Listening to Outsiders – Matthew 8:1-17

romanThe Romans were outsiders.  They worshiped other gods – such as Jupiter and  Mercury.  The Romans were also conquerors.  Israel did not have its freedom. Instead the armies of Rome held them as captives.  Citizens of Israel did not have a say in their government.  They were told what to do. They were told what taxes to pay. This was enforced by soldiers.

Another time, when Jesus went to the town of Capernaum he met another outsider.  This man was a Roman soldier.  He was a man in charge of a group of about 100 soldiers.  This centurion was an outsider.  Normally, a Jewish man would have nothing to do with a Roman Soldier.

Jesus was approached by such a man. He said, “My servant is sick and suffering.”                      

 Jesus said, “Shall I come and heal him?”

This is the first amazing thing.  Jesus was willing to go to outsiders.  He was willing to help this Roman soldier who had a sick servant.  He could have said, “I will not do anything for you!” but he was willing to go.

Do you remember what Jesus taught us about our enemies?  In Matthew 5:43 he taught:

“You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy’.  But I say to you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you so that you might be called Children of your Father in heaven…”

Then a second thing happened.  The Roman soldier said that Jesus did not need to come.  He took a lesson from his own life and applied it to Jesus.  He said that as a soldier he understood authority.  When he commanded something to be done, it was done.  If I say ‘do this’ it will be done.  So if Jesus simply commanded it, his servant would be healed.

This was amazing even to Jesus. He said that he never saw faith like that among his own people. His people had the bible and the history of God’s mighty acts. They knew about Abraham, Moses and David. They knew about the Exodus from Egypt. They knew about the power of Elijah to bring fire from heaven.  But they did not believe the way this Roman soldier believed.

Sometimes outsiders do the Lord’s work.  He took the persecutor of the church, Saul, and made him the planter of churches, and changed his name to Paul.  He used Jethro to give some leadership advice to Moses.  He used Cyrus to restore Israel to its land.

Jesus said, to the man, “Go, let it be done just as you believed it would” and at that moment the servant was healed.

The Outsider was right.  I sometimes see people think that they need to use special words or rituals to have power in prayer. I have seen people say that you have to express a lot of emotions and you have to shout.  Jesus simply commanded, and it was done.

One time a woman in New York told me that she lost her keys in her house.  She wanted me to go into each room in the house and pray that God would find them.  I said to her that I was glad to pray. But we could stay where we were, and pray for god to help her find what was lost.  God did not need us to walk into every room. God already know where the keys were.  She called me the next day and said, “Praise the Lord! I found my keys.”

Genealogy and Mission in Matthew

logo.1This pertains to the four Gentile women [Tamar, Rahab, Ruth, “wife of Uriah”] found in Jesus’ genealogy found in Matthew.

“When Matthew cites these four women, he is probably reminding his readers that three ancestors of King David and the mother of King Solomon were Gentiles.  The Bible that accepted David’s mixed race also implied it for the messianic King; Matthew thus declares that the Gentiles were never an afterthought in God’s plan, but had been part of his work in history from the beginning.  One who traces Matthew’s treatment of Gentiles through the Gospel, from the Magi who sought Jesus in Chapter 2 through the concluding commission to disciple the nations in 28:19, will understand Matthew’s point in emphasizing this.  Matthew exhorts his readers that as much as Jesus is connected with the heritage of Israel, he is for all people as well, and his disciples have a responsibility to tell everyone know about him.”

Craig Keener, A Commentary on the Gospel of Matthew, Eerdmans, Grand Rapids, 1999, p. 80

Pappa Don’t Preach!

annunciationThat headline was just a way to draw Madonna fans into reading this blog….

I’ll be preaching on OT Characters with the title of “Profiles in Courage” and then from Advent to Summer I will be in the Gospel of Matthew.   Those items will most likely show the focus of this blog this year.

I enjoy the ESV Literary Study Bible, which noted that Matthew includes two stories in the Birth Narrative.  the first of which is a very simple Birth story. We usually read Luke 2 at Christmas events bc it feels more substantial.  What I noticed is that the long debates over the virgin births slightly miss Matthew’s point, which is that Jesus was conceived of the Holy Spirit.  This is stated twice in such a way that the birth is seen as remarkable.  The theology of Paul or the later church were not inventing theology when they debated Christology.  The “Virgin Birth” puts the emphasis on Mary – who is a willing servant.  Matthew puts the emphasis on the Holy Spirit – that is God has done this unprecedented thing.

Matthew 1:18-25 – ESV

18 Now the birth of Jesus Christ took place in this way. When his mother Mary had been betrothed to Joseph, before they came together she was found to be with child from the Holy Spirit. 19 And her husband Joseph, being a just man and unwilling to put her to shame, resolved to divorce her quietly. 20 But as he considered these things, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream, saying, “Joseph, son of David, do not fear to take Mary as your wife, for that which is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. 21 She will bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.” 22 All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had spoken by the prophet:

23 “Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son,
    and they shall call his name Immanuel”

(which means, God with us). 24 When Joseph woke from sleep, he did as the angel of the Lord commanded him: he took his wife, 25 but knew her not until she had given birth to a son. And he called his name Jesus.   ESV