV)
He was amazed at their lack of faith.
the faith of this centurion - Mt 8:10
Matthew 8:10 NIV
When Jesus heard this, he was amazed and said to those following him, “Truly I tell you, I have not found anyone in Israel with such great faith.
It’s pretty stand-out to amaze Jesus - particularly in a good way! To get that accolade from Jesus is quite something - he doesn’t throw it around like the modern ‘awesome’ or ‘epic’! So we’re going to start out by digging into what makes the faith of this centurion amazing. Why is it amazing?
Well, it definitely wasn’t amazing to believe that Jesus could heal - plenty of people believed that! Last week we read about someone with leprosy - an incurable disease bringing lifelong isolation and a gruesome death - believing Jesus could heal even him. Mt 8:2 “you can make me clean.” That’s quite a lot of faith - but Jesus wasn’t amazed.
Matthew 8:2 NIV
A man with leprosy came and knelt before him and said, “Lord, if you are willing, you can make me clean.”
Earlier we saw people from the whole area being brought to him with all kinds of problems - Mt 4:24. Perhaps some just came with a distant hope for healing but many I am sure came with faith that Jesus could heal - particularly as time went on and there were more and more people healed by Jesus kicking around! Definitely faith that Jesus could heal - but Jesus wasn’t amazed.
Matthew 4:24 NIV
News about him spread all over Syria, and people brought to him all who were ill with various diseases, those suffering severe pain, the demon-possessed, those having seizures, and the paralyzed; and he healed them.
So is it that he believes Jesus can heal at a distance with only a word, not just in person? wifi healing vs wired healing?! Well, perhaps. But that hardly seems like a whole different order of faith to a leper believing Jesus can cure the incurable.
I don’t think it’s his faith about what Jesus can do that so impresses Jesus - that makes it amazing faith - I think it’s his faith about how come he can do it, and perhaps even more, who he’ll do it for. Let me unpack those two for you.
Imagine Jesus was here today in Scotland, healing every sick person who came to him.. Most people wouldn’t give a hoot how come he could heal - they’d just be floored that he could do it at all - he’d soon be mobbed with people after healing. I mean, who cares if it’s magic or a special massage or some clever pills? I bet more and more would rush towards Jesus with faith that he could heal as they saw the mounting evidence.
But that’s a completely different order of faith to believing something about how come he can heal. And that “how come” faith is the sort of faith that’s amazing to Jesus. The sort of faith this centurion actually has. See he believes that Jesus can heal because he believes Jesus speaks and acts with God’s authority - just like centurion speaks and acts with Caesar’s authority. He sees his own position reflecting Jesus’ position - just smaller scale. Mt 8:9
Matthew 8:9 NIV
For I myself am a man under authority, with soldiers under me. I tell this one, ‘Go,’ and he goes; and that one, ‘Come,’ and he comes. I say to my servant, ‘Do this,’ and he does it.”
The centurion can boss people around - soldiers, servants - he can issue commands and things happen. Why? Not because he’s so persuasive. Or because they like him so much. Or even because he’ll beat them up if they don’t. But because he’s “under authority” - and the soldiers and servants are under him. When he speaks, he speaks with the emperor’s authority. To disobey his orders is to disobey the emperor. That’s why things happen.
And the faith he’s commended for, the amazing faith, is one that grasps Jesus need only say the word because Jesus speaks with God’s authority. To disobey him is to disobey God. That’s the point Jesus was making at the close of the Sermon on the Mount - that’s why we need not to just listen to his words, but to put them into practice. Because his commands are the commands of God. And that’s why nature obeys his commands too - why he can heal with a word, bending nature to his will. Because he’s no mere miracle worker - he speaks with God’s authority.
Jesus commends the centurion’s amazing faith - faith in what Jesus can do: heal with a word; faith in how come: Jesus has God’s authority; one more thing that makes the centurion’s faith amazing: faith about who Jesus will help. Now this last factor that marks out the centurion’s amazing faith might not seem so obvious or significant to us as we read at first - but we need to pay attention to it because, as we’ll see, Jesus gives it special emphasis.
