Let It Be Just As You Have Believed It To Be!

July 26, 2009
日本キリスト教団 頌栄教会 東京神学大学 M2 小松博士 Hiroshi Komatsu, Tokyo Theological Seminary Student, Shoei Church, Church of Christ, Japan
Translator M.A.F., Indiana, USA
Matthew 8:5-13

1. The gospel narrative that was read for today is about the centurion's servant getting healed. However, from the words of Jesus in verse ten, "Even in Israel, I have never seen a faith to this degree," I think it will be easy for us all to see that the main subject of this narrative does not lie with the healing of the servant but with the faith of the centurion. This scripture story is speaking to us about [a man's] faith with which Jesus was impressed and which he had found admirable.

One : The First Step of Faith

2. So, the story begins from the point where a centurion, [a commanding officer over one hundred men], approached Jesus, when Jesus had entered the town of Capernaum. The town of Capernaum was the place where Jesus used to live when he had begun his evangelistic mission, and it was also the place where Peter's home was. Jesus had finished a sermon on the mountain side and had gone back to his own town. Once there, he meet this centurion.

3. This centurion was a Roman soldier, and he seems to have been a very excellent character appointed from among the troops. His name is not known to us, but we believe that this military officer who had approached Jesus was also a superior character even among the soldiers. But if we wonder why this man not being a Jew would seek Jesus, the scriptures explain that it was because the centurion's servant was stuck in bed with the palsy and had been suffering awfully. We don't know the exact details of what kind of illness it was, which is described as "the palsy." Since it included terrible pain, it seems to me to be a terminal illness as well. The centurion sought Jesus because his servant was suffering with this type of illness.

4. Since the word translated in this text as "servant" could also be translated as "son," we can see how important the existence of this servant was to the centurion. This irreplaceable life [of the servant], who was so valuable to [the officer] beyond any amount of money, was suffering terribly and perhaps [he] was currently in a dangerous condition, that he might even die.

5. [I'm] sure the centurion did as much as he could. [I'm] sure he was ready to save his servant by calling the doctors, buying the medicine, making use of every means, and exhausting every effort. But it seems to have ended all for nothing. The officer was a very excellent character. But he could not heal the servant's illness. He could not bear the suffering in his stead. He had personally experienced his very own powerlessness before this servant of his.

6. [I] think this centurion was sitting bogged down under a [strong] feeling of powerlessness and hopelessness. He was surely sitting with a wall facing right smack before his eyes. Yet an item of news came flying into his ears. It was the news that the man named Jesus, who was living in the town of Capernaum, was healing every possible kind of sickness and disease among the people. It is written in the following way in chapter four and beginning in verse twenty-three of The Gospel According To Matthew. "Jesus went around Galilee, he taught in many synagogues, proclaimed the gospel of the kingdom, and healed every possible kind of sickness and disease of the people. Then Jesus' fame spread into Syria." The military officer who had heard this news stood up to head for Capernaum and then to meet Jesus.

7. I mentioned that this narrative speaks about a faith that Jesus had found admirable, and here in this text is described the first step of [the man's] faith. As it has it in chapter ten and verse seventeen of The Epistle To The Disciples At Rome, "In truth, faith comes by hearing, and what's more, it begins by hearing the word of Christ," the faith of the centurion which Jesus had found admirable had begun when he had heard the news of Jesus. When he stood up to go to Capernaum to meet Jesus, his faith had taken its first step.

Two : The Second Step of Faith

8. The centurion met Jesus and then he appealed to him that his servant was suffering with an illness. Jesus says to him, "I'll go [with you] and heal him for you," but the officer over one hundred men replies to Jesus' statement with, "I am not able to receive you under my own roof." We can see at this point the faith of the centurion in the next step.

9. [Scholars] think this commanding officer was Syrian. That is, as seen by the Jews, he was a Gentile. Since the Jews back then regarded the Gentiles as a people forsaken and cursed by God, they disliked them very much. For example, it was generally held that the Jews said that because the domiciles of a Gentile were ritually unclean, Jews must never enter into them. And that's not all, they were [both] under Roman rule and [the Jews] encouraged the Romans in anything by which [the Gentiles could] be made to suffer. Since the officer knew that all too well, he had probably said, "I am not able to receive you under my own roof." However, in spite of the many Jews of this disposition surrounding Jesus, he overcame that difficulty and approached Jesus.

10. Faith make us draw near to Jesus. We are now assembled in this sanctuary, offering praise, listening to the word, and having a worship service, but we can't do this unless we have faith; [faith makes these acts possible]. If we don't have faith we can't draw near to Jesus; because when we try to approach Jesus, there will be many difficulties for us at that time. The greatest difficulty of them all is the problem of our own sin. We've been in sin from birth. This is not identifying a moral situation we are in, but means that we are unable to closely trust and depend on God as a natural act given at birth. When the Bible speaks of our sin, it says of sin that we are unable [to cling to] God in trusting dependence and reliance but instead we get further and further apart and separated from God. But faith makes us draw near to God and makes us turn to Jesus.

