When Jesus Marveled
Text: Matthew 8:5-13
I. Even the seemingly small things within the Bible are significant.
A. I find it puzzling that people claim that the Bible is inspired, as we are told in II Timothy 3:16-17, but then turn around and want to modify it.
1. In June of 2006 I ran across an article where Charles Bennison, an Episcopalian Bishop, stated, “the church wrote the Bible, the church can change the Bible.”
2. How ignorant this man and his followers are of the true nature of the Bible.
3. The word that made us Christians is permanent and unchanging - I Peter 1:22-25
4. The church exists to uphold that word, not to modify it as it sees fit because men are not fit to modify the work of God - I Timothy 3:15
B. Even the seemingly small phrases, the things you can overlook on your tenth reading through the Scriptures will suddenly take on new light when you read it the eleventh time.
1. When Jesus wanted to show the Sadducees that life continued after death, he didn’t go to a passage that discussed what happens after death.
2. He selected a simple passage that discussed something else entirely, but made a subtle but strong point - Matthew 22:31-33
3. The strength of his point was buried in the verb tense of a passage dealing with another matter.
C. Now, tell me, who in their right mind would want to fiddle with God’s book when even the tense of a verb can contain a powerful point?
II. The faith of a centurion - Matthew 8:5-13
A. A centurion comes pleading for the health of a servant who is paralyzed and in pain
1. Not a family member, not a beloved wife or child, a servant!
2. Centurions were officers in the Roman army. Though a Gentile, this man understood - Galatians 5:14
B. And even though Jesus said “yes” the man thought himself too lowly for the Messiah to enter his humble home. All he asked of Jesus was his word.
1. What beauty in humility is demonstrated by this man!
2. The Jews were constantly testing Jesus, demanding that he explain himself, asking him where he got his authority to say the things he said.
3. This man stated that he knew that Jesus had authority over the world, over sickness, disease, and paralysis!
C. The Jews wanted signs - I Corinthians 1:22
1. Yet despite all that was done, it was never enough - Mark 8:11-12
2. It was common for people to see others as limited as themselves - John 11:21
3. Yet this Gentile understood that Jesus’ power was not limited by presence.
4. He understood better than the Jews this passage - Psalm 107:19-20
III. And Jesus marveled at the man
A. Do you see the significance of this small phrase?
B. Some asked me a while ago, if God planned everything in advance, and knows everything that is going to happen, then why did Jesus marvel at the centurion’s strong faith.
1. It is an excellent question.
C. God has stated that whatever He has decided will come to past - Isaiah 46:9-11
1. The extent of His ability is difficult for mortal man to grasp
2. 150 years in advance of the actual event - Isaiah 44:28
a. At the time of the statement, Assyria ruled the world, with no end in sight
b. But a short while later, it was wiped out suddenly by Nebuchadnezzar, king of Babylon.
c. Cyrus, however, was king in the empire that wiped out Babylon in its own surprise attack.
d. What Isaiah recorded is equivalent of naming who would be head of the world’s leading nation, not just after the United States falls, but of the nation that brings down the nation that brings down the United States!
e. We can’t even fathom the first fall, let alone the succeeding details.
3. Isaiah 42:9
a. In struggling to understand how God is able to do this, some theologians concluded that everything in this world must have been predetermined by God before He even created the world.
b. Thus He can tell the future because the events are playing out as He had decided long ago.
4. A number of passages do appear to support this idea
a. The determined purpose and foreknowledge of God - Acts 2:22-23
b. Whom He foreknew, He predestined - Romans 8:28-30
c. Chose us before the foundation of the world - Ephesians 1:3-6
d. Elect according to the foreknowledge of God - I Peter 1:1-2
5. John Calvin looked at these passages and concluded that God is obviously completely sovereign in the universe. Everything is under His control and every thought and action has been predetermined.
a. If God chooses to elect a person, then being perfect, He makes no mistake. That person is saved.
b. If you are not chosen, then there is nothing a person can do about his lost condition.
