Matthew 8:11-13.
The Blessing of Simple Faith

American Journal of Biblical Theology,
Copyright © 2016, Dr. John W. (Jack) Carter     Scripture quotes from KJV

This world chases after many things in order to find some benefit.  It may actually be reasonable to say that we expend most of our energy involved in activities and work that we believe serves to bring us benefit in some way.  Many, if not most adults work many hours each week for the benefit of a paycheck that serves as a tool to receive many of their basic needs and more.  For some, they are always looking for opportunities to get more money, more “stuff,” more of anything that they think will bring them more joy, more happiness, more peace, more security, etc. 

Large lottery prizes attract millions of people who spend money on pieces of paper with a number on it, hoping that the number matches the winning number, despite astronomical odds against the probability.[1]  Recently a $1.5 billion payout (about $700 million after taxes) was realized after over $3 billion was spent on tickets.  Though only three players divided the pot, there were millions of others who spent that $3 billion dollars, motivated only an impossible dream of winning.  

In their search for peace, joy, and happiness, those who seek to find it in the material commodities of this world will not find it.  God did not create man to find fulfillment in the things of this world, but to find it through relationships with Him and others who he brings into our lives.  The benefits of a relationship with God are immeasurable[2] when compared with the benefits of the things of this world, things that will no longer be ours when this life ends.

Though the LORD had always intended that people would come to Him in faith so that He could bless them,[3] few came to faith and discovered the benefits in God’s promises.  However, when the time was right,[4] the LORD came to us, sharing the good news of God’s plan of eternal salvation. 

Matthew 8:1.  When he was come down from the mountain, great multitudes followed him.

This passage records events that took place immediately following Jesus’ “Sermon on the Mount.”  People had been listening to teaching like they had never heard before.  Rather than teach the tenets of the Law, He was teaching its practical and wise application in life.  He spoke with an authority that was not typical of the teachers of the Law.  Much of the rabbinical teaching served to use the Law to condemn the people, leaving them with no real hope.  However, the contrast in Jesus’ teaching was remarkable, as He brought a message of encouragement and hope.  Consequently, many people began to sincerely listen to Jesus’ message and respond in faith.  Jesus is still rather early in His ministry, yet word is spreading fast concerning the authority of Jesus, an authority not only concerning the word, but also authority over evil spirits and physical illness.  People who heretofore lived without hope were suddenly presented with the possibility of finding freedom from various forms of physical and spiritual bondage.  Many came to Jesus for healing, and a few examples are recorded here.

Matthew 8:2.  And, behold, there came a leper and worshipped him, saying, Lord, if thou wilt, thou canst make me clean.

The biblical record concerning leprosy typically refers to any of many conditions and illnesses that present themselves as physical sores, including Hansen’s disease, a bacteriological infection that causes the loss of feeling in the extremities (among other presentations.)  Such infections were significant in an ancient Israel that equated suffering with sin and denied access to the Temple to anyone who had anything other than a perfect appearance.  This leper lived in abject persecution.  The traditional laws provided many barriers to those with leprosy, making it very difficult for sufferers to move about the community.  Furthermore, their belief that their condition was a punishment for sin left sufferers humbled by their circumstance.  The simple fact that this leper came to Jesus and spoke to him speaks volumes about his courage and his faith in Jesus that empowered it.

His faith is indicated by his manner of worship as he approached Jesus.  True worship is personal, and is a fruit of our humility before the LORD, and our sincere desire to have a relationship with Him.  When one comes to a relationship with the LORD, their life is never the same again, either in this world, or in eternity.  This man’s life is about to change forever.

This man’s statement to the LORD, in combination with his description of worship, indicates that he has been listening to Jesus’ teaching, and is responding to him in a faith that is informed by what he has learned.  Literally, he simply states, “You are my LORD” by his worship, and “you have the power to heal me if it is your will.”  Note that he does not say, “LORD heal me.”  His need for healing is obvious, and his statement expresses that need that is based, not on his condition, but on his understanding of the nature of Jesus Christ. 

From the manner in which this man approached Jesus we can come away with a simple truth:  we do not need to tell the LORD what our need is.  He is already quite aware of our need.  He also knows better than us the best way that He can meet that need.  Confronted with this example of sincere worship and sincere faith, Jesus responded to the leper.

Matthew 8:3.  And Jesus put forth his hand, and touched him, saying, I will; be thou clean. And immediately his leprosy was cleansed.

Certainly, Jesus could have healed the leper with (or without) any demonstration of will of His choice.  However, in order to meet the leper at his point of need, Jesus recognized that need was of far greater importance than the Rabbinical laws that forbade the touching of a leper.  This is probably the first time that anyone had touched him in many years, and that touch demonstrated Jesus’ love and compassion for him.  Note that the leper’s condition was immediately and completely healed.  God is the creator of life, and as such has ultimate authority over every facet of it.  He chose to remove all evidence of leprosy from this man without the requisite period it would take to heal, even if the bacteria that caused his condition was removed.  We would consider this form of healing to be miraculous, since there is no reasonable means by which the open sores and damaged nerves could be instantly restored.

