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“I Have Not Found Such Great Faith!


Matthew 8:5-13

Introduction: The Bible tells us that not all faith is saving faith. As we saw last week, a person
may believe the facts of the Gospel and still be unconverted. Satan believes in this sense, and so
do his assistant devils. The reprobate in hell believe in this sense, and so may the unconverted
who are yet in this world. And yet no one would argue that these are saved! The Reformers
distinguished three elements in saving faith: the notes, the assent, and the trust. The notes are
the content of the Gospel, the facts that are to be believed. The assent is the belief that those
facts are true. And the trust is the actual entrusting of yourself to this Christ whom God offers
to you, in order to be saved by Him. This last element is what man in his fallen state, apart from
the grace of God is unable to do of himself. He needs the grace of God if he is ever to overcome
his natural hatred of Christ in order to come to Him and embrace Him with his whole heart.
This is the gift of faith which God sovereignly gives from above. He is the initiator, and we are
completely unable to do anything of a saving character until He does so initiate.
But there are yet other things which distinguish true faith from false. One of these is the
fruit of humility that it produces. If God resists the proud, but gives grace to the humble, it
cannot be that a person whose life is marked with pride can be a gracious or saved person. True
humility is required before you can even come into the presence of God. But this is what He
gives His people in order that they might approach Him. All the fruits of His grace are included
in His gift of faith. However, this humility varies from person to person. It may be great or it
may be small. The same is true with regard to the faith which His people possess. Any amount
of saving faith is enough to give you an interest in Christ and to deliver you from God’s wrath,
and all Christians have some. But the degree of that faith differs from person to person. Some
have great faith which enables them to overcome most every obstacle, while others have small
faith which enables them just to hang on until they reach heaven. Our passage this morning
alerts us to these things.
Matthew here introduces us to one who is perhaps the most unique Roman soldier in all
of sacred history. He shows to us, first, the greatness of this man’s humility, and secondly, the
greatness of this man’s faith. In doing this, I believe that he also shows us that these two things
inevitably must go hand in hand if both of them are genuine. So let us now take a close look
at this man whose faith made Jesus marvel to see what we might learn about the character of true
humility, as well as of true saving faith.

I. First, Matthew Introduces Us to This Man’s Genuine Humility.


A. Matthew tells us that Jesus had just come down from the mountain in Galilee where He
had preached His Sermon on the Mount and was returning to His home city of Capernaum,
which was also in Galilee.
B. When He entered Capernaum, He was approached by a centurion, who was an officer in
the Roman army.
1. Luke’s account indicates that the centurion himself may never have approached Jesus
except through representatives.
2. He writes, “When he [that is, the centurion] heard about Jesus, he sent some Jewish
elders asking Him to come and save the life of his slave” (Luke 7:3).
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3. After Jesus had decided to come and was already on His way, Luke says that the
centurion “sent friends” to tell Him that he did not consider himself worthy for Christ to
even come under His roof, but to just say the word and his servant would be healed (v.
6).
4. This begins already to reveal to us the character of this man. Most likely, from what
has been said by Luke (i.e., that he loved the Jewish nation, had built them a synagogue,
and had Jewish elders who were willing to convey his message to Christ), this man was
a God-fearer, one who believed the Jewish religion, but had not been circumcised. But
we will learn yet more about him in Matthew’s account.
5. The important thing to see here is that the centurion’s having sent these men to
represent him, does not mean that these were not his words. This is what comes out
into the forefront in Matthew’s account.

