Jesus and the Centurion

How did Jesus treat the centurion? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

I had said I would do some talking on Jesus and the crowds. I wish to now speak a little bit more on the story of Jesus and the centurion in Matthew. To begin with, we need to try to see this from the perspective of a Jewish person living in Israel.

This centurion is said to be a good man as he paid for a synagogue for the people, but even today, in a similar situation we would be suspicious. “Of course that politician paid to get a new hospital put up! Look at how much press coverage he gets over it!” This centurion could have very well been noble in what he did, but some people will look with suspicion. Some won’t, but some will.

What was inescapable however was that this centurion is a reminder that the Israelites don’t own their own land. Who provided the synagogue? An outsider. What outsider? One that represents the ruling power in the world that hopefully, the Messiah will deliver us from.

Even if this guy has done a lot of good, Israel would by and large prefer to not have him around. They would prefer to have the land to themselves. They were still waiting on the deliverance of God.

So now here comes Jesus and how many could already be wondering if this guy is the Messiah? If so, well surely He’s going to deal with this centurion. He’s going to tell him he’s an intruder and needs to get off the land. Those who think in such a way will be highly disappointed.

This centurion has a simple request. He wants one servant healed. When he asks, he tells Jesus that Jesus doesn’t even have to enter his house. This centurion, a man or honor and prestige in Rome, is not worthy to have Jesus in his house. All Jesus has to do is say the word. The centurion illustrates this by explaining how he says a word to a servant and they do it.

This centurion is understanding that as he has authority over the realm of his servants, Jesus has authority over the realm of at least sickness. Who knows for sure how far this goes? Keep in mind this is a pagan gentile giving this statement. (He could have been a God-fearer, but we have no explicit data showing otherwise. Either way, he would have been seen as outside of the covenant.)

After the healing, Jesus turns to the crowd of people and what does He do? The exact opposite of I’m sure of what many people were expecting. He tells them He hasn’t seen a faith like this in all of Israel. Sorry guys, but this gentile here has you beat!

Not only this, but he pulls this over to the next world. He says that many will come from all over the world to join the feast of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, but many of the Jews themselves in Israel will be cast out and not entering. If you are a Jew in the audience sick of Rome and wanted to see Jesus lay down the law on these guys, you got the exact opposite of what you wanted.

This is not a good day for you.

Something we can think about here is that Jesus did not say something to please the crowd. If anything, He said something extremely offensive to the crowd. Jesus in all His talks never apologizes. He never takes back anything that He says. He says it and it’s out there and that’s it. If you don’t like it, He’s not responsible for your feelings.

I am not saying we need to be needlessly offensive, but if Jesus was not afraid of offending His audience with the truth, why should we? A huge problem in our Western society today is that offensive statements are deemed unallowable because someone’s feelings could be hurt. Everyone’s feelings will get hurt sometime and the more we coddle this, the more we make it that we can’t handle anything. As a pastor I was talking to yesterday said, “The early church was willing to face death for Jesus Christ and we breakdown if our air conditioning goes out.”

Not only this, but Jesus is considered one of the greatest personalities and speakers of all time as well as one of the holiest and best men who ever lived. Now as a Christian, I think he’s the best of all time period, but even non-Christians can praise the life of Jesus in these areas and often do. Aside from the crazy position of mythicism, most everyone would tend to agree that Jesus is a figure that is admirable in many ways.

Jesus did not sway to popular opinion.

Perhaps we should be the same way.

In Christ,
Nick Peters
(And I affirm the virgin birth)

Jesus and the Crowds

How did Jesus respond to the people? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

I’m considering doing some research on the question of Jesus and the crowds. I started thinking about this because I was thinking more about the question of who Jesus is and not just the theological answer, but the more personal answer. What was Jesus like in His behavior? What is His personality like?

I have been going through the Sermon on the Mount in my nightly reading. I go through slowly, reading one verse every night and just thinking about it, so I decided to go right after that account to see how Jesus treated a leper. There’s something that’s easy to overlook.

Matthew 8:

When he came down from the mountain, great crowds followed him. And behold, a leper came to him and knelt before him, saying, “Lord, if you will, you can make me clean.” And Jesus stretched out his hand and touched him, saying, “I will; be clean.” And immediately his leprosy was cleansed. And Jesus said to him, “See that you say nothing to anyone, but go, show yourself to the priest and offer the gift that Moses commanded, for a proof to them.”

Did you notice it?

Great crowds follow Jesus, but when the leper comes forward, the crowds are nowhere to be seen. Jesus doesn’t even acknowledge them. All He cares about is the leper. The crowds could likely have been aghast that a leper would even approach Jesus. One can hardly imagine what they think when Jesus actually touches him.

Yet when do we see this crowd again? Immediately after this, we get the healing of the centurion’s servant. Here a Gentile comes forward wanting a servant to be healed and gives a great statement in the authority of Jesus. Jesus turns to the crowd, which consists not mostly if not entirely of Jews, and tells them that he has not seen such great faith in all of Israel.

Jesus doesn’t seem to care about winning over the crowds or what they think of Him.

I was intrigued and went back further. This crowd, or rather these crowds, start to follow Jesus in Matthew 4 after He does multiple healings. Then He climbs up on a mountain and gives a sermon that is one of the greatest messages of ethics the world has ever heard and yet one of the most difficult ones for anyone to follow. Jesus is not making it easy on the audience.

Naturally, I wanted to see if anyone had done anything on this that I could see. I went to Amazon and put in Jesus and crowds. Nothing. Now this doesn’t mean no one has written anything, but it means I couldn’t find anything specific. Perhaps if I look at this, it will be some of the first research done on this topic.

I still also do not want to lose sight of Jesus and divorce. Yes. That question still affects me every single day and every single day has a degree of pain to it because of that event. I was talking to my therapist about it today even and talking about some problems I have had lately and I have thought it could be boredom, but he said that could also be stemming from depression. I am sure some of that is still there.

I do find this question interesting. Jesus doesn’t seem to be a crowd-pleaser and He seems to care more about the individual in these matters instead of the people at a large who He doesn’t think are truly committed to the cause. There are sociological implications to this, but also as a Christian in daily living, gives me some thoughts on how Jesus sees us on an individual level.

Stay tuned. We’ll see what happens.

In Christ,
Nick Peters
(And I affirm the virgin birth)

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