Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Having Jesus In Your Heart 14

The next in a series of articles based on the Gospel of Matthew intended to equip us to be better followers of Jesus Christ.
When Jesus returned to Capernaum, a Roman officer came and pleaded with him, “Lord, my young servant lies in bed, paralyzed and in terrible pain.”
Jesus said, “I will come and heal him.”
But the officer said, “Lord, I am not worthy to have you come into my home. Just say the word from where you are, and my servant will be healed. I know this because I am under the authority of my superior officers, and I have authority over my soldiers. I only need to say, ‘Go,’ and they go, or ‘Come,’ and they come. And if I say to my slaves, ‘Do this,’ they do it.”
When Jesus heard this, he was amazed. Turning to those who were following him, he said, “I tell you the truth, I haven’t seen faith like this in all Israel! And I tell you this, that many Gentiles will come from all over the world—from east and west—and sit down with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob at the feast in the Kingdom of Heaven. But many Israelites—those for whom the Kingdom was prepared—will be thrown into outer darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.”
Then Jesus said to the Roman officer, “Go back home. Because you believed, it has happened.” And the young servant was healed that same hour.                                          Matthew 8:5-13

“[Jesus] said that the very first thing a person needs to do is to acknowledge that the Lord is the Savior of the world, because without this acknowledgment no one can receive any truth or good at all from heaven, or therefore receive faith from there. And since it was the very first and most essential thing, therefore in order that He might be acknowledged when He came into the world the Lord questioned the sick, when He healed them, about their faith; and those who had faith were healed. This faith was that He was the Son of God who was to come into the world, and that He had power to heal and save. Furthermore every healing of sickness by the Lord when He was in the world served to mean a healing of spiritual life, thus served to mean the things that belong to salvation.”                                             Secrets of Heaven §10083

Every reader of the New Testament has to admire Jesus. Jesus is a person who has completely overcome racial, ethnic, and jingoistic prejudice. And He demonstrates again and again His Divine power, which is not only in His hands, but in His words. I can startle you into looking at me. But can I actually change your spiritual point of view? I think not. That is the power of the Divine only, which clearly Jesus has. I do not merely admire Him, I am in awe of Him! This story will give us all an insight as to how to listen for the Word of the Lord Jesus Christ in our lives.
Here’s some background to this story. A Roman army officer seeks out Jesus just as Jesus enters Capernaum, because this man likely set a lookout – Roman or Jew – to report His approach. The Centurion is in charge of 60 or 80 men who run the customs house in the city. By army rules he cannot be married, so he has no biological family. However, we discover that he has a deep familial love for a young man who is, actually, his slave. The man is his only “family.” His coming to Jesus must be an act of desperation, because the Romans were pagans, and to go to a Jew, who worshipped the wrong God, was a radical change of faith, on top of being an act of faith!
It seems the Centurion knows two things: 1. Jesus can heal his servant. And 2. Jesus can heal because He has the authority to do so (note that he is described as “also a man under authority”). The Centurion understands authority, the power to command and then see results at a distance. It is all this man knows. He has learned discipline. He has been given authority by Rome, and exercises it all the time. He need not be in a particular place to have something happen there. He assumes that this is how Jesus operates, for he knows no other way. He has heard, and perhaps seen, how Jesus heals, so, of course, Jesus can heal his servant by simply commanding that it be so.
And Jesus was “amazed.” He acted out the reaction of all the people around Him at that moment, and called attention to the greatness of this faith! Jesus points out that his fellow Jews, who have a long history of being blessed by an omnipotent God who has chosen them, do not have such trust in God. Jesus points out that it takes a process, it takes effort, to acquire such a faith. The journey starts outside of the kingdom, and is long.
The lesson for us is an invitation to come into such a faith, such a relationship with Jesus Christ. And here is a piece of advice from this story: beware any feelings of being the chosen people, the best people, the blessed people. It so easily morphs into becoming snobs and thinking we are blessed simply because we are the chosen people!
An attitude of being special because of one’s beliefs destroys one’s faith in God, and the blessing is soon replaced by a curse. Thinking I am greater than others because I have the truth separates me from other people; even from a close friend; even from my spouse! And that is the saddest thing in life. When it happens, you will feel alone, isolated, rejected. You might even cry, a lot. Some who are separated from others because they believe they are better, feel so cold that they have to clench their teeth to keep them from rattling.  Others find themselves so incensed and full of anger that they bare their teeth in a snarl.
Having the truth gives you a special job: to speak the word of truth to all those who come seeking healing. It is our special work to look at someone in emotional or intellectual pain and actually disregard where we are meeting them, how we came to meet them, and where they are coming from. We are to speak a word of healing truth regardless of our prejudice about that kind of person.
And as you speak the truth in love, the next challenge is not to do anything to or for the person directly, but to clearly speak the truth. The Lord does the healing. For you are a servant; a powerful servant because you have the divine truth.
It takes courage and preparation to speak the truth this way. I do not feel prepared for some specific circumstances I know will be coming my way in the future. So I continue to practice when I can. I continue to read the Word for a storehouse of healing truth. I continue to model my behavior according to how Jesus behaved. I pray. As I let go of my proprium, of my belief that I am special, and of the need to control results, Jesus Christ is more and more in my heart.

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