When Jesus heard it, he marvelled, and said to them that followed, Verily I say unto you, I have not found so great faith, no, not in Israel. (Matthew 8:10)
In today’s message, we will examine the second miracle that Jesus performed immediately after He had ended the Sermon on the Mount. Matthew records several specific miracles that demonstrated the power and authority of Jesus. The second one is unique in its emphasis upon faith. There are only two instances in scripture where it is said that Jesus marveled, or was amazed, and both of them concern faith. This one is because of the presence of uncommon faith and the other is because of the absence of expected faith. In the first instance, it was because faith came from a man without all of the external privileges of God’s revelation. In the second, it was lack of faith from those that had been blessed with every opportunity, with every privilege, with easy accessibility to God’s word, and yet it did not develop into full dependence upon God.
Matthew 8:5-13 describes the faith of a Roman centurion, a Gentile, who was not born into the families of God’s chosen nation. He was an outsider, one whom Paul would describe as one of the “aliens from the commonwealth of Israel, and strangers from the covenants of promise” (Eph. 2:12). This means he had none of the external privileges of Israel. He had not grown up learning what they learned about Jehovah God. He had not participated in the lifelong rituals of Judaism that were intended to prepare them for the coming of the Messiah. And yet when He heard of Jesus, he recognized that the power of God resided in Him. He recognized His authority as the Son of God and His transcendence over the creation. He recognized the power of His words; with the command of the word alone, His will would be done. This is what amazed Jesus so greatly.
In the second instance (Mark 6:6), Jesus marveled at the unbelief of the Jews. They had every advantage. Paul said “unto them were committed the oracles of God” (Rom. 3:1-2). The promise of the Messiah was first given in scripture all the way back in the time of Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden (Gen. 3:15). The promise was renewed with Abraham and then with Isaac and Jacob. Finally, God’s greatest prophet Moses was given the full compendium of the Law contained in “divine ordinances” that found their complete fruition in Jesus Christ (Heb. 9:1). In contradistinction to the “alien” centurion, the ones with all the unique privileges did not recognize the Messiah when He came. They rejected His teachings, miracles, and authority; they claimed He was from the devil (Matt. 12:24) and then crucified Him. Jesus was amazed at their shameless rejection.
As I think on this story, I wonder on a different level how today God views the lack of faith in His chosen people. I do not mean the Jews specifically as a nation, but those who have been elected to salvation and given the privilege of faith in Christ. What about you that have been given the blessing of a church that preaches truth, that still believes the Bible, that is unafraid to declare the whole counsel of God when we are so vigorously opposed by false Christianity? What about you who are members of a church unlike any in our area? What about you that can attend a place that upholds the same doctrines as our Baptist forefathers stretching all the way back to the time of Jesus and the apostles? How much faith do you have in God? The answer can be found in your support of your church. It can be found in your attendance, in your tithes, in your witnessing, and in your lifestyles. If Jesus were physically here, would He say, “I have not found so great faith, no, not in America?”
I hope you look for the practical applications in today’s message. Matthew records this so that we can look at our lives and compare it to that of the centurion. Is your faith so uncommon that it would amaze Jesus?
Pastor V. Mark Smith