Friday, March 16, 2012

Does Anyone Surprise Jesus?

Bible: Matt.8:5-13, Mark 6:6, Luke 7:1-10.
1. Introduction:
Can you surprise Jesus? Gospel stories indicate that Jesus got surprised twice. Once, in His hometown when nobody believed in Him (Mark 6:6). Jesus received a second surprise when He returned to Capernaum after delivering His Sermon on the Mount. He was pleasantly surprised by a Roman centurion (Matt.8:10). What made Jesus “astonished” must be something of importance to us today. Let us understand this man who surprised Jesus.
2. We Need To Be People of Compassion:
The centurion was a man of compassion (Luke 7:2). In that day slaves were ranked as living tools, without legal rights. Some ancient philosophers commended the economic value of examining all equipment, cattle, and slaves each year and throwing away the useless and sick ones. The centurion had unusual compassion for his slave.

Muretus, an ancient wandering scholar, was educated but very poor. He traveled around during the Dark Ages. During his wanderings, he got sick and was taken to the poorhouse. The medical men didn’t know he was a scholar and thus understood Latin. Discussing his case in Latin, the doctors suggested that he was only a poor, miserable creature of no value. It seemed unnecessary to spend care and money on such a worthless man. Looking up at the doctors, Muretus said in Latin, “Call no man worthless for whom Christ died!” Jesus was nailed to the Cross to die for us. That alone makes us worth a fortune!

3. We Need To Be People of Action:

The centurion was a man of action, not a worrier (Matt.8:5-6). He did what he could; he took his problem to Jesus. That’s the place to begin. God’s people must be persons of action. Chesterton said that if he were drowning, he would rather meet a burglar who could swim than a bishop who couldn’t. Action counts!

The centurion urged Jesus literally, begged Jesus and kept on asking for Jesus to help. We think talking about something is the same as doing it. We spend a lot of useless energy talking about problems when we ought to be trying some solutions. The church can’t afford to be problem-centered. We must learn to be solution-centered!

This centurion did not settle down as a sideline quarterback. He went directly to Jesus. An athlete does not develop skill and strength by wishful thinking or articulate excuses. God’s medals go to those who put action to their dreams.

4. We Need To Be People of Generosity:

The centurion was a man of generosity (Luke 7:5). Apparently he had some spiritual sympathies with the Jewish faith. He had built the local synagogue at his own expense. Jesus did say, “For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also” (Matt.6:21). This Roman military man loved the people of God. The hunger of his spirit had not been satisfied by Plato, Aristotle, and other Greek thinkers.

Rev. Dr. Harris, pastor of First Methodist Church in Atlanta, said, “Keep your eye on the fellow who never makes a pledge, and you’ll generally find that he never does much of anything else either.” He added: I recall years ago I preached a sermon on the subject “Hitchhiking to Glory – Heroes Along Heaven’s Highway.” I never got so much violent reaction in my life except one other time. That was the time I agreed for my church treasurer to print a list of the members and next to their names, print in bold figures what they had paid that year to the church.

In short of embarrassing to drive around with a car (worth several thousand dollars) and have it known that you paid $ 27 per year to the church, when a little girl who waited tables in an all-night restaurant and had a sick husband in the vets’ hospital paid $ 204. It wasn’t the measly amount that got his goat, it was having it known.

5. We Need To Be People of Humility:

The centurion was a man of humility. Knowing that Jesus was Jewish and that a Jew was not allowed to enter a Gentile’s home, he didn’t want Jesus to break Jewish regulations. He said to Jesus, “Lord… I do not deserve to have you come under my roof…But say the word, and my servant will be healed” (Luke 7:6-7). He recognized his place in life. He made no pretense of being something else. He sensed his unworthiness in the presence of Jesus Christ. Grace is something needed but not deserved.

A man said to his pastor, “After what I have done. I have no right to pray or to expect God’s help.” No one deserves God’s goodness. Humility is honest self-appraisal. Two children built a clubhouse in their yard. On the wall, in childish lettering, they listed the club’s rules. The first rule read - “Nobody act big, nobody act small, everybody act medium.” That’s one of the best definitions of biblical humility.

