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Newtown Bible Church

Christ's Authority and the Finality of Faith (Matthew 8:5-13)

Sometimes those nearest to the external blessings of the gospel are the farthest off from genuine faith. So it was with the Jewish nation, though God’s intention was for the salvation of the nations, it was first to the Jews. Yet, despite the consistent display of Christ Authority, His Deity, it was not those nearest the promises who believed, but the faith of the Gentiles that exalted Christ authority. It is this we will see in our Lord’s encounter this morning … READ: Matthew 8:5-13. 3 Reasons to take seriously the Authority of Christ and the Finality of Faith, since eternity is real: (1) (B/C) Christ’s Authority should produce humble faith; (2) (B/C) Faith in Christ’s Authority determines eternal destiny; (3) (B/C)Christ’s Authority is decisively confirmed (1) [reason to take seriously - because of what it should produce] Christ’s Authority should produce humble faith (8:5) “And when Jesus entered into Capernaum a centurion came to Him beseeching Him” - “Capernaum” Jesus is still in the region of Galilee, 4:15 “Galilee of the Gentiles.” This brings us nearer the actual events of the Sermon, remember Matthew’s presentation: thematic / not chronological. So here he is advancing the theme of Christ’s authority and the faith it should engender. Account of the leper emphasized the the compassion of that tempered infinite power. Now, in the account of the centurion Matthew teaches that this same authority of Christ should produce humble faith; and a right faith in Him is of the utmost importance. (A) The humility of a seeking faith “a centurion” - a roman soldier given charge over 100 men and the backbone of the Roman army, and are mentioned approximately 20x in the NT and almost always in a positive light. In Matt. 27:54 a centurion who was “keeping guard over Jesus” at the time of the crucifixion, after seeing the events surrounding His death, and hearing the words “It is finished,” cried out: “Truly this was the Son of God.” Luke 23:47 adds that following the words of Christ “Into Your hands I commit My spirit,” it was a centurion who uttered: “Certainly this man was innocent.” Acts 21-22 it is centurions who rescued Paul from being beaten by the Jews; 27:43 saved Paul’s life from the plot of the Roman soldiers to kill all the prisoners so they would not escape. The gospel to the Gentile nations first through the salvation of a centurion, Cornelius, (Acts 10). That said, Roman soldiers were generally despised by the Jews because they represented the occupying army; but here it is a centurion that comes bringing a request to the Lord. A real sense of humility and submission. “imploring Him” - “appealing” (ESV), “pleading” (HCSB). strong term speaks of a persistent asking. Let’s note a couple of textual matters that also point to his character. (1) Humility shown in his submissive faith: Luke 7:3-4 informs us that it was in fact not the centurion himself that came, but “he sent some Jewish elders asking Him to come.” Matthew just ignores the actually messengers and focuses on the source of the message, namely the desperate centurion. Is this a discrepancy? Of course not, it is a very common way of speaking. E.g. John 19:1 “Pilate took Jesus and scourged Him” - (more could be added) so is the sense here. This is a striking example of humility and faith. The Jews were a conquered people, he is a soldier in the occupying army. To send to Jesus at all with such a request showed great humility. (2) Humility shown by his love for his servant: “Lord, my servant is lying paralyzed” -“Lord” here is more than simply a term of respect; he knew this was no man; when Jesus spoke and acted, He did so with all the authority of God. Matthew uses the term often translated as “boy, or servant” while Luke uses douloß, “slave.” (Turn to Luke 7) and notice 7:2 , he is described as a slave by Luke, however, 7:7, in the words of the centurion he is described with the more affectionate term. Matthew simply notes the encounter from the perspective of the centurion. Matthew’s term has a technical meaning of a child below the age of puberty, but is commonly used as an affectionate identification of slaves and servants within a household. Now this affection is particularly significant for that culture. Slavery was prevalent (over 30% pop.), and often gathered from conquered nations, The distinguishing mark was the masters absolutely ownership and rights over every aspect of the person who was a slave. No personal, or legal rights, but completely under the will of their master. While conditions of individual slaves varied (disposition of owner / field/ house slave / born in