Facing Crowds (Matthew 8:18)

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To this point in his Gospel (8:18), Matthew has detailed how coming to the  Lord means  meeting Jesus as the fulfillment of prophesy and the embodiment of God’s love for His people. It means knowing Jesus as Savior. It means knowing Jesus as healer. It means knowing His Words to us, His grace to us, His care for us and His mercy upon us.

Love, healing, grace, care, mercy and fulfilled prophesy are in high demand. It is no wonder Matthew keeps referring to those seeking Jesus as either “a crowd” or “crowds”. 

Everywhere you go, you will find that people want the Kingdom of God. Everyone wants peace. They want relational peace with those around them. They want peace in their community. They want peace of mind in themselves. Except for truly evil, everyone wants the peace that God Himself brings. Likewise God’s presence. Everyone wants His presence, for His presence means joy, light, life and blessing. You will never meet a person who does not want some form of blessing. Further, to come Jesus is to experience the power of God. It is to obtain health instead of sickness. It is to obtain mobility instead of paralysis. It is to obtain sight instead of blindness. Everyone wants that too. The peace of God, the presence of God and the power of God are in high demand!

The thing is that apart from unity with God, you cannot enjoy any of His blessings, because there is no blessing apart from unity. All the world knows that much at least. There is no blessing in a marriage if the two partners have animosity for each other. There is no blessing in a workplace if your coworkers don’t even like you. There is no blessing in a business if the partners argue about everything all the time. Blessing is tied to unity, and unity with God is a prerequisite to His blessing. So our experience of the peace of God, the presence of God and the power of God all mandate that we have unity with God. It is true that our sin keeps us apart from Him, but this is the very good news of Jesus – He came to make a way for us to have unity with God, and He demonstrates what that unity looks like to all who come to Him. 

So it is that we read over and over again in Matthew’s Gospel account, “When Jesus saw the crowd around him…” Jesus presents a way forward. He represents freedom from what blocks us from receiving God’s peace, presence and power. The people are finding that Jesus does indeed bring freedom, “He drove out the spirits with a word and healed all the sick.” Such a thing could hardly be unpopular! It is no wonder that we see “crowds” of people coming to Jesus to this point in His ministry! 

Yes Jesus was not seeking to be popular. What He was seeking is those who truly want unity with God. Those who want to become citizens of the Kingdom of God. And for that people will not only have to come to Him, they’ll have to actively follow Him. That always includes overcoming obstacles to keep following Him. After all, those who come to Christ on account of their own need inevitably are at least partially doing so out of selfish reasons. The thing is – there is not even a hint of selfishness in Christ, not a lick of  selfishness in the Father or Spirit and there is to be no selfishness in God’s Kingdom either. Consequently, those who want to follow Christ find their selfishness being ground down by the demands of simply following Him. 

“When Jesus saw the crowd around him, he gave orders to cross to the other side of the lake.”  Those who come to Him will need to follow. It is the cost of truly knowing Jesus. 

The evil practice of using God must be abandoned. Instead of trying to employ God to achieve our ends we must submit ourselves joyously to God and let Him work through us to achieve His own ends.

AW Tozer

APPLICATION: Intentionality

What obstacles are you willing to overcome to follow Christ whole-heartedly? 

Confidence (Matthew 8:17)

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Matthew says of Jesus’ healing and deliverance ministry before the cross,  “This was to  fulfill what was spoken through the prophet Isaiah: “He took up our infirmities and carried our diseases.” In other words, Jesus’ active healing ministry is the fulfillment of that prophesy. So it is that Jesus really did take up the infirmities of the people. He healed sickness and weakness, illness and disability. So it is that Jesus really did carry their diseases. He healed leprosy, fever, dropsy and all manner of disease. As Matthew had just noted, “he drove out the spirits with a word and healed all the sick.”

Seven hundred years earlier, Isaiah had said, “Surely he took up our infirmities and carried our sorrows, yet we considered him stricken by God, smitten by him, and afflicted. But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was upon him, and by his wounds we are healed.” The willing sacrifice of the Son of God was sufficient to meet God’s requirement for justice, completely overcoming the punishment due us for our sins. Therefore Jesus is able to establish peace between fallen people and God Most High. More than that, Jesus’ broken body and death was enough to completely overcome the full effect of the curse laid against Adam’s race. As 1Peter 2:24 testifies, “He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, so that we might die to sins and live for righteousness; by his wounds you have been healed.” Read that again, “By His wounds you have been healed.” Christ didn’t suffer and die only for sins, but also to rid the world He made of the disease and death that plague us. 

