Sermon – Matthew 8.1-13 (Epiphany 3 – 2019)
Let us pray: O almighty and everlasting God, mercifully look upon our infirmities, and in all dangers and necessities stretch forth Your mighty hand to defend us against our enemies; through Jesus Christ, Your Son, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one true God, now and forever. Amen.
When He had come down from the mountain, great multitudes followed Him.
2 And behold, a leper came and worshiped Him, saying, “Lord, if You are willing, You can make me clean.”
3 Then Jesus put out His hand and touched him, saying, “I am willing; be cleansed.” Immediately his leprosy was cleansed.
4 And Jesus said to him, “See that you tell no one; but go your way, show yourself to the priest, and offer the gift that Moses commanded, as a testimony to them.”
5 Now when Jesus had entered Capernaum, a centurion came to Him, pleading with Him,
6 saying, “Lord, my servant is lying at home paralyzed, dreadfully tormented.”
7 And Jesus said to him, “I will come and heal him.”
8 The centurion answered and said, “Lord, I am not worthy that You should come under my roof. But only speak a word, and my servant will be healed.
9 “For I also am a man under authority, having soldiers under me. And I say to this one,`Go,’ and he goes; and to another,`Come,’ and he comes; and to my servant,`Do this,’ and he does it.”
10 When Jesus heard it, He marveled, and said to those who followed, “Assuredly, I say to you, I have not found such great faith, not even in Israel!
11 “And I say to you that many will come from east and west, and sit down with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob in the kingdom of heaven.
12 “But the sons of the kingdom will be cast out into outer darkness. There will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.”
13 Then Jesus said to the centurion, “Go your way; and as you have believed, so let it be done for you.” And his servant was healed that same hour.
These are Your words, heavenly Father. Sanctify us by the truth. Your Word is truth. Amen.
Where Shall Faith Be Found?
Dear fellow redeemed,
Last week we heard about Jesus’ first miracle, His turning water into wine at the wedding in Cana, which is in Galilee. Jesus continued to perform works in Galilee, but then made His way to His hometown of Nazareth. On the Sabbath, as it was His custom He went to the synagogue. He read from the Prophet Isaiah, and began to preach on the text. And His message was essentially that He is the fulfillment of Isaiah’s prophecies. He preached of God’s grace. And the people were amazed at His preaching, but their hearts were far from believing in Him.
Jesus had already performed works in Cana, and other parts of Galilee, and they wanted to see Jesus perform these same works in His hometown of Nazareth. But faith would not be found in Nazareth. They would not receive Him as the Messiah. And thus Jesus says, “No prophet is accepted in His own country” (Luke 4:24). Jesus said, “many widows were in Israel in the days of Elijah, when the heaven was shut up for three years and six months, and there was a great famine throughout all the land, but to none of them was Elijah sent except to Zarephath, in the region of Sidon, to a woman who was a widow. And many lepers were in Israel in the time of Elisha the prophet, and none of them was cleansed except Naaman the Syrian.” What He was saying, was that very few among the chosen people of God believed in God and received the word of the prophets, and so the preaching and works of the prophets would be done among these people from heathen nations, that perhaps faith may be found among them.
In the gospel, we see a Roman centurion, a Gentile, show great faith. He came to Jesus to ask Him to heal his servant. Jesus offers to go to his house and help the man. But the centurion shows great humility. He does not think that he deserves anything from Christ. He does not flaunt his high ranking position before Jesus. Rather he confesses his unworthiness. He does not deserve to have Jesus in his home. But He knows that Jesus is God. The centurion, because of who he is has power to to get things done by his word. He tells his servants something, and they do it. But he is just a man. How much more is Jesus able to accomplish being the Son of God! His word has the power to heal even without being presence. Distance is no issue with Him. And so the centurion trusts in Jesus to help.
And Jesus is astonished at the man’s faith, and says, “Assuredly, I say to you, I have not found such great faith, not even in Israel!”
The Israelites were God’s chosen people. They are the children of promise born of Abraham, and descendants of Isaac and Jacob. He spoke to them through the prophets. The Savior comes from their very own race. It was among the Jews that Jesus preached. This is where faith should be found! Among this race that God had favored! But only few of them would believe. But this outstanding faith is found in a Gentile, a stranger to the promise, a man from a heathen people.
