One Year Bible
New Testament passage for January 10, 2014: Matthew 8:1-17
5 Now when Jesus had entered Capernaum, a centurion came to Him, pleading with Him, 6 saying, “Lord, my servant is lying at home paralyzed, dreadfully tormented.” 7 And Jesus said to him, “I will come and heal him.” Matthew 8:5-7 (NKJV)
When Jesus heard it, He marveled, and said to those who followed, “Assuredly, I say to you, I have not found such great faith, not even in Israel! Matthew 8:10 (NKJV)
Isn't it amazing how often Jesus had to scold His disciples for unbelief? Whether in a boat crossing the Sea of Galillee or meeting Thomas in the Upper Room, it seems Jesus constantly faced a lack of faith. Unbelief robs us of God's blessings. It hides His face from us. It limits His miracle power so that we are like His hometown of Nazareth, "He did not do many mighty works there, because of their unbelief." (Matt. 13:58)
Because of this chronic unbelief, it is significant those rare times Jesus COMMENDS someone's faith. There are only two people that Jesus ever says have "great faith." Both are Gentiles! The first is the Roman centurion we read about today (Matt.8:10). The second is a Syrophoenician woman (Matt. 15:28).
What constitutes great faith? What is it about these two that elicited praise and even amazement from Jesus at how they trusted Him?
THE PRAYER OF THE UNWORTHY
Both being Gentiles, we can only assume that neither had much knowledge of Israel's Law. In fact, both ackewledged their own unworthiness to even ask Jesus for help. Yet they cried out in DESPARATION.
There is no hint in the centurion or the Syrophoenician woman of DEMAND upon Jesus based on legal rights. In fact, they knew He has not in any way OBLIGED to hear their prayer. Yet they threw themselves on the mercy of God.
Great faith is based on radical, nacked trust in the nature of God. It never relies on worthiness or rights.
THE RIGHT FOCUS
Much more can be said about both of these Gentile believers. The centurion understood the nature of authority. He knew that Jesus couuld "just say the word" and the work would be done. The Syrophoenician woman was persistent despite immense discouragment. Jesus seemed at first unwilling to even ackowledge her, then referred to her as a "little dog!" (Matt. 15:26-27) But both received what they asked for.
True faith focuses on Jesus; not on us. Great faith is built on a great God. Sometimes it takes people who are far from God to teach us what it means to trust God. The world is not changed by good people. It is changed by godly people. And the most godly person is the one who trusts God most. "The just shall live by faith."