That Jesus’ suffering and death on the cross was not only for our salvation – but also for our resurrection to full health and immortality – is a key doctrine of the New Testament. The promise of a new bodily reality in which we can enjoy eternity is the promise of the heaven we so eagerly await. It means not only new spiritual life now, but also new physical life in the day to come. To that point Romans 6:4 triumphantly says, “We were therefore buried with him through baptism into death in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too may live a new life,” and Revelation 21 declares, “There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.” One day we will be free of sickness and disease and death forever, on account of Christ’s sacrifice for us.

The truly amazing thing is that Matthew is recording the fulfillment of the prophesy even before Jesus suffered. In the fulfillment of the promise before Christ’s suffering and death we see that Jesus is actively moving some of that eternal future blessing forward into the present, in response to the people’s prayer (in coming to Him). Our eternal God can do that because He is present and unchanged in both past and present and future. He is Lord of time as well as space and matter, and praise His Name, He is not bound by time in answering us when we approach Him.

Therefore we can pray for health with some great degree of confidence that our prayer will be fully answered. We can pray with the same confidence that allowed the prophet to declare that Jesus took up our infirmities and healed us by His wounds hundreds of years before Jesus even physically entered our world. For we know that the day is coming when God’s people are totally and forever physically restored. That is a fact. Therefore, the faith we exercise when we pray for healing is not so much to believe the fact we know as it is to ask God to bring something of that future event into our present reality. 

It is that effort – to bring the future into the present – that is the greater work on God’s part, and it is our effort  to ask Him to do so now that is the greater exercise of faith on our part. 

In a determined reliance on a living God rather than on human strength, faith is renewed. When the struggle is engaged actively, believers find fresh hope and renewed life

LeRoy H. Aden & Robert G. Huges

APPLICATION: Intentionality

It takes faith to believe prophesy. It takes faith to believe God for answered prayer. It takes faith to believe for healing. What are you believing God for today? 

Prophesy (Matthew 8:17)

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We are at Matthew 8:17. Matthew has to this point quoted Isaiah 7:14 (Matt 1:22),   Micah 5:2 (Matt 2:6), Jeremiah 31:15 (Matt 2:18), unnamed prophets (Matt 2:23), Isaiah 40:3 (Matt 3:3) and Isaiah 9:1-2 (Matt 4:15-16). Each time he has used the same introductory phrase, which he now uses again in quoting Isaiah 53:4, “This was to fulfill what was spoken through the prophet Isaiah: “He took up our infirmities and carried our diseases.” ”

Matthew is able to look at the events he saw and see not just the event, but the absolute fulfillment of Scripture long ago spoken. Of course that is because of the Spirit’s work in him during the writing of the Gospel. But each of those Scriptures also had an earlier fulfillment that others might have seen in their time. 

For instance, Isaiah 7:14 refers to the virgin giving birth, and then adds, “…before the boy knows enough to reject the wrong and choose the right, the land of the two kings you dread will be laid waste. The Lord will bring … the king of Assyria.”  So that particular Scripture (Isaiah 7:16-17) was seen to be fulfilled in Isaiah’s time before the Assyrians invaded Judah in 701BC. But the earlier part (v14), although realized at the time, wasn’t completely fulfilled until Jesus was born. 

Likewise, Jeremiah 31:15 – which says, “This is what the Lord says: “A voice is heard in Ramah, mourning and great weeping, Rachel weeping for her children and refusing to be comforted, because her children are no more,” was fulfilled in part during the exile, when Israel was conquered and the children taken away as slaves. That Scripture had an even earlier fulfillment long before Jeremiah’s day, when Jacob heard his sons asking for Benjamin after going to Egypt, “You have deprived me of my children. Joseph is no more and Simeon is no more, and now you want to take Benjamin.” No doubt as upset as Jacob was, his wife Rachel was even more so! But in Jesus’ day Jeremiah 31:15 had its complete fulfillment in Herod’s slaughter of the innocents.

