Are you building the Kingdom of God or your own Empire?
An Offensive Faith
We are currently looking at the topic of the Kingdom of God
As I have previously mentioned the Kingdom of God is one of the primary topics in Scripture
Yet even with that being said, there is still a lot of confusion over what exactly the Kingdom of God is
In my opinion the Kingdom of God is basically us surrendering ourselves totally and completely to God’s rule
Romans 14:17 For the kingdom of God is … righteousness, peace and joy in the Holy Spirit
In Matthew 6:33 we are told to “seek first” the Kingdom of God
In our look at the kingdom of God – or kingdom of heaven as it is sometimes called – we are going to be taking a look at some of the teachings of Jesus
Often times we see Jesus making statements such as “the Kingdom of God is like …”
We are currently looking at some of these passages
In these passages Jesus is taking something that was familiar to his audience and relating it to what the Kingdom of God is like
Our passage today is found in Matthew chapter 8
Matthew 8:5-13 When Jesus had entered Capernaum, a centurion came to him, asking for help. 6 "Lord," he said, "my servant lies at home paralyzed and in terrible suffering." 7 Jesus said to him, "I will go and heal him." 8 The centurion replied, "Lord, I do not deserve to have you come under my roof. But just say the word, and my servant will be healed. 9 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." 10 When Jesus heard this, he was astonished and said to those following him, "I tell you the truth, I have not found anyone in Israel with such great faith. 11 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. 12 But the subjects of the kingdom will be thrown outside, into the darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth." 13 Then Jesus said to the centurion, "Go! It will be done just as you believed it would." And his servant was healed at that very hour.
This is quite an interesting story, especially as it relates to the Kingdom of God
What Jesus said and did would have caused quite a stir among the people that were listening
In fact, I am certain that most of the people were shocked and many were even offended
Does it surprise you that Jesus would have said something that would have caused offense?
All too often we have this image of Jesus as this wimpy, peace at all costs, non-confrontational kind of guy
This couldn’t be further from the truth!
Although I do not believe Jesus was an “in your face” kind of person that was always stirring things up, He was also not afraid to tell it like it was
Often times the truth causes offense!
So, what was so offensive about this story?
Let’s take a look at what is happening here
Matthew 8:5-13 When Jesus had entered Capernaum, a centurion came to him, asking for help. 6 "Lord," he said, "my servant lies at home paralyzed and in terrible suffering." 7 Jesus said to him, "I will go and heal him."
We have three main players in our story – Jesus, a centurion, and a servant
A centurion was a Roman soldier that was in charge of 100 men – kind of a middle manager
This centurion was almost unquestionably a Gentile, which kind of makes this story a little more interesting
Why do I say that?
Because if we skip ahead a few chapters to Matthew 15 we read about a Gentile woman who came to Jesus
She told Him that she had a daughter that was demon possessed and asked if Jesus would help her
We read that Jesus totally ignores this woman, yet she persists in calling out to Him
Jesus finally speaks to the woman, and it’s not all that kind
Matthew 15:24-28 He answered, "I was sent only to the lost sheep of Israel." 25 The woman came and knelt before him. "Lord, help me!" she said. 26 He replied, "It is not right to take the children's bread and toss it to their dogs." 27 "Yes, Lord," she said, "but even the dogs eat the crumbs that fall from their masters' table." 28 Then Jesus answered, "Woman, you have great faith! Your request is granted." And her daughter was healed from that very hour.
So in light of this passage Jesus makes it abundantly clear that he was sent to minister to the Jews, and with only rare exception that is exactly what Jesus does
So here comes this centurion – not only a Gentile but a leader in the army of Rome, the enemy of Israel
What is it about this centurion that makes Jesus even want to give him the time of day, let alone agree to go heal the man’s servant?
This story is also mentioned in the Gospel of Luke, and that version sheds a little more light on the topic
In Luke’s version of the story some of the Jewish elders were also there and spoke on the centurion’s behalf
Luke 7:4-5 When they came to Jesus, they pleaded earnestly with him, "This man deserves to have you do this, 5 because he loves our nation and has built our synagogue."
So this centurion was apparently a Godly man, or was at least extremely sympathetic to the Jews.
He was also apparently a wealthy man because he built their synagogue.
Here’s another interesting tidbit – all of this took place in the town of Capernaum
Capernaum was Jesus’ home base during His ministry
He spent a LOT of time there and often taught in the synagogue
It is highly likely that Jesus knew exactly who the centurion was and also the fact the he built the synagogue
So the elders were not giving Jesus new information, they were just reminding Jesus “hey, you know what a great guy this centurion is and that he has done a lot for us”
I’m sure this played a huge factor in Jesus’ decision to agree to heal the servant
But what about this servant?
What do we know about him?
Absolutely nothing other than the fact that he belonged to the centurion
It is certainly possible, even probable, that the servant was Jewish
That fact causes this story to make even more sense – the centurion was most certainly a gentile, and therefore not part of Jesus’ earthly ministry
However, if the servant was Jewish he was definitely part of Jesus’ ministry and it would have made sense for Jesus to go heal the servant.
In fact, Capernaum was a small village so it was even possible that Jesus knew the servant
So Jesus, at the urging of the Jewish elders, agrees to go heal the servant
Here is where things get interesting!