It would have been blindingly obvious to the original audience that the centurion has a major problem in coming to Jesus for help: first up, the centurion represents - and works for - the Romans, a hostile nation occupying Israel, viewed by most Jews at the time as their great oppressor. Maybe we could think of that like a Russian commander in one of the occupied parts of Ukraine. He represents and carries the authority of the powerful invading oppressor - meaning he’s hated by most.
Luke, another of our bible writers, tells this same story in and we get some more behind-the-scenes details in Luke 7: so it seems, this particular centurion is a stand-out good guy trying to win the hearts and minds of the locals. But still, he’s a Roman.
And it’s not just this invader/oppressor identity which puts up barriers for the centurion. He’s also a Gentile - that is, a non-Jew. He’s unavoidably excluded from the heart of Jewish community, Jewish religion, Jewish worship. Wouldn’t eat together. Wouldn’t enter each other’s homes. Jews were separate, treasuring their identity as God’s specially chosen people. And this centurion wasn’t one of them. He was an outsider - what right, what chance did he have of God’s help through Jesus?
In fact, lots of commentators see Jesus flagging up exactly this with his initial response in verse 7 Mt:8:7
Matthew 8:7 NIV
Jesus said to him, “Shall I come and heal him?”
We might read that and just think Jesus is looking for guidance on how the centurion wants to proceed. You know, “shall I come and heal him? or was there some other sort of help you were looking for?” But actually that’s a bit odd - it’s rather obvious what sort of help the centurion wants - of course he wants healing for this beloved servant. He’s not looking for decorating advice!
What we don’t see so easily - because we can’t hear Jesus’ tone - is the emphasis he puts on things. But in the original language this is written in, in Greek, there’s a bit more hidden under the covers. There’s an emphatic first person pronoun which is basically Jesus underlining the “I”. Shall, I, myself, come and heal him. Me?
Lots of commentators read this as Jesus expressing surprise, perhaps even scepticism, about the centurion’s request - and they argue this is precisely because he’s a Gentile. They point out the only other distance healing recorded in Matthew’s gospel is for another Gentile, another non-Jew. And there it’s totally clear that Jesus seems initially resistant to helping. Matthew 15:21 if you want to look it up later. Lots of parallels.
So first, the centurion’s a Roman; second, the centurion’s a gentile - and third the centurion knows he’s not worthy. Mt 8:8
Matthew 8:8 (NIV)
The centurion replied, “Lord, I do not deserve to have you come under my roof.
Like I mentioned, Jews didn’t mix with Gentiles; they wouldn’t normally enter a Gentile home. But I don’t think that’s the main reason the centurion doesn’t expect Jesus to visit. He’s not just trying to avoid that social taboo and work around it with a request for distance-healing instead. He actually recognises something bigger: he’s simply not worthy of the help he’s asking for.
You can see it’s not just this taboo about entering homes because over in Luke’s parallel telling of the same story the centurion doesn’t just think he’s unworthy of having Jesus come to him - he’s unworthy of coming to Jesus too. Lk 7:7
Luke 7:7 NIV
That is why I did not even consider myself worthy to come to you. But say the word, and my servant will be healed.
So back to what’s amazing about the centurion’s faith. He believes Jesus can heal. He believes Jesus can do that because he has God’s authority. But most amazing of all, he believes that Jesus will do that even for the undeserving - the Roman, the Gentile, the unworthy. His amazing faith, as it turns out, is faith in God’s grace. Faith that Jesus gives us what we don’t deserve.
It’s a lesser faith that just believes Jesus can heal - perhaps that believes Jesus should heal - because I’ve earned it, because I’m Jewish, one of God’s people - or because I go to church, or I pray or whatever. Amazing faith grasps the bigger truth: that Jesus helps the unworthy. That God is in the business of saving people who don’t deserve it, saving by grace through faith for his glory. The centurion feels himself unworthy - but has amazing faith that Jesus will bless the unworthy.
