Scripture: Matthew 8:5-11 5 As he entered Caper'na-um, a centurion came forward to him, beseeching him 6 and saying, "Lord, my servant is lying paralyzed at home, in terrible distress." 7 And he said to him, "I will come and heal him." 8 But the centurion answered him, "Lord, I am not worthy to have you come under my roof; but only say the word, and my servant will be healed. 9 For I am a man 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 he does it." 10 When Jesus heard him, he marveled, and said to those who followed him, "Truly, I say to you, not even in Israel have I found such faith. 11 I tell you, many will come from east and west and sit at table with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob in the kingdom of heaven Old Testament Reading: Isaiah 2:1-5 1 The word which Isaiah the son of Amoz saw concerning Judah and Jerusalem. 2 It shall come to pass in the latter days that the mountain of the house of the LORD shall be established as the highest of the mountains, and shall be raised above the hills; and all the nations shall flow to it, 3 and many peoples shall come, and say: "Come, let us go up to the mountain of the LORD, to the house of the God of Jacob; that he may teach us his ways and that we may walk in his paths." For out of Zion shall go forth the law, and the word of the LORD from Jerusalem. 4 He shall judge between the nations, and shall decide for many peoples; and they shall beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruning hooks; nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war any more. 5 O house of Jacob, come, let us walk in the light of the LORD.
One such image is a great banquest feast given at the King's table. Jesus promised that everyone who believed in him would come and feast at the heavenly banquet table of his Father. Jesus told this parable in response to the dramatic request made by a Roman centurion, a person despised by many because he was an outsider, not one of the "chosen ones" of Israel.
In Jesus' time the Jews hated the Romans because they represented everything they stood against – including foreign domination and pagan beliefs and practices. Why did Jesus not only warmly receive a Roman centurion but praise him as a model of faith and confidence in God?
In the Roman world the position of centurion was very important. He was an officer in charge of a hundred soldiers. In a certain sense, he was the backbone of the Roman army, the cement which held the army together. Polybius, an ancient write, describes what a centurion should be: "They must not be so much venturesome seekers after danger as men who can command, steady in action, and reliable; they ought not to be over-anxious to rush into the fight, but when hard pressed, they must be ready to hold their ground, and die at their posts."
The centurion who approached Jesus was not only courageous, but faith-filled as well. He risked the ridicule of his cronies as well as mockery from the Jews by seeking help from an itinerant preacher from Galilee. Nonetheless, the centurion approached Jesus with great confidence and humility.
He was an extraordinary man because he loved his slave. In the Roman world slaves were treated like animals – something to be used for work and pleasure and for bartering and trade. This centurion was a man of great compassion and extraordinary faith.
He wanted Jesus to heal his beloved slave. Jesus commends him for his faith and immediately grants him his request. Are you willing to suffer ridicule in the practice of your faith?
And when you need help, do you approach the Lord Jesus with expectant faith? The prophet Isaiah foretold a time of universal peace when all nations would come to "the mountain of the Lord and to the house of the God of Jacob" and "beat their swords into plowshares" (Isaiah 2:2-4). Jesus fulfills this prophecy first by restoring both Jew and Gentile to fellowship with God through the victory he won for us on the cross.
When he comes again he will fully establish his universal rule of peace and righteousness and unite all things in himself (Ephesians 1:10). His promise extends to all generations who believe in him that we, too, might feast at the heavenly banquet table with the patriarchs of the Old Covenant who believed but did not see the promised Messiah.
Do you believe in God's promises and do you seek his kingdom first in your life?
The season of Advent reminds us that the Lord wants us to actively seek him and the coming of his kingdom in our lives. The Lord will surely reward those who seek his will for their lives.
We can approach the Lord Jesus with expectant faith, like the centurion in today's gospel reading, knowing that he will show us his mercy and give us his help.