This sermon series is called You Are “Never too Whatever for and encounter with Jesus.
Let me explain what that means. We all have a thing, that can keep us from Jesus. It could be any number of things. Two weeks ago we saw Jesus encounter a leper. This person was not too untouchable for Jesus, or too unclean for Jesus, or too “Outside” for Jesus.
Today we are going to read about another encounter with Jesus, in Matthew chapter 8. Matthew chapter 8, is the passage immediately following the sermon on the mount. Two weeks ago, I made the case that the purpose of chapter 8 is to give authority to the teachings of the sermon on the mount. To shore up the credibility of what the sermon says.
After this great sermon, we may be tempted to say ok great sermon teacher, but rabbi’s and other teacher’s have great words too. What t makes these words so great. Why should I do what these words say.
The words need authority. In order to give authority, to the word of God, Matthew records several miracles in succession, Let me read Matthew 8 and you can see what I mean.
1 When Jesus came down from the mountainside, large crowds followed him. 2 A man with leprosy came and knelt before him and said, “Lord, if you are willing, you can make me clean.” 3 Jesus reached out his hand and touched the man. “I am willing,” he said. “Be clean!” Immediately he was cleansed of his leprosy. 4 Then Jesus said to him, “See that you don’t tell anyone. But go, show yourself to the priest and offer the gift Moses commanded, as a testimony to them.” 5 When Jesus had entered Capernaum, a centurion came to him, asking for help. 6 “Lord,” he said, “my servant lies at home paralyzed, suffering terribly.” 7 Jesus said to him, “Shall I come 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 amazed and said to those following him, “Truly I tell you, 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! Let it be done just as you believed it would.” And his servant was healed at that moment. 14 When Jesus came into Peter’s house, he saw Peter’s mother-in-law lying in bed with a fever. 15 He touched her hand and the fever left her, and she got up and began to wait on him. 16 When evening came, many who were demon-possessed were brought to him, and he drove out the spirits with a word and healed all the sick. 17 This was to fulfill what was spoken through the prophet Isaiah: “He took up our infirmities and bore our diseases.”
Large crowds gathered around Jesus because he healed them, then Jesus takes that opportunity to teach them the sermon on the mount. Then Jesus comes down from that sermon, and we have these successive miracles.
The thought process is that Jesus’s healings prove His identity. He is God in the flesh, therefore what he says the word of God,. To obey what Jesus says is to obey God Himself.
For us, this can seem outside of our life and time. As if these events are so separate from us they have no impact on our life. Like reading a storybook. Some people aren’t sure these events happened, and even if they did it was so long ago, it does not really impact life today.
Many people think that way, nice kind people. Everyday people at the grocery store, or the bingo table or the coffee shop.They think to themselves those are good mottos to live by, love your neighbor, and I try, i don’t always succeed, but I try.
They may not say it to you, but they believe the Bible this is a helpful book with helpful phrases. Kind of like Aesop’s fables. They would say there are even things in there non-christians can find useful.
If that is you, or someone you know is in that place, I am not putting you down.But ask yourself this question, do you think this way? The Bible is helpful stories, Jesus is a great role model, I try to be basically good, by doing the right thing. I go to church, go to Sunday School, read a helpful devotion from time time.
I suppose the world would be a nicer place if there were more people who did that.
But, what if. What if you entertained this thought for a second.
What if Jesus was alive. What if it was possible to have a relationship with Jesus. AN actual relationship.
Ask yourself this. What if Jesus would heal you. I am not talking about fixing all the external things like a handyman. But what if it was possible you could experience healing your innermost needs. Like say for instance, your brokenness, your pain, your anger your grief.
What if through this relationship with Jesus He could satisfy all of your desires. What if Jesus actually transformed all of your wants and needs so greatly that external things didn’t matter or concern you.
Is that even possible? If that is possible....If that could happen. If your every hunger and thirst were satisfied, If you brokenness was made whole if you were accepted and loved and held and held by someone-then wouldn’t you be in love with that person?
Well, that is what is being offered here today.
To get to that place we need to ask ourselves a question. If I am not experiencing that, what is it that is keeping me from that.
What Keeps me from Jesus?
See there is always something, there is always something keeping us from Jesus, some barrier some obstacle. Even for those who have been a Christian for a long long time, there are barriers that we set up either intentionally, or unintentionally that keep us from a close intimate relationship with Jesus.