home, or bought), it is generally true that they thought of as nothing more than human tools. Aristotle: “There can be no friendship nor justice towards inanimate things; indeed, not even towards a horse or an ox, nor yet towards a slave as a slave. For master and slave have nothing in common: a slave is a living tool, just as a tool is an inanimate slave.” Varro (Roman Politician) referred to a slave as “a kind of talking tool.” Not only that, but they were often treated very harshly. They were routinely flogged, and in more extreme cases they were crucified, had bones broken, forced amputations, hot tar poured on them, made to wear restraining collars, and put on the rack. This slave was most likely and urban, or household slave and possibly even one born into the centurion’s household - a further reason for such an endearing term. In either case, the gentleness, compassion, and deep affection of this Roman centurion for his slave was, though not unheard of, at the very least exceptionally rare. So, compelled by his love for his servant and his faith in Jesus he sends and request for him to come for his servant was dying. Matthew notes he was “lying paralyzed at home being terribly tormented.” lit. ‘thrown down in the house’ - possibly indicating the sudden & violent nature. “tormented.” (Rev. 9:5 describes the suffering of men by demons released from the “bottomless pit” (9:2) and given power to “torment for five months; and their torment was like the torment of a scorpion when it stings a man,” verse 6 adds: “in those days men will seek death and will not find it; they will long to die, and death flees from them.” - intense suffering. Here, Luke adds that he was “sick and about to die” (7:2). Here then it is excruciated pain, violent tormenting suffering as he is near the brink of death. It seems to have been breaking the heart of this centurion to see him in this condition. Jesus answers: “I Myself will come and heal him.” Again, just another powerful display of His compassion, even His love for this Gentile soldier. Now, for most Jews it would have been anathema to enter into the house of a Gentile. However, that was not a commandment of the Law, but an addition of Jewish rabbis. Jesus was routinely in the habit of breaking the oral traditions and additions to the Law. He dined at at the house of tax gathers and sinners (Matt. 9:10-11); He let a woman, likely a repentant prostitute, wet His feet with her tears and then wipe them with her hair (Lk. 7:38); He was continually doing things that confronted the wrong attitudes and perceptions of the Law. So here, confronted with the seeking, humble, plea of this Gentile soldier, He consents to go. FN: note the Lord’s willingness to submit every aspect of His life and activity to the sovereign direction of the Holy Spirit. “For I have come down from heaven, not to do My own will, but the will of Him who sent Me” (John 6:38; cf. 4:34). He lived in complete submission to the will of the Father; He was not anxious, hurried, or frustrated but lived with every moment completely yielded to His sovereign will. He hears the request and goes. (3) Note the centurion’s humility in his response: “the centurion answered Him and said, ‘Lord, I am not worthy that You should come under my roof” - this is even more significant in light of the testimony of the Jewish elders: “He is worthy for You to grant this to him; for he loves our nation and it was he who built us our synagogue.” He felt such a disparity, such a distance of inherent worth and position that he did not even warrant the honor of the Lord being under his roof. This is striking humility; an incredible grasp by this Roman soldier of the majestic nature of Christ. Luke 7:7 leaves no doubt that what he had in mind was not a ceremonial unworthiness, as in being unclean, but a moral unworthiness. He recognized the superior morality of Christ. One can only imagine what it would have been like to come into contact with perfect, sinless humanity; incarnate Deity at that. We can only guess that if even Caesar himself had wanted to come to his home he would have felt supremely honored, but allowed him. However, when it comes to Jesus, he was so overwhelmed with the holy character, divine of authority and power that he was aghast at the thought that the Lord should even set foot in the house of one so unworthy. This is amazing faith. With deep humility he saw his inherent unworthiness and so acknowledged the supreme glory of Christ - much like John the Baptist who uttered “I have need to be baptized by You,” and again, “I am not worthy to untie His sandals.” He, the centurion, was under no delusion of his own goodness, his own claim on the mercy and favor of Jesus; he knew he was only in the