Submit to the King, The Healing of the Centurion’s Servant
Matthew 8:5-13 5-27-18
Good morning you all. And welcome everybody who’s here on the internet as well, or through the internet. And Happy Memorial Day almost, and I appreciate the privilege to speak before you all again. We’re going to get in the way back machine and we’re going to go back almost seventy-five years on this Memorial Day weekend, to December of 1944 when General George Patton was advancing towards the German border. But there was a problem—there was a problem with his Third Army. And the problem was there had been incessant rain and so the third army was stuck in the mud, literally. The tanks were caked, the treads of the tanks were caked with mud and they couldn’t advance. The G. I.’s boots were packed with mud, it was like they were walking through concrete. And so the general, who was a Christian, appealed to the authority of God, and he called his chaplain; the chaplain in the Third Army, and he gave him an order. He said you draft me weather prayer, a pray for my warriors. And so the chaplain said “Yes Sir!” And the chaplain got to work.
So later that day the chaplain came to the general’s headquarters there in France and presented the following prayer for the general’s consideration. “Almighty and Most Merciful Father, we humbly beseech Thee of Thy great goodness to restrain these immoderate rains with which we have had to contend. Grant us fair weather for battle. Graciously hearken to us as soldiers who call upon Thee that armed with Thy power we may advance from victory to victory and crush the oppression and wickedness of our enemies, and establish Thy justice among men and nations.”
And so Patton, in his humility, recognized God’s authority and he had 250,000 copies of that prayer made, and he distributed it to his men and he told them to pray. Can you imagine if a U.S. Army General were to give that order today? They would take him out and court martial him in a matter of minutes. Well, Patton did it, and to the German’s chagrin the weather cleared in a matter of days and the soil dried and the General was off. He goes north to Bastogne to free the beleaguered 101st Airborne who was surrounded by the Germans, and then he makes a hard right and makes his way into Germany and ultimately helps win the war within a matter of months.
Patton, as a military leader, as a military officer understood authority and he understood his place in God’s chain of command so he appealed to the Supreme Commander in Chief. That wasn’t Eisenhower, who was in charge of all of the allied forces. That wasn’t F.D.R., who was the Commander in Chief. That was God, the Supreme Commander and chief. Patton understood that God was in charge and so Patton trusted God for victory. He was blessed because of his submission to God.
And today we’re going to see another military officer; we’re going to see a Roman military officer who, like Patton, submitted to God and he was blessed because of His submission to God’s authority. Our passage today is Romans 8:5 and it deals with, as I say, a Roman military officer. But before we get into our passage I want to talk about two things by way of background. I want to talk about the Book of Matthew itself and then also the Roman Empire.
There are two reasons why the Apostle Matthew wrote his gospel. One is to show that Jesus is the Messiah, the Messiah King. And the other reason is to explain what’s going on with the kingdom, to explain the King’s Kingdom program. And here’s what I mean by that. The kingdom program is a real question that comes up in Matthew’s Gospel because he’s writing to Jewish leaders. He’s writing first to show look, Jesus is the Messiah, the Promised Messiah King, but he’s also writing to show okay, well, where’s His kingdom. Right? Because that would have been the response from the Jewish listener to Matthew; he would have said “okay Matt, I got it, I got it! You’re telling me that Jesus is the King, the Messiah King… well where’s His kingdom if He’s the King? Because I, as an Israelite, I’m familiar with the Old Testament,” that Jewish reader would have said. “The Old Testament is chalked full of these promises, promises and prophecies that the King would come and that the King would have political authority and this utopian kingdom.”
But the Jewish reader would have said well, we’re still under the boot of Rome, there’s no independent utopian kingdom here so why do you say that Jesus is King if He’s got no kingdom? What’s going on here Matt? And so Matthew responds to that. Most of our time today is going to be focused on this second item here which is the explaining, Matthew is explaining what’s going on in the kingdom program. We’ll spend a little bit of time on the first one, the first purpose that Matthew wrote the book which is to prove that Jesus is the King. But most of the time will be spent on the second one. And so Matthew’s response in a nutshell is the King offered His kingdom, He offered it! The people, His people said I don’t want it, I don’t want You and I don’t and Your kingdom. And so the King postpones His kingdom.
The first words that Matthew records of Jesus’ public ministry are the following words: “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.” [Matthew 4:17] That was in Matthew 4. And John the Baptist in Matthew 3, the forerunner of Jesus, says the same thing, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.” [Matthew 3:2] And what John the Baptist and Jesus were saying was look, the King is here, He’s among us, the kingdom is here, it’s near us, it’s within our grasp, it’s HERE, it’s almost here with us because the King is ready to usher it in so submit to Him. It was a message of submission, submit to the King, submit to His physical authority, submit to His spiritual authority, because Jesus proved both. He established both, He established His physical authority because this man controls nature. Who is this man who controls the waves and the winds and the storms? Who is this man who walks on water? Who is this man who heals the lame and the blind and the mute and the deaf? Who is this man who has power and authority for life and death and hell? Jesus established that physical authority through His works and wonders and miracles.
But it wasn’t just physical authority He established, He also established His spiritual authority. And He did that through His teaching. Right? In the Sermon on the Mount, in Matthew 5-7, Jesus teaches the kingdom ethics, the kingdom morality. And then Jesus establishes His spiritual authority over the spiritual realm. Right? He exorcises demons; demons fear Him. He issues an order and demons obey it because it because in fear they respect this person, Jesus of Nazareth, this man. So He established both aspects of His authority, physical and spiritual.
And His command to His people, to the Israelites, was “Repent,” which is the Greek word metanoeō, and it means to change one’s mind. And so they were supposed to change their mind about their reliance on their racial privileges as Jews. They thought that they were… there was this teaching that had crept into Israel through the Jewish leadership, the Pharisees and the Sadducees, this false teaching that said look, we’ve got a lock on the kingdom of heaven, we’re guaranteed, we’re good to go because we are racial descendants of Father Abraham. And they felt that all we need is to be connected to Father Abraham as racial descendants and we’re going to have Abraham’s righteousness. We don’t need Jesus’ righteousness, we’ve got Abraham’s because we’re a son of Abraham. But what they were missing was Abraham’s… Abraham was righteous, he was, but Genesis 15:6, he was righteous not because of his own good works but he was righteous because… what does Genesis 15:6 say, “Abraham believed in the LORD and it was reckoned to Him” or “credited to Him as righteousness.”
