Amazing Faith

Excerpt from Living in the Spirit, pages 46-49

“Jesus asked, ‘When the Son of Man comes, will He find faith on the earth?’” (Luke 18:8). What kind of faith will he be looking for?

A Roman centurion asked Jesus to cure his servant (Matthew 8 and Luke 7). As with all such humble requests, Jesus agreed, even though most Jews wouldn’t even talk to an officer of that hated occupying empire. In fact, just to enter a Gentile’s house carried the probability of contamination, rendering Jesus ritually unclean. But “Jesus said to him, ‘I will come and heal him’” (Matthew 8:7).

The centurion’s response is memorable.

“Lord, I do not deserve to have you come under my roof. But just say the word, and my servant will be healed. For I myself am a man under authority, with soldiers under me. I tell this one, ‘Go,’ and he goes; and that one, ‘Come,’ and he comes. I say to my servant, ‘Do this,’ and he does it.”

When Jesus heard this, he was amazed and said to those following him, “Truly I tell you, I have not found anyone in Israel with such great faith.” (Matthew 8:8-10)
“[Jesus] was amazed,” Matthew reports. Surely not that the centurion had humbly requested a miracle from a Jew. Others had asked and received healing from Jesus. Surely not that the centurion balked at Jesus’ offer to come to his house. Jesus understood ritual cleanliness, even if the centurion didn’t. He was amazed that this Roman—this gentile defiler of Jesus’ homeland—knew what authority was and recognized it in Jesus.

Do you know how many times the gospels report Jesus being amazed?
Many times others are amazed at the words or actions of Jesus, but only twice the Bible records Jesus himself as amazed. Here in Matthew 18 and in Mark 6:6, when he visited Nazareth, and “He could not do any miracles there, except lay his hands on a few sick people and heal them. He was amazed at their lack of faith.” That was not good; here his amazement is positive.

On this occasion, Jesus goes on to say, “I say to you that many will come from the east and the west, and will take their places at the feast with Abraham, Isaac and Jacob in the kingdom of heaven. But the subjects of the kingdom will be thrown outside, into the darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.” (Matthew 8:11-12)

When Jesus suggests that “subjects of the kingdom” may be thrown out, many of us complacently picture the Jews being evicted to make room for us. Perhaps we should be concerned that it isn’t we ourselves being ushered to the door.

Jesus is making an important point: he is looking for followers showing the unquestioned faith the centurion describes, and which the centurion exhibits by acknowledging that Jesus needs only say the word for his servant to be healed.

Such servants [as the centurion’s] we all should be to God; we must go and come, according to the directions of his word and the disposals of his providence. But when the Son of man comes he finds little faith, therefore he finds little fruit. An outward profession may cause us to be called children of the kingdom; but if we rest in that, and have nothing else to show, we shall be cast out.
— Matthew Henry

Is Matthew exaggerating? Was Jesus really amazed? Read on, “Then Jesus said to the centurion, ‘Go! Let it be done just as you believed it would.’ And his servant was healed at that moment” (Matthew 8:13).

Jesus responded in proportion to what the centurion believed. If Jesus told you, “Let it be done just as you believed it would,” what would result? …

Will Jesus be amazed at your faith?

(All Bible references are from the Holy Bible New International Version ® NIV ® Copyright 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved.)

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