“…I tell you the truth…” Matthew 8:10
Matthew 8:5-13 tells of an encounter between Jesus and a Roman Centurion stationed in the town of Capernaum, about twenty miles north-east of Nazareth, situated on the Sea of Galilee’s northwest coastline. We are informed of the soldier’s rank, a centurion. He was in charge of at least one hundred Roman soldiers of differing ranks and roles necessary to keep peace in the region. In modern terms, it would be similar to a commander of an entire ‘company’ comprised of four or five ‘platoons’ of soldiers assigned to different ‘squads’ around the area to enforce Roman law. Matthew’s description of him as ‘a centurion’ and not, ‘the centurion’ may infer the presence of one or two more centurions in the region under the command of one ‘brigade’ leader. As a centurion whose duty station was on a coastal city, he would have had all the comforts of a ranking leader: a comfortable home situated on the coast with great views, house servants, available horses for transportation, and good pay from the taxes paid to Rome.
Jesus mentioned the phrase we are investigating, ITYTT, to this Roman centurion. Having heard of Jesus’ healing powers, the centurion approached Jesus, telling Him about a servant who was paralyzed, bed-ridden and in terrible pain. Jesus offered to come to the centurion’s residence to heal the servant. However, the centurion’s reply revealed a spiritual dynamic in action which we may often neglect to recognize… a chain of command which recognized Jesus’ authority and rule (Read Matthew 8:5-9).
Jesus marveled at the centurion’s faith, and spoke the five powerful words we study today:
“I tell you the truth, I haven’t seen faith like this in all Israel! And I tell you this, that many Gentiles will come from all over the world – from east and west – and sit down with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob at the feast in the Kingdom of Heaven. But many Israelites – those for whom the Kingdom was prepared – will be thrown into outer darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.” (v.’s 10-13)
Though the officer’s words reveal the dynamic of a heavenly chain of command, Jesus’ words reveal an eternal truth concerning the citizens of heaven, and the proof of each one’s worthiness. Israel was a nation known for the piety of its people. From offering atoning sacrifices, to observing the established feasts, the Hebrew people practiced a religious system designed (by God) to sustain one’s conscience and sensitivity to sin which seeks to entrap each one’s heart.
As early as the beginning of earthly time, man’s struggle with sin has existed. In God’s confrontation with Cane, He stated:
“If you do what is right, will you not be accepted? But if you do not do what is right, sin is crouching at your door; it desires to have you, but you must rule over it.” (Genesis 4:7)
Jesus magnified the words of the centurion because of the faith he expressed in Jesus. It is faith that provides one the power to ‘rule’ over sin and qualifies one as a legitimate citizen of heaven – not a bloodline pedigree. That’s what Jesus meant when he said there would be weeping and gnashing of teeth for those whom heaven was prepared, yet who rejected Jesus. It is not the bloodline of one’s family or race that guarantees entrance into heaven. It is the blood that was shed on Calvary’s cross which purchased the citizenship into heaven for everyone that believes… everyone that exercises faith in Christ’s atoning work on the cross.
Imagine, a high-ranking Roman official caring for an easily replaced common worker. Matthew’s retelling of the story shows a commander who:
Asked Jesus for help. He did not issue a command, but came in humility and an activated faith.
Sympathized with his servant’s condition and suffering. He was caring.
Articulated his understanding of authority, as a man both under authority and with authority. He recognized Jesus’ authority over a realm in which he had no authority or knowledge.
Verbalized his confidence in Christ’s power to heal by simply stating it, and thereby exposing his working faith in the Great Physician.
Jesus was amazed, not at what the centurion said, but by the faith the centurion exhibited. This powerful statement was spoken about a ruling Roman gentile. The Romans were conquerors and rulers, dominating their subjects under strict Roman rule. Another interesting dynamic revealed in the Savior’s words is where Jesus made the statement: IN Israel… about a gentile’s faith! Jesus had not seen such a resolute faith in ALL of Israel – the nation known as God’s chosen people. Not one of God’s chosen people at that moment possessed faith like that of the centurion: believing faith, active faith, working faith… and sanctifying faith, as the centurion placed his confidence in Jesus’ position, power, and purpose.
The eternal truth we find here is evidenced in Jesus’ acceptance of this soldier. God has always been about blessing all nations, all peoples. “I tell you the truth…” wasn’t just an idiomatic expression by our Lord. No, it was a declaration of an eternal truth - the redeeming grace of God through faith in Jesus Christ is available to anyone: any race, any age, any rank or station of life. To God, it’s always been about faith. Read through Hebrews 11 and discover those who exercised faith in God.
Will you, like the centurion, seek out the One Who will bring your needed healing? Will you consider the reality of believing faith and allow it to become a working faith that is sanctified by the power of the risen Lord, Jesus Christ?
AND, it is faith that gives one the victory needed for those times in life that seem impossible to overcome:
Problems which seem to take control over one’s life.
People which seem to control others.
Practices which seem to entrap one in compulsive behaviors.
Are you up against a struggle that seems impossible to overcome? Is there someone who continually uses you, controls you, and manipulates you for his/her own purposes? Do you find yourself in moments of personal conflict, battling compulsions you know are wrong and destructive? The same faith exercised by the centurion is available to you today. The writer of Hebrews tells us that faith is as close as the mention of Jesus’ name, for He is the source and finisher of one’s faith. (12:1-2) Just as the centurion was convinced in Jesus’ authority to completely reverse his servant’s condition, so each Believer who comes to Jesus by faith is now resourcing a limitless supply of His power, wisdom, and grace to be an overcomer.
The apostle John encouraged the first century church when he wrote: “the One Who is in you is greater than the one who is in the world.” (1 John 4:4) Paul challenged Believers in Corinth with the question, “…do you not realize… that Jesus Christ is in you?” (2 Corinthians 13:5) He phrased it just a bit differently to the Galatians when he wrote, “I am crucified with Christ; and it is no longer I who live, but it is Christ Who lives in me.” (Galatians 2:20) Each of these statements reveals the dynamic of faith alive in the heart of the writer. Just as the apostles encouraged the early church with these words, so we should recognize the power of Christ in each Believer and encourage each other with these words.
Have a blessed day…