Text: Matthew 8:5-13
There are many similarities between a person growing up in the United States of America who trusts Jesus Christ and the faith of this centurion that we’re reading about. The healing is not the same, but don’t get caught up in that. Healing during the ministry of the Lord Jesus Christ was done to prove who Jesus Christ was. Now that the Lord Jesus Christ has ascended into heaven there is not a need to prove who He is anymore.
In Luke 7:1-10 the centurion is apparently a man of great generosity. He built a synagogue for the Jews as a way to put his faith into practice, so he is also a man of devotion to the God of Israel. There are several great characteristics about this centurion’s faith described in Matthew’s record here.
Great faith of a stranger (vs 5)
- First thing to notice is that this centurion is not an Israelite, he is a Gentile. Though the Lord Jesus Christ is ministering to the house of Israel, he is not going to turn away someone who believes in him.
- Jesus Christ rejected by his own
- Matthew records this and several other instances where Gentiles had faith, but the Jews, who were supposed to have faith, didn’t. Notice Matthew 8:12. Jesus Christ wasn’t looking for the Jews to believe in the law plus him. The expectation of faith is the same to the Jew first and also to the Greek. And it was peculiar that those who had the most familiarity with God and the Messianic prophecies didn’t recognize the Lord while unfamiliar strangers did.
- Romans 9:1-5 is Paul’s personal grief over his own kin.
- Romans 9:30-33 is the explanation for why Israel rejected Jesus Christ. Jesus Christ wasn’t preaching the gospel of trusting the law and doing the law to Israel. Everything about Israel pointed to the Lord Jesus Christ.
- Jesus Christ received by strangers
- The gospel of salvation in the Lord Jesus Christ would go to the Jew first and also to the Greek (Gentile) according to Romans 1:16.
- In Luke 7:4-5 the Jewish elders have good things to say about this centurion because of his generosity toward them and his love for the God of Israel.
- Ephesians 2:11-22 …both have access… Who is the both? Both Jew and Gentile in one body.
- Great faith responds to the light it’s given.
- Jews given much light they didn’t respond to. This Gentile man who had less light was closer to the Lord.
- Great faith is not what you know, how you rightly divide, how many Bible stories you’re familiar with, but great faith is exercised faith – it’s put to use.
Great faith benefits someone else (vs 6)
- Second, notice that his faith benefited someone else.
- This centurion’s servant is grievously vexed with palsy and Luke says he’s ready to die.
- The centurion asked the Lord Jesus Christ to do something he was already willing to do during his ministry. I only say that so you understand that the healing ministry of Jesus Christ was to confirm who he was and what he preached. His work is not healing everyone that is sick right now.
- The centurion’s faith gave Jesus Christ the opportunity to work in his friend’s life.
- There can be a difference between what the community views as good work and giving the Lord Jesus Christ an opportunity to work in someone’s life.
- Preaching forgiveness of sins in Jesus Christ is a good work, but not necessarily according to you or your friends. It can be a nuisance to most professing Christians.
Great faith in the words of God (vss 8-9)
- This centurion understands that the word of God will change his servant’s life.
- Faith was never about what is seen. It is about what is heard.
- Faith cometh by hearing and hearing by the word of God.
- Not faith in your church or your religion or yourself.
- Understanding the authority of God’s words
- Luke gives more detail about this account explaining that the centurion never sees Jesus Christ face to face. He doesn’t believe himself worthy to have the Lord Jesus Christ in his home.
- The centurion knows the Lord doesn’t need to be physically present to heal his servant, but needs only speak the words.
- If you’ve trusted Jesus Christ, you’ve trusted in someone you’ve never seen.
- Let me illustrate another way as well. Some folks will say when the Lord Jesus Christ comes again to rule as King of kings that faith will be done away with because Jesus Christ will be physically on the earth and people will be able to see him. Faith is not about seeing Jesus Christ as illustrated even in his ministry during his first coming. Many saw him who didn’t believe him. And this centurion believed Jesus Christ without seeing him. Faith is not about sight. It is simply about what a person does with the words of God that they are given. Jesus said My sheep hear my voice and know me. Not my sheep see me and know me.
Great faith is God’s opinion (vs 10)
- There are a few times that Jesus marvels at things.
- Marvels at Gentile’s faith.
- Marvelled at Israel’s unbelief in Mark 6:6.
- The testimony of the Lord is that this centurion’s faith is great faith (also in Luke 7:9). This is God’s opinion.
Great faith to save (vss 11-12)
- Faith in Jesus Christ gains entrance into the kingdom of heaven.
- Gentiles and Jews both entering into Jesus Christ’s kingdom. You might have heard it said that the kingdom of heaven is a Jewish kingdom. But these verses clearly tell you the kingdom of heaven is not given to anyone based on their first birth. Israel enjoyed several benefits of God’s revelation, but their first birth did not automatically qualify them for salvation.
- Don’t get confused that because Jesus Christ will return to Jerusalem, and because He went to the Jews first that this is a Jewish ONLY offer. To the Jew first and also the Greek. To the Jew first and also to the Gentile.
- What about Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob? They didn’t believe in Jesus Christ. Hebrews 11 explains their faith and Genesis and Romans explain how that faith was accounted for righteousness until the righteousness of God in Jesus Christ could be given to them as a gift in response to their belief.
- Consequences of not trusting God’s words is to be cast out. (See Luke 16 where the rich man’s brothers have Moses and the prophets. If those scriptures won’t keep them out of hell, nothing else will.)
Great faith that moves the will of God (vss 7, 13)
- This centurion’s faith was pleasing to the Lord and moved the will of God.
- He beseeched the Lord to heal his servant and the Lord responded to the centurion’s request. Effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much. The number of people saying prayers is not important. It only takes the effectual fervent prayer of one righteous man.