The Spiritual Chain of Command: Matthew 8:5-13

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Continuing through the gospels and the miracles that Jesus performed, we come to a miracle that Jesus did, not for a Jew, but for a Roman officer. While this detail in itself is significant for us to pay attention to, there are plenty of details in this event that should prompt us to pay attention. Most Jews were hostile towards the thought of Rome being present in their territory, and the thought of Jesus actually helping a Roman would upset many of the most devout Jews. However, it is also worth noting that a Roman asking a Jew for help is also just as shocking.

Let’s read Matthew’s gospel and discover what happened. Our passage is found in chapter 8, and we will be reading from the Good News Translation of the Bible. 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.”

Let’s pause reading for a moment to focus on what Matthew has just told us, because while reading this just now, a phrase jumped off the page at me, and it is something that reveals something this Roman understood about Jesus that most everyone else missed seeing.

While Jesus knows that the Roman officer is simply asking for help and healing, Jesus wants to go a step further and come personally to help. However, the Roman officer is surprised by this and he is content knowing that any promise Jesus makes will happen. The officer doesn’t need Jesus’ presence to confirm Jesus’ command.

This is the first amazing level of faith this Roman officer displays. But there’s another idea present in this passage, and it is this phrase that jumped out at me while reading this.

In verse 9, the Roman officer tells Jesus, “I, too, am a man under the authority of superior officers”. This Roman understood that Jesus was not present just for Himself. Instead, this Roman understood Jesus had been sent with a mission to this world and to the Jewish people. In this phrase, the Roman officer captured an aspect of Jesus’ ministry that we don’t often think about. In Jesus’ ministry, He both came willingly and He was sent with a mission. We often focus on Jesus’ willingness to come, which is true, but we should also realize that there is a very clear theme running through the gospels that Jesus was sent.

This Roman understood the hierarchy involved in a chain of command, and He recognized Jesus was fulfilling His mission in a similar, but also spiritual, structure.

Let’s continue reading to discover how Jesus responded to this man’s statement. Picking back up in verse 10, Matthew tells us that:

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 passage and this event, we discover something amazing, both in the faith of this Roman officer, and in the promise within Jesus’ response. In verse 11, Jesus told everyone present a wonderful promise: “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 this promise is followed up with a sobering warning. Verse 12 continues by saying, “But those who should be in the Kingdom will be thrown out into the darkness”. While we might be tempted to think this warning refers exclusively to the Jewish nation living during this time period, the sad truth is that this represents many of God’s professed people living in many different generations.

This also means that Christians today are just as liable to be kicked out of God’s feast as the first century Jews were. Christian’s today should be present at the wedding feast in the kingdom of heaven, but if they assume they are saved while not letting Jesus transform their lives or hearts, then they ultimately will be thrown out. A transformed life is the evidence that Jesus has entered one’s heart and that an individual has placed their faith, hope, and trust in Jesus. An invisible faith is a worthless faith.

In this passage and in this miracle, we discover that as followers of Jesus, we should model this Roman officer’s belief in Jesus. This Roman understood that Jesus was part of a powerful, spiritual chain of command, and this chain of command could instantly heal his favorite servant. The Roman’s faith is solid enough that he does not need Jesus to physically come and help his servant because in the spiritual realm, things can happen quicker than if we need to see in order to believe.

Also, in this passage and miracle, we discover that we should take Jesus at His word and let Him change our hearts and lives. Let’s not be kicked out of this wedding feast because we didn’t let God’s Spirit transform our lives. Let’s choose to place our faith in God in visible, tangible, and relevant ways, and let God transform us into the people He created us to be.

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

Always seek God first and place your faith, hope, trust, and belief in Him and what He has done for you and me. Accept God’s promises as truth and live each day claiming His promises for our lives. Let’s be like the Roman officer who had stronger faith than the Jews present in that region and understand that Jesus is part of a much bigger picture. Jesus is the key Person in our story of redemption.

Also, as I always challenge you to do, keep praying and studying the Bible for yourself to learn, grow, and let God transform your heart and your life. The closer we grow towards God, the better we will be able to see through His eyes, and love others as He loves each of us. Use the Bible as a filter for your life and as a guide for your spiritual walk.

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

Year of Miracles – Episode 12: When Jesus offers to physically heal the servant of a Roman officer, we discover an amazing level of faith that Jesus commends, and a faith that is worth us modeling in our own lives.

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