position to ask and receive, and even at that he felt best at a distance. Here this man demonstrates the right response to Christ’s authority of humble, submissive, trusting faith. (B) The certainty of a genuine faith “BUT only say the word, and my servant will be healed …” - he appeals to the absolute and sovereign authority of the Lord. This man understood the power of the Lord to such a degree that he knew it took but a word from the Lord to accomplish this task. There is a certainty, confidence to his faith. “For I myself am a man under authority, having soldiers under me.. ” - the point simply being, I have under my power and in my service those who obey my commands. Thus I recognize Your authority that commands not only men, but it is power and authority over disease; it is God’s authority. Here it is this Gentile got it; he understood the Divine implication of Christ’s Authority; it humbled him; it caused him to seek Christ out, to come to Him with a reverence that recognized His superiority and faith, that trusted and was confirmed in His Divine power and authority - ultimately Matthew is pointing us not to this man’s faith, but what it implies about Christ and the necessity of following his response. (2) [2nd reason to take seriously - because of its consequences] Faith in Christ’s Authority determines eternal destiny (8:10-12) First, notice the Lord’s reaction: “When Jesus heard [these words] He marveled (HCSB “was amazed”) - Strong term, used almost exclusively to refer to other’s reactions to Christ: disciples when Jesus calmed the storm with a word (8:27); the crowds when Jesus cast out a demon (9:33). Interestingly, and significantly, the only other time Jesus is stated as being amazed is at the unbelief of the Jews in Mark 6:6. It is really hard for us to imagine this kind of reaction by the Lord, but we must remember that He was also fully human. Ultimately the relationship between His fully Divine nature is a mystery; at times He displays His inherent ability as God to know the hearts of all men; at others times He displays the Self-limitation of that knowledge (Matt. 24:36); and other times, such as here, He displays a genuinely human reaction to events as He experiences them, thus “He marveled” - He was amazed! Dramatic. But notice the reaction here, He does not immediately address the centurion, but the crowds. which is significant: “He said to those who were following” Why does He do this? Because He knows the mixed nature of the faith of those following Him; and that for many it was spurious, superficial, and would ultimately fail when put to the test. This, then, became and object lesson, a living illustration of the right reaction to Him; and even more that it came from a Gentile! ‘Truly I say to you, from no one in Israel have I found such great faith!’ Those who should have been the most prepared to understand His glory; to welcome Him as Messiah. Theirs was the covenants; theirs was the prophets; theirs were the feasts, the history, the promises; if anyone should have received Him it should have been the Jews. Yet, here stands a Gentile whose faith stands as a rebuke to them all. (A) Eternity will come with many surprises (1) The Lord hits them right between the eyes with the shocking reversal that eternity will revel: “I say to you that many from the East and West will come and recline with Abraham and Isaac and Jacob in the kingdom of heaven.” - The right to sit at the table in the kingdom of heaven with the patriarchs of the nation of Israel was seen to be a right exclusively reserved for the Jew, which is why they were unconcerned about the Gentile and viewed them almost entirely outside of the redemptive purposed of God. But they should have understood this to some degree: Abrahamic Covenant, out of which God’s redemptive purposes flow was always intended for the blessing of the nations through the Jews, but not only to the Jews. Matthew has already gone through great pains to show that the inclusion of the Gentiles was always part of the Messianic mission of Christ. Chapter 2 this is seen in the visit of the Magi; Matt. 3; Lk. 3 ministry of John the Baptist; Matt. 4:8-10 the temptation; 4:12-17, 23-25 all in accordance with Christ’s redemptive mission; and in accordance with OT prophecy. The were unwilling to get this, and assumed God’s saving grace by virtue of nationality, religious heritage. So Jesus just completely reverses that and notes it is the Gentiles who will be there while many Jews are cast out. It was precisely this indictment that caused the Jewish leaders to hate Christ with such a passion (Lk. 4:24-29); and His apostles (Acts 22:21-22). (2) “But the sons of the kingdom will be cast out” - Despite the promises and privileges; despite