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)

Forgiveness

Is forgiveness really a big deal? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

For those who don’t know, my wife Allie is blogging now. One of her recent blog posts can be found here. It was what she wrote yesterday on the topic of forgiveness and I figured that was something I could write on from my more apologetic perspective, and I did indeed comment on her blog to give her a brief inkling of my own thoughts on the matter.

Now I have said the Gospel is not all about forgiveness, but forgiveness is certainly a large part of it. The Gospel is first about God being king through Christ and forgiveness is the means God provides to get on the right side of Jesus. Forgiveness is God saying that He is cancelling the social debt between the two of you. You can be in a right relationship with Him again. It does not mean the consequences are removed. It does not even mean there can be no punishment given. Both of those could be removed, but forgiveness does not necessitate that that happen. (This is a problem with the shooting in South Carolina recently. People thought forgiving the killer would mean he would not go to jail or face any penalties. It didn’t.)

As we talked about it last night (After all, what couple doesn’t have theological discussion for their pillow talk), I pointed out that if we do not have our lives defined by joy, perhaps we are not really figuring out what forgiveness is. Perhaps we are taking it for granted. How many of us have ever said “Even if this is wrong, it’s a little sin after all so it’s really no big deal.” Sadly, I know I’ve said that, and it needs to stop. Chances are you have as well. Now I’m not at all saying that every sin is equal. I do think some sins are worse than others. I am saying that all sin is still serious.

When we come to God, we should realize God has the right to judge us. He has the power to judge us. He has the knowledge to know He’s right in His judgment. He has the holiness to say He is not being a hypocrite at all and is guilty of no wrong Himself. He has the omnipresence to know and be there for every sin we commit. Look. There’s no way of pulling a fast one over on Him. Any excuse you could have, He knows it already and He knows the ones you don’t even know about. You’re not going to be able to change His mind on anything because nothing is beyond His knowledge.

You’re in a tight spot with God and the penalty is severe. Eternal removal from His presence is no light matter.

And yet, God pronounces you forgiven because you simply ask for it and seek to live differently. You don’t have to do some grand feat. He already did the grand feat. Now let’s take all that you’ve heard above about the nature of God and realize this, this God who can do everything to you and would be entirely right in doing so has chosen to not only forgive you, but then in turn to give you an eternal blessing.

This is really hard for us to grasp because everything we do, we do with mixed motives. For instance, I would like every motive with my own wife to be pure, but I am sure I can do many things because there is a large part of me looking for what I could get in the bedroom later on for it. Now in my case, what I tell guys who wrestle with that is to do the right thing anyway and pray that God will help you to purify your motives. Chances are you will not reach 100% purification and husbands and wives need to realize that as much as we want to serve one another, we will in some ways end up seeking to please ourselves too.

God is not like that.

God never treats you as an object to His own end as the exclusion of your humanity. His forgiveness is total and let’s remember how great it is. If you commit the same sin several times a day and sincerely ask forgiveness and seek to change, God will forgive you. Consider also this in Romans 4:5

However, to the one who does not work but trusts God who justifies the ungodly, their faith is credited as righteousness.

God who justifies the ungodly….

Yes. The one who is wicked is said to be made righteous in His sight.

Now the question we have to ask is how should we live our lives? If we do not live our lives as lives of joy we have to ask some things. Do we see our sins as minor and thus no big deal to forgive them? Do we see the justice of God as no big deal to violate? Do we see the guarantee of being in His presence for eternity as no big deal? Or is it some combination thereof and possibly other facts I have not considered? Where are we lacking.

Then we think about our evangelism. One show I’ve come to like lately is “Fool Us.” I can enjoy magic and Penn and Teller being atheists doesn’t bother me. It’s still entertaining, although I still wonder at the end “How the heck did those people do that trick?” While I think Penn Jillette is wrong on many things, I have to agree with his words here. How much do you have to hate someone to be a Christian and not tell them about Jesus?

Am I being indicted on this? Yep. Sure am.

And maybe it’s because like you, I need to step back and realize what forgiveness is. Perhaps I need to consider Luke 7.

“47 Therefore I tell you, her sins, which are many, are forgiven—for she loved much. But he who is forgiven little, loves little.”

Do we really realize how much we’ve been forgiven?

In Christ,
Nick Peters

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