In middle school I remember being this awkward kid with wire-framed glasses and big hair. I loved art, played basketball (well, at least I sat on the bench), went to FCA, slept in my classes and spent time with friends. My focus was to finish my school work (or pretend to) so that I could play video games. (most of the time I did my work about 5 minutes before class started). When I graduated, I noticed for the first time that there was a whole world outside of high school that I was oblivious to. For the first time, I had to pay bills.
I had to be self motivated to do work because my parents weren’t checking up on me every second. I finally got to go to taco bell at 1:00am whenever I wanted. All the sudden I was responsible for my own spiritual growth because there was no one making me go to church. I had more opportunities to do something with my life because I had more freedom and more responsibility. In middle and high school, my focus was so narrow and that drives me to ask how narrow our focus might be regarding the Christian faith on this earth.
Is it just some faith that has been handed down to us, or is it a faith that God gives to us brand new?
When He entered Capernaum, a centurion came to Him, pleading with Him, “Lord, my servant is lying at home paralyzed, in terrible agony!”
“I will come and heal him,” He told him.
“Lord,” the centurion replied, “I am not worthy to have You come under my roof. But only say the word, and my servant will be cured. For I too am a man under authority, having soldiers under my command. I say to this one, ‘Go! ’ and he goes; and to another, ‘Come! ’ and he comes; and to my slave, ‘Do this! ’ and he does it.”
Hearing this, Jesus was amazed and said to those following Him, “ I assure you:I have not found anyone in Israel with so great a faith! I tell you that many will come from east and west, and recline at the table with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob in the kingdom of heaven. But the sons of the kingdom will be thrown into the outer darkness. In that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.” Then Jesus told the centurion, “Go. As you have believed, let it be done for you.” And his servant was cured that very moment.
The very first thing we notice as we dive into this story is that Jesus saw faith in God as not just something that Jews could have. Keep in mind that Jesus was a Jew; His disciples were Jews and most of the people He encountered physically were Jews. Then, all of the sudden we see this Roman, a military man for his country, come to the Jewish Messiah and humbly ask for a miracle. Jesus turned to him and said, “Sorry, I’ve only come for the Jews. They are my chosen people,” and walked away. NOT! He served a Roman soldier and a man most Jews probably despised.
As people, we tend to be very narrow-minded. When we are children, we see life as children. We don’t worry and all we want to do is have fun. When we are in middle and high school, our lives revolve around what we are doing at school and the extra activities we are involved in. When we get out of high school, we really begin a journey of self-discovery and our scope is limited to however we want to define ourselves in that moment. As we continue to grow up, our view is broadened as we begin thinking about world events, politics and as we begin contemplating eternity, but it is still limited to our own circumstances.
Up to this point in scripture, Jews were the people of God. Israel was God’s chosen nation. God fought for them against the entire world, and many Jews during the day believed that when the Messiah came He would be a great military leader who would free Israel from any oppressor. As we talked about last week, Jesus did free the Jews from the oppression of the Assyrians, which Micah foretold, but it seems that so many thought so narrowly that they believed the Jewish Messiah would come only for the Jews and to free only the Jews in their specific context. They expected the Messiah to rise up and end Roman authority over the Jewish people.
I think we must try to think more broadly: In one or two words, think of who God is to you. Words I think of are eternal, sovereign and holy. If God is eternal and sovereign, is it even possible that He is only the God of the Jews? Even in the Old Testament we see God dealing with Egypt, with people like Balaam, with Babylon and more. God, if He is God, must be the God of all people. If God is the God of all people, why would He send a deliverer to only deliver one nation out of all the nations on the earth?
Previously, we discovered that part of the Messiah’s mission would be to return His brothers to the people of God. Here, as Jesus interacts with a Roman Soldier, he turns and tells those following Him that he had not seen anyone with greater faith in all of Israel. If Jesus was the type to drop the mic, this is where He would of done it; but I think He had more humility than that. Here the Jewish messiah actually serves someone who is not a Jew, even someone the Jews might have despised. Christ tells us that many will come to God who do not belong to the nation of Israel, but many who do belong to the nation of Israel will be separated from God forever.
This means something real for us today: We should not assume that we, American Christians, are God’s only people. Anyone, of any age-group, of any nationality and of any religious background has the opportunity to know God. Jesus is, and must be, the Messiah of the entire world.
Secondly, just because we belong to a Christian group, live in a Christian home, or go to church does not mean that we have placed our faith in Christ. There are many Jews even today who have not known God because they have not trusted in Jesus. This Roman trusted Christ, even in a matter concerning life and death. If you want to know God and if you want to be saved, then you have to place your faith in Jesus Christ. We simply cannot gain eternal life because we know someone else who has eternal life. We have to know the one who provides eternal life: Jesus.
We are not called to have the faith of our parents or teachers or siblings. God calls us to have our own faith in Christ. He calls us to own the faith, not just borrow it from someone else. This way, even when we can’t see it all (which we can’t), our trust is in God who, by definition, cannot be narrow minded.
 Matthew 8:5-13 (HCSB)