Let’s begin with reading HIStory this morning.
To see all of today’s study questions, click here.
When we are telling someone HIStory we do well to study and understand what it is we are talking about. And in the internet age we really don’t have an excuse for not knowing. Other than if you don’t have access to the internet of course.
For example, I took a moment to refresh my memory on where Capernaum was since Matthew seemed to think it was important to mention it when telling this particular part of HIStory.
So I asked Mr. G. just one word. Capernaum.
Mr. G. (google) immediately reported that there are 539,000 results for that word: If I read one result per second it would only take me 149 hours or so to read them all. I don’t read that fast! So that was out of the question. Adding just one more word to the search, the word “Biblical” it reduced the results to 197000. So you can narrow the search down.
To be sure there is just as much false and erroneous information as there are helpful sites contained in those results. And since I can only budget about 20-30 hours in a week for study and sermon preparation. How can I find one that is authoritative? That really deals with what God’s Word says so we don’t get into some weird or misleading doctrines. Well I began by praying.
Then I looked a few sites that were in the top twenty. One site I found is Daily Bible Study by a Canadian man from Ontario. This one caught my attention so I did some checking. Who is he? The first place I checked was his ‘about me’ section There I read, “Although I honestly believe that what I write is correct, having carefully and painstakingly researched all studies that are published, I make no claim what-so-ever to infallibility. Being a mere sinful human, it’s certain that I am wrong in places (no human is infallible, nobody) …” (Wayne Blank). I like that attitude. A man that knows he is not God and knows he has to rely on the Holy Spirit and on those who went before him for instruction. He also writes that he has been studying and preparing Bible Studies for the past 40 plus years. So he is certainly a good secondary source to check against some of the Biblical commentaries in my Library.
(Which by the way has more than 600 volumes dealing with most aspects concerning God’s word, and is all conveniently located on my computer and also fully searchable). Most of my resources are written and edited by multiple Theologians and Scholars who are considered authorities on God’s Word. And who, I might add, would likely echo Wayne Blank’s humble statement of human infallibility no matter how many initials they have behind their names. Like our Centurion reliable resourceful men know where their authority truly comes from.
Well what did Wayne Blank find out about Capernaum?
Let me read it to you. “Capernaum was located near the north-western shore of the Sea Of Galilee. It has today been identified with the ruins called Tel Hum, about 3 miles / 5 kilometres from where the Jordan River enters the Sea of Galilee in the north. It was on the major road between Damascus up in Syria, and points southward throughout central Israel and beyond.
Capernaum became the central point of the ministry of Jesus Christ, and many of His miracles occurred in or near the city, including numerous healings of believing people: Peter’s mother-in-law (Matthew 8:14-15), the centurion’s servant (Matthew 8:5-7), a paralysed man (Matthew 9:2,7), and the casting out of demons (Mark 1:23-27). The miraculous feeding of the 4,000 from only 7 loaves of bread and a few fish occurred nearby (Mark 8:6-9), as did many other miracles”. (Wayne Blank: http://www.keyway.ca/htm2002/capernam.htm)
The miracle that would start it all off occurred when Jesus was teaching in the synagogue. When Jesus healed a demonized man, Mark says, “The people were all so amazed that they asked each other, “What is this? A new teaching–and with authority! He even gives orders to evil spirits and they obey him.” Mark 1:28
Jesus taught with authority how could the people not talk about this around the dinner table or wherever they went? It was great news that spread fast and far. In fact, Mark 1:28 says, “News about him spread quickly over the whole region of Galilee”. Before long even the Roman’s in Capernaum heard about it!
Including this Centurion who is not named but will be ever remembered as that Gentile Roman Officer who heard about Jesus and his amazing authority to set men free. What do we learn about him in our story?
One thing we see is this Centurion was a compassionate man. An honourable man. He had in his household a servant who was ill. Servant, hmmm… Is that a politically correct word for slave? Common to that day an ill servant was either sent away to get over it or to die but seldom looked after especially by the head of the household. But this Centurion was different. He had heard that Jesus had come to Capernaum and it didn’t take him long to put two and two together. Before him lay a paralyzed friend who needed help. Just over there, a man named Jesus who seemed to have the authority to help.
The Centurion knew about authority. As the title suggests he was a man who had 100 men under his command. He told them to jump, and they said how high on the way up! He tells Jesus in verse 9, that his authority commands “this one, ‘Go,’ and he goes; and that one, ‘Come,’ and he comes. I say to my servant, ‘Do this,’ and he does it.” The Centurion had human authority. Yet he also had great respect for a higher authority!
That is something we have lost in my generation and I’m concerned that we’ve not modelled it enough for the next generation who will have even less respect of authority. Human or God’s authority!