So it was God’s righteous that Abraham had, not Abraham’s own righteousness. And so they were missing that point, they were missing that! Well, as you know, Israel as a whole, there were many exceptions but Israel as a whole rejected her Messiah. Many Jews in that land believed in Messiah but the Jewish leadership, the Sadducees and the Pharisees, they rejected Messiah. The majority of the population following their leaders rejected Messiah. And so what did Jesus do? He withholds the kingdom; He withdraws His offer of the kingdom and He postpones it. He postpones it to a future age, a future time, a future generation of Israelites who will accept His offer.
And so there’s an interim period here from when He withdrew the offer of the kingdom to when He’s going to bring it back or offer it again to a future generation of Israelites who will accept it. So there’s this period of time in between and that’s the church age. Matthew is the only gospel, of the four gospels, Matthew, Mark, Luke and John, he’s the only one who mentions the church. And he uses Gentiles, like our Roman centurion that we’re going to see today, to highlight something that’s going to be happening in the church, during the church age. Matthew brings Gentiles in in the beginning of his gospel, the Magi from the East who came and submitted and praised and worshiped the baby King Jesus. Then He brings the centurion, in Matthew 8, that we’re going to look at today. Then He brings a Canaanite woman who trusts Jesus, towards the later part of Matthew. Then there’s the second centurion, a different one, at the foot of the cross, who oversaw the torture and execution of Jesus who then submits to Jesus. This amazing act of faith, submits in his humility and trusts in Jesus.
Then finally Matthew ends the book with the great commission where Jesus says “Go out to all the nations,” those are Gentile nations, the U.S. of A, Mexico, Taiwan, South Africa, all the nations throughout the world, go to those Gentile nations, go to all of them and make disciples of the nations baptizing them in the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit.
So Matthew explains that this program, first the rejection of the offer, the withdrawal of the offer, the church, then the King will make the offer again to a future positive generation of Israelites. And the amazing thing right now is in the church age the majority of those who are positive to God, the majority of those who are positive to the Jewish Messiah, the King, are not Jews. There are many, of course, who are positive and submit to Christ but the majority, during the church age, are non-Jews, they’re Gentiles. And so that’s why Matthew highlights this role of Gentiles in his gospel. And so there are five principles that we’re going to see about the kingdom program that Matthew lays out. These first three are kind of in seed form in our passage today and they’re more developed as the Gospel of Matthew goes along. And the last two, items four and five, are directly in our passage today.
So item number 1, in disbelief Israel rejected her Messiah-king and His kingdom. So as a result the King postponed His kingdom. Number 3, during this postponement the King is building up His church and He’s adding additional heirs to the kingdom, not replacement heirs, the church doesn’t replace Israel. These are additional heirs that He’s adding and the majority of these additional heirs are Gentiles. He’s adding them to His future kingdom because at a future time, a future generation of Israel will accept His kingdom offer and these additional heirs that are being added in the church age will rule with Him. I’m talking about you and me; I’m talking about church age believers will rule with Him in that future kingdom.
And then number 5, we’re going to see in our passage today that submission to the Jewish King by faith alone, not faith plus anything else, by faith alone brings eternal blessing and that eternal blessing is admittance, it’s being in, it’s being an heir to His future kingdom. And then number 5 the horrible part is rebellion against the King, disbelief brings eternal punishment and that eternal punishment is exclusion, being cast out. It’s exclusion from His kingdom and we’ll see that as well.
That’s the first background item, which is the Book of Matthew. Let me talk about the other background item before we get into our passage, Matthew 8. The other background item is the Roman Empire. In New Testament times Caesar was the absolute authority in the Roman Empire. It wasn’t always that way. For five hundred years Rome was a republic and they hated the idea of power being concentrated in one person. They hated the idea of a Rex, which is their word for king or dictator. Instead they were “Senatus Populusque Romanus.” The Senate and the people of Rome. And they had these initials, SPQR on everything. They’d have it on the banner as the legions, the Roman legions would advance into warfare, they would have a banner that said SPQR. They’d have SPQR on their money, on their coins, they’d have it on their statues, it was just everywhere because that’s how they referred to themselves, SPQR, they were the Roman Republic.
And the Senate and the people of Rome, the reference to people was just kind of a nod to the people because the power wasn’t in the people, the power was in the Senate. That’s who really had all the authority and would rule by consensus. This is 500 years or so. But then this extremely popular general, who was also a politician, came along, very, very successful, his name was Gaius Julius Caesar, and he was so wildly popular that he was declared dictator in perpetuity. Well, a number of senators hated that idea so they cornered him, they murdered him and this created a big power vacuum.
So now the republic where powers diffused among a bunch of Senators, now the Republic is changing; you’re going to have power that’s concentrated in one person so there’s civil war. Caesar’s son, adopted son, comes to power, his name is Caesar Augustus, he wins the civil war and then the empire begins. And from that point on power is concentrated in the tippy top, in the top of the pyramid the power is concentrated in Caesar and Caesar’s word is law. When he issues a command everyone down the chain of command, the ministers, the generals, the other officers in the army, like a centurion, they’re rank and file, they all executed with precision because Caesar’s word is law and anyone down the chain of command, if someone obeys them they’re obeying Caesar and if someone disobeys them, like if someone disobeys a sinner, they’re disobeying Caesar, the top of the authority.
And Rome had the essential element of an empire or a kingdom; that was the exercise of authority. And how did they do that? They sent their legions out, they sent their army out to North Africa, to Greece, to the Middle East, to Gaul, to exercise their authority because that is the central principle of a kingdom. I’m going to ask you all to kind of put that on a sticky note and put it in your brains because we’re going to come back to that concept of exercise of authority in a little bit. So this chain of command concept is in the Centurion’s brain that we’re going to look at here in a second. And this chain of command concept springboards him into faith. So with that background let’s get into our passage.
