Lesson 3: Healer

And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 

– Matthew 28:18 (NRSV) 

Once we know Jesus heals in order to encourage us to submit to the reign of God in this world, some healing stories take on a greater meaning. For the remainder of the week, we will examine how five such passages teach different lessons about what it means to seek or reject the good news of Jesus’ New Covenant.  

Devotion: Read Matthew 8:5-13. As Jesus’ words about final judgment make clear, this story is about more than healing a servant at a distance. The Roman centurion is a Gentile, excluded from the Jewish covenant community. However, he is found to be faithful. His response represents the best possible reaction to God’s reign on earth! When he encounters Jesus, he acknowledges and submits to Jesus’ authority. Jesus says many such outsiders will be welcome to eat with God’s people in heaven while some Jews who assume they are safely in God’s fold will be cast out. The issue is not whether we are keeping the laws, rules, and traditions; the question is will we submit to Jesus when we encounter him and his teaching. Given the centurion’s response, how would you define faith? What are indications someone has faith? Is there a connection between faith and communal worship attendance? Do people who do good works always have faith?  

Personal Worship Option: Read Romans 14:7-12. What does this verse teach that we might need to embody during times of suffering? What do you want to remember when you see others suffering? How can you act to show kindness to someone suffering today?  

Dig A Little Deeper:

8:5 A centurion is a Roman soldier in charge of one hundred soldiers, roughly equivalent to a noncommissioned officer overseeing a small garrison. Like the leper in the previous story (8:1-4), this Gentile refers to Jesus as “Sovereign.” He is presented as kind and concerned about his young slave. Remember that Matthew is written for a Jewish audience.

8:7 Jesus’ response is surprising. Jews will not normally enter a Gentile home since doing so makes them ritually unclean. The soldier’s response may indicate an awareness of the difficulty such a visit potentially places on Jesus.

8:9 The centurion assumes Jesus is “under authority,” as he is. This assumption acknowledges God as the source of healing power and recognizes Jesus as God’s emissary.

8:10 The description of Jesus as “amazed,” as well as his words criticizing the Israelites’ lack of deep faith, reflects a tension in the gospels regarding Gentiles. This centurion is received well, but at times Gentiles are categorized in less than flattering ways (10:5-6; 15:21-28). What is clear is that many who should be open to God’s power are not, and many we assume are closed off to God’s presence are actively submitting to that authority. What does submission to Jesus mean for us now? How can the Church keep an open mind about “gentiles?”

8:11 This is a clear statement from Jesus that Gentiles will be admitted to the messianic banquet (Is 25:6-8) at the time of judgment. However, the early church goes through a time a great struggle regarding the acceptance of Gentiles (Acts 10, 15). A key issue to remember is that the gospel writers were part of faith communities which were struggling with emerging issues in the early Church. This leads many scholars to speculate that stories such as today’s reading are included in Matthew’s account of Jesus in order to provide theological support for the inclusion of Gentiles.  

8:12 In Matthew, Jesus often uses this description of judgment (13:42, 50; 22:13; 24:51; 25:30). What are the images of judgment that encourage you to be faithful?

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