Now there’s a lot about faith and healing in today’s passage. And I think that raises a big question that we should take head-on: what’s the connection between faith and healing today?
Some people read Jesus’ words “let it be done just as you believed it would” and conclude if we just had enough faith, if we just believed in that centurion-like way, then “it’d be done” - we’d see any and every sickness and disease healed here today as well.
Matthew’s gospel definitely makes a connection between healing and faith - repeatedly. So that can feel good and right, calling for the same sort of amazing faith in a Jesus who blesses the unworthy; a Jesus who can heal because he has God’s authority; a Jesus who can heal at a distance still today.
But many of us struggle with a need for healing - physically, mentally. If we were to think the barrier to that is the quality of our faith - that we’re still sick and suffering because ultimately we just don’t believe in that same amazing way ... that’s crushing.
But hang on a minute - remember Jesus called that faith out as exceptional, amazing? That means loads of the others who were healed - all of them in fact - didn’t have that kind of faith. It wasn’t 5* and above faith gets healing, everyone else? sorry, nothing for you. Mt 8:16 Jesus “healed all the sick” we heard near the end of today’s reading. All of them despite their 4* or below faith. So this passage certainly isn’t teaching us that it takes amazing faith to get a healing.
Matthew 8:16 (NIV)
he drove out the spirits with a word and healed all the sick.
But if it’s not the quality of faith that sees everyone healed, if that’s possible even with 2* faith, say - why don’t we all end up healed today, then?
What we’ve got to see is these gospels are giving us a window into a unique moment in time when Jesus, God himself, walked the earth. Each day, there was a unique physical place where he actually stood and heaven touched earth. Now Jesus would often heal all who came to him. Crowds got the healing, the deliverance they were longing for. But even in his day, there must have been many sick and suffering in Israel who didn’t ever meet Jesus and never got that healing.
And after Jesus dies and rises again and ascends into heaven, although we continue to read about healings, we also read about people who weren’t healed. The Apostle Paul would have gotten a gold star for faith if anyone did - yet he tells us of a “thorn in the flesh” that he prays about, asking for healing three times.. And the answer is ‘no’.
Sickness is a part of our broken world. When we read about Jesus healing all who come to him, that doesn’t fully restore it - it’s like a sticking plaster on one part of a wound, a plaster which soon comes loose. Everyone in that crowd who’s healed still goes on to die.
Something much bigger than healing is needed to mend our world. Jesus’ healing is just a foretaste of a restored and renewed world ... and Jesus’ healing is also a marker of the one who will bring it. See, when Matthew, our gospel writer, reflects on all this healing going on around Jesus, rather than seeing it as a blanket promise or a faith test, he sees something quite different: a sign. Mt 8:17
Matthew 8:17 NIV
This was to fulfill what was spoken through the prophet Isaiah: “He took up our infirmities and bore our diseases.”
Jesus is healing everyone not because that’s just the deal when there’s amazing faith, or because he’s like a slot machine when you put the coin in the top and pull the handle and healing pops out! He’s doing it because it’s a sign of who he truly is, and how he will truly, ultimately rescue us from this broken world, all it’s trouble and hurt, all its sickness and disease. Jesus is revealing his identity as the one the prophet Isaiah had foretold seven hundred years earlier: one who would do so much more than physically heal crowds coming to him.
In the middle of all this healing Jesus starts talking about a party, a feast - Mt 8:11 - that maybe feels out of place - but that’s a picture of where we’ll find ourselves after the ultimate rescue, of our ultimate hope. A hope that’s bound up with this amazing faith which believes Jesus gives us what we don’t deserve.
Matthew 8:11 NIV
I say to you that many will come from the east and the west, and will take their places at the feast with Abraham, Isaac and Jacob in the kingdom of heaven.
