Recently, I was reading again the story in Matthew 8: 5-13 of Jesus’ encounter with the Centurion. You may remember that he came up to Jesus and told Him that his servant was paralysed and in great pain and Jesus said “I will come and heal him”. The centurion said “I am not worthy for You to come under my roof, but just say the word and my servant will be healed”. He then goes on to explain how he fully understands how authority works for him and, by implication, how it will work with Jesus. Jesus response is what struck me: “Now when Jesus heard this He was ASTONISHED” And Jesus makes it clear that He was astonished by the man’s great faith.
What a thing it would be to astonish Jesus wouldn’t it? To astonish the Son of God. And remember, Jesus wasn’t astonished by profound wisdom, deep theology, immense cleverness, amazing wit, or super social skills – the things that may astonish us. These are also the things that make us discount ourselves when we feel we lack them. “Oh I could never astonish Jesus, I am not clever enough, I don’t understand the bible enough, I get tongue tied sharing etc. etc”. The Centurion wasn’t even Jewish! And he felt unworthy for Jesus to visit his house. But Jesus was astonished when He heard what he said.
“Just say the word”, he said. And backed it up by his clear understanding of authority and Jesus’ authority. His straightforward, child-like faith astonished Jesus. There is hope for you and me yet. Clearly the Lord Jesus, and His Father, really love child-like faith. He said “Just say the word” right here Jesus, no need to come to my house and assess the situation. The haemorrhaging woman in Matthew 9:21, had the same idea, “If I only (just) touch His garment I will get well”. “Only!” No need for a conversation, an explanation, a justification, or a list of why I deserve it. Simple, straightforward, but great faith.
How about someone else who excited, perhaps even astonished Jesus with her “great faith”? The Canaanite woman in Matthew 15:21-28. She cried out to Jesus for her cruelly demon possessed daughter. Jesus said nothing. The disciples wanted her to buzz off. She didn’t give up. Jesus then seemed to close the door saying, “I was only sent to the lost sheep of the house of Israel” She wasn’t an Israelite – not included. She still didn’t give up. Jesus seems to still keep the door closed “It’s not proper to take the children’s bread and throw it to the dogs” She doesn’t take offence. She isn’t insulted, (how would I have reacted to what Jesus said?).
Now! Here comes the wonderful, wonderful moment of revelation: “I may be unworthy, but I believe that you and your Father are so generous, and there is so much love and power in your heart Lord, that even the ‘left overs’ of your love and power falling from the children’s table will heal my daughter. Wow. I think Jesus was excited. She had got it, how big, generous, spilling over, bursting out of the banks the ‘not proper’ love of God is. What a comparison to the Pharisees, clever men, with their narrow, contained view of God and His character, His ways and what was proper.
It’s really interesting to me that both the centurion and the Canaanite woman felt unworthy. But this didn’t diminish their faith, rather it produced genuine humility, yet the mighty confidence of simple great faith. In these days of the struggles that many of us, and our acquaintances, have with low self esteem, I think there is a something here on which I need the Holy Spirit to give me child-like revelation. Maybe if we spent less time looking at ourselves and more time looking at Jesus things would change. And thanksgiving really helps with that change of focus and perspective.
Thanksgiving. Well we have recognised in several blogs that thanksgiving is one of the best ways to build faith. ‘Faith comes by hearing and hearing by the word of God’, Romans 10:17, or ’the word concerning Christ’ (NASB). And who do your ears hear talking most? Your mouth and your mind. So every time you speak (or think) words of truth about Jesus, His Father and the Spirit, Romans 10 tells me, faith comes. And the more you and I do that, the more likely we are to walk up to Jesus like the centurion, and the haemorrhaging lady, confident of what He can do, even when we feel unworthy.
And even better, as we keep thanking the Lord for the truth about His character, His word, His promises, His wild generosity, the huge work He did on the cross and its results, Romans 8:32, the more likely we are to be like the Canaanite woman. Not put off by the lack of (apparent) initial response, or things not seeming to happen, but rather we can say ‘I know that my God is generous, generous, generous in His love, power and care for me and those I love, and He will come through for me even if I feel unworthy’.
Wouldn’t it be wonderful to astonish Jesus? And the good news is that you don’t need to be clever, part of the ‘in crowd’ or very religious to do that! Let us let our words (and thoughts) of simple thanksgiving, get our focus on the Lord Jesus. Let this then grow our ‘simple’ faith so that it may then become ‘great faith’ and ‘astonish’ Him.