Matthew 8:5, “And when Jesus entered Capernaum, a centurion came to Him, imploring Him,  and saying, ‘Lord, my servant is lying paralyzed at home, fearfully tormented.’” Capernaum was a city in northern Israel, on the banks of the Sea of Galilee. And Capernaum was the basis of operations of Jesus. Matthew called Capernaum Jesus’ own city in Matthew 9, and Mark calls it Jesus’ home in Mark 2. And as His home base He performed many miracles and taught many principles about the kingdom there in Capernaum. “To whom much is given much is required,” and so Jesus required something of the people of Capernaum, just like He required it of all Israel for that matter. He required that they repent, that they, in other words, submit to Him as the King. But they refused to do that and so Jesus condemns them later in the Book of Matthew. He condemns a number of these cities. He condemns Capernaum and Chorazin, Chorazin you’ll see is just north of Capernaum, also on the banks of the Sea of Galilee.
But let’s look at this passage where He condemns them for their disbelief and their refusal to repent. Matthew 11:20, “Then He” this is Jesus, “began to denounce the cities in which most of His miracles were done, because they did not repent.  Woe to you,” Jesus speaking, “Woe to you, Chorazin! [Woe to you, Bethsaida! For if the miracles had occurred in Tyre and Sidon which occurred in you, they would have repented long ago in sackcloth and ashes.”] And then verse 23, “And you, Capernaum, will not be exalted to heaven, will you? You will descend to Hades; for if the miracles had occurred in Sodom which occurred in you, it would have remained to this day. And you, Capernaum, will not be exalted to heaven, will you? You will descend to Hades; for if the miracles had occurred in Sodom which occurred in you, it would have remained to this day.”  Nevertheless I say to you that it will be more tolerable for the land of Sodom in the day of judgment, than for you.”]
Verse 20 tells us that Capernaum did not repent, and verse 23 tells us the reason they didn’t repent; they didn’t repent because of their pride, because of their pride in the sense that they said we’re descendants of Father Abraham, we’re good, we don’t need Your righteousness, we don’t need any righteousness other than Father Abraham’s righteousness. But as I said earlier they missed the mark on Father Abraham’s righteousness, it’s really God’s righteousness in the first place. And the wickedness of the men of Sodom was infamous. Back in Genesis 18 God destroyed Sodom and Gomorrah because of their wickedness which included, as part of that, their homosexuality.
And so Jesus is saying even the wicked men of Sodom, even they would have repented if they had seen the miracles that I did in your city, Capernaum, and have heard the words that I preached in your city, Capernaum. And repent for them, for the men of Sodom, would have been the same thing as Abraham in Genesis 15, believe Him Lord and He would have reckoned it to them as righteousness. But for the men of Capernaum, despite seeing all these miracles and hearing this teaching from the Lord, they rejected it and so Jesus says the judgment for them in the last days, the men of Capernaum, will be worse than the judgment for the men of Sodom.
This is one of the verses that tells us that it appears there’s going to be degrees of punishment in hell for unbelievers, depending on their behavior. And so this is a degree of punishment that’s more intense for the men of Capernaum than it is for the men of Sodom. And this comparison between the Israelites of Capernaum and the men of Sodom is really a lesson for the self-righteous. Right? I mean, some people say I’m so glad I’m not like “that” homosexual, I don’t do “those” sins or I’m so glad I’m not like “that” adulterer or I’m so glad I’m not like “that” cheater. And they use that distance that they create to prop themselves up.
But God says no, no, no, no, no, no, no, you ALL miss the mark. The self-righteous one misses the mark, the one who’s engaged in the sin of homosexuality or adultery or lying or cheating, everyone misses the mark because everyone falls short of the glory of God. And so people go to hell, not because they commit this sin or that sin or the other sin, they go to hell because they refuse to trust in the sin bearer, the One who paid for sins, that’s the King, Jesus of Nazareth. Each person gets to choose; they get to choose whether they go to heaven or they go to hell by their decision whether to trust in Jesus or not. It’s kind of like what this old boy had on his tombstone when he died. He had this poem, this rhyme on his tombstone and it went like this: “Remember man, as you walk by” as you walk by my tombstone, “Remember man, as you walk by, as you are now so once was I; as I am now, so shall you be. Remember this and follow me.” So some fellow walks by and he looks at that and he gets down and he writes underneath that, he writes” to follow you I’ll not consent until I know which way you went.” [Laughter]
We all get to choose whether we go to heaven or we go to hell. And it’s a choice that’s just based on one thing—do we trust in Christ or not? It’s that straightforward. God desires none to be lost. And He loves all of humanity. That’s why we’re told in John 3:16 that God gave His Son for all of humanity. [John 3:16, “For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life.”] Right? So that His Son would pay for the sins of the world. Or to say it differently, God hates sin but He loves the sinner; God hates homosexuality but He loves the homosexual. God hates adultery but He loves the adulterer. God hates cheating but He loves the cheater. God hates lying but he loves the liar.
Now I’m not suggesting that God views all sin the same; no He doesn’t. It’s different, the fellow who is doing 56 miles an hour in a 55 mile an hour speed zone, well that’s different, that’s a different level of punishment than the person who’s engaged in adultery. But what I’m saying is sin is sin, we should call it what it is but when we identify sin we need to be humble about it. We’re sinners too, just in different areas. We shouldn’t be self-righteous about it.
Well, Capernaum, from a Roman standpoint was important enough for them to station a centurion and his soldiers there. It has industry, like farming and fishing and other industries and they stationed a centurion there. In the Bible centurions are always viewed in a favorable light. This centurion, the centurion who submitted to Christ at the foot of the cross, the centurion in Acts named Cornelius who the Apostle Peter ministered to, they’re always viewed in a very noble way in Scripture. Centurions were the backbone of the Roman military. They commanded around a hundred troops and that’s where they got their name, “Centurion,” and we don’t know this particular centurion’s name but we do know his great faith, that we’ll see here shortly.
The centurion, just like anybody else in the chain of command under Caesar had great power and great authority. And if you obeyed a centurion you were obeying Caesar; if you disobeyed a centurion (or any other military officer for that matter, or even just a rank and file soldier) you were disobeying Caesar. And this military chain of command gives the Centurion a background that’s, as I said earlier, will springboard him into faith here in a few moments.