Likewise, the unnamed prophets said of God’s chosen rescuer, “He will be called a Nazarene.” So it was that both Samson (the strong man who defeated Israel’s enemies in his death) and Samuel (the first prophet of Israel) were Nazarene. That prophesy had at least two realizations prior to Jesus, but it wasn’t completed (as a prophesy) until Jesus’ appearing. And so it goes. One wonders if every generation doesn’t see some kind of minor realization of Scriptural prophesy. One would expect so, because God’s Word is timeless as God Himself is timeless, so His Word has echoes throughout time – ripples that go backward through time and carry right up until the final purpose for which it was spoken is fulfilled. Only then can the Spirit of God say with finality, “This was to fulfill what was spoken.” 

From that point forward, the fulfillment of God’s prophetic Word changes the course of everything downstream. All who live from that point on are impacted by the historical fact. For it is not the prophesy that ripples anymore, but the faithfulness of those who fulfilled it. 

The effects of faithfulness, like ripples from a pebble tossed in a pool, spread far beyond the one who is faithful.

Walter A. Elwell

APPLICATION: Worship

Our God is every faithful ave ever able to fulfill His every promise. Praise Him for His infallible Word! 

Getting Up (Matthew 8:14-15)

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Time in Capernaum allowed that Jesus could stay at Andrew and Peter’s  house. Mark  records, “As soon as they left the synagogue, they went with James and John to the home of Simon and Andrew. Simon’s mother-in-law was in bed with a fever, and they told Jesus about her. So he went to her, took her hand and helped her up. The fever left her and she began to wait on them.” Matthew is much more succinct in his report, writing, “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.” 

We know that where Jesus traveled (in His early ministry especially), crowds of disciples followed. Mark’s account allows that we know that James and John were there, and in all likelihood so were Peter and Andrew, and probably many more. Yet in spite of their numbers, the future apostles and early disciples are not yet Spirit-filled, so they can’t address Peter’s mother-in-law’s fever themselves. Later, Jesus will give them authority to heal, and later still give them His Spirit to so act. But for now, they are limited to telling Jesus about her, which they apparently do immediately. 

It is to the disciples credit that they did speak to Jesus about Peter’s mother-in-law. We should talk to God about the needs of all we encounter. Talking to God about a matter is always useful, no matter how spiritually immature we may be in the Kingdom of God. Our dialogue with Him (our prayers) are always powerful – not because there is power in our words or because God owes us a response, but because there is power in the One we speak to, and it is in His nature to be merciful.

Hearing of the need, Jesus does respond. A miracle takes place. Peter’s mother-in-law is healed. Yet as far as we know, no words were said during that miracle. Jesus just touches her. Her fever leaves. More than that, her strength to serve immediately returns.

Long before this happened, the Psalmist wrote, “For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb. […] My frame was not hidden from you when I was made in the secret place. When I was woven together in the depths of the earth, 

your eyes saw my unformed body.”  God makes each person and knows every hair on their head. It is He who forms each one, and He knows everything there is to know about each of us. So it is a very small thing indeed for Him to heal. He does not even have to speak. A simple touch from Him is enough, both to heal, and to strengthen.

Scripture leaves to the imagination what the lasting impact of Jesus’ touch was on Peter’s mother-in-law. But one doesn’t need much imagination to picture her following Jesus with the other women who followed Christ, even to standing there at His crucifixion years later. God’s touch is impossible to forget, though the fever and weakness it removed be long forgotten. 

To think that a a life could be so dramatically changed for the better merely because the disciples noted to Jesus that this lady was lying down ill – that a life was so changed just because they mentioned it to Him – is astonishing. But so it is. Our conversation with God often has much more of an impact than we could imagine. Because God does hear us, and because God is merciful.

Amen. 

Spiritual submission is spreading my case before the Lord and asking Him to deal with it as He sees best.

AW Pink

APPLICATION: Intentionality

Who are you bringing to God in prayer? What do you think God will do in response? 