Matthew 8:4.  And Jesus saith unto him, See thou tell no man; but go thy way, show thyself to the priest, and offer the gift that Moses commanded, for a testimony unto them.

It is evident that this event took place long enough after coming down from the mountain that the crowds had dispersed.  This miraculous healing took place away from the crowds, as did most (but not all) of Jesus’ similar acts of healing.  Jesus often told those who experienced miraculous healing to refrain from telling others what happened.  There are a few reasons why Jesus did this.  First, the healing is the response to the faith of the one healed, and faith in the LORD is very personal.  The LORD wants a personal relationship with each of those He comes to know through a faith response.  This statement reinforces the simple truth that the healing that the man received was because of the relationship they had with each other, and not with others.  This makes it very personal for the man, and by so doing, makes it very encouraging and edifying. 

Also, though Jesus’ healing ministry was becoming widely known, Jesus maintained a balance between the publicity of His work and the potential for the people to arise and demand His ascension to some form of political leadership, motivated by the general belief that the Messiah would come to free them from foreign political rule.  It was not yet time for Jesus to completely reveal Himself and His purpose through His passion.  This reticence to the revelation of His power is often referred to as the “Messianic Secret.”  He needed those three years of ministry to prepare the Apostles and the disciples for their work following His death, resurrection, and ascension.

Matthew 8:5.  And when Jesus was entered into Capernaum, there came unto him a centurion, beseeching him,

Over the years the Israelites had developed an elitist culture that was wholly inconsistent with God’s plan for His people.  It was the LORD’s intent, evident in His blessing of Abraham, that the entire world would be blessed.[5]  Instead, the ancient Israelites came to despise anyone who was not “righteous,” a label placed only on those Jews who “kept the law,” and were not sick or infirmed.  Gentiles were considered unclean, and to many Israelites, had little more status than dogs.  Consequently, in presenting the gospel message, Matthew’s first example of the blessing of the LORD following the Sermon on the Mount, involves a leper, and the second involves a Gentile.

Matthew 8:6-7.  And saying, Lord, my servant lieth at home sick of the palsy, grievously tormented. 7And Jesus saith unto him, I will come and heal him.

In this second example of Jesus’ healing ministry we have another individual who demonstrated sincere humility and faith.  Where the first came to Jesus with a need for his own healing, the second came to Him with a need for someone else, an act of intercession on the behalf of another who is greatly loved.  When the Centurion came to Jesus with the request to bring healing to his servant, Jesus offered to accompany the Centurion to his house whereby He would heal him.

Matthew 8:8.  The centurion answered and said, Lord, I am not worthy that thou shouldest come under my roof: but speak the word only, and my servant shall be healed.

The Centurion is accustomed to being the one in charge of his environment.  Virtually all with whom he interacts on a daily basis are in submission to his authority.  Furthermore, the Roman guards who he commanded were charged with maintaining the peace among the Israelites who would have nothing to do with them.  The Romans cared little for the Israelites, maintaining strict authority over them, so the manner in which the Centurion approached Jesus would be highly unusual.

When the Centurion came to Jesus, that air of authority was entirely gone.  In fact, the Centurion demonstrated profound humility in the presence of a Jewish man.  However, it is rather evident that this Centurion came to understand the nature of the LORD, Jesus Christ.  Where the Israelites, who had access to the prophecies of the Old Testament, should have recognized the Messiah when He came, this Centurion who was ignorant of all of this historical evidence recognized Him for who He is. 

Up to this point in the biblical narrative, healings took place within the context of personal contact.  The one who was healed would be in the presence of Jesus, and the healing would serve to minister to the spirit and heart of the one healed.  This Centurion had a deep understanding of Jesus’ nature and fully believed that Jesus’ healing was a matter of His will to do so. 

Humbled in the presence of the LORD, the Centurion sincerely felt that he was not worthy to bring Jesus into his own home.  

Matthew 8:9.  For I am a man under authority, having soldiers under me: and I say to this man, Go, and he goeth; and to another, Come, and he cometh; and to my servant, Do this, and he doeth it.

The Centurion had enough faith in Jesus that he believed it was not necessary to bring Him to the place where he is in authority.  As highly as the Centurion was held by his peers and subjects, he did not feel worthy for Jesus to enter that environment.  Where Jesus had experienced arrogance and rejection from the religious leadership in Israel, the very ones who should have recognized Him and humbled themselves before him, he finds the appropriate response of humility and faith in the equivalent person among the Gentiles, one who would have no such investment in Jewish history. 

Matthew 8:10.  When Jesus heard it, he marvelled, and said to them that followed, Verily I say unto you, I have not found so great faith, no, not in Israel.

