Faith to Pray: Matthew 8:5-13

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Following Jesus’ famous Sermon on the Mount, we discover that He traveled back to Capernaum. On arriving there, Jesus is met by someone who seems to have a normal sounding request, but who Jesus is impressed by His response, and how this response demonstrates an unusual level of faith.

Let’s read what happened and discuss some things we can learn from this event. Our passage and event are found in Matthew’s gospel, chapter 8, and we will read from the Good News Translation. Starting in verse 5, Matthew tells us that:

When Jesus entered Capernaum, a Roman officer met him and begged for help: “Sir, my servant is sick in bed at home, unable to move and suffering terribly.”

“I will go and make him well,” Jesus said.

“Oh no, sir,” answered the officer. “I do not deserve to have you come into my house. Just give the order, and my servant will get well. I, too, am a man under the authority of superior officers, and I have soldiers under me. I order this one, ‘Go!’ and he goes; and I order that one, ‘Come!’ and he comes; and I order my slave, ‘Do this!’ and he does it.”

10 When Jesus heard this, he was surprised and said to the people following him, “I tell you, I have never found anyone in Israel with faith like this. 11 I assure you that many will come from the east and the west and sit down with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob at the feast in the Kingdom of heaven. 12 But those who should be in the Kingdom will be thrown out into the darkness, where they will cry and gnash their teeth.” 13 Then Jesus said to the officer, “Go home, and what you believe will be done for you.”

And the officer’s servant was healed that very moment.

In this short event, I find it amazing that Jesus is surprised by this Roman officer’s faith. This officer did not need to actually see a miracle to believe one was going to happen. All this man needed was the promise and the assurance of Jesus to know that the servant would be made well. This is a powerful statement of faith.

While it might be easy to jump onto the idea that the Roman officer simply didn’t want Jesus to come to his home, I don’t think this would have been an issue if the Roman officer believed Jesus needed to be present to work a miracle. Instead, from looking at this man’s faith, I believe he wanted to hear the command from Jesus and to not take up any significant portion of Jesus’ time actually traveling to his home.

However, another fascinating thing in my mind is what Jesus tells those following Him before answering this Roman officer’s request. Verses 10-12 record Jesus telling those following Him: “I tell you, I have never found anyone in Israel with faith like this. I assure you that many will come from the east and the west and sit down with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob at the feast in the Kingdom of heaven. But those who should be in the Kingdom will be thrown out into the darkness, where they will cry and gnash their teeth.

In this short statement, Jesus says that many will come from east and west and will be included in God’s kingdom, however those who should be in the Kingdom will instead be thrown out. This short statement is a promise for you and me, and it is a warning as well. In Jesus’ words, I see myself as being included in those who come from the east and west because I am not Jewish, and because I live on the other side of the world compared to where Jesus spoke these words. I believe that I have been invited and adopted into God’s family through what I have read and learned about Jesus and even though I am not an original family member in God’s family, being adopted into His family is just as significant.

I also believe that if you aren’t a part of God’s family, you have been given an invitation to be adopted into His family as well!

However, Jesus shares a warning in this statement as well. In this warning, Jesus challenges those who should be in the kingdom that they will be thrown out. Part of me wonders if this is because they rejected Jesus while trying to uphold their tradition and their picture of God. By trying to hold onto their view of God, they missed out seeing the Messiah God had sent to them.

In this warning, I see a warning for everyone who believes themselves to be a part of God’s family. This is a warning to stay connected to God and open to what He is doing in the world around us. I believe even those who are adopted into His family can be thrown out if we try to hold onto a false picture of God.

However, in this event, I see a challenge for both those who are part of God’s family, and for those who are adopted in. We can call this challenge “The Roman Officer’s Challenge”. This Roman officer displays a faith that we are called to have. This faith says that we will trust God and claim His promises for us without having to directly see His moving in our lives or in the details of our specific request. This means that when we pray, we trust that God will answer our prayers the instant we pray them, and that His answers will appear at the best moment in history for them to appear. Often, the time when we pray and the best time for God to work in a situation are two different times.

I won’t even begin to claim I know the best times for our prayers requests to be answered, but I do know that I don’t have to know this in order to have powerful, effective, and trusting prayers. Instead, in this event, Jesus challenges His followers to have faith like this Roman officer and to believe our prayers have been answered because God loves us, because He listens to us, and because He knows the best way to answer our requests.

As we come to the end of another podcast episode, here are the challenges I will leave you with:

As I always challenge you to do, be sure to intentionally seek God first and to place Him first in your life. When you pray, intentionally pray with trust that even if you never see the answer to your prayer in this life, know that God has answered your prayer in the best way possible from eternity’s perspective.

Also, intentionally pray and study the Bible for yourself to grow your personal relationship with God. A personal relationship can only be grown best from spending time with each other and spending time with God in prayer and Bible study is the best way to grow a solid foundation for a life with God.

And as I end every set of challenges by saying in one way or another, never stop short of, back away from, chicken out of, or walk away from where God wants to lead you to in your life with Him!

Year in Matthew – Episode 14: When Jesus arrives back into Capernaum, discover how a seemingly normal request for help turns into an amazing example of faith that Jesus challenges His followers to model. This type of faith should be at the heart of all our prayers to God!

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