Matthew 8:5-13 (ESV) When he had entered Capernaum, a centurion came forward to him, appealing to him, 6 “Lord, my servant is lying paralyzed at home, suffering terribly.” 7 And he said to him, “I will come and heal him.” 8 But the centurion replied, “Lord, I am not worthy to have you come under my roof, but only say the word, and my servant will be healed. 9 For I too am a man 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.” 10 When Jesus heard this, he marveled and said to those who followed him, “Truly, I tell you, with no one in Israel have I found such faith. 11 I tell you, many will come from east and west and recline at table with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob in the kingdom of heaven, 12 while the sons of the kingdom will be thrown into the outer darkness. In that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.” 13 And to the centurion Jesus said, “Go; let it be done for you as you have believed.” And the servant was healed at that very moment.
The Roman centurion, who was a commander of around 80 legionaries, came to Jesus to ask that he heal one of his servants at his home. Jesus tells the centurion that he will come with him and heal his servant. Wow!
It’s astounding how willing Jesus is to just go and perform the healing asked of him. The centurion shows faith by simply coming to Jesus to ask. But he demonstrates the depth of his faith, without any intent to put on a show, when he tells Jesus he is not worthy for him to come under his roof, so if Jesus will just say it, the centurion knows his servant will be healed. He recognized Jesus’ divine authority, and he would not dare to presume Jesus should come to his house. What faith, and that from a Roman occupier. He was not attempting to use God for his ends, he recognized Jesus for who he actually is, and Jesus acknowledged the centurion’s faith and healed his servant.
Jesus’ response to this “outsider’s” faith is astounding. Jesus says that many outsiders will come to God’s table and rest there with the fathers of the faith while the ethnic, cultural, and religious “insiders” would be cast out.
One, Jesus’ intent from the very beginning was all nations represented in his kingdom, not one nation with a monopoly.
Second, the “insiders” had so co-opted the faith that they could manufacture whatever flavor of faith they wanted in order to suit their ethnic, cultural, or religious agenda.
Finally, this co-opting of the faith may look successful for a while, but any nationalization of God, any attempt to use God for ends other than his reign and salvation established on his earth, will not be tolerated by God (see the prophets of the Old Testament).
God will reject such attempts in his sovereign work and he will bring centurions, prostitutes, and Gentiles of all kinds into his kingdom, and those precious disciples of Jesus will gladly do his will and not try to co-opt his great name for their own plans.
Israel had been trying to preserve their national identity for so long after their return from exile and survival of Alexander the Great’s remaining legacy that they had turned the worship of God into a political tool to preserve their national identity rather than the actual worship of the one true living God of the universe.
Jesus continually spoke to this problem as his kingdom had come, and it was in direct conflict with what the “insiders” thought was religious fidelity but was in fact using God’s name to preserve their national identity.
We see this in our current political chaos where pastors advocate for ethical positions that I can in no way imagine God is pleased with. We have entire political parties who have made a game out of pandering to evangelicals to the point that it’s hard for some to not see Republican and Christian as synonymous, and that is disturbing. We have lost the prophetic application of God’s eternal word to all things, and we attempt to “use” God not submit to him.
Let’s come out from the midst of this mess and let God’s word become the dictionary to define our terms and situate our positions.
Saturate your thinking in God’s word. Read it so much that you think it and can hear it resonate in your soul. Read it through a minimum of one time a year. We are suffering from biblical illiteracy. It’s time for the people of the book to actually know the book.
Default to being critical of political agendas, and critique them by God’s word, and refuse to be pandered to by any political party.
Don’t let those in power co-opt God’s word for their ends without calling them out for it. Speak like the prophets of the Old Testament or John the Baptist to those in power.
Don’t let God’s name be put on ethical positions that violate his word.
Will this type of behavior cost you? Yes. But who must we fear? God? Man? The fear of man is a trap. Fear God, know and obey his word, and let him do the rescuing if he sees fit.
But let us not in any way try to “use” God to get something other than kingdom come and his will done.
May the name of Jesus be exalted, and his kingdom come and will be done on earth as it is done in heaven.