Wednesday, October 31, 2007

A Kingdom of Faith

Now when Jesus had entered Capernaum, a centurion came to Him, pleading with Him, saying, “Lord, my servant is lying at home paralyzed, dreadfully tormented.”

And Jesus said to him, “I will come and heal him.”

The centurion answered and said, “Lord, I am not worthy that You should come under my roof. But only speak a word, and my servant will be healed. For I also am a man under authority, having soldiers under me. And I say to this one, ‘Go,’ and he goes; and to another, ‘Come,’ and he comes; and to my servant, ‘Do this,’ and he does it.”

When Jesus heard it, He marveled, and said to those who followed, “Assuredly, I say to you, I have not found such great faith, not even in Israel! And I say to you that many will come from east and west, and sit down with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob in the kingdom of heaven. But the sons of the kingdom will be cast out into outer darkness. There will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.”

Then Jesus said to the centurion, “Go your way; and as you have believed, so let it be done for you.” And his servant was healed that same hour. (Matthew 8:5-13)
This account of Jesus healing the centurion’s servant has many things to teach us, about healing, about authority, about the dynamics of faith. But is also has something very important to teach us about the kingdom of Heaven on Earth.

First, notice that this man who came to Jesus was a Roman soldier. In fact, he was a commander over many Roman soldiers. In other words, he was not of Israel, not of those who were given promise of the divine kingdom. However, he was a man who recognized and understood authority. More than that, he was a man who understood faith, and he put his faith in Jesus. In fact, Jesus described it as “great faith,” greater than any He had found in Israel. And that is the remarkable thing: though this man was not of Israel, he had greater faith than those who were of Israel.

That leads to the second important point. After commending this Roman centurion for his great faith, Jesus immediately uses it to make a powerful declaration about the kingdom of heaven: “And I say to you that many will come from east and west, and sit down with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob in the kingdom of heaven.” The kingdom of heaven will include those who will come from the east and west, that is, those who are not of Israel. They will “sit down” (the Greek word means to recline at table, as at a banquet) with Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. In other words, they will have an equal share in the kingdom.

Then Jesus adds this surprising statement: “But the sons of the kingdom will be cast out into outer darkness. There will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.” The “sons of the kingdom” refers to those who by natural birth belong to those to whom the kingdom was promised. However, when the promise is not received by faith it has no power. As the author of Hebrews notes concerning those Israelites who were delivered in the Exodus, but later died in the wilderness instead of entering into the Promised Land, “So we see that they could not enter in because of unbelief.” Then he applies it to the unbelieving Jews of his own day: “For indeed the gospel was preached to us as well as to them; but the word which they heard did not profit them, not being mixed with faith in those who heard it” (Hebrews 4:2).

The “sons of the kingdom” thought that the kingdom of heaven automatically belonged to them because of who they were, that they were of Israel. But the surprising turnabout is that, although many non-Israelites will enter into the kingdom, there will also be many Israelites who will be cast out.

The difference is all about faith. Those who, like the Roman centurion, recognize the authority of King Jesus and believe in Him, regardless of their ethnicity, will be received into full fellowship in His kingdom. Those who do not believe, but who reject the King, will have no place in His kingdom. For the kingdom of heaven is not received by rights of natural birth, but by faith.

The kingdom of Heaven on Earth is a kingdom of faith.



The Kingdom of Heaven on Earth

The Kingdom of Heaven on Earth
Keys to the Kingdom of God
in the Gospel of Matthew

by Jeff Doles

Preview with Amazon’s “Look Inside.”

Available in paperback and Kindle (Amazon), epub (Google and iTunes) and PDF.