11. In regard to this faith of ours, the scripture records the following in The Epistle To the Hebrews in chapter ten and verse nineteen. "So, brothers, we have confidence that we enter into the holy place by the blood of Jesus. Jesus opened for us the curtain, that is, through his flesh, a new and living way. Furthermore, because he is the great priest who rules the house of God over us, our hearts are purified, our consciences are without blame, and our body is washed with pure water. Fully trusting, shall we not sincerely draw near to God?" In The Colloquial Version, it is translated, "While filled with the conviction of faith," the faith, that is begun by hearing about Jesus, leads us to the conviction of faith, and from that conviction, we overcome great difficulties, and we can draw near to the presence of God, the presence of Jesus.

Three : The Third Step of Faith

12. The faith of the centurion which Jesus had found admirable, the final step to it, is shown by the words in today's gospel passage in the second half of verse eight, "Only speak one word for me. Then, my servant will be healed." That is, the centurion at this point, notwithstanding that his servant is not actually healed yet, notwithstanding whether Jesus would heal him or not, not even knowing whether he could heal him or not, already has the confidence that he is healed. He sees the figure of the healed servant. Hebrews chapter eleven beginning in verse one has a message on [persons with a] famous faith. In it is written, "Faith has the confidence of that which it hopes for, it acknowledges the invisible truth. Persons of long ago have been recognized by God on account of [their] faith."

13. The week before last, we heard a message from Pastor Takao Kiyohiro from the story in which the Israelites had assaulted the fortress at Jericho. The people of Israel were told that God would give them Jericho, and believing his word, they went around the periphery of the defensive walls of Jericho. And on the seventh time around on the seventh day the fortress walls crumbled down, and they assaulted Jericho, but at that time when the walls came falling down, in contrast with each of the Israelites carrying their weapons and rushing in unastonished and as if they had expected it naturally, we could hear about their faith once again, in the sermon from the week before, that, "By sincerely believing the walls would collapse, and picturing that moment, they went around with heavy armor upon their persons." Here is where there is a valuable point on faith. We are to picture it by faith. As the Israelites pictured the walls of Jericho crumbling down, as the centurion pictured the figure of the servant already healed, faith gives us the power to see a picture, in other words, a vision that comes from faith.

14. Seeing this kind of faith Jesus was impressed with it. Then he said, "Even in Israel I have never seen a faith to this degree." Nevertheless, Jesus does not end just by speaking well of the commanding officer's faith, he continues on with a very harsh statement. It is the words from verses eleven and twelve, "I tell you. In due time a great crowd will come from the east and the west and will sit at the banquet seats with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob in the kingdom of heaven. However, the children of the kingdom will be driven away into the outer darkness. There they will wail and grind their teeth."

15. In the biblical book called Proverbs, it is written, "Unless there is a vision, the people will conduct themselves as they desire." In another version it is translated as "be corrupted." It means, in other words, unless there is a vision that comes from faith, we will end up not being challenged by faith for difficult [tasks], and pretty soon neither will we draw near to God, nor will we turn to Jesus, but then at last, in spite of being promised the kingdom of God, in spite of being called the children of the kingdom, whenever we will have realized it, we will have been driven out into the outer darkness.

16. When Jesus had given this message, he said that the kind of faith that pictured a vision was long gone in Israel, and that he couldn't find it among them. What kind of thoughts was in his mind when Jesus said this? I think perhaps Jesus had searched the best he could among [those of] Israel. He did not find it though he searched with all his might, "[Maybe I'll find it] over there? [Maybe I'll find it] here?" But then [he did find it] at this place here [in this Gentile heathen]. Jesus found the faith he was searching for in this centurion. The word translated as "impressed, found admirable" has the meaning of "amazement." Jesus is amazed that "This such a place had the faith that I have been searching for!," and this amazed figure of Jesus is being shown in this text [to give a message]. I think that in his amazement, Jesus is exhorting the people, especially those who did not have the faith that Jesus was searching for among the people who were always following him, "Have this kind of faith that pictures things, so that you are not driven out into the outer darkness!"

17. Finally, as we look at verse thirteen, Jesus says to the centurion, "Go back home. Let it be just as you have believed it to be!" Exactly at that moment the servant is healed. This is the centurion's vision according to his faith, that he pictured from his faith, and amazingly, it actually happens as an event in the real world. The vision according to faith comes true. -- Because when Jesus says, "Let it be just as you have believed it to be!," everything falls under the authority of Jesus' words.

18. I mentioned that the narrative in today's gospel is speaking about a faith with which Jesus was impressed. Then we extrapolated from the reading of this story three steps about faith. But now I am thinking, doesn't the third step of faith require more of us? This is the faith that Jesus was searching for, the faith with which he was impressed. We are to picture things from out of our faith, we are to have a vision that comes from faith. While we now have some kind of picture in accordance with faith, and we embrace some kind of vision, shall we take another step forward in the presence of Jesus? Today we are being addressed by Jesus with the words, "Let it be just as you have believed it to be!"