The Bible says, in the end times, “People are lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boastful, proud, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, without love, unforgiving, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not lovers of the good, treacherous, rash, conceited, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God– having a form of godliness but denying its power” (2 Timothy 3:2).
A form of Godliness by denying its power! A quick glance to a dictionary finds this definition of authority: “The power to enforce laws, exact obedience, command, determine, or judge.” (Easton’s Bible Dictionary).
Jesus Christ exercised that sort of authority and even more. He exercised Spiritual Authority; ‘That authority which comes from God and empowers the one exercising it. Christ submitted Himself to the will of the Father’ (BW).
The rebellious people of today are anything but under authority. Many believe that submission is something that weak people do in the mindset of this age. The sad thing is that such a mindset was employed by Sodom just prior to God’s wrath be poured out upon them. “People did what was right in their own minds”(cf. Prov. 21:2) (see Gen. 18:18-19:24; Rom 1:18-31) . If it feels good do it has been this generation’s mantra. No respect for authority, no submission to those in authority. In fact just the opposite.
God reminded us that His is the LORD of authority. (Cf. Rom. 1:24,26,28; Rom 13:1-2).
I think it might do our country some good to conscript this rebellious generation into the armed forces to teach respect for authority once again.
Opps… I’m Mennonite I don’t do ‘armed’ forces do I?
Well at one time I did. I had to learn about authorities the hard way. I was a bit of a rebellious youth, talking back to my parents whenever I felt like it. I had no respect for the law and did shameful things that I won’t mention because that simply glorifies evil. I’m sure that I would have ended up in jail but for the grace of God and some of the lessons I actually learned in the armed forces. I now know that you don’t have to learn them the hard way…but then?
I enlisted in the reserves as a teenager and when schooling had ended I went full time. Basic training was often painful and many times I wanted to quit. I had a real problem following orders at first. So I did a lot of push-ups and marching and cleaning with a toothbrush the grit from between the cracks. I got grunt duty enough that I finally began to clue in.
I learned that my prideful ways were in fact deadly. If I didn’t follow orders I would be the one drawing enemy fire and could very well get my whole detachment killed. I eventually learned to follow orders and to respect and obey those in authority over me before I went on to regular duty with the Armed Forces.
The Bible says, “…there is no authority except that which God has established. The authorities that exist have been established by God. Consequently, he who rebels against the authority is rebelling against what God has instituted, and those who do so will bring judgment on themselves” (Romans 13:1-2).
I’d like to say that we as Christians are much more respectful of authority but let’s face the truth. The last generation has been so rebellious to God’s authority here in North America that the Gospel has hardly made a dent in the evil of our land.
We have become so disrespectful of authority that our whole nation may fall under judgment! In under two generations we went from being a predominantly Christian Nation, believing in the authority of the Bible, to depending on which poll you look at, less than 10% Christian today and or witness is still declining. We seem to be clueless when it comes down to true authority. We need to understand the lesson of the Centurion before it is too late!
The Centurion was a man under authority verse 9 tells us. He was also a man entrusted with authority. So when “The Authority” came to his region he was able to recognize Jesus Christ.
He sent word to Jesus, “Lord,” he said, “my servant lies at home paralyzed and in terrible suffering”(6). “Lord, I do not deserve to have you come under my roof. But just say the word, and my servant will be healed” (8).
He wasn’t a Jew. He had no right to ask of a Jew to make himself unclean by entering the household of a gentile. He knew their traditions and the rules which governed their lives and respected Jesus enough to not ask him to violate his moral standards. And though he had much authority over the people of Capernaum and could have exercised it he believed that the Lord was a greater authority. Though as a Roman Soldier he could still have demanded that Jesus carry his back pack a mile! Yet he approached Jesus not as a man of authority but as a friend of a sick person. Not as a General commanding a Captain but just the opposite. The Captain sent word to the Commander in Chief asking for help, knowing that he was in no position to even ask a favour never mind order a superior. And the Commander in Chief received the message perfectly.
Jesus saw the faith of this obedient Centurion. Saw that he understood that the Authority he was after could be granted from God and nowhere else for the healing of this servant. So in faith he reached out to Jesus!
And Jesus said, “I tell you the truth, I have not found anyone in Israel with such great faith” (Mat 8:10). No one? Not even the disciples? The men who had left everything to follow Jesus? Who walked with Him, daily? No One in all of Israel understood what this Centurion had put together. This man who is never named would be ever remembered because of this great act of faith.
And more than that! Jesus announces to the Jews who are standing around him that this gentile…this Centurion…this scum in their understanding… who is part of the occupying force, oppressing Israel, because of his faith, this Centurion would be in Abraham’s heaven (11).