Humility is not cringing self-denunciation nor arrogant self-exaltation. It is right in the middle – medium, an honest self-appraisal. J.B. Phillips makes it vivid, “Don’t cherish exaggerated ideas of yours or your importance, but try to have a sane estimate of your capability by the light of the faith that God has given to you all” (Rom.12:3).

The great Japanese Christian leader, Kagawa came to speak in USA. A committee of distinguished religious leaders met him and took him to the auditorium where he was to speak. To freshen up before the program, the group went to the men’s room. The ministers, drying their hands and faces in a hurry, threw their crumpled paper towels toward the wastebasket. Most of them fell on the floor.

Going up to the stage, they looked around. To their surprise, Kagawa was not with them. He was found, still in the washroom, carefully picking up the discarded paper towels and placing them in the wastebasket.

While thousands were waiting in the auditorium to hear him speak, the famous Kagawa was thinking of the lowly, unknown custodian. He was trying to lighten that man’s workload by picking up the towels so carelessly left on the floor.

6. We Need To Be People of Faith:

The centurion was a man of faith. His faith stands out in several ways:-

6.1. The centurion had a faith in the world of Christ: 
He said, “Lord… say the word, and my servant will be healed” (Luke 7:6-7). He realized that Jesus merely needed to speak, and His will would be accomplished. That soldier has some familiarity with the Old Testament scriptures. In the beginning, God said, “Let there be….and there was!” the psalmist said about God, “For he spoke, and it came to be, he commanded, and it stood firm” (33:9). The centurion sensed somehow that God, with all His creative power, was present in Jesus.

6.2. The centurion had a faith in the authority of Jesus: 
He said to Jesus, “For I myself am a man under authority, with soldiers under me. I tell this one, ‘Go’ and he goes; and that one, ‘Come’ and he comes. I say to my servant, ‘Do this, and he does it” (Luke 7:8). He acknowledges his own obedience and duty to his emperor.

The authority and power he exerts is derived authority. His right to be obeyed depends on his own obedience. Somehow the centurion sensed this in Jesus. When the Lord heard that man’s analysis, He was surprised at his faith. We must place our faith in God, not in faith’s ability. Faith is not the desired gift, Jesus is the answer. Our faith must place its confident trust in the authority of Jesus Christ.

Suppose a primitive fellow from the highlands of New Guinea learned to flip an electrical switch. If he knew nothing about the electrical power plant behind it all, his faith would be in the switch, and that’s superstition. As long as the electrical power plant operated and remained hooked up to the switch, the man would get the same results. His knowledge or ignorance wouldn’t make much difference.

However, if somehow he managed to detach the switch reverently and take it back to his native highland village, packed neatly in a little box, he would soon discover the fallacy of placing his faith in the wrong object. Jesus alone deserves to be the Object of our trust and confidence.

6.3. The centurion had a faith that needed no physical proof nor sight to verify:  
The centurion was the first person recorded who realized that Jesus’ physical presence was not necessary for God’s miraculous power to act. Our centurion felt no need to have Jesus go to his house to perform the usual acts of touching the patient or mixing herbs or uttering a prayer. He had faith in Jesus’s word. Where faith is weak, signs and ceremonies become important.

A young minister came to see an old pastor. The young man was disturbed about his faith. He confided, “I am afraid I will be a failure as a minister.” The older man explained, “If you believe in a God who is big enough to solve the problems of humanity and provide the strength to be triumphant, you preach it, and leave the rest up to Him. If you have that kind of faith, God will see to it that you don’t fail. If you don’t have that kind of faith, you might as well get started in another profession.”

The young man confessed he had some doubts. The older pastor replied, “I don’t know many people who have not entertained some doubts at one time or another. You preach your faith and pray about your doubts, and God will see you through.”

6.4. The centurion had a faith that accepted his request as answered: 
This soldier of faith believed Jesus would do exactly what He said. His faith in Jesus was equal to the healing, and the healing was equal to his faith. One fellow prayed for a personal request. When he didn’t see some immediate answer, he replied, “Just as I thought!”

Jesus said to the centurion, “Go! It will be done just as you believed it would.” And his servant was healed at that very hour (Matt.8:13). Thank God for that centurion’s bold faith. In the same moment, his slave friend was instantly healed. Jesus responds to faith. Your greatest need cannot stagger the imagination of God nor tax the limits of His grace! Amen!

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