C. We would have to admit at the outset that there was something unique about this
centurion.
1. There was really something unique about all Roman centurions.
a. First of all, they were considered competent enough by Rome to be put in charge of
a hundred men. That is what the word means in the Greek, the “head of a hundred.”
b. This speaks something of the quality of man that was required for this office.
c. Dr. Maclear writes, in his NT History, “The centurions mentioned in the New
Testament are uniformly spoken of in terms of praise, whether in the Gospels or in
the Acts. It is interesting to compare this with the statement of Polybius (vi. 24) that
the centurions were chosen by merit, and so were men remarkable not so much for
their daring courage as for their deliberation, constancy, and strength of mind”
(Easton’s Bible Dictionary, “Centurion”).
d. These men were, in other words, naturally gifted, in the sense that God, who makes
all men to differ one from another, had endowed them with certain good gifts.
e. This is undoubtedly why each of the centurions mentioned in the Bible is mentioned
favorably, because they were intelligent men.

2. But what makes this centurion even more unique are the spiritual qualities which he
seems to have possessed.
a. Besides what we have already seen from Luke’s account, this one came to Jesus to
entreat Him. This literally means that he was appealing to Him, or begging Him.
b. When one person entreats another, it generally means that they recognize an
authority about this person, an authority which they are willing to submit to.
c. We have an example of this later in the chapter where the demons who possessed
the demoniac “entreat” Jesus not to send them out of the country, but into a heard of
swine (v. 31). They recognized that Jesus had authority over them, and that is why
they begged Him for this favor, rather than dismissing His presence as
inconsequential.
d. The centurion was here “entreating” the Lord, submitting himself to Him, that
Christ might exercise His authority on his behalf.
e. Now it is certainly true that as far as the centurion was concerned, Christ held no
earthly office. But yet he recognized the greater authority which He had, and
humbly submitted to it.
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f. This shows a good deal of humility already. Can you imagine a Roman official
entreating One who appeared to others to be but a common Jew for anything? But
he did not mind doing this, knowing that Christ was far more than a common Jew.
Luke tells us that he had “heard about Jesus.” He knew that this was no ordinary
man.
g. But there are yet other indications of his humility. The one whom he beseeches
Christ for is his servant. He says, “Lord, my servant is lying paralyzed at home,
suffering great pain.”
h. Here is a man of great rank concerned for someone who is not only not a soldier
under his authority, nor even a Roman, but is a mere servant. Now it is true that the
name by which the servant is called indicates that he was perhaps a personal slave.
But here is a man who doesn’t mind becoming a servant to his servant, who doesn’t
mind setting aside his own needs in order to minister to the needs of his servant.
i. Seeing this, Christ responds, “I will come and heal him.” Here is Christ’s own
example of servanthood. He who is the King of kings and the Lord of lords, the
infinite and eternal God, who infinitely emptied Himself by taking upon Himself our
nature, humbles Himself in order to become a servant to a man who was associated
with the enemies of God’s people, even more to become a servant to his servant.
j. But the centurion humbles himself even further. He answered and said, “Lord, I am
not worthy for You to come under my roof, but just say the word, and my servant
will be healed.” Its as though Jesus begins to take a step toward the centurion’s
house, when the centurion is again overwhelmed by the majesty of the One who is
before Him, and so is not willing that He should even come under his humble roof.
k. Remember when Christ came to Peter during the Last Supper, intending to wash his
feet, Peter was also embarrassed, and said to Him, “’Lord, do you wash my feet?’
Jesus answered and said to him, ‘What I do you do not realize now, but you shall
understand hereafter. Peter said to Him, ‘Never shall You wash my feet!’ Jesus
answered him, ‘If I do not wash you, you have no part with Me.’” This was
something which Peter could not bear, so he said, “Lord, not my feet only, but also
my hands and my head” (John 13:5-9). Peter wanted to be the Lord’s, he wanted to
be all of His, but He did not want the Lord to be His servant. And such was the case
with this man. He wanted the Lord’s help, but he didn’t want Him to soil His
clothes in the process. Some men are not ashamed to ask the Lord for anything.
This man only humbly requested that which he thought was worthy of the Lord’s
attention, the need of his sick servant, not his own needs.
l. Paul tells us as well that we should not try to exalt ourselves above each other, but
rather to try and outdo each other in showing honor to one another. He writes, “Be
devoted to one another in brotherly love; give preference to one another in honor”
(Rom. 12:10). This requires humility.
m. And so let us be exhorted by this to put off our own pride and to put on the grace of
humility. If the Lord Jesus Christ could humble Himself to become our servant, can
we not do the same for Him? The centurion did so, and he found favor in the eyes
of the Lord.
n. If we expect to be heard by the Lord in our prayers and entreaties, we must, by His
grace, do the same.
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II. Having Shown Us This Man’s True Humility, Matthew, Secondly, Introduces Us to His
Genuine and Very Great Faith.
A. The centurion showed that he possessed a necessary element of true faith, now he reveals
that this faith was extremely strong.
1. He says, “Lord, I am not worthy for You to come under my roof, but just say the word,
and my servant will be healed. For I, too, am a man under authority, with soldiers
under me; and I say to this one, ‘Go!’ and he goes, and to another, ‘Come!’ and he
comes, and to my slave, ‘Do this!’ and he does it” (vv. 8-9).
2. The centurion first of all shows that he understands how authority works.
a. He was a man under authority, and he understood the implications of that. When
his superior said to him, “Come,” he came. When he said to him, “Go,” he went.
b. But he was also a man in authority. He also commanded his soldiers to come and
go, and they obeyed, and his servant to do various things, and he did it.
c. He knew that true authority is to be obeyed; it is to be respected.