One of the great stumbling blocks to the Israelites was their elitism.  There was simply no place in their world view for the LORD to bring to Himself anyone from outside of the family of Abraham.  However, Israel was too tied up in their traditional religion to express faith with ease.  A similar elitism may be seen in the church today with each congregation representing a small microcosm of the culture in which it is immersed.  When one enters their doors who does not fit their definition of “righteous,” they are not received as readily, if received at all.  Jesus’ message of grace did not fit Israel’s message of law, making it very difficult for them to give His message any consideration.

Those who are already rejected by the “righteous” Israelites, which included both the Gentiles and the infirmed, had no such barriers that served to stand between them and faith.  When Jesus looked all across the Israelite community, He found no single individual who demonstrated the sincere, humble, and informed faith of this Centurion, one who is the most despised among the Jews. 

This can be a lesson to all of us who tend to look on others and think of them as “lower” than ourselves in some way.  It can also inform our attitude when we think of our form of worship as “better” than someone else’s.  The LORD has created mankind to have a relationship with Him, and the context of that relationship supersedes any social stratification of man’s design.  The sincerity and confident faith of this Centurion is an example to all of us who may place religion, rites, rules, or other restrictions and requirements ahead of simple faith.

Matthew 8:11.  And I say unto you, That many shall come from the east and west, and shall sit down with Abraham, and Isaac, and Jacob, in the kingdom of heaven.

Contrary to Israelite thought, the Family of God is open to every human that God has created, and people are going to come to faith from every nation on earth.  Jesus’ statement specifically refers to “sitting down,” an idiomatic expression that refers to one who is welcome at the table of another, and particularly a welcome that is the same as that given to close family.  God’s promise to Abraham that through him a mighty nation, whose population cannot be numbered, would be formed.  It would be a nation of faith, not of genealogy. 

Matthew 8:12.  But the children of the kingdom shall be cast out into outer darkness: there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth.

By contrast, the “children of the kingdom” is an idiomatic reference to the children of Israel.  While the Israelites reject Jesus’ message of grace and wag their heads at those who follow them, they are missing the opportunity for salvation that the LORD truly desires for them.  Jesus had a great burden for Israel,[6] desiring all of Israel to be saved.  However, the Jews continually rejected His teaching, as many still do today.  The consequence of their apostasy is astonishing:  even though they are children of Abraham, they are not included in the Family of God, and when the final judgment takes place, they will be separated from God in death just as they chose to be separated from Him in this life.[7]  This was not a very popular message among the Jews, and is still not received today.

Again, there is a message here for the established church.  Is your church a gathering place for people of faith, or is it an elite social club with a Christian theme?  One way to observe this is to contrast the historical setting with the modern.  The established church was so set in its traditions and beliefs that it could not believe the simplicity of faith, nor could it accept the Lordship of Jesus, preferring to give lordship to their leaders.  Meanwhile those outside of the established church came to the LORD readily.  Many of these were the poor, rejected, and displaced who came to Jesus and found grace.  Today we also have established churches with firm traditions and beliefs who choose to give lordship to their leadership rather than to the Holy Spirit, churches that are immersed in a culture of those who are poor, rejected, and displaced.  We did not see the Israelite church reaching out to that community, and for the most part we do not see the established churches reaching out in like manner.  The established church can do more to bring the Lordship of Christ into their community, and when they do, the fruit of that leadership will be evident in their love for the lost and their efforts to bring the gospel of grace to all.

Matthew 8:13.  And Jesus said unto the centurion, Go thy way; and as thou hast believed, so be it done unto thee. And his servant was healed in the selfsame hour.

Certainly, the life of that Centurion was never the same again.  Jesus met the Centurion at his point of need, and the man came to faith.  It is probably reasonable to assume that he shared is faith with his family, and anyone else who would listen. 

From these two examples, we find that saving faith is not predicated on being either a student or master of Christian theology.  Neither of these two were active in the “local church,” nor were they even welcome in it.  Neither of these were “members” of any church.  These two found salvation through the one and only means by which salvation is found: through faith in God.  These examples demonstrate the character of true faith:

The LORD desires that we come to Him in faith, doing so with expectation as we bring our needs to Him, and as we serve as intercessors for others.  Jesus is there.  All we need to do is come forward and ask.

[1] The Powerball jackpot involves matching five numbers from 1 to 69, and one number from 1 to 26.  The odds of winning are easily calculated as one in ((69*68*67*66*65)/(5*4*3*2*1))/26, or one in 292,201,338.  Basically, the same odds as one person randomly selected from the population of the entire adult population of the United States.

[2] Psalm 68:19; 103:2; 116:12.

[3] Genesis 17:16, 28:3; Deuteronomy 26:15, 27:12; Joshua 8:33, et. al.

[4] Galatians 4:4.

[5] Genesis 22:17-18.

[6] Luke 19:41.

[7] Revelation, Chapter 20.