So this verse says, “And when Jesus entered Capernaum a centurion came to Him imploring Him and saying, ‘Lord, my servant is lying paralyzed at home, fearfully tormented. This man, who was powerful, is an office in Caesar’s army, begs the Lord for something; begs Jesus for something, implores Jesus to help his servant. And he calls Jesus “Lord.” This centurion is over the Israelites; he didn’t view Jesus as just some other Israelite citizen. No, he knew there was something different, there’s something different about this man, Jesus of Nazareth. He calls him “Lord” and this shows the centurion’s humility. He knows his limitations; he’s not arrogant as some people in power are, he’s a humble man. And the Greek word for servant is the word [can’t understand word] It means servant or slave.
And this centurion, being a humble man, cares for the people under him. He cares for his servant, he cares for his well-being. He’s not like Aristotle or the Greeks who had a very different view, a very poor view of how slaves should be treated and a very poor view of slaves in general. Aristotle said this: “A slave is a living tool, used in action rather than production, and belongs wholly to his master….The manner of their use [slaves and animals] differs very little, for assistance in matters of necessities of the body comes from both, slaves and domesticated animals.” So Aristotle used slaves, or human beings, similar to an ox who would till the field for somebody. Or similar to a horse who pulls a carriage. Or similar to a tool, a living tool, like a hammer or a wheel.
It’s interesting to see how our colleges engage in this kind of selective morality, I’m get off in a different area here for a minute, on the one hand they worship the Greek classics, like Aristotle, but on the other hand they find Americans from 150 years ago, who happened to be on the wrong side of slavery, utterly repugnant and disgusting. They can’t even look at their image. And so I’m not suggesting that slavery was right, and I’m not saying slavery was wrong. But what I’m saying is that there’s some real hypocrisy in academia today because they worship men like Aristotle and then they look at Americans from 150 years ago who were wrong on the issue of slavery but otherwise they were fine Americans. And so you see this kind of hypocrisy involved in academia today.
Well, the centurion was a powerful man and he cared for people under him and this also shows his humility. “Jesus said to him,” in verse 7, “I will come and heal him.’  But the centurion said, ‘Lord, I am not worthy for You to come under my roof,” the first thing to notice here is that the centurion recognizes that he’s unworthy in comparison to Jesus. This is a man of power and authority, an officer in Caesar’s military who had, probably a fine house. It’s not like he’s worried that oh, my house, it’s not fine enough for You, Jesus, or it’s kind of messy and I don’t want You to come see the mess in my living room. No, this Roman centurion says in comparison to You, Jesus, I’m not worthy for You to even come into my house. It’s kind of like Isaiah in Isaiah 6 when he stands before the throne of God and he says, “Woe is me, for… I am a man of unclean lips, and I live among a people of uncleanness.” [Isaiah 6:5, “Then I said, “Woe is me, for I am ruined! Because I am a man of unclean lips, And I live among a people of unclean lips; For my eyes have seen the King, the LORD of hosts.”]
He doesn’t even want to look at the holiness of God because when you’re in the presence of God your sin is magnified and it’s the same idea with this centurion. He’s like I don’t want You to even come into… I’m not worthy for you to even come into my house Jesus. This isn’t phony humility. The Centurion is a powerful man, he’s not denying his power and his position of authority. He’s just saying in relation to You, Jesus, I am NOTHING! I am unworthy. Humility demands that we recognize that God is worthy and we are not.
Now this is countercultural. Right? I mean, the world doesn’t market humility; the world doesn’t sell humility. The world sells pride and arrogance, and prop me up kind of marketing. Right? But the people of God, the people of God recognize that reliance on God and humility, that’s where the real power is. That’s where the strength is. That’s why the Apostle Paul in 2 Corinthians 12:7-10 says I will boast, I’m going to boast in something, and he didn’t boast in hey, I’m the man, he says I will boast in “my weaknesses.” [2 Corinthians 12:7-10,“Because of the surpassing greatness of the revelations, for this reason, to keep me from exalting myself, there was given me a thorn in the flesh, a messenger of Satan to torment me—to keep me from exalting myself!  Concerning this I implored the Lord three times that it might leave me.  And He has said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for power is perfected in weakness.” Most gladly, therefore, I will rather boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may dwell in me.  Therefore I am well content with weaknesses, with insults, with distresses, with persecutions, with difficulties, for Christ’s sake; for when I am weak, then I am strong.”]
That’s the passage where Paul tells us that God gave him a thorn in the flesh, something that was painful so that he wouldn’t get the bighead, because the Lord had revealed so much to him and he was responsible for distributing to the apostle to the Gentiles, he’s responsible for distributing that information, writing so many books of the New Testament, but the Lord didn’t want him to get cocky so He gave him something that was painful. And he prays “take it away, Lord, take it away Lord, take it away Lord.” He prays three times take it away and the Lord says no, “My grace is sufficient for you.” And Paul says well bring it then. He says, then I will “boast in my weakness,” and he says I’m happy in my weakness “so that Christ’s power may dwell in me.” So that Christ’s power will be perfected. [2 Corinthians 12:9, “And He has said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for power is perfected in weakness.’ Most gladly, therefore, I will rather boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may dwell in me.”] The point is if someone seeks God, if they want to seek God and want to seek God’s favor, then they have to recognize that God is worthy and they are not. They have to be humble; that’s why the Scripture says, “God is opposed to the proud, but He gives grace to the humble.” [James 4:6] That’s a constant theme throughout Scripture. He exalts the humble and he humbles the exalted. You see that throughout all of Scripture.
So back in our passage here, [Matthew 8:7] “Jesus said to him, I will come and heal him,  But the centurion said, ‘Lord, I am not worthy for You to come under my roof, but just say the word, and my servant will be healed.  ‘For I also am a man under authority, with soldiers under me; and I say to this one, ‘Go!’ and he goes, and to another, ‘Come!’ and he comes, and to my slave, ‘Do this! and he does it.”