Sometimes it can be our work, or it can be our lack of work. It can be our wealth or it can be our poverty. It can be our good health or our sickness, It can be our numerous relationships or our loneliness. Virtually anything can be a barrier to this close intimate relationship offered with Jesus Christ.
What is your whatever?
Matthew chapter 8 shows us that that Jesus overcomes barriers, and He reaches in and encounters people. Two weeks ago it was the leper. He was “untouchable” outside of the community, alone. Separate from the community separate from the Church dirty , untouchable, YET....these things did not keep Christ from Him.
The leper humbly asked Jesus for help. Jesus if you are willing you can take away my obstacle. Jesus if you are willing you can heal my broken spirit, you can heal my emptiness, my loneliness, you can satisfy my hunger and thirst for righteousness.
And Jesus reaches out and touches him.
Today, we are talking about the the next of these miraculous healings in Matthew the centurion.
Now in order to understand the impact of this we have to understand a bit about what was going in in Isreal in the first century. The jewish people were living in their country many many years.The Roman Empire gain strength and became a world power. In about 63 BC, the Roman army had conquered the capital of Jerusalem, and all of Israel became part of the Roman Empire.
This is hard for us to understand. It is hard to imagine a foreign power, and a foreign army here in power in Minnesota. It is hard to imagine but think about it. What if there foreign soldiers walking around in our streets, living among us?
This seems so weird to us, yet over the history of the world this was fairly common. , a foreign country would invade set up government, and the army would be walking around living among the people.
In Israel the Roman government charged outrageous taxes. They were taxing the people into poverty, and really did not provide any services for those taxes other than having army in town.
If this happened to us today, I am sure we would not be very friendly to them. The jews were not friendly to the Romans either.
So, this Roman Centurion come up to Jesus. A centurion is not just an everyday soldier, he was in charge of about 100 guys, Century right the word for 100. He recieved high pay and was very respected. This guy was a big deal.
Most of the people following Jesus listening to Jesus would not have talked to this man, they would have been fear of him, and they were certainly way under him economically.
So where we pick up today we read this.
5 When Jesus had entered Capernaum, a centurion came to him, asking for help.
Now, Matthew tells us Jesus enters Capernaum. Capernaum is a town on the northwest shore of the sea of Galilee. A small fishing village. We know Jesus lived there for a time after leaving Nazereth from MT chapter 4. verse 13.
13 Leaving Nazareth, he went and lived in Capernaum, which was by the lake in the area of Zebulun and Naphtali—
So Jesus and presumably a crowd, comes into this small town, and this is big news. Here he comes, right? The Roman centurion probably heard that Jesus was healing people, and he had this problem. Just like we have problems. Just like all those people had problems. See all the money and power in the world and still people get sick, friends get sick, they suffer, this is part of life. So the Centurion asks Jesus for help.
This is really strange. Roman centurions don’t ask for help. People ask Roman centurions for help. He has power and he has money, what does he need from a traveling preacher, most likely he did not even hear the sermon. Not only that ,he asks for help in front of a crowd. Now everyone in town, and everyone traveling with Jesus knows that this Roman centurion is asking Jesus for help.
How desperate do you have to be to do this? Imagine for a moment the richest, most powerful man in town, coming up to a sketchy travelling preacher and asking for help.
Now the word for Help there from the Greek parakaleo. To summon, beseech, or plead for aid, also that root word can be used for to comfort.
Sometimes you can hear the Holy Spirit referred to as the paraklete, It means or helper, or comforter, The Holy Spirit is the member of the trinity that provides the help, the comfort, the aid of the Father, through their faith in Jesus to the believer,.
We see this word used in non-biblical literature as to summon a physician to a consulting room. So this Centurion, pleads for aid in a way someone would be calling for a doctor to come into the examine room Dr. come quick, something is wrong.
The sense that you have when you summon a dr. is he can do something, he can provide aid, or comfort for the sick.
I think of prayer today in this world, and I ask us, all of us here. Is that how we pray? Do we pray as if we are summoning a dr. to the examine room- expecting comfort or aid? Now of course we know, sometimes human doctors cannot not cure, but we expect at least comfort. At least the Dr, is here now. Although Jesus can and does heal, sometimes he does not, yet He always provides peace, and comfort. And we should pray expecting this relationship with Jesus.