Facing It (Matthew 8:16)

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Jesus is literally fulfilling Isaiah 61:1-2a, “The Spirit of the Sovereign Lord is  on me,  because the Lord has anointed me to preach good news to the poor. He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim freedom for the captives and release from darkness for the prisoners, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.” His day has so far consisted of finishing his Sermon on the Mount, healing the leper, getting to Capernaum, meeting and ministering to the centurion (teaching those following him in the process) and then arriving at Peter’s house and subsequently healing Peter’s mother-in-law. It’s been a busy day of significant ministry that any pastor would’ve been more than pleased with. But according to Matthew’s account, the day is not yet over for Jesus: “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.”

In teaching the multitudes on the mount, Jesus has launched a full-scale offensive against the spiritual forces blinding people from understanding their true purpose as God’s children. 1John 3:8 details, “The reason the Son of God appeared was to destroy the devil’s work,” and that is what Jesus was doing. Destroying the devil’s work of sickness, affliction, oppression and limitation. The sermon on the mount began that work, the healing of the leper, the centurion’s servant and Peter’s mother-in-law demonstrated that work, and this episode of intense ministry into the evening speaks to the enormity of that work. 

The reality is that while doing that work, the devil is unwittingly helping. Unable to defeat Jesus through temptation, is now trying to defeat Jesus through sheer exhaustion. He allows that many of his demonic minions afflicting God’s people are sacrificed in an effort to grind down the Son by presenting Him with case after case after case of those bound or oppressed. Healing ministry is faith-filling but tiring work. The reward of seeing someone brought into fullness of health is certainly exhilarating, but the mental clarity involved in listening to God for another, and the spiritual effort involved – not just in prayer, but in ministering in the power of the Holy Spirit – is just as tiring as any physical job can ever be. 

Healing ministry is hard work. Deliverance ministry is nothing less than exhausting work. Operating at that level of spiritual warfare is like being in the front line of a war. To say it is mentally, emotionally and spiritually intense is an understatement. That Jesus, who has just finished a very full day of ministry, now addresses the ‘many’ needing deliverance and the ‘all’ needing healing is nothing short of astonishing. No doubt it required Jesus to work very late into the evening. Yet this He does. Each time, Jesus overcomes. Jesus’ endurance and perseverance in his ministry caused that what the devil meant for the defeat of both God and His people is turned into victory for both God and God’s people. 

With each individual ministered to a son of the King is freed, the Kingdom of God advances and the reign of the evil one is eroded. Jesus is completely destroying the devil’s work, albeit one soul at at time. To this end the Father strengthens Him and enables the work. We know this because years before, Isaiah wrote of the Father, “He gives strength to the weary and increases the power of the weak.” 

Praise God, He gives strength to all who are weary in His work, for then all will know that it is not us, but God who does the work! Glory to God. 

Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power.

the apostle Paul (from Ephesians 6:10)

APPLICATION: Thankfulness

Praise God that when we are weak, He is strong. When we are tired, He is fresh. When we are exhausted, He is still warming up! 

Dawn (Matthew 8:13)

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Luke’s account of the interaction between the centurion and Christ has two  notable  additional details. Firstly, that the centurion himself was not actually with Jesus during it, but speaking through proxies. Luke writes, “The centurion heard of Jesus and sent some elders of the Jews to him, asking him to come and heal his servant.” And when Jesus does go with those proxies, Luke records, “He was not far from the house when the centurion sent friends to say to him: “Lord, don’t trouble yourself, for I do not deserve to have you come under my roof. That is why I did not even consider myself worthy to come to you. But say the word, and my servant will be healed.” 

Secondly, Luke adds that the centurion was known to be a kind and gracious man. Though he was obviously not a convert to Judaism, the elders plead with Jesus, “This man deserves to have you do this, because he loves our nation and has built our synagogue.” 

Luke’s additional details make the story of the centurion even more compelling. For though it is a great act of faith to ask for an extraordinary blessing personally, it is a greater act of faith that he sends others to ask Jesus on his account, expecting that the reported answer will be enough. Moreover, though it is astonishing that a Gentile would have faith to see Jesus as Lord, it is even more astonishing that this man exercises that faith before even hearing about Jesus by being kind, compassionate and generous to those who would’ve considered him a foreigner (at best). 

So it is with every fact of Scripture and with every miracle of God. There is something of God’s transcendent nature that gets transposed into what He is doing and into whom He is working through. The result is that the more you dig into the matter, the more it is revealed as deeper and more magnificent than you first thought it to be. God Himself is never less than you suppose He is, and neither is His Word or His action. They are always more, never less. 