3. But he also shows that he understands and believes that Christ is in authority.
a. His authority was not that which the centurion had, over earthly armies, but His
authority was over sickness and death, an authority which is heavenly, and not of this
earth.
b. He says to Jesus, “Just say the word,” just issue the command. You don’t even
need to come to where my servant is. Your authority, being heavenly, is not limited
by distance. “Just say the word, and my servant will be healed.” His sickness is
under your authority, and you have the power to command it to leave.

B. When Jesus heard this, He marveled.


1. This man understood what He could do, and he even believed that He was able to do it.
And this made Christ marvel.
2. I will briefly state here what I would like to look at a little more closely this evening,
namely, that Christ, when He marveled, revealed that there were at least some things
which surprised Him.
a. Christ was astonished that this man believed this strongly.
b. But He couldn’t really have been surprised if He, like God, had known from all
eternity that this man would say this very thing.
c. The point is that Jesus, in His divine nature, knows all things, but in His human
nature, He does not know all things.
d. Yes, He did, and still does, possess divine knowledge, but only that which the
Father was pleased to reveal to Him by His Holy Spirit. Christ, as to His humanity,
has the limitations of humanity, and so has limited knowledge.
e. Jesus marveled at the degree of this man’s faith.

C. But now what Jesus says next reveals even more strongly that this man’s faith was one
born from heaven.
1. Jesus said to those who were following Him, “Truly I say to you, I have not found such
great faith with anyone in Israel” (v. 10).
a. Remember that Jesus came unto His own people, and those who were His own did
not receive Him (John 1:11). The vast majority of the Jews rejected Him and called
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out for His crucifixion. Such is the case with all mankind. By far the greater
majority of them will reject Christ, even among those who hear the Gospel.
b. But there were those who did receive Him, and to them He gave the power to
become the children of God (v. 12).
c. But even among these, He did not find any who has as strong a faith as this Gentile.