8 The centurion replied, "Lord, I do not deserve to have you come under my roof. But just say the word, and my servant will be healed. 9 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."
The centurion realized his position in that society
He knew that Jews did not typically associate with gentiles and would rarely, if ever, go to their house
The centurion also recognized Jesus’ power and position
“Lord, I do not deserve to have you come under my roof” is great humility from a man who was certainly in a position to demand that Jesus do whatever he wanted Him to do
The centurion also recognized real authority and responded to Jesus as a soldier typically would
“I myself am a man under authority, with soldiers under me”
He is saying that he receives orders and must carry them out, but he also gives orders and expects them to be carried out
As a centurion there would be no question that whatever order he gave would be followed
He never wondered “gee, are those soldiers going to do what I asked?”
He was saying “Jesus, I know You are under the authority of God, and that whatever You say will be done – just say it and I am confident that my servant will be healed”
One of the problems in reading a story is that we can sometimes fail to realize the significance of what is being said
Up until this point everything that Jesus did had been done in person – He was physically there and had a direct, hands on part in the miracle
But now this centurion tells Jesus that he has so much confidence in Jesus’ authority that all he wants Jesus to do is give the order and it will be done
This is a huge statement!
So much so that it blows Jesus away
I don’t know about you, but I think it would be pretty hard to greatly impress Jesus, but this centurion certainly did it!
10 When Jesus heard this, he was astonished and said to those following him, "I tell you the truth, I have not found anyone in Israel with such great faith. 11 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. 12 But the subjects of the kingdom will be thrown outside, into the darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth."
Here is where Jesus really rocks the boat
Jesus makes the statement that He has never seen someone with such faith in all of Israel
Imagine being one of the Jewish elders that were there
As a Jew you knew that your nation Israel was chosen by God – you are part of God’s chosen people and should be the very definition of faith
But here is Jesus saying that the faith of a gentile, and a Roman to boot, was greater than any He had seen in Israel
To get the full impact of how Jesus’ audience would have received this statement we must remember that the Jews of the day were extremely racist
It was common belief among the Jews that unless you were born Jewish, or unless you converted to Judaism, were circumcised, and followed the Law there was absolutely no hope for your soul
With this in mind imagine how those Jewish elders and the rest of the Jewish people listening to Jesus would have felt
“Hey Jesus, that was kind of harsh!”
But Jesus wasn’t done yet
Jesus says something else that would have made their blood boil
“ 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.”
When we read this our reaction could easily be “Oh cool, more people get to enter the Kingdom!” – this is true, and this is great news for us
But to the Jews listening to Jesus who knew they were God’s chosen people, and set apart for Him it was an entirely different story
Jesus is saying to them that people other than Israel would get to enter the Kingdom
People that the Jews would have considered unredeemable would get to partake in God’s eternal kingdom – not as unworthy servants but sitting at the fest on equal footing with them!
This went against everything they had been taught – everything they believed and held dear
It would have been beyond comprehension for them
And if this statement riled them up Jesus’ next statement would have totally hacked them off
Not only did Jesus say that other nations – the despised Gentiles – would enter God’s Kingdom He goes on to say
“But the subjects of the kingdom will be thrown outside, into the darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.”
Jesus is saying that “the subjects of the Kingdom” – in other words the nation of Israel – would be cast out of the Kingdom into the darkness where there will be “weeping and gnashing of teeth”
In other words, they would be cast into hell
Again, imagine being a Jew and hearing this
Jesus was a very popular and highly respected Rabbi
There was no doubt in anyone’s mind that what Jesus was done through the power of God
Yet here He says something that goes against the very core of everything you had been taught and believed
Is Jesus teaching heresy?
Is He preaching something contrary to what the Hebrew Scriptures taught?
Not at all – Jesus was not speaking against the Scriptures, He was speaking against the distorted interpretation that the Jewish people had
What do I mean?
The Jewish people lost sight of the meaning of the covenant God made with Abraham
Yes, they were to be a nation set apart from the rest
Yes they were God’s chosen people, but not so they could boast and brag to everyone else
God did not want them to establish some “us vs. them” elite club
God told Abraham that He was establishing the covenant and that through Abraham and this covenant all the nations of the world would be blessed
God wanted Israel to be the kind of people that would bless the other nations, not treat them like scum
They lost sight of who they were and what God had called them to be
I think that we, as the Church (capital C) have done the same
We are not under a covenant of Law and exclusion, but one of grace, mercy, love and inclusion
Let me ask you – who in your opinion is beyond hope? Beyond the love and grace of God?
I am not a universalist, I do not believe that everyone will make it
But I do believe that anyone can be saved
[that is what some of you were!]
This passage ends with a great statement
13 Then Jesus said to the centurion, "Go! It will be done just as you believed it would." And his servant was healed at that very hour.
The faith that the centurion had in Jesus and His authority was well placed
Jesus followed through on exactly what He said he would do
So, what do I want you to take away from the message today?
1) Don’t lose sight of the covenant we have with God
Just as Israel lost sight of the covenant God established with them so too can we lose sight of the covenant that God established with us
2) Welcome all who seek
Nobody is beyond the grace and redemption of God
“While we were yet sinners, Christ died for us”
3) Trust that Jesus will do exactly as He says He will do