That fact means that our faith in Him is always surpassed by His grace to us. Indeed, our faith in Him cannot be greater than He is, for He is both the answer to our faith and the source of our faith. 

Understood as such, it is almost not a surprise that Matthew writes at the conclusion of the centurion’s account, “Then Jesus said to the centurion, “Go! It will be done just as you believed it would.” And his servant was healed at that very hour.”  

For the centurion, the moment Jesus spoke, it was. He did not have to wait to see the result, as Abraham did to see Isaac born in response to the promise, or Isaac did to see Jacob born in response to prayer. He did not have to go and do something first, as Naaman the Syrian did after speaking to Elisha or the servants who needed wine needed to do in filling jugs and taking some to the banquet master. The centurion believed God was able to do even from a distance what only God could do, and he found that Jesus was even greater than that. 

Never live for the rare moments, they are surprises. God will give us touches of inspiration when He sees we are not in danger of being led away by them. We must never make our moments of inspiration our standard; our standard is our duty.

Oswald Chambers

APPLICATION: Intentionality

If such was the centurion’s faith, what of yours? Do you believe God will do what He has promised you? Wait then for it. Be assured He is greater than your faith in Him.  

Darkness (Matthew 8:11-12)

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Speaking to the crowd following Him, Jesus said, “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.”  What Jesus says here is a statement. It is not a parable. It is not a metaphor or a colloquialism. The parts of His statement contain such in order to illustrate the whole. But as a whole, it is a statement of fact about a particular time in the future. 

When He says, “I say to you,” Jesus is raising awareness of the importance of what He is saying. Recall how when Jesus was speaking about the fulfillment of the Law, He said, “I tell you the truth, until heaven and earth disappear, not the smallest letter, not the least stroke of a pen, will by any means disappear from the Law until everything is accomplished.” “I tell you the truth” is a similar statement to “I say to you.” It is a statement that emphasizes the bluntness of His speech. It is a statement that calls the listener to pay particular attention, because the fact being explained is not going to go away.  Jesus wasn’t joking or spouting hyperbole. He was dead serious, just as when He said, “For I tell you that unless your righteousness surpasses that of the Pharisees and the teachers of the law, you will certainly not enter the kingdom of heaven.” 

He also says, “From the east and the west.” That was a common figure of speech meaning “all over the world”. As one commentator notes it’s understood meaning, “The parts of the rising and of the setting sun include the entire world, looking in the two opposite directions from where Jesus stands.”  And the feast Jesus spoke about was a commonly understood depiction of the blessing of the Kingdom of God, and that Jesus mentions “Abraham, Isaac and Jacob,” is a clear indication that He means the covenant people of God. 

Taken together, Jesus is saying that there is a time to come when people from all over the world (meaning Gentiles) will enjoy the blessing of the Kingdom of heaven, and at the same time those who thought they were God’s covenant people will find themselves excluded. Not just excluded, but damned. For “outside, into the darkness” means to be forever distanced from that place of blessing, and “where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth,” was a commonly understood metaphor for hell. At the very least, it is a phrase built on Psalm 112, which not only speaks of the blessedness of the one who fears the Lord and finds delight in His commands, but also that, “The wicked man will see and be vexed, he will gnash his teeth and waste away.” From this we can know that the damned shall not be immediately annihilated. They shall know that they are cut off from God, and they shall know darkness, sorrow and very great anguish. 

Jesus is hammering home the point that legalism – even if it is Jewish legalism – will not save. Nothing we can do will earn us a place in glory. Only those who repent and so call on the Name of the Lord are saved, as the prophet Joel had said, “Everyone who calls on the Name of the Lord will be saved.”  That is a very serious fact with very serious consequences.

The joy of looking to God and exercising faith in Him are very great. The consequences of not looking to God, of not exercising faith, of trying to earn salvation by some other means – are likewise severe. 

