Hello and welcome to Thursdays podcast. Yesterday we had George, our STC intern, feature in a guest podcast. He did such a good job. I really encourage us to give that a listen if we haven’t had chance to do that yet. George finished off looking at the Sermon of the Mount for us. Today it feels like things shift up a gear or three. We start to see miracles being performed.
Currently, we watch a lot of Disney+ in our house. When I hear of miracles, or when we think of supernatural powers, I think about some of the legends in the Marvel comic universe. People like Thor, not like Hawkeye, who have power beyond our natural understanding. If this is all jargon to you – I’m sorry, but I hope you get this principle.
The miraculous powers of Jesus are impressive to read. But unlike the fictional figures of the movies, Jesus’ powers work in a very specific way. They tell us who He is and confirm what he came to do.
In our reading today we have 3 stories, multiple miracles and healings are beginning to happen. But we are going to focus on one to help guide our thoughts for the day ahead. That is the story that your Bible might describe as “the Faith of the Centurion”.
The centurion describes himself in verse 9 as “a man under authority”. By this he means, “I have been given a certain number of soldiers… inside the sphere of influence I have been given, my word is very important. I have the power to make this happen. I’m a big deal.” Or, if there are students listening, the Centurion is basically a BNOC – a “Big Name On Campus”. The centurion says to Jesus in verse 8 “Lord, I do not deserve to have you come under my roof. But just say the word, and my servant will be healed.” What is he saying? He is saying, “the whole world is the sphere of your authority.” The centurion knows that Jesus isn’t a miracle worker, or a Marvel superhero who has to get in the room and say a classic catchphrase; the whole world is the sphere of his authority. All you have to do is say the word, is think it, and this servant will be well. The miracle, in some way, shows us who Jesus is. They’re evidence of his authority.
How did this centurion know Jesus could do this? He had never seen Jesus work like this. How did he know? Jesus is even astonished.
The point of this story is that he had clearly been thinking about it. He had been looking at the evidence of Jesus’ life. He had been looking at the way Jesus handles his relationships and the way he speaks. He had been looking at the power of Jesus and the sensitivity of Jesus that has been on display for us the last few days through the wonderful and bizarre words contained within the Sermon on the Mount. He had come to the conclusion, “This must be the Son of God.”
Here is where the miraculous powers of Jesus are unlike anything else in the whole world. This may ruffle some feathers but every superhero film is the same (and I love them all). There is an under-rated hero, they go through a training montage, things get complex, it looks bleak and they finally overcome the hurdle through a pure heroic act. We cheer. Let’s take a hero we might all know, like Superman. He is basically invincible. Jesus is not like that. When Jesus came to the earth with phenomenal cosmic power he came as a baby. He came in vulnerability. What happens when Jesus begins to heal people from here on in in the Gospel story? He becomes more vulnerable not less. In doing good works, healing the sick… he attracts the attention of the religious elite who seek to destroy him. In one commentary I was reading about this passage, they reference John 11 to make this point, when Jesus eventually raises Lazarus from the Dead, his enemies say, “now we have to kill him.” Jesus’ supernatural powers not only make him vulnerable, they made him a target.
The way of Jesus is so unique. There is no one like Jesus. He didn’t destroy death with Thor’s hammer. Not by might, or force. But through vulnerability and dying on the cross Jesus defeated death once and for all. The way of Jesus shows us a deep pattern that there is strength through weakness. We see this time and time again throughout the whole of the Bible. A verse we are being reminded of a lot as a staff team at the moment is 2 Corinthians 12:9 “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.”
So what does this mean for you and me?
At the start of lockdown there were a lot of people sharing quotes from a book called The Rise of Christianity. It is the story of the early church and how it succeeded in the early centuries in the Roman world. The thing that got people talking about this book was that when plagues went through great cities of the Greco-Roman world, when there were people who couldn’t look after themselves, those that society had left behind as many fled for the hills, the Christians did not.
I’m paraphrasing but when the doctors of the time were unable to tread the disease, when people became afraid to visit anyone, as a result, thousands of people died with no one to look after them. But that is not how the Christians acted. The Christians stayed and took care of not only their own sick but the sick of people who weren’t Christians. Here’s what happened. Despite the danger, despite themselves, they attended to the needs of the people, ministering to them in Jesus name. They could have had a safer life on the hills. But they chose to show love and loyalty to the weak. This gave enormous power and credibility to the gospel.
Do I believe in signs and wonders? Yes I do. But these miracles are gifts given, to the church, for the glory of God and we must never over emphasis the gift over the giver.
Am I saying we should be risky in our decisions regarding lockdown at the moment? Absolutely not! As Christians it’s imperative we adhere to Government guidelines, the Bible tells us so. But we must take the principles of the way of Jesus, showing love to our neighbour. Those like us and those not like us. That is the way of Jesus. Let’s pray for the strength to love our neighbourhood this way today
God, thank you for your power to change circumstances. If there are those that need a breakthrough today, we pray you would heal all diseases in Jesus name. In fact, as we wait now. Would you come. Meet with us God. We’ve seen you encounter people by your Spirit through our Alpha on Zoom. Would you meet those that need healing today, by your Spirit, through this podcast, and bring healing in Jesus’ name.
For all of us listening. Give us the strength and capacity to love our neighbours in this COVID season, we pray. Amen.
BIBLE READING: Matthew 8:1-17
When Jesus came down from the mountainside, large crowds followed him. A man with leprosy came and knelt before him and said, “Lord, if you are willing, you can make me clean.”
Jesus reached out his hand and touched the man. “I am willing,” he said. “Be clean!” Immediately he was cleansed of his leprosy. Then Jesus said to him, “See that you don’t tell anyone. But go, show yourself to the priest and offer the gift Moses commanded, as a testimony to them.”
When Jesus had entered Capernaum, a centurion came to him, asking for help. “Lord,” he said, “my servant lies at home paralyzed, suffering terribly.”
Jesus said to him, “Shall I come and heal him?”
The centurion replied, “Lord, I do not deserve to have you come under my roof. But just say the word, and my servant will be healed. For I myself am a man under authority, with soldiers under me. I tell this one, ‘Go,’ and he goes; and that one, ‘Come,’ and he comes. I say to my servant, ‘Do this,’ and he does it.”
When Jesus heard this, he was amazed and said to those following him, “Truly I tell you, I have not found anyone in Israel with such great faith. I say to you that many will come from the east and the west, and will take their places at the feast with Abraham, Isaac and Jacob in the kingdom of heaven. But the subjects of the kingdom will be thrown outside, into the darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.”
Then Jesus said to the centurion, “Go! Let it be done just as you believed it would.” And his servant was healed at that moment.
When Jesus came into Peter’s house, he saw Peter’s mother-in-law lying in bed with a fever. He touched her hand and the fever left her, and she got up and began to wait on him.
When evening came, many who were demon-possessed were brought to him, and he drove out the spirits with a word and healed all the sick. This was to fulfill what was spoken through the prophet Isaiah:
“He took up our infirmities and bore our diseases.”