On our recent road trip, we stopped at a state park in the middle of Illinois farm country. The park was part of the Illinois river basin. It was incredible to see deep gorges and amazing scenery that you would have never guessed were there. We were amazed at God’s creation. But, this morning the question came to mind, “What is God amazed at?” We are amazed at God’s creation and we marvel at His greatness, but what amazes God?
The Passage: Matthew 8:5-13, Luke 7:1-10
Verse by verse Commentary:
Luke 7:1 After he had finished all his sayings in the hearing of the people, he entered Capernaum.
After completing the sermon on the mount outside of Capernaum, Jesus went into Capernaum with his disciples.
Luke 7:2-3 Now a centurion had a servant who was sick and at the point of death, who was highly valued by him. 3When the centurion heard about Jesus, he sent to him elders of the Jews, asking him to come and heal his servant.
The fact that this centurion even cared that one of his servants was sick shows tremendous character. He was in charge of over 100 men. The fact that he was aware when one of them was sick shows he took great care and responsibility for those under his care. Luke notes that the man was “highly valued” by the centurion!
Matthew’s account says the centurion came forward himself (“a centurion came forward to him, appealing to him” Matt 8:5) But Luke says the man sent to the elders of the Jews, asking them to petition Jesus on his behalf. (he sent to him elders of the Jews, asking him to come and heal his servant. Luke 7:3) Is this a contradiction?
Fruchenbaum clears this up by saying,
The Talmud states, “. . . a man’s agent [shaliach] is equivalent to himself.” If someone is sent with the sender’s authority, it is the same as if the sender himself had gone. Luke noted that the centurion sent the elders of the Jews; the Jewish leaders did not take the initiative on their own. Because the centurion sent the elders to Yeshua, it is viewed as if he had gone himself.
It’s significant to note that this man was a gentile. As a gentile, he recognized Jesus’ authority, while the elders he sent did not! The elders did not initiate this, it was the centurion who summoned and sent them. Because he held significant respect from the Jewish elders, they headed the request by the centurion.
Luke 7:4-5 And when they came to Jesus, they pleaded with him earnestly, saying, “He is worthy to have you do this for him, 5for he loves our nation, and he is the one who built us our synagogue
Did these guys believe Jesus could heal this man? These guys were undoubtedly part of the crowd of religious leaders who have been following Jesus and watching his every move since he healed the leper back in Luke 5:12-16. As they followed and watched Jesus, they would have witnessed him also doing the following:
- Healing the paralytic and declaring his sins forgiven (Luke 5:17-26)
- Appointing a tax collector to be a disciple (Luke 5:27-32)
- Healing the man with the withered hand in their very own synagogue (Luke 6:6-11)
They knew what Jesus could do. They did not believe He was the Messiah, but would certainly have seen his miracles, and they knew He could perform this healing too.
But, all of these miracles Jesus performed were for Jews. Now, the man (a gentile) who financed their synagogue, is asking them to send for Jesus to come and heal one of his servants (also a gentile)! I have to wonder if that was difficult for them to do, knowing their history with Jesus. Were they “earnestly pleading” with Jesus because they thought Jesus wouldn’t want to help them? Or was their pleading more because he was an “unworthy gentile sinner?”
Regardless, they asked quite strongly, attempting to convince Jesus of this man’s worthiness to experience this miracle. They gave 2 reasons for Jesus to consider him to be worthy of such a miracle.
- He loves our nation. This man was not a Jew, he was a Roman. But he was sympathetic toward the Jews and their faith. The fact that he believed in Jesus’ ability to heal his servant indicates he was believing in the Jew’s God.
- He is the one who built us our synagogue.
Luke 7:6-8 And Jesus went with them. When he was not far from the house, the centurion sent friends, saying to him, “Lord, do not trouble yourself, for I am not worthy to have you come under my roof. 7Therefore I did not presume to come to you. But say the word, and let my servant be healed. 8For I too am a man set under authority, with soldiers under me: and I say to one, ‘Go,’ and he goes; and to another, ‘Come,’ and he comes; and to my servant, ‘Do this,’ and he does it.
As Jesus followed the Jewish elders, the centurion heard of it, and sent some friends to stop him from coming.
It’s interesting to note the contrast between what the “elders” said about this man, and what he says about himself. They strongly defended his “worthiness,” while he was quick to declare his “unworthiness!”
- “I am not worthy to have you come under my roof.”
- “I did not presume to come to you.”
He did not consider himself worthy, nor did he presume that Jesus would fulfill his request. He humbled himself, but also asked Jesus in faith believing that He could heal his servant. In fact, he believed Jesus needed to simply say the word, without having to touch the servant, or even be there in person. He believed Jesus was powerful enough that simply saying the word, and willing it to be done, he believed it would be done! So, he question for Jesus was not, could Jesus heal his servant, but would he?
Luke 7:9-10 When Jesus heard these things, he marveled at him, and turning to the crowd that followed him, said, “I tell you, not even in Israel have I found such faith.” 10And when those who had been sent returned to the house, they found the servant well.
Jesus marveled! Jesus was amazed! What causes Jesus to be amazed? Great faith, and great unbelief! He marveled at the centurions faith. Jesus was amazed that “not even in Israel have I found such faith.”