D. But the conclusion is wrong. It contradicts numerous other plain passages
1. How many times does God plead with people to repent? - Ezekiel 18:30-32
a. Such pleading would not make sense if everything is predetermined
b. It implies a person has a choice.
2. It would mean that God’s plan and God’s desire contradict! - II Peter 3:9
a. God does not want people to perish
b. But He warns that they will if they do not repent
3. If God planned every thought and action before the world began, then it leads to the conclusion that God planned all evil
a. A conclusion that contradicts James 1:13
E. What is missing is that man is created in the image of God - Genesis 1:27
1. Like God, man has a choice of whether to do good or evil
2. Only then do statements like Joshua’s make sense - Joshua 24:15
F. If you go back through the passages that seem to support a complete predestination, you will notice that God never said that every thought or every action had been predetermined; only that certain outcomes had been set.
1. God stated that Cyrus was going to rebuild Jerusalem, but God didn’t say how that point in history would come about.
2. God said that certain people would be saved, but He didn’t say that He selected individuals; instead as we read we realize that God had planned to save a certain type of person who displayed certain characteristics
G. Examples from life
1. I can, with fair certainty, predict what a child will eat for lunch if I offer him a choice of a peanut butter and jelly or fried liver and onions with Brussel sprouts on the side.
a. Assuming he had no allergies to peanut butter, he would have complete free choice.
b. He probably thinks he got the best of me because he’s munching on a peanut butter and jelly sandwich.
c. Even though I knew the outcome, he still had a free choice.
2. I’ve played complex games, such as chess, against people far above my ability. It doesn’t take long to realize that I’m going to lose.
a. The funny thing is that I still have a full choice in regards to my own moves.
b. But no matter what I choose, I know I’m going to lose against my opponents’ choices.
H. God’s power and ability to manipulate the world is so vast that He can declare with absolute certainty what the outcome will be, no matter what are the independent choices made by each person involved.
1. Try to imagine the power and knowledge that would require!
2. The book of Esther hints at this.
a. Hamaan had gotten a law passed that allowed the destruction of the Jews.
b. Mordecai, cousin to the queen, approaches Esther and tells her that she needs to interfere in the matter
c. The problem is that no one, not even the queen, can approach the king without an invitation and she hasn’t been invited into the king’s presence in a while.
d. Esther 4:13-14 - Mordecai is convinced that the Jews would be rescued because of prior promises by God that would require the Jews continued existence for a while.
e. Notice that Esther has full free choice. No matter what is her choice, the Jews would be rescued. But her choice would impact herself and her family.
IV. What led up to the events concerning the centurion?
A. Did the centurion’s servant fall ill to provide an opportunity for Jesus to display His power?
1. As Mordecai said, “who knows?”
2. We are not told if this was a pre-planned event or a simple opportunity from a chance encounter.
B. Random events do happen - Ecclesiastes 9:11
C. What we do know:
1. The centurion chose to approach Jesus concerning his servant
2. Because of his humility and faith he chose to ask Jesus to simply say the word and not bother with going to his home
D. It is at the man’s choices that Jesus marveled because the man was a Gentile
1. He was not raised knowing the stories concerning the power of God as were the Jews
2. Yet this man leaped to the proper conclusion that Jesus did not have to be physically present for his servant to be healed!
E. Jesus marveled because he knew the hearts of men
1. Matthew 12:25 - He knew people’s thoughts
2. John 2:24-25 - Jesus knew what was in all men
3. Jesus was able to see beyond just the words of the centurion and see the strength of his faith
4. He marveled because he knew the hearts of the people in Israel and knew that no one among the Jews had the faith equal to this Gentile
V. Did Jesus know in advance?
A. “Who knows?”
B. But likely there wasn’t anything to know until the centurion made his choices.
1. He could have not come, showing no faith
2. He could have asked Jesus to come to his house, showing a faith similar to the Jews
3. But he chose the path of greater faith and it was at this choice that Jesus marveled.