You see this great statement of faith by this centurion? There’s no question in his mind that Jesus has the power to heal his servant. But that’s not the real statement of faith here. He’s saying I know you’re from God; that’s why he goes into a description of authority, authority under, authority over. The centurion is saying I’m in the military chain of command with authority over me and authority under me. And I have the authority of Caesar behind my words, I say something and the weight of Caesar is behind my orders. And I see that you operate under a similar system, Jesus; You not only are under the authority of God but You wield the authority of God. You wield the power of God. Like my words are the Emperor’s words, Caesar’s words, Your words are God’s words and I see that You have authority under you, which is life and death and nature and weather and health, and humanity itself. Just say the word and my servant’s life will be restored to him. And I see that You have authority over you too, Jesus, God Himself, because we don’t have the power that you have; we don’t have the power over life and death like you do. It’s clear to me that You do the things of God because you are of God, you have the power of God. God gives life with a word, restores life with a word; I ask that You do the same thing for my servant and I know you can.
So this is a huge statement of faith by this centurion. In his humility he submits to Jesus’ authority, not just His physical authority but also His spiritual authority. He submits spiritually to Jesus’ spiritual authority by saying I’m not worthy… don’t even come into my house, please, I’m not worthy for that to happen. And then he submits to His physical authority by acknowledging that Jesus has the power of life and death and healing and health. And so he submits to that and says I ask you to exercise some of that authority for my servant.
Verse 10, “ Now when Jesus heard this, He marveled and said to those who were following, ‘Truly I say to you, I have not found such great faith with anyone in Israel.’” Usually this word “marvel” which is the Greek word thaumazó is reserved for people’s response to Jesus, when they see Jesus walking on water they thaumazó, they marvel. When they see Jesus healing someone they marvel. But here it’s reversed, what’s going on here? This is saying that Jesus marveled at this centurion’s faith. We see in the Gospels both the humanity of Jesus and the deity of Jesus. We see both! He’s fully God and fully man. Jesus is able to give life or restore life with a word, which is what God does. But here, like a man Jesus marvels at something, at someone. So sometimes Jesus acts from the perspective of His humanity, He marvels at someone or something and other times He acts from the perspective of His deity, He reads people’s minds. That’s what God does. Right.
Matthew 12:25, “And knowing there” these are the Pharisees, “And knowing their thoughts Jesus said to them,” XYZ… Who reads people’s minds but God. And so we see this balance between the humanity of Jesus and the deity of Jesus, fully God, fully man in one person forever. And notice back in verse 10 Jesus says, “Truly, truly I say to you, I have not found such great faith with anyone in Israel.” Whenever Jesus says “truly” in all of Jesus words, the whole Bible is important of course but when Jesus is saying “truly” He’s saying hey, listen up, I’m going to say something BIG here. And so what He’s saying is the Israelites that I’ve been ministering to, they’re not believing in Me, but this outsider, this foreigner, he’s the one with the great faith, not My people who I’ve been ministering with.
Now are there exceptions to that? Yes, but the majority, the Jewish leadership, ahhhh, we don’t want you, in fact, we’re going to kill You, we don’t want You Jesus! And so Jesus is saying the Israelites are not believing in Him and instead it’s the outsider, this foreigner who’s believing in Him. There was this racial arrogance that crept into the thinking of many Israelites from the teaching of their leaders, the Sadducees and the Pharisees. And they thought they had a lock on the kingdom of heaven because they were racial descendants of Abraham.
They also thought that non-Jews would not enjoy the benefits of the kingdom of heaven, they would not be part of the kingdom of heaven because you had to be, in their mind, racially descended from Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. Now let me pause for a minute and say unfortunately throughout the centuries some Christians have used this wrongly as a basis for anti-Semitism. And they’ve said okay, and then I’m going to be racially arrogant against you and I’m going to be prejudice towards you, the Jew, and let me say that’s not only ungodly and sinful but’s really absurd for a Christian to ever be involved in anti-Semitism because we worship a Jew, the Jew of Jews, Jesus of Nazareth! We are the meter of Christianity and so it’s not only sinful to be engaged in anti-Semitism but it’s just absurd for a Christian to ever be involved in that.
Well, John the Baptist calls out the Sadducees and the Pharisees on this bogus view of the kingdom, that it’s only reserved for racial descendants of Abraham. And John the Baptist says this when he calls them out. He says, “And do not suppose that you can say to yourselves, we have Abraham for our father, for I say to you that from these stones God is able to raise up children to Abraham.” [Matthew 3:9] What John the Baptist is basically saying is it’s true that by race and tradition you’re connected to the promises of God. John the Baptist, who is an Israelite speaking to Israelites, he’s saying it’s true that you’re connected by race and tradition to the promises of God, and by race and tradition to the Scriptures, which came through the Israelites. And by race and tradition to the great men of faith of old, Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. But that doesn’t mean that you have a lock on the kingdom of heaven. God can raise up other heirs, additional heirs from these stones to be heirs to the kingdom of heaven.
So Jesus, the Jewish Messiah, turns the idea of racial arrogance on its head. Jesus shows that the kingdom of heaven is open to all who will submit to His authority. Now I want to be clear on this point when I say “submit to His authority.” I’m not talking about Lordship salvation, that is a false view. Lordship salvation is the idea that you need two things to be saved; you need the first, trust in Jesus that He paid for your sins, and then second you need to commit to follow Jesus, or commit to make Jesus Lord in your life. That’s false, patently false, and we know that from Acts 16. When the Philippian jailor, who is about to commit suicide because the Apostle Paul and the other Christians there are freed from the jail with this earthquake and they’re all gone and the penalty for a prisoner being lost by a guard was the guard would be executed. And so this Philippian jailor is about to commit suicide and Paul says ….don’t hurt yourself! And the Philippian jailor says “What do I have to do to be saved?” [Acts 16:30] He knows he’s a Christian, he knows Paul is the leader, an apostle of these Christians. He says “What do I have to do to be saved?” The Apostle Paul says something simple, “Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved….” [Acts 16:31] He doesn’t says and do this and make this commitment and make this promise to God. He just says “Believe in the Lord Jesus Christ and you will be saved….” There is but ONE condition to salvation.
And so Lordship salvation is not true, there’s one condition of salvation and there are really two different things here; one is salvation and one is after salvation. Salvation is… when I say “trust” or “submit to the King” that’s when you trust in Jesus for the forgiveness of your sins that is submitting to Jesus for the access to the Father for forgiveness of your sins. That is an act of submission when we trust, when we believe, or rely, all the same thing, believe, trust, rely, have confidence in, that’s an act of submission to Jesus’ authority for salvation. And then after you’re saved in that instant of time then there’s okay, well what do I do now, for the rest of my life. Okay, well, you’re still supposed to be submitting to the authority of Jesus, it’s just here those are daily decisions, those are hourly decisions. So those are two separate things, salvation and then post-salvation. And in those hourly decisions where we’re obeying Him we’re accumulating rewards that He’s already designed for us in His kingdom, in His future kingdom.