No description can deal adequately with the gravity of God’s vengeance against the wicked—their torments and tortures are figuratively expressed to us by physical images—darkness, weeping and gnashing of teeth, unquenchable fire and an undying worm gnawing at the heart. By such expressions the Holy Spirit certainly intended to confound all our senses with dread

John Calvin

APPLICATION: Worship

Consider God’s great grace to you – HIs grace that enables you to avoid eternal damnation. His grace that tolerated your sin until you heard of Christ, His grace that awakened your dead spirit to hear of Christ, His grace that gave you the gift of a changed heart to repent, and His grace that forgave you, marked you with His Spirit, grafted you into His family and affords you a place at His table in eternity. 

Shock (Matthew 8:10-11)

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Jesus has just made a very pointed jab at the people of faith (the Jews) by  pointing out  that one of their occupiers (a Roman centurion) has more faith than they’ve demonstrated to date, “I tell you the truth, I have not found anyone in Israel with such great faith.” No doubt those standing there were stunned. But before that statement can really even begin to sink in, Jesus makes it all the sharper, “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.”  

Remember that Jesus has just come down from the mountainside after preaching the Sermon on the Mount. With a “large crowd” following Him, He had met a leper, touched him and healed him. That was a scandal to the Jews. Jews were not supposed to touch unclean people. Coming to the city, a centurion had come and asked for help. Jesus was not put off by the fact that this man was the embodiment of the oppression the Jewish people felt. He promises to go and help. That was a scandal too. Then the centurion expresses humility and Jesus responds that He’s found no one in all Israel with such great faith. That would’ve been a deeply upsetting comment to those within earshot, who understood themselves to be the people of God. To them, the centurion would be – at most – a bit player in God’s glorious plan. But this last statement – about Gentiles coming from all over the world to take their places at the feast of celebration with the Jewish forefathers – this is unimaginable! Even worse, Jesus says that ‘subjects of the kingdom’ (meaning Jews themselves) will be cast out of the kingdom! There is no other way to see it. That is “off the chart” rude to the people standing around Him.

If He was trying to earn friends, Jesus is failing very badly. But Jesus is not trying to earn friends. He is shaking the people of God awake even as He moves to rescue the centurion’s household. His comments are only shocking to the lethargic and entitled. 

God’s people should’ve been more than ready for their salvation to arrive. Instead, Jesus found such a misinformed, legalistic and entitled group, He had to start His ministry with basic teaching instead of missional instruction. Even as He comes down from the mountainside, He finds outcasts and foreigners with more faith than the chosen people of God. It is no wonder He reacts so strongly, marveling at the centurion’s faith and sarcastically rebuking His own followers. 

Strangely, Matthew gives no indication of how the crowds reacted to Christ’s comments. 

Perhaps that is because their reaction was not helpful to either their cause or ours and to that point it was left out. More likely, it is because the Spirit of God desired to give the readers of Matthew’s Gospel room to grasp their own internal reaction, because Christ’s comments immediately pose the same question to us: Is our faith in the Lord we worship causing us to act accordingly, or are we sitting back letting our faith atrophy while we congratulate ourselves on being His followers? 

This is the confidence we have in approaching God: that if we ask anything according to his will, he hears us. And if we know that he hears us—whatever we ask—we know that we have what we asked of him.

 the apostle John (1 Jn 5:14–15)

APPLICATION: Intentionality

What is the next step of faith God is calling you into? When will you take it?  

Faith (Matthew 8:8-10)

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The book of Hebrews gives us a definition of faith from God’s perspective, “Now faith is   being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see.” That certainty must be rooted in our understanding of who God is, because faith is not a self-manufactured product for us to create and apply as we so desire. It is not confidence in ourselves. It is confidence in the revealed character of God. Of that, even pagans know something, for Romans so testifies, “For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that men are without excuse.” 

From that we gain that even pagans know that God is eternal, that God is powerful and that God alone is God! So testifies the Roman centurion that Jesus is interacting with, “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.” 

Every solider serves at the pleasure of their commanding officer. The commander tells the soldier to do something, and they do it. They have to do it, because not only is that the rule of the chain of command, but there are significant consequences to not doing it. In times of war, your life and the lives of those you serve with rest on whether or not you obey your commander. In times of peace, what your day and future look like rests on whether or not you obey your commander. So soldiers learn to obey, and commanders learn the responsibility of instructing correctly. The chain of command is effective and powerful. The centurion knew that, and he also knew that God alone is God, and that as God, He is absolutely sovereign. God is the top of the chain of command! So if God were to give a command, he could be assured it would be fully complied with. 

