The Centurion’s Faith Amazed the Lord

Matthew 8:5-13

Overseer Sung-Hyun Kim

The Lord proclaimed a significant word that could shatter the destiny of Israel: “I say to you that many will come from the east and the west, and will take their places at the feast with Abraham, Isaac and Jacob in the kingdom of heaven. But the subjects of the kingdom will be thrown outside, into the darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.”

Meanwhile, the Lord could not find the faith that He desired from Israel. However, He expressed the hope that He could find it from all nations all over the world in public. This was the moment that opened up the possibility for a new history of the gospel, but at the same time, Jews were shocked heavily because they believed that they would definitely go to heaven as God’s chosen people.

Jesus made this significant proclamation upon seeing the faith of a centurion from Capernaum. The Lord said of him, “Truly I tell you, I have not found anyone in Israel with such great faith.” What the Lord found in him was neither vast knowledge of God nor intellectual agreement with theological propositions. Rather, his personality was characterized by faithfulness and sensitivity, humility and consideration, love and gentleness, and moreover, a deep insight into God. Finally, the Lord found the faith that He was seeking but could not find among the people of Israel in a Roman centurion, who was commonly expected to be cruel and vicious.

The centurion came to the Lord because his servant suffered from being paralyzed. In that time, servants could not be respected as individuals and were merely seen as instruments who breathed for their masters. However, the centurion had compassion on his servant. Moreover, he did not make a hasty demand to the Lord. Instead, he cautiously informed the Lord of his servant’s circumstance by saying, “Lord, my servant lies at home paralyzed, suffering terribly.” This humble attitude of the centurion drew the Lord’s attention and made Him walk to the centurion’s house.

What happened afterwards surprised the Lord even more. Upon hearing that the Lord was coming to his house, the centurion immediately sent someone to say, “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.”

He believed that it would not be appropriate for the Lord to come to the home of a Gentile like himself, who was dirty and worthless. Furthermore, he knew that Jews regarded contact with Gentiles as something dirty, so he did not want the Lord to get in trouble because of him. Additionally, he believed that the Lord was the One who had been entrusted with authority from God, and therefore, he trusted that if only He commanded it in a word, then the spirits that caused the illness could be driven out.

The Lord looked upon the centurion’s sincere faith in God and humble attitude as a sinner with admiration. However, this admiration was also accompanied by lament. This was because the faith the centurion showed to the Lord should have been found in the Israelites who had enjoyed the beneficial privilege of being God’s people. Nevertheless, Israel made a simple formula of ”God’s people will go to heaven” and neglected the work that God was truly fulfilling while remaining content within it. Their refusal to repent led them further into sin, and ultimately forced the Son of God to suffer and die.

What is our attitude toward God? Do we satisfy ourselves by making the simple formula of “believing in God will take us to heaven?” We have received the great grace that even Israel could not attain. Yet, if we still consider a sense of belonging and intellectual agreement as the essence of faith, and do not fulfill our duties as those who have received this grace, we will never be free from the Lord’s warning that the subjects of the kingdom will be cast out into the darkness, weeping and gnashing of teeth. We received the Lord’s grace through His humility, affection, sacrifice, and love. Therefore, let us prove our faith by showing humility in our personalities. Let us demonstrate our true desire to be with the Lord eternally through our lives.

Sermon by Overseer Sung-Hyun Kim
(Lord’s Day Service on April 23, 2023)