Matthew 8:5-13; Luke 7:1-10
God Works in People We Don’t Expect
Today we have the wonderful account of the faith of a centurion. A centurion was a Roman soldier over one-hundred men. As a Roman, he would have been a gentile (a non-Jew), one dead in trespasses and sins, following the course of the world, following the prince of the power of the air, a son of disobedience, living according to the passions of the flesh and desires of the body and mind, and by nature a child of wrath; in other words, a pagan (Ephesians 2:1-3). This was the description of gentiles before the coming of Christ who opened the gate for both Jew and gentile through his broken body. And it is still the description of anyone prior to coming to saving faith in Christ. Biblical Christianity 101 teaches us this doctrine called “original sin,” or simply, “the fall,” in which every person is born in sin, and so must be born again (John 3:3).
But God was doing a work in this pagan’s life. God had moved him to love his covenant people, the Jews. Surely he must have learned from them about the one true God. Perhaps he had also learned from them about the hope of the coming Messiah who would rule in righteousness and peace. As a Roman, he certainly could discern the dignity and truth of the God depicted in the Scriptures over the debased and immoral gods of the pagan myths. But even more than that, he had heard of this man, Jesus, who was healing, preaching, and doing works that no pagan could do. So he sends a delegation of Jews to intercede for him to heal his servant, thinking himself unfit to approach Jesus. When Jesus begins his journey to this man’s house, he sends yet another delegation to tell him such a trip is unnecessary. The centurion is a man under authority and knows that all Jesus has to do is say the word and it will be done. The centurion does not have to see; he knows.
Jesus then marvels declaring that he had found no such faith in all of Israel, God’s covenant people. And then he says that many will come from the east and west (all over) to sit in the kingdom of God while those who thought they were in will be cast out. We must always remember that salvation is by grace through faith (made real by a faithful life). And we must always remember that no one is beyond the pale, after all, God saved us. That passage from Ephesians which I quoted above, well, that was us before the Holy Spirit brought us to saving faith, so why not that person that you think is so lazy, vile, wicked, etc. The man who wrote “Amazing Grace” had once been a slaver – John Newton – but God’s grace made a new man out of him. And God can do the same for that one whom you love, or perhaps, scorn.