None of us live the way we should. None of us truly and fully obey God. None of us belong by right in Jesus’ Kingdom - because we don’t live it’s life - the life he’s been teaching us about over these last six months we’ve spent in the Sermon on the Mount. And yet we can have a sure hope that we’ll be a part of it, that one day we’ll celebrate and feast with Abraham, Isaac and Jacob in the kingdom of heaven, because Jesus gives us what we don’t deserve.
Entrance to that kingdom, admittance to the feast, isn’t on the basis of being born into the right family, or earning it ourselves - but on faith in the one who earned it for us - this long-prophesied figure that Jesus demonstrates is him. When Matthew quotes that ancient prophecy which is fulfilled, that one verse, he assumes and expects we’ll think of the rest. And the verse immediately after the one Matthew quotes tells us: Is 53:4-5
Isaiah 53:4–5 NIV
Surely he took up our pain and bore our suffering, yet we considered him punished by God, stricken by him, and afflicted. But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was on him, and by his wounds we are healed.
Jesus’ healing ministry is a sign - a sign that he’s the promised one - a sign that he’ll not just heal bodies, but provide the greatest and truest healing of all: healing from our transgression, our iniquities - complicated, old sounding words which we can simply understand as all the ways we fail to be what we should. Thought. Word. Deed.
Jesus offers us the true and greater healing which will bring us peace, healing which will see us safe home into his Kingdom of Heaven, welcomed into that forever party. He offers us that through amazing faith - amazing because it’s a faith which believes Jesus gives us what we don’t deserve. That’s how “many” are going to end up there from the East and the West - from all over the world.
so what?
Jesus has this absolute authority - authority ultimately to invite into and reject from the kingdom of heaven - just like he taught at at the close of the Sermon on the Mount. Jesus wants to include even me, even you in his heaven - to bring us the ultimate healing from sin, sickness, sorrow, brokenness and bring us safe into the promised feast with the faithful.
The sort of faith which impresses Jesus is the faith that grasps and believes this: God saves the unworthy. It’s faith like this which marks out who’ll be welcomed into heaven vs. who’ll be thrown outside; not how you grew up or what family you’re from. Many Jews assumed they’d be there - but didn’t have this amazing faith in Jesus’ identity and mission - they didn’t think they needed it.
Do you have that faith? If you’re not sure, or you’re sure you don’t, here’s an encouragement for you from Jesus himself: Mt 7:7-8
Matthew 7:7–8 NIV
“Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives; the one who seeks finds; and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened.
Ask and keep on asking. Because - as Paul, one of Jesus’ first followers explained to the ancient Christians of Ephesus - this amazing faith is a gift of God. Eph 2:8
Ephesians 2:8 NIV
For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God—
Let’s pray..
amazing faith grasps God saves the unworthy
Q&A Notes:
Does Jesus offer substitutionary healing i.e. take on our sickness and disease in order to heal?
There’s no indication he becomes leprous or possessed or sick in the narrative - potentially he does so on the cross / in the grave.
Both verbs can have the sense of take away / remove instead and Matthew has avoided φέρω (as used by the LXX to translate) which does not have that removal option.
Does healing always follow believing?
definitely a common pattern - faith around healing repeatedly emphasised in Mt
notice here that it is the faith of another that’s in view as also in the healing of the paralytic - healed without any comment on their faith (or lack of it)
It wasn’t every sick person he came across, though; John chapter 5 tells a story of Jesus healing just one of many sick people at the pool of Bethesda for example.
Apostle Paul prays repeatedly for thorn in flesh to be removed but the answer is ‘no’
recognise the uniqueness of Jesus’ lifetime situation + the significance of healing as a demonstration of divine authority + signpost to his identity
How could Jesus be amazed / surprised?
Calvin, famous dead christian dude, has this to say: “Though amazement is not appropriate for God, seeing it must arise from new and unexpected happenings, yet it could occur in Christ, inasmuch as he had taken on our human emotions, along with our flesh”
Related Media
See more
Related Sermons
See more