So what’s happening here in verse 10 and verse 9 is that Jesus is complimenting the centurion; Jesus marvels at the centurion. Right? Jesus marvels at the centurion and when He marvels what He is saying is it’s a compliment but it’s not just a compliment of the centurion, it’s also an indictment of Jesus’ own people because they’re rejecting Him.
And so what Matthew is doing is he’s developing these principles that I referred to earlier, these first three principles. They’re hinted to in our passage and they’re developed more throughout the Book of Matthew, but He is saying that’s what’s going to happen here, there’s going to be disbelief. Jesus says I haven’t found faith like this centurion with anyone in Israel. Matthew is going to develop that and he’s going to say look, the people are going to reject Jesus and so what He’s going to do? He’s going to postpone His kingdom. And what’s He going to do after the postponement? He’s going to implement the church and in the church age He’s going to add additional heirs to His kingdom because these heirs said I don’t want You, I don’t want it. I don’t want You, I don’t want Your kingdom! Jesus implements the church age and adds additional heirs or in the words of John the Baptist, he raises up new sons from the stones. That’s you and me, right? During the church age. And then, number four, submission to Jesus, to the King, the Jewish King, by faith alone brings eternal blessing and we’re going to see that; Jesus is going to say that for the centurion. And then number five, there’s rebellion and rebellion is disbelief and punishment.
Back to our passage here, verse 11, “I say to you that many will come from east and west, and recline at the table with Abraham, Isaac and Jacob in the kingdom of heaven;” [Matthew 8:11] This phrase, “kingdom of heaven” is God taking the peace and prosperity and joy and power and authority of heaven to the earth, and bringing it to the earth, imposing it on the earth, providing it to the people of the earth, us on the earth. And the king’s kingdom, it begins with the thousand year reign. The kingdom of heaven begins with the thousand year reign and then propels into eternity thereafter.
We know that from Daniel 2:44 where we read, “In the days of those kings” the kings there are the kings that Pastor Andy taught us about, with respect to that statue, the big statue, the King of Babylon, the King of Medo-Persia, the King of Greece, the King of Rome, “In the days of those kings” those kingdoms, those human kingdoms, “the God of heaven will set up a kingdom which will never be destroyed,” never means never, “and that kingdom” the God of heaven kingdom “will not be left for another people;” just like Babylon, the Persians came in and took the Babylonians kingdom. The Greeks came in and took the Medo-Persians kingdom. The Romans came in and took the Greek kingdom. When God institutes His kingdom, no one is taking that one, because it’s a forever kingdom. “…it will crush and put an end to all these kingdoms, but it will itself endure forever.”
And what does a kingdom need? A kingdom needs the exercise of authority. Right? That’s what Rome did, they sent their legions to all of the territories of the empire to exercise their authority. That’s what the Germans did, they sent their armies throughout all of Europe to exercise German authority. That’s why our G.I.’s went in and spilt their blood for those people and for us, for freedom. Well, if human rulers know that you need to exercise authority for a kingdom, for there to be a kingdom doesn’t God know that a thousand times more? Of course he does. The King of heaven will return and this time when He returns He will return to rule, with power and authority, ABSOLUTE power and authority.
You see, the world doesn’t want to hear about that Jesus. They want to hear about the sweet cuddly baby Jesus in the cradle. They don’t want to hear about the Jesus who is the warrior, the warrior-king who slaughters His enemies and in Revelation it describes the blood up to the bridle of the horse. They don’t want to hear about the ruler Jesus, the ruler Jesus King, they want to hear about the baby Jesus because it convicts them. Right? It convicts the person when we know there’s a day of accountability coming, there’s a day of reckoning coming and that day of reckoning, the ruler Jesus is set forth in Psalm 2.
So let’s take a minute and look at Psalm 2. There we read, “Why are the nations in an uproar, and the peoples devising a vain thing?  The kings of the earth take their stand and the rulers take counsel together against the LORD and against His Anointed, saying,” “anointed” in Hebrew is the word “mashia “which means chosen one or anointed. This is the Davidic king, not David but the son of David; mashia translated in the Greek is Christos; Christos translated in English is Christ so you say it this way: “The kings of the earth take their stand and the rulers take counsel together against the LORD and against His Christ,” we’ll see that phrase again in a minute.
Verse 3, “Let us tear their fetters apart and cast away their cords from us!” So the world says I’m the boss of me, I’m the boss of me, I don’t need You; I don’t need You God and I don’t need Your Christ, I’ve good, I don’t need that, I don’t need you. Verse 4, “He who sits in the heavens laughs, the Lord scoffs at them.” This word “scoff” in the Hebrew means to mock, to deride, God mocks those who think they don’t need to submit to His authority, those who ignore His authority. Verse 5, “Then He will speak to them in His anger and terrify them in His fury, saying,  “But as for Me, I have installed My King Upon Zion, My holy mountain.” That’s a reference to Jerusalem. This means that God has installed His Messiah in Jerusalem as the King of the world. And the verse speaks in the past tense because it is so certain to occur it’s as if it already happened. It hasn’t happened yet; it’s not going to happen until Christ returns but it’s so certain to occur the Scripture records it in the past tense because it’s absolute, it WILL happen with absolute certainty.
