Monday, February 01, 2016

Faith Demonstrated

My Life Group lesson for Jan. 31, 2016, using Lifeway's "Explore the Bible" commentary as a guide ...

FIRST THOUGHTS

What are some examples of the organization and symbols in the military to recognize order and chain of command?

You respect the stripes. There’s a lot of snapping to attention and saluting. Lots of “yes sirs.”

Recognition of authority is important when lives are on the line. Commands must be given and obeyed to bring order.

UNDERSTAND THE CONTEXT

Matthew 8:1–9:34

*** The past four weeks we studied the Sermon on the Mount and the teachings of Jesus. Today we see Jesus go out and display His authority and power through His deeds. (Jesus was a man of great words and great action.)

*** After His sermon, Jesus immediately healed a leper, a centurion’s servant who was near death (8:5-13), and Peter’s mother-in-law of a high fever (8:14-15). Jesus then controlled demonic powers (8:16-17,28-34) and the raging storm (8:23-27).

*** Jesus showed his authority over sickness, of evil, and the earth.

ASK WITH HUMILITY (Matt. 8:5-7)

5 When He entered Capernaum, a centurion came to Him, pleading with Him, 6 “Lord, my servant is lying at home paralyzed, in terrible agony!” 7 “I will come and heal him,” He told him.

*** An unlikely fan.

--- A “centurion” was a Roman officer in charge of approximately 100 men. He would have been a Gentile, someone Jews viewed with disgust.

--- Roman soldiers were despised by Jews, and likewise the soldiers wouldn’t be big fans of those they had conquered.

--- This makes it all the more remarkable that he would come to see Jesus, to believe in Jesus, and to ask for His help.

*** The right attitude.

--- Luke 7:1-10 tells the same story, and both accounts make it clear that this soldier was acting on behalf of a suffering servant, which sets him apart from most Gentiles and Jews.

--- Even though the centurion was a man of authority, he approached Jesus in humility. Luke’s account explains more fully that the request was made on behalf of the centurion by Jewish elders who vouched for the centurion because “he loves our nation and has built us a synagogue” (Luke 7:5).

--- That a Roman centurion would address any Jew, even a recognized teacher like Jesus, with the term “Lord” is remarkable.

--- It’s just as remarkable for a Jew to go to the home of a Gentile.

(Recall the vision given to Peter so that he might be willing to go to the home of another centurion, Cornelius. Peter explained to Cornelius’s household: “You know it’s forbidden for a Jewish man to associate with or visit a foreigner” - Acts 10:28.)

--- Yet Jesus was always willing to respond to anyone who approached Him with humility and faith.

ACKNOWLEDGE HIS AUTHORITY (Matt. 8:8-9)

8 “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. 9 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.”

*** Question authority?

--- There’s a popular bumper sticker that says “Question Authority.” It sums up our inner rebellion to anyone telling us what to do.

--- This also affects our relationship with God. We are being taught to question Him as well, not to trust that He will do what He says.

*** The centurion’s faith.

--- The centurion was an authority figure. He spoke and his 100 men did what he said. And he spoke with authority from his superiors, and ultimately even Caesar.

But he knew that Emperor Tiberius wasn’t healing anyone. Jesus could command disease and demons and nature.

The centurion recognized Jesus’ greater status and unlimited authority, so much that he didn’t think himself worthy to have Jesus come to his house.

--- The centurion genuinely believed that Jesus could heal from a distance without even touching the servant.

--- You must ask in faith while believing.

James 1:6-8 - But let him ask in faith without doubting. For the doubter is like the surging sea, driven and tossed by the wind. That person should not expect to receive anything from the Lord. An indecisive man is unstable in all his ways.

--- Exercising our faith means we allowing God to do it His way. The centurion trusted that Jesus could do it without being there. How often do we insist instead that God do it our way?

*** Question – What does it mean that we humble ourselves before God?

(Humility is esteeming God more highly than ourselves. With regard to others, we should love them and treat them with kindness and compassion. With regard to ourselves, we should acknowledge that we are God’s handiwork, made in His image. We should celebrate this fact and love ourselves while giving God the glory.)

ANTICIPATE IN FAITH (Matt. 8:10-13)

10 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! 11 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. 12 But the sons of the kingdom will be thrown into the outer darkness. In that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.” 13 Then Jesus told the centurion, “Go. As you have believed, let it be done for you.” And his servant was cured that very moment.

*** Whoa. (Keanu Reeves face.)

--- Only twice in the Bible does it say that Jesus was amazed at something, and this was the only positive time. The other time was in Mark 6:6 when He was amazed at the lack of faith in His hometown of Nazareth.

*** All are invited to the table.

--- Jesus then throws shade at Israel, saying that He hasn’t found anyone there with such a strong faith as this Gentile scum, so to speak.

--- In a larger context, Jesus is saying that Gentiles are welcome at the table of salvation ("many will come from east and west") with the Old Testament patriarchs. There would be many to spread the faith beyond Israel.

--- Galatians 3:28 - There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.

--- Jesus then says that without change the Jewish people will find themselves "in the outer darkness."

--- Jesus' message is that salvation is for everyone, and relying on your ancestry is not a guarantee of God's favor.

Today as well, just growing up in church or having parents who are believers does not automatically give you eternal life. You must be reborn in spirit through grace.

*** Great faith is rare.

--- The only other account in the Gospels where Jesus responded to the request for healing from a Gentile is story of the Canaanite woman who asked Jesus to cast a demon from her daughter. After an uncomfortable exchange, Jesus granted her request with the following words: “Woman, your faith is great” (Matt. 15:28). Once again, it was faith that provided the catalyst for Jesus to perform a miraculous deed on behalf of a Gentile.

--- Without entering the centurion’s house, Jesus spoke and the servant was healed right away.

--- Moments like this caused people to marvel that Jesus’ authority was unlike the authority of the scribes, Pharisees, or anyone else they had ever known.

*** Question - What does it mean to you to have faith in Jesus, despite so much pain and suffering in our own lives and the lives of those we love?

TAKE-AWAY POINTS

Has your child ever come to you in a bad mood and demanded something from you in a disrespectful manner?

How likely are you to give in when this happens?

What attitude and characteristics do you like your children to exhibit when they make a request? Hopefully respect, humility, kindness, and an acknowledgment of authority.

Our Heavenly Father certainly deserves this as we, His children, approach Him.

*** Matthew 7:11 - If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good things to those who ask Him!

--- God loves us and wants to answer our prayers, but we must approach Him with humility, compassion, respect, and faith, acknowledging His authority as we saw demonstrated by the centurion.

*** Do you really believe that what God says is true? Do you trust what the Lord says will happen?

*** Let's try to amaze Jesus with our faith this week!

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