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 8:10
Jesus was amazed by what He just heard. A centurion, and in case you didn’t know that means a Roman, not just any Roman, a Roman soldier, a commander in fact, had shown more faith than ‘anyone in Israel’. Yes, a Roman military commander just approached Jesus and asked Him to heal his servant.
I want to provide you a little context, the Romans were the occupying force in Judea at the time. They were not liked, they knew they were not liked. The Jews of the time considered the Romans beneath them. When at all possible the avoided contact of any kind. The Romans were significantly outnumbered in Judea however, possessed the most technologically advanced and well-trained military in the world. A Roman centurion was proven on the battlefield, and as such, put in command of 100 soldiers, men who were there to subdue the population, by force if necessary. The centurion who approached Jesus was just such a man.
Along comes Jesus, He heals the sick and the broken, causes the blind to see and the lame to walk. His fame had been spreading across Judea to the point that a Roman centurion heard what He could do, was doing for the most unlikely and unlikable people. So, one of the most disliked men in Judea approached Jesus and asks for help.
I am ALWAYS struck by who Jesus reaches out to, who He calls, who He heals. It’s NOT the elite (Paul being the exception), it’s the least, the lost and the unlikely. In the books of Matthew, Mark and Luke, Jesus says He came to heal the sick not the well. Jesus came to those that were rejected, despised and considered unclean. He came to those who had nowhere else to turn, but they had hope.
They flocked to Him, they surrounded Him, they broke through roofs to get to Him. What He had was all they wanted. A Samaritan woman, a tax collector, a leper, the possessed and the dead, if Jesus could heal them, why not a Roman servant? So, the centurion went, knowing the hatred these people felt for him, knowing he would probably be sent away but, he wasn’t. Jesus was going to come to his home.
I can only imagine what that centurion thought, “what, wait… you’ll help?” However, the centurion also knew that asking Jesus into his home could open up a whole can of problems not just for himself but for Jesus as well.
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. 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.” Matthew 8: 8-9
Jesus was AMAZED by the faith of this centurion. He understood who Jesus was and what He could do. His belief in Jesus saved his servant.
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
A Roman Centurion, the most unlikely of candidates for Jesus mercy but, is he really that unlikely considering who Jesus is? Jesus doesn’t make the distinction; Roman, Jew, adulterer, drug addict, thief, lonely, disabled, downtrodden, abused and unloved…Jesus answered the request of a Roman soldier, one possibly responsible for the death of Jewish people, is there anything that can keep us from the love, grace and mercy of Jesus Christ?
“For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord” Romans 8:38-39
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Hospitals, I grew up in one, and no that is NOT an exaggeration. It’s also not a stretch to say that it was partly because my mother worked there and partly because I was the clumsiest tomboy that ever waltzed through the Verde Valley, (notice the emphasis on was).
My mother worked at our community hospital for over 37 years. She held just about every non-clinical position possible. From unit clerk, nursing assistant and financial services representative to patient advocate. Needless to say if you ever found yourself there, you would have probably met my mom. The most memorable of her roles, for me, was when she was the admissions clerk in the Emergency Room. She would come home with stories, (never sharing identifying information as my mom has the highest of integrity when it came to hospital rules even before HIPPA was HIPPA), that seemed almost too odd to be true. We often joked that one day she needed to write a book because reality is so much more interesting than fiction.
She would enthrall us at the dinner table with stories about people with strange pets hidden in their clothing, obscure illnesses, gory injuries and sometimes people who just wanted someone to talk to. My mom was the first person they met when they walked through the sliding glass doors with “Emergency Room” written in big red letters. I can still remember the sound of those doors, both coming through as a patient as well as visiting my mom.
I was talking with a friend this week about how churches today are like hospitals. Jesus didn’t come to heal and save the well, but the sick and broken. In Matthew, Mark and Luke Jesus stated that it was not the healthy that needed a doctor but the sick. This same statement is made in three of the Gospels, perhaps it is an important concept He wants us to grasp?
Matthew 9:11-13 – When the Pharisees saw this, they said to His disciples, “Why is your Teacher eating with the tax collectors and sinners?” But when Jesus heard this, He said, “It is not those who are healthy who need a physician, but those who are sick. “But go and learn what this means: ‘I DESIRE COMPASSION, AND NOT SACRIFICE,’ for I did not come to call the righteous, but sinners.”
Mark 2:16-17 – When the scribes who were Pharisees saw Jesus eating with these people, they asked His disciples, “Why does He eat with tax collectors and sinners?” On hearing this, Jesus told them, “It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners.”
Luke 5:30-31 – But the Pharisees and their scribes complained to Jesus’ disciples, “Why do you eat and drink with tax collectors and sinners?” Jesus answered, “It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners, to repentance.”
We all need to see our churches for what they are, hospitals, full of the sick and the broken. Our front doors should read “Emergency Room” in big red letters.
Most of the time mom’s stories were of the usual suspects, drunk driving, sick children, motorcycle accidents, and the occasional broken bones, injuries and illnesses that were easily diagnosed and treated. Then there were the stories that baffled, the patients who come in covered in blood that would bring everyone running to the rescue, only to find the cause to be a small cut that was quickly repaired, no stitched required. Then there were those who came in looking ok, walking in on their own looking relatively healthy, who then collapse on the floor, almost dying in the waiting room from internal bleeding.
“You just never can tell”, she would say, “until the doctor can take a close look.”
Our doctor is Jesus. The Healer, The Great Physician, He raised the dead to life and restored the broken to their families and communities. Hospitals are no place for the faint of heart, they are messy, often loud, emotional, chaotic, and full of sick people. But, that is what we are here for isn’t it?
Luke 6:32-36 – “But if you love those who love you, what credit is that to you? For even sinners love those who love them. And if you do good to those who do good to you, what credit is that to you? For even sinners do the same. And if you lend to those from whom you hope to receive back, what credit is that to you? For even sinners lend to sinners to receive as much back. But love your enemies, do good, and lend, hoping for nothing in return; and your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High. For He is kind to the unthankful and the evil. Therefore be merciful, just as your Father also is merciful.”
We talk about being accepting, we create ministries to reach out to the broken and lost of our communities, but then we complain about the mess. The Kingdom needs more hospitals, we need to be ready, willing, and able to accept everyone who walks through our doors, no matter how bloody or messy they are. It’s not easy, Christ told us it would not be easy. However, He was also very clear with our job description.
Matthew 28:19-20 – Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teach them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”
As a follower of Christ, this is my job! It’s not always easy. I ask daily for God to give me His heart, His eyes and His hands to work in His hospital. I love nothing more than to see His people turn to Him and be healed. That, in and of it’s self, is worth every uncomfortable, chaotic and messy moment.
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