Seeing the Invisible Christ.
Have you ever thought of how Matthew, Mark, Luke and John actually chose the miracles and the remarks that Jesus made when He was with them to include in the gospels they respectively wrote? What I mean is that John, for instance, says the world would not be able to hold the books if everything Jesus said and did was accounted for in a written document. That is rather an amazing statement whether you are a Christian or not. And yet, the man who wrote those words only included seven miracles in his gospel. That is far less than any of the other three.
I cannot think of any other answer but that each miracle presented was put forward for either a reason that the evangelists held in their own hearts, or that Christ Himself actually discussed them after the event.
In John’s gospel for instance all of the seven miracles (6 prior to the crucifiction and one after the resurrection) were all brought into being by Christ’s own spoken word. “Fill the water pots.” Could the word have been less dramatic? The water turns to wine. The very first sign and wonder is performed (John 2). “Go! Your son will live!” Sounds like a solemn order doesn’t it? Miracle performed several miles away (John 4). “Rise, take up your bed and walk.” Spoken to a human being who had a 38 year old inability to walk without a touch (John 5). The man walked throughout all his future. Jesus gave thanks for five loaves and two fish. However, what Jesus gave thanks for was that the entire 5,000 men and their families would be fed (John 6). And they were. After having played mud pies with his own saliva and smothered the compound over a blind man’s closed eyelids, He merely speaks quietly in His ear and says “Go, wash in the pool of Siloam.” In obedience to the Master’s words, the healing was complete the blindness washed off his being along with the mud (John 9). No explanation is needed in John chapter 11 when I simply state that Jesus said with a loud voice, “Lazarus! Come forth!” Astonishing words that were heard in the depths of the place of the dead and responded to by the once demised brother of Mary and Martha. The resurrected Lord finally stated “Cast the net on the right side of the boat and you will find some.” And hardened experienced fisherman who had fished all night and caught nothing suddenly had more fish than they required. Yes! I know there were other miracles in John. Jesus walked on the water and rose from the dead. The healing of Malchus’s ear in Gethsemane is not even referred to in John
My point in all this is that each miracle was inserted in each gospel for a specific purpose. Jesus performed much more miracles and signs and wonders, and preached many more sermons than we are privy to in the scriptures.
So why did Jesus praise this man for his faith only. What about his friendliness? What about his love for others? Why didn’t Jesus declare. “I have never seen such generosity in Israel”? I am sure He never had.
The answer is that faith saves the soul. Faith moves with God. Faith invests in what it knows in the character of God. Faith is the principle virtue in the life of the human being. Without faith it is impossible to please God. Love, generosity, kindness peace and inner tranquillity should follow faith, but faith does not necessarily follow those virtues. In fact, quite often pride, arrogance and a false sense of morality follows behind generosity, kindness and public giving. Faith follows nothing but God. Faith is the goal. Jesus did not ask, “When the Son of Man returns will He find generosity in the world?” Or “Will He find love or gentleness towards slaves?” He asked “Will He find faith?” Faith is primary to all things pertaining to life and Godliness. Being justified by faith we have peace with God, by which we have access to the grace wherein we stand.” We are not justified by giving money, love, time and devotion. We are saved by faith and faith alone. We must belive that God is a rewarder of those that diligently seek Him. Dilligently means persistently. This Centurion had faith in God and sought Him continuously.
Old Spurgeon raised an issue that some old preacher raised with him in his youth. The friend of Spurgeon insisted that it is only to “faith” that Christ shares His crown with. With all the miracles and signs and wonders that Christ performed, He often states that “your faith has healed you,” or, “Your faith has made you whole.” He says this even though anybody with a modicum of common sense can see that it was the power of God that healed, set people free and delivered folks from satanic bondage. It is faith that aligns itself with God that sees the awesome power of the living Christ. It did in this story, and it still does today. Faith is the only means to Sustained blessing and Godly character. Deep set sustained faith developes inner strengths that defeat vicious foes of life and horrific catastrophes that meet us from time to time.
No other foundation can any man lay apart from that which is laid – Christ Jesus. Yet we rarely ask the question: How deep is your foundation laid?
1. Note this man’s Renewed Mind and his Education in God.
This man was a centurion. Centurions were in their rank because of their ability to fight wars and kill for Rome. But this man was radical in the renewal of his heart and mind. He was so distinct as a person and as a force for good, that empowered by God Himself, he stood out from the crowd. This soldier had a master’s degree in a dimension where there were no books to learn from apart from the scriptures. What he had learned from the scriptures took him far beyond the entire Jewish believers of his generation. He was a superior person in his faith and it is important to note that he had no teacher other than God Himself.
He was radical and different with a renewed and independent mind because he loved his “doulos” – that is the lowest form of slave a Roman could have. A “doulos” had no rights at all. A doulos was chattel and was to be considered expendable. “Is the doulos sick to the point of death? Ah well! Let him die, and go and buy another one from the slave market!” That was the normal Roman response to terminal illness among the slaves, especially a “doulos.” The historians tell us that the majority of the population of the Roman Empire were slaves of some sort.
This military man was radical because he loved Israel. His love was so evident that the Jewish elders who despised the Roman occupation of their land loved him and told Jesus that this was so and that he was worthy that God should bless him. If that is not extravagant praise, what is? The fact that the Jewish people loved him was enough to set him apart as unique. He was radical because he built the Jewish Synagogue in Capernaum and worshipped the God of Israel along with the Jews. Prejudice of racial, religious or class concepts had met its death in – of all people – a roman centurion stationed in Galilee.
