“Be Prepared to Find Faith in the Strangest Places”

Matthew 8:5-17

As we continue reading the Gospel according to Matthew, Jesus had spent a while on the mountainside telling those who were listening that the Kingdom of God was in their midst and how members of the kingdom should live. Now that Jesus has come down the mountain, He has been demonstrating what having the Kingdom at hand really looks like. At the beginning of chapter 8 Matthew told of Jesus’ encounter with a leper. We saw how God’s holiness is more contagious than the man’s skin disease. 

God is not threatened by our infirmities. 

He came to earth to help us get rid of them. 

Today Matthew continues to tell of more encounters with Jesus and how God’s contagious holiness continues to spread. 

In verse 5 Matthew tells us that Jesus had entered Capernaum. Back in chapter 4 of Matthew we were told that Capernaum was where Jesus lived. He arrives in His home town and we are told a centurion came to Him. A centurion would have been an officer in the Roman army and therefore he would have been a Gentile. On the whole, Jewish people did not like centurions because they were the men the Roman government put in charge of keeping order and making sure the Jewish residents followed Roman law. It was out of the ordinary for a centurion to come to a Jewish teacher for help. Interestingly, whenever the New Testament mentions a centurion it turns out they are honorable good men. This one fits that description. This centurion had chosen to come to Jesus on behalf of his slave who was ill. 

Under Roman law a master had the right to kill his slave if the slave became ill or injured and was unable to perform their work. Yet this centurion came to Jesus pleading on behalf of his servant.  

Did you notice the centurion doesn’t even put his request into words? He pleads the case of his servant and allows his sorrow to speak. 

Upon hearing this plea, Jesus responded with His willingness to go and heal the slave. Jesus was ready and willing to go to the centurion’s house, which demonstrates another example of His upside-down gospel. Any respectable Jewish person would never step inside a Gentile’s home. It was against their law. 

But it wasn’t against God’s law.

It may not have been a problem for Jesus, but the centurion seemed to have sensed it was an issue because he immediately proclaims he is unworthy to have Jesus come under his roof. This would have fit a centurion’s understanding of the Jewish law. This centurion demonstrated humility and sensitivity to Jesus in wanting to spare Jesus from having to enter his house along with having Jesus take time to go out of His way to get there. The centurion knew enough about Jesus to ask for healing but not enough about Him to know that it wouldn’t have bothered Jesus in the least to make the trip. Regardless, the centurion’s consideration for both the servant and for Jesus reveals the centurion looked out for others. The centurion tells Jesus that all He has to do is say the word and his servant would be healed. This statement shows that the centurion saw Jesus as one with true authority. 

The centurion realized Jesus wasn’t some kind of magician who had to be present and perform some kind of magic trick. Instead, Jesus had authority and His word would be sufficient to make sure things were done outside His immediate presence. The centurion went on to compare this with his own type of authority with the Roman military. Those with true authority could make things happen by simply saying the word. Upon hearing what the centurion said, Jesus replied with astonishment. Not only that, Jesus stated He had not found anyone in Israel with such great faith. 

Let’s not underestimate the power of this statement. Jesus was in a Jewish village that was governed by Rome. The Jewish residents were allowed to live their lives within their religious beliefs as long as they obeyed Caesar. 

The Jewish religion thought all Gentiles were heathens and not one of them would be in God’s presence and certainly not in heaven. Jesus had been defining God’s kingdom but He had not said anything about Gentiles having a part in it, until now. 

Heads would have turned and tilted upon hearing this. 

Could this be true? 

God’s kingdom was becoming more upside-down every moment. But Jesus doesn’t stop there, He goes on to describe how people would come from all over, the east and the west, and they would sit down and feast with the fathers of their faith, Abraham, Isaac and Jacob! 

Jesus was describing a bit of what heaven will be like.

  • Heaven is a certain place where people will come from all sides of the earth. 
  • We will sit down and rest and eat. 
  • We will fellowship with Abraham, Isaac and Jacob

along with other saints who have gone before us.

In verse 12, Jesus throws another wrench into the Jewish view of the kingdom. Just as the racial identity of being Gentile was not an automatic barrier of entering the kingdom.  

The sons of the kingdom, those who were born into the Jewish nation, had no guarantee of entering the kingdom. 

In fact, Jesus declares they might end up in hell, “the darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.”

No wonder the Jewish leaders became indignant. 

How dare Jesus say such a thing? 

Who did He think He was, anyway?

Jesus didn’t seem to even bat an eyelash. He turned to the centurion and told him to go home. “It will be done just as you believed it would.” We are told his servant was healed that very hour. 

Continuing in verse 14, Jesus arrives at Peter’s house and see’s Peter’s mother-in-law lying in bed with a fever. This establishes the fact that Peter was married. It also demonstrates that this woman had to have been a good woman for her son-in-law to have taken her in to live with them. She didn’t even say a word and Jesus touched her hand and the fever left her. She shows her gratitude by immediately getting up and serving everyone. 

A fever may not be as severe as leprosy but regardless of how insignificant it may have seemed Jesus shows He cares for smaller problems also. 

Matthew goes on to tell us that by the time evening came around, word was out that Jesus was in town. People were bringing those who were demon-possessed and sick to Jesus. Demon possession isn’t something we see on a regular basis. 

However at this time in Judea it was recorded by the historian of that day, Josephus, “There was not a nation under heaven more wicked than they were.” It has also been noted that during that time the people were strongly addicted to magic and spent time inviting evil spirits to be familiar with them. 

We read that Jesus, “drove out the spirits with a word and healed the sick.”

Matthew tells us in verse 17, Jesus performed these healings as a fulfillment of the prophecy in Isaiah 53:4,

“Surely he took up our infirmities and carried our sorrows.” 

Matthew points to Jesus as being the true Messiah, delivering people from their sin and the effects of a fallen world. 

The Kingdom of God is still here today and we can still be delivered from our sin and the effects of a fallen world. 

So far Matthew shows us in chapter 8 that God is inclusive. 

Each person described was different from the other. Jesus healed:

  • A Jew with no social or religious privileges
  • A Gentile officer of the army occupying and oppressing Israel 
  • A woman related to one of Jesus’ devoted followers
  • Unnamed multitudes

It didn’t matter how the request for healing was made. They were all different. 

  • There was a direct request from the sufferer, made in his own faith.
  • There was a request from one man for another, made in faith on behalf of a suffering man.
  • Jesus came to a sufferer and no request was made so no evidence of faith was shown from the healed. 
  • There were a multitude of sufferers brought to Jesus, with different kinds of faith.

Jesus also used different methods to heal.

  • He used a touch that was forbidden.
  • He used a word spoken from afar.
  • He used a tender touch.
  • He used a variety of unnamed methods. 

All this to say, expect the unexpected when it comes to the kingdom of God. May we as Christians not follow the example of the Jewish leaders and become too sure of ourselves. Matthew warns the reader that the Kingdom of God is at hand, and that Jesus has shown God’s sovereignty the way He pleases, not necessarily the way humans may expect.

Let’s pray.