These elders who came had witnessed everything Jesus had been doing in Capernaum, and yet, Jesus praised the centurion’s faith, not theirs. The religious leaders tried to convince Jesus to heal his servant based on his merits. Jesus healed him based on his faith! That continues to be the problem with the religious leaders. They are seeking to be justified by their own works. Justification is only by faith in what Jesus does!
What was God doing? Why did He have this written down?
This is a story of contrasts.
- While the religious leaders tried to build up the worthiness of the centurion, the centurion himself recognized his utter unworthiness. God’s grace is never based on how worthy we are! No matter how good we are. No matter how much we give to good causes, or help people in need, we are still completely unworthy of God’s grace.
- The centurion had incredible faith, believing Jesus needed only to speak the word, and his servant would be healed. the religious leaders on the other hand, even after witnessing multiple miracles in person, still would not believe Jesus was who He said He was. The religious leaders tried to convince Jesus to heal his servant based on his merits. Jesus healed him based on his faith!
As I ask these questions of myself, I encourage you to ask them too.
- What can I learn from this? What is God saying to me and my life from this passage?
What is your opinion of your old self? Do you see merit or value in what you can do yourself? Do you truly repudiate it and despise it like Paul says in Rom 7:18 that “In me, that is, in my flesh, dwelling NO good thing?” Or do you still think there is some value, some good, some strength that it’s OK to rely on?
The contrast between these Jewish elders and the centurion is so stark. They believed themselves to be worthy of God’s mercy and grace. They sought to obey God’s commands completely and solely in their own strength, in the strength of the flesh. While the centurion came in absolute faith, believing he was completely unworthy, but believing God could heal, God could be merciful to him, if God chose to. And it was that simple faith that amazed Jesus! But it was also the putting away of self and his ability to see himself as nothing that lead to that kind of faith!
Andrew Murray said this in chapter 29 of Abiding in Christ,
“If you are to truly yield yourself as a living sacrifice on God’s altar as one alive from the dead (Rom.6:13, 12:1), you must be willing to give up everything to do with your self life and surrender it to God. Each talent, gift, and possession that is really to be sanctified and used by God must be separated from the power of sin and self, and laid on the altar to be consumed by the fire of God’s holiness. It is in the mortifying, the slaying of self, that the wonderful power of God Himself at work through you, can be set free for a complete surrender to God. (Rom 12:1-2)
This was the difference between those Jewish elders and the centurion. The Jewish elders were trying to convince Jesus that this mans talents and gifts and possessions had merit. That those gifts and talents were something note worthy to warrant God’s mercy. But, it wasn’t this man’s gifts and talents that amazed Jesus!
Believer! If you want to truly and fully abide in Christ, prepare yourself to part for ever from self, and not to allow it, even for a single moment, to have anything to say in your thoughts or desires. If you are willing to come entirely away, out of self, and to allow Jesus Christ to become your life within you, inspiring all your thinking, feeling, acting, in everything, He is ready to undertake the charge.
The Jewish elders lived completely by the power of self, and therefore they did not experience the power of God in their lives. But, the centurion repudiated self, he believed himself completely unworthy! As a result, he experienced the incredible power of God.
Too often believers come to Christ in faith, but believe the walk of faith is something they need to try to do in their strength, and therefore in the power of self. Even in this we need to learn to recognize that self needs to be kept in it’s place, “crucified with Christ,” and live only by the power that comes through Christ’s life living through us (Gal 2:20).
Murray went on to say;
Learn to never trust on self and the power of the flesh for holiness. Don’t depend on the acts of your own will, your purposes, resolutions, and endeavours, instead of Christ. Don’t think Christ is going to help your flesh or your self-will to live the Christian life. True faith teaches that you are nothing, and your labour is in vain. Resolve to trust on Christ to work in you to will and to do His good pleasure by His own power. (Phil 2:13)
The one is the carnal way, in which we put forth our utmost efforts and resolutions, trusting Christ to help us in doing so. The other is the spiritual way, in which, as those who have died, believing we can do nothing, our one care is to abide, to depend on Christ day by day, and at every step to let Him live and work in us.
To do this He asks but one thing: Come away out of self and its life, abide in Christ and the Christ life, and Christ will be your life. As He becomes your life, His interests will become your interests and His influence will begin to extend to even the minutest of the thousand things that make up your daily life.
- What do I need become more aware of?
How much do I live in dependence upon self vs dependence on God? Do I truly repudiate, or despise my self life? Or do I still see merit and value in the things I can do in my own strength?
- How does God want me to engage with this? What does He want me to do because of what He is saying here?
- I want to start each day off reminding myself of what amazes Jesus. Jesus is amazed when I come to him in faith, believing I am nothing, but He is everything and His power is everything.
- I want to learn to not allow my flesh and my self-life to have anything to say in my thoughts or desires, even for a moment. I want to learn to evaluate every thought and desire to determine it’s source. To grow toward coming entirely away and out of self, to allow Jesus to become my life, inspiring all my thinking, feeling, and acting, in everything.
- I want to learn to give up dependence on self in every way, so that my life today can be lived by God’s power
The Power; Implement and Integrate
The power to change is in the implementation and integration. We can talk all we want, make lots of plans, but until we do something about it, and develop habits that integrate those truths, we will never change. What is the one thing I need to do as a result of this study today?