He loved God, loved Israel and loved Yahweh with a faith that amazed even Christ Himself. Oh that we could learn as this man had learned! The aggression with which he loved people, gave and treasured and mingled with the Jewish masses was only a fruit of his faith.
2. Note this Centurions Renewed Sense of Reality and his Clarity in seeing the Invisible.
This man was the only person of faith in the four gospels who, in seeking Christ’s grace to heal and answer prayer, did not see Christ face to face. In fact, not only did He not see Christ face to face but he personally fact is, as I shall highlight in a moment, that he undoubtedly saw Christ clearer than anybody else on the planet at this particular point in history.
Faith always has a sense of vision about it. Galatians 3:1 has Paul stating that as he preached throughout Galatia he “graphically portrayed Christ as crucified.” To be consistent with the entire New Testament, those words can only sustainably be proposed to mean that he explained the crucifiction in a manner that would have left his audience with no other thought than faith, in itself of itself and by itself, in Christ’s atoning sacrifice would save them. Portraying the full extent of the work of Christ and its spiritual gravitas and power was so done as to be explained plainly by stating that his hearers had actually seen the crucifiction.
Paul continues the reality of this kind of language in 2 Corinthians 3:18. He states as plainly as one can that the Christian is changed as he or she beholds Christ. 2 Corinthians 4: 6 declares loudly that, “God who commanded light to shine out of darkness has shone in our hearts giving us the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.” His language has the means to faith and development embedded in the concept of the believer holding himself face to face with Christ. Hebrews says that Moses endured “as seeing Him who is invisible.” He knew God, spoke of God, spoke to God, and walked with God in a manner that suggested that God was always stood next to him, which, in point of fact, He invisibly was.
The same person who wrote Hebrews assumes a literal posture when he encourages the reader to “Fix your gaze on Him.” (Hebrews 12:2).” When discussing the meaning of Psalm 8 in Hebrews chapter 2, the writer explains how we do not yet see mankind moving in the authority that the psalm suggests, but “but we see Jesus.”
The Christians open gaze on Jesus Christ is the potential grace wherein we stand. We are justified so that we are able to interface with Jesus Christ Himself.
3. Note the Soldier’s ever Expanding Faith and thus his pushing the boundaries of his grasp of revelation.
His faith was in a constant state of expansion by divine revelation. He came as an occupying conqueror and finished as a worshipper of the God of Israel. He developed his faith by loving those that Romans did not choose to love, that is, his servant slave. He loved the Jewish people. He built the synagogue in an action that had organically flowered from his faith. Even now, at the point of his dealing with his servant that was in the grip of some terminal disease, he had heard of Christ and humbly utters a message to his friends the Jewish elders to go and ask the man believed by many to be the Messiah if He could come and heal the youth.
The fact that the Centurion was humble in his request is evidenced by what transpires in the rest of the story. The elders invited Jesus to come and heal the servant and spoke very highly of the man who had built their synagogue. But while that dialogue with Jesus was going on, and then while Jesus was making His way to the Centurion’s quarters, the Centurion himself had another blinding light of revelation.
The flash of light was a practical, down to earth understanding of Christ’s authority and how it worked. He had experienced as a soldier how orders could be sent to him by superiors he had never met. When those orders had been received at his hand, he also had to pass on the orders to other soldiers beneath his rank, the majority of whom would never have known him nor seen his face. The issue was authority moving down the line.
With some biblical grasp, possibly, of understanding how Moses or Elijah and Elisha had operated, he quickly sent another group of friends to say to Jesus, ““Lord, do not trouble yourself, for I am not worthy to have you come under my roof. Therefore I did not presume to come to you. But say the word, and let my servant be healed. For I too 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 servant, ‘Do this,’ and he does it.”
There was a raft of issues that it was plain to see that the Centurion was “in the Spirit” with all that was said and done here. His understanding of the spiritual realm, his grasp of where Christ’s power and authority came from, as well as how it was exercised. His frankness, sincerity and openness of heart was transparently presented in the whole thing.
Without even seeing the shadow of Jesus or shaken His hand, by knowing who He was, why He had come, and how he could interface and interact with Him, the Master Himself was amazed, and said so.
Even though we have no account of Jesus saying or sending His word to heal the servant, we know that He did as the servant that the messengers had spoken to Christ about was healed by the time that they had returned to the Centurion’s lodgings.
This Centurion had a concept of faith that was different than anybody else we read of in the gospels. He understood by interfacing through the word with what was to him, the invisible Christ.
Without actually seeing Jesus face to face, it could be soundly argued that he met and saw Jesus more clearly than any other person at that point of time – even clearer than the disciples.
After he had finished all his sayings in the hearing of the people, he entered Capernaum. 2 Now a centurion had a servant who was sick and at the point of death, who was highly valued by him. 3 When the centurion heard about Jesus, he sent to him elders of the Jews, asking him to come and heal his servant. 4 And when they came to Jesus, they pleaded with him earnestly, saying, “He is worthy to have you do this for him, 5 for he loves our nation, and he is the one who built us our synagogue.” 6 And Jesus went with them. When he was not far from the house, the centurion sent friends, saying to him, “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 say the word, and let my servant be healed. 8 For I too 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 servant, ‘Do this,’ and he does it.” 9 When Jesus heard these things, he marveled at him, and turning to the crowd that followed him, said, “I tell you, not even in Israel have I found such faith.” 10 And when those who had been sent returned to the house, they found the servant well.
(Address preached at Open Gate Church Bognor Regis UK. Sunday January18. 2015)