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)
Matthew records several specific miracles that demonstrated the power and authority of Jesus. The second one is unique in its emphasis on faith. There are only two instances in scripture where it is said that Jesus marveled, or was amazed, and both 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 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 access 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 one 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 partaken 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 the power of God was 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 His word alone, His will would be done. This recognition amazed Jesus.
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 first promise of the Messiah was given to 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 Law contained in “divine ordinances” that found their fulfillment 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 how God views lack of faith in His chosen church, by which I mean those who have been elected to salvation, given the privilege of faith in Christ, and have become members of His body on earth. What about your blessing of being in a church that preaches truth, that still believes the Bible, that is unafraid to declare the whole counsel of God when opposed by false Christianity? What about you who are members of a church unlike any in our area? What about you that hear the same doctrines preached as from our Baptist forefathers? How much faith do you have in God?
The answer can be found in how you support your church. It can be found in your attendance, in your tithes, in your witnessing, and in your lifestyles. If Jesus came to our services, would He say, “I have not found so great faith, no, not in America?” Is your faith so uncommon that it would amaze Jesus?
Pastor V. Mark Smith