This centurion wasn’t a Jew and hadn’t grown up in synagogues, but nevertheless he has faith in what little he knows of God, and he acts on that faith. It isn’t much, but that is all God asks of those who follow Him. 

“When Jesus heard this, he was astonished and said to those following him, “I tell you the truth, I have not found anyone in Israel with such great faith.” 

That Jesus makes such a comment is not only a solid affirmation of the centurion’s faith, but a resounding and very pointed jab at the community of faith represented by those who were following Him. For the centurion it is a compliment, but for the Jew it is a sarcastic comment; an outsider – an ostensively pagan outsider at that – has more faith than “the people of God”! 

Faith is not something we store up and show off once in a while like a treasure. It is something we act on. It is to our soul what inspiration is to our mind. It is to our body what oxygen is to our muscles. Either you use it and find yourself better off for having done so, or you disregard it and let it atrophy into uselessness.

Faith causes one to evaluate worldly realities in light of eternal realities.

David A. deSilva

Broken (Matthew 8:5-7)

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Jesus came to present salvation ‘first for the Jew’. One would think then,   that He would base His ministry in the capital city of Jerusalem. But He did not. One might think that because Jesus was born in Bethlehem, perhaps His birthplace would be a good ministry center – it’s also roughly in the center of the country. But He did not chose Bethlehem either. Knowing He spent at least a good portion of His childhood in Egypt and was of the line of Judah (a southern tribe), it would’ve also made sense if He based His ministry in the southern area. He did not. Of all the places He could’ve chosen, He made Capernaum His ministry center. Capernaum was a border city, in the very north of Israel on the border with Jordan. Being a frontier city, it would’ve had a garrison of Roman soldiers. This made it all but impossible to live there and not interact with the occupying Romans. Such interaction made the citizens of that city suspect as collaborators in the eyes of many Jews. 

“When Jesus had entered Capernaum, a centurion came to him, asking for help. “Lord,” he said, “my servant lies at home paralyzed and in terrible suffering.”” A centurion was a leader of a garrison (about 100 soldiers). That means this man is no ordinary Roman. He is not merely a citizen and so largely innocent of his country’s occupation of Israel. He is a solider of Rome, and a soldier who leads other soldiers in completing their mission. Even if he is kind and good to the Jews around him, he is the very definition of Israel’s occupier. Yet here he is, calling Jesus “Lord.” This is truly remarkable, for up to this point in Matthew’s Gospel account, only the leper had seen Jesus as Lord. 

Matthew is making a point. It bears pointing out that by teaching the people to follow the letter of the Law more than the spirit of the Law, the teachers of Israel had led the nation to the point where outcasts and foreigners could more easily recognize the Lord more than they could. Fortunately, Jesus does not teach as they had taught, and He does not act as they had acted. He is the Lord of all, and He purposes to grow the Kingdom of God among all. Consequently, He not only based His ministry close to foreigners (because Israel was supposed to be a light to all people), He actually practiced what He preached and what the Word taught regarding helping others as a demonstration and extension of God’s love. 

To that end Jesus Himself had preached, “Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.” Now we read of how He lived that out in His response to the centurion, “Jesus said to him, “I will go and heal him.”” 

Not only does Jesus interact with the centurion, but He also agrees to his request and indicates He’ll go into his home. From a first-century Jewish perspective, this is worse than touching a diseased and unclean person (as He just did with the leper). For in this case He is violating both Jewish protocol (in entering a Gentile’s house) and Jewish ethics (in helping the representative of those persecuting the Jewish nation). 

Thankfully, Jesus is far more interested in demonstrating and growing the Kingdom of God by ministering to broken people than He is in following the protocols and mindsets that got the Jews so far from God to start with. It bears asking the question; “Are we likewise so focused?

Although we tend to think about saints as holy and pious, and picture them with halos above their heads and ecstatic gazes, true saints are much more accessible. They are men and women like us, who live ordinary lives and struggle with ordinary problems. What makes them saints is their clear and unwavering focus on God and God’s people

Henri Nouwen

APPLICATION: Intentionality

Jesus did not allow prejudice or the fear of seeing misunderstood stop him from bringing the blessing of God to all peoples. May we all be and act likewise.