But perhaps we pray as a superstition. Knock on wood, throw some salt over the shoulder-sending prayers and good thoughts. Do people actually believe sending good thoughts, is even remotely similar to summoning a dr. to an examine room?
Of course not! They just say it cause it is a nice thing to say.
These days this is how the world treats prayer. If we are that uncertain, if this physician does not offer comfort or aid to ailing and dying of course what authority would this message contain.
6 “Lord,” he said, “my servant lies at home paralyzed, suffering terribly.”
My servant lies at home paralyzed, suffering terribly. And Matthew writes, then Jesus posted to facebook sending good thoughts and prayers! Thumbs up! heart emoji! Heart emoji.
No, of course not that is ridiculous right? But is that what we think huh? Wish I could do something so sad.
But that is not what happens. That is not what i’m talking about.
7 Jesus said to him, “Shall I come and heal him?”
Shall I come, and heal him.
Shall God in the flesh, come to him. Shall the word made flesh, COME to him? Shall the one who has all the authority in heaven and earth go to the home of the man occupying HIS CHOSEN PEOPLES LAND and come to the servant,
Think about this for a second, let this really sink in. Jesus is asking shall I come and heal Him? The one with all the earthly authority in town the roman comes to the one with all authority on heaven and earth Jesus and summons him to come and aid or comfort the one who serves him. And the one with all the authority says Shall I come and HEAL HIM?
That word for heal--therappeou’ means heal. The word sounds similar to our word therapeutic. Shall the God the universe come to this dying servant and be theraputic?
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.
Lord, I do not deserve, to have you come under my roof, none of us do sir, none of do, But just say the word. Say the word. speak the word of God and it is done.
Call things into being that are not, Let there be light, and there was light! Speak your WORD OH GOD and HEALS US.
Your word Lord IS THERAPUTIC IT HEALS it SAVEs it CURES TREATS>>>>
Do see it are you getting it?
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 points out the obvious that even people on earth’s words carry authority and are effective. his words as a roman centurion carries particular weight , but Jesus’s word......
Your words Jesus are true they are powerful they are changing, they are effective. Your words Jesus they DO THINGS, they move mountains, and quiet storms, the lame walk the blind see and the dead are raised.
And by the way this goes for all his words. here in Matthew 8 and Matthew 7 and Matthew 6 and John 14 and romans 2 and romans 3 and romans 8.
If you don’t believe that would you believe it if you saw it happen?
This guy gets it Jesus says.
10 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.
As he says this Jesus now stops talking to the centurion, and he starts talking to the crowd. T
The crowd thinks they are part of his kingdom. It is like people who think they are following Jesus just by coming to church.
Jesus says hey, you folks- you think you are in the kingdom but if you do not give the kings words authority-you are not in the kingdom, AND YOU are not giving my words authority---all of you.
But this guy from the outside.... This powerful rich guy who according to you is not in the kingdom at all. This guy is giving my word authority. I can’t even find one of you who are giving my words authority Jesus says.
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.
Those outside the kingdom will be welcomed in.
Are you outside the kingdom? Are you in the kingdom or not? You can come on in.
But for those that claim to be in the kingdom but do not give authority to Jesus’s words, this very serious warning.
12 But the subjects of the kingdom will be thrown outside, into the darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.”
Those who “think” they are part of GOd’s kingdom, but do not give authority to Jesus’s words will be thrown outside into the darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth,
Back to the centurion.
13 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.
Jesus says the word, and it is done. Nerves are healed. Viruses died, cells changed DNA was reshaped at that very moment.
That which was not--- was. The will of God was made manifest, by the word of God All authority on heaven and earth came under Jesus’s words
Your words Jesus are true they are powerful they are changing, they are effective.
There are these different approaches to the authority of the word of God.
To the centurion, it carries weight, authority, promise, hope a solution.
To the people who just heard the sermon, they had better be careful, if it just nice words and if it does have authority they will be thrown to were there is weeping and gnashing of teeth/
And to the servant-- the word of God is healing and comforting and therapeutic.
And to the universe and to the body and to heaven and earth God’s word carries all authority it is changing it is life giving , authoritative and powerful.
Where is God’s word for you. What is your whatever that keep s you from authority Is it pride? is it power money prestige? Your whatever is not too big for the authority of Goods word. Ask Him plead with humbly- beseech Him ask Him to come and offer you comfort and healing.