2. And so Jesus continues, “And I say to you, that many shall come from east and west,
and recline at the table with Abraham, and Isaac, and Jacob, in the kingdom of heaven;
but the sons of the kingdom shall be cast out into the outer darkness; in that place there
shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth” (vv. 11-12).
a. The many who shall come from east and west are the Gentiles. These are the sheep
which are not of the flock of Israel, whom Christ shall also bring, “and they shall
become one flock with one Shepherd” (John 10:16).
b. The way that they shall come is the same as that of the centurion, by faith in Christ,
for that is the only way that any can come.
c. And they shall recline with the fathers, with the patriarchs of the faith, Abraham,
Isaac and Jacob, in the kingdom of heaven.
d. But the sons of the kingdom, the children of Israel, the natural offspring of
Abraham, shall be cast out of that kingdom. They were born into the visible
kingdom of God. But they shall be cast out into the outer darkness, into that place
of weeping and gnashing of teeth. They shall be cast into hell. And the reason they
shall be is the same reason why many Jews were not able to enter the promised land
originally: because of the lack of faith. The author to the Hebrews writes, “ And
so we see that they were not able to enter because of unbelief” (3:19).
e. Christ is speaking here of the New Covenant, and what will transpire both among
the Jews and the Gentiles now that He has come. Christ is telling us that the sons of
Israel will forfeit the kingdom of God, even though it was theirs by right of birth in
the covenant community. They had “the adoption as sons and the glory and the
covenants and the giving of the law and the Temple service and promises.” They
were the ones whose were “the fathers, and from whom is the Christ according to the
flesh, who is over all, God blessed forever” (Rom. 9:4-5). But yet they will forfeit it
all because they will reject Christ.
f. But does this mean that the promise of God to Israel has failed? No! Paul writes
in Romans 9, “But it is not as though the word of God has failed. For they are not
all Israel who are descended from Israel; neither are they all children because they
are Abraham's descendants, but: "THROUGH ISAAC YOUR DESCENDANTS
WILL BE NAMED." That is, it is not the children of the flesh who are children of
God, but the children of the promise are regarded as descendants” (9:6-8). Even as
Paul writes, in Galatians 3:7, “Therefore, be sure that it is those who are of faith who
are sons of Abraham.”
g. God’s promise was fulfilled to those to whom He had made the promise. He did
not promise to give the kingdom to all of Abraham, Isaac, or even Jacob’s children,
but to those whom He chose out of that race.
h. Those Jews who have and will accept Christ, and those Gentiles who have and will
believe, make up the full number of those who will inherit the kingdom, along with
the faithful of all ages.
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i. This is what Jesus means in the parable of the Landowner where He says,
“Therefore I say to you, the kingdom of God will be taken away from you, and be
given to a nation producing the fruit of it” (21:43). Who is this new nation? It is
the NT covenant community, the church, made up of believing Jews and Gentiles; it
is the one new man, who has been brought together in peace through the blood of
Christ’s cross (Eph. 2:15-16).
j. God has not cast Israel aside entirely. There is a believing remnant. Those who
were chosen obtained God’s kingdom, but the rest were hardened, until the fullness
of the Gentiles has come in.
k. Jesus virtually points to this centurion and uses him as an example of a believing
Gentile, one who will come and recline in God’s Kingdom, while the Jews are cast
out for their unbelief.

3. Jesus now turns to the centurion to tell him the results of his belief.
a. He says, “‘Go your way; let it be done to you as you have believed.’ And the
servant was healed that very hour.”
b. Jesus tells him that he has found what he was seeking for, he need seek no longer.
Now he may return home, for his servant has been made well. Just as the centurion
believed: Jesus spoke the word and that was all that was necessary.
c. But the centurion had found more than that for which he sought Christ that day. He
also found eternal life. He learned that he had entered the eternal kingdom of God,
because of his faith.
d. But what about you? Will you inherit the kingdom, or will you be cast out into the
outer darkness? Are you like the Jews who proudly relied on their standing as
children of the covenant for their salvation, or like the centurion, who knew that he
had no standing before God, and that he was not even worthy enough to have Christ
come under his roof, but only believed that He was who He said He was, and that He
was able and willing to do what He had promised?
e. The Jews were rejected because they would not believe and would not humble
themselves before Christ, while the centurion entered God’s kingdom because he
did.
f. Don’t trust in your own righteousness or in your standing in God’s covenant
community. Take hold of Christ by faith. Humble yourself and trust in Him this
morning. I pray that God will give you the grace to do so that you may also recline
with the patriarchs in God’s eternal kingdom. Amen.