What happened with the Jews? They trusted in their lineage. They thought they were children of God simply by being descendants of Abraham. They trusted in their own works to save themselves. They trusted in themselves, in their own works, like the rich young ruler who thought he had kept all the commandments. Without the humility to see one’s own sin and unworthiness of God’s love and salvation, what need is there of Jesus, then? But many would not listen to God’s Word. Jesus says of Jerusalem, you “who kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to her!”
Steven spoke of this, “You stiff-necked and uncircumcised in heart and ears! You always resist the Holy Spirit; as your fathers did, so do you. Which of the prophets did your faterhs not persecute? And they killed those who foretold of the coming of the Just One, of whom you now have become the betrayers and murderers.”
Because of their unbelief, Jesus says, “the sons of the kingdom will be cast out into outer darkness. There will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.”
But the gospel of Jesus Christ and Him crucified for sinners and the faith which believes this gospel, as it is found in the centurion, will also be found in the east and the west, namely, throughout the world. Such faith shall even be found in these small rural communities in Iowa and Minnesota.
But we must take heed lest that which happened to the Israelites, happen to us. For how often do places that have seen the favor of God, where the gospel was widely proclaimed, and received in faith by so many, have become desolate places, where the gospel is rarely found, and faith is vanishing?
Luther spoke of this, saying, “For you should know that God’s word and grace is like a passing shower of rain which does not return where it has once been. It has been with the Jews, but when it’s gone it’s gone, and now they have nothing. Paul brought it to the Greeks; but again when it’s gone it’s gone, and now they have the Turk. Rome and the Latins also had it; but when it’s gone it’s gone, and now they have the pope. And you Germans need not think that you will have it forever, for ingratitude and contempt will not make it stay. Therefore, seize it and hold it fast, whoever can.”
And this pattern has continued even today. Europe which was rich with the gospel and faith is now spiritually impoverished. But now consider our own country. This was a place where faith would be found. The gospel was proclaimed. It was widely believed. But now, faithful teachers of the gospel are fewer in number. And they aren’t so popular. The number of the faithful seems to be rapidly decreasing, and ungodliness is increasing. But why?
Perhaps some trust in their lineage. They figure that since their family had been Christians, they must also be by default Christians, though they have no regard for the gospel. There’s always the popular deception of the devil that a person can trust in his works to save him. Whatever reason there is for the falling away in the nation what it comes down to is a rejection of the gospel. Like Luther says, it is ingratitude and contempt. Like Stephen said, they resist the Holy Spirit who comes through the gospel.
So examine yourselves: Is there any ungratefulness in your hearts for the gospel? Have you thought and lived as though it were something that we could do without? Have you neglected the hearing of it for the sake of things that are less important? Have you looked to yourselves and your own strength to sustain yourself in the faith and stand before God, instead of putting all your trust the saving gospel of Christ? Have you been indifferent towards handing down this gospel as a most precious treasure to the next generation that they may cherish it?
But, with this faith that the Holy Spirit has given us through the gospel, we put on the humility of the leper and the centurion. We are the unworthy sinners in need of help and mercy. And Christ is the merciful one. We claim no worthiness for His help. If He wills, He can make us clean. And His will was to obey the Father, and to be the sacrifice to take away all of your sins. And He already has done it. He has paid the price for your sins, so that You are made clean.
And we are not worthy that he should visit us, and come under our roof. It is enough that He speaks to us forgiveness. But He does come under our roof when we are in His word at home, and He invites us to be present with Him here under His Father’s roof. And He only speaks a word and we are healed. He speaks to us through the gospel, and that forgiveness He won on the cross is given to us, washing us clean. That same gospel connected to the water of baptism saves you. That same gospel connected to the elements of bread and wine make present for you the body and blood of Christ given to you for the remission of sins.
Where may this faith be found? Lord, make this faith be found among us. And may it be a great faith that He gives us. A faith by which we humble ourselves before Him, that cherishes His holy and precious Word, and all the promises therein of our forgiveness and salvation given us for Christ’s’ sake, that we may gladly hear it and learn it. May He grant us a faith that we may also confess Christ, the merciful Savior, the Savior of us beggars, so that other beggars may know and partake of the Bread of Life.
How great is the grace of God, that He has brought the gospel and faith to us, and may He make it flourish in us and among us and all about us so that we and many others from the east and the west may sit down with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob in the kingdom of heaven. Amen.
Glory be to the Father, and to the Son and to the Holy Spirit. As it wasi in the beginning, is now and ever shall be, forevermore. Amen.