the opportunities, their confidence in God’s favor, and their despising of the Gentiles it is they who will be excluded from the kingdom of heaven. Here referred to in terms of a banquet (Is. 25:6): pictures celebration, joy, fellowship, satisfaction, ultimately salvation. Why is this? Because they would fail to demonstrate this very faith of the Gentile; because ultimately the Gentiles would accept Him as Messiah, while His own people would mostly reject Him (Romans 3:1-4; 10:1-3). The Gentiles are willing to recognize their sin; are willing to recognize their separation from God because of their having offended and rebelled against His holiness; having broken His Law. In short, they were willing to see their need. They understood their guilt; the Jews simply would not. Jesus, then, utterly destroys that and says in fact it is the Gentiles who will be in the kingdom of heaven; while you the sons - sons by covenant, but not sons by faith (Matt. 3:9; John 8:38-40), therefore, will be cast out. (B) Eternity is decided by faith in Christ alone (1) Notice the issue is faith in Christ: “But the sons of the kingdom will be cast out into the outer darkness; there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth.” -“sons of the kingdom” - those to whom the kingdom rightly belonged by promise, by nationality, by opportunity and commitment. These however, will be “cast out into the outer darkness” - cast out of the kingdom, cast out of the blessing and “into the outer darkness”- the blackness of darkness; instead of joyful kingdom blessing; eternal suffering an misery; a place of eternal “weeping and gnashing of teeth” (we will return to the reality of heaven and hell in a couple of weeks, but for now simply note the finality of the judgment). Jesus puts in absolute terms, in black and white: there are two eternal states of all men, which you fully recognize. The difference is that you think you are going to be there with Abraham will not be, because you have his physical lineage, but not his faith it has always been faith (Gen. 15:6). (2) Note: The decisive factor is not the relative badness, or goodness of the person, but their faith in Jesus. Jesus is not pitting the worst sinner against the best religious person and saying that is the divide: both wretched sinners who worked misery and destruction on earth, as well as the most morally upright and religious sinner will both be eternal occupants of hell. Why is this so? Because all are equally condemned by the Law; all are equally under the wrath of God by virtue of sin. Thus, forgiveness can only come through the singular and completed act of Christ on the cross who alone satisfied fully and perfectly God’s holy wrath for sin; and perfectly and completely His demand for perfect righteousness: “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and you shall be saved;” “And there is salvation in no one else; for there is no other name under heaven that has been given among men by which we must be saved.” Tragically, even here most would not believe (cf. 11:3) (3) [third reason to take it seriously] Christ’s Authority is decisively confirmed (8:13) Thus, with these words still hanging in the air, the Lord now turns back to the centurion and says: Ø“Go! As you have believed it has been done for you! And his servant was healed that very hour!” - “as you have believed” is understood not in proportion to your faith, but in accordance with the sincerity and reality of your faith. In other words, what you have asked for has been granted. The idea is not that it took an hour, but immediately within that very same hour that He spoke the word. So, the testimony of Christ continues to mount displaying His overwhelming authority in His teaching, His compassionate authority to those wrecked by disease and ultimately by their sin; His superior authority recognized even by the Gentiles as news of His ministry spread; and the finality of His authority to cast into hell all those who do not yield to Him; and conversely His authority to seat all those who are do believe with Him in the kingdom. So, where are you in these accounts? What are you trusting in? You say, I am not a Jew, I am not in danger of this. How wrong, The point is that all those, Jew or Gentile, that are trusting in something other than Christ will be cast out. But what a wonderful portrait of grace to those who do believe; who do see your sin, see your separation from Christ, see Him Lord and Savior. To those willing to count the cost and turn, there awaits the glories of heaven and the joys of participating in the great wedding banquet when Christ returns to judge the earth and all His ransomed home to bring into His kingdom.

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