Verse 7, “I will surely tell of the decree of the LORD: He said to Me, ‘You are My Son,” Messiah is the Son of God, right, “Today I have begotten You.” The phrase “only begotten from the Father” is a title of Jesus. Verse 8, “Ask of Me, and I will surely give the nations as Your inheritance,” the Father will give Messiah the nations to rule over, “And the very ends of the earth as Your possession.  You shall break them with a rod of iron, You shall shatter them like earthenware.’” This is the absolute, unequitable authority of the King, of Jesus. Verse 10, “Now therefore, O kings, show discernment; Take warning, O judges of the earth.” This is a warning that God is about to issue.  “Worship the LORD with reverence and rejoice with trembling.” Do we do that? Or do we approach God king of casually. This says, “Worship the LORD with reverence and rejoice with trembling.” It’s cool to rejoice but He says “rejoice with trembling.” Approach God with humility. The fact that God would even let us mention His name is beyond comprehension The fact that he even reveals Himself to us is amazing. And so he says, I am God and you all are not, so submit to Me. And here he says He’s the authority, He’s the absolute authority. And so we need to approach God with an attitude of humility and submission. Or in the words here, “rejoice with trembling” and “reverence.” Verse 12, “Do homage to the Son,” that’s Christ, “that He not become angry, and you perish in the way, for His wrath may soon be kindled.” The connotation here is that Messiah’s wrath may be sparked like that so beware, this is the warning, beware and submit to him to avoid His wrath. And then you see these beautiful words at the end, “How blessed are all who take refuge in Him!”
Is the Lord is slow to anger and rich in mercy as the Old Testament says many, many times? Yes! Is the Lord’s message a message of hope and mercy and love? Yes! But there’s another part of the message too; the other part of the message is a message of wrath and judgment. And that’s a part of the message that the world doesn’t want to hear about but it’s here; it’s a message of authority and submission. Submission is a word that the world and our culture find most repugnant but God says submit; submit to Me and to My authority. In the day that the Messiah King returns He will bring the authority and the peace and the prosperity of heaven to this earth when He rules with absolute authority. And that’s why the angels declare in Revelation 11:15, they declare that “there were loud voices in heaven, saying, “The kingdom of the world has become the kingdom of our Lord” there’s that phrase again, “of our Lord and of His Christ;” that’s God the Father and God the Son, “and He will reign forever and ever.” So the angels say what Daniel says, that this is a forever kingdom, that is the kingdom of heaven.
Are we so comfortable with our lives, with what we can see and touch and feel that we don’t really get concerned, we’re not really that interested in our future inheritance and the kingdom that God will bring? Is our prosperity so dear to us that we could care less about our position as heirs in His royal kingdom? This is real. We will return with Christ and be part of His kingdom during His thousand year reign and then into eternity thereafter. We should never be blasé about this. The King is coming… THE KING IS COMING! We should live like we believe it, not yeah, okay, cool, yeah, it’s in the Scripture, yeah… No, this is real, THE KING IS COMING and when the Messiah King comes in the power of God He will turn this world upside down. And the world ignores that. And He will come like a thief in the night, when the world least expects it. [“For you yourselves know full well that the day of the Lord will come just like a thief in the night.” 1 Thessalonians 5:2.] Be ready, be ready! Trumpets are often associated with royalty. I don’t know if you saw any part of the royal wedding of Prince Harry and Megan Markel last week but at the end of the wedding, the Prince is there with his new bride, he’s standing and all the guests are standing and they face the queen and you hear these trumpets, and then they start singing “My country tis of Thee,” no, this is the wrong words, right, it’s “God save our gracious queen” right? And every time I hear that I want to say hey, you guy stole our song. But of course they were first and we were second, we took their song.
My point is trumpets are often associated with royalty and it’s the same for the King of Kings. When He returns the trumpet will sound. Now it’s not going to be the Queen of England’s trumpeters, it’s going to be the trumpet of God and we know that from 1 Thessalonians 4 where we are told “For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet of God,” and that must be a trumpet that is incredible, “and the dead in Christ will rise first.  Then we who are alive and remain will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and so we shall always be with the Lord.” [1 Thessalonians 4:16-17] The King is coming! He’s going to gather His church just a few years before he institutes His reign, His kingdom, actually exactly seven years, but my point is the King is coming, be ready! BE READY!
Back to verse 11, I say to you that many will come from east and west, and recline at the table with Abraham, Isaac and Jacob in the kingdom of heaven;” [Matthew 8:11] When Jesus says “many will come from east and west” He’s talking about you and me, if you’re a Gentile. He’s talking about outsiders like this centurion; He’s saying that submission in Him by faith alone brings eternal blessing. We, as Gentiles, will enjoy the banquet, the Jewish banquet, with believing Jews. Believing Gentiles will participate in the Jewish banquet with believing Jews, that banquet with Abraham, Isaac and Jacob in the kingdom of heaven.
And the kingdom referred to in this banquet notion is there in the Old Testament as well, where it’s described in Isaiah 25:6-9. There we read, “The LORD of hosts will prepare a lavish banquet for all peoples on this mountain;” “all peoples” means Jews and Gentiles, “a banquet of aged wine, choice pieces with marrow, and refined, aged wine.  And on this mountain” that’s another reference to Mount Zion, Jerusalem, and this mountain is here in this area of Jerusalem, that’s where the capital of Israel will be, and not just the capital of Israel but the capital of the world during the kingdom. “And on this mountain He will swallow up the covering which is over all peoples,” “all peoples” includes Gentiles, “Even the veil which is stretched over all nations.” All nations includes Gentiles.  “He will swallow up death for all time, and the Lord GOD will wipe tears away from all faces,” those are beautiful words; they are repeated again in Revelation. “…And He will remove the reproach of His people from all the earth; or the LORD has spoken.” Meaning His Word is immutable, unchangeable. If this doesn’t happen He is not God which is unthinkable.  “And it will be said in that day, ‘Behold, this is our God for whom we have waited” wait on the Lord, “ that He might save us. This is the LORD for whom we have waited; Let us rejoice and be glad in His salvation.”
So the point here is that under verse 7, because the Lord will be ruling from Israel, and specifically from Jerusalem, we see that all power will emanate from the Lord. All power will emanate from Jerusalem. And Jewish believers, because they have a privileged status in the kingdom, they’ll be, say almost like administrators of the King and through them the world is blessed. We also will rule with the King but this concept of the Jews having a more privileged status in the kingdom, that is true! It’s true! And even in Amos 9:11-12, even in stronger words than here, “In that day I will raise up the fallen booth” or hut “of David, and wall up its breaches; I will also raise up its ruins and rebuild it as in the days of old;  That they may possess the remnant of Edom” Edom is one of the Gentile nations that’s right next to Israel, “And all the nations who are called by My name, Declares the LORD who does this.”
So when the kingdom comes and the King returns, the Jewish King, Messiah, He will exercise authority over the Gentile nations and the Jews will rule with Him. The nations will be blessed because of their association with the King and the King’s people, the Israelites.
