Amazing Faith, Amazing Lord
Sunday, February 7, 2021
Pastor Deb Kielsmeier
Can you imagine doing or saying something would cause Jesus to stand in awe and simply marvel? Me neither. But the gospels record two occasions when people caused Jesus to do just that. The Greek word thaumazo (thou-mad’-zo) is used in both accounts. It means to wonder, marvel, to be astonished, amazed, or to stand in awe.
Remember when Jesus preached in the synagogue in His hometown of Nazareth and the congregation tried to throw him off the cliff? In Mark’s account of this incident, we hear that Jesus was awed thaumazo (thou-mad’-zo) by the people and their LACK of faith. Ouch.
The second time Jesus was amazed is when the Centurion in our scripture reading for today sends a message to Jesus. That message caused Jesus to marvel at this Roman soldier’s faith. So much so that he told the crowd that “not even in Israel have I found such faith.” Wow. What exactly was it in that message cause Jesus to marvel? And how can WE have faith like that Centurion?
In this story some Jewish elders were sent to Jesus by the Centurion with an urgent request. His servant was near death — Would Jesus come? Now Roman soldiers and Jewish elders usually avoided one another. Yet the elders tell Jesus that the centurion loved the Jewish people and respected their faith, having built their synagogue.
When they neared the Centurion’s home, some men intercepted them with a message from the soldier “Lord, do not trouble yourself, for I am not worthy to have you come under my roof; 7 therefore I did not presume to come to you. But only speak the word, and let my servant be healed. 8 For I also 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 slave, ‘Do this,’ and the slave does it.”
You can just imagine his eyebrows shooting up and his jaw dropping in wonder.
He turned to the crowd and said in a loud voice, “I tell you, not even in Israel have I found such faith.” A Gentile. An outsider. But not only that, but a Roman officer… An emissary of Israel’s enemy, no less. Yet he understood more than the Jewish elders. Somehow, this Centurion recognizes the divine power and presence that Jesus holds. Remember Peter falling to his knees before Jesus in the boat overflowing with fish? Like Peter, this Centurion is struck by the holiness of Jesus and his own sinfulness and declares that he is not worthy to be in his presence.
The Centurion also recognizes that Jesus’s authority came from a higher divine authority – and extended over the powers of the natural world. He knew Jesus ruled over sickness and health – he could simply speak a word and his servant would be healed.
This man was not a Jew, nor a disciple… Yet he realized WHO Jesus was and what Jesus had the authority over, and that caused Jesus to marvel. You may wonder, how can I have faith like that?
I think the second story in this week’s scripture reading provides some insight for that. Luke wrote these two stories as a pair; they were meant to stand together.
Soon after the Centurion’s servant was healed, Jesus, and a large crowd of followers made their way to the small village of Nain. When they arrived at the village gate another large group was leaving. It was a funeral procession, which were noisy affairs, filled with loud wailing and crying. In the midst of it, a bier was carried by six men with the corpse of a young man laid upon it.
Jesus learns that that the deceased was the only son of a widow. That is significant. In that culture, a woman could not own property and had no way to make a living. Without male relatives, this widow would become destitute as well. Jesus’ heart went out to her. “Do not weep,” he tells her, and then he lays his hand on the funeral bier and without any fanfare or ritual, he simply says, “Young man, I say to you, arise.” And he sits up and begins to talk. Jesus then gave the son back to his mother. Is it any wonder that both of these crowds now come together stunned over what they witnessed? Wow.
In the first story, we see an example of Amazing Faith. The centurion had a faith that amazed Jesus because he understood, better than all of Israel, just who Jesus was, the authority he held, and his power to exercise it. The second story shows us just how AMAZING the object of our faith is. Jesus not only heals with a word, but his heart goes out to those in distress. He cares, and holds the power to raise the dead to new life.
The Greek word for Faith is πίστις (pistis). And scripture tells us that it too is a gift from God. It involves not only an intellectual belief or conviction about someone or something… But also implies an active trust in that person or object. Our faith is only as good as its object.
When we are astonished and awed by Jesus – When we are amazed by his limitless love and his depth of compassion… When we marvel at his power and all he has done for us — we know that He is worthy of our faith, our trust, our devotion and yes, our very lives.
What is amazing faith? It is a simple faith, placed in an amazing Lord.
We can confidently place our faith in God’s unfailing love and goodness towards us, knowing that God has the power to intervene in our lives and in our distress.
Yet, what about when we pray for people and they do not get better? Or we pray for a resolution and things get worse. Does that mean that we have a weak faith? Or that God really isn’t really as powerful or compassionate as we had hoped?
No. Whatever the short-term outcome of our prayers, we can be certain that our God is the same yesterday, today and tomorrow. We live in a time when the Kingdom has come, but not in full. It is both Now, and Not Yet. Jesus has set in motion a promised restoration, which is now in part, but will one day be complete.
And so, we live by faith. A faith that is simple – but placed in an Amazing Lord. Amen.