And then Jesus spoke words that shocked their ears. Many of those who are direct descendants, who can trace their lineage back to Abraham himself, “will be thrown outside, into the darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth” (12). Jesus said, they had no faith, they didn’t recognize God’s ultimate authority when He stood in their midst.
Jesus alone holds the keys to death and Hades. He alone decides who will occupy heaven or be expelled to hell. The bible says, “Fear Him who, after the killing of the body, has power to throw you into hell. Yes, I tell you, fear Him” (Luke 12:5). He has that authority!
The Jewish people ‘living in the Capernaum”, refused to believe even with such great miracles going on around them. It was a bad day for Capernaum! But not as bad as it was going to get. The harlotry of Hosea chapter 1 had come true!
Jesus would later cry out, “And you, Capernaum, will you be lifted up to the skies? No, you will go down to the depths. If the miracles that were performed in you had been performed in Sodom, it would have remained to this day. But I tell you that it will be more bearable for Sodom on the Day of Judgment than for you.” Matthew 11:22-24 (NIV)
All except this man of faith, this Centurion that is! He had the authority to escape the judgment granted to him by the Judge.
So where does that leave you and I in the increasingly godless society we live in? No matter where we turn God has placed authorities in our lives whether we choose to acknowledge them or not! But God help us if we don’t!
Someone or something is always an authority in our lives. That someone is usually self. We become sole judge and jury and decide if we will obey what we hear or not. But for the Christian that right to decide has given way to faith in God’s providence and His compassionate heart. As a Christian we have surrendered our lives to Christ. When we come to Christ, we come not as the authority but as those under His authority.
We don’t demand of Christ this healing as some of the false teachers would tell us to do today. We in faith ask Him. Nor do we submit to evil authorities when they tell us to do that which Christ has told us not to do simply because they are in authority.
We receive our standing orders from the Commander in Chief and we are given authority to carry out those orders by Him.
If in the days ahead, you are told not to pray or read your Bible, or recant your believe in Jesus Christ, even if it is by public authorities or under the punishment of death you can rest assured that death is preferable to disobeying Christ and facing God’s wrath.
I have great peace right now with the world events that are happening around us only because I know Who holds the future.
God alone grants authority to that which shapes our future. He alone has the power to heal and to save. He alone decides who will be in heaven and who will be cast out.
The Centurion understood the authority of Christ. He knew that Christ didn’t need to be present physically to touch his paralytic servant, all that was required was God’s Word on it.
Think about that for a moment. Jesus didn’t need to physically go to the house of the Centurion. What implications does this have for you and me?
The Centurion called upon Jesus and Jesus spoke the word and the servant was healed that very hour! Now that’s true authority! And that’s terrific news for you!
Because Jesus 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 teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” Matthew 28:19-20
So then “All of you, clothe yourselves with humility toward one another, because, “God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.” Humble yourselves, therefore, under God’s mighty hand, (Living under His Authority so) that he may lift you up in due time.” And Like the Centurion, “Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you.” 1 Peter 5:5-7 (NIV)
This Week’s Study Questions:
Begin by reading Matthew 8:5-13 and then Luke 7:1-10
- Why is it important to Matthew that we know where this event took place? (Matthew 8:5)
2. What else do we know from HIStory about Capernaum? (Mat 4:4; Mat. 11:23; Mark 2:1; Luke 7:1)
3. What attributes or characteristics do we learn about the Centurion that would be good for us to cultivate in our lives?
(see Job 31:13-14; Mat 14:14, Rom 12:20, Col 3:12-13; 2 Cor. 1:3-4; Gal. 6:2)
4. What do we know about the Centurion’s servant? (Mat 8:6, Luke 7:2)
Is a servant the same as a slave or an employee? (You can read what the Bible says about servants and slaves in this article. http://www.gotquestions.org/bondservant.html)
5. How did the Centurion know about Jesus? (Matthew 8:9; Mark 1:10)
What did he know about Jesus? (Mat. 8:9)
6. What does it mean to you to be ‘under authority’ and or ‘having authority’? (Mat. 8:8; Rom 1:18-31)
7. What did the Centurion learn about Jesus (Mat. 8:7,13)
8. How can we be more like the Centurion? (Read these verses for a clue: Psalm 34:4, Matthew 7:7-8, Isaiah 30:19, Jer. 29:13, Mat. 18:19, Mat 21:22, Mark 11:24, Luke 11:9, John 15:7, John 16:23, James 1:5, 1 John 3:22, 1 Jn 5:14.)
9. So where does that leave you and I in the increasingly godless society we live in?
10. Think about Matthew 8:8 for a moment. Jesus didn’t need to physically go to the house of the Centurion. What implications does this have for you and me?