Verse 12 of Matthew 8, “but the sons of the kingdom will be cast out into the outer darkness; in that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.” This is a terribly, terribly sad verse. Jesus is saying that the heirs of the kingdom, they’re going to be cast out into a place of suffering, not a place of joy like the kingdom but a place of suffering. He’s talking about racial descendants of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob who refused to submit to the Messiah King’s authority, who refused to trust in Jesus. In the Greek there’s a definite article, there’s a “the” before the word “weeping” and before the word “gnashing of teeth.” So you can read it, “in that place there will be the weeping and the gnashing of teeth.” What is doing is it’s emphasizing the horror of this scene.
Let’s be clear, this is hell, this is the Lake of Fire. Jesus’ message is not just hope and peace and love; it is those things. It is those things! But it’s not only those things; it’s also a message of wrath and judgment and punishment and horror to the one who refuses to submit to Him, to the one, in other words the one who refuses to trust in Him for their access to the Father, their access to God.
Now many Christians today are embarrassed by the idea of hell, they’re just embarrassed by it because they’re afraid that they’re going to be called the bigot, or they’re going to be called intolerant. And so they just say let’s not use that word, let’s not talk about that! Well, Jesus didn’t candy-coat it. I’m not saying we should be rude about it but we need to be honest. It’s not bigoted to say brother, you’re going to hell if you don’t believe in Jesus. I remember my parents gave me the gospel when I was young, just a kid, and I remember that and I probably believed then but I know I believed when I was sitting in church, I could have been seven years old, eight years old, and the pastor, firing away, said, “believe in the Lord Jesus Christ or you’re going to HELL,” well, that’s easy for me, I don’t want to go there! I want to go to heaven, so he said “believe in the Lord Jesus Christ and you’ll go to heaven” so it was straightforward.
Jesus is not candy-coating the principle of hell. It’s real. It’s real! And we shouldn’t candy coat it also; we should present the truth in love but present the truth, don’t deceive people!
Verse 13, “And Jesus said to the centurion, ‘Go, and it shall be done to you as you have believed. And the servant was healed that very moment.” So the centurion asked Jesus for help believing that Jesus would help and Jesus granted his request. Now I can’t say that this is a blanket statement; this is not a blanket statement. Every time we ask the Lord for something, just because we believe it doesn’t mean we’re necessarily going to get it because it has to be within His will. This was in the will of God to grant this and so Jesus granted it.
There is a movement in Christianity today that says if you just have enough faith you’ll be healthy. If you just have enough faith you’ll be wealthy. If you just have enough faith you’ll be prosperous. And this is called the prosperity gospel and I hate using that phrase because it’s not the gospel at all because what’s wrong with that thinking is that it totally ignores the will of God. It refuses to submit to God’s will and God’s authority.
Here Jesus granted the centurion’s request because that was God’s will but sometimes it’s not God’s will to heal us. Sometimes it’s not and we just have to submit. The point here is that it’s not submission to God if we say I’m going to pray really hard for this and I’m going to believe that You’re going to give it to me and then I’m guaranteed to get it… I’m guaranteed because I believed it and I prayed. That’s a misunderstanding of Matthew 21:22 where Jesus said, “And all things you ask in prayer, believing, you will receive.” That means asking in the will of God consistent with the will of God and we know that because Jesus prayed just a few chapters later for something that the Father didn’t give Him. Jesus prayed in Matthew 26:39, He asked the Father to make it so He didn’t have to go to the cross to pay for my sins and your sins and the sins of the world. [Matthew 26:39, “And He went a little beyond them, and fell on His face and prayed, saying, “My Father, if it is possible, let this cup pass from Me; yet not as I will, but as You will.”]
But then, praise God, Jesus finished the prayer with “not My will but Your will be done.” He prayed Father, if it’s possible let this cup pass from me, but not My will but Your will be done. And so the Father didn’t grant that prayer because it was the Father’s will that He go to the cross and Jesus submitted to the Father’s will. My point is just because we ask and just because we believe we may not get it because it has to be in the Father’s will also for God to grant any particular prayer.
So in conclusion, Matthew uses Gentiles, like this centurion, to show us five things about the kingdom. The first three are hinted here in this passage, in our passage today, and the last two, items four and five, are directly in the passage. In disbelief Israel rejected her Messiah-King, and His kingdom. As a result, He postponed the kingdom and during this postponement there is the church age when He is adding additional heirs to His future kingdom, that He will institute when He returns. And number four, submission to the Jewish King by faith alone is eternal blessing and that eternal blessing is admittance into the kingdom. Number five is the horror, it’s rebellion and rejection of the King by disbelief and that brings punishment in the form of being excluded from the kingdom.
So the centurion, a military office, not unlike General Patton, submitted to the authority of God. He recognized authority that was greater than his own; he recognized Jesus’ authority and he trusted in Him. And for that reason He will recline at the table with Abraham, Isaac and Jacob in the kingdom of heaven. He is an heir of the King’s future kingdom just like you are and I am if we trust in Jesus.
Now if there’s anyone here or on the internet without Christ, without hope, and without eternal life we want you to know that Jesus paid for your sins, personally! He died for the sins of the entire world and He had you in mind when He was on the cross. And so He is the only access to the Father. If you refuse to believe in Him you will spend eternity in the Lake of Fire. That’s what the Scripture says! I wish it wasn’t true, I wish there wasn’t a hell, but I don’t get to make that call. I have unbelieving friends that I’ve given the gospel to that have rejected it and so I wish there wasn’t a hell but that’s not my call to make. That’s God who makes that call and that’s what He’s designed and so we submit to Him. So if you want to go from being the enemy of God, which is where you are if you’ve not trusted Christ, to being the daughter or the son of God then just believe; just trust in Him for the forgiveness of your sins and you’ll go from being the enemy to being the daughter or son of God.
Father, we thank You for this time together. We ask that You challenge us and encourage us and remind us that soon Your kingdom will be here. Challenge us to live with that in mind and not to get so distracted with what we can see and touch and feel. Encourage us to submit to You in all that we do and all that we think and we’ll be careful to give you all the honor and praise and glory. And we pray this in the name of Your Son, Jesus Christ. Amen!