Amazing Faith

You read that right. This isn’t about “amazing grace”. It’s about the amazing faith of two Gentiles who demonstrated Amazing Faith in Jesus and were rewarded with amazing answers to their requests. And they did this before the crucifixion of Jesus, before His resurrection, before the disciples dropped their racism and accepted Gentile believers completely as brothers and sisters in Christ.

The Amazing Centurion:

After [Jesus] had finished all his sayings in the hearing of the people, he entered Capernaum. A centurion there had a servant who was sick and at the point of death, who was highly valued by him. When the centurion heard about Jesus, he sent to Jesus elders of the Jews, asking him to come and heal his servant. And when they came to Jesus, they pleaded with him earnestly, saying, ‘He is worthy to have you do this for him, for he loves our nation, and he is the one who built us our synagogue.’ Jesus went with them. When he was not far from the house, the centurion sent friends, saying to him, ‘Lord, do not trouble yourself, for I am not worthy to have you come under my roof. Therefore I did not presume to come to you. But say the word, and let my servant be healed. For I too am a man set under authority, with soldiers under me: and I say to one, “Go,” and he goes; and to another, “Come,” and he comes; and to my servant, “Do this,” and he does it.’ When Jesus heard these things, he marveled at him, and turning to the crowd that followed him, said, ‘I tell you, not even in Israel have I found such faith.’ And when those who had been sent returned to the house, they found the servant well.” (Luke 7:1-10)

This occupation soldier loved the nation he was given authority over. So much so that he built a synagogue for the Jews. How could this be? What caused his attitude to be so unusual? There was no reason for the centurion to be especially heavy-handed. Still – “loves our nation”? “built us a synagogue”?

The centurion believed in Jesus before he even met Him. How did that happen? Had he studied the Torah? Read the prophecies and realized that Jesus was the Messiah? Or did he hear from a trusted source that Jesus’ miracles were real?

Whatever, the centurion had faith. His words to Jesus were not the words of a hopeful-but-doubting person. This man was sure. And he sent envoys to Jesus rather than come himself. He was respectful of the sensitivity of a Jew about being approached by a Gentile. The Jews literally considered Gentiles to be unclean physically. When Jesus began to approach his house, the centurion sent word that he was “not worthy that You should come under my roof.” So, the centurion said, “just speak a word and my servant will be healed.” That’s incredible humility, as well as faith!

When Jesus heard that, He made the astounding declaration that this centurion’s faith was greater than that of any Jew. His faith produced the desired results, which makes me smile. I’ll make a bet with you, but I know you won’t take it: I’ll bet anything you like that centurion has been rejoicing in the presence of God and of King Jesus for 2,000 years. Imagine his joy when he discovered that his sins had been forgiven and he was now considered worthy in Christ to “come under the roof” of the King of Kings. Now, the centurion, the experienced warrior …. serves the Prince of Peace! HALLELUJAH!

The Amazing Canaanite Woman

Now we come to a desperate Canaanite woman, and she really had reason to be desperate. You may remember that Canaan was the son of Ham, one of Noah’s sons. The shameful disrespect of Noah by Ham brought a curse on Ham’s descendants, and then, centuries later, God gave the land of Canaan to the Israelites. So she was a descendant of a cursed relative, whose predecessors had been dispossessed by the ancestors of Jesus. Not a good prospect, eh? But I think something happened here which I’ve never seen mentioned before. Jesus acts as if He is not allowed to grant her request, but then He grants it. Hmmm … what was that all about?

And Jesus went away from there and withdrew to the district of Tyre and Sidon. And behold, a Canaanite woman from that region came out and was crying, ‘Have mercy on me, O Lord, Son of David; my daughter is severely oppressed by a demon.’ But he did not answer her a word. And his disciples came and begged him, saying, ‘Send her away, for she is crying out after us.’ He answered, ‘I was sent only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.’ But she came and knelt before him, saying, ‘Lord, help me!’ And he answered, ‘It is not right to take the children’s bread and throw it to the dogs.’ She said, ‘True, Lord, yet even the dogs eat the crumbs that fall from their masters’ table.’ Then Jesus answered her, ‘Woman, you have great faith! Your request is granted!’ And her daughter was healed instantly.” (Matthew 15:21-28)

What is this? Jesus granted the centurion’s request immediately. Why is He ignoring this poor woman?

I don’t think he was. I don’t think He was testing her faith, either. I could be wrong, but what it looks like to me is this: Jesus was in fact sent only to Israel. Israel was supposed to be the nation which announced the arrival of the Messiah to the world. The Jewish priests had the authority to do that. “Here He is! he has fulfilled our prophets’ predictions! Come and be saved, world!”

No other nation had that authority. Believe, yes, they could but no other nation was the chosen nation of God. Hence, other nations could not expect people to believe their witness about the Messiah.

So Jesus was supposed to stick to His mission. Present His credentials to Israel. Therefore, when Jewish elders approached Jesus on behalf of the centurion, Jesus could grant the centurion’s request, because it had come to Him as a Jewish request. But this Canaanite woman had no influential connections among Jews.

But this desperate woman, I think, touched Jesus’ heart. His first refusal almost sounds like He’s unhappy with the situation. And then the desperate woman kneels down in front of Him, literally begging Him to save her daughter. And Jesus replies with – an insult!

Or was it a chess move? In chess, you try to maneuver your opponent as well as maneuvering your own pieces. Did Jesus “insult” this woman, knowing how she would respond? Because if that was the plan, it was successful. The Canaanite woman gave the perfect reply which gave Jesus a “legal loophole” by which He could heal a Gentile girl! “Yes! I can do this! The dogs get the crumbs! Here’s a crumb for you!”

It was no crumb He gave her. King Jesus cast out a demon from a child !

This Canaanite woman is another one I’ll bet has been shouting praise in the presence of the King of Kings for a couple of thousand years.

This same Jesus can, will, and does intercede for us when we experience trouble and grief:

Now there have been many of those priests [of Judaism], since death prevented them from continuing in office; but because Jesus lives forever, he has a permanent priesthood. Therefore he is able to save completely those who come to God through him, because he always lives to intercede for them.” (Hebrews 7″23-25)

And now there’s no barrier between us and our Redeemer, like there was between the centurion and the Lord. Like there was between the Canaanite woman and the Lord. Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross paid in full the debt we owe. We can now be declared righteous in God’s eyes if we have faith in Jesus.

For there is no distinction between Jew and Greek; for the same Lord is Lord of all, bestowing his riches on all who call on him. For everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.” (Romans 10:12-13)

Something else, very important, is demonstrated here. It’s something we take for granted, don’t even think about – Christians have the authority to pray for people who are not Christians.

We know we can and should pray for our fellow believers, but what about those who are not yet “in God’s jurisdiction”? They have no claim on Him, and worse, they often don’t even think of asking God for help. They may not believe in Him, or may not want anything to do with God.

Anyone who’s been around for a while has heard stories of people who are not Christians calling on God for help and being answered. Frequently that kind of prayer ends with the person becoming a Christian. My all-time favorite story of that sort is one of a mother whose child was dying. She became so angry with the God she had never accepted that she spoke to Him in a demanding, accusing way, using very disrespectful, angry language. And – I can’t help laughing as I write this – He answered her. He literally spoke to her, and what He said was, “Do you know that’s the first time you’ve ever spoken to Me?”

But for those who don’t think of calling on God, brothers and sisters, we have the authority to make requests to God on their behalf.

That’s right. You are an authorized agent, representative, ambassador, of God. You can petition the throne of God on behalf of others who have no “legal standing” in God’s court.

I regret to report that Customs will still search your luggage.